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

Bookish

T5W – Best Books I’ve Read So Far in 2018

Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Sam@Thoughts on Tomes over on Goodreads.

This week’s topics for the Top 5 Wednesday series is: Best Books You’ve Read So Far in 2018.

I have read many excellent books this year. I had a few months when I didn’t feel like reading but despite of that, I have managed to read about 40 books.

Out of those, following five books really stood out for me:

  • Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover (review)

educated

A powerful testament of how we can choose to stop being defined by our past. It is a thought provoking memoir that left me with a strong feeling of unease long after I finished reading it. I still think about it months after I finished reading this book. Its main theme is privilege – we don’t get to choose circumstances we are born into. It also explores belonging, shame, forgiveness as well as the ability to become an observer, rather than a victim of your past.

“You can love someone and still choose to say goodbye to them,” she says now. “You can miss a person every day, and still be glad that they are no longer in your life.” 

  • Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman (review)

eleanor

I enjoyed 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. It is not a fun or a light-hearted book as it deals with some serious issues, but I appreciated how it made me think as well as feel.

“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.” 

  • Circe by Madeline Miller

Circe

What a lovely book. Circe tells a story of an eternal witch, who gets banished for her actions. It is a slow story full of beautiful and lyrical writing. I loved everything about it, especially the Greek mythology aspect and the feminist thoughts. My review will follow shortly.

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

  • Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman (review)

norse mythology

It is a collection of stories that feel modern. They are fast paced and full of action and Gaiman’s sharp writing gives them a nice punch. There is also a lot of humour involved. I listened to this as an audiobook narrated by the author himself and highly recommend the audio version of this book.

“Because,” said Thor, “when something goes wrong, the first thing I always think is, it is Loki’s fault. It saves a lot of time.” 

  • Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty (review)

big little lies

It is a wonderful story of a friendship of three women, their dealings with motherhood as well as having to come to terms with some dark demons from their pasts. I saw many shame related topics in this book. Moriarty deeply understands human behaviour and portrayed honest struggles of mothers and women in general.

“She’d swallowed it whole and pretended it meant nothing, and therefore it had come to mean everything.” 


Now over to you my friends. 🙂

Fancy sharing with me your favourite 2018 reads so far?

Can’t wait to see yours. 🙂

Monthly Wrap Up

June Wrap Up

Welcome to the second part of 2018!

Hope you all are having a great summer full of warmth and sunshine. Sun With Face on Messenger 1.0

Here’s my recap on all things that were happening in June:

Food

June was quite a self-focused month for me. Apart from reading a lot, possibly to distract myself from how I felt, I have also been figuring out my health, mainly my relatively poor digestion and a complete lack of energy. And it has been tough. I successfully completed the elimination diet programme (which I talked about here a bit here) but not much has changed. Something I find quite challenging psychologically as it’s nice to see some progress to keep the motivation going. I’ve realised this will be a long distance run rather than a sprint as I need to address not only my nutrition but also my stress levels and look at my health from a more holistic approach. I’ll write a separate post on Whole 30 and why I am still on it for those, who may also struggle with Crohn’s-like symptoms, and who may find it helpful.

IMG_1089

Relax

June was a brilliant, warm, sunny month full of walkies with my sweet and extremely loud pup. We found some shaded local river walks, went wild swimming, went swan gazing and generally had a lot of fun. Due to my current health, I have zero energy to do anything but walk slowly and do gentle yoga. However walking in nature has been very restorative and is recharging me for sure. I recommend morning walks, when everything is so quiet and serene. 🙂

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My gardening attempts continue. 🙂 I gave up on those poor lavenders (more on them here). They have been replaced by miniature roses. And I haven’t killed those… yet…

IMG_1076Favourite Movie

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri

  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Mildred Hayes is on a mission to find justice for her murdered daughter. With no arrests after seven months, Mildred puts up three roadside signs to goad Ebbing police chief into action. It’s a story full of not entirely likeable, complex characters. I thought the entire main cast was absolutely phenomenal, and Frances McDormand‘s performance was truly outstanding.

Favourite TV Show

 

The Durrells

  • The Durrells 

British comedy TV series. It’s a story of a widow, who moves her four children from England to Corfu in 1935. I love the witty dialog, the Greek setting, as well as a picture of a unique family, that goes through a lot of struggles, but where you always feel a strong presence of love.

Favourite Book

eleanor

  • Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman my review

A very touching book that talks about some tough topics. Mainly, it addresses loneliness and social isolation as well as mental health in general. I loved both the consistently paced writing as well as craftily developed characters that were driving this story.


Reading Summary

It may seem that I read quite a lot but many of these books were read for a few months and I merely had a few chapters in some of them to finish in June. 🙂

I loved all my picks for fiction, and enjoyed those non-fiction reads as well.

I especially liked Upcycling Outdoors, as it’s full of quirky DYI step-by-step projects. Mind you I have an endless amount of optimism and always start projects thinking ‘how hard can it be‘… and the results are not always ‘ideal’. 🙂 I do want to try some of them though. Wish me luck. 🙂

Fiction

  • The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid (review to follow)
  • Circe by Madeline Miller (review to follow)
  • Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman (review)
  • The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah (review)

Non-Fiction

  • So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson (review)
  • Dear Martha, WTF? by Tricia LaVoice
  • A Beginner’s Guide to Being Mental by Natasha Devon
  • Emotional Agility by Susan A. David
  • Kitchen Ideas You Can Use by Chris Peterson
  • Upcycling Outdoors: 20 Creative Garden Projects Made from Reclaimed Materials by Max McMurdo
  • Eat Dirt: Why Leaky Gut May Be the Root Cause of Your Health Problems and 5 Surprising Steps to Cure It by Josh Axe

Now over to you:

  • What did stand out for you in June?

Hope you had a wonderful month! 💖💖

Bookish

T5W – Books You Want to Read Before the End of the Year

Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Sam@Thoughts on Tomes over on Goodreads.

This week’s topics for the Top 5 Wednesday series is: Books You Want to Read Before the End of the Year.

I must admit I am slightly worried that once I admit I want to read something, I am likely not read it. I am notorious for obsessing over a book, buying it, looking at it…. and not reading it. So please bear that in mind, and yes, I have a problem, I know! 😉

  • Small Spaces by Katherine Arden (release date: 25th September 2018)
Small Spaces cover
Small Spaces cover

I adore Arden‘s books. Her The Bear and The Nightingale is one of my favourite books. Arden’s lyrical prose is something I can not get enough of. Small Spaces is supposed to be a middle grade ‘spooky’ book. I am thinking a perfect Halloween read! 🙂

  • The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar
The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock
The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock Cover

Because so many of my trusted reviewers loved this book. Also, it was shortlisted for the Women’s Fiction Prize and longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize 2018. I read so many excited reviews and I am looking forward to reading it very shortly.

  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
The Book Thief
The Book Thief cover

Because it’s supposed to be about a girl during WWII. Because everyone I know who read it loved it, and because I am living under a rock and haven’t read it yet. 🙂

  • I really want to re-read Steinbeck‘s novels. The one I’m hoping to read again this year is East of Eden – John Steinbeck
East of Eden
East of Eden cover

To be honest, I am pretty sure I read it but I am not entirely sure I have. My poor memory says: “the blurb sounds familiar and you read pretty much everything of Steinbeck as he is one of your favourite authors”… but I am not certain. So I will re-visit! I am slightly scared that I will change my mind (I think I loved it…) but hey, you never know until you try. 🙂

  • Catwoman by Sarah J. Maas (release date: 7th August 2018)
Catwoman
Catwoman cover

Because Maas has such a fun writing style. It’s a roller-coaster of action after action. There’s also lots of humour and snarkiness and this just screams ‘perfect fun summer read‘ to me. Can’t wait to get my hands on it. 🙂 Side note: not an fan of the cover though so eBook it is. 🙂

There you have it. My five books I’m hoping to read this year. Please don’t hold me to it! 🙂


Over to you my friends!

  • Have you read any of those?
  • What book are you looking forward to reading this year?
About Me

Unique Blogger

unique-blogger-award

My effort to catch up on ‘let’s meet the person behind the blog‘ continues. 🙂 As mentioned many times before, I do appreciate all of those lovely fellow bloggers for their shout outs. I do get distracted quite easily, but my inner organiser took over the other day, created a spreadsheet (colour coded of course) and thinks it’s on the top of it. Let’s see what happens, eh? 😉

Today’s questions are from Kiersten from Unce Upon a Spine. Kiersten has two beautiful pets – a super cute white dog fluffball and a lovely tabby cat. She is also a fellow Neil Gaiman’s fan and writes thoughtful reviews. Her doggie Beaker was a bit poorly recently but is better. Please stop by and show them both some love.  ❤️


Kiersten asked me following questions:

  • What’s the strangest book you’ve ever read? (Be specific. What made it strange?)

Alices Adventures in Wonderland

Ha ha, it entirely depends what we deem as strange. To me, strange = unique, unusual, interesting, something different and surprising. So I’ll go with that definition and choose Alice in Wonderland as it is one of my favourite books.

“I’m afraid I can’t explain myself, sir. Because I am not myself, you see?” 

I absolutely adore Lewis Carroll‘s non-sensical world and his playfulness with language. I also applaud him for his riddles:

“Why is a raven like a writing desk?” 

That non-sensical aspect of this book is something that is both magical and unique. There is a lot of humour in it as well the ability to laugh at ourselves, which is something I always appreciate.

“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.
“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”
“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.
“You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.” 

Which ties-in nicely with the second question:

  • Which character from Alice in Wonderland best describes you?

alice

I think Alice is probably the one I relate with the most. Mind you all those strange and wonderfully weird characters describe me pretty accurately at times as well. 😉

Why Alice? ‘Curiouser and curiouser‘ is my nickname. I am relentlessly curious and it does get me into trouble a lot. Alice is also someone who goes against norms. She doesn’t do things because she is supposed to. And that is something I strongly agree with. 😉 I love her quote of “the only way to achieve the impossible is to believe it is possible“. As a life-coach in training, I believe our thoughts are creating our reality. I also share with her love for imagination, creativity and all those crazy and wild adventures. 🙂

  • If you could resurrect any dead book character, who would it be?

GoT book

Ok, I don’t want to accidentally give away any spoilers. If you haven’t read George R.R Martin’s Songs of Ice and Fire and / or have not seen Game of Thrones, please stop reading here.

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I still haven’t forgiven Martin for killing off one of my favourite characters. He has quite a gift of ruthlessly dispatching characters I seem to enjoy reading about but this one was just NO!

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If I could bring this character back, it would be Eddard (Ned) Stark. Because he is good, he has strong morals and he cares for his children and his wife very deeply. He is also, one of my favourite father figures and I talked about him a bit more here.

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That was fun! Thanks again Kiersten for thinking of me. ❤️

Now I am to ask three questions in return and tag / nominate some of you.

I always love getting to know fellow bloggers a bit more but at the same time, I don’t want to become annoying by tagging people too often. So please, no pressure, disregard if that’s something you don’t fancy or don’t have time for.

I nominate:

Nicole | Cam |Amalia | Kaleena | Catherine

And everyone else who fancy giving it a go! 🙂

My questions are:

  1. What character’s flaw irritates you? (Be specific. What irritates you about it?) 🙂
  2. If magic was real, what spell would you try to learn first? And of course, why? 🙂
  3. What would be the best thing you could reasonably expect to find in a cave? Seriously, I want to know! 😀

Over to you!

Fancy letting me know what would be the best thing you could reasonably expect to find in a cave? 😉

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.