Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan

Timeframe: I read this book on the flight home from San Juan to Atlanta to Nashville. This includes time in the airport. It took me about 14 hours off and on. Actually, I guess it took about 10 hours because we spent much of our time in lines at the Puerto Rican airport!
Book: This is the second book in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series.
My Concern: I hope Riordan ages his writing style along with the characters. Percy is only in 7th grade in this book, so he still seems immature. I hope Riordan really ages Percy as these books go along.
Musings: I sometimes miss teaching English I. As I was reading this book, I really missed it. This book revisits most of the characters (even the oft-overlooked Laestrygonians) from The Odyssey. I love The Odyssey. This book brought those characters to mind again and made me happy. I wish I was still teaching English I in order to be able to say to some of thos kids who hated reading The Odyssey but loved hearing me tell the timeless story: "Hey, here's this book. Read it. You'll like it so much better than Robert Fitzgerald's translation of Homer. Please, teenage boy, don't stop reading. Let me guide you to the world of pleasure reading with this book."
There is more information on this book at

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

Timeframe: I read this book during my week-long cruise of the Carribean last week. I mostly read it in the aternoons after returning from our excursions and before a nap. It was an easy read and not demanding.
Premise: This is the first book in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. Percy is short for Perseus. Percy is in the sixth grade when he discovers that he is a half-blood, the son of a mortal woman and Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea.
My Thoughts: I love mythology. I have since I was little. My mom, also and English teacher, told me The Odyssey as a bedtime story. I like the idea that this story brings to light minor gods and their lesser-known stories. This story really displays the pettiness of the Greek gods that students sometimes miss.
My Concern: I am worried that this is an attempt to turn Harry Potter into a mythological story. Percy, like Harry, starts his story in 6th grade. Percy, like Harry, is a chosen one; Percy is the son of one of the "big three." Percy, like Harry, has a close female friend who is very smart (a daughter of Athena, in fact). Percy, like Harry, discovers that he has a nemesis.
My Delight: These are not the traits of Harry Potter. These are the traits of the heroes of all ages for all people. They are archetypes with whom people have identified for ages. Heroes are chosen; something about them calls them to be special. Heroes do not succeed on their own; they always need a wise friend to compliment their advenutous and spontaneous qualities. Heroes must have an enemy because a story is not deiven without conflict; evil is real in the hero's world, just like evil is present in the real world. I LOVE THEMES AND ARCHETYPES!
Recommendation: Read it! Read it yourself. Read it with your 8-12 year olds. Read it!
Information on this book can be found at

Artichoke's Heart by Suzanne Supplee

Timeframe: I read this book in its entirety on my trip from Nashville to Atlanta to San Juan, Puerto Rico. This includes all time at the airport, so it took about 8 hours. Obviously, I enjoyed this book!
Reason for Choosing this Book: I heard this author speak at last fall's TASL (Tennessee Association of School Librarians) Conference. She read her speech. When she first started reading, I though, "Oh my! This is going to be awful." I was so wrong. She's a great Southern author. She is from Columbia, Tennesee, though she lives in Baltimore now.
Identification: This book spoke to me at different times in life. It is about a girl living in Spring Hill, Tennessee (Joelton as a teen, Smyrna now, all places near Nashville but NOT Nashville...smaller but not small because of their proximity to Nashville). This teen was constantly aware of her weight (Me since 8th grade. Even when I was thin in high school, my weight has always been an issue for me.) She hits 190 pounds and knows things have to change (my weight pre-pregnancy). She drops to around 160 over the course of the book (me now). Her mom gets cancer and she struggles through those feelings (me 2 years ago). She even has a very critical aunt (so me!)! So, you see, this book just spoke to me.
Recommendation: Please read it. You may find that it speaks to you too.
You can read some about this book on the author's website at

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

OK, so I'm finally finished with this book. It took me six weeks of having this "book on tape" in my possession to finish. When I started reading it, Bridget Riley told me not to read it at night. I would concur with her advice and add that you shouldn't read it when you are down or when you don't feel like getting down. I actually liked this book, but it is just so heavy with saddness; I couldn't do it every day.
Premise: This book alternates between the story of Daniel Burnham and his building of the 1893 Chicago World Columbian Expodition and the story of H. H. Holmes and his serial killings during the fair. Tidbit: Bridget's 11th graders like the part about the serial killer; I loved the parts about the World's Fair.
Amazing: So many great people played a part in the World's Fair. Two notable ones include the artist Frances Millet (who later died in the sinking of the Titanic) and Fred Law Olmstead, the landscape artist who designed New York's Central Park and the grounds at the BILTMORE. (BTW: I want to play croquet on one of Biltmore's lawns in particular. I just know that's what Olmstead had in mind for it when he designed it!)
Incredible: So many new inventions showed up at this World's Fair. The first Ferris wheel was here; it was made to rival Gustave Eiffel's tower at the 1889 Paris World's Fair. Other notable firsts include (but are not limited to): Cracker Jack, Juicy Fruit, Shredded Wheat, Quaker Oats, Cream of Wheat, elongated coin souveniers, and the term "Windy City."
Discussion: With all of these great events/firsts/people recorded in this book, why are students drawn to the parts about the serial killer?
There are lots of interesting facts to be found at

Next Books: I am currently reading Artichoke's Heart by Suzanne Supplee, a native Tennessean; I like things from Tennessee, except a moon pie. I leave for a cruise on Saturday. I have several books packed, among them are the first three books of Rick Riordan's Percy jackson series.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Murder of King Tut by James Patterson

The actual title of this book is The Murder of King Tut: The Plot to Kill the Child King- A Nonfiction Thriller. Try saying that five times fast!
Set-Up: This book is told in alternating chapters that take place in 3 different times with 3 different men. The first story line is the occasional thoughts of James Patterson about the creation of this book; he has maybe 5 brief chapters. The second story line is the life of Howard Carter and his decades-long quest to discover the tomb of Tutankhamen. The final story line, which I would call fiction in this nonfiction thriller, is the story of King Tut and his eventual murder...mwhahaha...curse of the mummy.
Story of the Book: This is my book; it has not been borrowed from a library. (If you would like to borrow it from me, just ask.) I won this book in the recent Winter Reading Program at the Smyrna Public Library. Dad and I participated. If you read 5 books in a 5-week period, then you won the "gold prize." We both did and we won: (1) our choice of a book from a display...this was my choice...very happy with it, (2) a bright yellow canvas bag that I will now carry things in to church, (3) a mug that promptly went to the garage sale pile, (4) 4 pieces of candy, (5) a coupon for a free milkshake, and (6) a "Your Library Fines are Forgiven" card...should I use this on my dime fine...I think not. Neither Dad nor I won the grand prize of an E-Reader, hence all of our chocolate was already eaten in sorrow.
Recommendation: I recommend this book to people who like history. I really enjoyed it, especially the parts about Howard Carter and his quest for Tut. If you would like to see the cover or read excerpts, go to

Other MAJOR Item: I am so excited! A few weeks ago, I entered the Overton High Library in a national reading contest. One of my students won! She gets a $50 gift card to the bookstore of her choice and our library gets a bundle of Great Scavenger Hunt books. Check out the link where MY NAME is on a national website at !