Monday, May 21, 2018

Song of Achilles and Circe by Madeline Miller


    Madeline Miller's remarkable way of retelling Homer's The Iliad and The Odyssey was definitely bound to be a recipe for success. I loved every ingredient (element) in these books.  Love, betrayal, enchantment, adventure, jealousy, complex relationships, and a dash of vengeance.  This isn't your four-ingredient recipe that you can find at your local grocery store.  No, no this is a "magnifique" three-star deal.  Song of Achilles alone took Miller ten years to write and received the Orange Prize for fiction, which is the United Kingdom's most prestigious literary prize. After reading this enchanting tale, I had to read her second novel, Circe.  

   The Song of Achilles is from the perspective of Patroclus.  The book begins with Patroclus being exiled for killing a boy. He is then sent to Phthia to be fostered by its king, Peleus.  This is where he meets Achilles, the perfect, handsome, and fierce demi-god. The story continues throughout their teenage years and into the war with the Trojans.  When Patroclus poses as Achilles to save the demi-god's life, he tragically loses his own--in a gruesome, horrid, and agonizing painful death. Losing Patroclus plunges Achilles into a deep depression, and the soldiers believe he has lost his mind.  As the Fates said, the war will be won by the death of Achilles.

“And perhaps it is the greater grief, after all, to be left on earth when another is gone.” 
-Madeline Miller, The Song of Achilles



     Circe is only a minor character in Homer's The Odyssey, so creating an entire novel about the sea goddess or nymph poses a challenge. The greatest challenge for Miller may have been to keep the storyline coherent enough for her readers. The novel spans hundreds of years because Circe is immortal.

     Circe was born more human-like than god-like. She isn't vicious enough to be a goddess.  She was an outcast and every Titan and Olympian made it quite clear to her. She did, however, possess a valuable power: witchcraft.  When Circe turned the most beautiful sea goddess, Scylla, into a man-eating beast and the man she loved into a god, she was banished to the deserted island of Aiaia. Throughout her life, she discovered relationships, love, and motherhood.

     Both The Song of Achilles and Circe contain themes of abuse, relationships, love, sacrifice, and dealing with one's emotions. Achilles and Circe had to fend for themselves and learn through hardships. I have to admit that as I was reading I fell in love with these characters and found myself siding with them, even though I didn't agree with some of their actions. Very detailed and gripping!

  "He was quiet a long time. 'You are wise,' he said. 'If it is so,' I said, 'it is only because I have been fool enough for a hundred lifetimes.'"
-Madeline Miller, Circe
~Dani Green 

Friday, May 11, 2018

The Flintstones, Vol. 1 by Mark Russell and Steve Pugh


The Flintstones, Vol. 1 collects comic book issues 1-6. It is an updated, grownup, dark comic, similar to the TV show Riverdale in style. 

Publishers Weekly describes The Flintstones as, "absurd reality that isn't much different from the original TV series-cartoon cavepeople living with prehistoric versions of modern technology". The same quirky shop names you remember from the TV show make an appearance here - Bloomingshales, Spears and Roebuck, Outback Snakehouse. 

The characters deal with current issues in sneaky ways. There's commentary on working one's self to death (literally - by dinosaur attack) for someone else's benefit. Fred and Barney are veterans of the Bedrock Wars and dealing with issues of PTSD. For Barney, his PTSD is complicated by the fact that Bam Bam is a child that was orphaned by the Bedrock Wars. There are also questions of the next war - is it worth fighting aliens who show up to Bedrock Valley or should the town wait it out to see what happens before taking action? The characters even deal with issues of marriage equality as protesters crash a marriage retreat to protest monogamous relationships. 

Publishers Weekly writes, as in the original TV show it's the "sweet characterizations that present Fred and Barney as lovable lunkheads whose sincerity often sets them apart from the rest of Stone Age society" that make this satire a fun take on modern issues. 

Shannon 

Thursday, April 26, 2018

The City of Lost Fortunes by Bryan Camp


After Hurricane Katrina, demigod Jude has decided to lay low as his power of finding lost things has gone haywire. In a city where so many have lost so much, he is forced to seclude himself from people so as not to be overwhelmed by their loss. He is pulled out of his six-year exile by Dodge, the Fortune god of New Orleans, to play a game of poker with the local trickster gods, the winner fated to become the new “Luck of New Orleans.” Jude is quickly pulled into a fight he wasn't ready for, a game he doesn’t understand, and consequences that will affect the future of New Orleans. When Dodge turns up dead and Jude is the main suspect, he finds himself neck deep in a world he couldn't imagine and forced to push himself and his magic further than he ever thought possible. At each turn, Jude becomes less sure of who he can trust (these are tricksters, after all). With such a complicated plot, this story could well-have gone off the rails, but I'm happy to say that the rich details and complex characters were well-crafted and imaginative. This is a great read for fans of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods or adult readers of Rick Riordan’s demigod series.


- Portia

Eternity Springs series by Emily March



Emily March describes Eternity Springs as a "world that may or may not be populated by an angel". The resident angel in town is Celeste Blessing. She's a guiding voice of wisdom in town and encourages townspeople to resolve heartbreaking issues in their past with love and friendship. At the end of each title characters experience personal growth to earn their "angel wings" in the community. 

Eternity Springs is a charming, mountain town in Colorado. Despite having an inspirational feel, characters in this series do have a tendency to fall into bed with the object of their affection. There's a Christmas shop, art gallery, inn and mechanic's shop in town. We get to know the various shop owners as the series progresses and as we watch them fall in love. Currently there are 14 books in the series and the series titles do not have to be read in order. The newest book in the series is The First Kiss of Spring and it was published in February 2018.  

Shannon D. 

Monday, April 23, 2018

The Gone World

This book almost defies description. It's not for everyone, but it sure checked a lot of boxes for me: time traveling science fiction, thriller crime novel, strong female lead character. It's a genre-crossing, roller coaster ride through time and space. Shannon Moss, when we meet her in 1997, is an investigator with NCIS who has been trained in the Navy's top-secret black ops Deep Waters program, which involves travel to and exploration of Deep Space and Deep Time. She is called to investigate the murder of a family, the wife and children of Navy SEAL Patrick Mursult, and the disappearance of his eldest daughter. Although Mursult is considered the prime suspect, Moss learns that he had traveled to Deep Time on a secret mission back in the 1980s, and his ship never returned home. So he shouldn't even have been alive on Earth to commit the murders. Her supervisors decide to send her into Deep Time, into one of many possible future time streams, to see if she can find any clues to help solve the Mursult murders. Another thread that is always a vital part of Deep Waters investigations is the fact that many trips to Deep Time and Space have revealed what they call the Terminus, the end of the world. The year of the Terminus seems to be receding closer to their own, real time, which they call terra firma (1997). Moss's travels back and forth between 1997, 2015, and 2016 reveal that the family's murders were part of a much bigger plan involving a mutinous group of Navy SEALs who know about the Terminus. She meets many versions of people she knows in these various time streams, and it's utterly fascinating to see how an individual life can play out differently in many disparate scenarios.The descriptions of the science behind time travel could be too much mind-boggling detail for some readers, and the violence depicted is not for the squeamish, but the story is brilliantly written, totally unique, and absolutely
worth the effort. You'll never look at coincidences and deja vu quite the same way again!

Kelly Currie