Fighting with the Sky

Posts Tagged ‘books

It’s amazing that I keep reading Rick Riordan books for multiple reasons.  1) They are children’s books.  2) They are all the same!

I do end up reading a lot of young adult books because they are easy reads and most of the time entertaining.  I do like how Rick Riordan incorporates mythology into his story lines and I often find them informative.  I read his entire Percy Jackson series and then he had The Red Pyramid (which was about Egyptian mythology.  There was only one book in that series before he went back to Green/Roman mythology with The Lost Hero.

The Lost Hero is kind of a continuation of the Percy Jackson series.  It’s about a new group of demi-gods that come to Camp Half-Blood, face a new prophecy that threatens the safety of the gods and the world.  Jason, along with his friends Leo and Piper, have to set off to save Hera who has been kidnapped and Piper’s movie star father who has also been kidnapped.  They don’t know who their enemy is but they keep being told that it is the most dangerous enemy ever.  The only problem is: Jason has no memory, strange tattoos, and refers to all of the gods by their Roman names instead of their Greek names.  Oh, and Percy Jackson is missing so Annabeth has to go look for him (not that that really has much to do with the storyline, but they like to randomly remind the audience of it throughout the book).

In The Lost Hero, much like the Percy Jackson books, there are three demigods that are off to save the world.  Jason is the son of Zeus/Jupiter, Piper is the daughter of Aphrodite, and Leo is the son of Hephaestus.  Jason is the leader of the pack, even though he doesn’t have his memory, and often surprises himself with what he is capable of.  Leo can harness fire and build almost anything.  And Piper can convince people to do things that they don’t want to with charmspeak.

One thing that I liked about the Percy Jackson books was that Annabeth was actually a hero in her own right.  Yes, she followed Percy around, but she was often the brains of the operation and could hold her own in battle.  But in The Lost Hero, Piper is often in need of being rescued and her “power” is that of talking people into things.  How stereotypical is that?  The girl is the one that has the power of talking men into doing things.

All throughout the book, all of the characters are saying how important Piper is to the journey.  And yes, she does play an important role in the end.  But it bothered me that for most of the book, she needed rescuing or she was swooning over Jason.

In the Percy Jackson books, Annabeth was her own character.  But in The Lost Hero, Piper was usually only talked about in her relation to men, whether it be Jason or her movie star father.

The book was entertaining for what is was.  It’s a quick read and has some good information about Greek and Roman mythology.  It’s rather predictable, but I usually expect children’s books to be.

I’ve recently finished reading The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (the first in a series, next is Catching Fire and Mockingjay comes out at the end of August).  I was surprisingly impressed by the book.  I had heard really good things about it, but I had no idea that it focused on a strong, self-sufficient 16-year-old girl.

The Hunger Games takes place in a the future in the continent of North America, but the country is now referred to as Panem.  Panem is made up of 12 districts surrounding the Capitol (which, from the sounds of it, seems to be around the Denver area).  Katniss is from the 12th district, the poorest of them all and she comes the poor part of district 12.  She has to provide for both her mother and her little sister.  She does this by hunting illegally in the woods around the district — she can shoot an arrow through the eye of any animal (because then it doesn’t waste any meat.  Every year, the Capitol hosts the Hunger Games as a way to remind the districts of their control over them.  A boy and a girl between the ages of 12 and 18 are selected from each district to participate and fight each other to the death to declare themselves the victors of the Hunger Games.

Katniss’ sister, Prim, is originally selected as the female sacrifice tribute for her district, but Katniss volunteers herself, not wanting to see her 12-year-old sister put through that.  Katniss and her fellow district 12 tribute, Peeta, have to learn how to fight within the arena.  It’s as much of a competition of survival as it is of fighting.  But it becomes very obvious from the beginning that the Capitol and the Gamemakers like to exert their control over the tributes as a way of making sure that all the districts stay in line.  Katniss is well aware of this so she is able to outsmart and out-maneuver them.  You’ll have to read the book if you want to find out more about what happens specifically.

I liked this book on multiple levels.  First of all, it was a science fiction/futuristic teen book that did not revolve around vampires.  It had an original storyline that kept me interested.  It was not just a book about these Hunger Games, but about government control and living in a society with little personal freedom.

Secondly, I loved that the main character was a teenage girl.  Katniss is a girl that doesn’t trust many people because she has had to fend for herself for most of her life.  Her trust doesn’t come easy.  She can take care of her family by hunting, which is traditionally something that we see men doing in pop culture (just so you know, her hunting companion is male).  It becomes clear right from the beginning, and even more so once the Hunger Games begin, that Katniss is smart, strong, loyal, and yet compassionate.

One thing that I did not like about the storyline was that Katniss and Peeta’s mentor thrust them into a “fake” romantic relationship in order to gain public support within the Games.  I thought that it kept the storyline interesting and romantic relationships are something that a lot of teens will be interested in seeing int he books that they read.  It was important for Katniss’ character development for her to be able to trust Peeta with her life as well as admit that she needed help.  But I didn’t really like that Katniss needed Peeta in order to survive.  Towards to the end, it became very apparent that it was actually Peeta that needed Katniss.  However, their relationship just kind of felt wrong because I felt like it was bringing Katniss down from her full potential.  As with most storylines, there are negatives and positives though.

I was very pleasantly surprised to see that The Hunger Games was all about a teenage girl.  I have to admit that I didn’t really know a whole lot about the book before I started reading it.  I didn’t even know that it centered on a teenage girl.  I think that this would be a great book for teenage girls as opposed to something like Twilight, where the main girl is so emotionally as well as physically dependent on a guy.

I have recently started reading the Millennium series by Stieg Larsson.  I read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo probably about a week and a half ago now and became absolutely enthralled by it.  And now I’ve finished the second in the series, The Girl Who Played With Fire.  I can’t wait to see how the trilogy ends in The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest.  I was really impressed with the second book of this series…for a number of reasons.

Warning: minor spoilers for the first two books of the series (and please don’t leave spoilers for the third in the comments).  I will not reveal any of the major revelations of the books, but I will discuss some of the aspects of the plot and character development.

When I first started The Girl Who Played With Fire I wasn’t sure how I felt about the character developments of Lisbeth Salander, the female protagonist (I don’t know if ‘protagonist’ is the right word for Salander).  In The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Salander came across as this incredibly brilliant, yet socially awkward woman, who didn’t take crap from anyone.  At the beginning of Fire, we learn that Salander used a (small) portion of the money that she obtained in Dragon Tattoo to get a boob job.  She spends the first 100 (or more, can’t remember) pages or so being self-conscious about not only her new breasts but her small body as well.  I don’t know if this was some sort of development to make her more relate-able because, yes, everyone has body image issues.  But all I saw was Salander going from this kick-ass woman to this whiny girl.  I didn’t really care for it.  Once we got past that part of the book, the “old” Salander seemed to come back with all her computer hacking and investigative glory.  As she is described at some points throughout the book, Salander is a woman who hates men who hate women (a play on the Swedish title of Dragon TattooThe Men Who Hate Women).

While it did take a while a long while for the murders of this murder mystery to happen (about 200 pages or so), which we knew were going to happen based on reading the back of the book, I did find the lead up to the murders interesting (even though I was frustrated that they hadn’t happened yet — is it a bad sign when you are asking yourself when murders are finally going to happen, even if it is in a book?).  The lead up to the murders dealt a lot with an expose of the sex trafficking industry in Sweden.  I thought it was a very interesting approach in that it’s something that most people generally don’t want to think about (on a whole, even though it’s a really important issue).  And I liked that they did focus on the victims of the sex trafficking industry, but they also looked at the financials of it and what pimps and johns gained from it.

I also thought that Fire provided an interesting look at mental illness.  Salander was in and out of mental institutions in her teens and was uncooperative with authorities, so she had numerous reports of something being “wrong” with her, that she was unstable, and that she was a psychopath with violent tendencies (which, yes, she does tend to have violent tendencies, but only when provoked).  During the police investigation into Salander, all they had access to were these reports, so they drew a picture of her being this crazy killer woman.  It didn’t help that she didn’t have that many friends.  But all of the people that they interviewed about her gave a completely different account of what she was actually like.  Despite the interviews from her friends, the police were insistent for a good part that Salander was responsible for the murders because she has a history of mental illness and violence.

It was interesting to see this story line play out.  As an audience, we have know that Salander had been in a mental hospital and that she was declared incompetent.  But we also saw her as being able to handle herself, as a genius, albeit, socially awkward.  We were just meant to believe that Salander had fallen to some bad situations that ended with her being in a mental institution (which doesn’t necessarily mean she has a mental illness — but there is talk in this book about the possibility of her having Asperger’s, but she has never been officially diagnosed).  But in Fire, we see the character of Salander that we have grown accustomed to challenged by her medical reports and the police being insistent that there is something “wrong” with her.  It also says a lot about the difference between reading reports of people (which are made through other people’s perceptions and biases — which plays a large role in Salander’s case) and actually getting to know the person, whether talking to them yourself or talking to the people that know her well (in the case of the book).

Overall, I thought that this was a great book.  I can’t decide if I liked Fire better or Dragon Tattoo, because they have significantly different story lines despite having the same characters.  In Fire, Salander and Blomkvist (the main characters) are never together except for the last page, so you don’t get too much of the interaction between them that you got in the first.  And the investigations in each book are significantly different in nature — both murder investigations, but under completely different circumstances.

I will make a note at the end here though, that there are some major trigger warnings for both books.  There are graphic descriptions of rape, violent scenes, domestic violence, and sex trafficking throughout both books.  I thought that Dragon Tattoo was a little more graphic in its descriptions, but there are still some major trigger warnings for Fire.

That being said, I would highly recommend this trilogy to anyone, just be aware of these trigger warnings as I was not when I first started reading Dragon Tattoo.

feministhemes.com: Telephone: Lady Gaga’s Latest Controversy

Lady Gaga’s new video for Telephone has set of quite the firestorm online. Gaga appeared (pantsless) on my radar about a year ago as I noticed her being ripped apart by women-targeted fashion and gossip blogs, and the occasional feminist blog. Over time, things seemed to improve: she developed a reputation for being subversive, outspoken, gay-friendly, and arguably feminist. Her latest video has put a lot of us back at square one, wondering if we were kidding ourselves, if she’s messing with our heads, if this was just a fluke, if she jumped the shark, or (!!!) if it’s just a (NSFW) music video.

Criss writes: VAGINA!!! TAMPONS!!! VAGINA!!!

The ads are selling tampons — which are things you stick inside your VAGINA — but they are not allowed to say the word “vagina.”

Feministe: Five-Song Feminist Playlist

Jezebel has a Feminist Play List of five feminism-inspired songs, and they pick some good ones. But I know Feministe readers are primo Insufferable Music Snobs, so add your selections in the comments. And maybe the most fun thing about making this list? There are so many more than five songs to choose from. Feminism win.

Viva La Feminista: Book Review: Enlightened Sexism by Susan J. Douglas

Douglas attempts to unveil the contradictions in society, especially pop culture, that allows us, men and women, to believe we live in a post-feminist world but in fact do not. She fails to convince me, despite believing it, due to her contradictory examples.

this ain’t livin’: Before You Criticize the Food Choices of Others

Food policing is an area in which all sorts of assumptions are made about class and ability status. It goes hand in hand with the idea that people have an obligation to be healthy, that all bodies are the same so there’s only one way to be healthy, and that there is virtue in eating “right” as dictated by current authorities in the food world. Like, say, Michael Pollan, who is editorialized fawningly in numerous publications all over the planet for his “simple” and “helpful” food rules.

Here are a bunch of great posts about International Women’s Day:

Womanist Musings: In the Shadow of Hattie McDaniel Stands Monique

Ms. McDaniel won her award for best supporting actress in the movie “Gone With the Wind” in 1939. At the Atlanta premiere, not only was she banned from attending, her name was stricken from the souvenir program along with all of the other Black actors. Segregation meant that no matter her achievements, she was not worthy to be counted alongside the White actors. She was the first African American to be invited to the Oscars as a guest rather than a servant. What an accomplishment for the daughter of a slave.

feministhemes.com: The Blame and Shame Game

I don’t doubt that the motives here were well-intentioned, but I think that the posters that the students developed are a prime example of how we talk about sexual assault, rape, and domestic violence in our culture.

Criss writes: International ALL Women’s Day: “Feminista”

I was excited to read Erica Kennedy’s FEMINISTA mainly because of the title. I happily bought the book, not just because I could put it on my shiny new eReader but because buying it I was supporting a fellow Latina writer.

The story and characters have turned out to be not be my particular cup of tea, but I wanted to read it anyway. Until the word “tranny” appeared — and didn’t go away.

Also make sure to read Criss’ follow up post: ” ‘Feministas’ and the T-Word: The Aftermath”

Everyone make sure to check out the new group blog, Equality 101:

Equality 101 is a group blog for teachers. Here, we will post lessons, articles, and thoughts about diversity in K-12 and post-secondary education. Diversity can mean anything from tackling issues like racism, sexism, and classism in the classroom to inspiring diverse learners in any sense of the word.

this ain’t living’: Your Privilege: Check It

There’s an idea which some people have that if they name themselves “good allies” they are allowed to assess their own behaviour, and that they can even do so accurately because, you know, they are good allies. This is a fallacy. It’s a fallacy in part because even the very best allies mess up. Sometimes royally. Allies are like banks, then: You cannot rely upon them to regulate themselves. In part, it’s in their nature, in part, it’s because it’s really hard to self-regulate because you have no distance and perspective.

Bitch Blogs: Race Card: Chris Brown, Charlie Sheen, Race and Domestic Violence

So, is TMZ vilifying Brown in ways that it has failed to vilify Sheen? I’m inclined to agree with commenters who said that TMZ not only hasn’t vilified Sheen but has also tried to garner sympathy for him. After reporting that Sheen’s wife, Brooke Mueller, had accused Sheen of domestic violence on Christmas Day, the Web site first moved to discredit Mueller, reporting that she was legally intoxicated when police showed up to intervene. And the commenters above are correct when they say that there’s been underlying sympathy throughout reports about Sheen needing permission to visit Mueller in the hospital when she developed a high fever related to oral surgery.

Spare Candy: “Living Dolls” could generate big conversation

Author and writer Natasha Walter has a new book coming out (Feb. 4, I believe), called “Living Dolls: The Return of Sexism.” If you pay attention to UK newspapers, you know it’s already generating a number of columns and stories in the press.

Well, it’s Christmas Eve and I’ll be running around all day.  But here are some favorite posts from other blogs.  Sorry that I’ve just been doing link love lately, but hopefully that will change after my work schedule calms down a little bit and I have some time to focus on posting.

PopMatters: When TV Became Art: What We Owe to Buffy

TV has become art, but that was achieved well before the first episode of The Wire and even before the advent of this decade. TV became art when what should have been the antithesis of art, a teen drama about a cheerleader who against her wishes was forced to become a vampire slayer, redefined what could be done in the context of popular television.

Feministing: Top Ten Wins for Women in 2009

Sometimes, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by all the bad news about women’s issues we hear on a daily basis. From large to small, this past year has definitely seen its share of setbacks and sorrows. But 2009 has also been a year of victories and successes, progress and growth for women and women’s movements internationally.

this ain’t livin’: The Magicians

I’m always excited to read adult books like this, where the author acknowledges and plays with the idea of magic and doesn’t do it in a self conscious or pretentious way. I love the fact that Grossman built on prior worlds to create an entirely new sort of world for us to enjoy; reading The Magicians felt like getting to the end of the garden, opening a gate, and realizing that I had actually only been in a tiny corner of a much larger garden than I ever could have imagined.

Broadsheet: Carrie Bradshaw: Feminist Icon?

Today, the “Sex and the City” protagonist was declared an icon of the decade by noted feminist author Naomi Wolf. And just this past weekend, the make-believe Manhattanite was blamed by Camilla Long of the Times for kicking off a revolution that has made women increasingly unhappy. To recap: As the decade comes to a close, a fictional sex writer is being credited with both improving and ruining things for real, live women.