Showing posts with label mythology. Show all posts
Showing posts with label mythology. Show all posts

Thursday, November 24, 2016

The Greek Gods by Bernard Evslin, Dorothy Evslin, Ned Hoopes


Rating: WORTHY!

This was a very short book (little more than 100 pages), and lacked an index which it could have used, but it offers a refreshing take on Greek gods and associated mythology, telling the tale of the Greek pantheon (twelve disciples anyone?!) with an unflinching eye. We learn of Zeus, Hera, Athene, Poseidon, Hades, Demeter, Apollo & Artemis, Hermes, Hæphestus, and Aphrodite, as well as other important characters such as Prometheus, Pandora, Phaeton, Orpheus (yes in the underworld!), Echo & Narcissus, Eros & Psyche, and Arion.

What's striking is how much Christian mythology owes to its Greek forebear. Male god associated with mountains and lightning? Check! male god makes humans out of clay? Check! Those with the power of a god having to walk around in the garden trying to find someone? A god changing into an animal to seduce someone? A huge flood? Check! A man and his wife trying escape burning destruction and because one of them looks back the wife is lost? Check! It's all here: everything the Judaic and Christian pantheons later purloined for their own mythology.

It's entertainingly written and does not shy from the gory bits, so it's no sugary, boring middle-grade series inexplicably set in the USA. I recommend reading this or something like it, if only for the ideas it can deliver for your own writing.


Monday, October 17, 2016

Redemption in Indigo by Karen Lord


Rating: WARTY!

I think there are good stories to be told from roots in African folklore and mythology, but this one disappointed me by not being one of them. It began unpromisingly; then it picked up and got me interested, but too soon after that, it went downhill into tedium, confusion, and blandness. On top of that, it was a bit too whimsical for my taste.

The story is of Paama (Pah-ma) and her glutton husband Asige (Ass -ee-gay, whose name I had thought was Asike from listening only to the narration). The two are living apart, and Asige comes to join Paama in the community where she now resides. He proceeds to embarrass her endlessly with his constant need for food and the bizarre circumstances he gets himself into in the pursuit of one more mouthful. It turns out that there's a reason for this gluttony in the end, but that comes only after a long tedious separation between these two again. It was this part (the disorderly eater) which had started to recoup my interest, but it was a bit too silly and was over before I really started to think I might enjoy it.

I really didn't get this constant separation of Paama and Asige, although I could understand why she wouldn't want to be around him. I was like, "Get a divorce already!" The biggest problem for me was that when Paama wasn't looking stupid, she was looking like a doormat or a coward, running away instead of taking charge and dealing with these issues. There were African "bad spirits" taking human form and interfering with people. Paama was given a magic pestle and then some spirit came after her seeking to recover it, and the whole thing dissolved into a hot mess, and I lost all interest. In the end I found I was skimming more and more of it just to get to the end and see if anything happened. It really didn't, so I can't recommend this one at all. Robin Miles's reading and characterizations were so-so, some good and some annoying, so that didn't help. Audio books tend to be a more experimental form of reading for me than other formats, so I expect more of them to fail to capture my interest. This one was one of the failures, and I can't recommend it as a worthy read.



Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan, Robert Vendetti, Nate Powell


Rating: WARTY!

This graphic novel is in the Percy Jackson world, but features a different main character named Jason, who wakes up on a school bus on a trip to the Grand Canyon Skywalk, which is as scary as it is awesome. Jason cannot remember who he is, although two friends, Leo and Piper (I'm sorry, but I can't take that name seriously. I just can't. I apologize to all who are named Piper, but I cannot. Honestly). Of course these kids are demigods as they soon discover, and all three are sent on a quest for a missing goddess, because gods are useless, and they're flying on a bronze dragon....

Riordan has carved out a fine empire with his take on Greek mythology, but it has singularly failed to impress me. I rather liked the first movie made from these books, The Lightning Thief, but I didn't like the second one and I didn't liked the book that gave rise to that first movie either! Nor have I liked an adult-oriented detective story of his, so I guess I'm done with this author!

My problem with this was several-fold. While Robert Vendetti's adaptation of the original was passable (and perhaps better than the original since it was shorter!), Nate Powell's art work left a lot to be desired. It felt slapdash and hasty. The biggest problem as usual, though, was the overall story. It felt choppy and staccato, and not a lot of it made sense. I don't know if this mirrors the original novel, or if this came about as part of the translation to graphic. All the evil villains had horrible faces or horrible expressions on the faces, and pointy teeth, so cheap stereotype found lucrative employment here.

Conversely, all the good guys have the looks of runway models. In fact, frequently we're taught in this book that women are only really worth anything if they're beautiful, No other quality comes close: not intelligence, not loyalty, nor diligence, industriousness, reliability, bravery, strength (mental or physical). Nope. The only thing a girl can offer is good looks, otherwise she's pretty much worthless. I resent that. Anyone who actually knows women (and it would seem that Riordan doesn't if he's judged by his writing) knows that their true beauty, just as in men, comes from the inside, not from the shallow depth of their skin.

I also didn't like that Riordan's world is pretty much whites only. Yeah, you can try arguing that it's based on ancient Greece which was a largely white world, but since Riordan abandoned Greece in favor of the USA, I think you can argue that he also abandoned excuses and he lost that high ground. I mean why base a novel rooted in Greek mythology actually in Greece when it can be based in the only country in the world worth writing about: the great US of A? The hell with the Greeks. The hell with native American mythology, let's and for no reason at all, simply migrate Greek mythology wholesale to the US! Steal the mythology, but god forbid any of the stories should ever take place outside the US.

The problem with a world like this - or any paranormal world is that you have to have some sort of intelligent framework behind it, to have it work in a coherent fashion, otherwise literally anything could happen and all smart plotting is out the window. I didn't see any framework here. The one consistent thing we learn here is how utterly useless gods are - of any stripe,. It doesn't matter if the god is Roman, Greek, Egyptian, biblical, Norse, or whatever, not a single one of these gods is worth anything! They're always begging us poor, weak, condemned, sinful, worthless humans to help them out! What's the heck is up with that? Why would any god worthy of the name need anyone's help?

So, to cut a long story short, as indeed did the the guy who adapted this, I can't recommend this graphic novel, It had no substance and really delivered no worthwhile story.


Thursday, July 14, 2016

Ash Mistry and the Savage Fortress by Sarwat Chadda


Rating: WARTY!

Yes, it's talking book Thursday and here's my third review of an audiobook today.

I really enjoyed Sarwat Chadda's The Devil's Kiss which I guess I read before I started blogging reviews, since I find it nowhere on my blog, but if I'd known this was the start of a series titled 'Ash Mistry Chronicles', I would have left this audiobook on the library shelf. I have sworn-off reading any book (single or series) which has 'chronicles' in the title (or 'saga' or 'cycle', and so on). The very name Ash Mistry is a warning. The novel turned out to be every bit as unappealing as I would have expected for a chronicle

Mistry and his daughter and Indian who have grown up in England, and are visiting the city of Varanasi here they run afoul of the evil Lord Savage (I kid you not with these character names). The main reason for this is that Ash is a petty thief. he damages an archaeological site and finds an arrow head made of gold. Instead of turning it in to the people running the dig, his first thought is that the can sell it and get some money. His selfish thoughtlessness directly leads to the death of an aunt and uncle, and he sheds not one tear nor offers a single expression of regret for them. Not in the part I could stand to listen to.

Worse than this, the novel is genderist. When Ash and his younger sister lucky are in hiding, someone offers to train them in the fight against the supernatural evil that Lord savage controls. One of the two gets to be a warrior - Ash. His sister gets to be a caregiver! Not that there's anything wrong with being a caregiver by any means, but why is the male the warrior and the girl the 'nurse'? Could they not both have been warriors? Or nurses? Could they not have chosen for themselves what they wanted to do rather than be assigned traditional gender roles? it was at this point that I quit reading.

The story was read rather melodramatically and breathlessly by Bruce Mann, which didn't help my stomaching of it. Also, if I'd known that this had been recommended by Kirkus reviews, I wouldn't have wasted my time on it at all. Kirkus pretty much ever met a book they didn't adore, so their reviews are utterly worthless. I cannot recommend it.


Sunday, May 1, 2016

Treasury of Egyptian Mythology by Donna Jo Napoli


Rating: WARTY!

Read indifferently by Cristina Moore, this audio book failed to ignite my interest and I DNF'd it. I thought it would be fun and engaging. You never know from whence your next idea for a story might hail, but all that the author did here was to take an Egyptian creation myth (from which the Biblical myth is obviously taken), and lard it up uninterestingly. It didn't come off as engaging at all, the way it was told here, let alone exciting, and I can't see many kids finding this a worthy read. I DNF'd it in short order after less than an hour of listening. That's all I can say about his one.


Friday, December 25, 2015

Kringle by Tony Abbott


Rating: WORTHY!

The blurb tells us this novel is set around 500AD, but Rome had abandoned Britain almost a century before that! If the novel had been set in, sat, 420AD, it would be more accurate. Anyway, set during the time the Romans were withdrawing, and the nation was falling into the dark ages, long before King Alfred started having fantasies of uniting the kingdoms, this fantasy story tells of increasing depredations not by Anglo-Saxons, Picts, and Irish, but by goblin hoards, who come up from underground during the night and pillage villages, and kidnap children. Why do they need the children? Well you'll have to wait until almost the end of the story to discover that!

This novel delivers a slightly different take on the traditional Christmas story, especially since it stops short of the Christmas story! It's more an origins and quest tale than a Santa Claus story as such. Kringle is just a boy, but one who matures rapidly after losing Merwen, his step mother, and who has to strike out on his own to avoid falling into the hands of the goblins. Instead, he falls into the hands of the friendly elves, and later makes friends with "pirates" who sound more like Viking raiders. In his quest to find Merwen, he discovers secrets about the rune stones, about the longest night, about the goblins, and about the elves, but he discovers most about himself, his strength, his power, and the strangely communicative flying reindeer.

Told well, and with the story continually moving along, both in narrative and in location, this novel borrows elements from Lord of the Rings (but which fantasy doesn't?!), yet makes a fresh and original read. I enjoyed it. The worst part, for me, was the author's misguided attempt to try to incorporate elements of the Christian winter solstice mythology into the tale, and it didn't work. It doesn't belong, it contributed nothing, and worse, it stalled the story. He should have stayed with the goblins and elves, which was fantasy enough.

That was a small element though, and overall, the story was excellent, well told, captivating, and nicely ended. I liked it and I recommend it.





Monday, November 16, 2015

Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan


Rating: WARTY!

I started listening to Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief this past weekend and this morning. It's pretty bad and very much a rip-off of Harry Potter. It's like cut-price Greek mythology - set in America no less - meets Harry Potter. There's even a wand, after a fashion - it's Zeus's lightning bolt. Someone stole it and evidently the gods are, as usual, utterly incapable of discovering who took it or where it is. For reasons unexplained, they zero-in on Percy Jackson, who is, unbeknownst to him, the son of not only his mother, but also Zeus's brother Poseidon, who's been banned by Zeus from seeing his son. The Greek gods were the original dysfunctional family.

In order to protect Percy from unspecified potential enemies, his mom evidently had no other choice than to take-up residence with a disgusting guy who abuses her to a caricatured degree, mentally and physically. Evidently his smell is powerful enough to hide Percy from enemies who are evidently as dumb as the gods. Percy attends a special private school, although who pays for this goes unspecified. The only thing taught at the school, it would seem, is ancient Greek mythology, and Latin. Why Latin, I have no idea whatsoever. No Roman gods are involved in this story! I studied Latin for two years in high school and got nothing out of it other than a better understanding of English, which I could have arrived at in far less painful ways, trust me!

As is typical for this magical child trope, Percy, like Potter, grows up in pain and is kept in ignorance about his true origin and nature. Like Potter, he's bullied at school, and he's been told that he suffers from ADHD and dyslexia. He discovers he can read ancient Greek with no trouble, but plain modern English escapes him. I never knew that was what dyslexia was all about! Wow!

I was having a hard time getting into the story, mostly because Percy was incredibly stupid and blind, and the mythology had been dumbed-down to childish levels presumably to appeal to the lowest common denominator. I had quite liked the movie, which despite its flaws, was considerably better than the novel. It was tighter, smarter, better told, and more 'sensible', although it still fell short of being truly good.

The movie changed a few significant things, too - such as Percy saving Grover from the minotaur in the book, which was changed to Grover saving Percy in the movie; then came the second movie which sucked! This morning, I decided that this first novel was very much of the same nature as the second movie, and I skipped to the last couple of disks figuring I could skim through those before I drop it off at the library this afternoon. It's gone, girl!

My conviction that this novel would never improve and would be just as bad at the end as it was at the beginning, was fully confirmed and amplified upon. After hearing the guy who was reading this story pronounce Charon as Karen as opposed to Care - on, and discovering that Kerberos (not pronounced with a K, but begun with a 'ser' - as in Ser-bian in this novel), and discovering that this fierce guardian of hell was really just a puppy who liked to chase balls, I had pretty much heard all I could stand. I never like Annabeth in the movie (she was better in True Detective), and I liked her just as little in the novel. And why was she named Annabeth? She's the daughter of a Greek God and she's named with a Hebrew name? Grover is a Satyr, and gets an English name?!

This author has no respect for the mythology and dumbs it down incredibly. What in the name of the gods inspired him to take Greek mythology and then divorce it entirely from Greece and set it in the USA? What logic or rationale is behind that? Obviously none. The Empire State Building is Olympus? It's really saddening that he trashed and cheapened some fine mythology instead of fully capitalizing on it. On the other hand, he has a best-selling franchise from treating his readers like they deserve nothing better, so maybe the rest of us should jump on this bandwagon and start turning out equally careless LCD novels? I honestly don't l think I can do that, and I certainly can't recommend this as a worthy read. The grpahic novle is no better. I posted a negative review of that in June of 2017.


Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Lost in the labyrinth by Patrice Kindl


Rating: WORTHY!

Not to be confused with Lost in the Labyrinth by LA Peacock and Nathan Hale (yes, there really is a Nathan Hale), this one is by Patrice Kindl. Now how often do you get to read a Kindl on your Kindle? Not me, actually, since this was a print book! This is based on a myth that is the intersection of The Hunger Games and The Maze Runner!

The story centers not around Ariadne, but around "Princess" (the Greek kings didn’t actually refer to their daughters as princesses any more than the the Powhatan people called Matoaka a princess!) Xenodice, although the younger princess in the myth is actually named Phaedra. She was the one who married Theseus, according to mythology (fell in love with Hippolytus), but then mythology is abysmally twisted and incestuous (in many ways). Xenodice's parents were King Minos and Queen Pasiphae. Ariadne is an older sister, who in this modern retelling is a bit of a bitch.

The young prince's name is Asterius, but unfortunately, he's half-man and half-bull, and is forced to live in the inescapable Labyrinth, right at its center. Xenodice nevertheless loves her brother and takes care of him. How she finds her way in and out is a bit of a mystery, but the trick to escaping any labyrinth is to keep one hand on a wall - left or right, it doesn't matter, and walk with your hand tracing that wall. This will get you out no matter how complex the labyrinth, but the method may take some time, and may lead you to the center before it leads you back out. Leaving a thread behind you is a risky way to go. Any Greek philosopher ought to know this. You can't have an unreliable thread holding a sword over Damocles, and then claim that same limp thread will solidly serve Theseus in the Labyrinth! Let's have some consistency, please!

Xenodice (which actually sounds like a new kind of gaming device) is also in love with Icarus, son of Daedelus. Prior to this tale beginning, according to the myth, there was a games, which a son of Minos attended, and did so well that jealous rivals killed him. Nowadays they would just test him for drugs and strip him of his titles. Anyway, as a punishment, Minos demanded seven men and seven women from Athens, every few years in tribute. These tributes were sent into the Hunger Games. Wait, no, that's the wrong story. These people were sent into the Labyrinth never to be heard from again. What Asterius did with these Athenians isn’t really explained in any detail. Definitely a party dude though.

As usual in these stories, the main character, Xenodice appears to be too old for her age (early teens). This problems tends to stem for the writer not being fourteen. Now you can argue that she was a royal and had thus been raised to be mature and responsible, but then if you do that, you’re stuck in explaining her almost complete lack of emotion when her beloved Icarus gets waxed. He fell into the sea not onto the hard ground? Seriously? The lady doth protest not enough. She can either be an invested royal, which would explain her maturity, or a shallow child, which would explain her slighting of Icarus She can’t be both.

Carping aside, though, I think this was a worthy read and a great introduction to a part of Greek mythology.


Monday, April 13, 2015

Jason and the Argonauts by Dan Whitehead


Title: Jason and the Argonauts
Author: Dan Whitehead
Publisher: Kalyani Navyug Media Pvt. Ltd.
Rating: WORTHY!

Illustrated by Sanka Banerjee.

Everyone knows the story of Jason, his argonauts, and the quest for the Golden Fleece - or if they don't, they really should! It was the topic of a 1963 movie with animation supplied by none other than Ray Harryhausen. It's very dated now, but it was a favorite of mine when I was a kid. The story was re-told on TV in 2000 in a mini-series, which was a lot closer to the original myth than was the movie.

I was quite excited to see it in a graphic novel which is well-written, colorfully illustrated, and tells a faithful story as far as is possible in this format. Jason recklessly goes to demand his birthright, which is the kingship of Iolcus (but you can call it LOLcus if you like!). Jason's father was deposed and Pelias took over. Pelias was warned that a man with one shoe would show up who would be a real and present danger as they say, and Jason lost one of his sandals when he swam across the river with an old woman in tow. Not that old women ever really are old women in these kinds of stories.

Pelias doesn't kill Jason, oddly enough. Instead, he sends him on an impossible quest to retrieve the Golden Fleece from Colchis, upon delivery of which Pelias will step down in Jason's favor - despite the fact that he has a son and heir, Acastus. Jason accepts this offer. He starts recruiting a sailing crew, and he hires a master ship-builder, Argus, to create the fastest and strongest ship. Pelias evidently pays for all of this. Zeus's long-suffering wife Hera decides to back Jason's gambit and aids him along the way.

Jason manages to engage a host of famous names (at least famous in Greece back then). Not all of these are mentioned in the novel: Atalanta the virgin huntress, Calais and Zetes who are the sons of Boreas - the North Wind - and who are known as the Boreads, and who can fly, Castor and Pollux, who were actually not twins but stepbrothers (they had different fathers) and were known as the Dioskouri, Euphemus, who could walk on water long before anyone from Galilee ever did, Heracles more commonly know as Hercules, Orpheus the legendary musician, Peleus, aka Telemon, and not to be confused with Pelias, who was the son of Aeacus, king of the island of Aegina, where I've actually vacationed, and Philoctetes, the famed archer. We're told in the book that Polydeuces the Olympic champion volunteered, but Polydeuces is just another name for Pollux. What Jason stupidly doesn't know is that Acastus, Pelias's son, is on board with a plan to sabotage the quest every chance he gets.

The crew sets sail for Salmydessus to learn from the blind man Phineaus the route to the fleece, but they run short of food and are forced to find land to refill their bread baskets. They come across an island populated only by women. No, it's not Themyscira, it's Lemnos, where the women (we learn) killed off all the men in an act of savagery born of unfaithfulness on the part of said men. The argonauts quickly fall under the spell of the women and do not want to leave. It's only Herakles who finally kicks butts and stirs them to get away from their enchantment.

Finally, they reach Salmydessus and discover Phineus (in the movie played by Patrick Troughton who you may know better as the second Doctor Who), but he's plagued by Harpies which prevent him from getting a decent meal. After the Harpies are subdued, Phineus feels moved to given the directions, which are not very good since they lead straight through the clashing rocks. Fortunately, a gift from Hipsipyle (of Lemnos infamy), helps them overcome this obstacle, and they eventually make it to Colchis - where yet more obstacles await them.

The story doesn't have a happy ending. It's a Greek myth remember, not a children's fairy tale! But as to exactly how Jason gets his fleece, and what becomes of him and the Argonauts afterwards, I'll leave that for you to discover. Don't think you know what's going to happen if you've only ever seen the 1963 movie! Note also that there are several graphic novels out there which tell this story. I've read only one of them; others may tell if differently and may be better or worse than this one. This one, however, I did read. It's a fast read and I really liked it, but it's a bit gory and rampant, so understand that it's not a tale for young children.


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Dirty Wings by Sarah McCarry


Title: Dirty Wings
Author: Sarah McCarry
Publisher: Macmillan
Rating: WORTHY!

This is supposed to be a retelling of the myth of Persephone, although I saw no resemblance. I did, however, discover that it's the most pointless and boring story I've read in a long time. It's the second in the 'All Our Pretty Songs' series, which I didn't know when I picked it up since there is - yes, you've guessed it - absolutely no indication whatsoever on the cover that this is a sequel! Way to go Big Publishing™ - you screwed up yet again!

As it happens, and despite being number two - or perhaps because it was quite evidently a big number two - this novel goes nowhere and nothing of note happens. If you like reading about the drug-abusing and thievery conducted by a couple of boring lowlife's, then this one might please you. If you have taste and a desire for an interesting story, you might want to look elsewhere for your reading fulfillment.

The story is about Maia, a piano prodigy, an adoptee from Vietnam by white American parents. When her "mom" discovers that Maia can play the piano with exceptional dexterity, Maia ends up being all piano all the time which is pretty much child-abuse. She's also home-schooled (something she's forced to take care of herself since her parents are pretty much absent in in her life). In fact, her mother is a complete dick, so it's nothing more than a tired cliché that she would cut loose when she meets street urchin Cass(andra).

The two of them take off for a month traveling in a car that Maia stole form her parents. Nothing of what these two perpetrate has any consequence whatsoever. I do find it amusing when YA writers who are not actually YA themselves, put their own musical tastes into the hearts and minds of their YA characters, thereby rendering the characters completely unrealistic. Since when have seventeen-year-olds ever seen music videos on MTV, for example?! MTV hasn't routinely transmitted music videos in pretty much a decade - that's almost half of Cass and Maia's lifetime. It's hardly likely that it would be a point of reference for either Maia, who was effectively banned from watching TV, or Cass, who is living on the street and has been for some considerable time!

Like I said, this story goes nowhere and is boring as hell. It has nothing to offer, nothing interesting or new to say, and no point whatsoever to it. I rate it Wartius maximus.