Monday, January 31, 2011

Review of Beowulf

Blood, guts, destruction, bravery and all glory and honor to God Almighty, lumped into one little package! My daughter and I loved Beowulf by Michael Murporgo which is actually a retelling of the classic epic poem in a children's book format, complete with full color illustrations.

If you're not familiar with the story, it's told in three parts: Beowulf, a mighty hero, is called in to save the day. An evil fiend had been brutally terrorizing folks in a mead hall in a nearby kingdom. What's a "mead-hall?" It's something like a local pub where citizens get together and have a pint or two and talk about the good ol' days. Beowulf kills the creature Grendel, barehanded. But before the victory gets back into full swing again at the mead-hall, trouble brews once more out on the moors. Evidently, Grendel, the defeated foul foe, had a mother and now Beowulf's got to get rid of her as well. She is sea hag-like and just as wicked as junior. Beowulf goes to her evil under water lair, which is guarded by several diabolical sea-serpents and brutally cleans Grendel's mother's clock with a mighty sword. In the third act, Beowulf has gone back to his homeland a hero and becomes king after the passing of his father. Years later a vicious dragon is awakened after someone does something really stupid, (*warning: never steal gold from a sleeping dragon) and Beowulf must save his own people from the dragon's venomous fire. I won't tell you the outcome but it's extraordinarily exciting!

The illustrations in this children's story book are as brutal as the descriptive language which make it all the better! No watered-down "Walt Disney-ish" reprogramming here, so reader beware! Beowulf, is a true hero who actually fights and kills monsters with his bare hands and it ain't pretty...But it's good!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Review of The Well at the World's End: a tale

Messeemeth as though William Morris' The well at the world's end, a tale may be one of those books one might either loveth or hateth. I, loved it! Although it is hard not to like a book which has a character named "Gandolf" and which predates Tolkien's work by close to 100 years! The book is also chock full of archaic expressions, i.e. forsooth, meseems, betwixt, etc. If reading such fanciful language is a turn off to you, run far, far away, and very fast. Actually, even if you are into it, digesting those old words takes a while to get used to but that's part of the charm. Besides, the book is so long, (more about that in a bit), those words will soon begin to seem like old hat. What's it about? Here's the plot: Young knight goes in search of adventure far from home, encounters lots of dangers in a variety of perilous woods, (a lot of talk about a group called "The Men of the Dry Tree"....I never quite figured it out), meets the love of his life, she's murdered, he seeks revenge (sort of), becomes very sad, falls in love again, the two are married, they continue their quest which is to drink from the WELL a the WORLD'S END. (It's all part of the plan, you see). They do and come back and the Shire ain't what it used to be, (whoops, wrong story)...Anyway, you get the point. On their way back home, after drinking from the WELL at the WORLD'S END, Ralph of Upmeads, (our brave young hero), and the dainty Ursala, conquer all their enemies. She and he are crowned the new queen and king and live happily every after. A simple tale, right? Yes! but Morris took his time spelling out the details. I can see the length of a book like this turning some people off. But the glory of it is in the telling of the tale. And "glory" forsooth! 119 chapters and 800 pages. Forsooth, indeed!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Hunger Games Book Review

I'm generally a fan of dystopic and post apocalyptic novels so I was intrigued when I heard of this story of a teenage girl living in a futuristic North America under tyrannical rule who gets put into a tight jam with difficult choices to make. But as soon as I finished the last page of The Hunger Games: Book 1 by Suzanne Collins, I immediately had to turn to William Morris' The well at the world's end, a tale in order to cleanse myself of such defilement! I admit however the action in the "arena" was quite intense and kept me glued to my Kindle. However,the whole "makeup" scenes with flames painted on her fingernails, and the kissing scenes with the "bread boy" etc. were just "icky!" (Maybe, I've just forgotten what it was like to be a teenager). There were several places I would consider "page turners" but by the end, I was ultimately disappointed. The characters were like cardboard cut-outs to me and I felt zero emotion for them. No, I cannot understand the popularity. Harry Potter, where are you when we need you? I think I'll wait for the movie in order to find out what happens, rather than read the next two volumes.