The Hammer of Thor

hammerofthorby Rick Riordan
First Sentence: “Lesson learned: If you take a Valkyrie out for coffee, you’ll get stuck with the check and a dead body.”
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Others in the series: The Sword of Summer
Content: There’s some violence, a bit of romance. It’s in the YA section (grades 6-8) of the bookstore, but heaven forbid you stop a Riordan fan from reading these.

It’s been a few months since we last saw Magnus, and he’s been managing okay out in Valhalla. But, Loki’s up to his old tricks again, and Thor’s hammer is still missing, and Magnus and his friends are needed to stop him. The problem: Loki has promised the giant Thrym that Sam the Valkyrie (who’s Muslim and engaged already) will marry him. In just over a week. Of course this can’t happen, except for one thing: Thrym happens to have Thor’s hammer. The trick: getting Thrym to give up the hammer, while not releasing Loki from his imprisonment AND having Sam not get married. But, of course Magnus and all his friends — including Alex, a gender fluid character — are up to the challenge. Mostly.

It took me a while to get around to reading this one, mostly because it’s just more of the same. Not that that’s bad; I love being in Riordan’s world when I’m there. But, I’m not as enthralled by Magnus’s part in the larger mythos as I hoped I’d be (I’m more interested in Apollo right now). Not that the story’s bad; it’s not. And Riordan’s fun and funny and maybe a bit too hip and contemporary, but I know (because A’s a huge fan) that the kids eat it up. It’s a good addition to the wider mythos that Riordan’s created, and I do appreciate that he’s definitely trying to be inclusive with his characters these days.

It’s just not my favorite.

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Genius: The Game

geniusthegameby Leopoldo Gout
First sentence: “The night Teo disappeared started off just like any other.”
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Content: There’s some mild swearing. It feels more like a YA book, so it’s in the YA section (grades 6-8), but I’d give it to an interested 5th-grader.

Three friends — Mexican-American Rex, Nigerian Tunde, and Chinese Cai — are at the top of the game when it comes to technology. Rex is a top-notch programmer and hacker, Tunde a brilliant engineer, and Cai a blogger who goes by Painted Wolf and exposes corruption in the government, and together they are LODGE, and have a massive on-line presence. Then they get word: the CEO of a major tech corporation is having an invitation-only competition for the world’s best and brightest. And Tex, Tunde, and Cai all need in, for different reasons. Not the least of which is to win.

On the one hand: this book is SO cool. It’s nice to have a tech-laden book that isn’t scifi, but rather just people using advanced technology the way it’s supposed to be used. Bonus points, as well, for an effortlessly diverse cast. (I did find Tunde’s chapters a bit odd, but I eventually warmed up to it.) It makes sense that all the people at the competition wouldn’t be white boys, and so I appreciated having not only a good ethnic mix (the CEO’s Indian, on top of it all!), but a good mix of girls and boys. The design of the book is cool too, from the sleek cover, to the art and graphics mixed in, depending on which narrator’s POV we’re reading. (Tunde’s was the most elaborate, Rex the most spare.)

But, I’m not sure cool is enough. For one thing, I was expecting a stand-alone, and about 2/3 of the way through I realized it wasn’t, and I’ll admit it: I lost interest. *sigh* The characterization lacked a bit, especially of the Big Bad; why on earth is he trying to bring the world’s tech down, and what does he want with our super-smart, capable kids? Questions that were, unfortunately, left unanswered. It’s not that it was bad — I finished it after all — but it just didn’t make me super enthused. It wasn’t bad. But it wasn’t super great either.