Fantasy

Arrows of the Queen by Mercedes Lackey #ReadingValdemar

arrows-of-the-queenLast year, Melanie @ GrabTheLapels mentioned that she was planning on reading 15 books written by Mercedes Lackey – she talked about the story behind those books in this lovely post. I got immediately intrigued – books that feature magic always draw me in and I wanted to give the world of Valdemar a chance.

Melanie and Jacky @ DeathBySundoku decided to co-host an official read along called #ReadingValdemar – its schedule can be found on their picture below. True to my inner rebel, I somehow did not quite stick to the schedule (hey, I’m only a few days late!). I am glad that I took part in reading The Arrows of the Queen as it turned out to be an enjoyable read.

For those interested, here are also Jacky’s review and Melanie’s review of The Arrows of the Queen.reading-valdemar-v2Let’s start with Goodread’s blurb first:

Follows the adventures of Talia as she trains to become a Herald of Valdemar in the first book in the classic epic fantasy Arrows trilogy.

Chosen by the Companion Rolan, a mystical horse-like being with powers beyond imagining, Talia, once a runaway, has now become a trainee Herald, destined to become one of the Queen’s own elite guard. For Talia has certain awakening talents of the mind that only a Companion like Rolan can truly sense.

But as Talia struggles to master her unique abilities, time is running out. For conspiracy is brewing in Valdemar, a deadly treason that could destroy Queen and kingdom. Opposed by unknown enemies capable of both diabolical magic and treacherous assassination, the Queen must turn to Talia and the Heralds for aid in protecting the realm and insuring the future of the Queen’s heir, a child already in danger of becoming bespelled by the Queen’s own foes.


What did I think of Arrows of The Queen? I was entertained by it despite thinking it was probably not the best written book I have read. However the characters as well as carefully added social issues wan me over in the end.

I could not help myself but to compare Lackey‘s with Tamora Pierce‘s books. Both of these female authors write fantasy books featuring strong female protagonists and their messages promote gender equality.

Pierce‘s Alanna: The First Adventure from the Song of the Lioness quartet was first published in 1983, and Lackey‘s Arrows of The Queen in 1987. If you enjoy Pierce‘s books, I think Lackey‘s books may be worth checking out as well.


As mentioned already, I had some minor issues with the way Arrows of The Queen is written. This could be that it was Lackey‘s first book. I would have probably preferred it to be edited a bit more and for it to omit the somehow slightly confusing change in narratives, which at times felt a little disjointed.

On the other side, I absolutely enjoyed reading about the main character, Talia. If you have been following my blog for a while, you may know that I have a special place in my heart for ‘coming of age’ stories. And Arrows of the Queen certainly fitted that category. Talia, who is 13 at the start of the book, is going to a magic school to learn how to become a Herald (I was sensing strong Harry Potter vibes there, but Lackey‘s book was written a decade before HP was published!).

Talia is certainly a likeable character. She is not perfect though – she struggles with asking for help, bottles up her feelings, doesn’t trust others and is quite shy. She is therefore having problems forming friendships and connections with other and finds it hard to belong. She is a fellow dreamer with a kind heart that compels her to contribute and to help others. Despite her flaws, she is willing to grow and learn – something I find crucial when deciding if I care about a character or not.

I was really impressed how carefully Lackey embedded many social issues into the book. Gender equality, homosexuality, casual sex – it was all there and there was no judgement attached to any of these messages. Diversity is nowadays quite common in many YA books but I dare to say it wasn’t that well represented during the time this book was published and I do applaud the author for doing so!

As I absolutely adore animals, I also appreciated the Companions – magical horses, that choose their Heralds. Reading about those special bonds between Heralds and Companions made me so happy. I do believe that animals talk to us, especially when we listen very carefully.

Overall, it was a fairly slow coming of age story that introduced me to Valdemar as well as its very likeable heroine, Talia.

I have bought the other two books in this trilogy as I do want to know what happens next. I will not be reading them on schedule though as I’m currently swamped with compulsory reading for my course but I will give those books a chance later on in the year. I am really looking forward to it! 🙂

Recommended? Yes if you enjoy slower paced coming of age fantasy that feature likeable heroin, magic schools and beautiful horses.


Over to you!

  • Have you read The Arrows of the Queen?
  • What’s your favourite coming of age story?

Fancy sharing it with me? Thanks for reading! ❤️

Fantasy

The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden

The Winter of the Witch

I’ve taken a week to formulate my thoughts about the mesmerising finale of Arden‘s Winternight Trilogy. I’m afraid my emotions are still all over the place and I do apologise in advance for extensive gushing.

Let’s first back up a bit. The Winter of the Witch is the third book in the series and I do not recommend reading it as a standalone book as it heavily leans into its previous instalments. On the flip side, if you haven’t read any of these books yet, you have quite a treat waiting for you. There are full of magic, highly atmospheric and I do dare to agree with Amalia and her beautiful review of this book – I also think this trilogy is ‘making its way to be a classic‘.

The Bear and the Nightingale started this magical series with a highly atmospheric, coming of age story. I got to meet Vasya and I immediately fell in love with Arden‘s writing, her clever story telling and all that Slavic folklore, which always screams ‘HOME‘ to me whenever I am exposed to it.

The second book, The Girl in the Tower, turns darker. The innocence of youth is long gone and Vasya, a young adult, is determined to travel the world. Its tone is different – it’s not only that darkness but also its faster pace that contrasts the first book. It’s a roller coaster of events and I could not put it down.

The Winter of the Witch starts exactly where The Girl in the Tower ended. You can sense the torment medieval Moscow is experiencing, you can feel the fear her people are immersed in. The beginning is DARK…. and it gets darker, much much darker.

It’s rare to be amazed by all books in a series but that is the case of Winternight Trilogy – I do not know how it’s possible that every book makes me so sad when it’s over and every time I read those books I keep on thinking ‘this is why I read‘. It makes my heart sing, it makes me happy on so many levels. Arden‘s characters are believable and complex. Vasya is not beautiful and her appearance is utterly irrelevant. It is who she is as a person that counts. She is set on a quest, makes mistakes, asks for help, admits her flaws and owns all of it.

The Winter of the Witch explores Vasya‘s dark side. What I enjoyed in particular was her interaction with Medved (the Bear). Medved is a clear antagonist. In a perfect hero / anti-hero tradition, Medved almost completes Vasya and despite him behaving terribly and doing unacceptable things, you almost get to like him. Something I always appreciate when reading about villains.

And then there is Morozko (Frost Demon). Not portrayed as a monster but rather as someone, who can feel human emotions and who can care despite being terrified of it. A very minor spoiler ahead: yes, he is featured in this book and yes, Vasya doesn’t forget him. 😊

‘’I am a witch’’, said Vasya. Blood was running down her hand now, spoiling her grip. ‘’I have plucked snowdrops at Midwinter, died at my own choosing, and wept for a nightingale. Now I am beyond prophecy.’’ She caught his knife on the crosspiece of hers, hilt to hilt. ‘’I have crossed three times nine realms to find you, my lord. And I find you at play, forgetful.’’

This book is full of action, features battles, moments of sadness when lives are lost, moments of hope when Vasya steps into her power and utterly charming moments of magic when Vasya travels the Midnight road to start her new quest.

I appreciate how Arden mixes old and new beliefs together. How this book is not just about what you believe in but how strongly you believe it. Fans of Gaiman‘s American Gods will enjoy this messaging for sure!

I also enjoyed reading Arden‘s parting comments, in which she shares Russian history and explains how some of her characters got to be. Some of them are based on real historical figures. I do recommend reading this section as it is a fascinating read.

I loved everything about this book, its pace, well developed characters, that feeling of bittersweetness and Arden‘s gorgeous writing. Russian folklore, medieval setting, atmospheric descriptions… it will all steal your hearts.

To me, it’s an utter perfection. I could have easily read it in a day but forced myself to read it over seven days to prolong this magical journey. I cherished those evenings I could read yet another chapter of this book.

I’ll leave you with a question: “if someone lives in our thoughts, does it mean that person still exists”?

I firmly believe so.

I would like to thank both the publisher, Penguin Random House UK as well as the author, for proving me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. ❤️


Over to you: have you read any of these books? If so, what did you think? If not, are you planning on doing so?

Happy reading and thanks for stopping by. 📚❤️

 

Fantasy

Emperor Mage by Tamora Pierce

Emperor Mage

Emperor Mage is the third instalment in The Immortals series and when I was reading it, I kept on thinking: “we are back in business“! I loved the first book (review here) but ended up having mixed feelings about the second book (review here). I am happy to report that Emperor Mage brought back that wonderful feeling of joy, I so enjoyed experiencing, when I started reading this series.

Before we look at the book, I’ll start somehow randomly.

Pierce’s books finish with her parting comments. I loved hearing about how her characters got to be and who, in particular, she saw in her mind, when creating them.

During early 90’s, Pierce pictured Jeff Goldblum whilst imagining her mage Numair, and Ozzy Osbourne has been behind Emperor Mage Ozorne. What a lot of fun she must have had! 😊

Anyhow, back to the synopsis. Goodreads says:

Daine Sarrasri’s power is growing, and her bond with animals is ever stronger.

Along with her mentor, Numair, and a delegation from Tortall, Daine is sent to the Emperor Mage of Carthak in hopes that she can help to smooth international relations between their lands before discord bubbles over into war – by helping the emperor’s ailing birds.

But Carthak’s emperor Ozorne is charmingly treacherous, and Carthak itself built on the labour and suffering of slaves. No matter her choices, Daine finds herself at the centre of a terrible crossroads: she cannot turn away from animals in need, but to help this man could place those she loves in the greatest danger and make a mockery of all she values.

All the while, her magic is flourishing, leading her to answers and abilities beyond what she ever could have dreamed … but also to incredible danger.


This was such a quick read. I finished it in less than a day – it was compelling and I could not put it down. 🙂

I’ve been trying to pin point why I enjoyed books 1 and 3 so much yet the second somehow felt short. I think it’s the humans – the middle book was more about animals rather than people and despite enjoying those animal interactions a lot, I could not fully connect with the book.

Emperor Mage was again more about human relationships. It still featured many animals, as well as some rather interesting dinosaurs’ fossils. It also included a Goddess called Graveyard Hag – and what a fun character she was! Full of mischief and tricks, the Graveyard Hag got on Daine‘s nerves on an ongoing basis. I loved their conversations and did laugh out loud a lot. 🙂

I also enjoyed seeing what happens when Daine gets crossed. In other words: do not mess with Daine‘s friends. Seriously, don’t! 🙂 It was amusing to see another side of this character. I found it highly entertaining.

I applaud Pierce for continuously blurring the line between good and bad. We know Emperor Mage Ozorne is power hungry and definitely fits the ‘unlikable character’ category yet he cares deeply for his animals and shows a lot of kindness towards them. There are many examples in Pierce‘s books when good people behave badly and vice versa and such massaging makes me so happy. Especially as this book is geared towards the MG audience.

I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a fast-pace entertaining read. It is full of action and could be read as a standalone book despite being a part of this series.

I would like to thank to both the publisher, Pan Macmillan as well as the author, for providing me with a copy in exchange for an honest review. 


Now over to you.

Have you read anything by Tamora Pierce yet?

Thanks for reading and for being here! ❤️❤️❤️

Fiction

Wild Magic by Tamora Pierce

Wild Magic

Let’s start with GoodReads‘ summary:

Wildness is a kind of magic

Discover a land of enchantment, legend, and adventure in this first book of The Immortals series, featuring an updated cover – perfect for longtime fans and newcomers alike.

Daine has always had a special connection with animals, but only when she’s forced to leave home does she realize it’s more than a knack . . . it’s magic. With this wild magic, not only can Daine speak to animals, but she can also make them obey her. Daine takes a job handling horses for the Queen’s Riders, where she meets the master mage Numair and becomes his apprentice.

Under Numair’s guidance, Daine explores the scope of her magic. But she encounters other beings, too, who are not so gentle. These terrifying creatures, called Immortals, have been imprisoned in the Divine Realms for the past four hundred years – but now someone has broken the barrier. And it’s up to Daine and her friends to defend their world from an Immortal attack.


Do you remember that time when you read a book and it made your heart sing? That’s what Wild Magic did to me. I felt so wonderfully absorbed whilst reading it and all I wanted to know was what was going to happen next.

I fully agree with Saraj J Maas’ statement of Tamora Pierce‘s work: “Tamora is a pillar, an icon, and as inspiration“. There is something about Pierce‘s books that just makes me so happy.

I’ll start with a caveat– Wild Magic is not a Young Adult (YA) book anymore. It was written when YA was slightly differently classified than how it is today. I would classify it as Middle Grade (MG) as there’s a lot of innocence in it and it’s that coming-of-age story that grabbed me and stole my heart. The content is much less mature than what YA is these days but please don’t be put off by that by any means!

Wild Magic is wonderfully charming and utterly warmed my soul. For starters, our main character Daine talks to animals. How cool is that? Ever since I was a little child, I have always pretended I could understand animals and have always ‘voiced’ their opinions.

I notice a trend in YA fiction these days that delivers those ‘I can kick anyone’s butt and I don’t need anybody’s help’ heroines, which can become after a while rather tedious and bland. I suppose they are the response to those traditional damsels in distress and frankly, I am rather fed up with both of those types.

Daine is different because she fits neither category. I so wish I read this book whilst growing up as she could have been a brilliant role model for me then. I immediately warmed to Daine as she is my definition of strength. She is happy to think for herself, decides to face her fears, asks for help when needed and is also shy and modest. Her strength is this quiet quality that doesn’t scream ‘look at me, I’m so awesome’ but rather says ‘that didn’t work, I’ll try again tomorrow’. She grows and her, sometimes naïve opinions, get slowly questioned and shaped whilst she still stays in charge of those final decisions. She decides what she will think but is also willing to listen and learn. How beautiful would that be to share such message with our youngsters?

I also appreciate how Pierce dives into breaking stereotypes – her characters teach us that it’s absolutely OK not to be able to fit in. That belonging is much more than ticking certain boxes and that family, regardless if it’s our blood one or a chosen one, doesn’t care about what we are but rather who we are as people.

Daine is flawed but also likeable. She goes through many lessons – my favourite one was what to do, when someone wants to help us but we don’t want them to as ‘they may get hurt’. The lesson from this book tells us that it is the decision for them to make, not us, despite of how much that may pain us.

I absolutely recommend this book to anyone looking for a charming and well-written story. There is so much wisdom and soul in Wild Magic. It’s a wonderful story full of magic that features brave and likeable characters, varying from humans, horses, dogs, cats, whales, dragons and many more.

I would like to thank to both the publisher, Pan Macmillan as well as the author, for providing me with a copy in exchange for an honest review. 


Now over to you.

Have you read Wild Magic?

If so, what did you think?

If not, have you read anything by Tamora Pierce yet?

As always, the fun part is the one when I get to talk to you. Thanks for being here! ❤️❤️❤️

Fiction

The Christmas Lights by Karen Swan

The Christmas Lights

Let’s first appreciate the book’s gorgeous cover, shall we? I must admit I am usually immune (read utterly oblivious) to books’ covers but this one really appealed to me and drew me in.

Maybe it’s the festive period, maybe it’s the stars or the northern lights… or maybe it’s the recent trip to Canadian Rockies.. who knows, I love this cover. 😊 What do you think?

Let’s start with the GoodReads blurb:

December 2018, and free-spirited influencers Bo Loxley and her partner Zac are living a life of wanderlust, travelling the globe and sharing their adventures with their millions of fans. Booked to spend Christmas in the Norwegian fjords, they set up home in a remote farm owned by enigmatic mountain guide Anders and his fierce grandmother Signy. Surrounded by snowy peaks and frozen falls, everything should be perfect. But the camera can lie and with every new post, the ‘perfect’ life Zac and Bo are portraying is diverging from the truth. Something Bo can’t explain is wrong at the very heart of their lives and Anders is the only person who’ll listen.

June 1936, and fourteen-year old Signy is sent with her sister and village friends to the summer pastures to work as milkmaids, protecting the herd that will sustain the farm through the long, winter months. But miles from home and away from the safety of their families, threat begins to lurk in friendly faces . . .

The mountains keep secrets – Signy knows this better than anyone – and as Bo’s life begins to spiral she is forced, like the old woman before her, to question who is friend and who is foe.

I was intrigued by both the book’s premise as well as its settings. I am slightly curious about social media ‘influencers’ and wanted to hear Swan‘s take on them. That as well as me being able to read endless books featuring Norwegian fjords! 😉

Let’s first talk about the pace. I must admit, I found the book’s beginning slightly on the slow side and it took me a while to get into it. Once I got involved though, I could not put it down. I read and read and then read some more. And yes, I was utterly bleary-eyed the next day, courtesy of The Christmas Lights. Sadly, I found the ending slightly disappointing, mainly due to being able to guess what was about to happen. It did not spoil the overall impact the book left though as it was an entertaining ride!

There are two story-lines that intertwine throughout the book. There is the present narrative told by Bo, a social media influencer. The second story-line is set in 1936 and is voiced by Signy, a young shepherd girl. Both female protagonists have to face danger – Bo is facing an online stalker whilst Signy is on a lookout for a dangerous animal.

It took me a while to warm up to Bo. It becomes quite clear from the beginning, that Bo has a lot of unresolved issues, some of which include dealing with a terrible loss. Her solution is to get distracted by escaping to new places. Bo is a part of a couple called The Wanderlusters – the ‘action’ duo that travels the world whilst embracing daring adventures, as well as promoting products from their sponsors on the way. I found her character self-indulgent, sometimes borderline annoying… yet also vulnerable and kind. There was definitely a mixture of emotions Bo triggered in me and I appreciated that she was complex and not entirely likeable as that made her feel more real.

I also enjoyed how Swan touched on what gets presented on some Instagram feeds and how reality vs. what is shown on social media, can sometimes be two very different things.

Signy‘s story appealed to me as her character is both feisty as well as modest. Signy is a fourteen year old girl, who learned very early in life, how to live in austere conditions and who loves animals she is in charge of. I found her story very poetic but also raw and brutal at times. It’s not just the wilderness that brings danger and Signy needs to learn very quickly whom to trust.

I thought the atmosphere was excellent.  I especially loved the harshness of wintery Norwegian fjords, full of serene solidarity as well as hidden dangers.

I also started feeling quite giddy about the upcoming festive period. I dreamt about lights that shine through those dark nights as well as those delightful smells of mulled wine and gingerbread that usually surround Christmas markets, and all those wonderful feelings that come with this time of year.

I recommend this book to those, who are after an adventure, who appreciate a little bit of a love story and who want to get into a festive mood. It is a charming holiday read that may just keep you awake at night as you may want to read that next page! 😊

I would like to thank to both the publisher, Pan Macmillan as well as the author, for providing me with a copy in exchange for an honest review.


Now over to you! Do you enjoy festive reads? And is The Christmas Lights something that appeals to you? 

As always, I really want to know. 😊

Fiction

Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn HugoI have to admit that I do not love the cover of this book and had it not been for all those excellent reviews, I would have probably not picked it up. I am so glad I gave this book a chance despite of that cover… 🙂

So what is this book all about?

There are two fictional story-lines. One is told by Evelyn, a famous Hollywood actress that takes us back to the 50’s Hollywood and tells us her story about her husbands. Another is told by Monique, who is writing Evelyn’s memoir. Monique is a reporter, who is hoping to make a name for herself one day and is eagerly awaiting her lucky break. As Evelyn shares more of her past with her, we start seeing Monique‘s growth, something I always appreciate when reading about a character.

What are the book’s main themes?

I saw behind it a manifesto of how important is to have courage to be true to who we are. To have courage to be judged, ridiculed, outcast even, and to still stand holding our heads high despite all of that.

I also saw there a question about what a true freedom actually really is.

We are never truly free until we can admit, in front of everyone, who we are. When we stop playing it safe and let others see the real us.

“People think that intimacy is about sex. But intimacy is about truth. When you realize you can tell someone your truth, when you can show yourself to them, when you stand in front of them bare and their response is ‘you’re safe with me’- that’s intimacy.” 

Then there is a feminist theme present throughout the entire book. Evelyn belongs to her husbands before she can belong to herself. She gets abused by men, has to behave certain way, must ask for permissions.

We know from the book’s title that Evelyn has had seven husbands. The story explores, who was the love of her life. We get to hear the answer quite early on in the book but still, I don’t want to spoil it for anyone, who hasn’t read it yet so I will not talk too much about it.

The revelation is then, what the entire story centres around.

Imagine you found the love of your life. Imagine your perception of being with that person was skewed by how the society would perceive you, should you decide to follow your heart. Would you follow your heart?

“Sometimes reality comes crashing down on you. Other times reality simply waits, patiently, for you to run out of the energy it takes to deny it.”

There are many moral dilemmas and many philosophical questions presented. Something I immensely appreciated.

This book made me think. And I loved it.

Evelyn is a very complex character. She sometimes uses people; she takes her chances whenever she can. And she is utterly unapologetic about it, saying she would happily do it again. She accepts herself for who she is…. yet.. there are subtle regrets. Regrets about wasted years, regrets about certain decisions.

“If I want things to change, I have to change how I do things. And probably drastically.” 

I saw a woman, who grew up poor, who was abused and who was highly driven to succeed. And sometimes she would walk over whoever would stand in her way. I disliked her for that, but her ability to admit it and to own it, made me interested in her. She is not likeable but that’s what I actually liked about her.

I also saw a lot of irony behind some of Evelyn‘s decisions. She was driven to succeed but her definition of success may have not necessarily made her happy. She later on admitted that her regrets were not related to money but rather to people.

Another message that resonated with me as I think it’s really important to define what our own definitions of success are.

Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is a highly atmospheric read. We are thrown into the lush and vibrant world of glamorous Hollywood during 50’s. There is also a lot of diversity involved, its pace is quick and it is a character driven story that reads fairly easily and could still be a great summer read.

Recommended: YES! This book will make you think. 🙂

Trigger warnings: domestic abuse, child abuse


  • Have you read Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo?
  • What is your favourite summer 2018 read so far? Fancy sharing that with me? 🙂
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. 🙂

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.