Quickie Book Review: Circe

Author: Madeline Miller

Published: April 2018, Hardback

Length: 394 pages

Genre: fiction, fantasy/mythology

Source: I bought it.

Stars: 4 1/2 Stars

 

Summary:

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.

“Humbling women seems to me a chief pastime of poets. As if there can be no story unless we crawl and weep.” –Madeline Miller, Circe

Like:

I love mythology. And anytime I can read a story based in mythology, I will do it. So, you know this book was at the top of my TBR pile. And Amazon in the week or so before its official release put it on sale for less than $3, so of course I bought it. And I am glad I did.  This is a story which seems to focus on what happens when female rage and power is contained. Circe is a potentially powerful witch and is angry, and this must be contained. It’s this rage and power that fuels her story and interactions with various gods and goddesses and humans that visit her island. And this is what Odysseus finds when he happens upon her island’s shore.

Not so much:

I really can’t think of anything as I write this. It has been a while since I read this.

What I’ll remember:

The cathartic power of reading this story. And that it’s nice to find someone else who sees Odysseus as the jerk he is.

Do I recommend it?:

Solid yes. This would be such a great thing to read in conjunction with The Odyssey. I enjoyed it so much that I plan on going back and reading The Song of Achilles soon. And I hope that Madeline Miller focuses a novel on Medea soon. That one is rage and power all out of control! I would love to read her take on how Medea’s rage and anger and shocking revenge came to be.

Here is a link to my Friday 56 Meme featuring Circe.

Have you read Circe? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments below.

Happy Reading, y’all!

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International Women’s Day 2018

Yes, I am a feminist. I am proud to proclaim it. All my friends and many in my family know it. And the seeds of my  growth into a feminist were planted by my mother. Thanks Mom!

I did not know that I was a feminist when I was a teen, but those seeds were there. And later on as life happened to me, I became even more of a feminist. There are many things both personal and public that have helped on the road to embracing my feminism. And one of those things is that pop culture phenomenon Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Many people mistakenly believe that his was just a stupid little teen show. But it was not. It was a well written subversive look at the struggles of girls to become self-actualized women. Because as we all know, the teen years are hard for girls and young women. We struggle with the physical changes and emotional changes of those years. And many also must struggle with abuse and harassment. And Buffy did too. And she could help young women find the strength to deal with those issues. I was not even close to being a teen when this show originally aired, but it helped me to process and understand the abuse and harassment I suffered as a teenage girl.

So, on this #InternationalWomensDay I want to give Buffy her due. Thanks, Buffy for slaying your monsters and in turn helping me as an adult slay mine.

 

My Top 10 Historical Romances

In honor of Valentine’s Day I decided to create a list of my Top 10 Historical Romance Novels of the last year or so. If you are looking for a romance to read I highly recommend any of these novels. Warning: I don’t read chaste or sweet romances. I like ’em spicy, so keep that in mind. With no further ado here, in no particular order, is my list.

Duke of Shadows by Meredith Duran. This is a sort of throwback sweeping saga sort of romance. It sweeps across Colonial India and Victorian England. I love it.

 

 

 

Not Quite A Husband by Sherry Thomas. Another sweeping historical with an independent heroine and gone rogue husband. It’s such a well written story, and as with all good romances, is emotionally satisfying.

 

 

 

 Like No Other Lover by Julie Anne Long. This author is really hit and miss for me. But this novel is one of my favorite tropes: Cynthia is hiding a scandal and needs to marry before it becomes common knowledge. The story hits all of the emotional points: forgiveness and acceptance. It’s a satisfying read.

 

 

One Good Earl Deserves a Lover by Sarah MacLean. I hate the trend in romance novels to have cutesy titles that are plays on common sayings that have nothing to do with the story at all. It’s annoying. And this book isn’t really historical. It’s more like a “AustenLand” type of book. In spite of all of this, it’s one of my favorite romances of all time. It’s so emotionally satisfying. And I love a heroine that wears glosses. I can’t help it.

 

Duke of Sin by Elizabeth Hoyt. Ignore this cheesy cover. This book. It’s a love letter to all those Gothic romances of the ’70’s and ’80’s with a dash of Wuthering Heights thrown in for fun. Secret societies, illegitimate children, and abbey ruins all make an appearance. I love this book and the anti-hero love interest so damn much. Read it! Read it now!

 

By Love Undone by Suzanne Enoch. I love this title. I read this because, again, a scandal plagued heroine hiding from life until he sees her. And he helps her gain redemption and loves her in spite of secrets. So it’s emotionally satisfying for me.

 

 

 

Lord Langley is Back in Town by Elizabeth Boyle. This another author that is hit and miss for me. This is a part of a longer series, but you don’t have to read the other books to enjoy this one. This book features older hero and heroine. and that’s always a treat in romance novels.

 

 

Wilde in Love by Eloisa James. This is a fun book. It deals with celebrity, but takes place in Georgian England, so, yes. It’s a bit like AustenLand. But it is a fun read. And Eloisa James is a fun romance writer.  There is only one of her novels that I really didn’t like.

 

 

 

The Conquest of Lady Cassandra by Madeline Hunter. This book. Just emotionally devastating in all the best ways. I love it so much. Again, a heroine with a scandal and a hero who helps her redeem herself. It’s a theme that I love. Also, the hero and heroine have been crushing on each other for years. So when the ending is emotionally satisfying. It is a part of a series that I’m mostly uninterested in, but to get resolution of the overarching story, then you should read all the books in the series. But, I think it stands on it’s own too. Read it now!

The Duchess War by Courtney Milan. I really shouldn’t like this novel. It’s only a historical romance due to the setting. The characters don’t really behave as Victorians should? I guess? It’s very AustenLand. But. It’s such a well written story. And I’ve read a number of her other novels and she is just so good. If you are looking for a good romance novelist, read Courtney Milan.

 

So, what do you think? Have you read any of these novels? Do you agree with my list? What are your favorite romance novels? Do you have any romances you would recommend to me? Let me know in the comments below. Happy Reading!

Morning Pages

My first morning pages notebook.

Today I did the same thing I do almost every morning. I got up, poured myself a cup of coffee, and wrote in my morning pages notebook. As of today, I’ve been following this routine for a year. And it’s probably one of the best things I’ve done for myself in years.

I’m not imparting profound thoughts or truths in these notebooks, but instead I’m just taking what’s up here (pointing at my head) and putting it down here (pointing at my notebook.) And moving all that detritus from my busy brain leaves room for more creative ideas to percolate. I’m not putting down on paper deep truths or profound thoughts. I’m just following the advice of Julia Cameron and writing down whatever is floating around in my head.

Seriously, most mornings my notebook is filled with my whining about being “awake”, not enough coffee in my cup, and how crapppy Bic pens really are to write with. Occasionally I’ll write down my remembered dreams or whatever issue I’m obsessing about at that moment. I’ve long known about free writing as a tool to help with my academic writing, but I just hadn’t bothered to use it for more personal exercise. Julia Cameron seems to be the originator of the version of the practice that I’m using. It’s a grand way to clear my mind for the day ahead.

My current morning pages notebook

I think that this practice has improved my writing for this blog. It helps me with my everyday life, too. Stuff that I previously worried or obsessed about ended up in my morning pages and not in my head. And if you, like me, obsess over silly things, then this exercise may help you to keep it from churning around all day and night. Additionally, my morning pages are also a place I often “pre-write” a lot of my bookish blog posts and book reviews. I can get all my thoughts down while still being half conscious and so don’t lose all my brilliant thoughts and ideas (or not so brilliant, depending.)

My pretty leather covered journal

And it also has helped me with another problem I have: my collection of notebooks. I love notebooks and have so many. And I didn’t use them. I was always planning to use them for my JOURNALING (it’s in all caps because journaling is important writing and profound.) And such profound journaling deserves a lovely notebook. And that is true, I guess. But that fear of perfection kept me from doing any writing in any notebook. I came to realize that if I didn’t use the notebooks now that the notebooks would never be used. And after I die my children will just toss them in the trash. It’s true. So I started using them. And using such pretty notebooks made me happy. And so all of my notebooks will eventually be used. And the kids can toss ’em after I’m dead or I can toss ’em myself.

 

If someone were to ask me if I thought morning pages is worth their time and energy I would tell them yes. It has made a huge difference in my writing and life over the past year. And I would tell them that they should start doing it as soon as possible. Immediately, if not sooner!

Have I convinced you, dear reader, to explore the practice of morning pages? Let me know what you think in the comments below.

Helpful Links

Here are some links to some blog posts and essays about writing (not just morning pages):

From Lithub is This is from a recent essay that encourages writers to take notes by hand. Writing the morning pages by hand is an important part of the process.

The Artisit’s Way by Julia Cameron contains information about how she defines the morning pages practice. I’ve not read the entire book, just the sections related to morning pages. I have read The Right to Write.

And another short essay about how the hows and whys of morning pages by Belle Beth Cooper.

And finally this is a link to my October 2016 Wrap-Up where I first mention morning pages. Scroll down to find the link to the blog post that inspires me. Thanks Little Coffee Fox!

 

 

Jane Austen: A Few of My Favorite Things

This past Tuesday –July 18th– was the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death at the age of 41. And there have been “think pieces”  about her contributions to literature, and tributes to Jane all over the internet. So, of course, I want to add my own thoughts about Jane Austen to the deluge.

But rather than try to write authoritatively on Jane Austen and her contribution to literature, I’m instead listing my favorite books, movie/TV adaptations, and stuff that I’ve collected over the years.

So, here are  a few of my favorite Austen things.

Jane Austen Mug from The Unemployed Philosophers Guild. See the photo above for my actual mug. As I took the photo that mug had coffee in it. I love this mug so much. It’s covered in fabulous quotes from Austen’s novels. And drinking my coffee and reading the sharp and beloved words of Jane is always a good way to start the day.

And, from Out of Print, this lovely tote bag.  It’s just so pretty. And they have this P&P print on a t-shirt as well. 

 

 

 

 

Pride and Prejudice (Special Edition) by Colin FirthMy favorite TV adaptation of Pride & Prejudice.  There are many out there, it is true. In my opinion there is only one adaptation worth watching( this one) and only one Mr. Darcy (Colin Firth) and Lizzie Bennet (Jennifer Ehle). And I will fight you about this.

 

 

 

Sense & Sensibility (Special Edition)

My favorite movie adaptation is  Sense & Sensibility. I think this may have more to do with Emma Thompson and the late Alan Rickman. I re-watched this over the weekend and it is so good.

 

 

 

 

 

My favorite Jane Austen novel: Persuasion. It’s all about regrets. The regret that Anne feels for rejecting PersuasionCaptain Wentworth. The Musgove’s regret that Anne didn’t marry Charles. He married Anne’s sister Mary-a snob-who makes them all miserable. As a middle aged person I have many regrets too, and I think that’s why I love this novel and the way Austen explores the characters regrets. And this cover on this edition from Penguin Classiscs. Love it. (By the way, the BBC 1995 adaptation of this novel is a close runners up for favorite movie adaptation.)

Bitch In a Bonnet: Reclaiming Jane Austen From the Stiffs, the Snobs, the Simps and the Saps, Volume 1My favorite book about a Jane Austen’s novel: Bitch in a Bonnet: Reclaiming Jane Austen from the Stiffs, the Snobs, the Simps and the Saps, volume 1 by Robert Rodi. This book explores the critical eye that Jane Austen cast on the world in which she lived.

 

 

 

LongbournAnd my favorite Jane Austen adjacent novel is LongbournI’m not a fan of novels based on classic novels like The Wizard of Oz. (I really disliked Wicked. A lot. Its one of those books I threw across the room before I finished it.) But this particular novel is one of my favorite reads of 2014.  

 

 

 

 

And finally, here are some links to two of my favorite Jane Austen think pieces published across the internet the last week or two:

This article from The Atlantic was originally published in August 2014 and came up in my Facebook feed over the weekend. It tackles an issue that is evident from the first line of Austen’s most famous novel, “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” Wealth is important in Austen’s novels.

And this essay published this week on the web site Literary Hub  makes a point I’ve long argued. Mrs. Bennet maybe a foolish woman, but she isn’t wrong to worry, fuss, and plot marriages for her five daughters.

Are you a fan of Jane Austen? Do you agree with my favorites? Or do you disagree most vehemently? Let me know in the comments below.

To Read or Not Read?

Or I’m going to watch the TV show instead.

The new season of Game of Thrones  is set to begin soon(July 16 in the USA) on HBO. And I have been thinking about why I have decided not to read George R.R. Martin’s series A Song of Fire and Ice on which the TV series is based. And this is a controversial admission for me, a confirmed bookworm, to make. But make it I am and I stand by it, too.

A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, #1)
Courtesy GoodReads

I watched the series for the first time after my cable company offered us a free year of HBO. One cold winter’s night we decided to watch GOT since we had both heard so much about the most recent season. (Anyone heard of The Red Wedding episode? Thought so!) We really enjoyed it and were genuinely shocked by the death of Sean Bean at the end of season 1. (But we should have known since it is Sean Bean. The poor man rarely survives in anything he’s cast.) And I was enthusiastic enough about the series to read the books. So I downloaded the first book onto my Kindle and began to read.

And I liked the first book. There is a lot more to the story there. And there are characters that didn’t make it to the TV adaptation. It is a fun read. So, I downloaded book two to my Kindle. And again, its a good story. I enjoy it, too. So much so that I buy the third book rather than wait for the library copy to become available. And I begin to read. But. At about a 1/4 of the way in I stopped. And I stopped, according to my notes, because I just didn’t care about the book or the story it tells at that moment in time. I’m ready to read something else.

I had spent two months reading nothing but the first three books. I read the books late into the night and curled up in an air conditioned room during the day. I read no other book during this time. And I reached a point where I wanted to read something else. I have so many books that I want to read. So many other stories to become involved in that I put the book on my Kindle shelf and wander off to read something else. I fully intend to return to the book but I never do. Finally, about a year after closing the book I make the decision to not finish the book or read any of the rest of series. I decide to to only watch the TV adaptation.

And I’m okay with this decision. My husband never read the Harry Potter series and only watched the movies. And he is fine with it. He also has no interest in reading the Song of Fire and Ice series, either. The world and his reading life is still going forward. And we both know we are missing characters and story lines by only watching the TV show. And we are fine with it. And we are missing fun details like the trees in the North talking to each other, which my brother Scott tells me is a thing in the books. But I know this detail because he told me. and it makes certain scenes with the trees more interesting. But if I’m interested in some minute detail about the GOT world, there is a wiki where I can read all about it. Or I can ask Scott. Is it cheating? Maybe. But I’m fine with it.

At this point George R.R. Martin has yet to publish book six. But the TV adaptation has gone on. And I like that story lines are coming together and wrapping up in a, at least for me, satisfying way. And yes, I have debates with people (Hi Scott!) about whether or not this is the right way to consume this story. And I may at some point change my mind and read the rest of the series. But as of today I’m planning on just watching the TV show.

Have you ever decided not to read the book but only watch the adaptations? Tell me about it in the comments below.

 

Happy Belated Birthday, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone!

Twenty years ago on June 26, 1997 Harry Potter was first published in the UK. And the reading world has not been the same.

This series of books has launched movies, merchandise, and fan fiction. Publishers are on the prowl continually looking for the “new” Harry Potter. Children have grown up with Harry and are there are  now children being introduced for the first time to his wizarding world. But not all fans of J.K. Rowling’s series were children when the series first appeared 20 years ago.

I was in my early 30’s when I first read about Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone  in 1998. I was reading an essay about children’s books since I was always on the look out at the time for good books for my kids to read. At that time both kids were close in age to Harry in that first book. Both kids were readers and I thought they might enjoy this story that had taken the UK by storm. So, the next time I went to the store I bought it for the kids. And they both loved it. Loved it! The pestered me to read it too certain I would enjoy it as much as they did. But I put it off since that summer I was taking classes at the local community college and getting ready for a cross-country move. Harry would have to wait.

By the fall of 1999, we were settled in our new home, getting ready to go back to school, and waiting for the paperback version of the second Harry Potter book to come out. I knew my kids were very excited to read more about Harry’s adventures. They pestered me to read the book too, but I was enrolled in college busy reading the required texts and hadn’t time to read for pleasure at all. So again, Harry would have to wait.

It wasn’t until the third book in the series was published that I read the books. The film version was coming out and I try to read the books before I see the movie, if at all possible. So, finally, that summer of 2001, I belatedly sat down and read Harry’s story. And I loved it. I finished the first book in a day and moved on to the second, then the third. I was hooked. Later, when the fourth book came out, we all went to the Harry Potter book release party at the local B&N. (I miss those book release parties. They were such fun.) After we bought the book, like a good mom, I gave it to one of the kids to read. In the car. On the way home. In the dark.  And “encouraged” her to stay up all night and read it. Because her brother and I needed our turn! After she finished it, the boy took his turn. But he stopped at some point to play video games. So, while he played video games, I read. I suppose I could have bought two books or books for all of us, but money was tight in those days so all three of us shared the books.

At some point J.K. Rowling slowed down a bit and needed more time to write Harry’s story. But my kids didn’t slow down. They grew up and became older than Harry. By the time the final book was published both kids were grown and gone. And they bought their own copies of Harry Potter to read.

But we three can still argue about Harry Potter when they come home. Their dad, who has not read any of the books, has seen all of the movies and can follow our discussions. Harry was such a part of their young adulthood that realizing how many years ago it all started is shocking to me. It’s shocking because the kids who read Harry Potter are now adults. My kids are adults. Harry, Hermione, and Ron are adults, too. How can that be?

Have you fond memories of reading Harry Potter for the first time? Let me know in the comments below.