A little less Percy Jackson than I like in my Percy Jackson

The Trials of Apollo: The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan

I am obviously a huge fan of the original Percy Jackson series because I am a reasonable person and they are great (my opinion, stated as fact). Generally I enjoyed the next series, although I really missed the intimate storytelling of the first person narrative from Percy Jackson. It’s back for this next series, the Trials of Apollo and it’s not quite everything I  hoped for but pretty close.

There is so much I loved about this book. First of all, Percy Jackson cameo. I wish he was more of a leading character and less of a cameo, but I’ll take it. I always love Percy Jackson, no matter how small his part is. Apollo’s internal voice is hilarious and delightful most of the time – the Me Cabin is an example of a wonderful joke and his character development is a carefully crafted and carries the story forward almost as much as the plot. I love Meg McCaffrey and everything she is and I have nothing else to say about her.

On a deeper level I really appreciated to outright acceptance of both gay and bisexual characters – Apollo’s son Will and his boyfriend Nico are the only functioning couple in the book and that’s fantastic and also very sweet. Although it’s becoming more common, it’s still nice to see some representation in a genre that’s not a coming out novel. Apollo openly declaring that he has only had two true loves, one women and one man and that’s great too. Overall, most LGBT representation kind of boxes off characters into gay or lesbian, so that’s great.

And here there be spoilers. I can’t get over complexity of Meg’s traumatic and abuse filled past. Talking about the devastating effects of Nero’s relationship with Meg and the way he has crippled her emotionally through a monstrous use of fear and kindness is just heartbreaking. Depending on how it is handled in the rest of the books it could be a a great chance to have an abused child become a hero, which would be great.

However, I feel like this book overall could use a bit of tighter edit. I have a feeling that when an author is big enough and their book is sure to be a bestseller that no one takes the time and care they did with the first book to make sure the story is as sharp as it could be. It wasn’t anything make or break it for me, it just struck me that there were a few lines or details that more or less just padded the text and a little more streamlined narrative would maybe make the book a little better.

I would one hundred percent recommend this book and this series to any keen reader and I would totally finish the series, if I get around to it. Percy Jackson, I’m glad your back!

The last movie I watched:

Avatar. I had only seen it once, in theaters in 3D. Incidentally it was when I learned that 3D makes me very nauseous. I enjoyed it much more this time. You know, mostly for the visuals. The plot wasn’t very important.

Last TV show I watched:

A bit of Charmed. It’s always my staple rewatch show and I don’t care what anyone has to say about that.

Advertisements

Greek mythology is real weird

Circe by Madeline Miller

I begin by saying, Greek mythology is very odd and it’s not easy to take something that messed up and make in feel human. But that’s exactly what Miller has done.

Circe is a lesser goddess, featured in Homer’s Odyssey. In the original myth she is a witch who lives on an island and turns sailors into pigs. Odysseus tricks her, takes her as his lover and in the end she helps him complete his quests. In Circe, the character is a little more developed. Her childhood was sad and lonely, her heart not as capricious, cruel or indifferent to the suffering of morals as her immortal family. When she discovers her powers, she goes against the will of her god father, Helios, reveals her witchcraft to the Olympians and is punished with exile for all eternity on an island. There she waits, interacting with several heroes and villains throughout Greek mythology.

It’s a story of family, motherhood, anger and violence, wrapped up in ancient myths and held together with beautiful language and lovely storytelling.

Once again, the part that most resonated with me was Circe’s becoming a mother for the first time. I swear, I’m not looking for audiobooks about parenthood to listen to while I’m feeding my son but they just keep popping up.

Circe’s terror and fierce drive to protect her son, and her amazement and heartbreak as she watches her son age and change struck a cord with me for sure. It’s hard to articulate my feelings of constant terror for my son, particularly because as an adult you see how dark and scary the world is and how delicate life is and how easy it is for it to be hurt and lost. Circe, as an immortal goddess who has survived in a world where gods are a destructive force sees so clearly the futures her son might face. I understood her. The awe she feels as her baby ages and changes in what feels like the blink of her eternal eye, I also got that. My son’s coming up on three months and already I feel like my time with him is slipping away.

It was incredibly powerful to hear the descriptions of parenting Miller wrote through Circe.

This is not a kids book – it’s got quite a bit of kind of disturbing content, a lot of sex (although nothing graphic) and is pretty violent. It is an adult book, and above all, I’d say it’s a parent book.

Also, anyone who likes Greek myths. I would not recommend it to anyone who can’t handle all that nonsense.

Last movie I watched:

The first half of Into the Woods. Fun musical. Very grim.

Last TV show I watched:

Part of To Walk Invisible. I’m committed because I’m interested in the Bronte sisters, but really I’m not sure I’d recommend it. I’m finding it lacks any kind of narrative drive.

A whole lots of stuff for one little graphic novel

Skim by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki

I read this ages ago, and so any intelligent thoughts I had have slipped away, and all I’m left with is intelligent feelings and overall impressions.

This is a pretty mature graphic novel about a 16 year old Japanese- Canadian girl who is struggling her way through high school, her identity, her peers and increasingly her romantic feelings for one of her teachers when a boy at her school dies by suicide, opening up a complex world of grief, mourning and personal struggles.

I loved this book, I thought it was well written, thoughtful, accurate, the illustrations were a little creepy but fit well with the story and it’s a moving book, maybe particularly for adults who can forget how complicated, isolated and dramatic high school can be.

It also has great representation of different cultures, LGBT characters and women, which I think is a good thing.

Last movie I watched :

Part of Moana with a 3 year old. I recommend, the movie and the three year old. She added some great commentary

Last TV show I watched:

Supernatural. I’ll get through it all eventually.

Trilogy of six?

City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare

Still slowly working my way through the Cassandra Clare series. This one really isn’t the strongest. Although I enjoyed the love triangles that Simon was in, or is it a love square? Jace and Clary’s relationship is a little bit less interesting to me. It’s not that happy couples with contrived drama (secret evil possession I guess?) isn’t exciting but a stable couple with compelling plot drama is a little more interesting to me. But I will take it all because of the six minutes of Magnus Bane and Alec Lightwood.

But I feel  like this series, which is marked as Book 4 really feels like the start of a second series with the same characters. There’s nothing wrong with that of course, but something about this book is a little off. I got a weird sense that this was meant to be the first book in the series – lay the groundwork, introduce the characters and set up a long term plot.

Only, we already have that stuff, at least as long as you read the first three books. So there’s this weird kind of pacing to the first book, as it tries to lay the ground work for the future plot, establish new characters and keep the old characters interesting. It worked out fine, it’s a good, compelling story about characters the reader probably already knows and loves but I hope by the next book things settling a little and become  a little more plot or character driven.

Last movie I watched:

Apart of X-men Apocalypse. Not going to lie, it’s not that good.  Better than Last Stand but not good.

Last TV show I watched:

This Is Us. Sob.

Just so, so, so good

Girl Mans Up by M-E Girard

I love, love, love this book. There is so much excellence I’m not sure where to start.

It is the story of Pen, short for Penelope, a queer first generation Canadian teenager. At the start of the book Pen is doing her best to slide by unnoticed. She avoids fighting with her parents when she can by hiding in the basement where her older brother lives. Her best friend Colby defends her against anyone who bullies her in exchange for her help picking up girls. But when Colby tries to pick up the girl Pen has a crush on, Pen makes a choice for herself. Soon after events in her life start to spiral out of her control, forcing to her to evaluate the decisions she’d made so far, their consequences and man up.

There’s a lot of really, really good things about this book. The tone is great, Pen’s voice is unique and strong and she’s a great character who’s relatable to anyone who’s every felt like an outsider (every single person ever obviously). It’s also a great story of LGBT+ story in a delightful, un-simplistic way. Pen is a lesbian, 100%. Blake, her girlfriend, has dated boys but also dates a woman, implying she’s bi or possibly pan. Pen is very masculine – she cuts her hair short, she dresses in her brother’s hand-me-downs, she loves TMNT and hates Barbies but she also is very sure she’s not transgender. She really recognizes her identity as a masculine woman. But most of this isn’t really stated, it just is. There are scenes that really touch on these issues – for example Pen tells Blake she wants to be touched like a boy – but they aren’t resolved either and as far as all the characters, or at least the sympathetic ones, are concerned, that’s okay. And I think that’s a really good thing. We don’t need every single person to fit into a box.

This book has a lot of really heavy content. Here there be spoilers. The struggles of first generation Canadians are woven throughout the story – Pen struggles with vastly different expectations she has for her own life versus her parents. Language gaps, extended family, food and cultural expectations are woven throughout the book as challenges and advantages for Pen and her brother.

Finally there is some sexual assault. Pen’s internal dialogue does an amazing job of describing her frozen fear, when Colby makes sexual advances on her. Although she clearly doesn’t want them and is not interested in them but she feels like she has no power in their relationship, she’s afraid to find herself without Colby’s friendship so she has to let it happen. It’s really upsetting to read.

There’s also some pretty serious violence, alcohol, drugs and an abortion, which is handled carefully and complexly but is obviously challenging for readers.

I recommend this book enormously,  for teens and adults. If younger readers would like to take a stab at it, I’d recommend that too but encourage an adult conversation about some of the content. Just read it, enjoy it and embrace the really satisfying but not completely happy ending.

Last movie I watched:

Thor: Ragnorak. Pretty excellent, I have to say.

Last TV episode I watched:

The Red Tent. I’m actually really enjoying it, although I’m sure the book is better.

The collision of past and future

The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline

I just finished this book to write Battle of the Books questions for it. It’s also on the OLA’s White Pine list this year and I really recommend it, although it’s not exactly light, escapism if that’s what you’re into.

It takes place in a future when civilization has collapsed through a complicated series of negative events starting with extreme environmental devastation and climate change that triggered massive wars and the collapse of society. In this world, people have lost their ability to dream and it makes them violent and depressed. The solution was found in the bone marrow of Indigenous people. The book opens with Frenchie, a young Metis boy and his brother fleeing after their parents’ disappearances. The book follows Frenchie and his new found family’s journey through northern Ontario and eventually their decision to fight back.

There’s a lot to like about this book (but I’m not going to get into too much of it because spoilers!) but I’ll focus particularly on two things – Indigenous people in north America and the portrayal of LGBTQ people in the book.

This book, while maybe a little didactic, does a great job of drawing on the history of violence and colonialism in the collective Indigenous identity, as well as the generations of trauma that has effected both the individual people and the collective group of people. The dystopian future really draws on historical event and, while it’s extreme and alarming, also feels very real in the context of colonial oppression. No one wants to think about their government rounding up a minority in their own country and trapping them in schools. But it happened in history, and in this book it happens in our future as well. The idea of paying bounties on innocent civilians is distressing, but again, happened in our past and could happen again. Although the current political struggles are not touched on, it contextualizes them.

There is also a fantastic LGTBQ character in this book, and what I loved most about this character is that his sexual orientation was just one part of his overall character. His entire existence is informed by the lose of his husband, but this is treated exactly the same as any other lose in the book, and there are many. The fact that he’s a gay man isn’t even mentioned, its just understood. Also, there’s some serious trope inversion here (Spoiler: Kill All Your Gays) is thwarted in the last few pages in a way that truly warmed my heart.

I think this reads like a first novel (it is) and I’m sure everything Dimaline writes from will improve on what she learned from this great book. It feels a bit like Cormac McCarthey’s The Road  mixed with a curriculum accompaniment (for high school students – there’s violence, including sexual violence and some pg-13 sexuality) but I really enjoyed it and believe it’s a great piece for high school students across Canada to be reading this year.

Last movie I watched:

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. When I first read it, I didn’t mind Harry’s … lack of emotional regulation. Then it started to bug me, I think as I stopped being a teenager. But now I don’t mind it so much again because I think he’s got PTSD for most of this book and with that reading, his anger makes a lot of sense.

Last TV episode:

Death Comes to Pemberly although I am literally 5 minutes into the first episode and therefore have no opinion at this time.

How not to end a love triangle

Infernal Devices: Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare

Here there be spoilers.

This is the last in the series, and resolves both the story and the love triangle. There were a few really, really big twists that were all pretty good and definitely squee worthy.

I would like to address the love triangle though, because that was a pretty good  and big part of the story that was kind of a cop out. The love triangle has to end of course because the book is over. And it was  a really good love triangle because Tessa loved both Will and Jem for real reasons that make sense for her. Both bring something into her life that makes her feel special and beautiful and brings love to her heart.

So how does the author get out of these two excellent character being equally deserving of the love of the heroine?

Well she kills one of them. But it’s a trick kill – they aren’t really dead. And then as it turns out, two of them are immortal. So naturally, Tessa stays with one of them until he dies of old age and then eventually catches up with the immortal one when chance allow.s

This was a very satisfying ending because I liked both potential lovers but it was also not, I don’t know – emotional I guess? It felt like 2.75 novels building up to Tessa having to make a terrible choice but then she lucks out, circumstance just takes her decision away from her and she just gets to have both. And something about that just made her seem like a victim of circumstance, not her own heart. That was a little disappointing, that’s all.

Last Movie I watched:

Nope. No clue.

Last TV show I watched:

Supernatural. I’m getting through it.