Told from the eyes of Patroclus, Madeline Miller’s The Song of Achilles follows the Greek hero Achilles from his childhood in Phthia to his death whilTold from the eyes of Patroclus, Madeline Miller’s The Song of Achilles follows the Greek hero Achilles from his childhood in Phthia to his death while fighting in the Trojan War. In the Iliad, Patroclus doesn’t have a huge role; but, his death at the hands of the Trojan Prince Hector is vital in turning the tide of the Trojan War in favour of the Greeks since it causes Achilles to put aside his wrath in order to get revenge. Here, Miller makes Patroclus the same age as Achilles – instead of being older like in the Iliad – and explicitly makes him Achilles’ lover so that the reader can understand why Achilles goes mad with grief once Patroclus dies.
My biggest hesitancy when reading The Song of Achilles was that I was concerned about how much the focus would be on Achilles’ and Patroclus’ sexual relationship rather than on things I would find more interesting – namely, the retelling of the Trojan War. While it was slightly annoying to read about the smitten Patroclus go on about Achilles’ beauty, there was actually only one sexual scene (though there were a couple of instances where physical intimacy is alluded to).
I liked that Miller chose to make Patroclus her narrator because it really highlighted the differences between him and Achilles. While Achilles is destined for greatness even before birth, Patroclus isn’t even close to being a great warrior. But, unlike the demi-god Achilles who seems to be incapable of caring for anyone other than Patroclus, the merely ordinary Patroclus is continually concerned about the welfare of others.
I also liked how Miller incorporated foreshadowing into her novel. For those who have read the Iliad, the foreshadowing in The Song of Achilles lends an element of tragedy to the novel because while Achilles hopes that he’ll get a happy ending and Patroclus repeatedly wonders how he’ll survive after Achilles’ death, we know the fates of both Patroclus and Achilles. My favourite instance of foreshadowing though would have to be the conversation between Neoptolemus (nicknamed Pyrrhus), the arrogant son of Achilles, and Odysseus where Odysseus says that he might end up becoming more famous than Pyrrhus in the future. The crafty Odysseus of course will eventually come up with the idea of the Trojan Horse and star in his own adventure in the Odyssey whereas Pyrrhus* remains unknown to those unfamiliar with the story of the Trojan War.
Although kind of sappy at certain moments – particularly when Patroclus is younger – and taking some time to reach the point involving Troy, The Song of Achilles is a novel that’s easy to read if you enjoy Greek mythology or want to learn more about Achilles without having to read classical works....more
Scary School by Derek the Ghost is a fun, entertaining MG novel that will appeal especially to boys. Although I didn’t learn much about the narrator,Scary School by Derek the Ghost is a fun, entertaining MG novel that will appeal especially to boys. Although I didn’t learn much about the narrator, Derek the Ghost, since he doesn’t really talk about himself; I found his voice to still be very distinct.
I also really liked the way Scary School was narrated because rather than providing a concise plot, Derek the Ghost tends to go off on tangents. As a result, each chapter of the book focuses on a different teacher or student at Scary School, with the central plot being interwoven in. My favourite character ended up being Dr. Dragonbreath, a dragon who expects his students to follow five simple rules (that most students eventually disobey).
Some of the subtler humour in Scary School though may go over a child’s head. For example, there’s a joke about minotaurs being aMAZEd and talk about survival of the fittest.
Karleen Bradford’s The Stone in the Meadow was a short book that took me a really, really long time to read because I kept putting it down to read othKarleen Bradford’s The Stone in the Meadow was a short book that took me a really, really long time to read because I kept putting it down to read other books in between. As was the case with Bradford’s The Other Elizabeth, I thought the amount of historical detail in the novel was great but had a difficult time caring about the characters or getting invested in the story. Furthermore, I found the depiction of Bron as being Jenifer’s first love in the synopsis to be misleading because a) Jenifer is only thirteen and b) the two speak different languages and therefore don’t understand each other. First crush, maybe; but saying he’s her first love is taking it a little too far....more
Friendship on Fire by Danielle Weiler is like the Aussie version of Miranda Kenneally's Catching Jordan, minus the football. Although Weiler’s book waFriendship on Fire by Danielle Weiler is like the Aussie version of Miranda Kenneally's Catching Jordan, minus the football. Although Weiler’s book was released earlier, since I read Catching Jordan first and just before reading Friendship on Fire, it was hard not to notice the similarities in plot.
However, while Catching Jordan has Jordan slowly counting down the days until her trip to Alabama, Friendship on Fire really has no goal per se because it’s just a story chronicling Daisy’s Year 12. What makes Friendship on Fire meaningful is that it reminds the reader of their own high school years. Most of us had/have very boring, ordinary lives, and the drama in high school came from arguing with friends, falling in love, sucking at driving lessons, etc. These events wouldn’t be particularly memorable to others but they’re important to us, and I think that’s what Friendship on Fire emphasizes.
Just as I found the story to be realistic, I also thought that Daisy acted like a typical teen. Sometimes she acted wise, but at other times she was sort of naïve and immature. There were times when I liked her, and there were times when I wanted to strangle her because she refused to listen to anybody.
Although I sometimes questioned Daisy’s parents’ decisions, I liked that rather than trying to control their daughter, they allowed her the freedom to make her own choices and mistakes. At the same time, it wasn’t as if there was no parental (or sibling) involvement at all; Daisy actually had a very close family that spent time with each other, and her parents and older brothers were there for her when she needed them to be....more
Unlovable by Sherry Gammon was a book that started off slowly. But, I soon found myself captivated by the story because although the plot is kind of aUnlovable by Sherry Gammon was a book that started off slowly. But, I soon found myself captivated by the story because although the plot is kind of a little too perfect, Unlovable has characters that are easy to care about and is well-written.
The main character, Maggie, has grown up in relative poverty with an alcoholic and verbally abusive mother. Despite this, Maggie remains a generous and caring person. She even continues to care for her mother in the hopes that her mother will reward her with some attention and affection! Still, Mrs. Brown’s horrible words do have an effect on Maggie, making her believe that she is unworthy of being loved when she catches the interest of Seth.
There are also some occasional chapters from the perspective of Seth and the villains in the story. Bill was bad, but he was nothing compared to his brother whose behaviour suggests that he has antisocial personality disorder. Normally, I don’t find villains very terrifying but Alan scared me because there are actually people like him out and about in the world. Hopefully, we never have to encounter them!
My favourite part of Unlovable was the romance. I thought it was realistically portrayed and found it sweet how Seth got Maggie to open up and let him into her life. Unlike Maggie, you know that Seth is an undercover cop and so as you’re waiting for things to blow up in his face, you can only hope that Maggie’s trust in Seth and their love is strong enough to withstand the doubts and obstacles.
The first in a trilogy, I was pleasantly surprised by how good Gammon’s Unlovable was. What’s nice for older YA readers is that Seth is twenty-one so it doesn’t feel as inappropriate to crush on him (not that age would stop me anyway) :) Even better, the next two books in the series are told from Seth’s friends’ POVs; and I know Cole and Booker are older than him. The two were well-developed secondary characters in Unlovable so I’m looking forward to reading their stories in Unbelievable and Unbearable....more
With its attention to historical detail, The Other Elizabeth by Karleen Bradford takes you back to October 1813, just as the Canadians are about to enWith its attention to historical detail, The Other Elizabeth by Karleen Bradford takes you back to October 1813, just as the Canadians are about to engage in war against the Americans in the Battle of Crysler’s Farm. Although I love historical fiction, The Other Elizabeth seemed really dry because before Elizabeth goes home, there was very little action and just a lot of day-to-day stuff so you got an accurate feel for how the pioneers lived. As well, there was no explanation for why Elizabeth travels back into the past when she enters Cook’s Tavern or why she soon enough starts acting like Elizabeth Frobisher and forgets her life as Elizabeth Duncan. I normally love MG books, but The Other Elizabeth, sadly, wasn’t for me....more
In My Royal Pain Quest, the sequel to My Sparkling Misfortune, Lord Arkus is back, determined to find a way to awaken Jarvi. A book of fables may provIn My Royal Pain Quest, the sequel to My Sparkling Misfortune, Lord Arkus is back, determined to find a way to awaken Jarvi. A book of fables may provide the answer, but is Arkus willing to spend the time and effort to go on a quest that might just prove to be entirely useless?
In My Sparkling Misfortune, Arkus was a proud villain who slowly became more heroic/less villainous (depending on how you want to see it) thanks to the efforts of Jarvi. Here, Jarvi’s presence is initially noticeably absent, but it’s quickly filled up by the additions of Cassandra, a girl who’s more than she seems to be - I guessed her secret halfway through the book but keep in mind that the book’s target audience is MG readers - and the Swirg named Reggie. It’s not all new characters though; Prince Kellemar also appears in My Royal Pain Quest – and perhaps will be seen by Arkus in a new light.
An amusing sequel to one of my favourite books of 2011!...more
Shelley Workinger’s Settling, the sequel to Solid, was really hard to get into. I thought the pacing was extremely slow (though it did pick up a littlShelley Workinger’s Settling, the sequel to Solid, was really hard to get into. I thought the pacing was extremely slow (though it did pick up a little near the end), and found the ending to be kind of abrupt. Also, it continues to be hard to get emotionally attached to the characters, and this was especially the case with the main character, Clio, who was moody and kept pushing away her friends. Even though there was a reason for this (and it was nice to learn a little more about Clio’s abilities), it made the plot sort of drag along. Moreover, the book still only gives you a rough idea of what Clio and her friends are capable of doing. Ultimately, Settling has the same issues that I found with Solid – and this time the story just wasn’t as interesting. ...more