Fantasy, Fiction

Circe by Madeline Miller

I discovered the magical world of Greek mythology during my childhood. I talked about it a little bit here.  I must admit that the Norse myths have always been my favourite ones but the Greek ones have followed very closely behind. Stories featuring Athena, Heracles, Prometheus, Minotaur and others are something I could re-read on a regular basis.

Reading Circe was like re-discovering my favourite soft and cosy blanket. Its story soothed my soul and brought me lots of nostalgia.

Side note: you don’t have to be familiar with Greek myths to enjoy this story by the way. It’s written in a way that no prior knowledge is required whatsoever.

I saw behind Circe a search for belonging.

The wise and wonderful Maya Angelou once famously said: “You only are free when you realize you belong no place — you belong every place — no place at all. The price is high, the reward is great. I belong to Maya.” And to me, that’s Circe’s story in a nutshell.

“When I was born, the word for what I was did not exist.” 

I also sensed a very strong feminist undercurrent. The main protagonist faces a lot of discrimination because of her gender and I thought the book managed to address gender issues quite well.

But it’s the writing that really stood out for me. It is truly exquisite. It’s lyrical, extremely quotable and brought me so much joy. The pace is slow. I enjoy gently-paced stories but even I found this a tad too slow at times. If you prefer action, bear that in mind as this book may not be for everyone.

The story follows a nymph called Circe throughout her journey of solitude, explores her dysfunctional family dynamics, and shows her immortal imperfections. All sprinkled with a dash of a romance on the top.

“But in a solitary life, there are rare moments when another soul dips near yours, as stars once a year brush the earth. Such a constellation was he to me.” 

Ever since Circe was born, she hasn’t fitted in. Her voice is weak and her appearance is strange. Everyone from her family makes fun out of her and doesn’t take her seriously. She is not perfect despite being an immortal goddess. I think it’s her flaws and complexity that make her so relatable. She craves to be loved and accepted. As we all do. And she also wants to belong.

Circe, very early on in the book, falls in love and commits an offence, which gets her sentenced into living on her own on an isolated island. There, she starts her journey of healing and self-discovery.

There was definitely lots of loneliness involved but I also saw that Circe, despite being alone didn’t always feel lonely. You see we could be surrounded by people and still feel lonely at times. That’s something I quite appreciated about her story. How she embraces her newly discovered power and decides to follow her own dreams despite her solitude, or maybe because of it.

What’s really wonderful about this story is also how it explores mother / child relationship. How do we let go and let our children roam free? How do we accept that they may get hurt? How do we give them freedom they need, without the ability to shield them from the evil in this world? I thought that was explored beautifully via exposing mother’s fears and seeing her inner torment.

“But perhaps no parent can truly see their child. When we look we see only the mirror of our own faults.” 

There is also a little bit of romance involved. It’s not the book’s main focus but it is there.

“He showed me his scars, and in return he let me pretend that I had none.” 

The philosophical questions such as ‘what does it mean to be alive’ and ‘what can we ask for in a relationship’ are imposed and Circe ponders about them a lot. She is an immortal with the strength to stay vulnerable. She is scared because the outcome of her actions is uncertain yet she follows through with them anyway.

She gets laughed at, ridiculed, is told she is an abomination… yet she remains gentle, kind and her spine doesn’t bend. She is a goddess with a very mortal heart.

I could go on, Circe definitely captured my heart and her ability to stand her ground, despite knowing nobody else will be standing there with her, truly impressed me.

Recommended? Yes. The ending is likely to melt your heart.

Possible triggers: Rape, domestic violence

Fiction

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

eleanor

Today was meant to be my next Chitter-Chatter day. Today, I wanted to talk about books’ re-ratings.

Then I read Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine and changed my mind. I must tell you about this book. I just have to get it out of my system before I forget… 🙂

I started reading it on Monday’s night this week and had it not been for that pesky thing called work, I would have read it till early hours of Tuesday morning.

I told you Educated was my book of 2018. Well, I’m not sure if it still holds. I really, really fell in love with Eleanor, who is completely fine by the way, thanks for asking.


I’ll start with a warning.

This book deals with some tough issues such as loneliness, social isolation, child abuse, shame as well as death. I will include trigger warnings at the end of my post but if you are sensitive to any of these, please proceed with care, it is a sad book.

Meet Eleanor Oliphant (Ms.). Our main protagonist. She is of course, as the title suggests, completely fine.

Or is she?

“If someone asks you how you are, you are meant to say FINE. You are not meant to say that you cried yourself to sleep last night because you hadn’t spoken to another person for two consecutive days. FINE is what you say.” 

Eleanor is someone, you just cannot help falling in love with. She has no social skills, doesn’t understand emotions or relationships and likes to say it as it is. Whilst thinking she is doing everyone a favour of course.

She is a breath of fresh air. She doesn’t want to purposely hurt anyone but can not keep her mouth shut at times. She can be judgemental and even arrogant at times but as the story starts unfolding, we start glimpses of where that thinking is coming from. And she is willing to grow. Something I find fundamental when deciding whether to like a character or not. Her highly articulate and brilliantly descriptive thoughts made me laugh out loud so many times. This book strikes a lovely balance in bittersweetness. There are many extremely sad parts but there is also this warm undercurrent of human goodness.

“There are days when I feel so lightly connected to the earth that the threads that tether me to the planet are gossamer thin, spun sugar. A strong gust of wind could dislodge me completely, and I’d lift off and blow away, like one of those seeds in a dandelion clock. The threads tighten slightly from Monday to Friday.” 

Eleanor likes her routine, which is an admin work from 9 to 5, combined with a meal-deal lunch and a crossword puzzle. She also enjoys a few bottles of vodka on weekends, which help her with her sleeping habits. Then there are those regular Wednesdays’ calls with Mummy… but Mummy is someone we don’t like to talk about a lot. And then there’s the man of her dreams. She finally found him. He doesn’t know it yet but it’s only a matter of time…

Eleanor is an extremely intelligent person. She likes order and logic. Here’s an example of what she thought of some of those warning signs we like to put onto everything these days. This is her first McDonalds’ coffee experience:

“There was nothing to tempt me from the choice of desserts, so I opted instead for a coffee, which was bitter and lukewarm. Naturally, I had been about to pour it all over myself but, just in time, had read the warning printed on the paper cup, alerting me to the fact that hot liquids can cause injury. A lucky escape, Eleanor! I said to myself, laughing quietly. I began to suspect that Mr. McDonald was a very foolish man indeed, although, judging from the undiminished queue, a wealthy one.”

There is something raw and vulnerable about Eleanor. She never belonged anywhere. She had a challenging upbringing and also happens to suffer with acute shame, which makes her shy away from a human interaction. She is lonely and withdrawn. There is also that numbing part thanks to those bottles of vodka. I talked about numbing in this post. When we numb difficult emotions, we also numb those lovely emotions such as happiness and joy. They don’t stand a chance. And you can feel that in this book. You definitely can.

I loved everything about Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine. Its witty writing, consistent pacing and all those wonderful characters. Eleanor is the main protagonist but there are many supporting personalities that I enjoyed reading about as well. They are really what this book is all about. They are vivid, charming and you just want to know a little bit more of them and have to keep on reading.

Trigger warnings: child abuse, emotional and physical abuse, sexual assault, self-harm, suicide, depression and addiction. As said, it is not a light-hearted fun book, please take care if you are sensitive to these. ❤️

Recommended? Yes! Yes! Yes! Especially if you enjoy character driven books. It’s an utterly mesmerising book that will make you laugh whilst having tears in your eyes.


Over to you:

  • Have you read this book? If so, what did you think?
  • If you haven’t read this book, what do you think? Fancy reading it?
Non Fiction

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson

you have been shamed

My boyfriend James likes to say rather sarcastically: “Good luck having Vera read something from one of your recommended authors”. Why? Well, I tend to possess the gift of ‘a zero attention span’. I get super excited about an author’s recommendation, and five seconds later, I forget all about it. Despite how much I would like to read something from that author and the fact that their books are added to my TBR list (which I tend to ignore completely these days).

Why am I telling you this?

About 6 years ago, James recommended Jon Ronson’s The Psychopath Test to me, telling me how brilliant Jon Ronson was and how much he enjoyed that book. I listened, got super excited … and still haven’t read that book to this day….

A few weeks ago, I happened to find out Jon Ronson wrote this book about shame. Shame is one of those topics I always want to know more of. My curiosity was immediately sparked, I had to read that book!

Well, I did. And I loved it and I promptly told James off for not telling me sooner how brilliant Jon Ronson was… true story. 😉

For those of you, who have recommended me authors or books so far: there is still hope that I may read them one day… it may be a convoluted and a long-winded process, but I may get there. Do not despair! 😉 And I do appreciate all of your recommendations, I promise. ❤️


Let’s have a look at what Goodreads’ says about this book first:

From the internationally bestselling author of The Psychopath Test, a captivating and brilliant exploration of one of our world’s most overlooked forces.

For the past three years, Jon Ronson has been immersing himself in the world of modern-day public shaming—meeting famous shamees, shamers, and bystanders who have been impacted.  This is the perfect time for a modern-day Scarlet Letter—a radically empathetic book about public shaming, and about shaming as a form of social control. It has become such a big part of our lives it has begun to feel weird and empty when there isn’t anyone to be furious about. Whole careers are being ruined by one mistake. A transgression is revealed. Our collective outrage at it has the force of a hurricane. Then we all quickly forget about it and move on to the next one, and it doesn’t cross our minds to wonder if the shamed person is okay or in ruins. What’s it doing to them? What’s it doing to us?

Ronson’s book is a powerful, funny, unique, and very humane dispatch from the frontline, in the escalating war on human nature and its flaws.


I listened to this book as an audiobook. It is narrated by the author himself. I enjoyed both Ronson’s musical Welsh accent as well as his narrative. If you enjoy listening to non-fiction podcasts, the audio version of this book may be a way to go.

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed investigates, as the title suggests, public shaming. Shame is this corrosive feeling we may experience when we think we may just not be good enough. And we are worried that ‘they’ will find out one day. Public shaming is turning that fear of being found out, into a nightmare scenario of a roaring and upset crowd shouting at us ‘shame on you, what a terrible person you are’.

“We are defining the boundaries of normality by tearing apart the people outside it.” 

Ronson’s book seriously played with my emotions. His curious and funny approach got him to meet people who, according to his words: ‘didn’t do that much wrong’. I could not stomach how torn apart those people got. Hearing about it was both chilling and utterly terrifying. Sadly, it was all believable as well. And I think that is what got me.

“There is nothing I dislike more in the world than people who care more about ideology than they do about people.” 

I personally enjoyed the first half of the book a little bit more than its latter part. That could have been me getting confused with names though. I do have a poor memory and perhaps reading this as a book, rather than listening to it,  would have helped me as I would have been able to reference names a bit better that way.

What I did enjoy was Ronson’s sharp writing style, his diverse spectre of cases as well as the thought provoking topic itself. I also appreciated Ronson sharing some of his own stories. And his use of humour sometimes helped, especially when thinking about such heavy topic as shame.

What’s Ronson’s answer to public shaming? I’ll let you read the book to find it. 😊

Recommended? Yes! It’s not a collection of boring facts but rather a vivid portrait of incidents that could have potentially happened to many of us.

About Me, Bookish

How I Choose My Books Tag

The wonderful and kind Kelly from Another Book in The Wall tagged for the how I choose my books tag! Kelly has an amazing blog – not only does she write thoughtful reviews, but she also creates many thought provoking discussion posts as well as features inspiring book quotes. If you don’t know her blog, please go over to say Hi. I sincerely hope you will enjoy is as much as I do. Thanks Kelly for thinking of me. 

My attempt to catch up on all those lovely tags and awards continues. Let’s have a look how I choose my books, shall we? 🙂


  1. Find a Book on Your Shelves or E-Reader With a Blue Cover | What Made You Want to Pick Up This Book?

the witch of portobello

The Witch of Portobello by Paulo Coelho

I love Coelho’s The Alchemist and because of that, I read a few of his other books as well. This one spoke to me via its blurb “How do we find the courage to always be true to ourselves—even if we are unsure of whom we are?” I thought to myself: ‘that’s an interesting question, I wonder how it will get answered’ and gave this book a chance. 😊

  1. Think of a Book You Didn’t Expect To Enjoy, But Did | Why Did You Read It in the First Place?

heartless

Heartless by Marissa Meyer (my review)

I am a big Alice in Wonderland fan. That was the reason behind choosing this book. I started reading it thinking ‘I sincerely hope that Lewis Carroll’s non-sensical world will not get ruined’… I had many arrogant and cynical assumptions at the back of my mind and they were proven completely wrong. I absolutely adored this book.

  1. Stand In Front Of Your Bookshelf With Your Eyes Closed And Pick a Book At Random | How Did You Discover This Book

Underland

Underland by Chanda Hahn

I read everything Chanda Hahn has written… I enjoy her re-tellings and especially loved her An Unfortunate Fairy Tale series.

When I found out Chanda wrote a book featuring Greek myths, well, it was a no-brainer for me to pick it up… and it did not disappoint by the way, I recommend this book.

  1. Pick a Book That Someone Personally Recommended To You | What Did You Think Of It?

what alice forgot

Norrie recommended me a while back What Alice Forgot from Liane Moriarty (my review). I loved this book because of its characters as well as the concept of ‘time travel thanks to amnesia’… and because of Norrie’s recommendation, I discovered another great author. 😊 With Big Little Lies (my review) being one of my favourite books of 2018 so far.

  1. Pick A Book You Discovered Through Booktube/Book Blogs

educated

Educated by Tara Westover (my review)

I picked this book up after I read this Umut’s review. It is still my book of 2018… despite being massively impressed with Circe

  1. Find A Book On Your Shelves With A One Word Title | What Drew You To This Book?

Outliers

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

Oh, Gladwell and his impressive writing. No unnecessary words, everything well-thought-out and to the point. I adore his thought provoking books.

I was drawn to this book both because of its author as well as its description: “Gladwell asks the question: what makes high-achievers different? His answer is that we pay too much attention to what successful people are like, and too little attention to where they are from: that is, their culture, their family, their generation, and the idiosyncratic experiences of their upbringing.

  1. What Book Did You Discover Through a Film/TV Adaptation?

The Lighting Thief

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

I read Percy Jackson’s adventures a while back, shortly after I watched Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief movie. I really wish I read those as a child, I enjoyed them as an adult but I know I would have loved them even more as a kid. 😊

  1. Think of Your All Time Favourite Book(s) | When Did You Read Them and Why Did You Pick Them Up In The First Place?

My All Time Favourite book is The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

little princeI was given this book by my dad and we read it together for the first time when I was a child. Dad would always pause and let me think about what we just read. We would analyse it together and he would ask for my opinions page after page. 🙂 I read it again a few times as a teenager after that. My sister and I share the same love for this book. We used to talk about its quotes for hours in our local tea room, which is built in our Gothic’s town’s old town walls.

tearoomPhoto of that lovely tearoom

I still remember those discussions and cherish them very dearly.

I read it again many times as an adult and every time I read this bittersweet book, I discover something new in it.  It’s full of possibilities, dreams and love. 😊

Some of my favourite quotes from this book are:

  • “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye”.
  • “What makes the desert beautiful,’ said the little prince, ‘is that somewhere it hides a well…” 
  • “Well, I must endure the presence of a few caterpillars if I wish to become acquainted with the butterflies.” 
  • “You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed.” 

 


If you haven’t done this tag and are reading this post, I am tagging you. 🙂 

Tag, you are It! 🙂

Now over to you:

  • Have you read some of the books I mentioned? 
  • What Book Did You Discover Through a Film/TV Adaptation?
Fiction

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

great alone

“Were you ever out in the Great Alone, when the moon was awful clear,
And the icy mountains hemmed you in with a silence you most could hear;
With only the howl of a timber wolf, and you camped there in the cold,
A half-dead thing in a stark, dead world, clean mad for the muck called gold.”

 “The Shooting of Dan McGrew” by Robert W. Service.


The Great Alone melted my heart. 🙂 What worked for me in particular was that it wasn’t just a love story. Love did play an extremely important part in it but it was not the only focus point. Something I appreciated a lot.

After I have had some time to digest The Great Alone, I feel a few clichés were used, its ending seemed a bit rushed and there was a lot of drama that at times felt a little bit too… unnecessary.

But…

I loved it. My emotions were all over the place – I laughed, cried… and I wholeheartedly recommend this book despite of those points above.


Before I dive into my review, here’s what Goodreads‘ says about it:

Alaska, 1974. Untamed. Unpredictable. A story of a family in crisis struggling to survive at the edge of the world, it is also a story of young and enduring love.

Cora Allbright and her husband Ernt, a recently-returned Vietnam veteran scarred by the war, uproot their thirteen year old daughter Leni to start a new life in Alaska. Utterly unprepared for the weather and the isolation, but welcomed by the close-knit community, they fight to build a home in this harsh, beautiful wilderness.

At once an epic story of human survival and love, and an intimate portrait of a family tested beyond endurance, The Great Alone offers a glimpse into a vanishing way of life in America. With her trademark combination of elegant prose and deeply drawn characters, Kristin Hannah has delivered an enormously powerful story that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the remarkable and enduring strength of women.

About the highest stakes a family can face and the bonds that can tear a community apart, this is a novel as spectacular and powerful as Alaska itself. It is the finest example of Kristin Hannah’s ability to weave together the deeply personal with the universal.


The Great Alone is set in 70’s and is a coming-of-age story of 13-year-old Leni. I loved her straight away. She is an avid reader, a keen photographer but also feels lonely as her family moves from place to place. She is this curious and sensitive character that will melt your heart.

The story begins fully when her father Ernt decides to take her and her mum Cora to Alaska.

The Great Alone is a survival story. The survival is not just about lasting through harsh Alaskan winters though, it is also about facing increasingly unpredictable and volatile home dynamics.

“All this time, Dad had taught Leni how dangerous the outside world was. The truth was that the biggest danger of all was in her own home.” 

There is another survival story there, which Ernt is going through. He is a war veteran and his story of survival is how he manages to cope with all that emotional pain he endured during the war.

I thought Hannah’s touching on post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was important. This was 70’s. People didn’t talk about PTSD then. I do not condone any form of abusive behaviour and I think it is absolutely not OK to behave in such way – but having that knowledge of what Ernt went through made me understand, where his behaviour may have been coming from.

Side note: I am aware that not every brave soldier suffers from PTSD and that those who may suffer from it don’t necessarily exhibit abusive behaviour either. But I do believe that there are many heroic soldiers that need our help, and who may feel our system sometimes fails them. I hope things are better these days than they were in the 70’s, but I think we should still be raising an awareness around such a difficult topic. 

I thought at times, Ernt’s wife Cora senses that too. She knows that war changed her husband. She remembers what he was like ‘before’ and is hoping that her sticking by him and loving him could heal him somehow.

“Love and fear. The most destructive forces on earth. Fear had turned her inside out, love had made her stupid.” 


The Great Alone‘s story gently flows through the harsh and cold Alaskan wilderness. Hannah’s writing is extremely atmospheric; I felt I was in the stunning Alaska the entire time. Protagonists are well developed, the supporting characters are charming and I fell for all of them big time.

The questions I kept on asking myself whilst reading this book were following: “what does it mean to be alive?” and “how do we leave people we love?

Recommended: Yes! 

Possible triggers: Domestic abuse. Please do take care. 


Over to you now. As always, I love hearing from you.

  • Have you read The Great Alone?
  • If not, what do you think of its blurb? Is that something you may enjoy?

 

Bookish

I Spy with My Little Eye… something that starts with…

The Incredible Spy Norrie @ Reading Under the Blankie invited me to take part in this fun challenge. I’m always up for a challenge. So what is this particular one about?

The challenge: Find a book that contains (either on the cover or in the title) an example for each category. You must have a separate book for all 20, get as creative as you want and do it within five minutes!!

Side note: I will use my GoodReads’ list of books, which I have read or want to read, displayed a grid to help me with this challenge. Let’s see how quickly it goes…


FOOD

fairest

I enjoy fairy tale re-tellings and the Fairest from An Unfortunate Fairy Tale Series was a highly enjoyable read. I recommend the series if you love fairy tales. 🙂 Fairest by Chanda Hahn

TRANSPORTATION

Small Spaces cover

I can not wait to get my hands on this book. Small Spaces by Katherine Arden is a highly anticipated book.

WEAPON

norse mythology

Well I’m sticking with this one as Thor used his hammer as a weapon. 🙂 Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman (my review).

ANIMAL

the horse whisperer

The Horse Whisperer by Nicholas Evans. Absolutely loved this book when it was released (the movie was ok but it’s the book that stole my heart).

NUMBER

13

Thirteen by Kelley Armstrong – I read her entire Otherword series as well as a few other of her books. Witches, werewolves, necromancers, and mafia.. what else to say. 🙂

SOMETHING YOU READ

talon

Talon by Julie Kagawa. Kagawa is such an amazing author and I still want to read some of her books as I haven’t read all of them yet. I love dragons and this book cover is just…. 

BODY OF WATER

Life of Pi

I bought this audiobook recently and can not wait to start listening to it (hopefully sometime this week). Life of Pi by Yann Martel

PRODUCT OF FIRE

the winter of the witch

Another of Katherine Arden‘s highly anticipated releases. I can not wait to read The Winter of the Witch. I really, really can not wait. Can I somehow get a copy please… ehm, like right now please??? Let’s appreciate how beautiful this cover is so I can talk about it for a tiny bit longer… 😀

ROYALTY

red queen

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard I read it, it was ok. Moving on…

ARCHITECTURE

kin

Kin by Snorri Kristjansson – a book about highly dysfunctional family dynamics plus a few murders now and again happening within this ‘lovely’ family. Quite a surprising fun read (my review).

CLOTHING ITEM

the three musketeers

I absolutely adored this book whilst growing up. Alexandre Dumas and The Three Musketeers.

FAMILY MEMBER

Iron Daughter

Another of Kagawa’s books that I really enjoyed reading. This one is about The Iron Fey. Iron Daughter by Julie Kagawa.

Side note: if you enjoyed The Cruel Prince by Holly Black, I highly recommend this series as well. 🙂

TIME OF DAY

Mort

My favourite Pratchett’s book. I know it’s not ‘quite’ the time of day but I just had to sneak it in here… Mort by Terry Pratchett

MUSIC

1000perfectnotes

The emotional contemporary novel A Thousand Perfect Notes by C.G. Drews (my review)

PARANORMAL BEING

hobbit

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. The paranormal being in this case is the dragon, Smaug, not Bilbo – because Bilbo is a legit hobbit, just saying…

OCCUPATION

alchemist

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. This book helps me dream every time I read it… 

SEASON

wintersmith

Another of Pratchett’s wonderful creations. This is especially enjoyable on a cold frosty winter day. Wintersmith by Terry Pratchett

COLOUR

the colour of magic

Norrie – you did extremely well with King, I was very impressed. 🙂 I was tempted to play along with Pratchett but did not dare… he he. Still, I had to use his third book here… purely because it is a pretty awesome book and because I’ll be re-reading it soon with this lovely bunch. Join us if you fancy joining a Terry Pratchett Read-a-thon!! 🙂

The Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett

CELESTIAL BODY

little prince

Because that’s my favourite book of all time. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery I particularly love this quote of his:It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.

SOMETHING THAT GROWS

wildwood dancing

This book… I completely lost sense of time whilst reading it. Its writing is truly magical. It’s a wonderful story of five sisters that discover a portal to a mysterious forest (just to double check, something is growing there in the background, right?) If you like Arden’s writing, I have a feeling you may enjoy this beautiful book as well. Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier


What wants to play along?

Cynic On Wings  | Book Beach Bunny | Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky | Leslie @ Books Are The New Black| Alex @ Alex Reads and Blogs | Ivy @ Ivy’s Library Card | Ashley @ Ashley in Wonderland | Justine @ Milkz’ Bookshelf

Fancy giving it a go? And also everyone else who feels like it. It’s a lot of fun, promise!

I did not beat the 5 minute time though… I guess ‘indecision’ is my middle name, he he. It was a lot of fun, thanks Norrie for thinking of me. 🙂


Now over to you:

What book cover would you choose for CELESTIAL BODY? Fancy sharing it with me? 🙂 Thanks.

Fantasy

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

spinning silverSummer is coming my friends. As a winter person, I’m trying to survive it with books that will make me feel cold. I recently finished Norse Mythology and now I am about to tell you about another cold tale of winter in the wonderful story of Spinning Silver.

Before I tell you my thoughts, here’s what Goodreads have to say:


Miryem is the daughter and granddaughter of moneylenders… but her father isn’t a very good one. Free to lend and reluctant to collect, he has loaned out most of his wife’s dowry and left the family on the edge of poverty–until Miryem steps in. Hardening her heart against her fellow villagers’ pleas, she sets out to collect what is owed–and finds herself more than up to the task. When her grandfather loans her a pouch of silver pennies, she brings it back full of gold.

But having the reputation of being able to change silver to gold can be more trouble than it’s worth–especially when her fate becomes tangled with the cold creatures that haunt the wood, and whose king has learned of her reputation and wants to exploit it for reasons Miryem cannot understand.


Novik stays true to her Uprooted’s Slavic theme. Spinning Silver craftily mixes Slavic folk stories with a hint of Rumpelstiltskin retelling. In case you are wondering: Uprooted is not related to Spinning Silver. These are two standalone books.

Spinning Silver takes us to wintery Lithuania. Frost covered wings of cruel winter bring mysterious riders to its villages. They travel to the human world via their winter road; steal people’s gold and kill whoever / whatever gets in their way. They are called Staryk (the ancient / old ones). And people fear and hate them equally.

Meet Miryem – our first protagonist, a moneylender’s daughter trying to revive her father’s dying business to save her ill mother. She is smart but is starting to close herself off emotionally to do what is ‘necessary’.

Then there is Wanda, a servant girl who is trying to get by. Her future is looking bleak as her abusive drunken father has one thing on his mind: how to sell her off so he can get more money for his alcohol.

The third protagonist, Irina is smart and scheming, but also compassionate and protective. She would do anything to save people from Winter’s reign. Will she succeed?

All these there females have following in common: they are happy to think for themselves and to make their own destinies. Their actions are not full off ‘roaring and screaming’ but are rather more subtle – their bravery is demonstrated by them showing up. They follow through with their smart but also uncertain plans whilst forming unlikely alliance. Novik’s beautifully crafted females are brave whilst remaining vulnerable, smart but also afraid. They show range of emotions that deeply resonated with me.

What is slightly unusual about Spinning Silver is that there are three supporting characters as well which we get to hear talking now and again. They are added gradually and because of that, they don’t overpower the narrative. They only add their unique perspectives from time to time.

There is always an element of danger whenever introducing multiple POVs. That is that us, readers, may prefer some over others. I did struggle connecting with these three characters but appreciated the part they played. Spinning Silver is narrated in first person and using this technique gave me an additional insight into the storyline.

There is a touch of slow burning romance (‘kindling’ kind of slow), which is weaved in extremely carefully. I enjoyed the main focus being on both characters’ motives as well as their mission without them being distracted by romance thoughts. Also, the slow burn is something I personally take over instalove any day.

Novik’s language is exquisite – deliberately chosen words, eerie mood, skilfully built tension. It’s all there. I was pulled into the story from the beginning, it’s a fairly slow paced one but it’s extremely atmospheric and you will appreciate it either whilst curled under a warm blanket on a cold winter day or like me, craving some cold shade on a hot day whilst dreaming of icy winter roads…

I saw in Spinning Silver a story of underdogs and a strong message of brain over brawn. 

I also thought Novik‘s exploration of Rumpelstiltskin being portrayed via a Jewish moneylender, as well as being a woman, was intriguing. I am trying not to reveal too much as spoilers are my major pet peeve. I would be interested in hearing your thoughts though if you read this book.

Recommended? Yes!!! Especially if you have enjoyed Uprooted! Also, if you have enjoyed other Slavic themes books such as Arden’s The Bear and the Nightingale or Bardugo’s The Grishaverse Series.

Possible triggers: child abuse and antisemitism

Many thanks to NetGalley and Pan Macmillan for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Verdict: Hot Beverage on Apple Hot Beverage on Apple Hot Beverage on Apple Hot Beverage on Apple  (4/5)


What do you think? Do you want to read Spinning Silver or have you read it already?

And do you like Slavic folk tales?