Review | Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

Review

30809689._sy475_A bit late to the bandwagon on this one — but, Ragnarok is yet to happen, so … YORO?

(You Only Ragnarok Once.)

… OK. Let’s not say that again.

Norse Mythology is a collection of fifteen Norse myths, including The Treasure of the Gods, The Mead of Poets, and Freya’s Unusual Wedding. While the content itself isn’t new, Gaiman has recast the stories with modern language and imagery, with the result being a fast-based and humorous romp.

The book has a surprisingly high rating on GoodReads, — 4.1/5.0 — with lots of praise for its accessibility (vs. the Poetic Edda), pacing, and storytelling. In essence: the book reads like a collection of stories, and not a stuffy research paper or ancient sacred text. On the flip side, critics have highlighted that the book doesn’t offer anything new: these are well-established tales, and Gaiman doesn’t stray far from the standard narrative.

Where do I fall? As someone with only a basic understanding of Norse mythology — most of which comes from the Thor movies — I enjoyed it. It was a fun orientation to the broader mythos.

Things I liked:

The Simplicity. I listened to this book while entering data, and am pleased to report that the stories are simple enough that you can easily multi-task and pick up 80-90% of what’s going on.

Things I disliked:

The Irreverence. Gaiman’s treatment of these myths felt … rather sacrilegious. This isn’t to suggest that the ancient Norse interpreted their pantheon the same way the Judeo-Christian faith views God …

Image result for monty python god gif"

… but, there was something oddly childish with the way Gaiman’s mythological figures conducted themselves. Thor et al felt more like Taika Waititi’s characters than gods of Asgard.

Favourite quote:

“Because,” said Thor, “when something goes wrong, the first thing I always think is, it is Loki’s fault. It saves a lot of time.”

The Details:

  • The Book: Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo
  • Published: 2013, Henry Holt and Company
  • My Copy: VPL
  • Read date: November 12, 2019
  • Rating: ★★★☆☆
  • You should read this if you like

Image result for thor another gif"

  • Avoid this if you dislike … burly men with egos

Readathon | Believathon, Week 2

Phew! And today marks the end of Week 2 of the Believe in the Impossible Readathon!

The Prompts:

  1. Read a book featuring magicA Sorcery of Thorns and An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson – Not only are these books about magic, but they’re pretty close to being magic. I haven’t been so enthralled with a story since I first read Harry Potter.
  2. Read a book featuring myths and legendsThe Shadow and Bone Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo – Which involves a quest to discover three magical creatures of myth/legend.
  3. Read a book featuring real-world issues – Currently reading: Invisible Women by Caroline Criado-Pérez
  4. Read a book set in the past – Currently reading: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
  5. Read a book with a strong sense of friendship
  6. Read a creepy or atmospheric bookThe Ash-Born Boy & The Near Witch by V. E. Schwab
  7. Read a seasonal book
  8. Read a book featuring an animal character
  9. Read a children’s classic
  10. Re-read your personal childhood favourite

The Extras:

  • November 1-2: The Midnight Feast – Amended to “the 7 o’clock feast”, because I definitely went to bed at 9PM that night.
  • November 6: Roald Dahl DayCheck out Roald Dahl’s poetry here!
  • November 9-10: Classics Weekend
  • November 13: Disney Day!A Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Anderson
  • November 20-21: Believathon Sleepover – Join the 24-hour readathon!
  • November 30: Magic of Christmas – Read your seasonable book and indulge in a winter movie. (Amended from the original date of November 16/17 … because that’s far too early for winter!)

You can find all the official readathon details here!

 

TBR | Down the Hole #19

downthetbrhole

Good news! I have officially hit the 100th book on my TBR list!

Better news? Since starting this challenge, I’ve cut over 50 books from my TBR list! If this keeps up, I’ll be looking at a much more reasonable list of 450 books — four years of reading! — rather than the 1000-book monstrosity I was faced with.


Books #100: The Star-Touched Queen

25203675Synopsis: Maya is cursed. With a horoscope that promises a marriage of death and destruction, she has earned only the scorn and fear of her father’s kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her whole world is torn apart when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. Soon Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Neither roles are what she expected: As Akaran’s queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar’s wife, she finds something else entirely: Compassion. Protection. Desire …

Thoughts: I’ve seen a ton of good reviews for this book, and it seems like an interesting idea.

Decision: KEEP


Book #101: Crazy Like Us

6402564

Synopsis: It is well known that American culture is a dominant force at home and abroad; our exportation of everything from movies to junk food is a well-documented phenomenon. But is it possible America’s most troubling impact on the globalizing world has yet to be accounted for? In “Crazy Like Us,” Ethan Watters reveals that the most devastating consequence of the spread of American culture has not been our golden arches or our bomb craters but our bulldozing of the human psyche itself: We are in the process of homogenizing the way the world goes mad …

Thoughts: We talk about this a lot in class and clinic – and did a whole unit on it back in my undergrad social psych course.

Decision: GO


Book #102: The Emperor’s New Drugs

6943460Synopsis: How did antidepressant drugs gain their reputation as a magic bullet for depression? And why has it taken so long for the story to become public? Answering these questions takes us to the point where the lines between clinical research and marketing disappear altogether. Using the Freedom of Information Act, Kirsch accessed clinical trials that were withheld, by drug companies, from the public and from the doctors who prescribe antidepressants. What he found, and what he documents here, promises to bring revolutionary change to the way our society perceives, and consumes, antidepressants …

Thoughts: Oh! Look! Another book on psychiatry’s prescription problem!

Decision: GO


Book #103: Rebel of the Sands

24934065. sy475 Synopsis: Mortals rule the desert nation of Miraji, but mythical beasts still roam the wild and remote areas, and rumor has it that somewhere, djinn still perform their magic.  For humans, it’s an unforgiving place, especially if you’re poor, orphaned, or female. Amani Al’Hiza is all three. She’s a gifted gunslinger with perfect aim, but she can’t shoot her way out of Dustwalk, the back-country town where she’s destined to wind up wed or dead. Then she meets Jin, a rakish foreigner, in a shooting contest, and sees him as the perfect escape route. But though she’s spent years dreaming of leaving Dustwalk, she never imagined she’d gallop away on mythical horse—or that it would take a foreign fugitive to show her the heart of the desert she thought she knew.

Thoughts: My friends are split on this one – some loving it, some hating it. I’ll give it a try, seeing how much I loved The City of Brass.

Decision: KEEP


Book #104: The House of the Four Winds

16059529Synopsis: The tiny nation of Swansgaard is a lovely place with abundant natural resources, including the royal family, which has been blessed with twelve daughters and a son. As this boisterous baker’s dozen approaches adulthood, the king and queen lovingly tell their daughters, “You must make your own fortune, for we cannot enrich you without impoverishing our people or leaving our lands defenceless, and that we will not do.” Happily, the princesses of Swansgaard are eager to meet this challenge, for they yearn for adventures both near and far from home. Clarice, an expert swordswoman, is the first to depart. Disguising herself as Clarence, she signs on for a voyage to the New World. The captain is vile and blackhearted, and the crew soon mutinies. Clarice becomes first mate – and finds her heart captured by the new captain, Dominick, who is, to his own surprise, increasingly attracted to Clarence.

Thoughts: I suspect that this was meant to be a 12-book series, but it doesn’t look like the sequels were ever published …

Decision: GO


Down the TBR Hole is a bookish meme created by Lia @Lost In A Story. Here’s how it works:

  • Go to your Goodreads to-read shelf
  • Order by Ascending Date Added
  • Take the first 5 (or 10, if you’re feeling adventurous) books. If you do this weekly, you start where you left off the last time.
  • Read the synopses of the books
  • Decide: keep it or let it go?

 

Bookshop | Mosaic Books, Kelowna

Credit to Mosaic Books!

The Shop: Mosaic Books
Location: Kelowna, BC
Visit Date: November 2019
Purchases: SO MANY BOOKS! The Starless Sea, The Rook, The Seas, Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, Ariel, and This Is How You Lose the Time War

Mosaic Books = Brilliant. (Really, really!)

Mosaic Books is an independent, family-owned-and-operated bookstore that first opened in 1968. It’s home to 17,000+ books, including 6000+ bargain books. The shelves are bursting with colour and lovingly curated, with lots of personal touches. The shelves are bursting with hand-written/-drawn descriptions, stickers, and staff suggestions. The shop also has a huge variety of miscellaneous merchandise, including a fabulous collection of puzzles and board games.

I was so impressed with Mosaic that I visited it three times over my four conference days — the last time on Saturday morning, when I opened the door to a wall of people. People of all ages and types — browsing the shelves and giggling over silly dishcloths and providing recommendations to each other. A healthy, happy, and engaged community of readers. It made me immensely happy.

Also: Full respect to the shop for not having its Christmas display out yet.

Ratings:

  • Atmosphere: ★★★★★
  • Customer Service: ★★★★★
  • Selection: ★★★★★

 

Tag | T10T: Recommendations

Happy T10T! This week, my prompt is “Ten amazing books that were recommended to me!


  1. Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling – Recommended by one of my mom’s friends, when I was visiting them on my summer vacation.
  2. Sabriel by Garth Nix – Recommended by the amazing staff at Volume One Bookstore.
  3. A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness – Recommended by (I think?) The Globe and Mail.
  4. The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden – Recommended by the girl in the bunk above me at my Buenos Ares hostel.
  5. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. MaasRecommended by a fellow grad student.
  6. The Lost Words by Robert MacFarlane – Recommended by the amazing staff at Novel Idea Bookstore.
  7. Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin – Recommended by the amazing Ben of Ben McNally Books.
  8. Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson – Recommended by so many of you wonderful folks.
  9. The Fox and the Star by Coralie Bickford-Smith – Recommended by the staff at Happy Thoughts.
  10. Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez – Recommended by a labmate last week.

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly prompt by The Broke and the Bookish and The Artsy Reader Girl. The list is 400+ strong — so, not wanting to miss anything, I started at prompt #1.

Review | An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson

Review

What do I want to be when I grow up? Margaret Rogerson.

30969741._sy475_

Because these books … THESE BOOKS … these are the definition of joy and magic and wonder. I haven’t been so enthralled with a story since I first read Harry Potter.

Oh yes. I just went there.

An Enchantment of Ravens tells the story of Isobel: a prodigy portrait artist, who specializes in painting the fair folk. Though immensely dangerous, Isobel has worked out a rather-successful business plan where she trades portraits for enchantments that will make her life easier: charms for safety, and to ensure her chickens will keep laying eggs.

… and everything is going well, until Isobel makes a grievous error: she paints human sorrow on the face of the autumn prince.

What follows is a road-trip-style romp through the forest, complete with creepy un-dead elk, a pre-Gandalf-Theoden-style king, masquerades, magic, and politics. All this is brought together with glorious lilting prose and gorgeous imagery, subtle character development, and some surprisingly-philosophical insights.

I have a hard-copy of this book on my shelf, and will 100% be purchasing a soft-cover edition as a loaning/travel/read-till-the-spine-is-gone version. The story is fanciful and fun, and plays with your heart in so many different ways.

Please read this book. Please, please read it.

Things I liked:

The Fair Ones. A number of reviewers have compared An Enchantment of Ravens to A Court of Thorns and Roses – and it’s a fair comparison. Both stories features larger-than-life fairies, seasonal courts, a human woman taken into fairy land, and some … rather significant tensions between the two peoples. However, Maas’s and Rogerson’s treatment of fairies are night and day. Maas’s High Fae are indistinguishable from human: sure, they’re immortal, gorgeous, and have super-human abilities, but they’re written to be relatable characters. (Not a bad thing, per se.) Rogerson’s fair folk are the complete opposite. They look human and try to mimic human culture, but are fundamentally alien: as different to humans as we are to lizards. Rogerson has done a brilliant job capturing the psychology of a people who don’t feel — who are empty — and who are starved for life.

I wiped off my fingers, but it wasn’t the mold or maggots making my stomach revolt… No, it was the knowledge that all around me sat empty people in rotting clothes, nibbling on flyblown trifles while they spoke of nothing of consequence with fixed smiles on their false faces.

Isobel. God, Rogerson knows how to write strong female leads. Isobel is smart and capable and funny, and fundamentally loves herself — flaws and all.

Rook. This. is. what. a. complicated. male. lead. should. read. like. Brooding, sometimes ridiculous, and handsome — and so, so deep. I loved every moment of him.

The Romance. OK – OK. Yes, this book is fundamentally a romance. But, a romance in the very best of ways. We have two immensely different characters coming together through a process of discovery and acceptance — navigating their differences, and coming to love each other for being exactly who they are.

Things I disliked:

The World-Building … which is not to say that it’s lacking, because Rogerson offers gorgeous descriptions and there’s a definite sense of place. However, I wish she provided greater background information on the rules/governing principles, especially regarding the mysterious “world beyond”.

The Length. Rogerson could have easily added another 100-pages to this story — which would both serve my own selfish desire for more, but also provide Isobel and Rook with a more structured direction. Things happen just a bit too quickly.

Stand-Alone Status. PLEASE I WANT MORE!

Favourite quote:

What must it be like? To meet someone, to forge a connection, all in the span of one golden afternoon—only to find out that for her, each passing minute was a year. Each second, an hour. She would be dead before the sun rose the next day. A keen, quiet pain twisted my heart.

The Details:

  • The Book: An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson
  • Published: 2017, Margaret K. McElderry Books
  • My Copy: Personal Copy
  • Read date: November 6-10, 2019
  • Rating: ★★★★★
  • You should read this if you like … creepy forest fairies
  • Avoid this if you dislike … descriptions of rot and decay

Readathon | Believathon, Week 1

Hello, all!!

I started off  the Believe in the Impossible Readathon with a bit of a bang — five books read! —  and an appreciation for taking an actual weekend. After four months of 7-days-a-week work, sleeping-in and spending an entire day reading was glorious!

The Prompts:

  1. Read a book featuring magicA Sorcery of Thorns and An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson – Not only are these books about magic, but they’re pretty close to being magic itself. I haven’t been so enthralled with a story since I first read Harry Potter.
  2. Read a book featuring myths and legendsThe Shadow and Bone Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo – Which involves a quest to discover three magical creatures of myth/legend.
  3. Read a book featuring real-world issues – Currently reading: Invisible Women by Caroline Criado-Pérez
  4. Read a book set in the past – Currently reading: Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow
  5. Read a book with a strong sense of friendship
  6. Read a creepy or atmospheric book
  7. Read a seasonal book
  8. Read a book featuring an animal character – Currently reading: Hollow Kingdom by Kira Jane Buxton
  9. Read a children’s classic
  10. Re-read your personal childhood favourite

The Extras:

  • November 1-2: The Midnight Feast – Amended to “the 7 o’clock feast”, because I definitely went to bed at 9PM that night.
  • November 6: Roald Dahl DayCheck out Roald Dahl’s poetry here!
  • November 9-10: Classics Weekend
  • November 13: Disney Day! – Choose a story that inspired a Disney movie. Read the story, then watch the movie!
  • November 20-21: Believathon Sleepover – Join the 24-hour readathon!
  • November 30: Magic of Christmas – Read your seasonable book and indulge in a winter movie. (Amended from the original date of November 16/17 … because that’s far too early for winter!)

You can find all the official readathon details here!