Friday, January 8, 2010

Reviews: The Lightning Thief and The Book Thief

Note: I am writing two reviews in one post today because they fall into the same category in the Take Another Chance Challenge.

Title: The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians Book 1)
Author: Rick Riordan
Pages: 400
Challenges: Take Another Chance Challenge (#9 - Same Word, Different Book); Read 'n' Review Challenge

From School Library Journal:

At the outset of this fast-paced tale by Rick Riordan (Hyperion/Miramax, 2005), it would seem that Percy Jackson is just another New York kid diagnosed with ADHD, who has good intentions, a nasty stepfather, and a long line of schools that have rejected him. The revelation of his status as half-blood offspring of one of the Greek gods is nicely packaged, and it's easy to believe that Mount Olympus, in modern times, has migrated to the 600th floor of the Empire State Building (the center of Western civilization) while the door to Hades can be found at DOA Recording Studio, somewhere in LA. With his new friends, a disguised satyr, and the half-blood daughter of Athena, Percy sets out across the country to rectify a feud between Zeus, Hades, and Poseidon. Along the way they must cope with the Furies, Medusa, motorcycle thug Aires, and various other immortals. Mythology fans will love this take and kids who haven't been inculcated with the Classical canon will learn aspects of it here while having no trouble following a rollicking good–and modern–adventure.

My Two Cents:

This book was such a refreshing change from a lot of young adult literature; it was a HUGE breath of fresh air. Most young adult books either have pathetically one-dimensional characters (I'm looking at you, Twilight) or their characters are stereotypically awful kids (Gossip Girl, et al) that no amount of great storytelling is going to make up for it.

Riordan, however, manages to not only make Percy Jackson, a demigod (But I won't tell you whose son he is!), a likable character with just the right amount of teenaged sass (He knows who to mouth off to, but shows proper respect to his mother), but he also tells an enthralling story filled with hilarious allusions to Greek mythology.

The writing here is also solid, neither talking down to the target audience nor too over their heads, and Riordan sucks you in from the very beginning. I can't wait to read the rest of the series.

My rating: 8/10

Title: The Book Thief
Author: Markus Zusak
Pages: 550
Challenges: Take Another Chance Challenge (#9 - Same Word, Different Book); 451 Challenge; Read 'n' Review Challenge

From School Library Journal:

Zusak has created a work that deserves the attention of sophisticated teen and adult readers. Death himself narrates the World War II-era story of Liesel Meminger from the time she is taken, at age nine, to live in Molching, Germany, with a foster family in a working-class neighborhood of tough kids, acid-tongued mothers, and loving fathers who earn their living by the work of their hands. The child arrives having just stolen her first book–although she has not yet learned how to read–and her foster father uses it, The Gravediggers Handbook, to lull her to sleep when shes roused by regular nightmares about her younger brothers death. Across the ensuing years of the late 1930s and into the 1940s, Liesel collects more stolen books as well as a peculiar set of friends: the boy Rudy, the Jewish refugee Max, the mayors reclusive wife (who has a whole library from which she allows Liesel to steal), and especially her foster parents. Zusak not only creates a mesmerizing and original story but also writes with poetic syntax, causing readers to deliberate over phrases and lines, even as the action impels them forward. Death is not a sentimental storyteller, but he does attend to an array of satisfying details, giving Liesels story all the nuances of chance, folly, and fulfilled expectation that it deserves. An extraordinary narrative.

My Two Cents:

Wow. This was one powerful book.

When I first began reading it, I had read several glowing reviews touting this book as "life-changing," but I wasn't so sure. I was intrigued, especially since the book is narrated by Death, so I kept plugging along.

Then, I fell in love with Liesel. She is one of those adolescent characters who is wise beyond her years and that I always wish I had known when I was a kid. She is strong, mostly by virtue of her situation, and her tenacity pays off when she learns to read and write through a series of late-night sessions with her foster father, Hans.

Hans is another character I simply adored. He has a deep-reaching kindness in his heart, a love of music and a tender nature that anyone would be lucky to have in a father or friend. He's also one of those people who is so committed to doing what is right, he is willing to put himself and his entire family in danger by harboring a Jew in his basement.

I could gush all day about the characters in this book, or Zusak's unconventional narrative style, but I am still in a little bit of shock from the incredibly emotional ending. I kid you not, I was sitting in the library with tears streaming down my face, choking back sobs, as I neared the end of this book. It's that good.

My rating: 10/10 


Elizabeth said...

The Book Thief was one powerful novel. I admit it took me a while to get into the "voice" of the narration - but once I was hooked, I couldn't stop reading. This is one I've recommended to lots of people. Glad you enjoyed it!

bermudaonion said...

My son's a senior in college and he listened to The Lightening Thief on his way home for Christmas break and really liked it. He told me he thought I would too.

Michelle said...

@ Elizabeth - I was actually all prepared to be let down given the proliferation of glowing reviews I'd read. But, it surprised me!

@bermudaonion - It's a fun read. Very light and easy, but also requires some thinking and knowledge of Greek mythology to get all the jokes. My guess is there's a small upswing in the number of teens and 'tweens reading up on mythology because of this series!

Sandra said...

I loved this book too. It's one of my all-time favourites. I think everyone should read it.

Bekah said...

I loved the Lightening Thief. In fact I loved the first four in the Percy Jackson and the Olympian Series. I can hardly wait to experience the movie which comes out Feb 12th.
The Book Thief is high on my TBR list.

Jenners said...

Wow! I heard that "The Book Thief" was good ... and now I'm even more excited to read it now! And I'm excited about "The Lightening Thief" too. Maybe I should just read all books with Thief in the title.

I saw a preview of the Lightning Thief movie coming out, but I'm sure the book is way way better.

You really lucked out on this one! Yay!

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