Friday, February 19, 2010

Don't Judge a Book By It's Movie... Percy Jackson

Percy Jackson books are a hit again. Since the movie was released on February 12, the books have not been on our shelves at the library. Which is a good thing. The series is wonderful! Every book in the series is a page turner. So why get all upset about the movie? The only good thing that the movie has done for the series is getting more readers for the series. Other than that, it proves that not all books should be made into movies. Which is a disappointment, because Riordian's series seemed to spell out movie magic, instead it was movie hack job. Sorry, it didn't do the book justice and here's why.

The movie lacked the suspense that the carried the series. Reading The Lightning Thief, it was hard to pick out who was the real thief. What the movie did was pick out one other camp member besides Anna Beth and Grover, which happened to be Luke, as a way of pointing out the possible thief. Good let's just point the finger at the only person in the camp as he possible thief. Wouldn't you know it? The thief was Luke. Didn't see that coming? Than you must slept through the movie. One of the most memorable character of the series was no where to be found. Clarisse is a character everyone loves to hate. She has all the elements of the arch enemy but in a pinch you want her on the hero's side. So where was she? For that matter where were Ares and his cool motorcycle, Dionysus, the Wine god who had a bad attitude or The Fates, the three women who hint at Percy's destiny. So many wonderful supporting characters that would have added more depth to the movie, were eliminated. The movie cuts her out. To bad, the director missed out on a golden opportunity to add the suspense that was desperately needed.

What else was missing? Percy's mission. Throughout the series the mention of how Percy was to be the "one" that all the prophecies spoke about. This demigod. son of Poseidon, would either destroy the gods or save them. There was no mention of this mighty mission. Instead, Percy was thrown into the middle of a war between gods over Zeus' lightning bolt. There is no clue to Percy's destiny other than getting his name cleared. The meeting with Zeus on Mount Olympus was less than satisfying to say the least. When Zeus asks why Luke would want to steal the bolt, Percy answers lamely that Luke wanted more power. Duh! It left the question hanging, Why? Was he working alone? Does he want power for himself? Nope just wanted the gods to destroy themselves so he can have power.

The books let the reader escape reality for a while. It is pure entertainment. Hollywood always tries to add a commentary that they feel is relevant from the headlines. Examples of this in the movie comes at least twice. First when Grover explains to Percy that demigods are everywhere even in the White House. Okay, we get it. Hollywood loves Obama, but does it have to put that in the movie. It is so cheesy. Again, Grover’s got something to say about reality when he tries to pay for the fare across the river Styx. When his money bursts into flames, he makes the statement about the recession. The whole reason to go to the movie is to escape from reality. Politics has no place in this story.

Besides basically re-writing Percy’s story. The acting in the film was average. The only bright spot, was Medusa. Uma Thurman did a wonderful job protraying the most feared woman in Greek Mythology. Too bad her presense in the movie was brief. The casting of Pierce Brosnan as Chiron was fatal. Brosnan’s performance was not up to par. It was very hard to get past the fact that James Bond is now half man/half horse. Shouldn’t Brosnan, with his stunning good looks, been one of the gods? (Minor complaint that has nothing to do with the book to be sure, however still worth mentionng.) The casting of Logan Leman as Percy was perfect if all the Producer was interested in was someone who “looked” like Percy. Other than that, he and his co-stars Brandon T. Jackson and Alexandra Daddario couldn’t bring the charactes alive. Could it be that the script gave them so little to be inspried by?

If Hollywood decides to go ahead with the series and release Sea of Monsters, I will pass. Instead, I’ll pick up the book and get lost in between the pages using my own immagination to create the scenes of the book. I’m sure it will be much more satisfying.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Newbery 2011? One Crazy Summer

On a previous post, I decided that the first book to read for the Mock Newbery 2011 was One Crazy Summer which was written by Rita Williams-Garcia. My initial thought of the book is that it is okay. Nothing really to write home about and although it may be too early to decide if this would win the top honors or not, my gut instincts tells me it won't for several reasons. In fiction, it is desirable for the readers and the characters to have common ground. While this book will find those readers who will identify with the characters of this book, it lacks broad appeal.

The details that are wonderful and memorable are few. The one character that should have been more involved was Big Ma. It was her strong motherly care for her grandchildren that made this reader want to get to know her more. From the point of view of the main character, Delphine, Big Ma was a women who believed that family came first. With this commandment in hand she drilled into her family how to behave, how to dress and how to have pride in oneself. Who couldn't admire a grandmother like that? The Pop Culture of the late 1960's was also a nice touch. This presents the opportunity for children to ask their parents questions about years gone by and parents can recall memories of bell bottoms, hippies and protests. It's a pretty neat trip down memory lane.

What troubles this reader the most about the book is that it is centered around a woman who gave up her three daughters to write poems in order to "fight against the man". In other worlds, she wrote poetry for the Blank Panther movement. The position of the author on the topic of civil activism and violence is confusing. On one hand, the main character understands that being a the Blank Panther's community center could be dangerous. In the next breath Williams-Garcia describes the workers as wonderful role models who are teaching the children their rights. What is dangerous about this book is that it paints the Black Panther movement as something positive. There are mention in the story of calling the police "pigs" or "racist pigs". It doesn't matter what side of the political scale a person is on, it should be agreed that teaching children to disrespect or mistrust the police is never a good thing. It also shows a lack of respect between the races which is sad. It would be so much better if stories could be color blind. Whatever ethnic background we have, there is one common trait that all of us share. We all belong to the human race.

One Crazy Summer is an okay story but there has got to be better ones out there for the Newbery awards. Next month's Mrs. Nowc's Mock Newbery's selection will be The Night Fairy by Laura Amy Schlitz. Let me know what you think of either books. If there is a title that you think merits consideration on this list, drop me a line at

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Ebooks Versus Books: A Book Lover's Dilemma

I am amazed at the many changes in technology during my own lifetime. Growing up in the 70's and 80's who would have even thought of sending someone an e-mail or texting a friend via a cell phone? It seemed virtually impossible. Especially when considering an cell phone in the 80's was about as big as a shoe box. At graduation in 1992 from Wayne State University, the hype was the internet and how it would change libraries forever. Indeed it has, some for the good and some for the bad. Let's be honest, I wouldn't be here pondering this question if it were not for the ease of communicating through a blog. While libraries have gone through major changes it seems that books are on the verge of a tipping point. That is the moment when the world changes with the birth of a technological advance. The news last week was buzzing with excitement over the new iPad. this product will rival the Kindle II, the Sony reader and the Nook. Versions of different types of electronic books. Now the race is on to see which will dominate the field. Personally, I'm not quite sure that any of them will be able to replace my need for a good book.

Do not make the mistake that I am like the Unabomber who maintained that a techno-industrial society would take away one's freedom I like technology because it has made many of the things I use to do manually easier. For example, typing. When I was in high school I used so much whiteout that the company who made the product should have made me their poster child r given me shares in the company as a reward for being their best customer. I still own a typewriter but give me my Mac when it comes to typing up letters, articles and so forth. Technology changes an idea or product because there is a need for a change. Typewriter to computer made a lot of sense to me. Books to a electronic reader? The need for change did not present itself to me immediately. Even now, the question of why still lingers.

Making a list of pros and cons of a an ereader, the pros are strong for certain types of formats or sources of information. For example, ereaders should be good for newspapers and magazines. It would be nice not to have a stack of newspapers waiting to be recycled every week. The ereaders would make a wonderful substitute to the heavy backpacks that students carry filled with books of forty pounds or more. It will be interesting to see if Professors will be able to highlight information that they deem important and sync it to their students’ ereader or iPad. That would be wonderful. so there is value in an ereader.

However, when it comes to leisure reading, this is where the problem creeps in for me. I love my books. They are like security blankets. Everything else in my life has gone digital. Can’t there be one thing left untouched? It is very difficult for me to conceive of getting all warm and comfy with an ereader, with my tea and begin a great story that will allow me to drift away for hours. Novels and books are personal to me because I get involved in the lives of Doctor Zhivago and his true love Larissa. or Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy. These characters’ lives with all their trials and triumphs warms the spirit. To think that they will now be on a flat screen which may look like a book but it can not replace the textual feeling of the book. As a matter of fact, it seems computers are devoid of humanity. Literature is full of humanity and it is as if the computer will snuff out the humanity. It seems silly to say I know, but perhaps when radio plays were replaced by television the audience felt the same way I do about books. Once the words were joined with picture, the audience lost the use of imagination. The tube took away the intimacy of the voice. Will the ereader take away the intimacy of the printed word? There is a possibility that it will. Leaving a terrible void for those who love to read but can’t find the joy of the intimate connection with the characters. The only way to find out is to check out a Kindle II at my local library.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Going Bovine Or Bust!

The Printz Award winner for 2010 is Going Bovine by Libba Bray. This is not your ordinary novel. It is not even fair to call quirky because that would give quirky a bad image. After reading this book, it amazed me that it received the honor that it did. However, knowing the American Library Association the way I do and also understanding that they like off beat "real life" stories, the selection made sense. To be completely open about what I perceive as good writing there are three things the story line should try to maneuver around as best as possible. First, don't rely on foul language as a form of authentic dialog. It's boring. It's rude and it's not needed. Second, there is a time a place for having a lovable loser. This book completely falls short on getting the reader to root for the "hero " , Cameron. In a story about a teen dying from Mad Cow Disease, at least give the readers a reason to feel for him. Third, if taking on deep philosophical issues such as the meaning of life either use comedy or drama, but don't do both if you are going use tacky trendy props just to make your tome seem "hip." Last but not least, have a clear time line in the story if going from an event in the present, to fantasy and to the past. The constant jumping around and characters who show up just for the sake of showing up was not only confusing but annoying. Having said all that, guess what Bray's book does. Ms. Bray uses foul language though out the book. The hero is a "loser" in high school but he is anything but lovable. The reader is never really sure if they are rooting for him or just hoping that the story will somehow start to make sense. The philosophical issues of life and death are dealt with in an attempt to be funny, and dramatic. Yet, it fails miserably because Bray could not get the mix of a drama/comedy right. If she attempted to make a stand on her convictions on life and death it may have had a chance. Last, the reader could get serious whiplash just by jumping around in time and space with Cameron. One never knows if the old lady from across the hall is going to show up or if the fire eating monsters are hot on the travelers trail.

The only bright spot of the book was Balder, the yard gnome. It was a treat to meet the second son of Odin. It was sadder to see Odin go on his last journey to the sea than to realize that Cameron's time was up. When does the reader get to meet Balder? Halfway into the book! it would have been so nice to have met him earlier! As much as I liked Balder, it seemed that he was used to bring in a little Norse Mythology and to have a sage voice giving Cameron to listen to once in a while. Let's see, where has mythology been used to tell a story? Ah, yes. Percy Jackson. So would that make Cameron a copy cat? Not really but it does point to Bray trying to tap into a current phenomenon in YA literature. The other trendy device is the gay agenda. To have Gonzo, Cameron's side kick in this adventure, find a gay lover is not only unbelievable but also put into question why that was necessary to be placed in the story. To give the book credibility? Well, it would have worked if the characters were not two dimensional

What's left to say? This year's award choice is a BUST. This book is simply not even worth recommending to friends. Unless, give the option to start at chapter twenty-eight to meet Balder. Many other books would have been a better choice for the first prize.