Circe, by Madeline Miller

img_0695.jpg

Circe, oh Circe!! This book has been everywhere in 2018… and for that reason, I had dug my heels in and was not going to go near all the hype on this book. Well, when a dear friend, with fantastic reading taste, told me she loved Circe. I thought, fine. I will just give it a try.

This is Madeline Miller’s second book. I had read her Orange Prize winning novel, The Song of Achilles, which was based off of the Iliad. And now she comes out with Circe, which is based off the Odyssey. Miller has said that as a child, she was obsessed with both these works of literature, and had so many questions about all the characters. So she decided to write her own version of what she thinks happened.

Circe is a coming of age story of the immortal nymph, who finds out she possesses the power of witchcraft. It starts from her young age, and interacting with the Gods and Goddesses. She feels inadequate in their presence as she lacks their beauty, and their powers… but what she lacks in these areas, she makes up with her ability of witchcraft. When Circe discovers this, and uses it to her advantage, and the detriment of others, she is exiled to the island of Aiaiai. It is here where Circe becomes a total queen, and discovers herself on so many levels.

This book is a must read. If you have any faint interested in Greek mythology, you will LOVE it. If you don’t, then just read it anyway, because it’s absolutely stunning. Miller’s writing style is so calm, and gently explanatory. It feels as if there is someone reading this story to you. It has some faint #metoo feminist vibes, and the ending is incredible. It’s, dare I say, perfect.

Lastly, there is a passage that is written so beautifully about motherhood. Miller uses the dichotomy of goddess and mortal, and shows the reader how perilous motherhood really can be. The nausea endured during pregnancy, endless diaper changes, the sleepless nights.  And then there is the overwhelming love, the guilt, and the worries. She just nails it. I think the motherhood experience is on a small scale what Circe goes through the whole novel, trying to balance whether being immortal is really all it’s cracked up to be.

That is one thing gods and mortals share. When we are young, we think ourselves the first to have each feeling in the world.

Have you read this one? Please let’s chat if you have.

Happy reading!

Advertisements

Kingdom of the Blind, Louise Penny

IMG_0599.jpg

Happy Christmas Eve, friends! If you have been following my blog for a bit, you will know how deeply I love the The Armand Gamache series, by Louise Penny. Kingdom of the Blind is the newest addition to the series, making it #14. The most frequent question I get when I chat with people about this series is, “do you have to read it in order?” And my answer is always YES. Start at the beginning, and enjoy every beautiful page of each book in the series. It’s just that good.

Kingdom of the Blind starts off with Armand with a letter in which he’s been invited to an abandoned farmhouse just outside of Three Pines, in Quebec. He soon finds out that he’s been made an executor of the homeowner’s will… and she’s a complete stranger. This elderly woman who owned this delapitated house, has some delusion requests in her will which Armand seems to find quite stranger. That is until a body turns up, and the layers of the mysterious will start to become peeled back.

With each instalment of this series, I find myself feeling really scared to read the newest one, and have it not be as good as the last one. Louise Penny NEVER disappoints me. She draws these characters so well in your mind that you really feel like you know them. I also have a theory that she really loves food, because every time I read these novels, I want to curl up with some comfort food after reading her descriptions.

This instalment was incredible, and I feel like a bit of a departure from most of the other ones in the series. You get to really see Armand starting to slow down and train his predecessors. Which feels really wrong, and sad to me, but I don’t think he’s getting anywhere near retiring. Although the ending of this book has me wondering where she’s going to take this series, as there are a couple definite options.

It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live.

What was the best part of this book was the Author’s Note. Louise Penny talks about how she felt that after her husband’s passing, there would be no more instalments to the Armand Gamache series. She has spoken openly about how much her husband had inspired her to write a character like Armand. He who is gentle, intelligent, poetic and equipped to get a job done. So she felt like continuing writing was impossible without her muse. And yet, one day she just started to write a sentence. Then a couple pages, and then now, we are reading this fantastic book.

As a little holiday gift to you… here’s a list of the Armand Gamache books in order:

  1. Still Life
  2. A Fatal Grace
  3. The Cruelest Month
  4. A Rule Against Murder
  5. The Brutal Telling
  6. Bury your Dead
  7. A Trick of the Light
  8. The Beautiful Mystery
  9. How the Light Gets In
  10. The Long Way Home
  11. The Nature of the Beast
  12. A Great Reckoning
  13. Glass Houses
  14. Kingdom of the Blind

Hoping you all have a great holiday season, and are getting lots of time to read 🙂

 

The Kiss Quotient, by Helen Hoang

IMG_0515

Having been placed in the “romance” genre, The Kiss Quotient, is a book I normally wouldn’t pick up. Upon hearing two of my fav authors Roxane Gay, and Taylor Jenkins Reid sing high praises about Helen Hoang’s writing, I decided…. okay, maybe this book is worth giving a shot. This book is reminiscent of The Rosie Project, and Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine… so if you enjoyed those ones, this one is worth picking up.

Meet Stella Lane, a 3o year old econometrician. She loves her work intensely, but dating is just really not her thing. The little fact that Stella has Asperger’s, makes dating seem more difficult. She hates kissing, speaks the whole, blunt, truth, and has quite a bit of anxiety on the whole process. So she does the logical thing, and hires a male escort, Michael Phan. He’s gorgeous, and martial artist, and is also willing to work with Stella’s plan to teach her how to date… and a couple more things. It’s doesn’t take long for Stella to realize that Michael may be her new obsession, and she starts to think that the feelings are being reciprocated. Here’s where the story gets really interested!

All the things that make you different make you perfect.

I just loved this book! I ripped through it in three days, and literally took it everywhere. The couch, the treadmill, the appointments, the lunch break, it was everywhere I was. Helen Hoang wrote a novel that is a modern re-telling, of Pretty Woman, with a twist. She has served up a novel that is a really fun story, with also some great writing. Without giving anything away, there are some pretty steamy scenes in this book. So if you are not a fan of that, you could possibly flip through or maybe it’s not the book for you.

In the Author’s Note, Hoang tells us that her daughter’s teacher had suggested the fact that she may have Asperger’s. Hoang was not convinced, but started really researching the subject as any parent would. What she found out was really interesting, Autism is represented differently in girls than with boys. She found out that she had a lot of the tendenacies that would lend to herself having Asperger’s. And at age 34 years old, Helen Hoang was diagnosed with Autism, and her daughter may very well be too. SO, long story short, she wrote a fantastic book with a wonderful heroine who really seems to tell the experience so truthfully.

Okay, so if you need a book to get you back into reading, want a book to read in a weekend, or just love great books…. put this book on hold at the library or go get it at your bookstore. It’s a great novel, and now I’m DYING to read Helen Hoang’s next one. It’s the second one in the series called The Bride Test. But wait for it… it’s not out until May 7th 2019. Seriously?!?! I’m dying!

Until next time, happy reading.

The Goddess of Yantai, by Ian Hamilton

img_0494.jpg

I was super thrilled when I received Ian Hamilton’s new addition to the Ava Lee series, The Goddess of Yantai. This series is one of my all-time favourites! This is the 11th novel in the series, and I highly suggest starting from the very first one if you want to get into this series. This series follows Ava Lee a forensic accountant, who is a Chinese Canadian, and also an avid runner and martial arts enthusiast. Ava chases big money losses, that are usually involving some very shady characters… hence the martial arts! I always say that this series is like the perfect mix of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and a Jackie Chan movie.

In the Goddess of Yantai, Ava travels to Beijing to view the premiere of her secret lover’s film, Pang Fai. After the premiere, Fai tells Ava that she is being blackmailed by the Chinese Movie Syndicate, who want sexual favours in return for continuing her successful career. At this point Fai has just had enough, and decided that she is with Ava’s help, putting an end to it. When they resist, the blackmail, and threats become increasingly worse. Will Ava be able to get to the bottom of it before the threats go to far??

Ekk… I wanted to just rip through this book, as the pace is fast, and the pages practically flip themselves. I actually limited myself to a certain page number each day though, because I found out that the next instalment isn’t out until July 2019.

These books are just fantastic. If you love great writing, an intense pace, and a bit of a thrill, then these are perfect for you. Ian Hamilton pulls in some real world issues into the plot with the #MeToo movement. He also describes the setting and the food so well that I just want to jump on a plane and fly over to Beijing for a trip. And lastly, Hamilton leaves Ava Lee fans on a cliffhanger with some of your favourite characters and a big old plot twist!!

Until next time, happy reading!

Victoria, by Daisy Goodwin

IMG_0386

They think I am still a little girl who is not capable of being a Queen.

From a young age Princess Alexandrina Victoria, knows that she will most likely be Queen one day. Just before her 18th birthday she becomes Queen of Great Britain and Ireland. Having a sheltered upbringing, small in size, and lastly, being FEMALE, most of her ruling had thought it was madness that she would be taking the throne. When she is crowned, Victoria starts to flex her muscles, and steer herself away from the grip her mother has had on her. As a young Queen, Victoria finds herself leaning on the Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne for guidance… and possibly has something else in mind as well.

Victoria is a fictional account based on true events of the young Queen Victoria. Daisy Goodwin was hired to write for the PBS series Victoria, and she decided to also write a novel. She had done many years of research on Victoria, and what I found fascinating was that Victoria was a lifelong diarist. This little fact gave Daisy Goodwin tons of really valuable research, and probably why you feel like Victoria’s voice in the novel was just perfect. She made her seem intelligent, full of wit, and also quite dramatic… like the teenager she was.

This is such a thrilling time in Britain. There is the women’s movement starting, and at this time women are still considered “property” of their husbands. You also have this being a monumental time in the abolishing of slavery. Which Victoria was very much pushing for. The other thing I really enjoyed learning was that Victoria had an intense relationship that she developed with Lord Melbourne, the Prime Minister. These two spent countless hours together, riding, dinner, educating… and then enters her “prince” Albert. And that put to end the possibility of Victoria, and Lord Melbourne ever exploring the possibility of their relationship.

Now what I really want to do is watch the PBS Masterpiece show, Victoria, to compare! I really enjoyed this book, and learning more about this time in history.

Until next time, happy reading!!

 

 

Lethal White, by Robert Galbraith

fullsizeoutput_4f4

Robert Galbraith, is actually J.K. Rowling’s alias. She had written under this name after getting barely reviews for her adult fiction that was released after her final Harry Potter series. Well, J.K. you are a genius. This series (the Cormoran Strike series) gives me similar feelings that the Louise Penny series. I wait until these are released, and read them instantly. These are the type of books that you savour, because when they are finished you are impatiently waiting for the author to hurry up and write the next novel. So this is where I am now.. come on J.K., I need another book!!!!

Cormoran Strike’s office is interrupted by Billy, a mentally ill young man, who tells Strike that he had witnessed a crime as a child. The crime that he describes is a murder of a child, and possibly involving the inner workings of the British Parliament. As Strike begins to question Billy, he becomes uneasy, and decides the run. All the while, Robin is trying to carry on from the last novel where she was attacked, and is suffering from panic attacks and PTSD. Strike, and Robin are off investigating Parliament offices, big manor homes, and also trying to maintain their own lives. As the novel unfolds, their separate relationships become quite unravelled, increasing the tension between the two of them.

Although this book is quite long, at almost 700 pages, it is totally worth the read. What J.K. Rowling perfects is… just about everything. The setting, the characters, the plot, it’s just all so perfect. I would wake up every day thinking… hmmm I wonder what’s going to happen to Robin and Strike today?! She has also brushed on the fact that Robin is dealing with some mental strife, and I loved this. Strike is a war veteran, so he has tons of advice to give her.

Pretending you’re OK when you aren’t isn’t strength.

This series fills the space of “pretty great writing/guilty pleasure”. Cormoran, who is the main “Sherlocky” detective, is such a great character. He’s gruff, he’s charismatic, and complete womanizer. Robin, his “Dr.Watson”, is the type of character who is much more relatable… she’s beautiful, insecure, and ballsy. So here me out on this next line… the sexual tension between them is HIGH!!

I hope you have time to curl up with a blanket and a tea, and dive into a great book this weekend! Happy reading!

 

Washington Black, by Esi Edugyan

IMG_0111

If you haven’t seen or heard of Washington Black, you must be hiding under a rock!!! It is the “it” book this fall. While being nominated for both the Man Booker Prize, and the Scotiabank Giller Prize, the accolades for this book are everywhere. BUT, the reason I was motivated to go out and buy this one is that I had gotten very envious when I was told by someone that their book club was reading it… so I thought I’d read it as well, thinking there would be lots to think and chat about in this one. Well, yes, my assumption was accurate!

It’s 1830, in Barbados, on a sugar plantation where you meet Washington Black. He is an eleven year old field slave, who has been chosen by the slave master’s brother, “Titch”, to be his servant. Titch is a scientist, an inventor, and an abolitionist. Titch teaches Washington many things, and gets his help with building a hot air balloon. When the tension at the plantation has risen to an all-time high, Titch decides that he and Wash are getting out of there… via the hot air balloon. From here the adventure begins, with travels around the world, but Wash cannot run away from the trauma of his past. The deep cuts that the plantation has left, and the abuse that was put on the people there are unforgettable. Titch and Wash have a very deep relationship, and as the story unfolds the real adventure begins when they are separated.

Esi Edugyuan’s beautiful prose is a delight to read. It paints a picture so clear that you feel the humidity described, and really feel the characters personalities. What she has done is written a book that makes the reader realize that the trauma of your past can shroud what seems like a bright future. At first I thought this was going to be a story about slavery, but by the end you realize that it’s much more than that. Yes, the terrors of slavery are addressed, but what the real content showed me was how deeply trauma affects someone. Wash went from being a field slave, to a freeman. To the outside eye you would think how lucky his chances were. But the fact that he deals with the guilt, and shame of the people who were his family that he had to leave behind is just all too overwhelming. He deals with the memories that are deeply rooted within the scars of his body, and are resurfaced upon a familiar sight, smell, or feeling.

We must all take on faith the stories of our birth, for though we are in them, we are not yet present.

There were so many fantastic characters in this story. Obviously Wash, but mostly I loved Titch. He was a deeply human character, whom I need to learn more about. I think what would be brilliant to chat with a book club about his story. If you’ve read this book, you will understand what I mean, because his story for me just didn’t feel complete when I finished this book.

This is the type of book that feels like a complete joy to read, but after you close it you continue to think about it. I finished this book over two weeks ago, and just could not figure out the words to write that would give it justice. I just think it’s beautiful, and deserves to be read.

Have you read this one? Please… let’s chat. I’m dying to have a conversation about Washington Black.