Review: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

 

Phew, that’s quite a title. Also, THAT COVER. Is. Beautiful.

Ari and Dante are two fifteen year old boys who meet while swimming (or attempting to in Ari’s case) and instantly become friends. They, like the philosophers for which they are named, are highly introspective. Their quest to understand their universe and themselves is constant, and it is through each other that they mature and become who they are meant to be.

SPOILERS (so scroll to the bottom if you don’t want them):

For Dante, that means gaining confidence in his art and coming out as gay, and for Ari, that primarily means understanding his family and how to handle his relationships with them. By the end, Ari confronts his parents about his brother, and Dante experiments in many different areas of life, and at the very end of the book they end up together.

This book does many things well. MANY.

For one, it is set in a Latino community, but it isn’t stated at the outset, which leads me to one of the book’s points: the Latino community may have some different cultural practices, but all in all, it is similar to any other and less separated than many believe.

The writing is beautiful. I mean, I was hooked. I wanted to know why Ari’s parents wouldn’t talk about his brother. I wanted to know why his dad wouldn’t talk. As I watched them process these scars together, my emotions were riding the feels roller coaster.

The attention to detail is amazing; I love it when authors pay attention to name meanings like Saudade, and how Saenz wove it into the story, tying it in with Ari’s desire to know his father and brother. I mean, this was a good book. I read this book in two days.

The book focuses on gay relationships a lot, and I agree when it says that we should not beat up or abandon gay people–that we should love them even if we don’t agree or understand. While Ari and Dante are best friends, and Dante clearly wants to be more than friends, I am not sure that I am convinced enough that his feelings are reciprocated. I can see where Saenz is coming from, but I need a bit more build to their relationship for it not to feel forced.

SPOILER FREE:

The rest of the book is pretty beautiful. The middle felt somewhat repetitive, but I think that works towards helping the reader comprehend Ari’s depression. It also effectively shows love in its different forms, and guilt and scars and their relationship with each other.

This book was a roller coaster of emotions, and man, was it deep. I give it a 4/5 stars.

 

Image credit: https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=images&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwiP6eW1_PXMAhUIVD4KHSRzBq8QjRwIBw&url=http%3A%2F%2Fbooks.simonandschuster.com%2FAristotle-and-Dante-Discover-the-Secrets-of-the-Universe%2FBenjamin-Alire-Saenz%2F9781442408937&bvm=bv.122676328,d.aXo&psig=AFQjCNEy46EeT1k9DrXaiNu2WAjHnwVMgg&ust=1464291328276544

 

The Hunt Club Review

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Yesterday, I finished The Hunt Club, by Bret Lott, let it sit with me, let myself become an unbiased reviewer.

The book is written like that, The Hunt Club, that rhythm, using the commas where oftentimes you’d use periods, using you’d where most people would write you had. Bret Lott has his own style, and it takes some getting used to before you fall into the rhythm, but once you do, it almost becomes second nature, thinking like that, reading like that.

The book itself is about a fifteen year old boy, Huger (pronounced YOU-gee, which does take some getting use to), who acts as an aid to his blind Unc, Leland Dillard, who live lower class lives in Charleston, SC. This book is a murder mystery, a suspense novel, but more than that, it delves into the soul.

It is a bit slow at the beginning, as he takes perhaps a little more time to set up or describe Charleston than is necessary, but for the most part, Lott is successful in bringing together these details like in Sherlock Holmes mystery in a way that is satisfying for the reader. That is, even if the reader did not immediately pick up on their importance, it was evident by the end.

The subject matter are issues from which many authors would shirk away: race, faith, and social status.

Sometimes the writing was convoluted, so I had to read some parts multiple times to follow it. I can forgive this for the most part, because it related to the style he chose, and that’s fine–good, in fact. The Dillard families social status–lower class–is exemplified through the writing style Lott uses, reminiscent of Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. The writing sounds both educated and country. I grew up in the South, and it read just like many people would speak.

Huger’s relationship with race and faith is matter of fact, curious, not judging. Some of Huger and Unc’s main friends are Miss Dinah and her daughter, Dorcas, both black and Christian. Huger mentions often that they are black, but not in a condescending manner. However, the other members of the hunt club (minus Unc) are plain as day prejudice, using offensive language and insulting African American history. Huger is similar when it comes to faith, but his disinclination to believe somewhat biases his thoughts.

All in all, Lott writes about these, not from his viewpoint as many authors would, but the viewpoint of his character. He is not worried about acceptance, or being politically correct, but instead he writes the truth (from the viewpoint of his character). Refreshing.

On to the SPOILERS part of the review:

Huger learns that greed can be controlling, but more than that, that sin and love can exist all at once. His mother and father, no one, it seems, is innocent, and yet in many, save the bad guys of course, love abounds. The sin destroys his curious, unbiased nature, but the love brings it out again. Though I endeavor to explain this concept outside of the book, my attempt pales in comparison to Lott’s.

Aside from the “delving into the soul” aspects of the book, the plot itself was both predictable and refreshing. Lott himself essentially admits in the book that it is predictable, outright states it multiple times. Readers oftentimes desire creative endings, but the simplicity of it–greed as the sole motivation–is refreshing, and it allowed the focus to shift from plot, to the “delving” aspects.

SPOILERS OVER

Lott does a fantastic job of explaining the inexplicable–of showing, not telling, a basic concept in writing that is so often forgotten. This book accomplishes what it set out to accomplish; it’s not only a good, interesting read, but it is thought-provoking in multiple ways, addressing the issues of faith, race, social status, as well as the basic though ever-inscrutable concepts of love and sin.

Overall, I give this book a 3.8/5 stars, and I am considering reading its sequel, Dead Low Tide.

The Red Pyramid Book Review

Welcome book-seekers and Egyptology nerds alike to The Red Pyramid, by Rick Riordan.

Before I picked up this book, I had read Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, Book 1: The Sword of Summer, and fell in love with Riordan’s witty writing and ability to weave mythology into his stories in a way that you can actually pick out the original myths and remember them. It’s a great learning tool for anyone who loves mythology (yes that includes me). It let’s us live in the world that ancient civilizations considered real, but in a way to which we can relate.

The Red Pyramid concerns two siblings, Sadie and Carter Kane, who have been separated most of their lives, and their quest to save their father and save the world (cliche, but true). They make friends with gods and goddesses, as well as sorcerers and even a baboon. They go to one place, fight some creatures, take a portal to another and wash rinse and repeat (you can tell I’m excited about that part), all in an effort to stop the god Set from taking over the world and releasing Chaos.

Riordan’s stories are famous for a reason, I’m aware. I’m also aware that I am not the age of most middle grade readers. However, when I say Riordan’s writing is not my favorite, I am taking those that into account. He uses some of my pet peeves in writing. For instance, the word seemed. Seemed just needs to go die in a hole. Also adverbs. So. Many. Adverbs. His writing also felt quite choppy, but that is something I will let go as the intended audience is middle grade readers. My last bone to pick with him is that his stories seem to drag on during the middle, even in Magnus Chase (though I liked that one better). It felt like they got swept to one place, and then the next, and then the next, etc., until Riordan felt like he’d made his book long enough to wrap it up.

On a positive note, he took care in planting important features of the plot throughout the book so that they all tied in nicely at the end, which was cool to see come together.

The character themselves are great, save the fact that at times, Sadie and Carter are too similar in both their manner of thought and their actions. I understand (because I’ve struggled with it myself) that changing your writing voice when switching between characters is challenging, but it is doable, and his lack of differentiation stands out due to the first person point of view that he uses.

Otherwise, Sadie and Carter are funny, mostly realistic to real kids (like when they make fun of each other in a sibling I-love-you-but-you’re-being-stupid kind of way) and their relationship with the goddess Bast is heartwarming. With the aid of Bast, the Kane siblings grow and mature with each other and become formidable forces, but humble ones. This is where I feel like they are maybe a touch too mature for their age, but who knows maybe there are two kids out there who wouldn’t get taken up by having so much power at all? Eh, I don’t even believe it when I say it.

Overall, these things, particularly the plot dragging on, dragged my rating for it down to a 3.5/5 star. Despite my mediocre rating (for me, that’s pretty mediocre), I am going to keep reading the series because CLIFFHANGERS.

 

(Image Source: http://vignette1.wikia.nocookie.net/olympians/images/8/8c/The_Red_Pyramid.jpg/revision/latest?cb=20150625112515)