Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

So remember how I said I was back? Well …. it seems I lied. Once again, I underestimated my workload and put too much on my plate. But fear not, I have continued to read and I think (and I say this very hesitantly) that I am ready to get back into writing blog posts. I have a lot of books I want to get through and I feel quite motivated to do so …. and I thought this book would be a great one to start with, so let’s get started!

13623848Summary (Goodreads): Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the court of King Peleus and his perfect son Achilles. By all rights their paths should never cross, but Achilles takes the shamed prince as his friend, and as they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine their bond blossoms into something deeper – despite the displeasure of Achilles’ mother Thetis, a cruel sea goddess. But then word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped. Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus journeys with Achilles to Troy, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they hold dear.


Review:

To say I loved this book would not do it justice. It was absolutely amazing and months after reading it, I am still in awe of the author’s ability to create this vivid and fantastic story.

I went into this book completely blind; apart from vaguely knowing that Achilles was a Greek hero who fought in Troy, I knew nothing about this Greek legend. This story was so different than anything I have previously read and the direction of the story was not what I was expecting at all – and I mean this in the best way possible!

One of the first things that drew me to this book was the writing style. Told from the perspective of Patroclus, the prose is lyrical and rich in its detail. Every single scene, every single character, every interaction was fleshed out beautifully, giving it a realistic feel that the reader could really believe in. The author manages to accomplish this while still maintaining the simplicity of the language, making it easy to just keep reading.

I also thought the author went about telling this story in a very intelligent way. Rather than focusing on the actual fighting that usually is the central point of the Iliad, the author chose to explore the relationship between Patroclus and Achilles, and by doing so, she revealed a side to Achilles that I don’t think many people will have seen or read before. Instead of being this strong, untouchable demigod, Achilles has been rendered as a simple man, capable of love and humor. Achilles is given a personality that readers can connect with, which makes us understand why people were so enamored by him, why Patroclus loved him as much as he did. And while Achilles is definitely the star of the show, Patroclus’ character is in no way diminished by him. In fact, it is easy to see how this is the story of Patroclus, as we get to read about a character that is usually kept in the sidelines. While this means that the story didn’t necessarily have a great deal of action, it gave a lot of depth and nuance to a tale that most people are very familiar with.

The ending of this novel had me in tears, which is really a testament to how strongly the author made me connect with the characters. The love (because really, this is a love story over all else) between Patroclus and Achilles is timeless and strong and enduring; it is everything you dream of when you think of love. I was rooting for them from the start and seeing their love bloom and endure was absolutely beautiful. I was moved by their emotions and the lengths they would go for each other, and there was never a moment where I didn’t believe in their love for each other, even though they never declared their love for each other in the story.

At the end of the day, this was a masterful rendition of the story of Achilles, and one that I would encourage everyone to read. At the heart of it, this is a love story and it is a beautiful and tragic one, which will definitely make you emotional. I am so glad that I picked this book up, and I cannot wait to read more from this author. It should come as no surprise, then, that I’m giving this a 5/5 stars!

5 star

Happy reading ~

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The Haunting of Maddy Clare by Simone St. James

With the advent of Halloween, I thought it would be nice to read a horror story. I love a good haunting, even if I don’t personally want it to happen to me! I chose this book because I had absolutely loved  The Broken Girls by this author, and I wanted to read more of her work. So let me just jump straight into my experience:

11832043Summary (Goodreads): Sarah Piper’s lonely, threadbare existence changes when her temporary agency sends her to assist a ghost hunter. Alistair Gellis-rich, handsome, scarred by World War I, and obsessed with ghosts- has been summoned to investigate the spirit of nineteen-year-old maid Maddy Clare, who is haunting the barn where she committed suicide. Since Maddy hated men in life, it is Sarah’s task to confront her in death. Soon Sarah is caught up in a deperate struggle. For Maddy’s ghost is real, she’s angry, and she has powers that defy all reason. Can Sarah and Alistair’s assistant, the rough, unsettling Matthew Ryder, discover who Maddy was, where she came from, and what is driving her desire for vengeance-before she destroys them all?

 


Review: After reading this, all I can say is choosing this book was a really good idea. Because I really enjoyed it.

This novel is a blend of historical fiction and the supernatural/paranormal. I found the historical setting of the story to be interesting but not necessarily important to the story; it added some depth to a few characters but there were too many times where a character’s “emotional scars” were mentioned and it got old fast.

I loved the paranormal elements to the story and the writing style created the perfect atmosphere. I actually read this in audiobook format and I think that just amplified my experience. There were times when I truly had chills from a scene, even though I knew how it would play out.

The strength of this novel comes from the superb writing, which created the perfect ambience to convey the story. The plot wasn’t necessarily unique and the characters were not the most memorable (but there was some steamy romance that was pretty well executed), but none of that mattered because I was truly scared at certain points of the novel – and that’s what I honestly wanted. Sometimes, not every element of the story needs to be perfect: you just need to enjoy the experience of it. And that’s what happened for me. For those reasons, I’m giving this novel a solid 3/5 stars!

3 star

Happy reading ~

Mary B: An Untold Story of Pride and Prejudice by Katherine J. Chen

I love Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. It was one of the first classic novels I had ever read and I thought it was so witty and lovely. I love rereading it, and watching movie adaptations of it, so of course when I heard about this book, I knew I had to give it a go!

36505861Summary (Goodreads): What is to be done with Mary Bennet? She possesses neither the beauty of her eldest sister, Jane, nor the high-spirited charm of Lizzy. Even compared to her frivolous younger siblings, Kitty and Lydia, Mary knows she is lacking in the ways that matter for single, not-so-well-to-do women in nineteenth-century England who must secure their futures through the finding of a husband. As her sisters wed, one by one, Mary pictures herself growing old, a spinster with no estate to run or children to mind, dependent on the charity of others. At least she has the silent rebellion and secret pleasures of reading and writing to keep her company.

But even her fictional creations are no match for the scandal, tragedy, and romance that eventually visit Mary’s own life. In Mary B, readers are transported beyond the center of the ballroom to discover that wallflowers are sometimes the most intriguing guests at the party. Beneath Mary’s plain appearance and bookish demeanor simmers an inner life brimming with passion, humor, and imagination–and a voice that demands to be heard.


Review: 

If I’m honest, one of the reasons I was so intrigued by this novel was because I actually could not remember Mary’s character. I knew she was one of the Bennet sisters but she had such a minor role in the story that I had completely passed over her. I was so intrigued by how the author would shape her personality and show how she was affected by the marriages of her sisters.

There were some positives to this story…. but also some negatives.

The author really made an effort to have the story start off from where Pride and Prejudice began. I really liked that the story went beyond the events of the original novel and into a future that readers had always speculated about. I also appreciated the effort taken to maintain the same language usage as in the original novel.

There were quite a lot of mentions about how plain Mary was in terms of her looks and behaviour. Usually, I am not a fan of repetitive themes but it worked well in the story because it reinforced the idea of why people never really gave Mary a proper shot.

But here’s where the positives end.

While I was excited to see how this author interpreted Pride and Prejudice, I thought there were quite a few flaws. For one thing, there were quite a few discrepancies between this story and the original. I won’t go into the details but there were enough to affect the quality of the story. I also didn’t think that any of Mary’s romantic ventures were developed properly. There was a lack of elevation to it, making it seem very cheap and cringey. She may not have been the most beautiful or poised Bennet sister, but that doesn’t mean that her romance should be any less.

I was also very disappointed in the way other characters in the book were portrayed. The Colonel Fitzwilliam described in this novel was quite different than in the original and I found it hard to wrap my head around this new persona. I was also very disappointed with how the author portrayed Lizzie. She was (and continues to be) my favourite character from Pride and Prejudice and I don’t think the author was really fair in her depiction of her. Call me biased, but I don’t think there were any signs of Lizzie being cruel or selfish in the original, and yet the author in this novel decided to portray her as such. It was so disconcerting and unbelievable for me to read about this “new” Lizzie, who did not resemble the original Lizzie Bennet.

I think that the author tried to do something very interesting and unique here. While I appreciate her efforts in bringing alive a character that was hidden in the background, I do not think that it was executed too well. For those reasons, I’m giving this a 2/5 stars.

2 star

Happy reading ~

The Lucky Ones by Tiffany Reisz

I received this novel as an advance copy from Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

I had previously read The Night Mark by Tiffany Reisz and found that I quite enjoyed it, even if it was a genre (romance) that I don’t typically read. The premise for this story seemed more pyschological, which piqued my interest right away; any connection to my undergrad work always makes me excited. I was really happy to get a review copy but I’ve been falling behind on my reading goals so I wasn’t able to get to this book until now …. but better late than never, right? Here is my review:

35083342.jpgSummary (Goodreads): They called themselves “the lucky ones.” They were seven children either orphaned or abandoned by their parents and chosen by legendary philanthropist and brain surgeon Dr. Vincent Capello to live in The Dragon, his almost magical beach house on the Oregon Coast. Allison was the youngest of the lucky ones living an idyllic life with her newfound family…until the night she almost died, and was then whisked away from the house and her adopted family forever.

Now, thirteen years later, Allison receives a letter from Roland, Dr. Capello’s oldest son, warning her that their father is ill and in his final days. Allison determines she must go home again and confront the ghosts of her past. She’s determined to find out what really happened that fateful night–was it an accident or, as she’s always suspected, did one of her beloved family members try to kill her?

But digging into the past can reveal horrific truths, and when Allison pieces together the story of her life, she’ll learns the terrible secret at the heart of the family she once loved but never really knew.


Review: My feelings for this novel are very confusing, but I’m going to try to work through it here in this review. This was an interesting story but it left me with mixed feelings.

Right away, this novel began with Allison breaking up with her lover. As the breakup is happening, she receives a package from her foster brother, Roland, and she decides to act upon it. Thus begins a journey that defines family, and the lengths one will go to protect it.

The plot has 2 components to it: romance and suspense. I really liked the suspense angle, but the romance was not as great for me. The mystery of this entire novel revolved around Allison trying to figure out what happened that fateful night of the “accident” and who could have done it. As she works to understand this, she realizes there are a whole lot of other secrets that need to be uncovered. I quite liked this part because there were a lot of psychological terms and concepts. It’s nothing too difficult to understand but it was an interesting perspective on a controversial area of psychology. I enjoyed watching Allison piece things together, and I liked that she felt conflicted about the issues raised in the story. It gives the reader some food for thought, and that is always a great thing.

And then comes the romance angle. In the beginning of the novel, we are told that Allison used to be a mistress for a very rich man for 6 years. This fact is reiterated multiple times in the story. Now, I didn’t have a problem with her being a mistress. But I did have a problem with the nature of her relationship with her ex-lover. Throughout the novel, she keeps in touch with this character, and while he does play an important role as an information-finder, their friendliness with each other just felt odd. Even if you are a mistress, even if you knew that it was about sex, it doesn’t negate the fact that you would have feelings for this person and feel bitter about the termination of the relationship. But I saw none of that. It didn’t seem realistically portrayed and so, every time it was brought up, it took me out of the story.

I didn’t mind the new romance that developed but it was a little quick for my taste. The author’s attempts at humor through sex jokes were … well, a little lame. It kind of took away from the development of the new relationship.

I think that the one thing that half-worked and half-didn’t work for me was the ending. I liked most of it, but then there comes a crucial point where Allison has to make a decision about where she is going to go in her future. I don’t necessarily think that the choice she ultimately makes is a bad one … but I wish it had been better developed; the way it was done in the book made it seem like she was too weak to make the other choice.

Overall, this book gave me mixed feelings. On the one hand, the mystery was intriguing and I liked the interesting debate it brought up. But the romance and conclusion were just okay for me. However, I did enjoy the book as a whole. For this reason, I’m giving it a 3/5 stars and would recommend this to fans of the author and to those who like romance and suspense!

Happy reading ~

 

Surprise Me by Sophie Kinsella

35411583I am a huge fan of Sophie Kinsella, and with Valentine’s Day having just passed, I thought it would be a great time to read a funny romance. I don’t usually like romance novels but I love Kinsella’s style; she’s the only romance writer whose work I enjoy. I was so happy to have gotten this ARC and I’ve been waiting for February to read it! Here’s my review:


Synopsis (Goodreads): After being together for ten years, Sylvie and Dan have all the trimmings of a happy life and marriage; they have a comfortable home, fulfilling jobs, beautiful twin girls, and communicate so seamlessly, they finish each other’s sentences. However, a trip to the doctor projects they will live another 68 years together and panic sets in. They never expected “until death do us part” to mean seven decades.

In the name of marriage survival, they quickly concoct a plan to keep their relationship fresh and exciting: they will create little surprises for each other so that their (extended) years together will never become boring. But in their pursuit to execute Project Surprise Me, mishaps arise and secrets are uncovered that start to threaten the very foundation of their unshakable bond. When a scandal from the past is revealed that question some important untold truths, they begin to wonder if they ever really knew each other after all.


Review: This novel was unexpected for me because it featured a married couple rather than 2 single people. This caught my attention right away and I was excited to see how Kinsella would put her funny and cute spin on things. Unfortunately, it wasn’t as great as I had hoped.

So the story is about how Sylvie and Dan find out that they are going to live to be very old and that they will be enjoying 68 years of marriage. And for some reason, this freaks them out. Maybe this is because I’ve never been married, but if you love your partner and have been happily married to them, wouldn’t this be good news? Why would finding out that you will be married for longer be a bad thing? This really confused me. Now, I get the whole “Surprise Me project” aspect; every relationship needs some excitement now and then. But the “funny” mishaps failed to make me laugh because they just didn’t have any context. For example, Dan buying Sylvie a snake would have been funny … if I had known that they joked about getting a snake all the time. Which I literally did not know about until that point in time.

The novel also takes a surprising turn into a more serious path. I felt like the segue was a little awkward but the actual concept was quite good. It made me like Sylvie’s character a lot more; she stopped being whiny and started showing some grit and resilience. It also helped me develop a liking to Dan, because until that point, I had no opinion of him whatsoever.

Do I think this was Kinsella’s finest book? No. And I wouldn’t recommend this to someone who has never read any of her books before, because she has definitely had better novels. But I liked that this novel became a little more serious and was uplifting near the end. I’m giving this a 3/5 stars.

I received this novel as an advance copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Happy reading ~

Keep Her Safe by K.A. Tucker

I received this novel as an advance copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This was a book that I really wanted to finish back in January … but I fell behind. However, I made it one of my top priorities for this month and got on this book as soon as possible! Here is my review:


Synopsis (Goodreads): Noah Marshall has known a privileged and comfortable life thanks to his mother, the highly decorated chief of the Austin Police Department. But all that changes the night she reveals a skeleton that’s been rattling in her closet for years, and succumbs to the guilt of destroying an innocent family’s life. Reeling with grief, Noah is forced to carry the burden of this shocking secret.

Gracie Richards wasn’t born in a trailer park, but after fourteen years of learning how to survive in The Hollow, it’s all she knows anymore. At least here people don’t care that her dad was a corrupt Austin cop, murdered in a drug deal gone wrong. Here, she and her mother are just another family struggling to survive…until a man who clearly doesn’t belong shows up on her doorstep.

Despite their differences, Noah and Gracie are searching for answers to the same questions, and together, they set out to uncover the truth about the Austin Police Department’s dark and messy past. But the scandal that emerges is bigger than they bargained for, and goes far higher up than they ever imagined.


Review: There are two aspects to this story: the actual mystery and the romance. I greatly preferred the mystery to the romance.

I was automatically drawn to the secret that Noah’s mother revealed to him. It promised to be the start of a complex tale – and it was! I loved all of the different twists and turns that the story took, making every single character a suspect. The author also did a great job highlighting important issues like corruption and human trafficking. However, I found the story to be quite long and I don’t think every part of it was necessary.

While I didn’t realize this novel had a romantic suspense angle, I didn’t quite love it. I liked Noah’s character just fine but I didn’t really like Grace. She was far too stubborn and pigheaded and there were moments where I really wish she had used some common sense. I have no problem reading about fiery female protagonists but when they act in an unintelligent way, it really annoys me. I also didn’t really find the development of the relationship between Noah and Grace believable. The beginning of it was a little too forced and fast-paced, but it eventually worked out as the story progressed.

I went into this novel with very high hopes because of a lot of positive reviews, however I didn’t love it as much as I wanted. It had a good plot and interesting twists, but I didn’t like all of the characters and I thought the romance aspect developed a little too quickly for my liking. I would give this a 2/5 star rating!

Happy reading ~

Deceptions by Kelley Armstrong – Cainsville #3

It may have seemed like I forgot about this series. BUT I DID NOT! I have been biding my time, trying to make a dent in my TBR list, and I’ve decided to make a real go at catching up with this series. Here is my review:

Synopsis (from the book): After Olivia Taylor-Jones found out she was adopted – not the child of a privileged Chicago family, but of a notorious pair of serial killers – her life exploded. Fleeing the scandal, she found a refuge in the oddly secluded but welcoming town of Cainsville. Working with Gabriel Walsh, a precociously successful criminal lawyer with links to the town, she managed to partially clear her parents’ name in an investigation that also revealed darker forces at work in the place that had offered her a haven. Fleeing Cainsville, Olivia now finds herself not only the target of the Cainsville elders and of the Huntsmen, but also of her ex-fiance, James. And this happens as her feelings deepen for Ricky, the son of the leader of a motorcycle gang, and confusingly also her feelings for Gabriel. Visions continue to haunt her; particularly ones of a little blond girl in a green sundress who insists she has an important message for Olivia. Will Olivia be able to prevent the tragic outcome that has been foretold?


So if I’m going to be honest here, I don’t think I enjoyed this book as much as I did the rest of the books in the series. And I think it had to do with the content of the novel. For most of the other books in the series, the story was about solving a mystery while understanding more about the fae. That’s what I loved about the series: there were sinister characters and gruesome deaths, and Olivia was learning how to recognize and interpret the omens and visions she was receiving. However, with this novel, there was a huge focus on this love triangle that the author decided to add into the mix. This book was more of a romance than a mystery novel, and it felt like I had been deceived (haha – get it, deceptions, deceived?!) by the premise of the story. I really don’t like love triangles because they are so tedious to get through and they don’t really add anything to the story. I also don’t like it because it changes the dynamics between certain characters. There was some mystery to it because we learn some more about the fae and Olivia’s connection to everything, and we do find out about the Larsens and whether they are innocent …. but it was all overshadowed by the love triangle, which was a little annoying for me. I will still be continuing with this series because I think it still has merit, but I definitely hope that the love triangle gets resolved soon so that I can focus on the really juicy stuff! But this book specifically gets a 2/5 stars from me.

Happy reading ~

 

Soulless by Gail Carriger – Parasol Protectorate #1

Going into this novel, I had no idea what to expect. All I knew was that the premise contained all of my favorite things: supernatural beings, the Victorian era, and a feisty heroine. That was enough to intrigue me and give this book a shot. After reading it, I am so glad I did. Here is my review:

Alexia Tarabotti is laboring under a great many social tribulations. First, she has no soul. Second, she’s a spinster whose father is both Italian and dead. Third, she was rudely attacked by a vampire, breaking all standards of social etiquette. Unfortunately, Alexia accidentally kills the vampire while protecting herself – and the appalling Lord Maccon (loud, messy, gorgeous, and werewolf) is sent by Queen Victoria to investigate. News on this vampire’s death leads to an investigation that reveals that unexpected vampires are appearing and expected vampires are disappearing. And everyone seems to believe that Alexia is somehow involved. Can she figure out what is actually happening to London’s high society? Will her soulless ability to negate supernatural powers prove useful or just plain embarrassing? Finally, who is the real enemy?

To define this book by one genre would be doing it an injustice because it is such a mashup! You’ve got steampunk, Victorian social etiquette, comedy, romance, and of course, supernatural/paranormal fantasy. I loved this eclectic mix of themes because it added so much variety to the story! I absolutely adored Alexia. She is funny, and inquisitive, and everything I wanted her to be! She adheres to Victorian etiquette standards only when it suits her and her independent thinking gets her into a great deal of trouble. I love that the author always keeps her in the center of the action and never makes her rely on men to fix things for her. I also loved her romance with Lord Maccon, which I had guessed would happen right from the start; it is VERY believable and not exactly pg-13 (so I would advise younger teenagers to not read this book). The story itself was intriguing, with witty humor thrown in every now and then. I liked the mystery and the action, and the different supernatural beings who were involved. If anything, I wish the organization of the different societies had been given more details, as that would have given me a better understanding of this world that Alexia lives in. I had a great reading experience with this novel because I just found it to be so funny and interesting that I couldn’t put it down. I’m giving it a 5/5 stars for being weird and funny and everything else in between!

Happy reading ~

A Secret History of Witches by Louisa Morgan

I received this novel as an advance copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Grandmére Ursule was one of the most powerful witches in her family. But when she dies trying to save the life of her tribe, her magic seems to have died with her. Even so, her daughters do their best to keep the Old Faith, practicing the spells and rites that have been a part of their family for generations. Then one day, Ursule’s young granddaughter steps into the circle, and magic flows anew. The story traverses 5 generations of witches, from early 19th century Brittany to London during WWII as they fight the battles of their time, deciding how far they are willing to go to protect their family, their heritage, and ultimately, their futures.

I really wanted to love this novel but I didn’t. The book is broken down into multiple parts such that each witch from the next generation gets her own story. I love the idea of magic being passed down from mother to daughter but I think that is where the problem of this novel lay: for each generation, the story from the previous generation must be recounted, and the same reactions from the newest witch are described, and it just starts to become repetitive. It’s hard to break from that cycle when it is that very cycle that is being described in the novel. I think that out of all of the witches that were described, there was only one that was truly different from the rest. While I get that the same traits and powers will run in the family, the personalities of the different witches were too similar for my taste. And as I mentioned, the concept was interesting in the beginning but the story itself was too cyclic and repetitive to maintain my interest. The author did put a valiant effort in trying to tie in different historical events to change things up between generations, but the scenarios remained the same. I also wish there had been more supernatural elements; I would have loved to read about the different spells and things that they learned and the reasons why they did certain rituals. For me, there was just not enough of a unique story and so, I’m giving this a 2/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

The Austen Escape by Katherine Reay

I received this novel as an advance copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

One of the first classics I ever ready was Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. I loved it so much that I read a bunch of her other novels. While I may not have loved all of them, I have fond memories of curling up with an Austen book. The title of the novel caught my attention and the premise held it. So here is my review:

Mary Davies enjoys her job as an engineer. It doesn’t hurt that there is an adorable and intelligent consultant working alongside her. But things aren’t perfect. When Mary’s estranged childhood friend, Isabel, offers her a two-week stay in a gorgeous manor house in England, she reluctantly agrees in hopes that the holiday will shake up her quiet life in just the right ways. But Mary gets more than she bargained for when Isabel loses her memory and fully believes she lives in Jane Austen’s Bath. While Isabel rests and delights in the leisure of a Regency lady, attended by other costume-clad guests, Mary uncovers startling truths about their shared past, who Isabel was, who she seems to be, and the man who now stands between them.

This book is not like your typical Austen-style book. It doesn’t try to be a modern version of any Austen classic; instead, it takes the Austen characters and analyzes them through the pretense of an Austen-themed costume weeklong getaway. I loved the concept behind it: strangers sign up to live in a manor that is set up in the Regency era, and each person chooses a character from Jane Austen’s novels and pretends to be them for the duration of their stay. It’s the kind of adventure I would want to do! I really loved Mary’s character; she was one of the most realistic characters I have ever read about. The thoughts and feelings she has are ones I could relate to, and her actions make a lot of sense. She isn’t overly dramatic and doesn’t live in her own fantasy world; she is a quiet character who has her unique strengths and weaknesses. Mary was the kind of character I could envision as my friend because she was just so real! I also loved all of the other cast members of this novel, and how each played their part in telling this story. I thought that Isabel’s memory loss could have been done better (it was a little wishywashy in its appearance and disappearance and just didn’t have as strong of an explanation as I would have liked) but this did not detract from the novel’s story. The romance was done very nicely in this novel; again, it was not too dramatic and the misconceptions that occurred here were ones that I could see happening in the real world. I guess what I loved about this book so much was that it was so realistic and plausible that I could easily fall into the story and believe in it. All in all, I had a great time reading this book and would give it a solid 4/5 stars!

Happy reading ~