Circe by Madeline Miller | Book Review

Genre: Fantasy – greek mythology

Pages: 344

Synopsis

In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe has neither the look nor the voice of divinity, and is scorned and rejected by her kin. Increasingly isolated, she turns to mortals for companionship, leading her to discover a power forbidden to the gods: witchcraft.

When love drives Circe to cast a dark spell, wrathful Zeus banishes her to the remote island of Aiaia. There she learns to harness her occult craft, drawing strength from nature. But she will not always be alone; many are destined to pass through Circe’s place of exile, entwining their fates with hers. The messenger god, Hermes. The craftsman, Daedalus. A ship bearing a golden fleece. And wily Odysseus, on his epic voyage home.

There is danger for a solitary woman in this world, and Circe’s independence draws the wrath of men and gods alike. To protect what she holds dear, Circe must decide whether she belongs with the deities she is born from, or the mortals she has come to love.

My thoughts

Rating out of five: four stars

I love me some stories of greek gods & godesses, especially when they’re as flawed and vengeful as can be. And our main character Circe certainly has her flaws as well, to the point where her insecurities becomes a huge part of her choices even after hundreds of years of getting to know oneself. It started to get a bit boring halfways through. And then Circe shifts and it all gets more badass and filled with action and again grief, without sacrificing the flowing descriptive writing, focusing on details and swiftly taking you through decades. I loved how she gets these pieces of information of the “human” history happening out in the world through Hermes to her exile on the island, and also how their interactions change.

There was a line of female empowerment going through this book, a sign of greek mythology stories done well. How Circe sees what has become of her sisters, how they’ve gathered their influence and power. Not to mention her way of feeling powerful constantly shifting through the book, as the decades pass and she grows into herself.

What I reflected on most reading this book was how Circe meets this constant choice of following the rules, of staying within her boundraries, or to stand up and fight for herself and others. And it’s not one choice, but many. The clearest picture of this is how she creates this life for herself on the island and then goes back and forth about if she likes it, if she prefers this exile; sometimes lonely, sometimes with more action (through pirates and other need-a-lesson semi-exiled girls) than she would’ve liked.

My island lay around me. My herbs, my house, my animals. And so it would go, I thought, on and on, forever the same. 

It’s a more complex story than I though walking into it and certainly one I will pick up again to reread the multifaceted person Circe is throughout it.

I thought once that gods are the opposite of death, but I see now they are more dead than anything, for they are unchanging, and can hold nothing in their hands.

Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim | Audiobook Review

Genre: YA fantasy

Pages: 385

Synopsis

Project Runway meets Mulan in this sweeping YA fantasy about a young girl who poses as a boy to compete for the role of imperial tailor and embarks on an impossible journey to sew three magic dresses, from the sun, the moon, and the stars.

Maia Tamarin dreams of becoming the greatest tailor in the land, but as a girl, the best she can hope for is to marry well. When a royal messenger summons her ailing father, once a tailor of renown, to court, Maia poses as a boy and takes his place. She knows her life is forfeit if her secret is discovered, but she’ll take that risk to achieve her dream and save her family from ruin. There’s just one catch: Maia is one of twelve tailors vying for the job.

Backstabbing and lies run rampant as the tailors compete in challenges to prove their artistry and skill. Maia’s task is further complicated when she draws the attention of the court magician, Edan, whose piercing eyes seem to see straight through her disguise.

And nothing could have prepared her for the final challenge: to sew three magic gowns for the emperor’s reluctant bride-to-be, from the laughter of the sun, the tears of the moon, and the blood of stars. With this impossible task before her, she embarks on a journey to the far reaches of the kingdom, seeking the sun, the moon, and the stars, and finding more than she ever could have imagined.

Audiobook review

Narrated by Kim Mai Guest: the soft voice fits the protagonist so well and the storytelling was amazing, like the slight change of her voice as the protagonists tried to mask as a boy. It seemed like a difficult task and she nailed it.

My thoughts

Rating out of five: three

From about 30% in to 70% in, I was considering not picking this book back up. It just lacked something for me, that drive that makes me want to know more about how it’s going to end for the characters.

I think the publisher selling this book as the crossway between Project Runway and Mulan isn’t right for this book. It’s definitely got elements of both of those, with there being a competition to be the imperial tailor (instantly reminding me of the assassin competition in Throne of Glass) and the protagonist having to mask as a boy to be able to participate and restore her family’s honor. The problem is that Mulan’s story is so much better in every way. The romance is better, the bravery and single-mindedness of Mulan is better, it’s more exciting to read about fighting than tailoring and the training and close quarters leads naturally to more close-calls about Mulan’s identity. All the humor is stripped from this book. The short insults between the protagonist Maia and Edan tries to make up for it, but they’re more annoying and makes them seem more like siblings than romantically interested. I really disliked that romance, even though it’s not as forced or badly handled as it could’ve been.

I like the characters of Maia, as I like Eden in himself, but as a protagonist she doesn’t move the plot forward. It’s okay to be inexperienced and elegant, but she seems to be able to take tough choices like dress up as a guy and risk her life, and then falls into this role of needing guidance on much smaller issues. I think it’s given too much thought that she can’t be a much better tailor than old men with long careers and be able to figure things out on her own, but as a consequence Edan and the masters are guiding her every move. She never has that breaking point where she sits down and worried about how to do something, the solution is always given to her. This book just lacks that level of conflict, there’s this big threat of being killed hanging over her, but everything else goes her way. And in that it becomes predictable.

This book has a shift about 60% in where Maia goes on a journey and it becomes more magical and has that classical fantasy journey to gather supplies. Still she’s being led around by Edan, but she’s also has to find strength within herself to complete the tasks and FINALLY we’re seeing some character development. *imagine me raising my hands in victory while reading those parts* At the end of the book I nearly convinced myself I liked it, hadn’t it been so slow and lacking in the beginning. While I feel it gives the book a tougher starting point, I really like the tailor aspects and the descriptions of her craft. Sometimes I felt the garments wasn’t described well enough, but at the same time the competition took forever and became boring. Remember the parts of Project Runway with the judges critique that you skip?

I would recommend to give this book a try if you really want to.

Feelings reading this book: (yes, we’re bringing this back again) frustration, oh calm meditational stitching, frustration, bored.

Norse Mythology | Quote of the Week #17

This week’s quote is in honor of the sun disappearing for the next five months. Guess where I live? Westcoast of Norway, in a valley where I cannot believe people still live in the winter months as the mountains are too tall for the few sunbeams there are in the winter to reach us. (I love this place, promise.) My grandmother, who was Sami from the nothern part of the country – where there’s no sun for half the year, and always sun for the other half – would complain about it constantly and that makes me smile.

One branch of my family has lived in this place for generations. They were smarter than us though – they settled on the other side of the freaking fjord (water), on a mountain farm with few neighbours where they had to use boat to get anywhere, but guess what they had? SUN.

Also I liked this retelling of norse mythology by Neil Gaiman, even if it was a lot of things I knew already, here’s my review.

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My Favourite Podcasts: Books and mythology

Could I have a book blog and not post my book podcast recommendations? I’ve already given my favourite general two-dudes-talking type here and science and productivity podcasts here.

– books and mythology –

The Legendarium

  • They read and discuss fantasy series. The biggest book series they’ve covered is Brandon Sanderson’s books, Wheel of Time, Lord of the Rings and they’ve recently started Narnia. In between there’s discussions on movies and tv series, like Black Panther.

Unattended Consequences

  • Patrick Rothfuss, author of The Name of the Wind (Kingkiller Chronicles) and Max Temkin from the podcast Do By Friday and the game Cards Against Humanity.
  • Currently inactive, but it’s perfect for fans and book lovers

Reading Glasses

  • Discusses books, book items and interview authors

Spirits

  • Mythology, legends and lore from all cultures told by two hosts with a drink in hand. The themes varies widly, which I appreciate and along with the discussions it keeps it interesting. Personal favourites are nr. 55 Yuki-Onna, nr 43 Javanese Mermaid Queen, nr 40 Laumes and nr 32 The Butterfly Lovers.

Poetry Off the Shelf

  • About poetry, obviously. Each episode seems to have a theme, The Wilderness is the first episode of series called A Change of World, and was amazing as it included women’s place in poetry from the 1800th century to now. They read poems out loud, and it’s wonderful, thought-provoking and calming.

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman | Review

Pages: 300

Genre: mythology, fantasy

fire

LOOK AT THAT COVER!

I already liked this book by page fourteen, because in the quote above Gaiman is basically describing my home and I agree it makes a lot of sense to not like your gods if they keep burying you in snow and forget humans need sunlight once in a while. Also scandinavians doesn’t really trust anyone as a rule and/or joke. Mostly joke, nowadays. Also no! This is not connected to american gods, it’s a retelling of the old norse myths. I’ve glanced at the reviews for this book, and it’s obvious some have no idea what they’re writing about, that this book is based on real myths and that’s why it’s a series of short stories and not one connected plot. I’ll come back to that later.

[About Loki] He is tolerated by the gods, perhaps because his stratagems and plans save them as often as they get them into trouble.

What I mostly took from these stories was that the gods of Asgard would be incredibly bored without Loki there and I don’t know why I feel this symphatic towards his monster children, but to banish one to the edge of the world, one to underneath the earth and one in chains seems awful. Joke’s on them, but mostly on humans, whyy did anyone think this was a good idea. Also I predict “Shut up, Thor” will be my favourite line of the whole book.

“Because,” said Thor, “when something goes wrong, the first thing I always think is, it is Loki’s fault. It saves a lot of time.”

Would recommend this book for anyone who’s interested in norse mythology, especially after watching “Thor”, that’s why this book is published now isn’t it? Basically, this book is for beginners. Please go read up on the edda if you want something traditional and to understand where this book came from, the language isn’t that difficult in the modern versions. Know that the stories are modernized some and rewritten, that’s the whole point of having Gaiman write them, but the right elements are definitely there. I was pretty well-known with norse mythology already, through school and own interest, and didn’t really find anything new. But it was somewhere between an okay and fun read, with some stories I found more interesting than others. Mostly I liked the stories that required charging the jotner (giants?) and including Frøya.  And I like this type of Loki, if you haven’t guessed already:

“Well? You know something. I can see it in your face. Tell me whatever you know, and tell it now. I don’t trust you, Loki, and I want to know what you know right this moment, before you’ve had the chance to plot and plan.”
Loki, who plotted and planned as easily as other folk breathed in and out, smiled at Thor’s anger and innocence.

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

Synopsis

 

It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line.

Some riders live.
Others die.

At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them.

Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a chance. So she enters the competition — the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen.

My thoughts

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also the rating is x out of 5 stars

this format is going to change ten times before i’m satisfied, isn’t it?

When I started reading this book, I was in the mood for a story with friends supporting each other. Creating special characters and wonderful interactions between them is something Maggie Stiefvater does incredibly well, almost to perfection. While “The Scorpio Races” didn’t have the same feeling as “The Raven Cycle” in any other way, it did have those people who you can’t help but care for.

It is really a beautiful book, if a bit slow and boring at times. The most wonderful element was the island the whole story were carried out on. What a magical place it is, both in how the nature is described, but also Puck and Sean’s connection to it. Living in a small, countryside place, I really feel the same love they do every time I look around me. But it also gives you a feeling of being one very small person, since the nature isn’t controlled by anyone and never will be. Here’s where the water horses – the capall uisce (yes, I had to look that up) – come into the picture. How do you control something so natural, yet wild and deadly? Short answer: you don’t. Sean Kendrick knows that, which is why I begrudgingly like him and why he’s the best rider on the island.

The book didn’t catch my full attention until the last half. There were a couple of moments I just wanted to put it down and leave it. I’m glad I didn’t, because much later the story still lives with me in some way. “The Scorpio Races” doesn’t contain one of the best plots I’ve read (rather the contrary), but it is different, based on a part of mythology we don’t usually get in young adult. I didn’t really enjoy the ending either. The whole plot was just very predictable, but too well-written to call it “bad”. On the bright side I got a lot done in the two days I procrastinated reading the rest of the book, but as a story, this one still misses something.

I think it will be very person-based whether people like this book or not. I’m still in conflict with myself, because I can’t say I liked it. “The Scorpio Races” is interesting, it is deeper than it first seems, but I’m still not completely sold. It could be that this story is familiar to me, it gives me a sense of having read too much of the genre. On the bright side, it got the relationship with extreme nature right. You can’t stop loving it, because then you may realize it’s holding you hostage and could kill you. At least there’s nice landscape to look at/read about.