Book Review: Circe by Madeline Miller

Circe

The daring, dazzling and highly anticipated follow-up to the New York Times bestseller The Song of Achilles

One of the Most Anticipated Books of 2018“An epic spanning thousands of years that’s also a keep-you-up-all-night page turner.” – Ann Patchett
In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child–not powerful, like her father, nor viciously alluring like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for companionship, she discovers that she does possess power–the power of witchcraft, which can transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods themselves.Threatened, Zeus banishes her to a deserted island, where she hones her occult craft, tames wild beasts and crosses paths with many of the most famous figures in all of mythology, including the Minotaur, Daedalus and his doomed son Icarus, the murderous Medea, and, of course, wily Odysseus.

But there is danger, too, for a woman who stands alone, and Circe unwittingly draws the wrath of both men and gods, ultimately finding herself pitted against one of the most terrifying and vengeful of the Olympians. To protect what she loves most, Circe must summon all her strength and choose, once and for all, whether she belongs with the gods she is born from, or the mortals she has come to love.

With unforgettably vivid characters, mesmerizing language and page-turning suspense, Circe is a triumph of storytelling, an intoxicating epic of family rivalry, palace intrigue, love and loss, as well as a celebration of indomitable female strength in a man’s world.

Review:
I was so excited when I saw this book — I absolutely love Greek mythology, the Odyssey is one of my favourite books of all time, and I was fascinated to read about Circe, who has only been presented as a minor character in Greek myth.
And I wasn’t disappointed.

 

Miller did an amazing job of bringing this goddess to life, to telling her story in an empowering way, and even to staying true to the myths. I love taking a character from myth or history and presenting them with a backstory and motivations and seeing where that all leads.

 

The book has the richness and history of someone who understands Greek myth–the story is peppered with details that add to this authenticity and enhance its scope. There are some lovely descriptions and writing.

 

But, most of all, there is Circe, the witch from the Odyssey who turns men into swine. We get to understand how she got there, her childhood and history, her point of view of events. We get to see this amazing woman grow and become formidable, all entwined with Classical Greek themes of gods and mortals, fate and choices, and being a hero versus living a long, quiet life.

 

If you love Greek myth or strong heroines, I highly recommend this book.

 

Note: I received a copy of this book on Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Book Review: Freshwater

Freshwater

An extraordinary debut novel, Freshwater explores the surreal experience of having a fractured self. It centers around a young Nigerian woman, Ada, who develops separate selves within her as a result of being born “with one foot on the other side.” Unsettling, heartwrenching, dark, and powerful, Freshwater is a sharp evocation of a rare way of experiencing the world, one that illuminates how we all construct our identities.

Ada begins her life in the south of Nigeria as a troubled baby and a source of deep concern to her family. Her parents, Saul and Saachi, successfully prayed her into existence, but as she grows into a volatile and splintered child, it becomes clear that something went terribly awry. When Ada comes of age and moves to America for college, the group of selves within her grows in power and agency. A traumatic assault leads to a crystallization of her alternate selves: Asụghara and Saint Vincent. As Ada fades into the background of her own mind and these selves–now protective, now hedonistic–move into control, Ada’s life spirals in a dark and dangerous direction.

Narrated by the various selves within Ada and based in the author’s realities, Freshwater dazzles with ferocious energy and serpentine grace, heralding the arrival of a fierce new literary voice.

Review:

 

Freshwater is quite a book. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I picked it up, but it is unlike any other book I have ever read.

 

The story is told mostly from the point of view of the gods in Ada’s head, the ones that she was born with but the gate did not close behind them, leaving Ada with a foot in both worlds. It was fascinating reading Ada’s story from this perspective and this really is an extraordinary way to consider mental illness and how people protect themselves mentally from traumas in their lives. It made Ada an even more powerful character.

 

The writing in Freshwater is beautiful and lovely to read, sometimes harsh, sometimes poetic. Emezi has a way of painting a picture with just a few words and often made me stop to savour her sentences and word choices.

 

I can see how this might not be the book for everyone, but I found it powerful and compelling.

 

Note: I received a Netgalley copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

 

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Book Review: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Little Fires Everywhere

In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned — from the layout of the winding roads, to the colors of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.

Enter Mia Warren — an enigmatic artist and single mother — who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenaged daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.

When old family friends of the Richardsons attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town–and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs.

Review:

Little Fires Everywhere is an interesting book full of dichotomies and symbolism around fires and starting over.

The story is set in the planned, manicured, and carefully regulated community of Shaker Heights where the Richardson family lives. They follow the rules and have a lovely, upper class suburban life, especially the mother, Elena.

Elena rents an apartment she owns to Mia and Pearl — and Mia is Elena’s polar opposite: an artistic, single mom rebel whose possessions fit in her car.

These two families are juxtaposed very well in this book, neither one quite understanding, and are rather suspicious of, the other. It’s easy to be drawn to the bohemian Mia and her carefree ways, though there were times when she annoyed me, especially when it came to her daughter’s needs. On the other hand, Elena was harder to like, but I did feel for her and her self-imposed need to do everything “right.” How each of these women mothers is scrutinized and neither is perfect, though it could be argued they are each doing the best that they can.

This leads the book to exploring nearly every aspect of what makes a mother and how to become a mother — pregnancy, miscarriage and infertility, adoption, abortion, surrogacy, virgin birth, kidnapping, …

Overall, I did enjoy this book, though it is a bit on the slow side, opting more to explore the characters and the themes rather than having lots of action.

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On Re-Reading The Goblet of Fire

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Harry Potter #4)

Harry Potter is midway through his training as a wizard and his coming of age. Harry wants to get away from the pernicious Dursleys and go to the International Quidditch Cup. He wants to find out about the mysterious event that’s supposed to take place at Hogwarts this year, an event involving two other rival schools of magic, and a competition that hasn’t happened for a hundred years. He wants to be a normal, fourteen-year-old wizard. But unfortunately for Harry Potter, he’s not normal – even by wizarding standards.

And in his case, different can be deadly.

Review:
I remember when this book came out and all of the media attention it got — criticisms about it’s length and a death, saying that kids would never read something this long and death would be too much for them to handle. Thankfully, those predictions didn’t come true.
Despite this, I have to say that The Goblet of Fire is probably my least favourite of the series. I still liked it, but found that it dragged for me a bit in the middle. However, the ending had me back to turning pages as fast as I could.
I love how Rolling explores different themes in multiple ways in each book. Slavery is clearly one of the dominating themes of this one. First there is Hermione trying to stop the indentured servitude of the house elves, then there is the introduction of the Imperious Curse, which basically enslaves its victim.
This book shows Harry, Ron, and Hermione growing up and becoming teenagers, showing how moody and angsty they can be. There are squabbles, but friendship reins in the end — which is also another common theme to this series.
The Goblet of Fire is also full of adventure, dragons, mermaids, and mortal peril. What else could a reader want?

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