The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller – Audiobook Review

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller, narrated by Frazer Douglas
Published in audio by Harper Audio, published in print by Ecco, both imprints of HarperCollins

Synopsis:

Apart from Odysseus, the best-known character in The Iliad is probably Achilles, he of the infamous heel. Readers of Homer’s famous work have long been perplexed by the way the hero mourns for an otherwise very minor character, Patroclus. From this question of why Patroclus’s death so affects Achilles, author Madeline Miller has created a shared past and love story for the two men, beginning with Patroclus’s exile from his own kingdom and his placement at the court of Achilles’s father.

Thoughts on the story:

The Song of Achilles is beautifully written and beautifully imagined. Miller has given these characters of Greek myth true depth and real life, complete with love, pain, and pride. The pace does not lag during their childhood, nor during the repetition of a decade-long siege on Troy. The story is told from Patroclus’s point of view, which seems to be a wise decision, it is much easier to narrate from the perspective of a more minor character, there are fewer worries about conflicting with the original story, although Miller still had to make sure that Achilles’s details mesh with the original narrative. The Song of Achilles works even for those who have only a vague familiarity with Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, however. Both of these works are enough in the Western consciousness that most readers will have a decent background for the story, and Miller does a good job of introducing characters from Patroclus’s point of view so they are familiar to readers without seeming overly explanatory to those who know The Iliad better.

Thoughts on the audio production:

This was my first experience with Frazer Douglas’s narration, and I was certainly impressed. He drew me right into Miller’s story, and kept me rapt through the entire listen. He has a sonorous voice and a great delivery.

Overall:

Miller’s gorgeous and moving story would work well in print as well, but Frazer Douglas’s narration adds a little something extra to the audio edition. Highly recommended.

Buy this book from:
Powells: Print*
Indiebound: Print*
Audible.com

I’m launching a brand-new meme every Friday! I encourage you to review any audiobooks you review on Fridays and include the link here. If you have reviewed an audiobook earlier in the week, please feel free to link that review as well. Thanks to Pam for creating the button.

Source: Publisher.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.
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Vaclav & Lena by Haley Tanner – Book Review

Vaclav & Lena by Haley Tanner
Published by Dial Press Trade Paperback, an imprint of Random House

Vaclav and Lena are both the children of Russian immigrants, as well as being best friends. Vaclav and his parents are the closest thing Lena has to family; although she lives with her aunt, she barely meets Lena’s basic needs, let alone any of her emotional ones. Vaclav, though, has promised her that one day they will be married, no matter what. For now, she is the beautiful assistant in his magic act – until, at least, the day before their big performance at Coney Island. That day, Lena doesn’t show up at school, nor at Vaclav’s house in the afternoon. When she even fails to meet him at Coney Island, Vaclav knows that something is terribly wrong and, indeed, she will be completely out of his life for the next 7 years, when they are 17.

Vaclav & Lena is, in the beginning, somewhat underwhelming. Vaclav and Lena have a cute relationship and Vaclav’s passion for magic is endearing, but for the first 50 pages nothing is moving the story along. Once Vaclav and Lena have been separated, though, Tanner’s story really takes off. Vaclav and Lena each becomes their own, more fully-developed person, without ever forgetting what it was that held them together all those years ago. By the end, Tanner has created a beautiful and very moving story of a love encompassing both friendship and romance.

Although it starts slowly, Vaclav & Lena ends brilliantly. Recommended.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

Source: Publisher, via Netgalley.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

The Bungalow by Sarah Jio – Book Review

The Bungalow by Sarah Jio
Published by Plume, an imprint of Penguin

Anne Calloway is newly engaged, but still unready to really settle down. Her fiance is staid and predictable, and Anne needs one last adventure in her life. When her best friend signs up to go to serve as a World War II Army nurse, Anne decides to join her in her South Pacific posting.

The nurses are unsurprisingly popular with the soldiers  on Bora-Bora, and Anne is no exception. Although she has plans to be nothing but faithful to her fiance, the more time she spends with a soldier named Westry, the more their friendship – and eventually a romance – blossom.

Jio excels writing books that carry the reader away with both plot and setting. Anne and Westry are engaging characters, and their relationship is transporting, especially with Jio’s lush descriptions of Bora-Bora.

A lovely book to warm your heart on a cold winter day.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

Source: Publisher.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

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Little Gale Gumbo by Erika Marks – Book Review

Little Gale Gumbo by Erika Marks
Published by NAL Trade, an imprint of Penguin

In 1977, Camille Bergeron fled New Orleans and her abusive husband with her daughters Dahlia and Josie. A Creole woman willing to work a little voodoo didn’t exactly go over well on Little Gale Island in Maine, but the Bergeron women made it work for themselves, made at least some of the inhabitants of the town love them – enough to bring them into the fold a bit, as well as to get them into trouble. Now, in 2002, their pasts have caught up to them and suddenly their father is dead and the man they always thought of as their father is in a fight for his life.

Dahlia and Josie are rich, complex characters who lead very interesting lives as fish out of water in Maine. They are mostly accepted by townspeople, but truly welcomed by very few, even after having lived on Little Gale Island for 25 years. Marks draws them realistically, especially considering that their present selves are only the stars of half of the book, since the other half deals with the time from when Camille met her husband up through the girls’ lives in Maine. In addition to having wonderful characters, the plot of Little Gale Gumbo pulls the reader right along, trying to figure out what really happened between the two men, as well as what might still happen for the sisters and their love interests.

A quick and satisfying read. Recommended.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

Source: Publisher.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.
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The Lost and Found Pony – Saturday Story Spotlight

Welcome to Saturday Story Spotlight, my feature where I discuss books my husband and I are reading with our son, Daniel. These are books that he, we, or all of us particularly enjoy.

The Lost and Found Pony by Tracy Dockray
Published by Feiwel & Friends, an imprint of Macmillan

The eponymous and unnamed pony is small, but she (or possibly he, along with being unnamed she is never explicitly given a gender, but let’s just make her a she for the sake of argument) is perfectly happy with herself. That happiness is even more pronounced when she is given to a young girl as a birthday present. She and the girl are a perfect match, until one day it becomes apparent that the girl has outgrown her, and the girl’s parents replace our dear pony with a larger horse.

The pony is sold off to the circus, which is not a bad life, but she misses the girl each and every day. Still, life goes on – until the circus  begins to lose money and the animals are sold off. This is perhaps the scariest time in our pony’s life, but it results in a reunion with her girl, now all grown up.

This is just a lovely book. Dockray’s illustrations are absolutely gorgeous. I wanted to reach into the book and stroke the pony’s muzzle in the early pages. The circus illustrations are particularly vibrant, the ones of the circus’s dissolution still beautiful but tinged with despair. The story is incredibly sweet as well. The pony knows love and won’t give up on it, but also makes the best of the situation at hand. Her reunion with her long-lost girl makes me go “awww.”

My only real problem with The Lost and Found Pony – which is not a fault of the book itself, but evidence of a slight mismatch between the book and my family – is the fact that it is far too long for even my book-obsessed two year old’s attention span. Although I assumed she would be reunited with the girl, I never actually made it all the way through until I reread it prior to writing this review. Still, he enjoys the half or so of the book he’ll sit through, and absolutely adores the pictures (horsey! elephant!).

The Lost and Found Pony will definitely be keeping a place in our permanent collection, so we can continue to revisit it as Daniel grows older and can perhaps even sit through to the ending.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

Source: Review copy
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.
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