There’s something magical about the bond between female friends, one that has enticed writers for years. And so it is with J. Courtney Sullivan and he...moreThere’s something magical about the bond between female friends, one that has enticed writers for years. And so it is with J. Courtney Sullivan and her debut novel, Commencement. Sullivan’s story revolves around four very different friends: April, Bree, Celia and Sally. They meet as first-year students at Smith College, a long-standing bastion of women-only colleges. Initially brought together by the random assignment of rooms, these women quickly become each other’s lifeline during an emotional and ever-changing time in their lives. When they gather for Sally’s wedding four years after graduation, things shift and change in a way that affects all of them in ways they don’t yet know.
Commencement has received mostly positive reviews, which intrigued me enough to read the book. Sullivan’s book is not perfect – in some ways, it is very obviously a first novel and it seems to be striving for some height that it just doesn’t reach. That said, however, I loved Sullivan’s characters and the way she drew me into the story.
April, Bree, Celia and Sally were so vivid and real – I could easily imagine them as people I’ve met and known. They are each given the chance to narrate their own histories, to tell their stories and reflect on the others. The plot does seem a bit slow at times, but when you stop rushing towards story and take the time to savor the people who are taking this journey, you are, as a reader, rewarded.
It was easy to relate to these women, perhaps because I’m not much older than they are. I saw a bit of myself in each of them and oftentimes, I found myself reflecting on my own post-collegiate years. As I read about their mistakes and triumphs, I recalled my own; when I looked back to see the winding and twisted path their lives had taken over the course of the novel, I saw my own proverbial yellow brick road and I saw myself, stumbling around until I finally got to where I thought I was supposed to be.
J. Courtney Sullivan’s Commencement is a well-written and finely detailed exploration into the strange, complicated and fulfilling world of four friends, brought together by chance, but united by choice.(less)
Okay, I was skeptical. A book series about Greek gods in modern-day America, mingling, interfering and wreaking havoc on mere mortals? I didn’t quite...moreOkay, I was skeptical. A book series about Greek gods in modern-day America, mingling, interfering and wreaking havoc on mere mortals? I didn’t quite get the appeal of Rick Riordan’s massively popular Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, even though thousands of children were reading it. I didn’t think most kids would even like stories about the Greek gods – I do but even I get overwhelmed with all of the connections and relationships between them. So I started reading The Lightning Thief with no real expectations. I just figured I’d give it a try – after all, the movie trailer looked cool and while I know the movie is different from the book, I’m a sucker for a decent advertising campaign.
I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised. The Lightning Thief is a great book, with fast-paced action, believable characters and a hero (or demigod) that you can root for. This book, the first in a series of five, finds 12-year-old Percy discovering that he’s really the demigod son of Poseidon, God of the Sea. While that comes with problems of its own (being a son of one of The Big Three isn’t all that fantastic), Percy must also venture out on a quest to recover Zeus’ lightning bolt before all-out war breaks out between his absentee father and the other gods.
I was never bored while reading the book and, more importantly, it made the Greek mythology background easy to digest. The gods and their stories were well-integrated into Percy’s modern-day hero’s journey across the country and most of the supporting characters were well developed and fit into the books – and mythology’s – canon.
I know some critics have panned Percy Jackson for being “Harry Potter lite,” but I would argue that Percy’s story is his own. Of course there are similarities, but there were also similarities between Rowling’s work and that of authors who had come before her. In fact, if Riordan did imitate Rowling, then technically Rowling imitated Lewis, Tolkien, and – if we go even further back – Homer himself. Greek civilization is the foundation of Western society, so, really, we’re all just ripping off a bunch of dead guys in togas.
I’d definitely recommend The Lightning Thief – for children and adults, especially if you enjoy a good jaunt down Greek mythology way.(less)
Solid and entertaining, but obviously a stepping stone book to get to the final installment. I was distracted reading it, so this one didn't sink in a...moreSolid and entertaining, but obviously a stepping stone book to get to the final installment. I was distracted reading it, so this one didn't sink in as much as the others. Still, fun and enjoyable - but don't bother if you haven't read the first three. (less)