Gods and Goddesses in modern fiction

And then I mean other than in stories about wicca or stories that take place in Roman times for example. I really mean modern stories. The past week I’ve spent reading Rick Riordan’s series Heroes of Olympos and the Kane Chronicles. If you are interested in mythology, I really recommend the books! Let me explain a bit more, just to tempt you…
In the Percy Jackson series and the Heroes of Olympos, we meet the children of the Greek gods. Yes, indeed, demigods, similar to Hercules, Jason and Perseus, the great heroes of the past. But didn’t I say modern stories? Well, yes. You see, the gods are powers of the earth, guiding what happens, and they are still here today. They reside where human society is strongest. Accordingly, they have moved from Olympos to America. And, seeing they never change, they continue to get children with mortals. Greek mythology really comes to life, with gods and monsters and supernatural beings still present in today’s world.
Of course, we know this. Gods are omnipresent, not only the Greek ones, interacting, helping and guiding us. This is not always how it happens in Heroes of Olympos. Gods are not all helpful and have agendas of their own. They often, however, need humans to help them.
This is where the Kane Chronicles are similar. Gods need humans, but this time mainly those descended from pharaohs. They are capable of magic, channelling the powers of nature and of the gods. I loved this, undoubtedly, as it comes so close to how I feel about magic! It is different in the book, of course, but it gave me so much inspiration for my own practice, even though I’m not Egypt oriented.
Conclusion: if you like Egyptian and Greek mythology, these volks by Riordan are must reads! I’m looking for more books, however, so if you have any suggestions on fiction where gods and goddesses play a (big) role, I’d like some recommendations!

December Book Tag

The Dutch blog ‘Zon en Maan’ (Sun and Moon) hosts a bookish themed advent calendar throughout December in which I participate. There are several giveaways, which is fun obviously, but there are also activities to be done, and this is the first one.

Now, I am not familiar with these so-called tags. Apparently, they’re just questions centered around a theme or assignments of some sort. This one is centered around the festivities in December, which are not only Yule or Christmas and New Years Eve, but also Saint Nicholas. For us in Holland, it is a month filled with anticipation, especially for those lucky people celebrating with presents both at Saint Nicholas and Christmas. Anyway, the December book tag consists of several questions, so let me answer them!

– What book(s) will you read during the Christmas break?
Well, let me see. There is a classic Dutch novel that was distributed in libraries during November, about a boy who steps into a painting into the insect world, which I still have to read. In order to complete the afficionada level I signed up for with the Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge, I still need to read at least one and preferably 2 books. I’m planning to reread the original Jane Austen novel and perhaps Death comes to Pemberly. It’s good I have enough time to spare, because I also won Teardrop through a Goodreads giveaway and that is also still on my to-read list.

– Which book do you hope to find under the Christmas tree?
Wow, there are so many books I would like to have! But one that I put on my wish list is Keri Smith’s Wreck this journal, which I’ve seen at a friends and which is both hilarious and creative.

– The best book to give as a present at Christmas?
That depends on the person it is intended for, obviously. But since I read it not too long ago and believe everyone should, I’d say PS I love you by Cecelia Ahern. Sad at the beginning, but really a story about life and continuing life. Just what you’d want with Christmas!

– The best book-made-into-film to watch during Christmas? 
Now that’s an easy question. It is a family tradition to watch A Christmas Carol, several times actually, leading up to Christmas. There are dozens of films based on this book, but I know it’s not the Muppet version, nor the Disney version. It’s actually a musical version with Albert Finney as Scrooge (which is the title of the movie). I just love the feeling of Christmas both the story and the songs (which, after years of seeing it, I know by heart).

– Which author would you like to join at Christmas dinner?
That would have to be either J.K. Rowling or Raymond E. Feist. They have both created magical worlds that I love, and I would like to know more about it and about how they came up with it (or how it came to them, how should I know how a writer’s mind works).

– Which book can bring you into the holiday spirit best?
All books that are about Christmas and are somewhat positive can get me in a festive mood. A Christmas Carol definitely, but the description of Christmas in Harry Potter also gives me a warm feeling.

– If you were to give one book to all the people in the world, which one would it be?
Is there one book that would inspire everyone, that would unite peoples and make wars something of the past? No, probably not, because people are so different. But what I loved to read was a book unfortunately not available in any language other than Dutch: Children of Mother Earth (Kinderen van Moeder Aarde) by Thea Beckman. It takes place a couple of centuries after WW3, and depicts a land where the Earth is revered and people work together on everything. Until, of course, a group of people remembering the legacy of warfare discovers this land. In my opinion, it shows a utopia that might be one day, which is why it would be my gift for the world.

– And finally: a wish for the readers of your blog  

I hope you all find a way to deal with whatever might be going on in your life, living it to the full, and accomplishing what you set out for!

Mr Darcy’s Diary (P&P challenge #6)

Pamela Aidan is not the only author intrigued with what Mr Darcy actually does and feels during the events described in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. She has written a great series on ‘Fitzwilliam Darcy, gentleman’, which I have reviewed earlier in the course of the Bicentenary Challenge. Amanda Grange has attempted the same in ‘Mr Darcy’s diary‘, using a very different format.

Diaries usually reveal a person’s innermost feelings (which is probably why others are usually not allowed to read them). It is a format of writing that thus allows for much depth, more about emotion and interpretation than about factual accounts of a story. In my opinion, this is precisely what Grange has not managed to do. Yes, the diary also relates to periods that are not described in the original novel, but that is fairly limited. Naturally, her story follows the line of Pride and Prejudice, using literal excerpts from the novel, but it remains mainly a factual account. You would expect to get to know Darcy better, crawl into his head and heart and learn what he thinks and feels about the events that take place. Sadly, the character of Darcy remains quite flat 😦

Perhaps I was biased because I read Aidan’s series first. Scanning Goodreads reviews, I found many people comparing the two authors and finding Grange’s version lacking, while those who haven’t read the trilogy yet are fairly positive. I can only join the critics in this case, even though the two books have a very different format. Where Pamela Aidan has succeeded in giving insight into Darcy’s life apart from his time at Netherfield, his feelings and thoughts, Amanda Grange has not or only fairly limited. Does that mean I disliked reading it? No, but had I read it first, I would have enjoyed it better. On the other hand, like one of the reviewers on Goodreads also said, it is a very different format, and perhaps was written with different intentions. It is not a stand alone book, but has to accompany the original novel. Perhaps that is the best conclusion.

What happened after the wedding? (P&P challenge #5)

Yes, it has been a while ago! Perhaps I need to find another incentive to blog daily or every other day, like I had when participating in the blogalong. But, today I want to report on another challenge that I’m participating in, namely the Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge. Remember? 2013 marks the 200 year anniversary of Pride and Prejudice, one of Jane Austen‘s most beloved novels (in my opinion, then). Laurel Ann from Austenprose hosts this challenge, and I have committed to the Afficionada level, meaning to read, listen to or watch 9 to 12 Pride and Prejudice related books, series or movies. So far, I’ve done 8 (counting the trilogy by Pamela Aidan as 1), but I have not posted a blog about some of them yet (shame on me). I have reviewed them on Goodreads, though, so it will be a somewhat easy transfer.

We all know that Darcy and Elizabeth are getting married. And, so we like to believe, they live happily ever after, as do Jane and Bingley of course. But Linda Berdoll, with her book ‘Mr Darcy takes a wife’, paints quite a different picture. She vividly paints the circumstances and practices of the time, using a writing style reminiscent of Austen. Content-wise… not so much. Where the original Pride and Prejudice focuses on restrictions and limited physical contact, this novel appears to turn that around. Meet Mr Darcy as an old-fashioned Christian Grey. Admittedly, at times that was enjoyable (hey, what did you expect, Darcy can melt anyone… especially like that :P), but it became a bit vulgar as it continued.

For both the Bennet sisters, it isn’t all marital bliss. Babies and pregnancy can bring all sorts of problems, let alone what advice from their beloved mother or loose sister could do to a happily married couple. Most characters are given quite some depth in the novel, though in a much more explicit way than in the original story. Georgiana gave me quite a surprise, as I believed her to be a shy girl (which indeed she is at the beginning). But I won’t spoil too much for those of you who long to read it yourself. My verdict: certainly entertaining, but I probably won’t read it again.

This week, expect my reviews of Mr Darcy’s Diary and Bridget Jones’s Diary, both journals, but completely different. And what else I might read I still don’t know, I have a plethora of novels on my e-reader in various genres 🙂

“Song of the earth” book review

Het lied van de aardeSong of the Earth (Het lied van de aarde) by Flemish writer Anne-Marie T’sas (unfortunately only available in Dutch) tells the story of a young theologist, Myra, going to a symposium about christianity and holistic spirituality, but finding nobody when she arrives at the castle the symposium is supposedly held. Curious, she enters the building on her own and finds that, somehow, she does learn about experiencing energies and how she might relate that to the christian religion.

I found the writing style not quite to my taste, it was a bit to much turned inward and.. vague. Normally I enjoy magical realism, but the style did’t quite allow that. But the subjects, wow! I can imagine Myra struggling to combine them with her western spirituality. The existence of chakras and auras, working with the energy for holistic healing and divination, the power of the earth and of rocks as energetic things (for a loss of a better word), even energetic beings. Realizing that even our thoughts and feelings carry energy and can transform the world. It resonated greatly with me. I believe everything is energy, including simple mass. The gods and goddesses are manifestations of specific energies, with which they are often associated (Freya as a goddess of love, for example, and Mars of war). God, the christian God, that is, is associated with unconditional love here. When we practice magic, it works because our intentions and emotions are energy, they carry power. This is also why you might get a different result than what you anticipated if you perform magic angry.

It really is a pity the book is only available in Dutch. With the things Myra goes through, you can nearly imagine it to be an initiation, a shamanic way of learning by experience as I’ve also come across in some books about druidry and shamans. Some things I might adapt to use myself… For one thing, I’ve enrolled myself for the crash chakra e-course from About.com, to start learning more about this from of energy. I’m looking forward to it!

Jean M. Auel – Earth’s Children series

Did you have those books your mom or dad used to read, and you’d love to read them too but weren’t allowed to? With the Earth’s Children series, my mother used to tell me “you can read them when you’re eighteen”. I’m twenty-two now, so I took the Clan of the Cave Bear, got comfy in a corner of the couch and finally started reading a series I’ve wanted to read since I was twelve.

Cover of "The Clan of the Cave Bear"

Cover of The Clan of the Cave Bear

The enjoyment my mother had reading the books was always very obvious, and reviews of the first installment of the series were very positive. After reading it, I understand why. It’s so easy to feel for Ayla, who is close to modern humans, but lives with a Neanderthal Clan. Not that she minds! She doesn’t know any better, and enjoys her time with the Clan, but wants to do things the traditions of the Clan do not allow. Jean M. Auel, the author, is brilliant in the way she describes the way of the Clan, including the spiritual tradition. She has done quite extensive research on Neanderthals in Europe, and it shows. Naturally, the novel is romanticized and a figment of fantasy, but there are many things that seem to be possible. The different build of the Neanderthal race is obvious, but Auel has searched for possible reasons for the different body. We are a people who look ahead, who can imagine new tools and ways and act on that, but the Neanderthals, so Auel fantasizes, were a people to look back. They have the power of remembrance, up to the very beginning of the species and to the knowledge of all the ancestors. This is the reason their head is so oddly shaped: they have developed a different part of their brain! Unfortunately, they are not able to speak with words, but they have developed a gestural language that is as eloquent as spoken language. Very well thought of, indeed. Another ‘scientific’ find in the books is the occurrence of children with mixed spirits. At the time Auel wrote this, is was though impossible, but more recently, scientists have found skeletons with a structure that suggests she might have been right!

Curiously enough, the hierarchy in the Clan is somewhat similar to ours in the past: men provide food, women care for children and the house (though the Clan don’t really have houses). They have different roles, and women have to obey the men, but that’s how it has always been. Men make contact with the spirit world, a world of animal totems or, even older, a world of elements. When I first read it, I had to think of indians and animal spirits that guide them. The ‘new’ people have a very different belief system and a very different social structure. Men and women are equal for one, and both can access the spirit world, though they don’t like it. They believe in a mother Goddess, Mother Earth, and all life that sprang from her womb. This belief is similar to what some modern day pagans hold to, and the mother statues are used more often again. It must feel very soothing to have a great Mother looking out for you, protecting you. I can definitely relate to that.

As for the story itself, it is basically a tale to show the way of life during the Ice Age. As Jondalar (the man Ayla loves desperately) and she travel to Jondalar’s home land, we come across several different people with different traditions. To me, it feels as though we are travelling through time, especially as Jondalar and Ayla make amazing discoveries and inventions. It feels as though Auel accounts of several hundreds of years of human evolution in just a few years. The romance and the way Ayla (and we with her) learns new things does keep me captivated for the full 6 books of the series (approximately 600 pages each).

Are there reasons not to read the book? As a pagan, I think you should read it, no matter what, at least the first book. The amount of pages might frighten you, and even more now I tell you that the story could be told in way less pages. There is a LOT of repetition in the series. And a lot of repetition of ‘Pleasures’ as well, to honour the Mother. Yes, ‘Pleasures’ are exactly what you think they are, it’s like reading Fifty Shades of Grey at times, but without the Dom-Sub thing. So there are reasons not to read the book, but waaaaaay more to do.

Have you ever read the books? What did you think?

The other way around (P&P challenge #4)

Chances are you’ve had to read literature in your mother-tongue and perhaps in a second and/or third language (Dutch and English in my case). Perhaps you recall not liking the books, because they were forced on you. Lucky for me, most of the times I liked the books I had to read or chose to put on my reading list. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen) was one of my favourites and it still is. I reread it at least once every year. As 2013 marks the 200th anniversary of the novel, I have entered the Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge hosted by Austenprose. My goal is to read or watch 12 P&P inspired books and movies. So far I’ve seen the 2005 movie with Keira Knightley, the BBC series with Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth (with the famous wet shirt scene) and the spin-off Lost in Austen, which was incredibly funny. I’ve also followed Lizzie Bennet, the protagonist of the story, in her YouTube vlog ‘The Lizzie Bennet Diaries‘. Yes, Lizzie Bennet knows how to use the computer and social media!

But, finally, I’ve also read some books! A trilogy, to be precise, by Pamela Aidan. Going by the name ‘Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman‘, the trilogy gives unbiased view on Mr Darcy, quite unlike Elizabeth Bennet gives us. We get an insight into his character and his reasoning, and we even get to know what Darcy is doing when he is away from Netherfield (remember, he convinced his best friend Bingley to stop his courting of Lizzie’s sister Jane). Many things we never would have given much thought. But then, we only know the story written from Lizzie’s point of view…

Pamela Aidan has done an amazing job in telling the story the other way around. Darcy sees an intelligent young woman with a pair of fine, sparkling eyes and the wit and courage to oppose him. He is attracted to her, and the playfulness she displays indicated she might feel something similar. After all, he is a very eligible bachelor with his 10,000 per annum, and he’s at an age he really should be looking to settle. Prejudice all over again, because we know what Elizabeth thinks. Darcy is the most disagreeable man ever to live, is proud and conceited, and most importantly, he has destroyed the happiness of Jane by talking Bingley into leaving her. No wonder she rejected him when he asked her to marry, perceiving him so, but Darcy was caught by surprise. We accompany Darcy as he tries to regain his composure (I don’t want to give away too much about this, as it is not told in the original novel… Get the books and read it for yourself) and comes to terms with his rejection. He begins to recognize how his pride has hindered him and reflects on what he has done to truly deserve the answers Elizabeth has given him. His sister Georgiana, whom we read little about in Pride and Prejudice, also plays a role in Darcy’s change from proud to likable. We all know how it ends. Darcy has developed, his character has changed and he tries to make amends. With success, lucky for us, faithful readers. I’m happy every time when they finally do get together 😀

An assembly such as thisApart from narrating the well known story from a completely different point of view, the author has succeeded in keeping the trilogy close to the original novel in style and character. The political ideas of the time are apparent in the trilogy, more than in Pride and Prejudice, and the intercourse between people is consequently quite formal. Darcy’s pride and prejudice play a major role (which we already knew), and the way he realizes he has (had) these flaws and tries to deal with this is the strongest part of the series. I rated the books either 3 or 4 stars out of five, because, unfortunately, the books did get boring at times. Nevertheless, if you enjoyed Pride and Prejudice as I have, be sure to read the story the other way around and get ‘An assembly such as this’ to start with!

Lizzie Bennet Diaries (P&P challenge #3)

Do you ever find it difficult to consistently keep a journal, a blog, keep in touch with people you contact through fora and what more? I know I do. I have a wondrous collection of journals from when I was younger, containing fragments of my life. I could write every day for months and then forget about it for weeks. Not because I didn’t want to, but because I didn’t have the time or was too tired. Checking them, it is wonderful reading what I was concerned about back then. The earliest journal I kept started just after my birthday in 2003, when I turned 12. I wrote in a letter format, which I recall was inspired by the journals of Anne Frank. My journal therefore always had a name, which evolved as I befriended other people (I usually used a combined name of best friends). Today is the first time in years I have taken the journals out… I remembered so many things I’d forgotten, reading everything. I plan to start again!

Diaries are great ways to express yourself, and they are often used in novels. Sue Townsend for example has written an entire series about Adrian Mole using diary format. In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Tom Riddle has contained his 16-year-old self in a diary, making it a key element of the book.

Diaries do not play a role in Pride and Prejudice, yet a wondrous modern adaptation of the book has been produced on YouTube called the Lizzie Bennet Diaries. If you liked P&P, you ought to watch it. There are 100 episodes of this video blog in total and it follows the essentials of the novel very well. There is the mother wanting the daughters to get married, the handsome Bing Lee who is new to town but suddenly leaves, leaving the caring Jane heartbroken. Haughty Darcy, the owner of Pemberly Digital gets off on the wrong foot with Lizzie and resents her friendship with Wickham (obviously). Lydia is even worse than she seems in the novel. Even Mary and Kitty, who are less important in the novel, play a role in the vlog (though Kitty is merely the kitten).

In my opinion, the series really adds to the novel, creating a depth of character that I miss in the original. The cast is great and portrays the characters really well. Apart from Darcy and Lizzie, who are quite well portrayed in the book, the other characters remain quite shallow. Well, that changes with the Lizzie Bennet Diaries, definitely. In addition, this production doesn’t stick to merely Lizzie’s vlog. It has created additional video blogs for Lydia and Pemberly Digital for example, several twitter and facebook accounts and more, encouraging fans to interact with the characters. It is in short the best adaptation of Pride and Prejudice I have seen so far!

If you haven’t seen it yet, go and check it out, because you really can’t miss it! If you want to read some more first, check out the intro to the Lizzie Bennet Diaries at Austenprose.

Lost in Austen (P&P challenge #2)

When I was younger, I read everything I could get my hands on. Books about adventures in the Amazone, stories about ordinary girls such as myself enjoying every day, drama in long gone times and adventures set in a fantasy world very unlike our own. As every young reader does, I imagined myself to be the main character, living through all the exitement, picturing myself in the world described by books. I would wear gorgeous, long dresses in period drama, be running around the forest in little more than a twig-and-leaf bikini or have pointy ears when being an elf.

As I turned older, I got my own bookshelves. I stacked them with all the books I loved so much. The hanging bookshelves were positioned in a triangle next to my bed, the middle one the highest, so I could sit in bed with my back against the wall, reading while surrounded by books. That is when my imagination concerning the world of books began to change. I had always pictured myself as the main character, the heroine. Now I began imagining simply living in the same world. In my dreams, I could see a hidden doorway beneath the triangle of bookshelves. Passing it, I would enter whatever world belonged to the book I was reading at the time.

It was a lovely time, my childhood, and I had quite forgotten I used to imagine this, until I watched ‘Lost in Austen‘ for the Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge. Miss Amanda Price gets to do what I always imagined: she gets to step into the world of her favourite book, somewhat exchanging places with the main character. She is awed and very exited. I can imagine she might have had the same childhood ideas and fantasies, that have now become a reality. Amanda screws up, naturally, for she only knows the novel and barely anything of life 200 years ago. Unlike my completely appropriate behaviour when I entered the world of books, Amanda fails to conform to the norms and standards of the time. Instead of running its natural course, her entering the world alters the so beloved story of Pride and Prejudice.

The first episode I have watched with my hands before my eyes, feeling somewhat ashamed of the odd behaviour Amanda displays. After that I was quite able to follow the storyline. What an exaggeration of characters, that are already quite stereotyped in the novel. Mrs. Bennet is more fussy about her daughters getting married, Mr. Bennet vexes his wife even more than becomes apparent in the novel. Mr Collins is ghastly, horrible, despicable… mainly EW, that’s the best word to describe him.

Lost in Austen really is a very funny story, with exaggerated characters and very inappropriate behaviour by Amanda. Flirting with the BBC’s 1995 adaptation, we even get a wet Mr Darcy, which doesn’t make sense in the story at all. Miss Bingley, who would have imagined, turns out to be a lesbian, and Georgiana not quite so innocent as we have always believed her to be. The whole adaptation is a great parody on the story we all know so well, beautifully pictured and acted. And another bonus: I think it contained the most attractive Mr. Darcy I have seen thus far 😉 Yes, drool time, definitely!


Further reading

Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge 2013

The Pride Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge (2013)With the 200th anniversary of Pride and Prejudice, it is a great time to read the book again, watch the movies, read spin-offs etc. in honour of this great novel! Austenprose hosts the Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge 2013, with the purpose of letting people discover P&P once again. 

I have committed myself to reading or watching 9 books/movies at least, so the Aficionada level. I don’t have a planning, nor do I know exactly what I will read yet. Here a selection of books/movies I know already I want to read or watch:

Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
Pride and Prejudice (1995) – BBC series (I have already seen this in January)
Pride and Prejudice (2005) – movie
Lizzie Bennet Diaries
Lost in Austen – BBC miniseries

 

In addition there will be at least 4 more books, but as I don’t know the possibilities yet, I will roam around to find these 4! If you have any suggestions, please let me know!