The Mark of Athena
by Rick Riordan
The seven have finally all met and set off on their adventure. The first two books in this series build the necessary relationships for these important meetings. Finally Percy and Annabeth are reunited and their new friends and fellow demigods: Leo, Hazel, Jason, Piper, and Frank embark of a quest to find the Mark of Athena. Their adventure takes them to Rome where they must tackle some of their greatest fears.
The gods are thrown into a debilitating confusion by the earth god Gaia when their Roman and Greek identities begin to vie for dominance in their own minds. Very few gods (mainly only those dealing with Love, Revenge and Wine) are immune to the differences between the way the two cultures view them. This addition to the series is action-packed but also contains some great information about how the gods are personified in different cultures. There’s also one section that’s particularly funny when the group has a run in with Narcissus.
BOTTOM LINE: The books are formulaic but fun. I feel like we’ve gotten to know these characters and I’ve grown attached to them. I can’t wait to read the next book in the series.
The Samurai’s Garden
by Gail Tsukiyama
I struggled with this one. The main character, Stephen, is sent to a small Japanese town to recover from tuberculosis in 1937. He’s a young Chinese man and during his stay he finds himself getting to know the past through the family’s servant, Matsu, and dreading the future approaching war.
Stephen doesn’t make an interesting character. His dialogue and actions fall flat, but it’s the supporting cast that eventually hooked me. Matsu is an older man now, but in his youth leprosy swept through their small town. He lost his sister to the disease and has watched a sweet friend, Sachi, suffer from it for years. Matsu and Sachi were lovely characters and the book is well worth reading for their plots.
BOTTOM LINE: Despite an incredibly slow start, the supporting cast makes the story an interesting read.
by Edward Abbey
This is a nonfiction memoir about Abbey’s time as a park ranger at Arches National Park in Utah. Abbey is a bit of a curmudgeon, ranting about the destruction tourists cause in the park. That’s the strange paradox of wilderness; the more people want to visit it the more likely it is to be tainted by their presence. The wild aspects of nature are destroyed as roads are built for the public to reach them.
It reminded me so much of Thoreau’s Walden. Both men live on their own, apart from society for the majority of each day. They write about their reflections of both the nature that surrounds them and the structure of the world in which they live. It’s hard not to sound a bit pious when you’re in that position, but some of his descriptions are beautiful.
BOTTOM LINE: A good travel memoir and reflection on society, but I have a feeling I would have enjoyed this one much more if I’d been traveling in the West or even planning a trip there. It’s hard to appreciate the incredible nature of the west when you’re just reading about it.