Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods by Rick Riordan

Percy_Jackson's_Greek_GodsPart of me feels like I ought to be ashamed of the fact that 80% of my Greek mythology knowledge comes from one American man, but Rick Riordan makes it so entertaining!  I don’t know how he manages to convey humor while simultaneously making it clear that the gods habits of murdering and raping is abominable…but he does.  It’s very impressive.

I liked his book on heroes more than this one on the gods.  The style and everything is the same; it’s just that I’m more familiar with the stories of the gods and goddesses, so it wasn’t quite as interesting.  Still, it’s a great book, and John Rocco’s illustrations continue to be flat-out gorgeous (although he draws Dionysus as an old fat man despite the story describing him as a beautiful teenage boy with girlish features).

If you like Riordan’s style, you’ll like this book.  Honestly, I’m fully in his pocket, and I’ll read everything he ever writes, I think.  I hope he makes another one of these massive books – maybe about the minor Greek gods, or about Egyptian gods.  Haha, the man is churning out two books a year, but I WANT MORE.   Continue reading

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Percy Jackson’s Greek Heroes by Rick Riordan

 

61dF-z3PjxL._SX371_BO1,204,203,200_Percy Jackson breathes new life into familiar Greek myths and introduces several less-popular men and women.  You’ve got Hercules and Theseus, of course, but also Phaethon, Orpheus, and Bellerophon.  Most importantly (to my interests), Riordan tells the stories of four heroines!  The ancient Greeks weren’t huge on female inspiration, and I appreciate Riordan’s intentionality in choosing to include Psyche, Otrera, Atalanta, and Cyrene.

The tone of the book is irreverent and modern, much like the Percy Jackson books, which makes sense as Percy is the “author” of these stories.  He has no problem calling out the gods on their weird and/or horrible actions.  For instance, when describing Danae’s imprisonment, Percy says:  Continue reading

Sand in My Bra edited by Jennifer L. Leo

366190Female travelers of the world will love this compilation of travel essays from 28 women headed into hilarious, dangerous, and awkward situations all over the world.  Although some of the essays are generic travel stories, most are distinctly female, and it made me aware of how infrequently I read about women adventurers.  There are stories about accepting imperfect bodies simply by being on a beach overseas, and horror stories of period catastrophes, and a lot of unironic adoration of being female.

I mean, that’s pretty much it.  If you like traveling and you like women, then you will probably like the majority of these essays.  But hey, here’s a quote to entice you just a little bit more:

This is the heart of travel.  This is why we do it.  This is why we are so willing to strap our fragile bodies into metal capsules and fly thousands of miles with hundreds of strangers endlessly exhaling new viruses into our airspace, drink water from dubious sources, eat food virulent with unknown flora and fauna, put up with impossible travel companions, lost luggage, and the legions of mule-like bureaucrats who manage to win positions of petty power in every city and village on earth.  We do it because we love this beautiful dangerous planet and we want to know it personally and, on balance, the pluses far outweigh the minuses, right?

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Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit

I once received a comment on a blog post that said, “I know you look at this differently, but I do not believe there has been an ages long conspiracy of men to keep women down.”  At the time I was too flabbergasted to respond with any kind of eloquence.  Now that I’ve read Men Explain Things to Me, I won’t have to speak for myself; I will simply hand a copy of Solnit’s book and let it explain things for me, if you will.  *wink*

Seven essays on the female experience, Solnit’s anthology is a must read for anyone interested in the subtle ways our patriarchal society oppresses women.  Sometimes this is manifested in ignorantly arrogant men speaking over women, as in her first essay, “Men Explain Things to Me.”  All too often, however, this oppression takes the form of violence, because

There’s so much of it.  We could talk about the assault and rape of a seventy-three-year-old in Manhattan’s Central Park in September 2012, or the recent rape of a four-year-old and an eighty-three-year-old in Louisiana, or the New York City policeman who was arrested in October of 2012 for what appeared to be serious plans to kidnap, rape, cook, and eat a woman, any woman, because the hate wasn’t personal.

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Prophecies, Libels, & Dreams by Ysabeau Wilce

YES!  More Califa stories!  The California/Aztec world created by Wilce is one of my absolute favorites, so when I stumbled across the existence of this compilation of short stories (cleverly compiled by a “historian” who comments on the likely historicity of each one in chapter Afterwards), I jumped at getting my hands on it.  I’m so glad I did!  Although the last two stories didn’t quite grab my attention–they take place after the events of the Flora series–the first five are wonderful.

We get the background of Springheel Jack in a flashy, hyper-descriptive little story.  But no contest, my favorite stories were the three about Hardhands and Tiny Doom.  Flora’s father was always one of my favorite characters, and it was so fun to read about him as an arrogant, powerful teenager.  Tiny Doom as a toddler was also hilarious fun, and as always, Pig is a scene-stealer.  Continue reading

The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan

It’s impossible to read Keegan’s book of short stories and essays without constantly thinking about the tragedy of her too-early death.  Mostly this is because the introduction to her book is essentially a well-written eulogy.  But it’s also because several of her essays deal with death or a hoped-for successful life come to naught.

Keegan’s real life tragedy adds a layer of meaning to her work, but the stories stand on their own.  She was a remarkable talent, and her short stories are poignant, funny, and incredibly real.  She was able to slip into the skins of varying protagonists of different ages and sexes.  I loved reading her work, and I so wish she had lived to write more.

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Marina Keegan’s star was on the rise when she graduated magna cum laude from Yale in May 2012.  She had a play that was to be produced at the New York International Fringe Festival and a job waiting for her at the New Yorker.  Tragically, five days after graduation, Marina died in a car crash.

As her family, friends and classmates, deep in grief, joined to create a memorial service for Marina, her unforgettable last essay for the Yale Daily News, “The Opposite of Loneliness,” went viral, receiving more than 1.4 million hits.  She had struck a chord.

Even though she was just twenty-two when she died, Marina left behind a rich, expansive trove of prose that, like her title essay, captures the hope, uncertainty, and possibility of her generation.  The Opposite of Loneliness is an assemblage of Marina’s essays and stories that, like The Last Lecture, articulates the universal struggle that all of us face as we figure out what we aspire to be and how we can harness our talents to make an impact on the world.

Release Date:  April 2014

Want another opinion?  Check out reviews at Love and Sparkles and Susan Coventry.