Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods by Rick Riordan

20829994Novel: Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods by Rick Riordan | Goodreads
Release Date: August 19th, 2014
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Format: Hardcover
Source: Bought
Also Published On: Lit Up Review

A publisher in New York asked me to write down what I know about the Greek gods, and I was like, Can we do this anonymously? Because I don’t need the Olympians mad at me again. But if it helps you to know your Greek gods, and survive an encounter with them if they ever show up in your face, then I guess writing all this down will be my good deed for the week.

So begins Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods, in which the son of Poseidon adds his own magic—and sarcastic asides—to the classics. He explains how the world was created, then gives readers his personal take on a who’s who of ancients, from Apollo to Zeus. Percy does not hold back. “If you like horror shows, blood baths, lying, stealing, backstabbing, and cannibalism, then read on, because it definitely was a Golden Age for all that.”

Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods is a collection of mythology stories surrounding the major Greek gods that is narrated by none other than Percy Jackson himself. The size of the book surprised me when it arrived at my doorstep last October – don’t expect to fit this one on your bookshelves next to your other Rick Riordan gems. It’s the size of the classic D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths, but is much heavier. The book can be read alongside or separate from the Percy Jackson & the Olympians series as it is a companion to Riordan’s other works. It is illustrated beautifully by John Rocco, the illustrator of all of Riordan’s beloved novel covers.

I am a self-declared mythology buff. I’ve studied it independently for most of my albeit short life and my mom integrated it into my curriculum when I was homeschooled. So I began reading this book with mixed expectations: I thought it’d be a fun, easy read but didn’t think I’d learn anything new from it. BOY, was I wrong. Rick Riordan really did his research, because though he tells the basic creation story of each god, he also includes SO many obscure details that I had never picked up on before. Each chapter is dedicated to a god and tells all sorts of short narratives about the god’s life and encounters with mortals and other mythological beings. Percy’s narration is hilarious and sarcastic and really the reason I picked this book up to begin with. He references characters from Percy Jackson & the Olympians and The Heroes of Olympus, and also throws in modern day references to technology, etc. that add humor to the stories. The book really feels like it was written by Percy, even more so than the PJO series did, and Percy never disappoints. If you love the PJO series you will adore this book, and if you read this one without ever having touched a Rick Riordan novel, I guarantee you’ll want to upon finishing.

Rick Riordan and John Rocco are releasing a second mythology book this August called Percy Jackson’s Greek Heroes, a second PJO companion book chronicling famous Greek heroes and their tales. Like Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods, it will probably teach me something new and have me rolling on the floor laughing from Percy’s snarky commentary. For all Rick Riordan lovers, Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods is a must-read, but I extend my recommendation to all mythology lovers and book lovers alike because the charm of the illustrations, the captivating narration, and the notable details of the stories make this mythology collection unlike any other.

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A Heavenly Goodbye

The day has finally come. At last, I have finished The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare. I’ve laughed, I’ve cried, I’ve cursed and thrown books across rooms, I’ve grinned stupidly and made a fool of myself on airplanes, and I’ve cherished every minute of it all. Like those of The Infernal Devices trilogy, these characters are beloved to me. City of Heavenly Fire is probably my favorite book that I’ve read this year, and one of my favorites of all time. I both want to and don’t want to write a review or discussion post on it because I loved it so much but I don’t want to leave anything out. Cassandra Clare does a fantastic job concluding her series, balancing satisfying her readers with leaving them with a little taste for more. I cannot wait to continue reading about the Shadowhunter world in The Dark Artifices and, later, The Last Hours.

Ave atque vale to The Mortal Instruments series and to its plethora of wonderfully diverse and inspiring characters. By the Angel, I love you.

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Hail and farewell, my beautiful one.

2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Wraparound

AH, how it pains me to say this: hockey season is over. It ended on Monday, June 15 when the Chicago Blackhawks beat the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final. Chicago won the cup and then: The End. I was planning on doing an extensive recap of the playoffs, including each round, once the season ended but honestly I don’t want to anymore. The 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs were an absolute roller coaster of ups and downs, but they were two of the best months of my life, too. My home team made it all the way to the Final for the first time since 2004, when they won the Stanley Cup. While they didn’t end up taking home the big, coveted hardware this year, I couldn’t be more proud of the players, the organization, and the fans. We had a record-breaking season that was so, so fun to watch and the support this city has shown for the home team has been unprecedented (aside from maybe 2004) and unbelievable.

I’m going to quickly gloss over the rounds and their outcomes:

  1. The Lightning faced the Detroit Red Wings with home ice advantage in the first round. This round was probably the most difficult aside from the fourth because the Lightning struggled to counter the Red Wings’ clutch-and-grab style of play. Bolts won in seven games.
  2. Next, the Lightning found themselves up against the Montréal Canadiens, who swept them in the first round of the playoffs last year. The Lightning won the first three games despite not having home ice advantage, but it took them six to close the Habs out for good.
  3. The third round was the Eastern Conference Final, and the Lightning were up against the 2014 ECF champions: the New York Rangers. This series played out like a track meet, with blowout games followed by tight defensive games. It went all the way to Game 7 in New York, but the Bolts pulled out a big shutout 2-0 win to become the new Eastern Conference Champions. They are the only NHL team to beat three Original Six teams in the playoffs to get to the Final.
  4. And finally, the Lightning faced their fourth Original Six matchup in the Stanley Cup Final: the Chicago Blackhawks. A modern day dynasty, the Blackhawks won in six games, despite the Lightning having home ice advantage. Every game was close, with neither team holding more than a one goal lead at any point until the third period of Game 6, which the Blackhawks won 2-0 to capture the first Stanley Cup for Chicago on home ice since 1938. The Lightning were burdened with injuries in some of their stars, lost their spark, and ran out of gas a little too soon. Congratulations to the Chicago Blackhawks on their third Stanley Cup victory in the last six years. They earned it.

I was fortunate enough to attend every home game during the playoffs. My little brother did the pregame Thunder Skate for the Lightning three times: once during the ECF and twice during the SCF. I got to take him the third time and we sat right across the hall from the Blackhawks’ warmup soccer game. I made my first meme (and second and third) during the playoffs to use on Twitter. My dad flew to Game 6 in Chicago and got to see the Stanley Cup ceremony. The on-ice pregame show was absolutely stunning at every home game. The entire playoffs experience was amazing and I am so incredibly grateful that I got to take part in it, up close and personal. This season and these playoffs have been unforgettable and I can’t wait for October. Go Bolts.

And now, here is a gallery of images from my 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs adventure. Mon Dieu, merci.

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

20560137 Novel: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir | Goodreads
Release Date: April 28th, 2015
Publisher: Razorbill
Format: Hardcover
Source: Bought
Also Published On: Lit Up Review

I WILL TELL YOU THE SAME THING I TELL EVERY SLAVE.

THE RESISTANCE HAS TRIED TO PENETRATE THIS SCHOOL COUNTLESS TIMES. I HAVE DISCOVERED IT EVERY TIME.

IF YOU ARE WORKING WITH THE RESISTANCE, IF YOU CONTACT THEM, IF YOU THINK OF CONTACTING THEM, I WILL KNOW

AND I WILL DESTROY YOU.

Laia is a slave. 
Elias is a soldier.
Neither is free.

Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.

It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.

But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.

There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

This is a great beginning to what I anticipate will be a fantastic and thrilling series. An Ember in the Ashes provides readers with a “slow burn” reading experience (haha, get it?). The development of this Rome-like world was fantastic, and the novel reads a bit like a dystopian fantasy. But be forewarned: fantasy elements play a very minor role in this debut, though the stage is set for them to have the spotlight in future installments. Despite originally being marketed as a standalone, Penguin picked up the sequel recently so we will be getting more Laia and Elias! Speaking of which, we’ve got some pretty cool characters here. Laia goes through a TON of character development that is a joy to read, while Elias is strong from the start, but has a bunch of deep stuff to figure out as the book progresses. Connections can be drawn between this book and the Legend series by Marie Lu for sure, but An Ember in the Ashes is not nearly as fast-paced.

The writing style is raw in that Sabaa Tahir doesn’t try to hide anything from the reader. There are no euphemisms, no gawking at bloodshed, no reprieve from the cruel and calculating world she has built. And it is incredible. I give Tahir a lot of credit because she really exposes the darkness of the Empire and its subjects to the reader. Brothels, sexism, raping and abuse of slaves, and cold-blooded murder are not shied away from and, while gruesome to read at times, I have so much respect for Tahir for allowing us to see it all. In addition, there’s not much glamorization of either the Empire (run by Martials) or the Scholars (brutally subjected by the Martials). We get to see the good and bad of both, and the history behind why these peoples are what they are. The novel is very political, very militarily based, while showing us two sides of a convoluted story. That being said, this style lends itself to a darker, heavier reading experience. But it’s a brilliant one.

However, I have to give this debut a 4/5 stars because the first half and a bit (I estimate 5/8 of the book) was very slow and not much happened in terms of a climax. This book was a very slow build and it is well worth it in the end, but I could’ve set the book down for quite awhile and not felt a burning need to know what happened. The entire book, from start to finish, is good. I enjoyed the first half and it was well written, but I was confused about all the hype surrounding this novel until reaching the halfway point. The second half or so definitely lives up to the crazy hype this book is getting. (I also want to add that I picked this book up immediately after finishing Sarah J. Maas’s A Court of Thorns and Roses, so my judgement on “excitement” might have been a little skewed early on in An Ember in the Ashes.)

I couldn’t really get into the alternating POVs until close to the end. For me, they were a bit disruptive to the overall reading experience. Each chapter would end on a cliffhanger and because the two protagonists’ tales were not always intertwined, it was a juggling act keeping track of timing and events. That being said, overall, I preferred Elias to Laia, despite the latter’s exponential character growth throughout the novel. I was surprised that the two characters had such little interaction as I was expecting them to work together like Day and June from Legend pretty much the whole novel. But in hindsight, I like how Laia’s and Elias’s interactions ended up being limited because they both got to share their stories almost separately. I think that’s what this novel called for. And next novel, they’ll be together alllllll the time. 😉

The weird love square (actually, two love triangles really) seemed fake/artificial/forced. Keenan is irrelevant. There was no attempt to develop the relationship between him and Laia and so I couldn’t take them seriously. I understood the confusion and struggle in Elias’s and Helene’s relationship, and I liked the budding friendship/chemistry between Elias and Laia. Unfortunately, Keenan will probably emerge somewhere down the line to create some romantic drama and tension. I’m not looking forward to it.

Let’s talk Helene. This girl is Hermione Granger on steroids. She takes rule-following to the EXTREME. I actually really liked Helene overall. I respected her, she was an awesome female warrior, but sometimes her callousness and inability to care about Scholars, slaves – basically anything unrelated to being a Mask for the Empire – drove me mad. She had such little compassion for those beneath her while Elias had an overwhelming abundance of compassion for the very same people. But Helene’s saving grace is that she is a great friend; she’s loyal to Elias above everything but the Empire. I’m hoping we’ll get to see more character growth from her in the future, because I want to love this girl, I really do. JUST DO THE RIGHT THING, HELENE. HAVE SOME POST-CONVENTIONAL MORALITY (thanks, AP Psychology).

Now time for the Commandant. Oh, Lord. The Commandant is Elias’s mom and the head of Blackcliff military academy. And she’s absolutely crazy. Never in all of my life have I read a character as horrifyingly cruel as her. She terrifies me. I am TERRIFIED. At the end, we get a glimpse into her past and why she despises her son (and wants him dead, I might add), and I’m desperately hoping that we will uncover the layers of her character as the series goes on.

Other characters I really enjoyed were Gens Veturius (Elias’s grandfather and personal cheerleader), Spiro Teluman (blacksmith who’s full of kindness and mystery), Izzi (slave who befriends Laia), Cook (stern slave who turns out to be a butterball at heart), Sana (faction leader of the Resistance) and Cain (Augur who aids Elias). I’m curious to learn more about the mysterious female who appears at the end, Cook (who has a hidden past with the Resistance and with Laia’s parents), Lord Nightbringer (the dethroned Jinni king), and Teluman and Darin, Laia’s brother (who we see nothing of past the first few pages, but who unconsciously guides the plot of the book). Characters I hated: Marcus (probably my least favorite character, incredibly vile and cruel), Zak (not too bad except he’s a wimpy bystander to Marcus’s antics), Mazen (the leader of the Resistance) and the Commandant (she’s really interesting and a great antagonist, but absolutely unlikeable). Oh, and I despised the Mask that murders Laia’s innocent grandparents in the opening scene and then tries to rape Laia. (It’s an exciting first chapter.)

I found it fascinating that the masks the Masks wear bind to the skin on their necks and faces so that eventually they cannot be removed. Creepy much? I’m excited to find out more about the old Jinni world of magic and also to experience more of the Empire than just Blackcliff and the city it’s located in (which I’m not even sure we ever got a name for?). Also, the cover is gorgeous. It is hands down one of the most beautiful covers I’ve ever seen and it fits perfectly with the story. Sorry for all the rambles! I am all over the place with thoughts and tidbits on An Ember in the Ashes.

I recommend reading this dystopian fantasy set in a technologically-advanced, Roman-Empire-like world. You’ll enjoy the entire ride, but get through the first half and you’re golden.