This book follows very close to the first in the series (Murder At Mykenai, and keeps building the myth of Odysseus, who is now all of 16 years old, a...moreThis book follows very close to the first in the series (Murder At Mykenai, and keeps building the myth of Odysseus, who is now all of 16 years old, and a little less impulsive perhaps. When Odysseus' grandfather dies it's too dangerous for Odysseus' father to travel there to pass his last respects (not that he feels anything less than pleased that the old man has died, but even so). However, there's the matter of the fortune in gold that, clearly, hasn't been found. Odysseus hatches a plan.
There's lots of excitement in this story, some teenage love (unrequited, alas!), riveting scenes of training and of battle, and some great slapstick due to the various disguises that Odysseus and Eurybates (the squire) must don. This gives an idea:
"What is that stench?" the squire asked, holding his nose. "What stench?" Odysseus started pushing his arms through the straps [of his fake paunch] and froze. "Toad's testicles," he exclaimed. "I think the contents of my stomach have started to rot. I assumed it was your feet and I was too polite to say." He sniffed inside the bag and recoiled. "Silly idea in the first place, using lamb's bladders." "What else could I have blown up like this? I had to use something I can puncture to make room for the gold. When we find it."
Once again we've been given a thoroughly entertaining tale to read.(less)
Janet Frame is one of New Zealand's best-known authors, and this book is the third part of her autobiography in which she leaves NZ on a journey to 'b...moreJanet Frame is one of New Zealand's best-known authors, and this book is the third part of her autobiography in which she leaves NZ on a journey to 'broaden her experience'. Frame writes beautifully and honestly - her words are a pleasure to read and her life (and 'analysis' of it) is fascinating. Frame's novels aren't easy reads - she records what her British publisher said: "The critics love you, but nobody buys your books." - though I have read most of them. However, I found each volume of her story about herself to be extremely readable.
One minor gripe (and this is to do with this Audio edition, not the book itself): the narrator is Australian. She doesn't have a terribly strong accent, the kind that hits you the instant you hear it, and quite probably a listener from the UK or USA (or anywhere else in the world for that matter) can't hear the difference between an Australian and a New Zealand accent, but New Zealanders can, and Janet Frame is a New Zealander. Why did the publisher (Braille Audio Books) not hire a New Zealand voice? This thought flashed through my mind every time there was a word which betrayed the narrator's nationality, and I found it distracting.
I've written about this 'voice' issue on a number of other audio books I've listened to this year, and it's about being authentic to the nationality of the book's narrator.(less)
Ancient history brought to life! We'd just got this book and its sequel into the bookshop, and instead of adding it to my to-read shelf, which could h...moreAncient history brought to life! We'd just got this book and its sequel into the bookshop, and instead of adding it to my to-read shelf, which could have meant it was eight or nine years away from being read, I immediately went onto the library website (yes, a little personal time stolen from my boss) and reserved a copy. It just seemed it would be such a great read, and it is!
Written for younger teenagers, this is being taught in schools locally (that's local to the author, not the people in the book), and I could only wish that I'd had such an opportunity when I was a schoolgirl. The author's blog and (her website) give lots of information about this book and the next, about school resources and some work that pupils have done in response to reading this, and about the research that goes into writing. It's excellent - I recommend it highly.
The book has some great action scenes, and excellent exploration of friendship and family relationships. The two youths, Odysseus and Menelaos, are moving from boyhood to manhood, and it's a pleasure to journey with them in this exciting tale of political manoeuvrings and secrets over 2000 years ago.(less)
Book 3 (of 6), I'm as engrossed as I was in the first, and the only reason I'm not immediately ordering the next from the library is because I have to...moreBook 3 (of 6), I'm as engrossed as I was in the first, and the only reason I'm not immediately ordering the next from the library is because I have too many other booms right now that are waiting for me. Besides, reading a series too quickly tends to merge the tales one into the other, and I want to keep each book distinct.
Marillier is doing that superbly. Each book has the wonderful Fair Folk and the Old Ones (each book to various amounts); each has the interplay of family relationships, liaisons with neighbours, and enmities; each has a beautifully drawn romance. But each also has its quite different female lead character and a different focus on the story development. Here, our narrator is a confused 15-year-old who has grown up in almost solitude, taught the ways of a druid and the powers of a sorceror by her father Ciaran, who we know from the previous books was the son of Colum of Sevenwaters and his second wife, the sorceress Oonagh.
It's easy to imagine the problems that beset a teenage girl, manipulated by her grandmother, unskilled in social niceties, and suddenly thrust into a busy family and a world preparing for a battle that is expected to fulfill a prophecy. This is a story of finding oneself, and the setting is fabulous.(less)
The story is that taniwha often had long-term relationships with the people who lived nearby, as guardian and helper. This particular taniwha had the...moreThe story is that taniwha often had long-term relationships with the people who lived nearby, as guardian and helper. This particular taniwha had the sadness of its people moving away, the land first neglected, and then an airport built on it. Taniwha can sleep forever, though. But after an earthquake and tsunami destroyed the airport, people returned, and a karanga (a calling, a summons) woke the taniwha.
This is a nice tale about the forgotten creatures of mythology, and one of hope about returning to the good things of one's roots.(less)
This is a lovely little story about making myth into reality - an inner reality, that is - as the little boy goes travelling with the taniwha (a magic...moreThis is a lovely little story about making myth into reality - an inner reality, that is - as the little boy goes travelling with the taniwha (a magical creature, one could call it of the dragon type, but native to Aotearoa/New Zealand). The illustrations are beautiful - this is the author at her artistic best.(less)
This novel explores change. Many people live a life that has never considered the possibility of choosing its own direction, and the author takes us i...moreThis novel explores change. Many people live a life that has never considered the possibility of choosing its own direction, and the author takes us into the background of one of these lives. An unforeseen experience causes the key character to evaluate her life, not just understand it, and she takes control.
Lena, the "star" of this story, went back to her old neighbourhood in San Francisco - a rough area where the family had never encountered personal danger as children. But this time she was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and got in the way of a bullet. The novel then ranges from Lena's childhood with her Polish immigrant parents, brother and sister, to the occasion of the bullet and the subsequent changes she makes.
Lena was born in the US, so was always different to her brother and sister. Her father was large and loud, sold sausages and resented Poland for having "forced" them to leave. Her mother was slowly becoming more and more depressed, and eventually returned to Poland where she blossomed, and made herself a career in cosmetics. Lena's older sister was extraordinarily beautiful yet completely unaware of it. She was loud and vigorous, and became a taxidermist. Lena's brother was opposite. He processed his thoughts slowly, seeming somewhat deficient to the general observer. He collected things and he wanted to be an astronaut. Lena herself became a popular comedian from an accidental start while performing a song in her father's restaurant.
I really enjoyed the writing and the style of this book. The freeze-frame snippets in italics and the "words" of the bullet are a nice movement away from straight prose, and could have been overdone but are not. I like the chapter headings (for parts of the book which aren't really chapters but divisions) simply placed after a few lines' space. I like the movement backwards and forwards in time. The characters are all a little larger than life, but also entirely believable because we all know some people who are that way.
This book had me laughing out loud in many places, grinning wryly in many more, and nodding my agreement with Lena and her life. It's thoroughly delightful, and I'll look out for any more titles by this author (a Kiwi, by the way). (less)
This was recommended at my writing course, and so I ordered it immediately. It's very entertaining.
Fizzer has focused on heightening his senses. He re...moreThis was recommended at my writing course, and so I ordered it immediately. It's very entertaining.
Fizzer has focused on heightening his senses. He reckons that anyone can do it, but nobody else he and his friends know can. What he does is notice everything, then he eliminates what he's not interested in, and then can totally focus on what he wants to know about. He's so good at this that he can tell the difference between coke that comes in a 1 litre bottle, coke in a 2.25 litre bottle, coke in a can, coke that has been poured just recently, coke that was poured some while ago, etc. This comes in particularly handy when the top three executives of the Coca-Cola company, who are the only people who know the secret recipe, are kidnapped. Fizzer and his friend Tupai are flown to the United States. But they soon find themselves involved in danger and adventures which eventually lead them to an atoll in the Pacific, where they finally manage to rescue the executives.(less)
I popped into the University Library because I wanted to see what they had in the way of books about ecumenism in New Zealand in the last 40 years (my...moreI popped into the University Library because I wanted to see what they had in the way of books about ecumenism in New Zealand in the last 40 years (my essay topic for “Christianity in Aotearoa”), and, because I was dragging round my portable study, I thought that rather than trek around and up and down elevators and round and round looking for an unused computer to search the library website, I’d just browse a bit. Surprisingly it worked to a respectable degree. I found some books that were a little bit relevant (at a pinch) and I found this book, with its wonderful title, and then, having had some success and therefore feeling good about things, I went and found a computer and logged into the website and found some highly relevant books (just a shelf or two away from where I’d been) and a possibly relevant e-journal which I’ve yet to check out. That was on Monday.
So – this book. Another reason I thought I’d have a look at it was because Mum went to school with Bob and his brother Graham, and frequently spoke rather disparagingly of Bob. I think it was because he had a television programme and Mum was thinking, “Who’s he to be on the TV?!” Sort-of the tall poppy thing, I think… or people-from-Taumaranui-shouldn’t-be-in-the-public-eye - - they’re-nobodies, kind-of thing. She’d say something like, “I knew him when he was a boy and he was nothing special,” which is, of course, completely by the by. I mean, who is something special when they’re a kid?! People often don’t even grow into their real selves until middle age or later. Look at me; I’m only just doing something that will have real value for others. So I was intrigued to see whether this bod-from-Taumaranui-who’d-written-a-book was worth reading.
I browsed a few pages of course. I wasn’t going to add another book to my pile unless I deemed it likely that I’d enjoy it, and the couple of snippets I read were quite entertaining:
page 104: “Is that you, Reverend? We were wondering if you’d like to come and … “ “No.” “Thursday afternoon at half past two …” “No.” “That’s settled. We’ll see you Thursday.” Who are these dragon women? Do they have husbands?
Well, I can’t swear that this is one of the snippets that I read in the library, bit it could have been. Here’s another that I’m finding right now on a random opening:
page 34 A minister of a church in the far north of the North Island wrote to tell me that I should use my time on radio and television to preach the forgiveness of sins. He was praying to that end and warned me that unless I did that I would be on the road to damnation and, what’s more, leading others with me. Life must get a bit dull way up there in the north.
He makes some very wry comments, and some quite insightful remarks. His humour is standard and he tells a few old jokes (which I’m sure didn’t originate with him) as if they’re his own stories, but he’s still amusing. There are a lovely couple of stories, about Henry and about Thelma, which I am copying for future reference (I can imagine using them in a sermon to good effect), and I even found a little something to go into my essay!(less)
I read this almost immediately after reading a excellent literary biography of the author (Margaret Mahy: A Writer's Life) and so it was a little stra...moreI read this almost immediately after reading a excellent literary biography of the author (Margaret Mahy: A Writer's Life) and so it was a little strange reading this - "Have I read it before?" "Didn't she say that in the previous essay?" - because the biography quoted so much from Mahy's writings, both her fiction and her essays. Nevertheless, I enjoyed this immensely and only wish I could have heard her giving a speech. Mahy writes with such a marvellous use of language and with such natural humour that it's always a pleasure to immerse oneself in her books.(less)