It's a rough reading period for me -- way too many hours at work in the next two weeks. Yet my friendly neighborhood library keeps sending me notes about books I cannot renew because someone else is desperately waiting their turn with them. And so, the past two nights I have stayed up late into the morning hours reading.
Two nights ago, I was once again entertained by Rick Riordan's non-stop action (which cleverly imparts all sorts of nifty information about mythology while you aren't paying close attention) in the second Percy Jackson tome The Sea of Monsters. Opening with an incredible scene in which hapless teens in a school gym are subjected to a deadly dodgeball game with mythic baddies and tumbling through to a supremely cliffhangerish ending, this is one wild ride. I enjoyed the intriguing concept of Percy and Tyson being half-brothers - and the wrestling Percy does to come to terms with that fact. I like the fact that Annabeth holds up her end for the women reading the series -- she is a smart, brave companion in the adventure rather than a puff pastry.
The characters are so entertaining - from the delivery guy, Hermes, to the lovesick Cyclops. The images these books call up are phenomenal - the description of the group washing ashore in South Beach is a complete hoot! And I'm telling you, the ending on this one? I felt it in my soul, but turned the page anyway, just praying I was wrong about it being the last scene.... the man knows how to string out his fans!!!!
I still think the scene in the St. Louis Arch in The Lightning Thief may still be my favorite in the two novels, but I had a stellar time on this quest and look forward to the next!
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Last night, my hope was to at least get a start on Hattie Big Sky. If you've read it already, you know that minor goal fell by the wayside by the end of the first chapter -- I finished it up before I realized how late it had gotten. This is a wonderful book. I so enjoyed Hattie's letters, her outlook, her bravery, her kindness. I think this is a book that, along with providing a wonderful escape into a completely different place and time, inspires the reader to be a better person. Sappy? I don't mean it that way. I just admired her decisions - to make the best of every situation, to give people the benefit of the doubt, to do what was right even when it was hard, and to move on when it became necessary with grace and dignity and a belief in the future.
I also appreciated the book for giving me one of those "timelines in history" epiphanies - you know the ones where you say, "That was going on at the same time as that???" History seems to be studied in such a thematic way, that the greater understanding of things happening simultaneously in the world tends to get lost. I like books that show me those connections and this one certainly does.
The narrative does have parallels to our own time in regard to the reckless, rabid rise of a certain brand of patriotism that borders on vigilantism. In that sense it reminded me of Foster's War and The Art of Keeping Cool - two other novels that examine the effects of war at home and the bitter response to resident aliens.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Hattie. I liked the sense of possibility she presented. I felt the importance of hard work and sacrifice and friendship. It made me admire anew my great-grandmother from her stories of settling in a sod house in Kansas. When I finished reading, I got up and emailed several friends, imploring them to seek it out as soon as possible. If you've not read it, consider this your personal recommendation email from me.