Review: Bull

Bull by David Elliott

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**Thank you to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children’s Book Group for providing me a digital ARC of this novel via Netgalley for the purpose of review**

I can see why the publisher chose to reference Hamilton in their jacket blurb for this novel.

It’s hip! The kids (and the rest of the world) love it! It’s got sick rhymes!

Yeah, okay, look: just because something is written in rhyming verse and with non-archaic language while dealing with a subject of the past does not make it like Hamilton. But now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, Bull really is an absolute delight to read.

If you’re like me and overly-familiar with Classical myth, then you not only know the myth of the Minotaur, but you also know pretty much all the personalities of the players involved. Nowadays, it’s fun to look at these extreme personalities — from Poseidon to Minos to Theseus and Ariadne — and poke a little fun at them. As satire, Bull hits the nail on the head at telling the story, but eviscerating the people involved. And yet it’s all in good fun.

As poetry, the rhymes of Bull are impressive, though I will admit that some of the narrative voices of the various players all blend together it you’re not paying too close attention while you read. But beyond that, I can see this appealing to a wide range of readers: from mythophiles like myself to people who like seeing old stories told in new ways — and it’s even better if you’re just looking for a good laugh.

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Review: Good Morning, Midnight

Good Morning, Midnight
Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a beautiful book — and all the credit for me even knowing anything about it goes to my friend Rebecca Kordesh. She sent me scattered passages from this book and I fell in love with the language; it’s meter, it’s cadence, and it’s surprising gentleness.

Gentleness isn’t something I usually notice when it comes to writing, and despite some of the intensely emotional moments, Ms. Brooks-Dalton writes such lush description and emotional depth without become heavy-handed.

When I read this book, I was reminded of the brilliant Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, a book which surprised and enthralled me in its quietness and its brilliance. Good Morning, Midnight is similar only in that it too seeks to examine the human condition, especially in isolation, while also discovering the surprising connections between the most disparate of people — whether it be by location, age, religion, race, sex…any of it. In the end, there always seems to be the tiniest and most delicate of threads of connective tissue, and it’s absolutely beautiful.

This is not a fast book, this is not a loud book. It is quiet, it is slow; but it knows what it’s doing. It leaves you with questions while challenging you to think and meditate on some of the greatest and most mysterious philosophical questions you can, especially when you must turn those questions upon yourself.

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Review: The Black Country

The Black Country
The Black Country by Alex Grecian
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Very much like The Yard, Grecian’s follow-up novel in his London Murder Squad series uses his historical backdrop as a way to write an engaging mystery. Where last time he made use of the birth of forensic science in the wake of Jack the Ripper, here me makes use of the fear initially stirred up by “King Cholera.” A quick little brush up on that moniker: a major outbreak of cholera hit London in 1832 where, in that city alone, it claimed over 6500 victims (and around 55,000 across the UK), which is where the disease earned its name.

In the case of this novel, it’s not cholera — revealing which epidemic in particular is major spoilers, so you’ll just have to read to find out — but the way in which the story unfolds around this disease has the same feel, even if it is taking place in a small town versus London prosper.

I think readers will find the “mystery reveal” a little more twisted than the first, but still interesting from a psychological standpoint. Like the previous novel, the treatment of children in this Victorian society is a focus, and I hope that it continues to weave its way as a kind of pervasive series theme through the rest of the books. Perhaps it is because violence around children is considered all the more horrific; violence done by children all the more disturbing; violence to children all the more tragic.

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