The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller – DNF

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This is going to be the first book I’ve taken the time to write about that I did not finish. Usually when I DNF a book I just pop onto Goodreads, leave a pithy comment, and go on my way. This one, I felt, deserved a little more attention. The Song of Achilles is currently sitting at a 4.26 rating on Goodreads and nearly every review I read was over the moon about this book. I figured it would be a slam dunk. Historical fiction? Love it. Greek? One of my favorite eras. Achilles? One of the most bad ass warriors in antiquity. Why wouldn’t I love this book? Let me explain…

This book isn’t a story about Achilles’ prowess on the battlefield. It is, in fact, not even told form his perspective. How are you going to title a book “Achilles” and then not tell the story from his POV? Instead we are introduced to the character Patroclus. Patroclus is the son of a wealthy ruler and his mentally unstable wife. His father has always been displeased with Patroclus because while other noble sons are strong, fast, and impressive Patrcolus is small, quiet, and (the father suspects) a bit slow. In my opinion he also had all the personality of a dead fish.

After Patroclus accidentally kills another boy he is forced into exile by his father. He finds himself at the palace of another ruler. I can’t remember his name and can’t be bothered to jog downstairs to grab the book to find it. This fellow collects the exiled children and trains them as warriors for his army. There, Patroclus meets Achilles who is the ruler’s son.

Achilles is admired by all the cast off children who clamor for his attention or praise. Achilles, however, gives his attention to Patroclus, the boy who is obviously terrible in combat training and doesn’t talk to anyone. Achilles chooses to make Patroclus his companion. Patroclus now instead of training with the other kids spends his time going to lessons with Achilles and accompanying him wherever he goes.

It is evident early on in their friendship that there are underlying romantic feelings. Once that point is made evident, that is all the story really focuses on for chapter after chapter. The Song of Achilles is not a story about a magnificent warrior. It is about two young people who fall in love and the trials and tribulations that can come from that. Maybe I should have read the other reviews a little more closely before picking this one up. I don’t like love stories. Had I been aware that this was a love story I would not have read it.

Now, I want to make clear that I do not give a donkey’s behind that the romantic aspect of this story is of a homosexual nature. I don’t care. I just wanted to make it perfectly clear that the reason I dislike this book was because of the story itself, not because of the nature of the romantic relationship. It is ridiculous that I have to bring this up but I will not have someone jumping down my throat about LGBT acceptance. Achilles could have fallen for a woman and the story would have been equally dull. Or he could have been into a perverted dendrophilia or have sexual thoughts about sheep. It still would have been dull. The nature of the sexual relationship of the story is not what made it bad for me. Are we absolutely clear? Good. Moving on.

Achilles spends years in training to be the best warrior that has ever lived. We don’t get to read about his training, mostly get told that he is doing it. For this to be a story with Achilles you know that Troy must become involved at some point. So, after 3/4 of the book where nothing worth noting happens, Achilles and Patroclus find themselves along the beaches outside the city of Troy. A massive army of Greeks has come to reclaim Helen and return her to her husband. Once more we are told that Achilles goes off to battle but we don’t get to see anything of it. He comes back to his tent and to Patroclus covered in blood but once more the focus of the story is their relationship, not Achilles deeds.

This is where I threw in the towel. Maybe the rest of the story is wonderful and exciting and everything I hoped it would be. I’m not going to be finding out. You know when you start watching a movie or TV series and most of it is boring and monotonous? You don’t continue watching it, do you? That is how I felt about this book. It was monotonous. The ratings for this story are mostly all positive and that is wonderful. I love that a book that features a healthy LGBT relationship is so accepted and appreciated. My problem, I think, is that I just don’t like a love story.

“I could recognize him by touch alone, by smell; I would know him blind, by the way his breaths came and his feet struck the earth. I would know him in death, at the end of the world.”

 

 

Throwback Thursday – May 25

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Renee began this Throwback Thursday meme at Its Book Talk as a way to share some of her old favorites as well as sharing books that she wants to read that were published over a year ago. Books that were published over a year ago are almost always easier to find at libraries or at a discounted sale price. As I have been sifting through my TBR list and purging those books that no longer hold my interest, I came across several from years past that I have not yet had the opportunity to read that I’d love to share with you!


 

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Title: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Published: March 14th 2006 (first published 2005)
Added to TBR: December 2016
Published by:  Knopf Books for Young Readers

It’s just a small story really, about among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery. . . .

Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement before he is marched to Dachau.

This is an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul.


You ever feel like you are the last person in the world to read a book? I’ve been seeing this one every time I turn around for years. In fact, I just glanced through the information on Goodreads and 95% of my friends list has read it. How is that even a thing? It has become one of those books you use as starting point to compare other books to. “(Insert random book title here) is good but it is no Book Thief.” I’m sure I’ll get to it eventually. Maybe. Probably.

“I wanted to tell the book thief many things, about beauty and brutality. But what could I tell her about those things that she didn’t already know? I wanted to explain that I am constantly overestimating and underestimating the human race-that rarely do I ever simply estimate it. I wanted to ask her how the same thing could be so ugly and so glorious, and its words and stories so damning and brilliant.”

What are some older books sitting on your TBR?

WWW Wednesday – May 24

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WWW Wednesday is a meme hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words and was formerly hosted by A Daily Rhythm. It is open for anyone to participate, even without a blog you can comment on Sam’s post with your own answers. It is a great way to share what you’ve been reading! All you have to do is answer three questions and share a link to your blog in the comments section of Sam’s blog.

The three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?

What did you recently finish reading?

What do you think you’ll read next?

What are you currently reading?

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“He is a weapon, a killer. Do not forget it. You can use a spear as a walking stick, but that will not change its nature.”

The Song of Achilles by Madison Miller. I’m not going to lie, the first half of this book bored me beyond words. I could barely read a couple of paragraphs before putting it down again. I have reached the section where they have landed at Troy and hopefully it gets a little more interesting or I’m going to have to DNF this one.

 

What did you recently finish reading?

Victoria

I know that I am young, but I am ready for the great responsibility that lies before me.”

Victoria by Daisy Goodwin. I love when I stumble upon a good work of historical fiction. Victoria is the story of the early years of Queen Victoria of England. When I started the story I knew very little about her but quickly came to love her. This strong willed Queen had me entertained from page one.

 

What do you think you’ll read next?

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“Forgiveness can get you places, I guess. But sometimes you need to light a fire.”

Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige. To be honest with you lovely folks, I feel a reading rut coming on. I’m hoping Dorothy Must Die will snap me out of that funk. Let me let you in on a little secret, I never watched the original Wizard of Oz. Or read it. However, I adore Wicked. Hopefully Paige’s take on the classic story will give me some zip.

 

That’s it for this Wednesday. Happy reading!

Top Ten Tuesday – Summer Reads

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s theme Summer Reads. In preparation for Memorial Day (which is always the unofficial summer kickoff), let’s recommend some summer/beach reads: books to go in your beach bag, best books set in summer, books with summer-y covers, best beach reads for people who don’t enjoy contemporary/realistic reads, best beach reads for fans of X genre, etc. etc.

To get myself in the mood to write this one I pulled up a playlist called So Cal Summer on Google Play. To say the least, I’m not feeling summery yet. Here it is still rainy and vaguely chilly. (For the record, so far this play list is more depressing than anything)

 

A BOOK WHERE THERE IS A LITERAL BEACH

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Savor the Moment by Nora Roberts. So, every now and then I read a romance novel. If you’ve so much as glanced at my book reviews before that may be a bit of a shock, I know. Toward the end of the book, the characters take a vacation at the beach where our main character, Laurel, gets engaged. It’s really a pretty sweet scene.

THE ALIEN BEACH

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Freedom’s Choice by Anne McCaffrey. This book is the second in McCaffrey’s Catteni series. In this series, Earth and other planets have been invaded and the indigenous intelligent life has been stolen away from their home planet and some of them are transplanted on new planets to colonize them. Low and behold the group, which includes a giant biped cat, find themselves on an alien beach. (Can you tell I’m having trouble with this summery/beachy theme, yet?)

SUMMERY COVER

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That Summer by Sarah Dessen. I’ve never read this one but boy does that cover shout summery beach day to me.

UPCOMING SUMMER RELEASE

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Are you Sleeping by Kathleen Barber. This book is set for release on August 1st which is certainly high summer. Serial meets Ruth Ware’s In A Dark, Dark Wood in this inventive and twisty psychological thriller about a mega-hit podcast that reopens a murder case—and threatens to unravel the carefully constructed life of the victim’s daughter. -From Goodreads

 

Alright, guys. I’m going off the rails on this one. This theme and I are going to have a fight. I could just tap out and list a bunch of books that I’d like to sit on a beach to read but that would end up being just a list of my favorite books. That feels like cheating. So, while above you see some beachy/summery books, below I give you… songs that make me think of summer! Yeah, I know, that’s still cheating…give me a break, here.

 

My Own Worst Enemy by Lit. For me, this is close to an ultimate summer song. I remember sitting in the grass at a music festival, the summer sun beating down on me, listening to these guys blast this song to the crowd. It was a great experience and will always be a happy summer memory.

Scotty Doesn’t Know from the Euro Trip soundtrack. Does this song even need an explanation? High school graduates, graduation party, awesome and catchy song.

1985 by Bowling for Soup. I remember hanging out with my friends on summer nights singing along to this song. It came out the year I graduated from high school and a lot of warm nights were spent with this blasting out of the car windows.

Josie by Blink 182. This song just makes you think of a hot California summer. Not to mention I’m pretty sure it’s the first time I’ve run across this video and I may have giggled.

 

 

So maybe I didn’t follow this week’s theme to the letter. Maybe I should have just browsed Goodreads and found books with titles or covers that made me think of summer. But, I didn’t. I hope you enjoy it all the same. Happy Tuesday!

The Happiness Tag

First, thank you to Nadwa @ Painfully Fictional for tagging me for The Happiness Tag! I always enjoy doing these tags as it gives your readers a sense of who you are outside of books and literature. It is just a fun way to bring the bookish community together.

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LIST FIVE THINGS THAT MAKE YOU HAPPY 

  • A clean house– I never feel like I can get anything productive accomplished until my home is clean. I need the tidy and everything to be in it’s place.
  • Snuggling my little girl as she is falling to sleep– I’m not usually much of a snuggler but I love to pull my little three year old in as she is falling to sleep. The soft sleepy sigh, the little wiggle to get really comfortable, and just knowing she feels safe enough to sleep all cuddled up with me. It’s a good feeling.
  • A full tank of gas in the car– There has been more than one occasion in the last 10+ years that I have had to dig for change to put gas in the car to get to work. It’s a terrible feeling. When the tank is full and you don’t have to worry about it, that sure makes me happy.

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  • Spring flowers– For most of my life I have lived in cold, snowy areas. This winter the wind chill hit into the negatives (Fahrenheit) on more than one occasion and it was brutal. I think because of that I have a love of spring flowers. Those first tulips and hyacinths of the year let me know that warmer days are on the horizon.
  • Family dinner- I love to sit down to a meal with my family when everyone enjoys what is on their plate. At dinnertime we sit together and, since we aren’t a chatty group, we typically watch a comedy special or something entertaining. It’s just nice to be together as a family eating a meal that I put together.

Alright, answering those made me feel old. Hah! Ten years ago the answers would have been more along the lines of, “going to the beach” or ” sleeping in.” The times, how they change. I also left reading out because, really, this is a blog about books. I feel like it is pretty obvious that reading makes me happy.


 

LIST FIVE SONGS THAT MAKE YOU HAPPY

I think that this section is going to be a little tougher. It depends on what kind of mood I’m in for a song to make me feel happy. Am I already in a decent mood? Then some pop music would elevate that. Do I have a case of the grumps? Some hard rock would help get rid of that black cloud. Let’s see what I come up with today!

  • Adrenalize by In this Moment- Not exactly a song that most people would say can lift their mood but it always does the trick for me. It leaves me feeling powerful like I can conquer anything.
  • Inside Out by Eve 6– I remember singing this as loudly as I could in the back seat of the car with my sister. We loved this song. Pretty sure it drove our mother nuts but it’s a happy memory that always leaves me feeling good.
  • Ziggy Stardust by David Bowie– To be honest, the whole Ziggy Stardust album leaves me feeling good. Bowie was a musical genius.
  • Basket Case by Green Day– I love Green Day. I got to go see them live with my dad a few years ago and it was really a lot of fun. That’s right, I had a blast with my dad. Basket Case is one of their most popular songs for a reason. It’s catchy, has an upbeat rhythm, and just leaves you boogieing in your seat.
  •  3 AM by Matchbox Twenty– This is another one of those songs that I started listening to with my sister and it has stuck with me. Every time it comes on I can’t help but stop what I’m doing and sing along.

That was tougher than I thought it would be. I debated for a good ten minutes between Matchbox Twenty and Queen. Ended up picking 3 AM because I can sing along with it. Freddy Mercury had a wonderful voice but singing along with him never turns out well. I think for a song to really lift your spirits you need to be able to sing along with it and my voice just can’t hack Queen.


 

I’m not going to tag anyone specifically to do this but, please, feel free! Have a lovely day, everyone.

 

 

Victoria by Daisy Goodwin

Victoria

 

Sometimes I sit down to write these reviews and just don’t know where to start. I’ve been staring at this screen for several minutes now wondering, “Now, where do I begin?” Always best to start at the beginning, I suppose. I didn’t intend to read this book. I hadn’t read any opinions about it on Goodreads or, to be honest, had not ever even seen it before. This book was chosen completely at random. I was walking into the library with my little girl and snagged a book haphazardly from a display near the entrance to amuse myself while she did her thing. I’m so glad that my hand landed on this one.

“I am referred to as Alexandrina Victoria. But I do not like the name Alexandrina. From now on I wish to be called Victoria.”

Our story begins with a young Alexandrina, the heir to the English throne. She is hardly more than a child and is already keenly aware that when the current king dies she shall ascend to the throne. Her mother, a rather self serving German duchess, and her co-conspirator Conroy believe that upon the king’s imminent death they will be the power behind the throne and control Alexandrina Victoria’s every move. However, the young Victoria has far too much spirit to ever allow that to happen.

I’m mildly ashamed to admit that when I started this book I knew very, very little about Queen Victoria. Other than knowing she was an English monarch, about the only other exposure I had had to her was a portrayal of her in Doctor Who that was mostly unflattering.  I know, I know, horrible of me. As a lover of history I should have had more knowledge of her. Somehow the queen had never been a blip on my radar, though. I will be amending that.

From the moment Victoria took the throne she began as she meant to go on. She dropped her first name of Alexandrina, which she disliked, for the uncommon Victoria. She also promptly created distance between herself and her mother. Victoria knew that the duchess and Conroy intended to rule her and she would not have it. She was young, only eighteen, when she took the crown and was well aware that people thought her too young and inexperienced to rule effectively. The Queen had every intention of proving them wrong.

I have to applaud the nerve Victoria displayed throughout the book. She knew her own mind and was more than willing to push her agenda. The Queen seemed fearless. During the course of this story, once the monarch had made up her mind there was no turning back. Sure, she was wrong occasionally but she had no qualm about making strong decisions.

One such decision she weighed heavily was taking a husband. The young queen had become enamored with her first Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne. Though he was years older than her she still took a liking to him. He had kindly and gently guided her at the beginning of her reign. Victoria had not been properly taught all the ways of the English court and government and Melbourne was there to help her through the worst of it. She even went as far as to propose to him though he, as politely as he could, declined.

There were no wars and battles in this book. No obvious and flashy entertainment. Instead it was a story of the Queen’s everyday life and her struggles to adjust to her role up until her betrothal to Prince Albert. We witness her coronation, her opening of poor houses for her people, and her giddy joy while playing with her dog or enjoying a ball. It is the life of the woman behind the throne.

Despite the lack of flashy entertainment this book pulled me in. It was so easy to get lost in the budding world of Victorian England. All of the characters were well written and had purpose and the story was easy to follow. There were certainly a few points where I wanted to knock a character’s head for poor decisions but even those parts were amusing. Victoria had sparkle and glint, drama and intrigue. It was a thoroughly enjoyable read and I’m very glad that it was the closest book to me on my way into the library that day.

“I know that I am young, but I am ready for the great responsibility that lies before me.”  

Throwback Thursday – May 18

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Renee began this Throwback Thursday meme at Its Book Talk as a way to share some of her old favorites as well as sharing books that she wants to read that were published over a year ago. Books that were published over a year ago are almost always easier to find at libraries or at a discounted sale price. As I have been sifting through my TBR list and purging those books that no longer hold my interest, I came across several from years past that I have not yet had the opportunity to read that I’d love to share with you!

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Title: The King’s Mistress by Emma Campion
Published: August 2009
Added to TBR: December 2016
Published by: Arrow Books LTD

When had I choice to be other than I was? From childhood Alice Salisbury has learnt obedience in all things and at fourteen, dutifully marries the man her father has chosen for her – at the cost of losing the love of her mother forever and the family she holds dear.

But merchant Janyn Perrers is a good and loving husband and Alice soon learns to enjoy her marriage. Until a messenger brings news of his disappearance and she discovers that her husband had many secrets, secrets he didn’t want her to know – but which have now put a price on her own head and that of her beloved daughter. Brought under the protection of King Edward III and Queen Philippa, she must dutifully embrace her fate once more – as a virtual prisoner at Court.

And when the king singles her out for more than just royal patronage, she knows she has little choice but to accept his advances. But obeying the king brings with it many burdens as well as pleasures, as she forfeits her good name to keep her daughter free from hurt.

Still a young woman and guided by her intellect and good business sense, she learns to use her gifts as wisely as she can. But as one of the king’s favourites, she brings jealousy and hatred in her wake and some will stop at nothing to see her fall from grace. – from Goodreads


 

I have always loved a good work of historical fiction and there are few topics more interesting to me than the intrigues of a historical royal court. While the reviews of this book widely vary I think it could still be an entertaining read. The idea of a mother that will do whatever is necessary to protect her daughter damn the consequences to herself certainly appeals to me. Luckily, this book is available at my local library and I think I may go pick it up today.

How about you? Are there any older books sitting on your TBR begging for some attention?