Saturday, July 23, 2011

Art in the Streets

Hello, everyone. I hope your summer is treating you well, and that, wherever you are, it is not too hot. I've been lucky so far, as the hottest day I've had to deal with so far has been about 85 degrees. I'm rather behind on reading my latest book (Emma by Jane Austen), so I thought I'd share some pictures from my family's trip to LA instead.

Back at the beginning of July, we decided to take a trip up to the Museum of Contemporary Art in LA. They are currently having a huge exhibition called "Art in the Streets," featuring street and graffiti artists from all over the place. Right in the heart of Little Tokyo, the exhibit is held in a big wear house of sorts where they have constructed ramps, temporary rooms, and even miniature city. It was really quite something, and as someone who loves street art, I was very excited to be there.

There were multiple old cars that were painted, and the very first picture shows a wall that was entirely covered in little prints of photographs of the graffiti-covered trains in New York City. Some people credit the tagging that first occurred on these trains as the start of what has become street art and graffiti today.

Although there was a large number of canvas paintings and photographs, my favorite pieces were those that had been constructed on the walls themselves. The first picture above is a rather terrible shot of a huge LA mural, featuring the emblem of the Los Angeles Dodgers. The other picture depicts the dozens of boxes that were mounted on a wall, all painted to look like faces. Some of those boxes actually contain speakers, and there were instruments set up for later use.

All in all, I was amazed by the diversity of the exhibit, and would definitely recommend going to see it if you are at all interested in street and contemporary art. I'm not sure how much longer this particular exhibit is up, so I'd check their website soon.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Book Review: The Percy Jackson and the Olympians Series

I guess I should really call this a "series review" rather than a book review, but these books are just too amazing! The series is called Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan, and I think it's safe to say that this is my new favorite series. I know that it's already been out for a while, but I only recently finished the last book and felt that this was something I had to share with all of you.
Book 1: The Lightning Thief
375 pages
There are five books in this series, and they allow the reader to follow the quirky and heroic Percy Jackson from the age of 12 to just past his 16th birthday. Percy's always been a little bit different and always seems to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Because this leads people to believe that he's quite the trouble maker, he moves schools a lot and wonders why he can't just be normal. And as it turns out, it's because he's not normal: he's a demigod! In the first book, Percy learns that he is the son of the Greek sea god Poseidon and begins to attend Camp Half-Blood, where there are many other kids just like him.
Book 2: The Sea of Monsters
279 pages
At Camp Half-Blood, Percy makes lots of friends, including Grover the satyr and Annabeth daughter of Athena. The series chronicles the friends' quests and adventures, in which they encounter prophecies, mythological monsters, mazes, and many powerful gods. At the end, however, it is up to the young demigods to find the inner strength to accomplish the impossible.
Book 3: The Titan's Curse
312 pages
As I already mentioned, I absolutely loved this series. It's written from Percy's point of view, which makes for an hilarious and engaging narrative that you just won't want to stop reading. In fact, I like to think of these books as the next Harry Potter series, but for a slightly younger audience. Because it's written in first person from the young hero's point of view, I think younger readers will identify with Percy long before they're ready to read Harry Potter. Although the characters face similar end-of-life-as-we-know-it situations, the books are less dark and brooding and therefore easier for children and younger readers to get into.
Book 4: The Battle of the Labyrinth
361 pages
That being said, I am 19 and still adore these books. The attraction for me is that not only do you get to meet deep, multilayered characters that you genuinely come to care about, but Rick Riordan has also crafted some of the best action sequences I have ever read. The vivid scenes are reminiscent of thrilling Blockbuster movies, and if you can't picture exactly what he's described, well, then you should probably get your imagination checked. I think boys in particular will love these action sequences and the fact that the plot of each installment is so fast paced that they will never want to put the book down.
Book 5: The Last Olympian
381 pages
Needless to say, I would recommend this entire series to anyone who loved Harry Potter and is looking for their next magical adventure, regardless of their age. I do, however, think that this is a particularly good read for young, reluctant readers, as they will be so engrossed in the story and characters that they won't even realize how quickly they will go through the entire series. At my level and speed of reading, I can have read one of these books cover to cover in about four to five hours, they are just that griping. So if you're looking for a fun adventure series that is great for the whole family, look no further!

I hope, if you haven't already read the series, you'll take me up on my suggestion and read it. If you do, I would love to hear some of your thoughts on the series, so leave me a comment below!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Book Review: The Bookseller of Kabul

The Bookseller of Kabul
Asne Seierstad
288 pages

This poor blog is suffering from a very serious case of neglect! I have to apologize for my long absence, but I have been trying to cut down on my internet usage and, quite frankly, I didn't really have anything to say. I have basically been hanging out at home, catching up on reading and movies that I've been meaning to see for years. I've also been taking on odd jobs, such as running music for my local bible camp and word processing for my mom's small business. Even so, I haven't really had any good stories to tell you all.

But today, I was catching up with some of my emails and such, and decided that I better take a quick peek and my blog. And to my horror, I discovered half set up pages claiming to be "under construction" and the newest post from June 9. So, I've decided that I'm going to start doing book reviews for the books I've read, as that is about the only thing I have to share with you.

Alright, I'm done rambling. I think. The first book I want to review is the novel pictured above, The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seirstad. She is a Norwegian journalist who, in 2002 decided to write down her experiences with an Afghan family in novel form. Thus, this book was born. I was pleasantly surprised; even though it has been translated into English, the language is beautiful, the descriptions intense and vivid. Although based on Seirstad's real experiences and conversations with the family members, it reads like fiction and I think that's why I enjoyed it so much. I'm not much for nonfiction, unless it's ridiculously clever and amusing.

The story follows the family of one man, Sultan Khan, who runs a lucrative bookselling business in Kabul, Afghanistan. You really get a sense of everyday life in the city, and not just from a man's point of view. Seirstad spends a lot of time sharing the thoughts and feelings of the women in the family, who would normally be of little importance in Afghan society. The text is saturated in the history and culture of Afghanistan, and it really makes you think about how little we really understand the nation's culture and people. All in all, this book was an amazing read that I would recommend to anyone interested in learning more about life in the Middle East.

I have more books to review in the coming days, so check back soon!