Tag Archives: mythology

She of the Mountains by Vivek Shraya

book cover I picked up this book, not knowing what to expect, and was pleasantly surprised. Vivek Shraya takes the reader on a very short and concise journey of a queer individual finding their way, while using Hindu Mythology to guide the story. I enjoyed the brief education on mythology and queer theory and would recommend to anyone searching for a brief read.

Availability:  COSMOS,
Review Submitted by: Sarah Gleason
Rating:  Recommended

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

book coverSet during the events before and after the Trojan War, TSOA is about the love story of Patroclus and Achilles, and their tragic ending. It is incredibly written in a way that makes you feel for the characters, and it will definitely make you want to keep reading. This book is perfect for Greek mythology and Ancient Greece fans, as well as those who want to read books with LGBT romances and don’t mind endings that will make you cry.

Availability: COSMOS, USMAI
Review Submitted by:  Esther Markov
Rating:  Must Read

Galatea by Madeline Miller

book coverGalatea, the story of the statue of a woman come to life, will leave you wanting more. I would describe this short story as dark and brutal. So much intense emotion is packed into 23 pages. I gave this a rating of “recommended with reservations” because I would recommend looking into the trigger warnings before reading. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in mythology. Madeline Miller has proven to be fantastic at retelling classic mythology. I enjoyed her other books Circe and The Song of Achilles very much.

Availability: COSMOS
Review Submitted by:  Erin Crawford
Rating:  Recommended with reservations
Challenge: Book with a one word title

The Empire of Gold by S.A. Chakraborty

cover artThe Empire of Gold is the third book of The Daevabad Trilogy and should be read after The Kingdom of Copper. While this book is long, it does have a lot of set up for the final confrontation and is not as slowly paced as the previous installment. There were still interesting plot reveals and all the loose threads are tied up at the end. The conclusion was very satisfying for an imaginative and entertaining series.

Availability:  COSMOS,
Review Submitted by:  Joanne Hoppe
Rating:  Highly Recommended
Challenge: Published in 2020

Mythos by Stephen Fry

book coverMythos is the first book in Stephen Fry’s passion project re-telling the Greek mythology from the creation through the first ages of man, stopping just before the age of heroes (This is covered in book two). Fry notes that many of the collections of myths he grew up reading and loving were not laid out with a clear chronology, had anthropological, political, or analytic agendas, and glossed over certain darker elements (for the sake of children, to romanticize the myths, or for the fear of controversy or moral views of the publishers). Fry’s goal in his book was to layout the myths in a clear chronological narrative for adult readers, avoid personal side commentary or analysis and tell the stories as faithfully as possible (while giving them his own flair here and there).

His work to create a logical narrative should be commended. When I have read Greek mythology I can see now that they often felt disconnected and collected randomly. There were recurring characters, but they did not usually feel like they built upon one another. Fry’s version does a good job of introducing characters and events so that they build upon each other and events can be easily recalled upon and connected. He commends the Greeks on being able to embrace the paradoxes of their society – their calls for wisdom, science, and art, but also their allowance of violence, trickery, and oppression. He embraces the paradox too. While he clearly loves the mythology deeply, he does not allow his love to let him avoid the many nasty bits in the stories. For all the levity and adventure, there is plenty of horror and cruelty.

Fry’s storytelling style reminds me of an older relative who might sit you down in a warm study and while away the hours entertaining you with stories, his own excitement and knowledge seeping into you. It’s very friendly and very charming. The storytelling itself is decent to good. Some of it is a straightforward retelling of events with modern metaphors and jokes, like a fun tour or lecture. Other times Fry lays it out like an actual short story with dialogue. I’m still deciding how I feel about the various styles, but regardless it is never dull, including the footnotes (which at time are the highlight), and you will learn a ton and be entertained. I would recommend this version as a great collection of the mythology that is clear and light enough for someone new to Greek mythology, but detailed and personal enough for anyone familiar with the stories to feel it a refreshing take.

This story is recommended for people who:
1. Are looking for a collection of the Greek Mythology in a straightforward and well-designed narrative for adults.
2. Enjoy an informed and energetic storyteller partaking in a passion project. The writer references the reader directly and blends classical telling with their own modern references and jokes.

Availability: COSMOS
Review Submitted by:  Nick Huber 2013
Rating: Highly Recommended
Challenges: Books with a One Word Title

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The Kingdom of Copper by S.A. Chakraborty

book coverThe Kingdom of Copper is the second book in the Daevabad Trilogy and should be read after The City of Brass. This trilogy is set in a world that uses Islamic mythology to create a rich and intricate backdrop to a story involving lost family, political intrigue and social justice. For fans of fantasy, the Daevabad Trilogy is an interesting and entertaining must read. The plot in this book does move slowly for the first two thirds but sets up a satisfying conclusion with a cliffhanger at the end. Thankfully, the final installment of the trilogy is already available. The narrative follows the point of view of several very well rounded characters that are distinct and engrossing in their own right.

Availability:  COSMOS, USMAI
Review Submitted by:  Joanne Hoppe
Rating:  Highly Recommended

The Green Man: Tales from the Mythic Forest ed. by Datlow & Windling

book cover
I found The Green Man: Tales from the Mythic Forest, edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling on Hoopla though St Mary’s County Library. I downloaded it because the title included “Green”, it was a “World Fantasy Award Winner”, and “Green Man” reminded me of a passage towards the end of The Eye of the World. It is a book of fantasy short stories (plus two poems) typically involving fairies or the woods.

I don’t read many short stories, I’m usually disappointed if the story doesn’t span multiple books; the advantage is that if you don’t like a story, it is over soon – which I did suffer through. I liked the forward by Terri Windling (information about mythology and folklore related to the forest), “Charlie’s Away” by Mirdori Snyder, and “The Pagodas of Ciboure” by M Shayne Bell (Pagodas referenced creatures and not the temple) the best. I thought “Fee, Fie, Foe, et Cetera” by Gregory Maguire was a nice change of pace (it is the first time I have ever seen the phrase “agricultural treason” – but it was a little too silly for my taste).

For me, this book was just ok – but for those that enjoy stories about fairies, there is sure to be a story to enjoy.

Availability:  COSMOS
Review Submitted by:  Andy Ashenfelter
Rating:  Recommended with Reservations
Challenge: A book with a color in the title; short story collection

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

cover artAmerican Gods connects well with Gaiman’s Norse Mythology, which I listened to earlier this summer. American Gods also appeals to Gaiman’s interest in mythology, following a well intentioned but down on his luck man named Shadow as he tries to restart his life with a new job and a journey through America where he meets beings he previously thought were only characters. They have immigrated to America looking for something new.

The story is timely given the current discussion on immigration and heritage in our country, while still serving as a fun, seedy story reminiscent of neo noir genre. The “coming to America” sections (which Gaiman notes were used as ways to get around his writers block while he wrote) are an interesting and fun way to break up the main story with something very different but still on theme. The version I read was a multi cast reading, featuring different actors for all the characters. Given the wide diversity of the characters featured in the story, this plan serves the book well. Rather than abridge or adapt the book, they decided to instead use the unabridged original manuscript Neil Gaiman originally plan to publish before the final edits were made. Overall the voice reading is very good, especially the leads, and the story is an imaginative and fun look at mythology, the American dream, and the lengths people will go to get what they need.

This book is good for:
1. People who enjoy fresh takes on diverse mythology
2. People who enjoy seedy neo noir style settings and characters
3. People who enjoy audiobooks with a varied and strong cast. Or if you only read, an interesting variety of characters.

Availability: USMAI, COSMOS, SMCM
Submitted by: Nick Huber 2013
Rating: Highly Recommended
Challenges: Audiobook Narration, Books adapted for tv/film

Norse Mythology Neil Gaiman

cover artIn this brief novel, Neil Gaiman writes and narrates his own telling of the Norse mythology. Gaiman tells us that the best part of a mythology was being able to tell the story in your own way to capture an audience. This he does with both excellent writing and narration. Gaiman relishes in storytelling – he tells them in a way that is approachable and fun. It feels like sitting down with a fun uncle or mentor and letting them tell you a fun yarn of adventure, darkness, and comedy. The novel is set up as a collection of stories, and Gaiman does well to weave the stories and characters together, complete with voices and an acknowledgement of the reader.

I originally borrowed the series and began listening several months ago, but Libby returned it just as I had reached the dreaded Ragnarok. Renewing it, I began where I left off, and then immediately went to the beginning and re-listened to the whole thing with a fresh mind. This truly was a happy accident – having listened to the famous ending (complete with the Loki’s ice giant ship made from the fingernails of all the cowardly dead), re-listening allowed me to pick up on many subtle and clever references that were planted all throughout the stories. The very nature of the mythos is cyclical – beginnings, destructive endings, and beautiful rebirth – so experiencing it in this way felt fitting.

For those starting at the beginning, make sure you keep an ear out for the small things that end up having clever and sometimes costly significance to the end. For those feeling adventurous, why not try what I did: check out the end, then go to the beginning and see it all play out through to the end again. The final scene is a beautiful ending and passage, capturing why we as people love stories, and the magic that a good story well told can make those of us who love them believe, even if for a moment, that unimaginable wonders are very much alive.

This book is good for:
1. People who enjoy mythology that is accurate to the original material but retold by a new teller
2. People who enjoy authors who read their own works (and do so with excellence)
3. People who love storytelling – this book is about the fun of telling stories to capture an audience!

Availability: USMAI and COSMOS
Review Submitted by:  Nick Huber 2013
Rating: Highly Recommended
Challenge: Audiobook

Beowulf, translated by Burton Raffel

Beowulf cover

 

Beowulf, translated by Burton Raffel, from Old English to flowery, poetry English, is about Beowulf and his continued quest to uphold his heroic reputation with additional “monster hunting”: Grendel, Grendel’s mother, and a dragon. This poem may be the origin of the modern expression “I will rip off your arm and beat you with it” as Beowulf elected not to use weapons (he didn’t want to hide behind weapons) in his fight with Grendel. It is poetry and all that comes with poetry: the sun is sometimes “Almighty’s candle”, ”Heaven’s Jewel”, or “God’s bright beacon”; Beowulf didn’t fight, he “treated them politely, offering the edge of my razor-sharp sword”; and I sometimes had to go back and reread pages because the action had clearly (ok, never clearly) transitioned and I didn’t understand where or why.

Availability: COSMOS, SMCM, USMAI
Review Submitted by: Andy Ashenfelter
Rating: Recommended for readers of epic poetry or if you are interested in famous literature
Challenge: A translated book, a book with a one word title, book to film

Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman

I usually joke that most of the male protagonists in Neil Gaiman novels are thinly veiled author inserts. That’s not to say I don’t love Gaiman, but that’s just something I’ve noticed. However, that is not the case in “Anansi Boys.” Charlie is a young black man working a dull 9-5 in London, engaged to a woman who does not seem to care much for him, with a soon-to-be mother-in-law who has it out for him. Then his dad dies, and all the pent-up family secrets hiding in Florida come flooding out, and Charlie meets a long-lost brother named Spider.

I enjoyed “Anansi Boys.” The humor was spot-on, and I liked learning more about a mythology that is not as commonly celebrated in Western culture. I can’t speak to the accuracy of the novel’s depictions, but I think it all made for an entertaining read. There were many times in the novel when I couldn’t put the book down due to the fast pace and suspense. While this will never replace my favorite Gaiman novel, “Stardust,” I’d say it’s a close second.

Availability: USMAI
Review Submitted by:  Kimberly Boenig
Rating:  Must Read

Circe by Madeline Miller

Circe coverThis is a story of Greek Mythology that follows the life of Circe. Circe is unique amongst the Gods and because of this she never truly feels she belongs. The book is about the contrast between her relationships with mortals and her status as a Goddess. There is a long passage of time in this book which allows for many different plot lines to take place, and each one shows more of how Circe develops and how her view of the world, and her role in it, begins to change. The story of Circe is known, but the book does a great job of telling the tale from Circe’s perspective. Disclosure: Some people sensitive to situations of sexual violence may not be comfortable at some points of the novel.

Availability: COSMOS
Review Submitted by:  Erin Crawford
Rating:  Recommended
Challenge: Book with a one word title