Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan

This book is so much better than the original series. The original series was fun and quick, and the writing....well, it felt like Dan Brown decided to write young adult/children novels and wasn't taking it very seriously.

BUT. The Lost Hero is so much better. The writing flows. There's more diversity in characters, while keeping to a central theme: no one's quite sure that they belong anywhere.

Last August, I read a piece from Mixed Race America called Why the phrase "half-blood" needs serious interrogation. While some of the article is flawed (its clear the author had other stuff going on and hadn't really examined the source material), this was worth noting:
And according to the Oxford English Dictionary, "half-blood" has at its core the idea that there is both a quantifiable ("half") notion of blood AND a qualifiable (as in hierarchical) idea embedded in the phrase "half-blood":
"half-blooded a., born of different races; spec. of superior blood or race by one parent only."[again, emphasis in bold is mine]
It just makes me cringe to think that these kids are going to these "half-blood" camps and will be referring to themselves as "half-bloods" without understanding the long and painful racial/racist history behind that term AND without understanding how problematic it is to split one's "blood" and the not-so-implicit connotations of blood (and really, wherever you see the word "blood" you should insert the word "race") as purity--of being able to determine which bloodline is better than the other. 
This is one of those things that seems like it would be really easy to be ignorant about. Remember when HP cameras were racist? Because no one thought to be like, "Uh, shouldn't we make sure that this works on all people?" Rick Riordan probably didn't have a Native American (or anyone who would have been knowledgeable about it) read the book prior to publication. And that sucks that the world still works that way.

So, in response to this, he could have been like, um, rounded up all the Native Americans that like his books/help his books, like some other people we know.

Knowing how these things usually go ("I didn't do anything wrong/I didn't know/That's just the way the story is/I'm sorry if I offended anyone"), I didn't expect much. So I was surprised to got a mention on page 33 of The Lost Hero:
"A safe place," Annabeth said. "The only safe place for kids like us. Camp Half-Blood."
"Half-Blood?" Piper was immediately on guard. She hated that word. She'd been called a half-blood too many times - half Cherokee, half white - and it was never a compliment. "Is that some kind of bad joke?" 
 Is it good to show that kids who are of mixed-blood/race are awesome, too? Or is this just co-opting an experience while just giving a brief nod to it?

What I can say is that most of the characters in the first series were white, and in the new series, Piper is Cherokee and Leo is Mexican American (the leader, though, Jason Grace, is white). To have adventures in this new series, you don't have to be white. And it proves that having diverse characters in a series is very compelling.

[I'm an Amazon Affiliate, so if you follow a link from here to Amazon and purchase something, I get a portion of the price at no extra cost to you. I checked out The Lost Hero from the local library]

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Mitt Romney's Damage Control [Everybody just calm it down]

Okay, so I'm not great at captioning, but the minute I saw the photo with this article by Ezra Klein, I immediately got a OMGWTFBBQ EVERYBODY CALM DOWN vibe.

Because you'd hate for the tea party frenzy to be whipped in your direction.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A Love Story...In Milk [The Brits Love A Good Milk Love Story]

A Love Story… In Milk from Catsnake on Vimeo.

A short PSA film that proves that the Coffee + TV video was not an anomaly among the Brits; they really like it when blue milks and girl milks fall in love. I mean, its just cute:

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Bumped by Megan McCafferty

It feels like I've known about Bumped by Megan McCafferty for ages. In fact, I think right after Perfect Fifths was released. I was glad that McCafferty was moving away from Jessica Darling, because even though I was happy with the way that Perfect Fifths turned out (save for the graphic shower scene!), I was ready for Jessica to be done. Especially after realizing that I had read Fourth Comings and not remembered it. Its a bad sign that someone like me (super fan during the first two books) can forget whole books.

Anyway. Knowing that there was a total departure was great for my soul.

I read Bumped on Monday, in the Milwaukee airport, and then on the plane. It isn't long; I finished it midway through the flight. While its an enjoyable young adult book, a pretty good way to spend a couple of hours traveling, there were a few flaws.

[Spoilers follow! Ye be warned]

Bumped is about the near future, when 20 somethings and 30 somethings can no longer have children, due to a virus. The virus basically renders most people permanently infertile between 18 and 20 years of age. Society goes from (now) hand wringing about teenage pregnancy to practically forcing it upon these teenagers.

The premise of how different segments of the population have coped is told through identical twin sisters, Melody and Harmony, who were separated at birth and raised in hugely different circumstances. Melody's parents have embraced teenage pregnancy, grooming their daughter to be a breeder, scoring her a huge contract. Harmony's parents are hugely religious, grooming their daughter (and all their children) to marry young and have children as soon as possible.

Harmony wants to witness to Melody, to take her back to the church and save her soul. Page 75:
My sister is still chaste. It's not too late to protect that gift of purity, but I need to intervene right now, to tell Lib that I will endure fire raining down from Heaven before I will allow my sister to prostitute herself for procreation and profit. The best investment she can make is in God.
Melody hates that Harmony is around. Had a good life going. Has a huge birthing contract, because she's pretty much perfect and will give birth to perfect children. Her parents borrowed against her reproductive power, and now need her to become a breeder. Page 89:
This strategic reinvestment in my brand, they believed, would up my market value and put me well over the original appraisal. And when the Jayden's bid came in so strong, it looked like I would definitely earn back everything they had borrowed and more.
Melody and Harmony take turns telling the story from their points of view. While getting the full spectrum of how society has changed is great, it does have one huge downfall: character development. Bumped is only 318 pages long and has two main characters. Both Melody and Harmony undergo a huge change; Melody decides that she isn't going to be her parents breeder, and Harmony learns that God might not be so formidable as she thought.

But I didn't quite feel the transition the way I thought I was meant to. There was just a lot going on. I didn't feel I knew the characters, and didn't feel like their transformation meant as much as it was supposed to. Especially since there's going to be a sequel. I feel like there could have been a slower transition, more character development, and more time for supporting cast if it had been longer or saved some of the change for next book.

The point of the book seemed to be that you have to let teenagers decide their own lives. Which is sort of hard, because they're at that stage between children and adult, and do you really trust teenagers to make the best decision? But forcing pregnancy upon children is serious. (Hell, I believe that forcing pregnancy upon anyone is wrong, but that's another blog post!) Teenagers are tasked with, basically, saving the human race. Forcing them into marriage/birth contracts, though, is the wrong thing to do.

I will say that some of this book is absolutely inspired. The quote to the first section from the President's State of the Union Address:
The United States of America once ranked above all industrialized nations in the realm of teen pregnancy. We were the undisputed queens of precocious procreation! We were number one before, and we can be number one again! 
I also like the egg cover, especially the back cover of the egg beginning to crack.

Will I read the next one? Yeah, yeah I will. I hope that the characters are fleshed out a little bit more. And I want to meet more quirky people, like Lib. It should be out around this time next year.

[Amazon Affiliate. If you click from here to Amazon and buy something, I receive a percentage of the purchase price.]