Review: Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

In Norse Mythology, Neil Gaiman fashions primeval stories into a novelistic arc that begins with the genesis of the legendary nine worlds; delves into the exploits of the deities, dwarves, and giants; and culminates in Ragnarok, the twilight of the gods and the rebirth of a new time and people. Gaiman stays true to the myths while vividly reincarnating Odin, the highest of the high, wise, daring, and cunning; Thor, Odin’s son, incredibly strong yet not the wisest of gods; and Loki, the son of giants, a trickster and unsurpassable manipulator. From Gaiman’s deft and witty prose emerges the gods with their fiercely competitive natures, their susceptibility to being duped and to dupe others, and their tendency to let passion ignite their actions, making these long-ago myths breathe pungent life again. (From Goodreads.)

Personal Take: By now, anyone who knows me knows about my obsession with Neil Gaiman and his work. So it’s no surprised that I got this the moment it was released, especially as I wanted to get into Norse mythology for a while now. The stories were organized perfectly, starting from the beginning of creation, through events and adventures that brought about the end of the world.

The interesting thing about the way Gaiman approached this, is that he wrote the gods to be casual, adopting a colloquial dialogue in the way they spoke. It wasn’t jarring, but unexpected, which only Neil Gaiman is able to pull off. This in no way hindered how the stories were told though. The gods came to life with each story, slowly revealing their personalities, but also, ultimately, showing what the vikings valued in themselves and their deities.

The end of the arc was the one the that really got me excited– the final culmination of all the choices made by the gods brought into one point, and it was epic. I was still buzzing from the it long after I finished the book. This is a book I’d definitely read again, and it’s opened by appetite to read more about Norse mythology.

It acts a great, light introduction to the subject.

Audience: I’d say adults for the complexity of the stories themselves.

Rating:

 

Other recommendations: As a huge fan of Gaiman, I’ve made it a point at least try to read everything I can get my hands on. Two I recommend (but did not review yet!); American Gods, Anansi Boys, Stardust, The Graveyard Book and  The Oceans at the End of the Lane. Of the books I reviewed: Neverwhere, Make Good Art, The Sleeper and the Spindle, Good Omen: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnus Nutter.

Review: Toads and Diamonds by Heather Tomlinson

Toads_and_Diamonds

When sisters Diribani and Tana lose their father, the girls have to rely on themselves to make a living and keep off the streets. But when Diribani meets a goddess at a well, her life is forever changed when she is blessed with a gift; flowers and jewels drop from her mouth whenever she speaks. In comparison, Tana is granted a gift – or a curse, as snakes and frogs fall from hers whenever she speaks. Both sisters are convinced that each of their “gifts” are not what they seem to be, and as they go their separate ways, both aren’t sure if it brings them closer to the good fortune they’ve yearned for, or a bleak death.

Personal Take: The first thing that struck me about this book is that it has such a beautiful cover, and thank goodness the story inside also matched its beauty. Tomlinson beautifully brings the setting to life, with so many organic descriptions and the aesthetic beauty of the culture. The characters are wonderful as well; both of Tana and Diribani are not complete opposites, but both have a soft flare and sharp personalities.

As much as I enjoyed the story, there were times when it felt too choppy, as if there were missing scenes. We (the readers) were plummeted into some scenes without any set up, and it took a while to understand what was going on. The ending was also rushed, and it felt slightly incomplete.

I still enjoyed reading it very much, and if you’re looking for something different, this is it!

Audience: For anyone who’s interested in fairytale-like stories.

Rating: 

threehalfstars

Other recommendations: Tomlinson has written fairytale remakes such as The Swan Maiden and Aurelie: A Faerie Tale.

 

Review: The King of Attolia (The Queen’s Thief #3) by Megan Whalen Turner

 

As the three-way war between Sounis, Eddis and Attolia comes to an end, Attolia finds itself with a foreign, eccentric king it doesn’t want. In the midst of a corrupt political court, Eugenides attempts to set things right, even if it means involving the young, naive guard Costis. Costis is aware of the political web he’s being dragged into, and while he has no love for the king, somewhere along the line of being his guard, he realizes there is more to the new Attolian king than meets the eye.

Personal Take: This series is becoming one of my favorites. I love ALL the characters– new, old, minor, major– all of them. After the unlikely twist Turner threw at readers in the last book, I was looking forward to see where the characters went from there, and I was so pleased to see how much they’re both the same but different. Events may seem anticlimactic at times, only because what I expected would be the “big story” wasn’t, which is why this book is unpredictable.Turner shows us another side of her world, expanding on how the politics work and the etiquette in Attolia, and how Eugenides navigates through it. The writing is wonderfully descriptive and easy to follow, and it painted Attolia beautifully for me.

Turner also hinted at what’s to come in the next book, which I can’t wait to read because…well, just because!
If you haven’t read this series yet, DO IT! You will not be disappointed!
Audience: Fantasy lovers of older teens and beyond.
Rating:
4stars
Other recommendations: I’ve reviewed the first two book: The Thief and The Queen of Attolia. The forth book in the series is A Conspiracy of the Kings.

Review: The Queen of Attolia (The Queen’s Thief) by Megan Whalen Turner

 

When a small, unforeseen mistake lands Eddis’ thief in Attolian capture, the consequences takes a toll on both him, and his country as it hurdles into a 3-way war with Attolia. Even though he’s convinced that his days as the Queen’s thief is over, Eugenides is once again faced with a great challenge. He must steal a man, a queen, and he must steal peace. And if he succeeds, he may also capture something that the Queen of Attolia lost long ago.

Personal Take: I cannot stress how awesome this series is becoming. If the first book is the prologue, this is such an intense chapter for Eugenides. Told in third person, we get a full view of what’s happening in all courts involved, but readers want to know what happens to Eugenides the most. I love this character. He goes through so much, but he still manages to be who he is. And he’s the furthest thing from a hero, and yet he’s still one.

I also LOVE the two formidable heroines. Whalen created such awesome, headstrong female characters that are authoritative in their own right. They don’t need to prove anything, they don’t even fight battles, but you can still tell they’re badass.

And of course, the theme of gods and goddesses continue. The more mythology Whalen shares, the more these lands become my home.

I definitely recommend reading this series, and I CANNOT wait to read more!

Audience: Young adults to adults. Anyone can enjoy this.

Rating:

4stars
Other recommendations: I reviewed the first book of the series, The Thief, and I cannot wait to read the other two.

Review: The Names Upon the Harp by Marie Heaney, illustrated by P.J Lynch

Ireland’s premier talents join forces to create a definitive collection of tales from one of the world’s greatest folkloric traditions. Included in this emotionally stirring anthology are renowned Irish legends such as “The Birth of Cuchulain”, “Oisin in the Land of Youth”, and “Finn and the Salmon of Knowledge”. The stunning illustrations combined with the clean, spare text make this book a gift for every book-lover’s shelf.

Personal Take: I consider this book to be one of the treasures I brought back from my trip to Ireland. I mean, the land is rife with historical and mythical stories, including faeries, which is a genre that dominates books now. Even though one could consider it a children’s book, older readers can read between the lines and tell there’s more to these stories. It’s bloody, gory, but beautiful and tragic at the same time.
What I also loved about it is that the stories were sort of in chronological order. Characters would be introduced, and even though they were the center of the next story, they would still make an appearance.
The added bonus was the breathtaking illustrations in the book. It was just beautiful to gaze at and imagine what these heroes and villains were going through.
If anyone is interested in Irish folklore and mythology, I suggest this book as an intro.
Audience: Young teens right up to adults would enjoy this.
Rating: 
5stars
Other recommendations: Even though Marie Heaney collaborated with her husband on the (the illustrator!), she also wrote other Irish mythology/folklore books. One I’ll be reading sometime this year is Over Nine Waves: A Book of Irish Legends. Check out her other books!

Review: Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

 

Richard Mayhew is a well meaning man. Though he doesn’t stand out much, and is very much as ordinary as any human being, he tries to do what is right. So when he ditches his plans with his fiancee to help a complete stranger, his act of kindess takes him deeper than he’d ever imagined- into a competely different London, with rat-speakers, a floating market, and a couple of assassins who mean to kill him and his new and peculiar friends. In this dangerous underside of London, Richard has to come to terms with who he is, and what he needs to do to survive.

Personal Take: I love, love Gaiman’s writing style. If anyone could pull of such a creative idea, it’s him. The characters are wonderful and quirky. Even though the whole premise of Richard is being an ordinary guy, he was fun to read about, and so were all the other characters. The world of London Below was amazing too. Such a tricky, intricate story, and Gaiman managed to give us enough for a great adventure.

In his intro note, Gaiman wrote that he might write another book about the Neverwhere world, and I hope he does it some day, because this has made it onto my top favorite reads.

Audience: Adults who enjoy a weird urban fantasy and British humor.

Rating: 

5stars

 

Other recommendations: I’ve read and reviewed Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter. I’ve already read and loved American Gods and Anansi Boys.

Review: Misfit by Jon Skovron

Jael Thompson is well aware of her oddity– that she’s a half demon, an “abomination” that’s not quite acceptable in the world. But on her sixteenth birthday, she gets her inheritance of magic and power, and it feels great. Until her cover is blown. Now, there’s a religious fanatic determined to cleanse her soul of evil, and an evil demon determined to exterminate her at all costs, even if it means hurting her loved ones.

Personal Take: I was so excited to start this book; it sounded different, and well written, and just full of dark things that can creep one out. And for the most part it had both the creepy and the writing, what lost me was the characters.

It started out FANTASTIC– you’ve got your religious humans, your demons who were not always demons, and this otherworldly struggle that is just bursting with potential. The writing was equally great in describing everything. The narration alternated between Jael, and another character from the past, building up bits and pieces of the world, and I really liked that. I actually liked the other character’s flashback more than Jael’s. Then there was the background work on Christianity and other religious; I found that particularly interesting.

So what went wrong?

Well, the first would be Jael and her modern buddies. I didn’t quite like her, or connect with her in any way. She was quite a jerk to her father, and it seems there was unnecessary tension just for the sake of it. And then she made choices with no explanation as to why she made them. It was more of a “just because” kind of thing.

Second, halfway through, the story seemed aimless. It was just…going on and on, and Jael wasn’t playing a part in it at all. Neither are any of the characters, except for the evil ones. Yes, it was nicely written. Yes, there were parts where it was so gory, I wanted to throw up. But I wanted more. I wanted direction. And unfortunately, I didn’t get it.

Still, that didn’t ruin the whole novel for me. I just didn’t connect with it, and towards the end, I thought it was okay. Just okay.

Audience: Demon fanatics, I think. Oh, and definitely older readers- so much blood and gore. Bit of swearing too.

Rating: 

threestars

 

Other recommendations: Other books Skovron wrote: Struts & Frets, and one will be released in 2013 called Man Made Boy.

Blog Tour: Reviewed The Serpent’s Ring (Relics of Mysticus) by H.B Bolton

Evan and Claire Jones were going to spend a good whole day with their parents for Family Day, and it was going well until Evan sees something he wasn’t supposed to see. When he and his sister stumble across the Serpent’s Ring, they’re not only gifted with new powers, but transported to another realm. Their new powers were given for a reason though, but just as they did, the ring was stolen by Aegir, who plans to use it for his own devices. With some help, the duo have to make it to Aegir and stop him from his plans.

Personal Take: Not all middle grade books are suited for me, and this almost made it in that group. Except I was really charmed by the gods and goddesses included in this book. Bolton introduces Norse mythology, and this is the first time I’ve actually read something like that. It reminded me of a miniature, kid-friendly version of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods in that it went though a lot of creatures in Norse mythology, and not necessarily the gods, but the settings as well. I did struggle a little with the writing, but in the end, it’s a nice quick read.

GIVEAWAY

Bolton is kindly offering this swag and treasure. The offer:
– A copy of The Serpent’s Ring
– Rune Treasure Box
– Signed bookmark

This giveaway is INTERNATIONAL!

Review: The Last Olympian (Percy Jackson & the Olympians #5) by Rick Riordan

 

A week before Percy’s 16th birthday, he finds out what the Great Prophecy has planned for him– and it’s not all good. Kronos is ready to make his move, and so are the Titans. With most of the Greek gods off fighting another indestructible Titan, Mount Olympus vulnerable and defenseless, and it’s up to Percy and his fellow campers to do it. A spy, a cryptic message, and forty warriors against a limitless army of evil. The end is just beginning.

Personal Take: Okay, even though the summary above sounds kind of bland, I am devastated. And it’s not because Riordan didn’t deliver a fine finale– he did. Which is why I am so sad! This has been an emotional ride, mostly because, as it is with every last book, there are a lot of sacrifices made, a lot of back stories revealed. At some point I was worried there was a bit too many revelations, but there were so many things happening alongside it that it didn’t matter.

There was one thing that confused me though, and that Riordan introduced something, but it was not followed up on throughout the story, which I found weird. Or maybe it played such a small role. Not that it ruined anything- it was fast-paced, humorous, sad, sweet– it was great!

The last book made me realize that, throughout the whole thing it wasn’t just Percy and his close friends that made the series shine- but his fellow campers, the mythological creatures that stuck by him, the gods- every one had some sort of imprint in my mind, and I will miss them all! Well, until I read the spin-off that is.

Audience: Mythology lovers of all ages. Riordan knows how to entertain his readers.

Rating: 

4stars

 

Other recommendations: Just to recap, I’ve read and reviewed The Lightening Thief, The Sea of Monsters, The Titan’s Curse, and The Battle of the Labyrinth. The adventure continues in the spin-off series Heroes of Olympus. Riordan has another series called Chronicles of Kane.

 

Review: The Battle of the Labyrinth (Percy Jackson & the Olympians #4) by Rick Riordan

 

Percy should have known that orientation at the new school would be a disaster, especially when the war between the Titan Lord and the Olympian gods is drawing near. Monsters are stirring all over the world, and minor gods are choosing sides. But before either of the side strikes, Kronos’ army may have found a way to penetrate the enchanted Camp Half Blood– through the mythical Labyrinth. Aware of how vulnerable the demigods are, Percy and his friends have to navigate through the maze and find a way to use it to their advantage. But the labyrinth is alive, and its intentions are terrifyingly sinister.

Personal Take: Oh Percy… What can I say? With each book, I feel so proud of this kid who had such a hard beginning, but grew up to be such a guy, strong but sweet- and still the obstacles get harder.  In this installment, our young hero not only comes close to getting killed like always, but experiences those sweet, subtle and new romances. There’s really nothing to this but to enjoy the ride.

This book was not only a turning point for Percy emotionally, but also in the tone and direction of where his fate might end up. We get to see the real threat of the Titans, and most events here set up for the final showdown in the book. The mythology expands, and more characters are involved, and I can’t imagine the book without them.

I love that, even though not a lot of things get resolved, there’s always a positive spin at the end of each book. It’s a nice balance, and makes me look forward to the last installment.

Audience: Honestly? Everyone. Riordan can be cheeky, which adults can enjoy,  but Percy’s adventures is captivating.

Rating:

4stars

 

Other recommendations: I’ve reviewed The Lightening Thief, The Sea of Monsters, and The Titan’s Curse. I look forward to reading the spin-off Heroes of Olympus. He also has another series called The Kane Chronicles.