Circe – Madeline Miller

Screen Shot 2018-04-23 at 2.56.32 PMPublisher: Little, Brown and Company

Publication Date: April 10th, 2018

Page Count: 400 (Hardcover)

From the Jacket:

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.

I am hesitant to do a review for this book because I loved it so much that I’m not sure I can do it any justice with my words. I’m going to try to jot some coherent thoughts down, but what I really want to do is smash the keyboard for a few minutes to try to convey my excitement.

You guys, this book!

This. Book.

 

I loved every word of it. Every page. Every second I spent reading it. The writing is so incredibly beautiful and extremely quotable. I am going to return to Circe time and time again and lose myself in Miller’s words. I tried to start another book today and read the first sentence about ten times before giving up and closing it. Then I went onto Amazon and purchased Miller’s first book, The Song of Achilles, so I could immerse myself again in her work.

 

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Then I learned that I could bend the world to my will, as a bow is bent for an arrow. I would have done that toil a thousand times to keep such power in my hands.

Many of the reviews called out fans of Greek mythology as a target audience. I studied Greek mythology in school so I recognized many of the names and stories of the Gods, Titans, heroes, and monsters. While it was fun to recognize and revisit so many of their tales, not having any prior knowledge would not have detracted from my enjoyment of the book. I think anyone who is looking for an epic story full of magic, betrayal, love, revenge, adventure, and intrigue would enjoy the hell out of this.

 

It is a common saying that women are delicate creatures, flowers, eggs, anything that may be crushed in a moment’s carelessness. If I had ever believed it, I no longer did.

 

Circe is one of the most compelling and relatable protagonists I’ve read in a long time. She is flawed in so many ways, but somehow manages to turn those into great strengths throughout her life. Her development from a weak child who is an outcast in her own family, to fierce, brave, and powerful witch, ready to do anything to protect what she loves, was a sheer delight to read. And while my love for her would have been enough to make this book shine, I fell in love with so many of the secondary characters as well. There are countless minor storylines happening at once, a backdrop to the main focus of Circe and her daily life, but the threads are never lost. In this, Miller is truly gifted and weaves pure magic with her words.

As I neared the end, I started to panic a little. My enjoyment had built up into something huge and I started reading it more slowly to savor it as long as possible. I was delaying the inevitable, anxious that the ending wouldn’t meet my expectations, but I needn’t have worried. I closed the book with tears in my eyes and could not have hoped for a more perfect conclusion.

Please read this book. Then come back and tell me how much you loved it. And if you’ve already read it, tell me your thoughts in the comments. I’d really love to gush about this one with you.

 

Rating: Screen Shot 2018-01-04 at 12.20.19 AMFive enthusiastic as hell stars.

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September 2017 Wrap-Up

Ahhhhh, it’s FINALLY October! Fall has arrived, and it is unquestionably the best time of the year. Even in Texas, where it’s still seventh circle of hell level hot, I cannot help but be excited about the coming months. But this post is about September, otherwise known around these parts as, “August”, because the weather is still unbearable, the leaves do not change, and we don’t start wearing sweaters until at least November.

September was a pretty average month for reading, totaling out at 9 books completed. There was a whole lot going on at work and at home last month always, so over half of my reading was accomplished through audio books, plus two graphic novels, and two print.

I absolutely loved The Wolf Road and Saga, which I’ve linked my reviews to here. Some of my other favorites from the month were…

Screen Shot 2017-10-05 at 9.25.35 PM.pngCinder (Book 1 of the Lunar Chronicles) is quite possibly the coolest retelling of Cinderella that I’ve ever read. I was quite smitten with Geekerella, which I read earlier this year, but Cinder spoke to the even geekier, scifi loving parts of my brain. In Meyer’s version, Cinderella is a cyborg who lives in a futuristic city known as New Beijing. There are robots, handsome emperors, a terrifying plague with no known cure, and deep rooted tensions with the race of beings that now live on the moon. SO. MUCH. FUN. I listed to the audio version, and Rebecca Soler did an amazing job as always.

 

Screen Shot 2017-10-05 at 9.25.59 PMThe Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue was another audio read. I absolutely fell in love with this story from page one. Percy and Monty have a sweet, tender, playful, slow burn of a love story. There are highway robberies, pirates, hidden passages in sinking islands, and so much more. While being light and fun, the book also touched on more serious topics like family expectation and dysfunction, abuse, and finding your own path in life. Mackenzi Lee is one of my new favorite authors, and I cannot wait to see what she comes out with next.

 

 

Screen Shot 2017-10-05 at 9.25.46 PMI initially downloaded Young Jane Young because I was waiting for my hold of Cress (Book 3 of the Lunar Chronicles) to come through. I had read The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry and really enjoyed it, so I figured I’d give this one a shot and I was not disappointed. While it’s not the best or most exciting book I’ve ever read, it was fun and compelling, and entertaining. Young Jane Young tells the story of Aviva Grossman, a young intern who has an illicit affair with the congressman whose campaign she is working for. The affair comes to light, makes national news, and her reputation, and eventually her life, are utterly destroyed. Rather that admit defeat, Aviva regains control of the situation and makes a new life for herself. The book is told in several parts, each from a different point of view. My favorite is the part told from her daughter’s perspective, as it’s written entirely in the form of (hilarious) emails to her overseas pen pal. This is the book that surprised me the most this month, based on how much I enjoyed it.

The whole line up….

 

Stardust –  4 crowns

Saga Volume 6 – 5 crowns

Saga Volume 7 – 4 crowns

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue – 5 crowns

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo – 4 crowns

Cinder – 5 crowns

The Wolf Road – 5 crowns

Scarlet – 4 crowns

Young Jane Young – 4 crowns

Saga Vol 1-7 – Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples

 

Publisher: Image Comics

Publication Date: October 10th, 2012 to April 4th 2017

Synopsis:

When two soldiers from opposite sides of a never-ending galactic war fall in love, they risk everything to bring a fragile new life into a dangerous old universe. From New York Times bestselling writer Brian K. Vaughan (Y: The Last Man, Ex Machina) and critically acclaimed artist Fiona Staples (Mystery Society, North 40), Saga is the sweeping tale of one young family fighting to find their place in the worlds. Fantasy and science fiction are wed like never before in this sexy, subversive drama for adults.

Before a couple of weeks ago, my entire experience regarding comics consisted of religiously picking up Archie comics from the grocery store as a kid and rereading the Calvin and Hobbes books like it was my job. Both of these obsessions happened over two decades ago, so I was a bit uncertain on whether or not I would review Saga when I initially picked it up. Fast forward to today, just a few hours after finishing volume 7, and that uncertainty just seems silly. I have SO MUCH to say about this series, and I don’t think I could shut up about it even if I wanted to.

Full of Fiona Staples’ breathtakingly beautiful art, Saga is part space opera, part fantasy, with a whole lot of romance and family drama. The cast of characters is wonderfully diverse, including, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, non binary, and POC characters.  There is a lot of nudity and sex, which I am SO HERE FOR, as well as graphic depictions of violence. I realize this may not be everyone’s bag so it’s worth calling out.

Saga tells the story of Marko and Alana, soldiers from opposite sides of a long fought intergalactic war. There is an extensive history of hate and prejudice between the two races (the wings and the moonies), when Marko is captured as a POW by the army that Alana is fighting for. After a series of events (that I won’t spoil for you here), the two fall in love and escape together, intent on living their lives in as much peace as they can find.  The entire series is narrated by their daughter, Hazel, and the first volume literally opens with her birth. Hazel’s birth is the catalyst for the rest of the story, as we follow two parents wiling to do anything to keep her safe, and carve out a life they can live together despite the constant violence happening around them.

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You guys. After this truly incredible, addictive, and immersive reading experience, I fully intend on making graphic novels a habit again. And while I may read hundreds more, I have no doubt that Saga will stay on my top favorites list for all time. Everything about this story is designed to draw the reader in and keep them as a willing captive until the very end. The world building is jaw dropping and full of lush details that I stopped to admire even while wanting to zip ahead though the rest of the story. Brian K Vaughan writes whip smart, tender, and downright hilarious dialogue and characters that I was invested in from the first panel.

I love the way there are multiple story lines going on at once that swap every couple of pages. Even though I couldn’t wait to find out what was happening to one set of characters, I immediately put them to the back of my mind to focus on the immediacy of what was happening to the rest. I cared about them all that much. There wasn’t a single arc that felt boring or less important than the rest. The sheer number of alien species and worlds that Staples creates is astounding. I was delighted by the creativity and especially loved the robot race and the way the different classes and royal family were portrayed. It doesn’t seem fair that one person can hold so much in a singular imagination.

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Final Thoughts: I cannot recommend these enough. If you’re considering jumping into the world of comics, I think Saga is a great place to start, but prepare yourself for a serious hangover and a lengthy wait for the next installment. I’m fully invested now, and cannot wait to check out other work by both Vaughan and Staples as well as other graphic novel series. If you have any good ones to recommend, please please let me know!!

Rating: Screen Shot 2018-01-04 at 12.20.19 AM

Favorite Characters: Alana, Hazel, Klara, Lying Cat, Sophie, The Brand, Isabel, Barr

Memorable Quotes:

My name is Hazel. I started out as an idea, but I ended up something more. Not much more, to be honest. It’s not like I grow up to become some great war hero or any sort of all important savior… but thanks to these two, at least I get to grow old. Not everybody does. (Vol 1)

Cool. So glad I got to do all this in a towel. (Vol 2)

All good children’s stories are the same: young creature breaks rules, has incredible adventure, then returns home with the knowledge that aforementioned rules are there for a reason. Of course, the actual message to the careful reader is: break rules as often as you can, because who the hell doesn’t want to have an adventure? (Vol 3)

A lot of people who came into my family’s life looking like heroes ended up acting more like villains. (Vol 4)

Every relationship is an education. Each new person we welcome into our hearts is a chance to evolve into something radically different than we used to be. (Vol 5)

We’re all aliens to someone. Even among our own people, most of us still feel like complete foreigners from time to time. (Vol 6)

If a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, then a family is more like a rope. We’re lots of fragile little strands, and we survive by becoming hopelessly intertwined with each other. (Vol 7)