Ickabog by J. K. Rowling (Review)

Ickabog by J. K. Rowling

Blurb

Once upon a time there was a tiny kingdom called Cornucopia, as rich in happiness as it was in gold, and famous for its food. From the delicate cream cheeses of Kurdsburg to the Hopes-of-Heaven pastries of Chouxville, each was so delicious that people wept with joy as they ate them.

But even in this happy kingdom, a monster lurks. Legend tells of a fearsome creature living far to the north in the Marshlands… the Ickabog. Some say it breathes fire, spits poison, and roars through the mist as it carries off wayward sheep and children alike. Some say it’s just a myth…

And when that myth takes on a life of its own, casting a shadow over the kingdom, two children — best friends Bert and Daisy — embark on a great adventure to untangle the truth and find out where the real monster lies, bringing hope and happiness to Cornucopia once more.

Review

I was so excited to get this book in my post box as I have had it preordered for ages. I love the idea of this book. The fact it has illustrations done by children from all over the world is lovely and I was so happy to see that this story is one that Rowling told her daughters when they were young and then her daughters helped her write it up, together as a family.

This is a typical fairytale and thankfully it wasn’t like a Disney fairytale. A Disney fairytale is all polish and shine but a true fairytale has gore and murder and this fairytale had all of that. I was so pleased Rowling trusted children to be brave enough to read such a fairytale, not quite a Grimm fairytale but definitely not a Disney.

King Fred the Fearless made me laugh a great deal but I also felt very sorry for him as he was played by those close to him. Also King Fred’s fashion sense was rather amusing. Bert and Daisy are lovely children especially Daisy who was a particular favourite of mine. She is an intelligent child who doesn’t let prejudices get in her way. She judges people for herself and gives everyone a chance.

The one issue I had with this book and it isn’t a bad one but I did find myself craving yummy food especially pastries when reading this book. This was most likely due to the wonderful food described in the book. 

This is a wonderful story and very amusing in places. A really good story that is a good read for both children and adults plus the illustrations are brilliant and really add to the story. I give this book 5 out of 5 Dragons.

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About the author

Joanne Rowling born 31 July 1965, is a British writer and philanthropist. She is best known for writing the Harry Potter series. Rowling also writes crime fiction under the pen name Robert Galbraith.

Circe by Madeline Miller (Review)

Circe by Madeline Miller

Blurb

In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe has neither the look nor the voice of divinity, and is scorned and rejected by her kin. Increasingly isolated, she turns to mortals for companionship, leading her to discover a power forbidden to the gods: witchcraft.

When love drives Circe to cast a dark spell, wrathful Zeus banishes her to the remote island of Aiaia. There she learns to harness her occult craft, drawing strength from nature. But she will not always be alone; many are destined to pass through Circe’s place of exile, entwining their fates with hers. The messenger god, Hermes. The craftsman, Daedalus. A ship bearing a golden fleece. And wily Odysseus, on his epic voyage home.

There is danger for a solitary woman in this world, and Circe’s independence draws the wrath of men and gods alike. To protect what she holds dear, Circe must decide whether she belongs with the deities she is born from, or the mortals she has come to love.

Review

After reading The Song of Achilles I was really excited to read this book by Miller but I must admit I was slightly disappointed because it just didn’t seem to have the same polish to it like The Song of Achilles. 

Circe is an interesting character from the myths of ancient Greece and Miller has taken an interesting view of Circe’s story. Circe is the daughter of a Titan and the Oceanid nymph Perse, but Circe and her three siblings are not the normal offspring of a Titan and a nymph, they have abilities that Zeus fears greatly. Circe sadly is ignored by her family because she does not look or sound like a being that possesses divinity so she turns to mortals for friendship.

I couldn’t help feeling sorry for Circe in this book as she never seems to get a break and when things do start to go well something always happens for that to change. However, I do think Miller has used her literary license here to make Circe’s story rather depressing at times. As someone who is studying Classics I will be honest I was bit annoyed how Miller treated certain things like Glaucus but I will forgive her. I did like how Miller included the Golden Fleece and the Minotaur in the story and was pleased to see them included.

Circe only really acts like she does because she lacked guidance from her elders and had to make her own way in the world. As her life went on she makes decisions based on the way she has been treated and some of those are good and some are bad and some she regrets dearly. Everything she does helps her decide where she belongs in the world. 

Circe is quite often depicted as a loose woman who preys on men but Miller hasn’t gone down that route thankfully and been kinder to Circe. However, I am not too keen on some of the aspects Miller has chosen to either avoid or rewrite about Circe and that for me was a real shame. I did really enjoy the book though and give it 4 out of 5 Dragons.

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About 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. The Song of Achilles is her first novel.

The Sea of the Dead by Amy Kuivalainen (Review)

The Sea of the Dead by Amy Kuivalainen (The Magicians of Venice book 2)

Blurb

The battle for Venice might be over, but the war is just beginning… Penelope’s and Alexis’s adventure continues in the second instalment of The Magicians of Venice series.

Penelope has accepted her role as the new Archivist for the magicians, but with war brewing with the priests of Thevetat and the tide of magic on the rise, she’s going to have to learn her way around her new and dangerous world if she has any hope of outsmarting their enemies.

When Penelope’s friend and fellow archaeologist, Tim, uncovers a scroll containing a magical secret lost in the Dead Sea for two thousand years, Penelope and Alexis must travel to Israel to find him before Abaddon and Kreios get there first.

To defeat Thevetat and his followers, they’ll need to find a weapon capable of ending him for good, and as her old life collides with her new, Penelope will pay the ultimate price to keep the secrets of the magicians safe.

Review

I have been waiting for this book to arrive for so long! I read the first book in the series last year as a NetGalley read and loved it so much I promptly ordered the book. Thankfully I was not disappointed with the second instalment.

Penelope is an academic who has always been obsessed with finding Atlantis and has finally found her answers and her dream man. Penelope is a wonderful character who treasures knowledge above all else so her new role as the archivist for the magicians is perfect for her.

I love the characters of the magicians. The relationship between them all is brilliant and very funny. They are just like siblings always joking around with each other and getting on each others’ nerves. My personal favourite is Zo, he is funny and just an amazingly nice guy.

Carolyn and Tim’s characters were rather annoying but I can see they were meant to be as we were viewing them from Penelope’s point of view. However, Tim was rather a nasty character in my opinion.

Kuivalainen is an excellent writer and she definitely does her research to seamlessly link up real life history and legends with her magical world. I give this book a massive 5 out of 5 Dragons. I just hope the wait for the third instalment is not too long.

 

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The Immortal City by Amy Kuivalainen Review

About the author

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Amy Kuivalainen is a Finnish-Australian writer that is obsessed with magical wardrobes, doors, auroras and burial mounds that might offer her a way into another realm. Until then, she will write about fairy tales, monsters, magic and mythology because that’s the next best thing. She is the author of The Firebird Fairytales Trilogy and The Blood Lake Chronicles series that mash up traditional tales and mythology in new and interesting ways.

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Piranesi by Susanna Clarke (Review)

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

Blurb

Piranesi’s house is no ordinary building: its rooms are infinite, its corridors endless, its walls are lined with thousands upon thousands of statues, each one different from all the others. Within the labyrinth of halls an ocean is imprisoned; waves thunder up staircases, rooms are flooded in an instant. But Piranesi is not afraid; he understands the tides as he understands the pattern of the labyrinth itself. He lives to explore the house.

There is one other person in the house—a man called The Other, who visits Piranesi twice a week and asks for help with research into A Great and Secret Knowledge. But as Piranesi explores, evidence emerges of another person, and a terrible truth begins to unravel, revealing a world beyond the one Piranesi has always known.

For readers of Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane and fans of Madeline Miller’s Circe, Piranesi introduces an astonishing new world, an infinite labyrinth, full of startling images and surreal beauty, haunted by the tides and the clouds.

Review

I was so excited to get this book and I have had it preordered since I don’t know when so it went straight to the top of the TBR pile or should I say piles.

I loved the detail in this book and the descriptions of this amazing building in the first chapter had me hooked to the story. I felt like I was walking through these amazing halls looking at all these incredible statues whilst listening to the waves hitting the walls. Although, I did keep wishing that the building had a rather nice library to go with all these wonderful statues.

Piranesi is an interesting character and instantly likeable. Piranesi lives and breathes all things to do with the house. He knows all the statues like friends and can navigate the vast labyrinth of rooms all using the map in his head. He also knows all the tides so he knows when it is safe and when it is not. Piranesi loves the house and believes that all will be well because the house will provide.

The Other who is the other person in the house is not so likeable in my opinion and instantly put me on edge. He is also clearly using poor Piranesi but Piranesi is too good natured to notice.

I will be honest as I was reading this book I had such high hopes for it and I had several ideas in my head about how the book might end but I will be honest I was rather disappointed. This book had such potential to be an amazing story and it just felt rushed and like Clarke had come up with the easiest option to finish the book quickly. I felt robbed in some way.

I have really thought long and hard about this book because I really loved parts of it and the storyline but the conclusion was just not my cup of tea and that has upset me because I really wanted to love the whole book. I have given this book 3 out of 5 Dragons and those 3 Dragons are for the incredible detail, the concept of the house and how adorable Piranesi was. Not what I expected after how amazing Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell was but still a good read that I recommend to fantasy lovers.

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About the Author

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Susanna Clarke (1959) is an English author who has published novels and short stories. Her debut novel Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell and her set of short stories The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories are all set in a magical England.

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The Odyssey by Homer, translated by Emily Wilson

The Odyssey by Homer, translated by Emily Wilson

About the author

Homer is the presumed author of the Iliad and the Odyssey. There are loads of legends regarding the life of Homer however, what we can definitely confirm about him is his centrality to ancient Greek culture.

About the translator

Emily Wilson is a professor of classical studies at the University of Pennsylvania.

Blurb

Composed at the rosy-fingered dawn of world literature almost three millennia ago, The Odyssey is a poem about violence and the aftermath of war; about wealth, poverty and power; about marriage and family; about travelers, hospitality, and the yearning for home.

This fresh, authoritative translation captures the beauty of this ancient poem as well as the drama of its narrative. Its characters are unforgettable, none more so than the “complicated” hero himself, a man of many disguises, many tricks, and many moods, who emerges in this version as a more fully rounded human being than ever before.

Written in iambic pentameter verse and a vivid, contemporary idiom, Emily Wilson’s Odyssey sings with a voice that echoes Homer’s music; matching the number of lines in the Greek original, the poem sails along at Homer’s swift, smooth pace.

A fascinating, informative introduction explores the Bronze Age milieu that produced the epic, the poem’s major themes, the controversies about its origins, and the unparalleled scope of its impact and influence. Maps drawn especially for this volume, a pronunciation glossary, and extensive notes and summaries of each book make this is an Odyssey that will be treasured by a new generation of readers.

Review

The Odyssey is one of history’s greatest stories and you can see why. It has monsters, fighting, adventure, gods, violence and much more. It does not stay still for a moment and  Wilson’s translation keeps the story fluid and easy to read.

The introduction by Wilson was fantastic and I could not put it down. I will admit sometimes I struggle with introductions to books mainly because sometimes the people who write them always come across as rather stuck up and they love to use extremely long words which are just not necessary. Wilson however writes an amazingly informative introduction that is interesting and keeps you hooked on every word. It was a joy to read and left me excited to start the epic poem. I also enjoyed the translator’s notes as it really showed how Wilson translated the poem and why she did certain things.

The poem was equally as good and again I could not put it down. It is a tale well known and has been translated by many different people through the years and many versions have been published. This translation in my opinion was stunning. It kept the flow of the poem and was almost song like to read which fit well as they think originally it would have been told orally.

Odysseus has a seriously rough deal. He spent 10 years at war in Troy and then he can’t get home. His journey is filled with monsters, women who want him as husband, and the loss of his men. Odysseus is cunning though and uses his skills at lying to get him out of problems with a little help from certain gods.

I highly recommend this book to people with a classical background and to people who have never read a classical book and want to try one. It is such a good read and one I will happily read again. I give this book 5 out of 5 Dragons.

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The Iliad by Homer (Review)

The Iliad by Homer (translated by Alexander Pope)

About the author

Homer is the presumed author of the Iliad and the Odyssey. There are loads of legends regarding the life of Homer however, what we can definitely confirm about him is his centrality to ancient Greek culture.

About the translator

Alexander Pope (1688-1744) is considered one of the greatest English poets, and the foremost poet of the early eighteenth century. He is best known for his satirical and discursive poetry, and his translations of the Iliad and the Odyssesy.

Blurb

The Iliad in Classical Attic; sometimes referred to as the Song of Ilion or Song of Ilium) is an ancient Greek epic poem in dactylic hexameter, traditionally attributed to Homer. Set during the Trojan War, the ten-year siege of the city of Troy (Ilium) by a coalition of Greek states, it tells of the battles and events during the weeks of a quarrel between King Agamemnon and the warrior Achilles.

Review

I have been meaning to read this for many years and have finally got around to it and so I chose Alexander Pope’s translation that I had also used for a recent assignment.

Although I had never read this in its entirety before I am well aware of the story and have loved anything Greek Myth based since I can remember.

It took me a while to get into this as I must admit I found the translation rather stilted to begin with. However, once I got into the style I really began to enjoy the text and was happily reading it whenever I could.

This poem is absolutely wonderful. It has love, sex, violence, friendship and much more. Oh and it also has some very interfering Greek Gods who can’t help but meddle in the Greek and Trojan affairs.

The war between the Trojans and the Greeks begins because of Paris stealing Helen from Menelaus, or Helen went willingly depending on your take of events. Menelaus goes to his brother Agamemnon who immediately uses the situation to go to war on the Trojans who he has long wanted to conquer. Achilles the half man half god hero is the main character in this tale who goes to war with Agamemnon. Achilles does not take being told what to do well though and causes many problems for Agamemnon, including refusing to fight in the war for a very long time.

This is essentially a love story and not a love story about Paris and Helen. This is the love story of Achilles and Patroclus. Patroclus is everything that Achilles isn’t. He is a much better man, he is loving and he hates to see all the death caused by the war, he wants to help stop this war. Achilles on the other hand is too proud and when his pride is injured he refuses to help and does not care about the damage it causes.

Overall, I can see why this book has lasted through the centuries as I absolutely loved this book and I really want to read other translations of the text to see how different translators treat the story. I give this book a big 5 out of 5 Dragons.

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The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins (Review)

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

About the author

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Suzanne Collins (born August 10, 1962) is an American television writer and author. She is known as the author of The Underland Chronicles and The Hunger Games trilogy.

Blurb

It is the morning of the reaping that will kick off the tenth annual Hunger Games. In the Capitol, eighteen-year-old Coriolanus Snow is preparing for his one shot at glory as a mentor in the Games. The once-mighty house of Snow has fallen on hard times, its fate hanging on the slender chance that Coriolanus will be able to out charm, outwit, and out manoeuvre his fellow students to mentor the winning tribute.

The odds are against him. He’s been given the humiliating assignment of mentoring the female tribute from District 12, the lowest of the low. Their fates are now completely intertwined — every choice Coriolanus makes could lead to favour or failure, triumph or ruin. Inside the arena, it will be a fight to the death. Outside the arena, Coriolanus starts to feel for his doomed tribute . . . and must weigh his need to follow the rules against his desire to survive no matter what it takes.

Review

I was so excited when I saw this book was being released as I love The Hunger Games trilogy so I immediately preordered the book and started reading it as soon as it arrived on my doorstep. I will be honest I did not read it as quickly as I wanted but my course reading delayed things slightly, otherwise this book would have been finished in a very short period of time as I could not put it down.

It was so wonderful to revisit the world of The Hunger Games again and I was not disappointed. I know a lot of people have not been happy with this book but I think it is because they weren’t expecting it to be about a young President Snow and how he came to be. I also liked how different this book was from The Hunger Games, it was a lot more philosophical and thought provoking than the trilogy. It really made me think about the human condition and what a human can be capable of in the right conditions.

Seeing an early version of the Hunger Games before all the glamour and showbiz that appears in the trilogy was really interesting. The arena was a plain old beaten up sports arena and nothing fancy, it was a very different perspective. The tributes were also treated very differently and I felt really sorry for them, especially Lucy Gray.

Lucy Gray was an interesting character who I couldn’t help but feel sorry for. This poor girl  who loves music and is very gifted has the roughest ride possible. She also sings the song that we know so well from The Hunger Games. I really liked Lucy Gray and the Covey, they were interesting characters and I would have loved to have learned more about them.

Seeing Snow as an 18 year old boy and learning about how he lived through the war was also an eye opener that you do not see in the trilogy. The war was brutal for everyone and the things that people resorted to to survive were extreme and not something usually seen when the world is normal.

This story is primarily the development of the tyrant President Snow and how he came to be how he is. You can see how this 18 year old will make choices in his life to get where he wants to be. He won’t care who gets in his way or who gets hurt, the only thing that matters is that he gets to the top.

Overall, I loved this book and highly recommend it but I know some Hunger Games fans will not agree as it is rather different. I give this book a big 5 out of 5 Dragons.

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The Fall of Icarus by Ovid (Review)

The Fall of Icarus by Ovid

About the author

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Publius Ovidius Naso (43 BC-17/18AD), known as Ovid in the English speaking world, was a Roman poet who lived during the reign of Augustus.

Blurb

Enduring myths of vengeful gods and tragically flawed mortals from ancient Rome’s great poet. Ovid tells the tales of Theseus and the Minotaur, Daedalus and Icarus, the Calydonian Boar-Hunt, and many other famous myths.

Review

I really enjoyed this little book and I thought the translation flowed well. This little book contains lots of well known myths and legends that are a joy to read.

I had a teacher at school who loved the Fall of Icarus and told it to us often and reading it brought back a lot of fond memories.

The myths flowed well from one to the other and were easy to read.

I loved this book and I found it a wonderful glimpse into Ovid’s Metamorphoses. I have given this book 5 out 5 Dragons.

Purchase Links

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The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (Review)

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

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About the author

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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. The Song of Achilles is her first novel.

Blurb

Greece in the age of Heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the kingdom of Phthia. Here he is nobody, just another unwanted boy living in the shadow of King Peleus and his golden son, Achilles.

Achilles, ‘best of all the Greeks’, is everything Patroclus is not — strong, beautiful, the child of a goddess — and by all rights their paths should never cross. Yet one day, Achilles takes the shamed prince under his wing and soon their tentative companionship gives way to a steadfast friendship. As they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine, their bond blossoms into something far deeper — despite the displeasure of Achilles’s mother Thetis, a cruel and deathly pale sea goddess with a hatred of mortals.

Fate is never far from the heels of Achilles. When word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, the men of Greece are called upon to lay siege to Troy in her name. Seduced by the promise of a glorious destiny, Achilles joins their cause, Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus follows Achilles into war, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they have learned, everything they hold dear. And that, before he is ready, he will be forced to surrender his friend to the hands of Fate.

Review

I have heard great things about this book and so when lockdown began I ordered it so I could read it during lockdown and I must admit when I started reading it I couldn’t put it down.

This modern retelling of Homer’s Iliad is a wonderful love story that is full of magic and wonder. Patroclus is the complete opposite to Achilles. He is not strong, or talented in battle. He is not a typical Greek warrior and has never really been understood by the people around him, especially his father. Due to this I couldn’t help but feel sorry for Patroclus and I kept feeling sorry for him because through this story he always suffered in one way or another. However, what Patroclus was, was brave, loving, strong and a fierce friend, you could not ask for a more loyal man.

Achilles was his usual annoying self, he drives me mad in the Iliad and he drove me mad in this book. Achilles is a spoilt brat who is definitely a son of a god and because of this he has a massive chip on his shoulder. The one thing I did pity Achilles about is that he knows his fate and there is no mystery about his future. I find it hard to imagine living knowing exactly what will happen to you, it must be enough to drive you mad.

I absolutely loved this book and I can see people not from a classics background reading this book and falling in love with the mythology of ancient Greece. I highly recommend this book to everyone who likes historical fiction or a love of the classics. I loved the style of writing that Madeline Miller has and I can’t wait to read more of her books. I have given this book 5 out of 5 Dragons.

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Chitty Chitty Bang Bang by Ian Fleming

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang by Ian Fleming

About the author

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Ian Lancaster Fleming was a British author, journalist and Second World War Navy Commander. He was a grandson of the Scottish financier Robert Fleming, who founded the Scottish American Investment Trust and the merchant bank Robert Fleming & Co.

Fleming is best remembered for creating the character of James Bond and chronicling his adventures in twelve novels and nine short stories. Additionally, Fleming wrote the children’s story Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and two non-fiction books.

Blurb

“With the proceeds from his latest invention, Crackpot Whistling Sweets, Commander Caractacus Pott buys his family their first car. It looks like a wreck, but once restored it turns out to be no ordinary vehicle: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is a magical car which can fly, swim and even think. Chitty and the eccentric, plucky Pott family set off on a succession of increasingly perilous adventures that take them across the English Channel and all the way to Paris.

Review

I will be honest I have never read Chitty Chitty Bang Bang but I absolutely love the film and watched it again over Easter which made me think it was high time to read the book. Thankfully I had some Waterstones points to order the book.

I was so excited when I started reading this book and it was just perfect, I loved everything about it. The first thing that I did notice was that the book and film are completely different. Now I know that there are always differences between the book and film but this was major, it was like Roald Dahl and Ken Hughes who wrote the screenplay only read the first few chapters of the book and did not bother with the rest of the book.

Thankfully, I did love the book just as much as the film. I also loved the background information that you got in the introduction about the original Chitty Bang Bang built by Count Zborowski.

The Pott family are just adorable, the perfect eccentric family. Caractacus the father is an inventor and explorer but he is much more interested in his inventing. Mimsie is the mother who lets Caractacus get on with his inventing and supports whatever he suggests. The twins Jeremy and Jemima love their crazy family and also fully support their father. The twins also go to private school so their adventure with Chitty Chitty Bang Bang has to be during their school holidays.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is a magical car that is part of the family and you can’t help but feel for the car when you read about her. She comes across as that wonderful favourite family pet.

The story is beautifully written and it does feel like a James Bond story but for children which I love. I adored this book and highly recommend it for children and adults. I give this book 5 out of 5 Dragons.

Purchase Links

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