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60 Second Book Hook: The Lightning Thief

30 Sep

So I didn’t have any time tonight to get a new student review posted or to write one myself—I was too busy reading nonfiction—but I wanted to give you something new to explore here on I’m Always Right.

The good news is I whipped up a 60 Second Book Hook on my least favorite book of all time.

Check it out here:

There’s something here I want you to notice:  The reviews on I’m Always Right don’t always have to be of books that you liked.  Remember that as long as you can articulate WHY a book isn’t all that hot, you can post a negative review too.

In a lot of ways, those types of reviews are more fun simply because they give us all something to debate!

Mr. F

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Mockingjay’s a Letdown. . .

26 Sep

I haven’t had a chance to write about it yet, but The Hunger Games is my favorite book of all time.  It’s full of action—something that any book needs if it wants to capture my interest—and it’s got interesting main characters that I actually cared about by the time that the book was over.

It’s also about standing up to power, which is a theme that you’ll see in almost every book that ends up on my Books that Rule list.  There’s something about seeing the little guy stand up to power that is just plain interesting to me.

Maybe it’s because I’m an American!

That’s why I dropped everything a few weekends ago to read Mockingjay—the third and final book in The Hunger Games trilogy.  I mean I dropped EVERYTHING.  I didn’t do any of my part time work.  I didn’t watch any television.  I didn’t grade papers.  I didn’t eat.  I didn’t sleep.  I didn’t feed the cats.  I didn’t give my daughter a bath.  I didn’t give myself a bath.

I read.  On my Kindle.  For hours on end.

My wife was ticked.

What made matters even worse—although there’s not much worse than smelling bad, an angry wife, a dirty child, and hungry cats—is that Mockingjay was a SERIOUS LETDOWN.

The story opens with the 13 districts of Panem in open revolt against the government after Katniss and Peeta stage a mini-love-bellion at the end of the Quarter Quell.  Katniss—who almost died at the end of Catching Fire—has been saved by the rebels and nursed back to health in the mysterious District 13.

The plan for the rebels is really quite simple:  get their little superstar in fighting shape and turn her loose on President Snow and his lackeys in the Capital.

Sounds amazing, doesn’t it? After the action scenes in both The Hunger Games and Catching Fire, I COULDN’T WAIT to see the young Miss Everdeen going bonkers on the power hungry people in the Capital that had been controlling her life for the better part of two years—-ESPECIALLY after I found out that Snow was torturing her beloved Peeta just for giggles.

But here’s the thing:  Katniss almost never fights in Mockingjay.  For the first part of the book, she’s in the hospital having horrible dreams and in District 13 making commercials.  Heck, the only thing the rebels DON’T do is put her on the side of a Wheaties box.

And while I’m SURE that her commercials were VERY important, I wanted to see her fighting.  That’s what she’s good at.

When she does finally get into a battle—defending a hospital in District 8—she shoots a few explosive arrows and then makes another commercial.  The entire scene is over in about 6 pages.  That’s a lot of reading for a few arrows, don’t you think?

Mockingjay only gets WORSE after Katniss’s first battle though. In fact, Suzanne Collins makes a mistake that I HATE to see in a book:  She skips over a TON of important events.  When Katniss is fighting in District 8, the rebels have control of ONE district.  Katniss then heads back to District 13, which gets bombed by the Capitol.

When the bombing is done, miraculously the rebels are in control of ELEVEN districts.

Just like that.

No explanation.

No fighting.

No Katniss shooting arrows through the hearts of enemies.

Nothing.

Now, the ending of the story—where Katniss finally gets to the Captial to confront President Snow is pretty cool.  It’s full of the kinds of morphlings and science fiction robotic fighting action that made the Hunger Games a great read.  But Collins blows that momentum, too, by having Katniss get knocked out by an explosion while standing outside the President’s mansion and having the rebels end the fighting while she’s unconscious and in the hospital.

Yup.  That’s right.  The whole story is about getting back at President Snow and Katniss never gets that chance.  The whole story is about rebelling against the Capital, and all but two of the districts are conquered in pages that you never get to read.  The whole story is about Katniss the hero, and she spends the entire book making commercials.

Now, maybe my reaction is partly because I was so jacked for Mockingjay.  Maybe I’m just disappointed because Mockingjay didn’t live up to the hype—or to the action—of the earlier books.

All I know, though, is that right now, I’d say that this book is BARELY better than The Lightning Thief.

Mockingjay’s Score:  Way5

The Horror of the Lightning Thief

26 Sep

Everyone knows from the day that they are born that there’s nothing better than a good story.

Sitting captivated on our grandfathers’ laps, we could listen anxiously for hours. For me, there’s nothing better than a believable story, which let me imagine that I’m living the events with the main characters. I also like stories that move at a quick pace from beginning to end. Finally, I like stories that can help me to learn something new.

Sadly, Rick Riordan’s The Lightning Thief fails in all three of these areas.

Whether you read Rick Riordan’s book or saw the movie version that was just released, there’s nothing believable about The Lightning Thief. In fact, there are dozens and dozens of events that simply couldn’t have happened.

The best example from the book happens when Percy, Grover and Annabelle journey to the Underworld and are confronted by Hades’ three-headed dog. While readers fear that the end is near for their favorite characters, this seemingly impossible challenge is solved when Annabeth pulls out a rubber ball and makes friends with Cerberus.

Are we really supposed to believe that the dog of the Devil was just looking for a friend?

In the movie, I struggled with one scene from the climax. As Luke and Percy fight over Zeus’s master bolt in New York City, they land on a roof that just so happens to have an ancient water tower sitting on top.

Now, I know that it was nice to see Percy defeat Luke with his weapon of choice, but do modern cities really have ancient water towers on their skyscrapers? That’s a stretch at best—and I can’t stand stretches in my stories.

The Lightning Thief—especially the book version—seems to drag on and on forever! It’s all rising and no action.

Now, the beginning of the story—which sees Percy trying to survive his journey to Camp Half-Blood—is full of action and is sure to capture your attention. It’s followed, however, by HUNDREDS of pages of boredom as Percy, Grover and Annabelle travel from New York to California.

Readers are forced to sleep through a trip on a train, a stop to visit a mattress salesman, a sightseeing trip in Saint Louis—because every hero on a quest wants to go sightseeing, right?—and perhaps most painfully, a journey in the back of a cargo truck with a sad lion and a zebra.

Every time that I turned the page, I was hoping for something good to happen, and every time I turned the page, I was disappointed.

Now, I’ll give Rick Riordan SOME credit: His stories have turned kids on to Greek Mythology again. It would be hard not to want to learn more about Satyrs and Centaurs after seeing Grover and Chiron.

I also like that references are made to real events from Greek myths. According to Greek Mythology, the fight between Poseidon and Athena, who competed with one another for the affections of the city-state of Athens really did happen.

What I worry about, though, is that students will blend facts from real mythology with the fiction of Mr. Riordan’s mind.

Isn’t it possible that someone somewhere is going to really believe that the Gods fought over the theft of Zeus’s master bolt and that a young boy named Percy saved the day with his heroics? There’s just enough truth in The Lightning Thief to leave readers confused about facts and fiction—and as a teacher, that scares me.

The Lightening Thief is simply the WORST story that I’ve ever read. I won’t be recommending The Lightning Thief—or any of its sequels—to my friends. I just can’t stand stories that dance in fantasy and never seem to end.

The Red Pyramid

20 Sep

The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan is a GREAT book…for lighting grills with!

Yup.  You heard me.  For lighting grills.

Do you really think I read it?

I mean it’s another 528 pages by Rick Riordan, who I pretty much decided was the worst author on earth after reading The Lightning Thief. Why on EARTH would I actually read that thing.

But all summer long, I kept my copy next to the charcoal grill.  When I was ready to throw a few shrimps on the barbie, I’d rip out about a dozen pages and use them to start the fire!

Kept us eating grilled shrimp all summer long.

Nice.

Red Pyramid Rating:  Way5