Book Review: Norse Mythology

Book Review: Norse Mythology

Norse Mythology was a book I had on my radar the minute I heard about it. I’m extremely interested in all things mythology and history, as you should know by now, and Norse mythology has interested me since I was a teenager.

Greek and Roman myth are shoved down our throats time after time, but Norse myth has sort of taken a step back from stories and movies, until Thor became popular in the MCU.

I would argue that Marvel is one of the biggest reasons Norse myth and stories are still alive. Scholars and academics have been fascinated with them for a long time, but a big reason we don’t get to learn these stories as much as Greek or Roman is because there isn’t much to learn.

Not a lot of the stories and poems survived the test of time, which is unfortunate to those who want to know more.

Gaiman, in my opinion, does a wonderful job of taking these stories, written hundreds of years ago in a language few of us can understand, and turned them into something that modern audiences can enjoy.

I’d read one other book by Gaiman before this, but as most of us probably have heard, his reputation as an outstanding author precedes him.

Not only were the stories funny, interesting, and informative, I thought they were very thought provoking because they told the story in a way that allowed me to understand how some of these stories would have come about.

Most mythology books are a bit tough to get through, at best. If they’re written well, they are written as a story that is easy to follow, and not as a historical retelling.

At worst, they’re basically a translation from ancient Greek/Latin that put you to sleep more than they entertain you.

Norse Mythology was the best myth-related book I’ve read because it was like reading a bunch of short stories that really didn’t overlap at all, other than the characters involved.

If you know any of Norse myth stories, there’s a good chance you’ll find it in this book, along with all your favourite, or least favourite characters.

Thor, Loki, Odin, Baldur, Freya, they’re all there and more. You’ll learn about some gods you’ve never heard of, and even get to read about how a baby killed a blind man, and I’m not joking.

There are two things about Norse Mythology that I found kind of funny and that are also commonplace with most stories involving a “god” of some kind.

The first is that gods are assholes. No need for anything but being blunt, they’re assholes, and to them it’s always normal.

Bet a man he can’t build a wall in a month? Kill him because he is close to doing it. Jealous of Thor’s wife? Rip out her hair. Guy doesn’t want you coming into his home and drinking his mead? Kill him.

There are very few actual “good” gods in mythology. Yes some come across as good and all, but when it comes down to it, they’re usually assholes, and I kinda love it. I love that they are so clearly seeing themselves above everyone else.

The second thing that I love about a lot of mythological stories of gods is how “smart” they are.

Gods are so clever. They can outsmart any mere mortal. Except most of the time, they really aren’t that smart. Most of their problems they just solve by making themselves look like something else, or smashing them with a really big hammer.

Now to me, that doesn’t really seem that clever, but I like how the world and the gods think it is.

There’s one more thing I wanted to mention about Norse Mythology, and that’s how quickly I got through it.

Being used to taking a month or so to finish an 800 ish page fantasy book, I found that I flew through Norse Mythology extremely fast.

I started it on a Monday morning and had it done by Saturday afternoon, and most of the reading was done on the 20ish minute bus ride to and from work each day.

It wasn’t that the book was that short even, more so that it was that easy to read, which I think is a compliment to Gaiman’s abilities to write a book based off of established stories.

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Manga Review: Naruto

Naruto was one of the first anime I ever got into, and was the first manga that I started reading. I enjoyed it way more than the anime, because it wasn’t filled with months upon months of filler episodes, it was just the main story.

I am still on the fence about my final rating for Naruto though.

The biggest reason I am not doing an arc review for Naruto like I am with One Piece, is because it has been a few years since Naruto finished, and so I don’t really think people would be interested in arc reviews.

I may do one of Boruto one day, but I’m not sure.

Naruto has its moments. One aspect that really made me enjoy the series was the overall story being told. The first half of Naruto was discovering his powers and abilities, and becoming a ninja, but it was still supplemented by the overall world building and character development that helped the series springboard into the second half…which is where the most important events take place.

Part of me wants to say Naruto was this amazing manga that had no issues in it because it was the first manga I started to read. I mean it does have a great story, in typical Shonen fashion. It has a great world building aspect to it as well, and we know that there is more to the world than just what we see on the pages.

There are villains we get to learn about, these great historical figures that shaped the world that are mentioned over and over, but aren’t really brought up, and there are is even great world building within the Leaf Village due to all of the other characters we know about.

It does have a lot of pros going for it. I think any manga reader that has read Naruto would agree with me there, but I think they’d also agree that there are plenty of flaws as well.

The main character Naruto is super annoying in the first half of the manga, and even in the second half his habit of sticking to his ideals and trying to convince his enemies he is right gets annoying, because it works time and time again.

Aside from the main character, the biggest issue I have with the manga is the characters and their power scaling. Some of the characters, mainly the females, are essentially useless throughout the entire series, but because they are considered main characters, they keep coming back over and over.

That is another issue. Basically every female in the series is useless when it comes to fighting. There are some that are extremely powerful, and they’re usually pretty interesting characters, but for the most part it’s just the guys that are doing all the work and I’m not okay with that.

There are several female characters we know of that are very powerful, more powerful than some males, but they get less time. It is also a surprise that this is the case because you’d think guys, who are the main audience for the manga, would want to see women more often.

The power scaling is also annoying, like I mentioned. I won’t dive into it too much because I could talk about it for hours, and I understand it’s not a perfect system, but all I am going to say is that there are several times where a character goes from being wayyyyy too weak to becoming an overpowered bad ass master of some ability in basically an instant.

It becomes an issue when characters do it two or three times in basically a week…Naruto.

So yeah…like I said I am conflicted on how I would rank it. It’s good. I definitely recommend the read, but I don’t want to say it’s the perfect manga ever, because it’s not, by a long shot…

Book Review: Legend by Marie Lu

I remember reading this book years ago in highschool as the first book in the book club I had just joined.

We got to pick books out of a crate and I was one of the last ones to pick, and the cover of Legend looked interesting.

I started reading it on the bus ride home that afternoon and I was done by the end of the week.

I was hooked in an instant. It was an easy YA book to read, and it was the first book that I read that had a dystopian theme to it. I was putting my foot in the water with Legend, and quickly dove right in because I loved it so much.

One thing I really enjoyed about Legend was jumping between two different perspectives. Marie Lu wrote her entire trilogy about Day and June, two “perfect” characters, or so their tests and evaluations tell us, who have two different experiences in life.

June is hunting down Day, whom she believed killed her brother, and we get to see their interactions from both perspectives.

Usually having different perspectives in the same book isn’t much of a big deal because plenty of books do it.

That is true, but most of them have different character perspectives because they are focusing on different parts of the world, and having just one person’s perspective wouldn’t give readers a large enough scope of what is happening.

In Legend, and the other two books in the series, Day and June spend a lot of time together.

Day is from the poorer part of society, and we get to experience his life as a rebel, helping out the poor much like a Robin Hood sort of figure. He pulls off some pretty insane stunts and is a genius in his own regard, he just does things on his own.

June on the other hand, works for the “government”. She is top of her class, and like June, is able to perform some very remarkable physical stunts and is also a genius in her own regard. She is also fairly well off in life, and hasn’t known poverty.

The two different perspectives in the books is a nice change. It gives us the poor and the rich side to everything. When one character is living their everyday life, the other is exploring it for the first time, and as a reader, this style of reading was nice, because it’s different.

June knows her truth of certain events that happen in the book, and Day knows his truth. Jumping between perspectives gives us a look at the inner thoughts of both characters when the time is right, but also puts us outside of their mind and their thoughts when the stroy needs it to happen.

Marie Lu has done a wonderful job utilizing the different perspectives and making the two characters bounce off of eachother nicely.

Like I said, it is a fairly easy read, but it is good. If you like dystopian style books mixed with some spy and mystery novel aspects I recommend Legend.

One Piece Arc Review: Syrup Village

The Syrup Village Arc is one of my least favourite arcs in the entire manga, and it introduces my least favourite Straw Hat member… Usopp.

Now this isn’t a discussion about how useless Usopp is, or how much of a coward, or even how he is only around to foreshadow future events in the story, it is a review of the arc itself, so let’s break it down.

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At the beginning of the arc we meet Klahador, Kaya, Usopp and the Usopp Pirates. Klahador, or Kuro, is by far the only interesting person in this group, and he’s as stale as a cracker. The only thing interesting about him is how smart he is.

I mean the guy is a genius, and the only reason his plan failed was because of Luffy, Nami, and Zoro who happened to show up as his plan was being put into action.

There wasn’t a lot of fighting in the arc. Luffy fights Kuro, obviously, and Zoro takes on some cat brothers who give him a bit of a hard time, but he can handle it.

Nami is pre Alabasta, so she isn’t useful in a fight just yet, and we don’t have any other crew members. I think that’s the weakest part of One Piece, is that the early arcs don’t have a lot of quality villains, and there isn’t a lot of crew members to interact with the world around them.

Overall, I’d probably give this arc a 2.5/5. It’s not terrible, but it’s not great. The best part about it is that it’s short, its got a few funny scenes with Jango, and we get to see Kuro absolutely destroy some of his own crew members, because he can’t control his powers at the time.

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This is also where we get to meet the Going Merry for the first time. It’s Kaya’s ship, but she loans it to the Straw Hats to sail it around the world, and we all know what happens there. I kind of hope there’s a scene in the future where all the Straw Hats go back to their towns or whatever, and talk with the people, sharing their stories, before heading off to save Luffy from the marines or something. I just think it could be cool to see Usopp cry at Kaya’s feet because he tried to keep the Merry safe, but couldn’t do that. Plus he could tell her all about how the Merry “came to life” and saved them from Enies Lobby.

Before I forget, this is technically where we meet Gaimon too! He comes before the Syrup Village portion itself, but he’s a nice little part of the story at the time. I hope we get to see him again in the future, maybe he has finally broken out of the chest he was stuck in.

 

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Luffy also tells us that Usopp’s dad Yassop is a great pirate, and a member of the Red-Haired Pirates, which gives the audience a nice connection between Shank’s crew and Luffy’s, which im sure can lead to some cool moments in the future, though I kind of hope Shanks and Luffy never meet up, until Blackbeard kills Shanks, and Luffy rests the hat at his grave or something, but that’s just predictions.

 

 

 

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Author: J.K. Rowling

Before I even begin this review, I am letting everyone know that it wasn’t written by someone who is obsessed with Harry Potter. I am not the type of person that tells people the house I’ve been sorted into, if you want to know you can ask. If you don’t want to read a review by someone who just likes the books and isn’t talking about them every two minutes then it’s best if you leave now. 

Harry Potter’s life is miserable. His parents are dead and he’s stuck with his heartless relatives, who force him to live in a tiny closet under the stairs. But his fortune changes when he receives a letter that tells him the truth about himself: he’s a wizard. A mysterious visitor rescues him from his relatives and takes him to his new home, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Now I never said I hated Harry Potter, in fact I remember them being pretty good, but I don’t remember them being very special.

Yeah, I would get each of the books as soon as I could after they came out, and yeah I would read them as fast as I could, but I don’t remember anything really sticking with me when I read them.

I even gave them all a second read through a few years ago, and honestly liked them a little less, I think because of all the hype that has been put on them for years.

Rowling has done a marvelous job at creating a world that has kept millions of people around the world interested in and engaging with, but I am not one of those people.

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Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s/Sorcerer’s Stone was our first peek into the magical world, and honestly I wasn’t too disappointed. We got to explore the world as Harry did, learning most things for the first time just like Harry did too.

Being a boy right around the same age as Harry, I was amazed by all the magic, and I can remember having ‘Harry Potter’ fights with my cousin when we were kids.

There are two things about Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone that bother me though.

The first is that it seems sort of rushed. I know it’s a relatively short book, and Rowling’s writing style is a faster paced one, but it seems like a lot more could have been hashed out in order to have readers better understand and enjoy this new magical world they had discovered.

My second problem is that Harry is just a boy being introduced to the magical world for the first time. I get that he’s the protagonist and eventually we find out is the chosen one and all that, but he’s an 11-year-old boy who is going up against a freaking dark lord!

Yeah, sure, Voldemort isn’t at full power, and yeah Harry beats him with luck more than anything (which happens again and again and bothers me), but Dumbledore seems to have all the answers and should be able to help Harry out, or at least have someone else do it, but barely lifts a finger to do so until book six.

I get that the protagonist needs to be the one to save the day and all that crap, but I find there is a difference between the protagonist winning on luck/skill/allies/masters his powers and the protagonist winning just because he has too.

It annoys me that Harry isn’t an exceptional wizard at all. He’s not smart, he’s lazy, and doesn’t really show much promise as a great wizard like Dumbledore, but constantly gets lucky with beating Voldemort every school year.

And yeah don’t give me that friendship is true strength crap either because I wouldn’t call  the trio a friendship. More like one guy who constantly depends on the other two just to survive most days.

Rant aside, I did really like the house point system that was introduced in the book, which we don’t see as often as the books go on. I thought it was a cool little mechanism to learn about the do’s and don’ts of Hogwarts, and was a nice little victory for the main characters, even if Dumbledore cheated and gave them the win for free.

I did also enjoy that the book follows the school year. It seems kind of cliché that all of the books only take place during the school year, but it’s a nice little touch, and it makes sense if you think about it. I mean yeah, the school year takes up a majority of the year, but at the same time it’s when Harry adopts his magical life. When Harry is home for the summer he basically becomes a muggle again, living an especially miserable life.

I hope you guys made it this far, and I am sorry that I’m not more of a fan. I did enjoy the books, I’ll never deny that, I just don’t understand the hype that everyone holds the books up to.

I would like to take a quick poll of my readers to see what houses everyone has been sorted into. For some reason I feel like I have a lot of Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw, but we will see.

I don’t know what I’m going to be covering next week, not that I’ve been following it much lately anyways. I’ll have something for you I promise, I just can’t think more than a few hours ahead of me at the moment, but hopefully this will go away soon.

 

Book Review: Outliers

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Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell is a book about what makes sucessful people sucessful and the situations they were in that contributed to their success.

In this stunning new book, Malcolm Gladwell takes us on an intellectual journey through the world of “outliers”–the best and the brightest, the most famous and the most successful. He asks the question: what makes high-achievers different?

His answer is that we pay too much attention to what successful people are like, and too little attention to where they are from: that is, their culture, their family, their generation, and the idiosyncratic experiences of their upbringing. Along the way he explains the secrets of software billionaires, what it takes to be a great soccer player, why Asians are good at math, and what made the Beatles the greatest rock band.

Brilliant and entertaining, Outliers is a landmark work that will simultaneously delight and illuminate.

I had to read Outliers in highschool and I really enjoyed it. People always claim that highschool education isn’t needed and you don’t have to go to college to make millions.

It is true, but people often assume that their success is because they are unnaturally gifted in what they do.

Gladwell’s primary objective in Outliers is to show that this assumption is often wrong, and that the success and expertise of these individuals comes from a combination of some crucial factors.

It’s a really interesting look at success that sometimes we just take for granted.

Now think about this. If a child is born in January, and another in December of the same calendar year, the kid born in January is almost an entire year older than the kid born in December, therefore smarter and stronger.

Now fast forward into the future and the kids are both in grade 2. The kid born in January is still almost a year older and because they are still stronger and smarter will likely be placed in more advanced groups for reading or math, and learn more difficult things, therefore progressing faster and faster. The kid born in December gets placed in a lower group and doesn’t learn as much therefore doesn’t progress as far, all because he was born in December and not January.

Now obviously this isn’t an exact science, but if you read Outliers he points out that a lot of NHL players are born in the earlier months of the year.

It’s an interesting idea and looking at my life is sort of true. Again, it’t not an exact science but I know of a few scenarios in my life that fit the bill perfectly.

He has other ideas in there. Gladwell claims that to be sucessful one needs to practice their craft for 10,000 hours to become succesfull. He also brings up a point with NBA players that the taller they are isn’t necessarily better, but being past a certain threshold is all that is needed to be sucessful.

Verdict: Worth the read. It’s a good look at success and the assumptions we often have of sucessful people.

Have you guys read it, other books by Gladwell? Let me know in the comments. I hear he’s written quite a few interesting books.

Next week I’m gonna take a look at a book with talking animals and a lamp post. Stay tuned!

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