Book review

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

Statistics

Norse Mythology

Format: Paperback 

Length: 283 pages

Genre: Mythology, Fiction, Fantasy, Short stories

Publisher: Bloomsbury publishers

Date of Publication: 6th March, 2018

Rating: 3/5 stars


I kept hearing rave reviews of Norse Mythology everywhere and wanted to read it. I like reading mythology and historic fiction and had previously loved Circe and The Song of Achilles that deal with Greek mythology and plenty of Indian mythology so I was very excited to start this book.


The Blurb

The great Norse myths, which have inspired so much of modern fiction, are dazzlingly retold by Neil Gaiman. Tales of dwarfs and frost giants, of treasure and magic, and of Asgard, home to the gods: Odin the all-father, highest and oldest of the Aesir; his mighty son Thor, whose hammer Mjollnir makes the mountain giants tremble; Loki, wily and handsome, reliably unreliable in his lusts; and Freya, more beautiful than the sun or the moon, who spurns those who seek to control her.

From the dawn of the world to the twilight of the gods, this is a thrilling, vivid retelling of the Norse myths from the award-winning, bestselling Neil Gaiman.

The Book

The book is divided into chapters, each describing a Norse legend. The stories of Loki’s children, of Sif’s golden hair, of Odin’s sacrifices, of Thor’s strength, and Loki’s cunning are something that we have heard of. It was good to know the real reasons and back-stories of each of them. But unfortunately, the stories seemed to bore me because of the style of writing. Almost everybody that has read Neil Gaiman’s writing raves about it so I think I must read another of his books before I boycott him completely but I did not expect this book to disappoint me so much.

The stories that really got to me all had to do with Loki and his children. The descriptions of Hel and of the wolf brother killing his younger sibling were very sad. I would begin to hate Loki for all the trouble that he causes in each story but also feel sympathetic to him when he tries to find a way out of it. As the author says, you can hate Loki but you can’t help but love him. My favourite line from the entire book is Thor saying “When something goes wrong, the first thing that I always think is, it is Loki’s fault. It saves a lot of time.” That sentence is so quintessential of both Thor and of Loki!

Some of the scenes of the Avengers movies made more sense to me after I read this book but I felt that it was a very cut-and-dry approach to storytelling. Sentences seemed to be repeating themselves and the stories skipped a bit in between and left things to the reader’s discretion. It may have been my high expectations that lead to the disappointment but I wish that the book had more to offer.

The Author

Neil Gaiman was born in Hampshire, UK, and now lives in the United States near Minneapolis. As a child he discovered his love of books, reading, and stories, devouring the works of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, James Branch Cabell, Edgar Allan Poe, Michael Moorcock, Ursula K. LeGuin, Gene Wolfe, and G.K. Chesterton. Gaiman credits librarians with fostering a life-long love of reading.

Neil Gaiman is credited with being one of the creators of modern comics, as well as an author whose work crosses genres and reaches audiences of all ages. He is listed in the Dictionary of Literary Biography as one of the top ten living post-modern writers and is a prolific creator of works of prose, poetry, film, journalism, comics, song lyrics, and drama.


TL;DR: A quick read with multiple short stories that explain the Norse Gods and their myths


Do you like reading mythology?

What is your favourite?

Tell me in the comments below or on my Instagram @the_food_and_book_life

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Book review

Circe by Madeline Miller

Statistics

Format: Paperback

Circe

Length: 333 pages

Genre: Mythology, Historic Fiction, Fantasy

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishers

Date of Publication: April 10th, 2018

Rating: 5/5 stars


As you know by now, I am a huge fan of mythology. One of my favorite genres is historic fiction. I love Greek mythology and wanted to own this book ever since I set my eyes on it. The number of giveaways that I have entered for this book on Instagram is atrocious! Finally when my birthday month came by, my Bookdivas sent me Circe in a birthday book-mail and I was over the moon!

I had already read and loved The Song of Achilles by the same author so I had very high expectations from this book. It certainly did not disappoint. Mithila and I buddy read this book and had the best time ever! Click here to see what she thought of the book.


The Blurb

From the Orange Prize-winning, internationally bestselling author of The Song of Achilles comes the powerful story of the mythological witch Circe, inspired by Homer’s Odyssey.

When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.
Circe is the daughter of Helios, the sun god, and Perse, a beautiful naiad. Yet from the moment of her birth, she is an outsider in her father’s halls, where the laughter of gossiping gods resounds. Named after a hawk for her yellow eyes and strange voice, she is mocked by her siblings – until her beloved brother Aeëtes is born.

Yet after her sister Pasiphae marries King Midas of Crete, Aeëtes is whisked away to rule his own island. More isolated than ever, Circe, who has never been divine enough for her family, becomes increasingly drawn to mortals – and when she meets Glaucus, a handsome young fisherman, she is captivated. Yet gods mingle with humans, and meddle with fate, at their peril.

In Circe, Madeline Miller breathes life once more into the ancient world, with the story of an outcast who overcomes scorn and banishment to transform herself into a formidable witch. Unfolding on Circe’s wild, abundant island of Aiaia, where the hillsides are aromatic with herbs, this is a magical, intoxicating epic of family rivalry, power struggles, love and loss – and a celebration of female strength in a man’s world.

The Book

For someone who claims to love mythology, I was ashamed to find that what I thought I knew about Greek mythology did not even scratch the surface. My knowledge was mostly from other books and movies but it was in no way comprehensive and how could it be with the countless Greek Gods, Goddesses, Demigods, heroes, and monsters? They are like Cerberus the multi-headed dog. You think you have a handle on one of them only to discover that there are a hundred more. Add to this, the innumerable centuries that the Gods have lived and you have a very complex history and genealogy to understand. I was glad that the book stayed true to its name and we were allowed to discover the secrets of Circe from the time before she was even born. The sentences were beautifully crafted with the classic Miller style that I have come to love. The descriptions of the island, the animals, the Gods, and the monsters were very vivid. I loved how every chapter effortlessly paved the way for the next.

Circe is my favorite kind of character. She is tormented and made miserable by her circumstances but has a strong will and proves herself time and again. I loved how even as a child, Circe did not just take things lying down. When nobody wanted her brother, Circe took him in. When nobody wanted to help a fallen God, Circe was there. When nobody dared to dream of the ancient power in the flowers, Circe did. The adult Circe went on to tame wild beats and triumph over wild men. She did not falter when she had to raise her child by herself no matter how difficult he was or how many Gods she had to defy.

It was sad to see how even so many centuries ago, even with all the powers in them, women were still seen only as commodities. The prettiest fetched the best alliance through marriage, the most powerful gained favors of Kings across the world and the ones who were not considered worthy were left to fend for themselves. I was glad that Circe was not one of those simpering women who were shaped in the courts of Helios and Oceanus; aiming only to hurt each other and to obtain another shiny trinket in order to lord over the other nymphs.

Circe is a study in work ethics. She worked hard for all the powers and knowledge that she gained and never took them for granted. She was powerful enough to stop the mighty Athena, to walk to the depths of the greatest oceans and come out with a prize, to survive Helios’ wrath and build a beautiful life for herself but she never forgot that without continued hard work all that she had achieved was for naught. It is a lesson for all of us who would rest on our laurels and decide that we have had enough. If Circe could endure for centuries, can we not endure for decades?

The Author

Madeline Miller was born in Boston and grew up in New York City and Philadelphia. She attended Brown University, where she earned her BA and MA in Classics. For the last ten years she has been teaching and tutoring Latin, Greek and Shakespeare to high school students. She has also studied at the University of Chicago’s Committee on Social Thought, and in the Dramaturgy department at Yale School of Drama, where she focused on the adaptation of classical texts to modern forms. She currently lives in Cambridge, MA, where she teaches and writes.

Her work include:

  1. The Song of Achilles (2011)
  2. Heracle’s Bow (2012)
  3. XO Orpheus: Fifty New Myths (2013)- Contributor
  4. The Brown Reader: 50 Writers Remember College Hill (2014)- Contributir
  5. Galatea (2013)
  6. Circe (2018)

TL;DR: A beautifully written and moving story that has parallels even in the modern day society


Do you read mythology?

What is your favourite?

Tell me in the comments below or on my Instagram @the_food_and_book_life

Book review, Received for Review

Lose Me. by M.C. Frank

Statistics

Format: eBook (Kindle) PicsArt_03-29-11.45.48-min

Length: 387 pages

Genre: New Adult, Romance, Contemporary

Rating: 5/5 stars

Disclaimer: I received a free ARC of the book from the author in exchange for an honest review.


I came across a post by M.C. Frank on her facebook group for the street team that she is looking forward to having a few people review her book Lose Me. I had already read an excerpt on her website so I was very excited to read the rest of the book. I received an ARC which made it feel even more special.

I have always wanted to travel to Greece and the fact that this book was based in Greece made it very coveted. I had also already read her book Ruined and I knew I was in for a treat and I was not disappointed.

A strong female character written by a female author was the perfect way to end my women oriented month of March. I will continue to read women-centered books and I look forward to your recommendations in the comments.


The Author

M.C. Frank has been living in the world of stories since she can remember. She started writing them down when she could no longer stand the characters in her head screaming at her to give them life. Recently she got her University degree in physics and is now free to pursue her love of reading and writing, as well as her freelance job of editor-in-chief. She currently lives with her husband in a home filled with candles, laptops and notebooks, where she rearranges her overflowing bookshelves every time she feels stressed.

Her work include:

  1. No ordinary star series
    • No ordinary star
    • No plain rebel
    • No vain loss
  2. Lose me.
  3. Ruined
  4. Everything I do
  5. Darcy and Elizabeth
  6. Ardently
  7. The light princess and other stories
  8. Persuasion (a coloring book)

The Blurb

Today is not the day I die.”

Ari Demos, a half Greek stunt girl, starts her every day with this thought. It’s not that her job isn’t dangerous, but she’s been surfing, training and doing sick water stunts for years. Now, just months after graduating from high school, she’s ready for her first job on a real movie set. But on the day before shooting starts, she has an accident. One that almost claims her life. And that’s when she realizes that she can’t hide from the truth any longer: something big and dark is coming, and she’s not sure she will survive it. 
Then Wes Spencer arrives on the scene with his expensive yacht, glamorous friends and bored attitude. He’s a British superstar, the famous pirate of a hit TV show that made girls all over the planet swoon at a glimpse of his dirty blonde hair and green eyes, and he’s in Greece to film a modern adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. When he meets Ari, he dismisses her as too unimportant. But as it turns out, she isn’t unimportant. In fact, quite the opposite.

Will Wes and Ari fall in love Hollywood style, or will they end up fighting for their lives?

The Book

The book begins with Ari Demos, a cool 19 year old girl in Corfu, Greece messing up on a swim and having to be rescued by the arrogant Wes Spencer, the British heartthrob that has millions of girls swooning over him. To her dismay, she has to work alongside Wes every day on her very first job as a stunt girl. She motivates herself saying “Today is not the day I die“. The Universe however, has other plans. Ari is prone to blinding headaches that leave her crippled with pain and when something so dangerous happens during a stunt, she runs the risk of losing her life. The aloof Wes and the down-to-earth Ari butt heads at numerous occasions but as we find out in Pride and Prejudice, it is only their chemistry being expressed in a hostile (but cute?) manner. Ari tries to avoid letting Wes know the dark details of her life but things take a very (un)expected turn and the rest is history.

The book is an easy read and keeps conversations light and real. Although touted as a modern adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, it stands out on its own and has a very unique storyline. The hospitality and the loyalty shown by the Greeks is endearing to witness. The changing family dynamics in Ari’s house and the acceptance of new members into their family felt a bit too sudden but after reading about the inclusiveness in Greek culture, it became believable.

The bromance between Wes and Ollie was hilarious and sweet and made me tear up in quite a few places. Ollie is easily my favourite character in the book. The back and forth in the Wes-Ari relationship felt a bit prolonged and I felt that some of the scenes did not contribute much to the story. But as I was approaching the end of the book I was heart broken and the pain that they felt had me wishing that there was something I could do to help them. That, in my opinion is the hallmark of a good book and more importantly, a good author who writes from the heart. The fear that Ari felt resonated with me on a personal level and I appreciate the author for making it feel so real. The book takes the readers along for a crazy ride and is a must read for all who are romantics at heart. I would have loved a few pages from Wes’s point of view but that’s just nitpicking.


TL;DR: A sweet and heart wrenching story that will leave you feeling elated and crushed at the same time. A must read for all lovers of romance.


What are your favourite books in the Romance-Young Adult genre?

How was your March? Did you do anything women-centered?

Tell me in the comments below or on my Instagram @the_food_and_book_life

Book review, Received for Review

Surrealist Awakenings by Amanda Fleet

Statistics

Format: Paperback

Length: 276 pages

Publisher: Olympia Publishers

Rating: 3/5 stars

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the publishers in change for honest review


Surrealist Awakenings is a collection of short stories by Amanda Fleet. It had been quite a while since I read any short story collection and I decided to give this a chance since it supposedly was a retelling of various children’s tales. The book turned out to be very quirky and I still cannot decide if I like it or not. It consists of some stories that have resonated with me but there are also a few that made no sense when I first read them. However they are all very interesting with varied twists to things that we blindly accept to be true. I was glad to have read the book if only to have gained a perspective on how a very normal story can be re-written and normal everyday objects can be re-animated in different ways that none of us would even have imagined and I give kudos to Amanda for it.

The Author

Amanda Fleet was born and raised in north-west Kent and, as a child, enjoyed reading books by Enid Blyton and Eva Ibbotson. Educated at various colleges and universities in England, she discovered the works of Philip Larkin, Angela Carter, Jeanette Winterson and Lemony Snicket. Amanda qualified as a teacher of English in 2013 and has since examined both GCSE and A Level English Literature and Language for various exam boards. During nine months teaching abroad in Kuwait, Amanda Fleet fell in love with a Spitz dog who she imported to the UK. Foxy Dog is now sorely missed. Amanda now takes consolation in her Shepherd Dog and cheeky puppy Robyn, who reside with her in the respective safety of Hampshire.

Blurb

These cheeky narratives brutally and comically feature a range of ideas unusually blended, from Jack and the Beanstalk reinvented as a kind of sordid comedy set partly on earth and partly in the heavens of the Ancient Greek gods, to Making Waves which is a romantic fantasy set in the back of a taxi, to the very bizarre Dorian Todger, stories that revolve around the jam-obsessed captain of a spacecraft who begins a galactic quest to find a lost cat.

Here are some of Amanda Fleet’s most engaging Surrealist Awakenings, inspired by those dawning moments in life when reality slaps you in the face and leaves a sting.

The Book

Surrealist Awakenings consists of stories that range from love stories to stories of forced couplings, stories of games that Greek Gods play to stories of the goings on in Santa’s  wonder-filled world.

‘Pigletta’ starts off as a familiar story of the three piglets that we all know and love but here, it is retold for adults. In the story, the piglet is a grown woman who experiments with different men (wolves) only to find that there isn’t anyone that is perfect.

‘Jack and The Beanstalk’ is a story of the Greek Gods and their lust and their various casual flings. It talks of how humans are mere pawns in bigger stories involving powers that we cannot imagine. It talks of the trickery that is used by people with power and how it affects the lives of everyone that is dependent on them.

‘Christmas Story’ is a three part story which is a bit disturbing. The story involves Santa Clause, Mrs Clause and the Ice Maiden. It speaks of extra martial affairs, betrayal and greed. Each of the three stories deal with Elves and Llamas and Reindeer but not from the point of view that we are familiar with. It is a darker version of the North Pole that we are privy to and not something that will be palatable to all.

‘The Land of Horn and Money is a very long story told in two parts; of King Kevin and his various Selves. The land has to be moistened and made fertile by his ministrations onthe mountains that are euphemisms for the female anatomy. The different Selves and the way he deals with them hints at a personality disorder but you are not sure if you need to give the story a second layer and depth of understanding because it does seem to be written in jest.

‘Glass Floor’ is an adult story with intricate descriptions of forceful coupling which gives a two dimensional being her third dimension. If scenes of passion are not your thing, you will be left disturbed by this story.

‘Darcy’ is a story that speaks of unrequited love and the loneliness that all of us feel and the regret that we encounter after letting ‘the one’ go.

‘Tyra’s Story’ is a story of an 8 year old girl Amira who befriends a star that looks after her until she is old enough to look after herself. It has three different endings, each bittersweet, yet hopeful for all who feel like there is no-one to care for them.

‘Dorian Toger’ is an intergalactic traveller who’s journey is spread across a couple of stories. He is a jam loving captain in search of his cats. He meets wolves and dogs and pretty women during his travels but his love for jam is unending.

‘Forbidden Love’ is my favourite of all the stories in the book. It talks about a lover in Amsterdam who is not allowed to meet the object of his affection. It speaks of the heart wrenching pain that lovers feel when they are apart with no hope for being together.

The book, on the whole is very strange and tells familiar stories with a quirky twist. If you are someone who loves to be blown over by unusual stories, this is definitely the book for you.


TL;DR: An unusual and quirky book filled with familiar stories told with strange twists.


What are some of the quirky stories that you have read?

What did you like or not like about them?

Tell me in the comments below or on my Instagram @the_food_and_book_life

Advanced Review Copy (ARC), Book review

Ruined by M. C. Frank

Statistics

Format: eBook (Kindle)

Length: 312 pages

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Disclaimer: I received a free ARC PDF copy of the book from the author in exchange for an honest review


Ruined is a tale set in the period of Regency and is a retelling of Jane Eyre. The story revolves around Beatrice Devon, a down on her luck young lady of nineteen who sets out to seek employment in London. Lady luck smiles down on her and she is employed by His Grace, Dominic Edward Halifax, the 9th Duke of Ashton to be the Governess of his ward, the spoilt Adelina Halifax. How Beatrice deals with the disciplining of the child and manages to form new relationships despite her past is what makes up the entirety of the book.


The author

M. C. Frank is an author, reader, teacher and physicist. She has always lived in the world of stories and began her writing career with a magazine. She is now a freelance editor-in-chief and her work include:

  1. No ordinary star series
    • No ordinary star
    • No plain rebel
    • No vain loss
  2. Lose me
  3. Ruined
  4. Everything I do
  5. Darcy and Elizabeth
  6. Ardently
  7. The light princess and other stories
  8. Persuasion (a coloring book)

The book

Most of the re-tellings that I have come across are written with a pompous hand. It was however, a pleasant surprise to find that Ruined managed to hold its own as a story while paying due diligence to the era that it was set in. The comparison with Jane Eyre is seen in the fact that the heroine of the story suffers through a not-so-ideal childhood to become a Governess and falls in love with her master. The language is believable, as are the scenes in the story which brings to notice the amount of research that the author must have done prior to writing the book.

I am a sucker for a strong female character and Miss Devon impressed me with her presence of mind and unfaltering belief in herself. While in the beginning it felt like she was a little too prone to fainting and crying fits, as the story progresses, it became clear that she is entitled to her occasional frailties. The darkness of her past is introduced without jarring the reader and the reason for people’s reactions are explained in terms of their past experiences without taking away from the main story. I especially loved the way the past and the present were interwoven without confusing the reader. Each scene was analysed from the point of view of everyone that was involved in it without being repetitive.

The strength and humor that Beatrice displays despite the horrors of her past are very inspiring but I wish that she was not so secretive about her past and hadn’t felt the need to sacrifice herself for it. I also did not love the character of Dominic. He was far too detached in the beginning to have undergone such a transformation by the end of the book. I did not enjoy the repeated use of the word ‘child’ when spoken to a lover although I took it in its stead as a colloquial use of the word. I enjoyed the tantrums of Adelina and the way it was dealt with. It was refreshing to come across the childishness amidst the dark undercurrents that ran through the story.

Favorite characters:

Beatrice: Her bravery was very inspiring and will resonate with a lot of people who have had to deal with similar issues.

Adelina: Although she was a spoilt little brat, she was very lovable.

Lady Augusta: A strong character with a kind heart. What’s not to love?

Characters that I did not like:

Dominic: The turn around time for his character’s change of heart was too short to be believable to me.

Characters that I wish were developed more:

Lord Burns: I wish he had played a bigger role throughout the book. The kindness that he shows was very endearing.

Adelina: All she was described as was a pretty little girl with dimples. I wish the story dealt with the loss of her parents and her own childhood that was sure to have been miserable.


TL;DR: A beautiful story with dark undercurrents that is sure to keep you glued to the pages


Have you read re-tellings of other books? What are your favorites? Suggest a few such books for me to read. Comment below or tell me on Instagram @the_food_and_book_life