Bringing Ancient Greece to Life

It finally started getting warm.  I think June might end up being okay.  The rain at least brings the green that I ache for all winter long.  Even when the snow feels cozy, I miss the green.  So there is green.

Myths and legends are the foundation on which we build our cultures and societies.  As such, they provide a framework from which we can make our own spins and interpretations of the well known stories and characters: gods, demi-gods, the foolish mortals, etc.  They contain the classic messages that still apply to us today.

The Greek myths discussed in the books I am reviewing for this post both have their own spins on Greek mythology.  One is an indie review where I was provided a free copy in exchange for a review on my blog, and the author suggested that I could compare his book with Percy Jackson and The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan, as he told me that some of his readers drew parallels between his book and that one.

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Icarus and the Wing Builder, Robert William Case

This is the story of Daedalus and Icarus in Ancient Greece, how Daedalus came to meet and adopt Icarus, their exile and their mutually hatched plot to build a pair of wings to be the first men to fly.  However, there is only one historical keeper of the tale, Daedalus.  Could he be the infamous unreliable narrator who has pulled in many a listener to tales?  Did he really fly too close to the sun to meet his demise?  Does Daedalus have another motive for telling that story? Icarus was originally an orphan, Daedalus was a man sent by the king to explore the secret of bronze after he is blamed unfairly for the death of one of his workers.  Both needed to find new places in the world.

Like other reviewers report, this is mythology but reads more like historical fiction.  The author very much wants the reader to get a feel for what it was like to live in Ancient Greece, the ceremonies, the structure of power and the rise and fall from favor.  What people had to do in order to survive.  If you want to benefit from the author’s research and get a feel for what it was like to live in these times, this book is absolutely a good fit.  There is romance, lots of adventure, and some rebellion against the status quo.  Be warned that this is actually the first in a trilogy, and while the ending does have a degree of satisfaction on its’ own, the excerpt of the next installment suggests there is more to the story. I don’t want to spoil what the next installment suggests, but the whole story is not told at the last page.

And I was able to hang in there even though the story is centered on male characters and their concerns, which is an endorsement coming from me.  I cared about what happened to them, even thought they were males with different power and opportunities.

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The Lightning Thief, Rick Riordan

In my opinion, the similarities between this book and Icarus and the Wing Builder nearly end at the facts that they both use Greek mythology for their characters and that they both bring these stories more to life for someone who has not researched them considerably on their own. For one thing, this is a middle grade/young adult novel, whereas Case’s book is an adult book. For one thing, there is sex and romance in Icarus that a reader of The Lightning Thief would not understand or likely care very much for.   And persecution, and other adult topics that kids do not relate to in the same way as they relate to issues in books targeted to them.

Percy is a sixth grade kid that has never fit in anywhere in the regular world of mortals, and finds out his true story of being a demi god the summer after sixth grade.  He finds it out because he is put in the middle of a conflict between the gods, goes to a camp for other demi god children, and meets other gods in the process.  I can see where this book has become so popular.  I had wanted to read it because many of the kids I work with have read it and very much loved it and have gained an interest in mythology from it.  I would share this book with my son, absolutely, in that it is relateable, interesting, and funny.

I have probably belabored the point on how important I feel it is to bring history and our culture into tangible detail for people to really understand where our civilization comes from.  As such, these books are both important works.  I got a better understanding of the context and the characters at play in Ancient Greece and what it may have been like to live there.

Comments/likes/shares are always greatly appreciated! Leave the love.

 

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Review: When the Serpent Bites by Nesly Clerge

This is the first indie book I received in exchange for an honest review that has made it to a review on the blog.

Excuse two posts in a day, but I wanted to be as timely as my book review policy promises.

I want to start by saying while I do enjoy a thriller, this is not the usual kind of book that I would pick up. It sucked me in.

This book teased and danced with my curiosity. Honestly, I had a hard time liking any of the characters save for a few because they are mostly crazy wealthy, entitled, privileged and self centered. But I wanted to know what happened went down to get these people to where they were now, with Frederick Starks, (Starks) a guy in prison after confronting one of his estranged wife Kayla’s lovers, the estranged wife pregnant with some other guy’s kid, and a best friend Jeffrey caught in the middle.  Clerge teases you with snippets of the backstory through conversations between characters and in therapy.  Therapy is a great way to expose teasers of backstory because only parts of the story are revealed, and of course only the self serving ones, in the beginning.  And then, as the true story starts to come together, he throws in a big twist that puts the final nail in the coffin of the old Starks.  The book ends as the new Starks is transforming.  I am curious about where the story came from but also where Starks is planning on going from here.

I also liked the use of the prison setting.  The constant drama, the dubious and shaky alliances, always at the brink of eat or be eaten, both from the other prisoners and the guards. It seemed realistic, not that I have ever been in prison to know, but it seems that the author found a way to do his research about this setting to make it work.

A word about Starks:  I kept mixing him up with Tony Stark from IronMan and seeing him in my mind’s eye as Robert Downey Jr. It could have been intended.  I went back and forth between liking him and not.  He has redeeming qualities:  he is generous and kind.  He is meticulous, orderly, and tidy.  He is a born leader but learns from getting knocked down a peg. Where I struggled with Starks was his rigid views and double standards between women and men. He is very entitled.  He can do what he wants, but his wife is supposed to sit in her pretty castle twiddling her thumbs and going to pilates while he has his affairs with whomever he pleases. He is controlling and sets ultimatums:  he will only supply her with her phone if he can go through it at any time.  I may be weird but my husband has never looked through my phone and it is locked because I work where kids could get their hands on my phone. I don’t touch his phone either. If that changed I would re assess my marriage.  Anyway. He has a pretty new girlfriend but it is not okay that his estranged wife has someone else in her home. She is supposed to be a virgin and his claim on her this way is unapologetic.  I don’t like that at all. Not that his wife Kayla is a sympathetic character though either. I found her less appealing, but the story does not go into her head in this volume.  She tells people her version of what went on and their relationship is reported from Starks’ perspective, but not yet hers.  I wonder if that is coming.

Favorite character?  His third cellmate. No spoilers though.

I also have been wondering if the details of the assault that led to the sentence will also be forthcoming.  See what I said?  I am still wondering.

A final note is that I like how he portrayed the therapy sessions in the book. As a therapist I struggle when the dialog is stilted or stereotyped in media. Communication can sound stilted in a therapy session, because there is a degree of educating going on, but I am glad the therapist is a regular guy who cares and makes mistakes too that he is accountable for.  He pushes Starks a lot in session to examine his role in the marriage, which sometimes Starks starts to admit and take responsibility for his part, but sometimes when he is pushed in session, he does not.  The therapist pushes more than I generally do, but realistic text from early therapy sessions is sometimes slow and not useful to plot development.  A guy like Starks probably needs a lot more sessions of denial and justification of his actions before he could get to where he is in the story in his sessions.

I see from Amazon that the second installment, When the Dragon Roars, is already available. I can’t pick it up immediately because I may have over committed myself to completing three reading challenges.

Comments/Likes/Shares are always appreciated!

5 over 500, Book 4: Childhood Magic

Okay, so five books over 500 pages will end up being a conservative goal, as is my Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 55 books.  Confessions of a binge reader.

My fourth book over 500 pages this year was a Christmas gift from my mother, and incidentally, also a self published book. Its purpose for being reviewed on here is three pronged:  0ver 500 pages, it counts for my reading challenges (book recommended by a family member or a middle grade novel) and it is self published.

The Time Seekers, by D.A. Squires

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A twelve year old girl, Alexandra, lives with her grandmother and service staff (who are naturally like family to her) in an old mansion in Maine, steeped in old money.  She goes to a miserable school until her long lost family starts to show up in her life, from which proceeds a series of whimsical and magical events that pulls her family back together.

This story is female childhood wish fulfillment.  A cool old house, a quaint village, an exotic pet that is practically human, finding and pulling together long lost family, and magic.  So much magic.  Even the places frequented in the old house would be where I would go:  the conservatory and the library.  Even has a dumbwaiter, which I had dreamed of having ever since I read Harriet the Spy at about that age.  If I was reading this at the intended ages of grades 4-8 I would have wanted to crawl between the pages and live there for all eternity.

As an adult, it was a little less fun.  Apparently my wish fulfillment patterns have changed as I have ambled into my mid-thirties and have developed an aversion to real pants and an un-caffeinated day. This novel lacked tension in parts and focused instead on the details of this very appealing childhood, like the pretty outfits worn and the quaint little shops. When it did have tension it was amped up in shorter bursts, which is probably ideal for a child audience.  I know that I can’t take tension that has been too dragged out and my tolerance was less as a kid. I was struggling to stay engaged about halfway through but I did make it.  But I guess I care more about other stakes than the ones that were at play here.

The ending and epilogue were jam packed with more enthralling and exciting events for a child.  Just when you thought it was all great, most characters had something even more awesome happen to them in the epilogue.  Kids like that kind of closure. And awesomeness.

I also thought that the decorative tigers in the book could have had more play than they did. I was waiting on all the animals to give me a surprising twist.

My assessment:  perfect for a child, maybe a good bonding snuggle parent child read together, perfect for a kid to tackle their first epic sized novel.  Not as appealing to me as a stand alone book as an adult. I might share this as a read along with my son when he is older and does not pick through the bookcase at night for Pete the Cat, Harry the Dirty Dog, Trucks, Piggies, Harold and the Purple Crayon, and a four pack of Mater books on colors, shapes, numbers, and opposites. I hope he likes magic like I do, but he is a lot like his father and he really wants to be involved in trips to Lowes and the dump.  Just last week he was worried that his dimples meant his face had holes.  I have some time to see who he will be.

Comments/questions/shares? leave love!