Review: The Sword of Summer

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Goodreads Summary:

Magnus Chase has always been a troubled kid. Since his mother’s mysterious death, he’s lived alone on the streets of Boston, surviving by his wits, keeping one step ahead of the police and the truant officers.

One day, he’s tracked down by a man he’s never met—a man his mother claimed was dangerous. The man tells him an impossible secret: Magnus is the son of a Norse god.

The Viking myths are true. The gods of Asgard are preparing for war. Trolls, giants and worse monsters are stirring for doomsday. To prevent Ragnarok, Magnus must search the Nine Worlds for a weapon that has been lost for thousands of years.

When an attack by fire giants forces him to choose between his own safety and the lives of hundreds of innocents, Magnus makes a fatal decision.

Sometimes, the only way to start a new life is to die . . .

I don’t think it’s a secret that I absolutely loved the Percy Jackson series, and quite enjoyed the Heroes of Olympus series. I took an interest in Greek/Roman mythology in college so it was so much fun for me to read it from Percy’s POV, even if it was marketed to start with middle schoolers. But I mean so was Harry Potter.

Anyway, based on my experience with Riordan’s two other series I was looking forward to this one since beyond what I have learned from the Thor movies – so nothing – I didn’t know anything about Norse mythology. And it was interesting to meet some of the gods, to compare/contrast them to the Greek/Roman gods, to see how the whole set up was different from and similar to the general Christian perspective of world structure as well as other mythological structures.

Also, another tremendous element of the books was Riordan’s display of diversity. We have a Muslim girl who wears a hijab, a deaf boy, and a guy who is passionate about fashion; not to mention Magnus who has been homeless for the past two years. It was so well executed too, these diverse traits didn’t overshadow the character’s core characteristics, it enriched everything.

Ok, now’s when I broach my one complaint. I found it hard to see a difference between the voice of Magnus and Percy. Percy, our original troubled kid who always has a snarky retort for things. Magnus did seem a bit less mature with his comebacks, but still. The two characters are so obviously and completely different, but Riordan’s hallmark humor was what blurred the lines and sometimes made me feel like I was reading something I had read before. I have hope that Magnus’ voice will become more polished and individual as the series continues. Also, I think I will re-read the Percy Jackson books and perhaps I will see a bigger difference with a refresher.

Overall though, it was an interesting and unique story. I appreciated the diversity and the new set of gods. I love that Annabeth has an active passive role (it makes sense to me) in this and cannot wait to see how she will be ingrained more, and how the Greek and Norse worlds will mix.

Short Story – 1

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Ok guys, here it is! I was trying to really work on my imagery so let me know what you all think. Remember, be gentle. . .

For as long as Jessie could remember, she wanted to fly. To touch that unburdened sky, to break the string that demand she stay rooted to the ground.

She watched the sky ceaselessly. From the octagonal window in her room, the windows of her classrooms, the rolled down windows of the car.

Always through windows.

They taunted her, those thick panes of glass. Clear enough to give her the barest taste of what she sought. But there was always a smudge, a crack, an air bubble, to bring her back to reality and remind of where she was – the ground.

Her favorite time was when she was able to lay on the trampoline in the back yard. It was rusty and rickety and always left black stains on her elbows and socks, but she didn’t care. Every day, no matter the weather she positioned herself face up in the center of the old trampoline. There, for an hour everyday she could dream. She could see it! Faced with nothing but the open sky, the wind caressing her cheeks, the clouds drifting over her and leaving her damp with their essence, she could feel it.

When it rained, she forced her eyes open to take the beating of the heavy drops. Picturing herself soaring through and over the dense cotton of those heavy grey clouds. Once atop she could dance on the thick wool, jump and roll with the thunder and lightning, celebrate with the renewal the water brought.

When it snowed, she wondered if the snow went both ways. If she soared over that shelf of white, would she find herself falling again with soft puffs of icy lace catching in her hair and eyelashes? Would she drift with them all the way to the stars?

But the best days, the days she marked on the calendar that hung over her desk, those were the days when the sky was clear. Not a cloud in sight. She could see the whole solar system, feel the galaxy they all lurked within, catch a whisper of the infinite universe. Where even with the oppressive and life-giving glow of the sun, she could see the stars glinting for all they were worth. She could see the other planets trying to come nearer for company. She could see the man in the moon with his rakish grin trying to catch a nap before it was his shift once more. These were the most promising days. These were the days she knew her dream was possible.

She would fly to the moon and farther, touch the planets, and glimpse the stars.  

ARC Review: The Secret Fire

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Goodreads Summary:

French teen Sacha Winters can’t die. He can throw himself off a roof, be stabbed, even shot, and he will always survive. Until the day when history and ancient enmities dictate that he must die. Worse still, his death will trigger something awful. Something deadly. And that day is closing in.

Taylor Montclair is a normal English girl, hanging out with her friends and studying for exams, until she starts shorting out the lights with her brain. She’s also the only person on earth who can save Sacha.

There’s only one problem: the two of them have never met. They live hundreds of miles apart and powerful forces will stop at nothing to keep them apart.

They have eight weeks to find each other.

Will they survive long enough to save the world?

I received this ARC from NetGalley

I didn’t go into this book with the highest expectations, but I found myself absorbed in it pretty quick! There were plenty of issues with this book, but I found I didn’t really care, it was fast-paced and fun, and sometimes that’s all you need!

There were pretty generic YA tropes in this: the pretty girl who doesn’t know she’s pretty, the bad boy with a heart of gold, the tough chick who’s just misunderstood, the best friends who are complete opposites, etc. And yes, it was kind of annoying, but I appreciated that Sacha had reasons for wearing that bad-boy exterior, and that down to it he was still that kid who loved learning and trying to find some reason to hold out hope. Taylor was pretty, but she didn’t care about looks, she was focused on her future, on becoming a scholar, she was a nerd and she wasn’t going to apologize about it! So the fact that the characters were relatively complex made their seemingly unoriginal characterizations a bit more original.

I enjoyed the beginning of the book more than the second half. I liked the characters bonding, showing vulnerability, finding people to trust while they tried to figure out how their “abilities” played into the grander scheme of things.

The grander scheme of things though is where I started to find bigger flaws with this book. There isn’t really an explanation for what the big threat is. Yes, if Taylor can’t save Sacha something terrible is going to happen – but why? And the end of the book felt so rushed, Taylor and Sacha taking on the lackeys for “bad guy,” it lasted all of two pages, a pretty anticlimactic battle scene if you ask me.

I also didn’t like the lack of interaction between Sacha and Taylor in the second part of the book. The fact that they were so in touch in the first part of the story, and then in the second half we get very little direct interaction between the two, it just felt off balance. The two main characters felt so “connected,” yet we never see them talk to each other more than twice in the last chunk of the book, I didn’t get it.

Anyway, beyond those few flaws I noticed, I did have fun with this book, and I would probably continue the series.

Coming This Week: Oct. 26

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No offense to the Halloween lovers, but I just don’t fall in with that band-wagon. I will go to a party if invited, but otherwise I am perfectly content to sit at home in the dark hiding from the trick-or-treaters. While watching Hocus Pocus of course so you can’t completely hate my lack of enthusiasm.

Anyway, so this week I am starting on online seminar about Heroism in WWI and how it changed the idea of what a Hero was/was not. It should be pretty interesting so I am looking forward to that. I am also going to start getting organized for NaNo! I have never done full on NaNoWriMo so this will be a first for me. As I am not ready to begin my HF WiP I am going to use the time to focus on the editing of my current MS and try to get that finished.

In book discussions this week look for:

And on Wednesday I am going to share a short story that I wrote recently. I’m pretty nervous about it so be nice! Not that you all are usually mean, but you know. . .

Review: Ice Like Fire

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Goodreads Summary:

It’s been three months since the Winterians were freed and Spring’s king, Angra, disappeared—thanks largely to the help of Cordell.

Meira just wants her people to be safe. When Cordellan debt forces the Winterians to dig their mines for payment, they unearth something powerful and possibly dangerous: Primoria’s lost chasm of magic. Theron sees this find as an opportunity—with this much magic, the world can finally stand against threats like Angra. But Meira fears the danger the chasm poses—the last time the world had access to so much magic, it spawned the Decay. So when the king of Cordell orders the two on a mission across the kingdoms of Primoria to discover the chasm’s secrets, Meira plans to use the trip to garner support to keep the chasm shut and Winter safe—even if it means clashing with Theron. But can she do so without endangering the people she loves?

Mather just wants to be free. The horrors inflicted on the Winterians hang fresh and raw in Januari—leaving Winter vulnerable to Cordell’s growing oppression. When Meira leaves to search for allies, he decides to take Winter’s security into his own hands. Can he rebuild his broken kingdom and protect them from new threats?

As the web of power and deception weaves tighter, Theron fights for magic, Mather fights for freedom—and Meira starts to wonder if she should be fighting not just for Winter, but for the world.

I enjoyed Snow Like Ashes, but it definitely had its fair share of issues. Despite the problems I had with Meira struggling to figure out who she was, the love triangle, and the issues I had with the writing, there was enough action and excitement to help me look past that and have fun. Not so much with this installment.

Ice Like Fire though was a hot mess. It felt like Raacsh was trying too hard; its wordy, there are so many similes and metaphors that I ended up getting bored, and it was in desperate need of editing. I enjoy lyrical and visual writing, but it needs to be balanced. I found myself skimming a lot of the book because I didn’t care about another description that reiterated the emotions the characters expressed through the dialogue. And goodness, there was so much telling as opposed to showing. It was down-right painful to read most of this book.

There was also an additional POV, Mather, who I have always liked. I think his chapters were meant to show what was happening in Winter while Meira was gone, but I didn’t find that they added that much in the end. Especially with the tense shift from Meira’s 1st person present to his 3rd person past, it was more distracting than whatever Raasch was going for. Also, all the characters felt so flat in this installment. I didn’t feel attached to any of them and I almost set the book aside on several occasions because I simply didn’t care.

The story line of this was way too drawn out, and it wasn’t even resolved in the end. I mean within a series there should be one overarching goal that spans the books, and then each book has it’s own individual challenge that is approached and resolved, right? We get a kind-of resolution at the end of this, but not one that satisfies enough.

The last quarter of this book provided a small amount of redemption. Bringing in the action and strength of characters that we enjoyed in the first book. But unless I see some glowing reviews for the 3rd book, I’m not sure I would bother finishing this series.

Par Avion

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“Par Avion,” is the working title for my next WiP. I am in the brainstorming/research/outlining stage. But I am really excited about it. It’s a historical fiction, so something completely different from my first MS and something I am really looking forward to given my professional background.

I actually got the inspiration for this story while working at the museum in HI. There was a set of letters I was working on from a young man who joined the Hawaiian Army Air Corps when he graduated from High School in 1939. He was killed during the attack on Pearl Harbor, but all of his letters that he sent back to his sweetheart were donated to the museum. They were so amazing! The language, the penmanship, the sentiment. I was enamored of them. I felt like I knew this guy though he lived long before I was born and only this small fragment of him remained.

The power of those letters was something that I couldn’t get over. So out came this idea! My story will focus on two individuals during WWII. A young woman who is going to be a Women’s Air Service Patrol (WASP) member – female pilots who ferried aircraft from the manufacturers to the front lines. And a young man who is an airborne soldier fighting in Europe (loosely based on Easy Co. of the 101st. – because I am obsessed with Band of Brothers).

My idea is to start each chapter with a letter that they have received, either from family, friends, or each other, and then get to spend some time with them in their daily lives. This is a big project, and it’s kind of daunting, but I am also really excited for it. I am looking forward to the research and how what I discover alters my ideas (it already has).

What do you all think about this idea?

Review: A Sudden Light

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Godreads Review:

When a boy tries to save his parents’ marriage, he uncovers a legacy of family secrets in a coming-of-age ghost story by the author of the internationally bestselling phenomenon, The Art of Racing in the Rain.

In the summer of 1990, fourteen-year-old Trevor Riddell gets his first glimpse of Riddell House. Built from the spoils of a massive timber fortune, the legendary family mansion is constructed of giant, whole trees, and is set on a huge estate overlooking Puget Sound. Trevor’s bankrupt parents have begun a trial separation, and his father, Jones Riddell, has brought Trevor to Riddell House with a goal: to join forces with his sister, Serena, dispatch Grandpa Samuel—who is flickering in and out of dementia—to a graduated living facility, sell off the house and property for development into “tract housing for millionaires,” divide up the profits, and live happily ever after.

But Trevor soon discovers there’s someone else living in Riddell House: a ghost with an agenda of his own. For while the land holds tremendous value, it is also burdened by the final wishes of the family patriarch, Elijah, who mandated it be allowed to return to untamed forestland as a penance for the millions of trees harvested over the decades by the Riddell Timber company. The ghost will not rest until Elijah’s wish is fulfilled, and Trevor’s willingness to face the past holds the key to his family’s future.

A Sudden Light is a rich, atmospheric work that is at once a multigenerational family saga, a historical novel, a ghost story, and the story of a contemporary family’s struggle to connect with each other. A tribute to the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest, it reflects Garth Stein’s outsized capacity for empathy and keen understanding of human motivation, and his rare ability to see the unseen: the universal threads that connect us all.

 My goodreads book club does a book recommendation swap every quarter, and I signed up for this one. It was the first time I had done one of these, and honestly I was a little nervous. I am pretty picky about my books and I don’t normally trust others giving me book recommendations. Well, with my participation in the 365DaysofYA challenge, and its leading me to books that I would not normally pick up I figured I would continue with the trend and try to keep broadening my book horizons!

Unfortunately, it didn’t work with this book. After reading the synopsis I was kinda “meh,” but hoped I would get more into the story once I actually started reading it. I will admit that I didn’t go into this book with the best attitude. After reading the reviews of it I was only more convinced that I wouldn’t like it, and I’m sure that affected my reading of it, but I still don’t think I would have been able to finish this book if I had gone into it without my apprehensions.

The only aspect of this book I enjoyed was the ghost story, which seemed to be more of a background plot than I expected. I know it was supposed to be a “coming-of-age” tale, but I didn’t get that vibe. The narrator is telling us about his life as a 14yr old, that’s all great and wonderful, but I don’t think 14yr olds sound that pretentious. The whole thing seemed really pretentious to me actually, like the author was trying to hard to sound smart and complex and deep. The characters were also hard for me to like, none of them seemed very complex. The main character, Trevor, was holding onto the idea of his parents getting back together, while crushing on his manipulative aunt, disdaining his father, and talking about how he was going to be a writer one day. Maybe I would have liked him more if I had made it more than a third through the book, but I doubt it.

In the end, I just didn’t care. I didn’t care about the characters and that overshadowed my interest in the haunting of the house. I also felt like the book was trying really hard to make a statement, which is fine, every book has some sort of message, but this one was beating you over the head with its message, but acting like that wasn’t its goal.

This book just wasn’t for me. And that seems to be the main consensus with the reviews, either you love it or you hate it, I was in the latter group, obviously.