Tuesday, April 06, 2021

Go the Distance

Calonita, Jen. Go the Distance (A Twisted Tale, #11)
April 6th 2021 by Disney-Hyperion
E ARC Provided by Edelweiss Plus
Megara had a hard life before she ever met Hercules. Her mother, Thea, had to raise her alone after her father abruptly left, and a woman alone in Ancient Greece had to face many obstacles. She did instill the love of music in her daughter, and Megara actually met her boyfriend, Aegeus, while playing the flute. When he was in danger, she traded her soul to Hades in exchange for his life, and that is her situation when she meets Hercules. When this story starts, Hercules has completed his labors and has returned to Mt. Olympus, so will be leaving Megara behind. When Meg complains, Hera offers her a bargain-- if she can complete a quest, she can join Hercules. The first part of this is to retrieve Athena's aulos (flute), which involves riding Pegasus to Koufonisa and fighting the vampire-like empousas! After that, you'd think it would get easier, but Athena then wants her to go to the Underworld and retrieve a recently lost soul. It's not just any lost soul, but the one belonging to Aegeus' wife, Katerina. Meg decides that it would be helpful to get assistance from the satyr, Phil, and soon the two travel to Athens to try to get more information about Katerina from Aegeus. Meg is especially bitter, since Hades shows Aegeus meeting and marrying Katerina in a week after Meg left, but this was not the case. Aegeus admits that he spent two years searching for Meg before giving up. He and Katerina have a baby daughter, Cassia, whom Phil babysits, and soon Meg is off to the Underworld. At the beginning of her quest, Hercules gave Meg an orchid she could use three times to get help from him, but she eventually gets angry and refuses to use it when she feels that Hercules doubts her ability to succeed on her own. Despite having to battle the Stymphalian birds, deal with Charon and Cerberus, and deal with ghosts from her own past, will Meg be able to locate Katerina, bring her back to Aegeus, and ascend to be with Hercules on Mt. Olympus?
Strengths: This is a solid quest tale that weaves in details about Greek mythology while channeling my favorite Disney movie. There's just enough of the romance with Hercules to make us understand why she is willing to go on the quest, and just enough productive angst as she works through what happened with Aegeus to make her grow a little bit and (it's not a spoiler if the cover TELLS us she becomes a god!) learn some of the compassion she needs to become the goddess of vulnerability. There's plenty of action and adventure-- I do not every want to meet up with the Stymphalian birds OR any empousas! The subplot with Hades and Persephone makes a lot of readers happy, and was quite well done, but that relationship ship always struck me as a little creepy and Daddy-Long-Legs-ish, so isn't my favorite. I have somehow missed this Twisted Tales series. They seem to have some darker, more young adult takes, centering the villains of some of the Disney movies, so definitely something to investigate if you are a big Disney fan!
Weaknesses: N.B. I was a Latin teacher. I get super picky about details, so when Thea was struggling to buy milk for the young Megara, I thought "Only barbarians drank milk!" I did have a very fun flashback to grading the Roman restaurant menus I assigned in 1990, where one student had cornbread with butter on the menu. Uh, no! Super easy mistake to make; in our culture, all young children need milk, but that is not the case around the world or throughout time. Plus, it gives me a chance to once again tell the world that I Was A Latin Teacher.
What I really think: Megara somehow lacks a little of the sass of the movie version, but this was a fun continuation of the story. We do see it show up in her interactions with Hercules, so maybe being away from him makes a difference. The other characters certainly captured the Disney incarnation quite well. I could practically hear James Woods and Danny Devito's voices whenever there was dialog from Hades or Phil! I liked the hint that Phil might need to train Cassia! Greek and Roman myths are really popular in my library, and this is a fun spin on those tales that middle school students should enjoy. 

Am I the only one who has always been bothered by the Disney interpretation of Hera as Hercules' mother. Argh. Alcmene. Alcemene is Hercules' mother. It doesn't make any sense for Hera to be. This is not the fault of Calonita, who is just starting from the Disney perspective. 

Simpson, Dana. Unicorn Famous (Phoebe and her Unicorn #13)
April 6th 2021 by Andrews McMeel Publishing
Copy provided by the publisher

Happy book birthday to the newest adventures of Phoebe Heavenly Nostrils! Always a fun time, this current volume addresses the fact that unicorns have become trendy among humans-- will humans become trendy among unicorns? Well, we aren't as cool, so that will take some doing. Another amusing romp.

From the publisher:
"When your best friend is a unicorn, every day is a stroll down the red carpet. Phoebe Howell’s unicorn BFF, Marigold Heavenly Nostrils, is happy to provide the celebrity treatment—teaching Phoebe fancy new spells, giving her a ride to school so she doesn’t have to ride the bus, and even negotiating with the tooth fairy on her behalf.

But when Phoebe starts noticing that unicorns have become a trendy fashion statement, she doesn’t feel quite so unique. Fortunately, she’s distracted by adventures including a visit to the unicorn community and a trip to the woods to see her friend Dakota receive an unusual honor at the goblin award ceremony. Unicorn Famous is filled with amusing examples of the extraordinary lengths friends will go to make each other feel special."


Ms. Yingling

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