Are You There Gods? It’s Me, Percy.

After watching an older HBO show, Rome, with my boyfriend last weekend (which is a great show, by the way!) I started thinking about a certain set of books that had a sort of eerie, fantastical tone about them: the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan.

I love young adult novels. I think they’re a great read – fun to read along to, with exciting stories usually about magic or mysteries, or in this case, the Gods of Olympus. I could read them nonstop all day. The combination of my love of reading and of Greek mythology (or Greek religion, if you will) is a sure-fire way to get me to read a book — as if I needed a reason!

The series begins with Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief. After finding out he is a demigod, the son of Poseidon, he is taken to a camp filled with other demigods where he can finally be himself. He makes new friends, and even meets a minor god in the Greek religion — and then a prophecy tells him that he must go on a quest to retrieve one of Zeus’ lightning bolts. Hijinks ensue, alliances are broken, and the villains of the series start to form. It’s a spectacular first book, with a great cliffhanger. The series just gets better with each book. It actually felt like the series was one continuous Greek myth that I was learning about for the first time. The writing was simple, but funny. You really feel as though you’re Percy going on these adventures.

After five books, Riordan finished off the Olympians series and focused on a couple of his other novels. He must have missed the characters, though, because he came out with a spin-off called The Heroes of Olympus. The Heroes of Olympus focuses more on the Roman gods, which were originally taken from the Greek religion. For example, the big ol’ lightning man himself, Zeus, is actually called Jupiter in Rome; and his wife, Hera, is called Juno. Roman religion was really just an amped up, angrier, more war-driven religion with nearly all the same gods and demigods as the Greek religion.

The first book in the novel The Lost Hero begins with a boy in a purple shirt on a field trip where he is attacked by mythological creatures, along with his best friend Leo and girlfriend Piper. Unfortunately, he has no memory of who he is, how he got there, or what that tattoo on his arm is about. He soon finds out that there is another camp, much like the camp that Percy Jackson found his home, but with the children of the Roman gods. The Roman gods are actually the same gods as in the Percy Jackson series, but almost with split personalities. It’s all incredibly interesting.

As with the previous series, there is a prophecy and a quest and the main character, Jason, must be the leader of it. Unlike the previous series, where the book was centered on Percy, this book is written by three different people. Jason, Leo, and Piper. The characters each alternate their chapters and pick up right where the last chapter left off. In the next book, we find our beloved hero Percy also unaware of who he is, where he’s from or how he got there while again being attacked by monsters. This book rotates characters for the chapters just like the last novel, but with new characters. It’s not until the third book that there are an array of characters from both books as the narrators of the chapters.

I would say during the third book I got kind of bored. I felt like I had been through these quests so long that it was more tedious than exciting. Each book had the same ebb and flow, starting with a quest, going on an adventure, almost getting killed, and then being fine. It was all the same. But about three quarters into the book Riordan started to get his steam back. I won’t tell you too much, because you have to read it for yourself! But it got SO good!

So my recommendation: if you love mythology, if you like young adult novels, if you like adventures, or even if you just like a fun read, these are the books for you. Remember though, if you feel like it’s getting a bit tedious, think of it like the How I Met Your Mother gag with The Proclaimers song, 500 Miles. You can listen to it over and over and over and eventually you get tired of it, but it always comes back around, stronger than ever.

And I would walk 500 miles, and I would walk 500 more…. Da da da! Da da da!

Is the song stuck in your head yet?

I’m still trying to figure out how many blogs per week I’ll be posting. So until I’ve figured it out, I’ll just post whenever I feel like it ;-P

Until next time!

Rachel

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Book vs. Movie: Unbroken

Ah, yes. The age old debate. Which was better? The book or the movie? This is a tough question because in most cases I find that the people who enjoyed the book they read, find it incredibly difficult to keep a truly open mind about the movie. Why? Because we read it first before it was popular! It’s childish — maybe a little bit “hipster” to say we read it first before it was cool, but that’s the way it is. Chronic readers have this shared goal with one another: to read as many books as possible, as quickly as possible. So when we read a book that comes out and then three years later they start advertising the movie, we’re all like, “hey! I read that book!!” and tell everyone we possibly can that we’ve read that book first.

I do this all the time. The most recent case is for the new movie Unbroken. This a very sensitive case for me because a) I truly loved the book; B) I truly loved this man’s story; And c) they changed the name completely!!! The book I read, written by Louis Zamperini and David Rensin, called Devil at My Heels, was Zamperini’s first book about his real life triumphs and tribulations before, during and after World War II. I won’t spoil the movie or book for anyone, but this man endured being in the 1936 Olympics in Germany and meeting Hitler, being lost at sea, and being taken into a Japanese prison camp… And he lived to tell the tale.

The book was spectacular. I thought it had the right amount of conversational tone, without the topics he was discussing being taken lightly, or as something to shrug off your shoulders. It had an important message about forgiveness, but it wasn’t preachy. It was just an all around amazing story and novel. So when I began seeing trailers for the new movie Unbroken that Angelina Jolie had directed, I was thrilled. I figured, ‘hey, they changed the title, but the title of the book is a bit long for a movie, so that’s understandable.’ That was until I went to Barnes and Noble and found the newly published book called Unbroken, rewritten and published to suit the movie! Furious. I was furious. How could they do such a thing? Take this man’s life story and rewrite it to make the movie more money? On a logical, business side I completely understand it. I’m sure a lot of the money the movie and this new book makes is going straight to the recently deceased man’s family, which is admirable. But as a reader, and someone who loved the book, I was disappointed.

That said, my boyfriend and I went to see the movie together when it came out and I was actually really excited. Despite my disappointment of the new book, I still loved Louis’ story and thought anything Angelina Jolie directed must be amazing. So I had a really open mind. To my surprise, it was nearly exact to the book. They left out little pieces, and most of the end when he crusades for religion, but I can understand that – religion is a touchy subject. But it was a great movie.

So, now I have a dilemma. Book versus movie.

The verdict is not surprising: Book! Book! Book! But I have to say, this one gave me a run for my money. Even with my appreciation for the movie – the effects, the way it was shot, and, of course, the actors (who were amazing, by the way) – it still didn’t cut it for me.

First book vs movie tally? Book: 1 Movie: 0

Until next time, read to your hearts content!!!

Rachel

The One When It Begins

Hello Earthlings! I am new to blogging, but thought I’d give it a shot. This is an introductory blog post, so bear with me if it’s not spectacular just yet.

I have been writing for as long as I can remember. I’ve written short stories, poems, tons of essays, and have recently started on my own book. It’s a slow process, but a fun one nonetheless. I have an insanely large collection of books. I have recently run out of bookshelf space and have all of the recent books I’ve read piled on my night table, as well as in a cardboard box left over from the holidays. So, I figured what better way to really pay some homage to my books, that I truly love, than to write about them?

My goal for this blog is to write reviews on books I’ve read, to write my thoughts on certain topics the books cover, and maybe even write some short stories to boot! If I stray from my preconceived ideas for this blog, I apologize in advance. I may need to go on some rants every now and then. Like I said, bear with me.

As this is my first blog and I do want it to be about books, I will give you a short list of books I have read recently that you need to read and why you need to read them. So without further ado, let there be books!

1. The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon. I read this when it first came out almost a year ago to the day. If you are interested in clairvoyance, slaves, underground gangs, and aliens then this book is for you. Words cannot explain just how much I love this book. It’s nearly 500 pages long and I read it in two days. I could not get enough of it. The sequel, of an anticipated seven books, is called The Mime Order and is actually released tomorrow, January 27th. I have preordered it and it should ship to me tomorrow! I can’t wait. Seriously, you have to read this book.

2. Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden. I have always been fascinated with Asian culture – particularly Asian courtesans. I got my start on Asian culture with the Amy Tan books of which I got hooked on with The Valley of Amazement which I could go off on a tangent about for hours. I have just one Amy Tan book left to read before I’ve officially read all of her books including children’s books. Nevertheless, Memoirs was an eye-opening novel. It exposed me to the luxuries of geisha culture, of the sadness of it as well, and honestly just the absolute thrill of being in this cultural elite where one step out of line could cost you your career, and your family’s careers.

3. Last but not least, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. This book made me cry throughout the entire novel. I hadn’t read a book that made me cry this much since The Valley of Amazement. As a woman whose extended family is Jewish, this book captured the right amount of sadness for those Jews involved during WWII, as well as the lives of the non-Jewish people who found it terribly difficult to stand by and watch, and their fear of their own family’s lives if they should help them. It’s a powerful book with a narrator that truly takes you beyond the war, beyond life itself, and into the realm of Death himself watching the world unravel.

Well, that’s all for now folks. I hope you enjoyed these recommendations. I’ll be back as soon as I can for another blog post. Until then, read!! Read as much as you can!!

Rachel