ARC Review | Musings of the Muses – Edited by Heather and S.D. Vassallo


My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ancient Greek tales are dominated by males: male heroes, male motives, male accomplishments and desires. In 2021, the founders of Brigids Gate Press set out to change things up and opened a submission call for new perspectives on these beloved tales: the untold perspectives, the hidden truths of the myths, the silenced voices of time immemorial. The other side of the story.

Musings of the Muses is an anthology of Ancient Greek mythology stories retold from her perspective: The women who were always present but never allowed to speak to history, never allowed to defend their name against the male hero; sentenced to be judged for eternity through the eyes of the patriarchy. Brigids Gate set out to give them their voice.

They succeeded.

Disclaimer: I have a vested interest in this anthology, as my short story “Before Gods” is included in its publication. However, I know a great story (or collection of stories) when I read it and I’m confident that you will find my honest ARC review of Musings of the Muses to be trustworthy and accurate.

There are 65 stories included in Musings. Some are more in the classical style, and some have been reimagined in a modern setting with modern concepts and technology. There is a healthy dose of poetry as well, and a wide range of Greek cast members, from Medusa, to Titans, to Olympians, to Monsters. Charybdis and Scylla even featured in the story “Lover’s Quarrel,” by Georgia Cook, which I found fascinating. I was also delighted to read a clever Hera story in “Respectfully Yours, Bridezilla,” by T.L. Beeding. I’ve always felt Hera’s reasons for hunting down Zeus’ illegitimate children were presented a bit poorly, so I found her story in Musings to be exceptionally creative and satisfying. Another one of my favorites was “Thinking Outside the Box,” by Dominick Cancilla, a parody of the horrors inside Pandora’s box that was delightful and crafty.

As with all anthologies, there were some stories that didn’t connect with me as well as others, but every story delivers compelling characters, well-developed arcs, and a fresh female perspective that is sometimes warm, and sometimes chilling. Heather and Steve at Brigids Gate Press have an eye for great stories, and there are so many assembled here. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed with this purchase.

My one critique is that it isn’t long enough. Which is odd considering there are 65 stories and 422 pages, but there are some personal favorite heroines in Greek mythology which did not have a retelling in this anthology, and that was a bit disappointing. My hope for the future is that Brigids Gate will open a submissions call for a Vol. 2 sometime in the future.

Musings of the Muses is available for Kindle and Paperback on Amazon.

Happy Reading!

~MJ

View all my reviews

Petey says hello!

Review: I’m Not Dying With You Tonight, by Kimberly Jones and Gilly Segal

I was skeptical how good this book might be because one of its coauthors, Kimberly Jones, had a video about racism and social contracts that went pretty viral after the death of George Floyd. Part of me thought this book’s popularity was hype surrounding that.

I was 300% wrong.

This book had me turning the pages as fast as I could from cover to cover. I finished it in 3 hours. While juggling 3 children under 3 years old. There are very few things I can accomplish quite to this degree, but I made this happen because the book was THAT GOOD.

The book follows two highschool girls, Lena and Campbell, through a night that began as a normal highschool football game, and became a nightmare of protests and violence.  Along their journey, they discover their concepts of race aren’t as black and white as they thought.  And of course, they’re two girls in highschool, so amidst all of the chaos, there’s a very realistic naivete about priorities and expectations that are continuously challenged throughout the book.

The vernacular is on point, both in dialogue interactions and the headspace of these girls.  It made me feel like I was really there experiencing all of this with them.  The descriptions are excellent, the pace is fast and engaging, and it’s funny.  Despite the mature themes of this book, the two girls’ interactions, both when they work together and when they clash, are funny.  I don’t remember a time when I felt like laughing and taking to the streets for justice at the same time.  Usually those two don’t mix, but the combination here would not let me put this book down for a second.

I highly recommend reading this book.  You will laugh, get angry, maybe cry, and your beliefs about race will definitely be challenged as you immerse yourself in the headspace of these two girls, one black, one white.  It’s a must read.

It can be ordered from Amazon here. 

 

 

Dialogue Tags and Reading Culture

The greatest literary works are drowning in dialogue tags, but a lot of authors today are ditching them where ever they can. Why? Shouldn’t we follow the example of the greats?

It depends.

To really understand why this norm has changed, you really need to understand the changing culture of reading as a pasttime.

Books written during the literary classic time, such as Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, even JRR Tolkien were often read aloud as a communal past time, making dialogue tags essential for the audience to understand who is speaking in the story. It would be virtually impossible to follow along otherwise, unless the reader was a spot on voice actor.

Now it’s a lot different. With the rise of TV, internet, and video games, reading a book as a group pasttime is a thing of the past. Books are now usually read quietly and alone, which make dialogue tags cumbersome and annoying to the reader when the context explains itself.

Many children’s stories are meant to be read aloud, and younger minds may be challenged to understand how certain written phrases inherently follow a pattern of character interaction. So if you’re a children’s book author, lots of dialogue tags will likely still be an absolute must to include.

For young adult and adult books, however, consider carefully where you use them. If the context makes it clear which character is speaking already, maybe consider leaving them out to keep the story moving at an engaging pace.

%d bloggers like this: