Book Review – The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia A. McKillip

The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia A. McKillip

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


The Forgotten Beasts of Eld is a high fantasy tale that I am so fortunate to have found. A wizard woman who commands animals and learns, along with others she loves and who love her, to be a real and genuine person. Sybel the wizard woman is the link between the hidden world of magic and that of men, two of which are fortunate to be able to enter into her world.

McKillip has written a deep and real character that is Sybel, a complicated woman who learns about herself, even in the midst of the worst experiences a woman could have. She writes a mythology that I want to delve deeper into, and I hope that it exists further in her other novels. The writing is slow and contemplative, and, while the lack of action may deter some readers, I found the story to be wonderfully meditative and atmospheric.

McKillip has turned the Arthurian legends upside down, and made women and the legends of nature those that change not only the fate of the world, but also how the world chooses to live. The Arthurian king to Sybel’s Merlin-like character has yet to grow into a fine man, but he has grown with love, and that is what Sybel has had to learn to give and receive.

I’ve felt I can relate very strongly with Sybel, in terms of strength, both in possession and in wanting; of wanting to love and be loved; of wanting to know who I am and why; of learning that being is complicated and yet the most wonderful thing to be.

Readers who loved books like The Chronicles of Prydain and A Wizard in Earthsea will absolutely love The Forgotten Beasts of Eld.



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Book Review – Death in Dark Blue by Julia Buckley

Death in Dark Blue by Julia Buckley

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I am happy to say that I am still very much enjoying the Writer’s Apprentice Mystery novels by Julia Buckley. I will say that I liked the first novel, A Dark and Stormy Murder better, but I still enjoyed this second one, Death in Dark Blue.

The story continues from the first novel, continuing the struggle of Lena London and those who love her to solve the mystery of a disappeared woman. This novel has more romance, and the mystery becomes even more entangled. I won’t say anything more about the plot so as not to give the whole story away.

What I do wish is that this story involved more about books and the library that plays a bit of an integral part in this mystery – hopefully I will see more of that when I dive into the next novel. In any case, Buckley gives us a wonderful cast of characters, and a protagonist with determination and love for all of her friends and family.

I am excited to start reading the next book.



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Book Review – Cycle of the Werewolf by Stephen King

Cycle of the Werewolf

Cycle of the Werewolf by Stephen King

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


This short novel of Stephen King’s was a fun and chilling read. Very easy to get through due to the pacing of the story and entertainment factor, I read Cycle of the Werewolf in about two hours. The story shows a view of how a town might react to the arrival of a murderous werewolf and, in my personal opinion, King got most of it pretty realistic. There are two big reactions to a kind of upset like a werewolf: everyone going completely ballistic, or, as in this novel, everyone doing absolutely nothing until a child takes matters into their own hands.

The illustrations by Bernie Wrightson perfectly captured the grim atmosphere of King’s narration, though I have one criticism (this would mainly be for the editors): a lot of the illustrations were placed a bit too early in the text, and so the reader would know what would happen in the plot based on the picture before the written event ever actually happened.

I recommend this book to those who want a short and chilling read. The gloominess of the art and the fact that the book starts and ends with snow makes it a perfect winter read.



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Book Review-The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon by Stephen King

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon by Stephen King

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I have not been into a book as much as I have been into The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon for a long time. In this novel, 9-year-old Trisha strays from the path and gets lost in the woods, encountering challenges the woods brings her, whether real or not.

As a lover of survival video games, this novel was utterly compelling. The way King writes Trisha’s character has the reader relating to her so much that it’s almost as if the reader and Trisha are one in the decisions that she makes, the fears that she feels, and wondering constantly if this whole thing isn’t just in her head. In the end, both the reader and Trisha find out that the difference between reality and dreams does not matter when you are lost.
The visual descriptions that King provides are so vivid I could imagine myself right in the forest with Trisha.

A big theme in this book is decisions. Not only the decisions Trisha must make during her long trek in the woods, but also the decisions of those who have lost and are looking for her: her mother’s and brother’s decisions of being so stubborn that they push Trisha away; her father’s decision to manipulate in his own way; and so on. It is a wonderful take on humanity – decisions are what define us, make us selfish like Trisha’s parents, or even point us further away from our goals, like Trisha strayed from the path in the woods. In the end, we must make the decisions that will make us stronger, and Trisha does just this.

Overall, I have struggled to put down The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon throughout my read of it. I recommend this novel to anyone who feels lost, and who wants a good thriller.



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Book Review- The Waking Forest by Alyssa Wees

The Waking Forest

The Waking Forest by Alyssa Wees

My rating: 1 of 5 stars


I will start this review by saying that I did not finish this book. I had many problems with the way it was written. First, Wees has written the characters in such a way that you cannot connect with them at all. We see everyone through the eyes of the main character Rhea, her mom and dad barely known to us, and her sisters either mean, insane, or just plain boring, and all for no reason.

Second, there was literally no point to the story, no premise. Wees introduces the story of a family who possibly deals with dreams, maybe magic, but also does not seem totally accepting of Rhea’s “visions” (which I think are, personally, just dreams, though I couldn’t say because Wees never actually describes them). Then there are the chapters involving a witch, whom I am assuming is supposed to be a past life of Rhea. However, I am halfway through the book and the plot seems to not be moving forward very much.

Suffice to say, I am quite disappointed. Wees had a good idea for this book but did not execute it well. She could have done so much more. And I understand that this is a first novel (and honestly it’s not bad for a first novel), but she can do much better.
There will be people who like this book, especially younger people. This book, however, is not at all for me.



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Book Review-The End We Start From by Megan Hunter

The End We Start From

The End We Start From by Megan Hunter

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I read The End We Start From by Megan Hunter for the Reading Rush challenge: read a book with 5 or more words in the title.

I picked up this book randomly at the bookstore with absolutely no expectations. The only thing I noticed about it was that the text was structured very poetically. The style is as if stream of consciousness and elegy merged together to create the floating and uncertain language appropriate for a dystopian novel centered around the flooding of the world (in a manner of speaking).

The story is narrated by a woman who is a new mother, separated from her husband for most of the book when a flood takes over London and forces most to flee. The language used in this mother’s narration compares birth and motherhood to the floodwaters, as well as using words associated with the sea for the development of her baby, one of them being the word “cruising”. The uncertainty of the floodwaters and the sea reflects the uncertainty of the mother and those she meets on her journey of survival. In between the mother’s narration, Hunter has inserted what seems to be quotes from the story of Noah’s Ark, almost completely parallel to the mother’s journey, the babies being brought up in the aftermath of the flood representing the renewal of the human race after Noah finds land.

I recommend this book to those who love poetic text, intertextuality, and the uncertain, free-floating images of water.



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Book Review – Lavinia by Ursula Le Guin

Lavinia

Lavinia by Ursula K. Le Guin

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


The past few years as a full-time classicist have seen a boom for me in the reading of modern retellings of classical myths and tales. Of all the ones I have read so far, Lavinia has been the best. Perhaps this is because this novel is based on the last six books of my favorite ancient work and author, the Aeneid by Vergil.

I was first told about this novel by my graduate advisor, with whom I am working on research about Vergil’s pastoral poetry. While Lavinia references the Aeneid and not Vergil’s other works, there are elements of contact with nature, which I will elaborate on below.

For those who don’t know, or have only a vague idea, Lavinia is the daughter of King Latinus, whom Aeneas married when he settled down in Latium, the area of Italy that would one day become Rome.

The first half of the book talks about Lavinia’s early life in the palace of her father. What I loved about this was that it illustrated the importance of her role in the palace as the virgin daughter of the king (religiously, etc.). It also touched on her connection to nature and certain higher powers such as oracles, and more importantly Vergil himself, the half-dead spirit of whom she communes with in sacred spaces of the woods. It is here where she learns the future of hers and Aeneas’ story. Le Guin gives us readers a look at how Vergil might have felt at not completing his story with Lavinia as a non-speaking character. I’d like to think he would have been as remorseful about this as Le Guin made him, how much he regretted not giving Lavinia a voice. Le Guin more than makes up for that in this novel. Lavinia speaks her mind to Vergil, to her father, to all those who would try to control her.

The latter half of the book looks at the war and then her marriage to Aeneas and life after. It illustrates what could have been, what Vergil could have written if he had the chance to continue. Le Guin makes Lavinia an immortal character, acknowledging the fact that because Vergil never gave her an ending, she cannot die in the same way as Aeneas or other heroes.

That is one other thing that Le Guin illustrates very well in this novel: the idea of living up to the standards of a legendary hero. We see Lavinia herself try to keep the house and rule of Aeneas alive through her resolve and the future of her son. Ascanius, Aeneas’ first son, does the same, but because Aeneas’ standards end up being so high, Ascanius is destined to fail as a ruler. Even if one doesn’t read this book, this is an obvious interpretation of Ascanius’ life.

To have one of my favorite stories be retold by a woman and through the eyes of a silenced woman is so refreshing and I could not ask for a better story. As a (still) young woman, I feel I can relate to Lavinia’s character, feeling uncertain about my own future among others whose futures are already set.

I recommend this novel to all classicists, lovers of myths and tales, and to those who are uncertain in life and want to run away into the woods to commune with spirits of dead poets.



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