ARC REVIEW: Bull – by David Elliott

Title: Bull
Author: David Elliott

Genre: YA, Poetry, Mythology
First published: March 28th 2017
Publisher: HMH Books For Young Readers
Finished reading: March 16th 2017
Pages: 200

“Minos says I’m nothing more than Nothing.

Can Nothing take a form and call it me?

But Nothing is ever what it seems.

Watch Nothing laugh.

See Nothing cry.

Hear Nothing scream.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and HMH Books For Young Readers in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I have a weak spot for (Greek) mythology retellings, so I knew I had to request a copy of Bull as soon as I saw it mentioned last year. Like the title already suggests, this story written by David Elliott is a mythology retelling of the classic Greek Minotaur story I’m sure most have at least heard about. I actually translated part of it during high school so I was looking forward to revisiting the story! One thing is for sure: Bull definitely wasn’t the mythology retelling I was expecting. I’m still not sure what to make of it all, but there is no doubt it was at least both an entertaining and very original retelling. Why? Bull is a story full written in verse and each character in the story has its own unique style; very creative indeed. The writing style made me laugh more than once, although the humor might be a bit unorthodox and I’m still not sure the tone was actually appropriate. To get an idea what I mean, here’s how the story started:

“POSEIDON

Whaddup, bitches?

Am I right or am I right?
That bum Minos deserved what he got.”

Not exactly what you would expect when starting a Theseus and the minotaur retelling, right?! Still, I would recommend this story to anyone searching for an original and slightly bizarre story and to those who enjoy reading in verse and don’t mind a swearword or two.

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A story completely told in verse… Minos wanted to be king and asked for the help of Poseidon, only to deny the God his sacrifice when Minos gets what he wants. Poseidon is furious and decides to punish Minos, but the best revenge is one that’s properly planned and needs time. Minos doesn’t know it yet, but his future will change forever… Because instead of a little boy, Minos’ wife and queen will give birth to the Minotaur. And that sure is something else!

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It personally took me some time to get used to the original and unorthodox way Bull narrates the story of Theseus and the Minotaur, but I can also really appreciate the direction the author decided to take with this retelling. There is no doubt that teenagers will find it easier to connect to Bull than the original story and it has without doubt a high entertainment factor. It’s not for everyone, but the right person will definitely have a blast reading this Minotaur retelling told in verse!


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ARC REVIEW: The Last Gods Of Indochine – by Samuel Ferrer

Title: The Last Gods Of Indochine
Author: Samuel Ferrer

Genre: Historical Fiction
First published: September 20th 2016
Publisher: Signal 8 Press
Finished reading: March 13th 2017
Pages: 422

“I told Jean-Luc I feared entering a world where everyone is a stranger; the truth is, I am escaping from a world where everyone knew me too well.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by the author in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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I confess I’m terribly behind with my ARCs and this historical fiction story was long overdue. The Last Gods Of Indochine belongs to one of my favorite genres and both the Cambodian setting, era and reference to local mythology had me intrigued immediately. This novel by Samuel Ferrer surely didn’t disappoint. The Last Gods Of Indochine is mostly set in Cambodia and has two main storylines: one set in the 1920s and one set in the 13th century. I was instantly charmed by the story of Paaku the Lotus-Born all those centuries ago, and the mythology and ideas of his world are intriguing. His chapters are without doubt my favorite part of this novel, and I enjoyed learning more about both his world and his character. I wasn’t instantly convinced by Jacquie on the other hand, and it took me some time to connect to her. It was very interesting to read about her journey to Cambodia though and the circumstances under which both her grandfather before her and Jacquie herself had to travel in those days. I also particularly enjoyed their travels within Cambodia and it was nice to see both storylines slowly connect. In short, The Last Gods Of Indochine is a well written historical fiction story with an intriguing plot and a fascinating read in general for fans of the genre.

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In medieval Cambodia, Paaku the Lotus-Born is an orphan raised by a Vishu priest. One day something incredible happens and the community starts to believe Paaku might be the incarnation of a god… Something that might turn out to be dangerous for him and he is not sure if he wants that title in the first place. Meanwhile, in 1921, Jacquie follows the footsteps of her grandfather and travels to Indochina. Her grandfather was a famous explorer who died during his travels, and Jacquie wants to learn more about the country he explored. Soon she starts learning about the tragedy of Paaku’s history and the storylines slowly intertwine…

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If you enjoy reading well written historical fiction stories with an interesting setting and a touch of (Asian) mythology, The Last Gods Of Indochine is an excellent choice. Two stories set in two completely different centuries slowly start to intertwine… And the ‘modern’ world clashes with the medieval story. I had a great time reading this novel and especially Paaku’s POV stood out from me. Such a fascinating story!


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BOOK REVIEW: The Song Of Achilles – by Madeline Miller

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Title: The Song Of Achilles
Author: Madeline Miller

Genre: Fantasy, Mythology, Fiction
First published: September 20th 2011
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Finished reading: February 28th 2017
Pages: 352
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“He is a weapon, a killer. Do not forget it. You can use a spear as a walking stick, but that will not change its nature.”

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To take a little break from my ARC mountain, I decided to pick up one of my Beat The Backlist titles. Basically, I have been wanting to read The Song Of Achilles for YEARS. I still don’t know why I haven’t picked up this modern mythology adaptation of the Achilles and Troyan War story written by Madeline Miller before… Especially since so many fellow booklovers seemed to have enjoyed it and I also I read (part of) Homer‘s Iliad during my Ancient Greek classes back in high school and wanted to revisit the story. The Song Of Achilles surely didn’t disappoint; I can understand the love for this book now! Not only is this a very well written story and a lot more pleasant to read than the Iliad translations I’ve seen around, but the character development is very well done as well and I especially loved Patroclus’ character. The pace is quite slow at points, but I personally didn’t mind and I practically devoured this book. If you like mythology, good stories and want to refresh your memory on the Achilles and Troyan War facts, The Song Of Achilles is an excellent choice!

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Patroclus isn’t exactly the perfect young prince and his awkwardness makes his father very frustrated with him. When he accidently kills another boy, his father exiles him to the court of King Peleus and his perfect son Achilles. Against odds the two princes become friends and as they grow up together their bond grows stronger and stronger, despite the displeasure of Achilles’ mother and sea goddess Thetis. One day word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, and Achilles must go to war and fulfull his destiny. Patroclus isn’t exactly a skilled fighter, but he would follow Achilles everywhere including to the distant Troy. What will happen to the two during their journey?

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I think most people are at least vaguely familiar with the details around the Troyan War and Achilles. It’s quite a popular Greek mythology story and popular movies have helped to promote it, but it is important to realize those movies have been (heavily) adapted to please the masses. If you want to have a better idea of the ‘real’ story, this mythology adaptation by Madeline Miller is an excellent choice. It reads a lot easier than the Homer translations without changing too much of the plot, and while the pace is a bit slow I had a great time reading this story.


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BOOK REVIEW: American Gods – by Neil Gaiman

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Title: American Gods
(American Gods Series #1)
Author: Neil Gaiman
Genre: Fiction, Mythology, Science Fiction
First Published: June 19th 2001
Finished reading: May 26th 2014
Pages: 592
Rating 4,5

“There’s never been a true war that wasn’t fought between two sets of people who were certain they were in the right. The really dangerous people believe they are doing whatever they are doing solely and only because it is without question the right thing to do. And that is what makes them dangerous.”

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I actually finished this book two days ago, but with the flue eating my brains during the last few days it’s hard to get any words on paper. But I’m going to give it a try… American Gods was recommended to me some time ago, and I’m always glad to find new authors and titles I haven’t heard of previously. And I must say I’m pleasantly surprised with the writing skills of Neil Gaiman. He’s able to both create a fantasy world you get sucked into and still giving us actual facts about different religions, cultures and myths without slowing down the story. Gaiman tries to explain that ‘nobody is really American, or at least not originally’, and that there is no limit to the amount of old and new Gods roaming the vast lands of America. Although he makes it clear through the words of the main character Shadow that it’s a ‘bad land for Gods‘… The story might get confusing sometimes, since it switches between the adventures of a man called Shadow and the stories of the different Gods and cultures that exist in America. But American Gods still is highly enjoyable.

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We start following Shadow when he is about to be released from prison. Instead of going back home to his wife Laura, he is told she died in a car crash together with his good friend (who she was having an affair with). A mysterious man called Wednesday then offers a job to him he cannot refuse, and soon he learns that Wednesday is a whole lot more than just mysterious. He is actually an ancient God called Odin the All-Father. He is on a mission to recrute old Gods for an epic battle between the old and new Gods of the internet and everything wired, and asks Shadow to help him.

They then start a road trip where they encounter all kinds of ancient cultures, myths and Gods from different places around the world people brought with them when they settled down in America. Shadow is forced to start believing, since a lot of strange things seem to happen as he is following Wednesday. His dead wife doesn’t cease to show up various times throughout the story for example, still quite dead and taking up the role as his protector various times. The new gods try to win Shadow to their side, sometimes with brute force. Shadow remains loyal to Wednesday though until the end. Even when he starts seeing the whole truth…

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I know it’s a kinda crappy summary of such a complicated book, but I don’t want to reveal too much of the plot. There are a lot of events that change the story and will change the way you read the book, and I don’t want to spoil the fun. The best advice I can give is to just pick up your own copy of American Gods and start reading. If you ask me, it is definitely worth it. It’s an interesting story, well written and you can probably describe it both as a fantasy story and a informative way of learning about the different religions, cultures and myths that exist in throughout America. Definitely recommended!

BOOK REVIEW: The King Must Die – by Mary Renault

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Title: The King Must Die
(Theseus Series #1)
Author: Mary Renault
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mythology, Fantasy
First published: 1958
Finished reading: September 19th 2013
Pages: 356

Rating 3

“A man is at his youngest when he thinks he is a man, not yet realizing that his actions must show it.”

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Mary Renault tells the story of a boy-king, Theseus, whose adventures are roughly based on the Greek Theseus legend. Various changes are made to make the story more plausible, and for me it ruins a bit the fantasy of the original myths round Theseus. The beginning of The King Must Die is a tad slow and confusing, which doesn’t encourage readers to continue… But luckily I managed to continue reading and the story did become more interesting after the initial chapters.

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The story begins in Theseus’ homeland, where he grows up to be a short but very agil young man, trying to get to know who is his real father besides Poseidon. When he discovers he is the heir of king Aigeus in Athens, he decides to travel to meet his destiny (moira). He is stopped on the way by the queen of Eleusis and becomes the year-king of this woman-dominated land. Fate decides this isn’t his final stop and he manages to make it to Athene, where he finally meets his father. This isn’t the last stop either though; for it is the island of Krete, the home of the famous Minotaur.Theseus is send with other unfortunate youngsters to Krete to participate in the famous bullfights in the Labyrinth. In groups, they ‘dance’ with the bulls and as they do, trying to survive and not end up as a sacrifice for the great Bull of the Sea, Poseidon…

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It’s an alteration of the most famous episode in the Theseus myth where he confronts the fantastical half-man half bull commonly known as the Minotaur. Mary Renault altered the story to make it more plausible, and the mythical part sadly was lost in this adaptation. But still it makes an interesting and moving story about the adventures and struggles of young Theseus to survive in the ancient Greek world.. If you can make it through the first chapters, it’s definitely worth it to try and finish the book.