Review: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

 

Title: The Song of Achilles

Author: Madeline Miller

Publisher: Ecco

ISBN: 978-0062060617

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the kingdom of Phthia. Here he is just another unwanted boy living in the shadow of King Peleus and his golden son, Achilles. Yet one day, Achilles takes the shamed prince under his wing. As they grow into young men their bond blossoms into something far deeper – despite the displeasure of Achilles’s mother. When word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, the men of Greece are called upon to lay siege to Troy in her name. Seduced by the promise of a glorious destiny, Achilles joins their cause. Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus follows Achilles into war, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they have learned.

Review:

February was an exciting month for me, book-wise.  Why, you ask? Because I discovered three Holy Crap This is a Good Book books.  Yes, this coveted designation, so carefully thought out, was awarded to three different reads.  Deadly by Julie Chibbaro, Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood, and the last book I started in the month of love, The Song of Achilles.  It’s appropriate that I stumbled on this title in February, because it is all about love – love for friends, love for self, love for that one, true soul mate.  How love changes, and how it brings out the best, and the worst, in two extremely different men.

I have loved The Iliad and The Odyssey since I was in elementary school.  Learning about Ancient Greece started a lifelong fascination for cultures, both ancient and modern, and opened up a whole new world for me: I discovered how much fun independent study can be.  I spent hours in the library, reading about the Greek gods and goddesses, about ancient Greek heroes, and how they lived, and about how they died.  Reading a re-imagined siege of Troy now that I’m an adult gave me a sense of awe – Homer’s stories survived thousands of years after his death, and have entertained generations of people.  These characters are truly immortal, and because of their strengths and flaws, they have become the definition of heroes.  What a legacy Homer created for himself.

The Song of Achilles is the story of Patroclus and Achilles, rendered in beautiful prose that enchants and engages.  It was hard to step away from the story, as both characters grew in depth and complexity.  I came to love Patroclus, and to see him for what he was destined to be.  As one adventure rolled into another, he gained wisdom and compassion. As his love for Achilles swelled out of control, too much for him to keep contained and hidden within his heart, he became more dear to me.  How could he dare to love this prince, destined to be the greatest hero the Greeks had ever known, and not be destroyed by the turmoil threatening their relationship?  Just knowing that Achilles’ mother was so disapproving of him  should have ended the relationship before it ever began, but nothing could come between them.  This is a love story for the ages.  Nothing could drive them apart; not gods or war or those ugly, bitter flaws that lie hidden in all of us.

I was afraid, as I read this book, and as the tide of fate marched Achilles and Patroclus closer and closer to Troy, that there would be no sense of suspense.  That it would get boring.  That the war would fail to engage my interest.    I have read The Iliad many times, and I was fearful that knowing the story, I would not be as interested in the ending.  That proved to be a groundless fear, because as Achilles and Patroclus starting making decisions that I knew would have huge and disastrous outcomes, I was even more wrapped up in the plot.  OMG! I kept thinking.  Don’t do that!  Stop! Stop! Stop!!  By knowing the story, it made the final moments of the war, the tragedy of Achilles’ pride and Patroculs’ love for his fellow soldiers, even more upsetting. 

I loved this book.  It’s exciting, larger than life, and features a love story that will not die.   It’s also the story of rage and ego, and how an inflated sense of self-worth can tear the world apart.  Highly recommended.

Grade: A

Review copy provided by publisher

 

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Review: North of Need by Laura Kaye

 

 

Title: North of Need

Author: Laura Kaye

Publisher: Entangled Publishing

ISBN: B0061EOBK4

   

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

While attempting to escape the agonizing memories she associates with Christmas, twenty-nine-year-old widow Megan Snow builds a snow family outside the mountain cabin she once shared with her husband–and collapses in tears against the snowman at the sight of what she’ll never have.

Called to life by the power of Megan’s tears, snow god Owen Winters appears unconscious on her doorstep in the midst of a raging blizzard. As she nurses him to health, Owen finds unexpected solace in her company and unimagined pleasure in the warmth of her body, and vows to win her heart for a chance at humanity.

Megan is drawn to Owen’s mismatched eyes, otherworldly masculinity, and enthusiasm for the littlest things, and her heart opens enough to believe he’s a Christmas miracle. But this miracle comes with an expiration–before the snow melts and the temperature rises, Megan must let go of her widow’s grief and learn to trust love again, or she’ll lose Owen forever."

West of Want coming Spring 2012; South of Surrender coming Summer 2012; East of Ecstasy coming Fall 2012

Review:

When I started reading North of Need, I was instantly intrigued.  The hero, a god of winter, is a snowman brought to life by the heroine’s tears of grief.  I had to read this!  I don’t think I’ve read a book about a snowman coming to life.  It made me wonder what Frosty would look like if he took the guise of a human.  Armed with the knowledge of Frosty’s fate, I was even more interested to see how the author handled the life cycle of a snowman.  Winter doesn’t last forever, so there would be more tears somewhere down the line.  How everything worked out after that also had my interest piqued.

I loved the start of this novel.  Megan is hiding away from the world, still grieving for her husband, who died two years before.  On Christmas Day, of all horrible things!  Megan feels guilty for John’s death, and she just can’t forgive herself.  She is stuck in a cycle of grief that silently eats away at her, worrying her family and her friends.

Alone in their cabin retreat, Megan is ready for another year of unhappiness without her beloved John.  He was her sun and stars, and without him, she doesn’t feel complete.  She can’t imagine feeling that much love for another, nor can she contemplate suffering another loss.  Once is enough, and Megan is resigned to living a lifetime alone, mourning for something that she can’t trust herself to have again.

After making a family of snowmen in the yard during a freak blizzard, she is shocked by the arrival of a half-naked, very sexy man.  Owen desperately needs her help, and even if he is a stranger, Megan can’t just leave him outside in the freezing cold.  What she doesn’t know is that Owen is an Anemoi, a weather god.  He is a god of snow, and he has come to help Megan move on with her life on behalf of John.  If Owen can earn Megan’s love, he can also become mortal, giving up his centuries’ long existence.  Orphaned at a young age and then betrayed by love, Owen needs just as much healing as Megan.

I loved the beginning of the book.  I even enjoyed the end of North of Need.  It’s the middle that didn’t live up to my expectations.  While I love the premise, I had a difficult time staying engaged in the story.  There wasn’t enough conflict between Megan and Owen, which left my attention wandering.  They are such nice people, almost without flaws, and that left them boring and one-dimensional.  Their perfection didn’t keep me riveted to the pages.  They get along almost from the moment that they meet, and fall instantly and deeply in love.  There wasn’t much soul searching until the end, and instead there was eating, romping in bed, eating, romping in the snow, and more eating.   It wasn’t until near the conclusion, when Megan’s fear and distrust almost causes a disaster, that I felt caught up in the plot again. 

North of Need is a pleasant read about two pleasant people.  The love scenes are smoking hot, but there is a lack of tension during the middle that send my mind wandering away from the story.  Even though North of Need fell a little short of my expectations, I am looking forward to seeing where the series goes with the next book in the series, West of Want.

Grade: C+

Review copy provided by publisher

The BLI Holiday Reading Challenge