Gareth Hinds undertakes the task of adapting The Odyssey, the tale of Odysseus's long journey home after the Trojan War, into graphic novel format.
I w...moreGareth Hinds undertakes the task of adapting The Odyssey, the tale of Odysseus's long journey home after the Trojan War, into graphic novel format.
I wish this had been around when I was wading through The Odyssey in high school (and maybe college? I can't remember). I don't know what translation we read, but we needed a translation of it. I think most of us had only vague ideas about what was going on, and we probably only figured those out after the teacher spoon-fed them to us.
The Odyssey is perfect for this format. It's a very visual story, with the sirens and Scylla and Charybdis, a journey to the underworld, the cyclops, and Circe's spell. I did like the illustrations, although they veered a little too close to the bulging muscles and gravity-defying breasts that most people think of when they hear the word, comic. Still, it's a manly tale, so they fit.
I was a little surprised by the translation. I expected the writing to be very modern, but it's not. It's still very readable but formal at the same time. From page 4, Zeus speaking to Athena:
"My child, what strange remarks you let escape your lips. Could I forget that wily hero Odysseus? You know I bear him no grudge--but Poseidon does, hates him for blinding his son Polyphemus the Cyclops. But come now, let us take up the matter of Odysseus's return. Poseidon must relent; he cannot thwart the will of all the other gods."
I had forgotten much of what happens in the story, so it felt a lot like I was coming to this for the first time. I enjoyed it more in this format than I ever have before.
This is a fabulous (re-)introduction to this timeless classic. Teachers, take note and have some mercy on your classes. This could at least be a companion to the "regular" novel.(less)
Do you ever find yourself reading along, and when you come to a reference to ancient Greece or Rome, you start scratching your head? With sort of a, "...moreDo you ever find yourself reading along, and when you come to a reference to ancient Greece or Rome, you start scratching your head? With sort of a, "I think I heard something about that somewhere, but I don't remember much about it" kind of thought?
This is the book for you.
Caroline Taggart has put together a short (169 pages) primer/refresher for all that ancient stuff that you used to know but that has fallen by the wayside. Or maybe you never learned it in the first place.
For such a short book, Taggart has packed a surprising amount of information into it. Topics covered include language, mythology, philosophy, history, the arts, the sciences, and a few more things. You won't read the book and be an expert by any means, but you will certainly have a decent base of knowledge to work from.
The book might sound boring, but Taggart's style is actually pretty fun. "Atlas was inhospitable to Perseus (see page 47), who used the head of Medusa to turn him into a mountain range in North Africa, which takes almost as much talent as cutting someone's head off while looking at their reflection in a shield, and makes me think that Perseus could have taught David Copperfield a thing or two." She also occasionally mentions modern-day references to these ancient stories. "The first famous figure to emerge from this was Draco, who has given his name to very harsh measures in any context, as well as to a character in Harry Potter who provokes the audience to hiss whenever he appears."
It's very good for what it is, but after suffering through a 10th-grade English teacher who seemed to think that World Literature meant Greek and Roman Literature and a Greek and Roman Culture class in college, I think I've absorbed all I'm going to absorb on the topic. I won't say that there was nothing new in this book for me--there definitely was--but it wasn't anything that I'll ever remember. The cross-references (see paragraph 5), while a good idea, got distracting on a straight read. They would be invaluable if you were just looking up a quick little reference though.
I do recommend this for anyone who wants to fill in the gaps in their classical knowledge, because it really is a fun book, but it might be a little too basic for someone with a decent working knowledge of the Greeks and Romans already.
Thanks to the publicist for sending me a copy for review.(less)
When Cleopatra and Marc Antony are defeated by Octavian, their children are taken to Rome, where Octavian can make sure they don't become rallying poi...moreWhen Cleopatra and Marc Antony are defeated by Octavian, their children are taken to Rome, where Octavian can make sure they don't become rallying points for those who might oppose his rule. Their daughter Selene is never happy in Rome and constantly looks for ways to win her family's way back home.
This book jumps right into the action as Octavian conquers Alexandria and thus Egypt. It grabbed my attention right away and held it until I finished.
I really enjoyed the way that Moran brought these historical figures from so long ago into such a vibrant reality for me. I even cared about (or hated, as the case may be) the minor people from history that I hadn't heard of before. Selene herself is just a great character. She's smart, strong, independent, loyal, free-thinking, and far from perfect. Who likes perfect characters anyway? She acts without thinking sometimes and gets herself in trouble. I did occasionally get confused by the names. There were Octavian/Octavia and Antonia/Tonia. In the author notes, Moran said she actually changed some of the names to make it less confusing. I guess Octavian and Octavia are so famous that she didn’t feel like she could change them, but I frequently had to stop and try to remember which one was the emperor and which one was his sister.
I know people got married younger and didn’t live half as long as we do now, but these kids felt entirely too old. Selene and Alexander are supposed to be 11-15 years old when this takes place, but they honestly felt about a decade older to me. Moran addressed this in her Afterword, saying that they had been so highly educated and trained to rule practically from birth that they would feel precocious to us. I can buy that. I would just get pulled out of the story frequently, thinking how no 11-year-old girl would be trying to think about how to regain her kingdom, or planning how she’s going to rebuild a city. It might be accurate, but it was hard for this modern reader to get past it.
I do wish that Moran hadn’t combined some human-rights acts into a fictional character called the Red Eagle. I really don’t read non-fiction, so historical fiction is how I get my history. I’m more likely to remember the Red Eagle than the fact that he wasn’t real.
I found this to be engrossing historical fiction about a fascinating period in time.(less)
The story of Christ's birth told in the meter of The Night Before Christmas. The illustrations were done by the author's nine-year-old granddaughter,...moreThe story of Christ's birth told in the meter of The Night Before Christmas. The illustrations were done by the author's nine-year-old granddaughter, and they're very good. A nice little addition to Christmas traditions.(less)
There are roughly 30 years of Jesus's life that are unaccounted for. Oh, there's the one story about him teaching in the temple when he was 12, but ot...moreThere are roughly 30 years of Jesus's life that are unaccounted for. Oh, there's the one story about him teaching in the temple when he was 12, but other than that, he was born and then he started his ministry around the age of 30. Christopher Moore has fun imagining what exactly Jesus--or Joshua, as Moore chooses to use the Hebrew name--might have gotten up to in the in-between years.
I know what I'm thinking but I'm having trouble finding the right words. I think if you're going to be offended by this book, the title will turn you off right away. And that's obviously okay. But there might be a few people out there like me, who are thinking, "I'm pretty open-minded. I think I can handle it. But I do have lines that I don't want to have crossed, and Moore could cross them easily." I was okay with what he wrote here. Joshua is still absolutely the Son of God, without sin, sent to save mankind from our sins. That is never questioned. If it had been, I would have had to put the book down. But he does have fun, love, and learn from people from many countries and religions. That's the best I can do as far as the is-it-offensive-to-Christians thing.
On to the good parts!
I loved Biff! I wanted to reach into the pages and smack him upside the head a few times, but usually when that happened another character stepped in and smacked him for me. He was a horny, cheerful smartass who could teach dogs a thing or two about loyalty. He spends his entire life following Joshua around and trying to make sure that he stays out of trouble. He can always get Joshua laughing when he falls into a funk. I was laughing right along with them. Oh! And he taught me a new word: doofuscosity. I've already used it on my husband.
The angel Raziel was fun too. He's the one making Biff write his gospel as they sit in a modern-day hotel room, and his TV addiction is hilarious! He doesn't understand that soap operas aren't real, so he cries and gets upset when bad things happen to the characters. My favorite part is when he becomes a wrestling fan and starts talking smack. Then there was a whole passage of Biff asking questions like, "How many peeps in a posse, how much booty before baby got back, do you have to be all that to get all up in that, and do I need to be dope and phat to be da bomb or can I just be 'stupid'?"
Biff and Joshua spend a lot of their time on a quest, and their adventures were full of laughs. Well, Joshua is busy learning, but Biff gets up to all kinds of misadventures.
It was kind of fun to play "spot the scripture." I'm a Christian, but no one would ever accuse me of being a Biblical scholar. I probably missed some things, but it was fun to see where Joshua gets the ideas for things he later puts in parables and sermons.
I had a good time reading this, and I was pleasantly surprised by how much I actually liked it. If you're curious, I would conditionally recommend it. But you read that part already.(less)
This is the story of Mary Magdalene's entire life, from childhood to her death. I enjoyed seeing this controversial historical figure in her own eleme...moreThis is the story of Mary Magdalene's entire life, from childhood to her death. I enjoyed seeing this controversial historical figure in her own element, with no one sitting in judgment of who she was and her relationship to Jesus. The woman who emerged from these pages was initially very troubled. She was doing her best, but she was literally plagued by demons. She met Jesus when she had given up all hope. He gave her her life back, but her old life didn't want her back. Her family was ashamed of her, partially because of the time she had spent alone with unrelated men, and partly because she believed Jesus's message. With nowhere else to go, she became one of his first followers and traveled and worked miracles in His name.
My problem was that it was too long. Had it been about half this size, it would have been perfect. I started to feel like this whole group was wandering up and down Israel without any real idea what they were doing. There are only so many pages of that I can read.
I haven't read very many historical fiction books set around Jesus and his apostles, so I liked seeing all of them as "real" people, in language I could understand. I had a much better idea of their individual personalities after finishing this. I'll be the first to admit that I'm no Biblical scholar, but I feel that the author stayed true to the sense we get of them in Scripture.
I also liked seeing what everyday life was like in those times. I especially liked reading about women's lives.
Since I mentioned the relationship with Jesus, I'll say that I thought it was pretty delicately handled. I am pretty open-minded, but it all felt plausible to me.
I did find out the problem with sort of getting to see Jesus in a new light: the crucifixion is all new too. My reading pace practically stopped when I knew I was getting close. It wasn't as graphic as I was afraid it would be, but it still hurt to read it.
Those with more patience for aimless wandering may enjoy this more than I did. I do recommend it as a book that lets you see some central figures of Christianity in more of an everyday light.(less)
The Princes of Ireland follows the story of several Irish families, from the year 430 to 1538. Their stories are set against the larger backdrop of im...moreThe Princes of Ireland follows the story of several Irish families, from the year 430 to 1538. Their stories are set against the larger backdrop of important battles and events in the history of Ireland.
This really felt like three novels in one. The transitions between generations were very abrupt. I liked the first story, but the other two were just okay. They could have been part of a book entitled, A History of the English in Dublin. It was interesting to see what Kings Henry II and Henry VIII got up to in Ireland, but I really wanted to know what was going on in Ireland itself.
The female characters were terrible. They were almost all willful to the point of stupidity, impetuous, blind to anything they didn't want to see, and driven by some insane need for revenge.
One other thing that bothers me in all books that skip around in time: if the author isn't going to give me some sort of obvious clue like, "Forty years later, Henry VIII did this...", I really wish that he or she would put dates at the beginning and end of the chapters. I find myself flipping back and forth a lot, because after 60 pages, I've forgotten what year I was in last.
This was good enough, I just expected something different. If you want to know a little about Ireland as it changed from a druidic religion to Catholicism, and a lot about the way the English influenced events in Dublin, go ahead and read this. Just don't expect a lot of independent Irish history. (less)