The Sword of Summer (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard #1)

Rated: 3.5 solid stars

Finished: 18th January 2018.

Spoiler content: Slight, nothing major.

I got to say I am pleasantly surprised I enjoyed this as much as I have. Norse mythology is not in my comfort zone but I’m excited! Events unfolded off at a snail’s pace but eventually picked up speed, the kind of speed that required an all-nighter. Magnus and his friends are racing to find the Sword of Summer before the Giants do and to delay Ragnarok, the last war and fated death of the world. Later on, I’ll be doing some comparisons with Percy Jackson from Riordan’s Greek series, just a heads up.

The characters are deliciously diverse, for instance, Malory Keen is Celtic, Thomas Jefferson is an African-American soldier who fought in the Civil War, X is a troll and Halfborn Gunderson is an honest to goodness Viking berserker. Then we have Blitzen, a dwarf with impeccable fashion sense, and the adorable but tormented Hearthstone, a deaf elf who taught Magnus ASL.

And the fantastic Samira al-Abbas, a Muslim-American Valkyrie. There’s the issue of her hijab being a shape-shifting multi-purpose fabric, some would call it a faux pas but I I beg to differ. Look I’m Hindu and I’m aware I may be lacking on some level of cultural awareness but I think it’s pretty neat. I’m curious as to what opinions Muslims have on this. And begs the question of what interesting features could a sari have?

Plot-wise, I mentioned pacing earlier. There was a remark from a reviewer where she’s noticed Riordan reapplying a similar plot formula to the Norse series from the Greeks, that it was predictable. I understand some of this but I can disagree as well.

It’s the hero-goes-on-a-quest-to-save-the-world and both Percy and Magnus had strong bonds with their mothers who were at some point threatened. It didn’t bother me because what else is supposed to happen? Their moms were crucial to their upbringing and evil people being evil used that to their advantage. They went on quest after quest but they were totally different from the other series because the Norse are another ballgame and as I’d soon learned Magnus is no Percy.

The Villains/Gods/Giants. Generally speaking, they’re an improvement from the Greek/Roman series. Loki is one slippery fecker (surprise surprise) even I was tempted to trust him. However, he did have some valid points. Which brings me to one of the primary themes, that being the fate vs. choice dilemma. Ragnarok will happen because such is the prophecy of the Norns ages ago. Two sons of Thor are fated to survive it. Fenris Wolf is fated to be released to begin the downward spiral of events, the Sword of Summer is fated to free him. It was Loki who imparted some wisdom to Magnus, one of my favourite lines:

“The thing about fate, Magnus: even if we can’t change the big picture, our choices can alter the details. That’s how we rebel against destiny, how we make our mark. What will you choose to do?”

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Book review: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Via Goodreads
Via Goodreads
Rated it: 5 stars

I reread this gem last year and the feels are still incredibly strong. Long story short this is a coming of age story of teenager Aristotle (told entirely in his point of view) during the 1980s set in El Paso, Texas, and spans two years.

The summer was hot and humid, the rain was like a veil into different emotional dimension I kid you not. And the birds, well they were there crapping on people in a real way. Oh, just read the thing and you’ll know what I’m talking about. It’s raining as I’m writing, and usually when it does I’m reminded of my summer boys.

And I’ll be straight with you, dear readers, this is a novel I cannot formulate a coherent sentences worthy of a decent review so I’m afraid you’ll have to settle for this mass of fangirl babble. Ari was at the awkward age where he’s coming to terms that his body is changing, he’s occupied with thoughts of his veteran father who’s in another world most of the time. Added to that he’s somewhat obsessed with an older brother who he barely remembers. 

He meets the soft spoken and bookish Dante (one of the cinnamon-iest cinnamon roll I’ve read so far) one day at the pool. A loner by choice, Ari begins to find his company an education.

The friendship that grows between these two … it’s simple yet it’s not. For better or for worse they change each other. Simply by being there they challenged themselves with facing the hard questions, the kind of questions that makes them realize just how vast and painfully tangible the universe possibly is.

What I loved

  • Sáenz didn’t mince words, let me tell you. When I first read it I was confused and uncomfortable but then I got it. This was Ari’s voice: raw, undiluted and straightforward. Also the writing gets poetic, which I expect from a book with a guy named Aristotle in it. Not that he’s poetic. Hmm, well he does get poetic but he doesn’t think he is.
  • Ari. I like him. A lot. Full of angsty pubescent emotions, foul mouthed (as much as a fifteen year old can be in YA), a natural born smart ass, and an actual decent human being. Cute too, did I mention?
  • Dante, another smarty pants. He’s the yin to Ari’s yang. Gentle, fierce, kind and forever curious. If I recall correctly, he has identity issues with his Mexian ancestry, having not been immersed in it as much as Ari. He’s terribly brave when it comes down to it.
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The Titan’s Curse (Percy Jackson and the Olympians #3)

via Goodreads

Read from: 18th – 20th of August

Rated it: 5/5 stars

Well to say the least, things are sure heating up. I do like that we get to see more of the other gods. Titan’s Curse is definitely more action packed and it’s only going to get a whole lot livelier as the series progresses. I love the secondary characters (new ones!) and how their own back-stories are connected to the various parts of the plot. I’m certain that I am not alone when I say I’ve missed Annabeth. That girl.

I have no hope for Luke. The boy is lost. Is it the power that seduced him in the first place? The bitterness towards his father and the other gods? Both probably, but like most dreams of victory on the ‘other’ side of the battlefield, I think he finally found that Titans and Gods alike laugh at his plans and he’s caught up in a massive sticky spiderweb.

Perhaps by now, he realizes that he’s no more than a pawn, the very thing he loathed to become in the first place. Or does he need an itty-bitty pit stop before he goes off and fails again after close encounters? Read More »

The Lightening Thief (Percy Jackson and The Olympians #1) by Rick Riordan

via Goodreads

Rated it: 4.5 stars

Goodreads blurb

Percy Jackson is about to be kicked out of boarding school… again. And that’s the least of his troubles. Lately, mythological monsters and the gods of Mount Olympus seem to be walking straight out of the pages of Percy’s Greek mythology textbook and into his life. And worse, he’s angered a few of them. Zeus’ master lightning bolt has been stolen, and Percy is the prime suspect.

Now Percy and his friends have just ten days to find and return Zeus’ stolen property and bring peace to a warring Mount Olympus. But to succeed on his quest, Percy will have to do more than catch the true thief: he must come to terms with the father who abandoned him; solve the riddle of the Oracle, which warns him of betrayal by a friend; and unravel a treachery more powerful than the gods themselves.

I’ve had this on my to-read list for a couple of years, until recently I finally decided to give it a try. I’m pleased to say that I was not disappointed. Percy Jackson is a smart mouthed kid, more than a little hot headed, slightly annoying, I’d say strong minded when it counts and vulnerable but yet ready to take chances. In the beginning I was thinking if he could get more complaining it’s going to be a problem, however, as it turned out he was okay.

Prior to reading this I was aware of Harry Potter parallels. There are certainly similarities, I can make a list now that I’ve finished; there’s the twelve cabins of the major Gods and Goddesses (twenty in all) in the place of the four houses for example. It’s no problem to me because whatever those intersecting concepts are they have valid purposes, it doesn’t seem like a cut-and-paste.

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The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

via Goodreads.

Rated it: 5 stars

Goodreads blurb

Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.

My review

It had taken me about 100 pages to really get into but after then I was hooked. I just fell in love with these two teenagers and their love story. Initially I was skeptical, I mean these were really a deep pair with all their in depth analyzing of well … everything. But I went with it, partly because I think that not everyone takes the time to discover themselves and while I believe Hazel and Augustus were both intelligent, this disease prompted them to grow up much faster. Then there’s a couple lines from a review:

Green writes books for young adults, but his voice is so compulsively readable that it defies categorization. He writes for youth, rather than to them, and the difference is palpable …. You will be thankful for the little infinity you spend inside this book.”

I couldn’t have said it better, but Thomas did:

How unrealistic John Green’s characters tend to be has turned me off from most of his other books – the characters in this one suffered slightly from it too – but The Fault in Our Stars as a whole is John Green’s best book to date.

Like I said, at times Hazel (the protagonist) and Augustus (the love interest, but so much more) came off as wise beyond their years. They notice this, their parents notice this, and readers will notice this. However, there is something so human about the way Green portrays them that makes them relatable. They are not simply teens suffering from cancer, but teens who doubt their place in the world, who are filled with angst and longing and confusion and hope. I can’t say I’ve experienced the exact same emotions as Hazel and Augustus have, but I can say that it’s easy to empathize with them and feel their pain entirely.

I totally recommend that you read the entire review.

This is actually hard for me to write, I know what I feel but the words refuse to leave. The Fault in Our Stars is honest, frank, smart, funny, poignant and heartbreakingly beautiful.

TFIOS is the first book where I really don’t care for negative reviews, while they can seldom be agreeable, they won’t change how I feel at all as they used to tickle the doubt that usually lurks around. I can’t remember crying so much since Harry Potter four years ago, it just seems so real. The words read themselves to me as much as I read them, I felt the emotions they dictated head on, fighting it makes no sense.

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