The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

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 The Song of Achilles

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

Get ready to feel all the feels. Every single one. I am going to have to write a more spoilery post to get them all out, I’ll link it when it is up. 

I feel as if I have just lived alongside someone for an entire lifetime in the span of just a couple of days.

This book is absolutely beautiful. It is heartbreaking and perfect. The story of Patroclus is one that I have never investigated. It has always been overlooked, in the shadow of Achilles and his legacy. In Miller’s telling of his story, of their story together, it is obvious that you cannot have one, without the other. Achilles’ story depends on Patroclus. It is fundamentally entwined with it. It is the same.

This book shows that in the purest light. It doesn’t gloss over the messy or the mediocre to make these heroes appear in a better light. Instead it highlights their humanity. It makes them relatable. It makes them real.

Emotion pours off of the page. It is evident in every single line. It is raw and moving and one of the most beautiful things I have ever read.

I feel like if I say any more about it spoilers will stream out like all the tears I have shed. So go get yourself a copy, read it, come back here and tell me how much you also loved it because you will. Trust me!

I also reviewed Miller’s second novel Circe, here.

 

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From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death by Caitlin Doughty



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“There is freedom found in decomposition, a body rendered messy, chaotic, and wild. I relish this image when visualizing what will become of my future corpse.”

Alright guys, stay with me here. I know. This is not the type of book you are used to me posting about. It looks daunting and dark and depressing. But what is that little anecdote we have head a billion times in our lives? Yeah. Listen to that.

Because this book is phenomenal. It is everything you never knew you wanted to learn about death culture. I bet you didn’t even know that you wanted to learn stuff about death culture. Trust me, you do.

I think there is probably no better way to get a feel for a culture than how they treat not only their dead, but those who are mourning. Doughty, I think, would agree.

In this book she travels the world visiting different countries and immersing herself in their death process. What is completely normal to them will blow your mind. You don’t go to a multi-cultural festival and learn all about cremation or sky burials. You eat a lot of food, collect a few flags, and you are on your merry way. Even though food is a part of culture, it isn’t all of it. Not even close. And thank god for that, I would hate to have my own culture interpreted through a Big Mac.

Doughty presents her research an almost clinical way. However there is no lack of respect and appreciation in her observations. Her findings are void of judgement. The only bias she has is how she would want her own death to be treated.

I think this book will surprise you. If you are looking for a book that will engage you and also make you think, this one is for you.

Circe by Madeline Miller

Circe

“It is a common saying that women are delicate creatures, flowers, eggs, anything that may be crushed in a moment’s carelessness. If I had ever believed it, I no longer did.”

Circe. Daughter of Helios and Perse. Outcast even before exile. This is a coming of age story, in which a goddess comes of age over the course of centuries. I’ll tell you what, there is nothing more comforting to a person in their late twenties than a goddess not having her shit together for literally hundreds of years.

There is always something a bit strange about novels and stories like this. I feel weird calling them historical fiction, but you know what I mean. Ancient Greek histories of gods and men. We all know the stories, they are familiar. How many times has Troy been made into a movie or tv show? You watch it every time don’t you? I do. But we all know how it ends. With the minor character tweaks they may add to make it new and exciting, its still the same story. They still let the damn horse in. You never leave the theater talking about how Achilles lived this time. Some things even filmmakers don’t dare to change.

Fate they would call it. Circe had a fate that we knew well before this book was written. The spoilers have been there for centuries. So why pick it up? Why bother with a story you already know? Because Circe is a badass and so, my friends, is Madeline Miller.

Her writing is fantastic. It is clean and crisp while still emotional. Perdita Weeks adds the most beautiful narration in the audiobook that just enhances what Miller has already done. Circe’s voice is so clear and heartbreaking. Miller tells her story in a way that is both relatable and intriguing. You know what is going to happen but you also feel on the edge of your seat. She convinces you that she just might test fate and change the course of Circe’s life. Which she does, kind of. There are enough tweaks to the story that I know of Circe from The Odyssey that I wasn’t sure what really was going to happen next, and since my only knowledge of Circe is from The Odyssey I was never really sure what ended up of her. Upon some serious Googling after finishing the book it seems that no one can quite agree upon what became of Circe, so I can see why Miller chose her to write a novel about.

The only other issue I have of Greek histories is that there usually is no clear beginning, middle, and end. There is no one task to be achieved or plot to be finished. It’s the story of someone’s life, so often it is messy and disengaging. Miller does an excellent job of keeping your attention even without underlying plots and cliffhangers. That is a token to her writing.

Circe is one of my favorite books I have read this year, and I am just now diving into A Song of Achilles because I like to do things backwards apparently! I am hooked on Madeline Miller’s writing and I can’t wait to see what she writes in the future.

 

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

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I haven’t enjoyed a book this much in a long time people. Granted, I haven’t read nearly as much as I used too, but I still firmly believe that statement would still be true. Trevor Noah has a story to tell, and my god can he tell a story. This one just happens to be about his life, up until the days following his mother being shot in the head.

You might know Trevor Noah from his stand up, and currently as host of The Daily Show on Comedy Central. What you might not know is that Trevor was born into a world in which he was considered the product of a crime. Literally. His mother, a black South African woman, and his father, a white Swiss man, were forbidden to engage in sexual relations under the Immorality Act under apartheid in South Africa. His lineage was then kept a secret from everyone other than his immediate family, and his exposure to the general population was minimal until apartheid ended. Even then, the repercussions from apartheid he would continue to deal with for the rest of his life in South Africa, until he moved to the United States in 2011. The most recent years of his life aren’t chronicled in this book, but I am very much hoping he writes those stories in a new book.

Trevor’s book is filled with so much.

Honesty, comedy, love, parenting, feminism, fear, abuse, courage. After finishing this book, it is astounding to me that this man can not only still see the world in a positive light, but to keep pushing the boundaries and seeking the truth in a world in which the truth is seldom positive.

I am grateful that he decided to share his story in this book, and I am grateful that he is here.

Below are a couple quotes that I loved, and I really hope that everyone reads this book.

PS- His mom is #momgoals. Seriously, that woman is everything.

“I don’t regret anything I’ve ever done in life, any choice that I’ve made. But I’m consumed with regret for the things I didn’t do, the choices I didn’t make, the things I didn’t say. We spend so much time being afraid of failure, afraid of rejection. But regret is the thing we should fear most. Failure is an answer. Rejection is an answer. Regret is an eternal question you will never have the answer to. “What if…” “If only…” “I wonder what would have…” You will never, never know, and it will haunt you for the rest of your days.”

“We tell people to follow their dreams, but you can only dream of what you can imagine, and, depending on where you come from, your imagination can be quite limited.”

“I was blessed with another trait I inherited from my mother, her ability to forget the pain in life. I remember the thing that caused the trauma, but I don’t hold onto the trauma. I never let the memory of something painful prevent me from trying something new. If you think too much about the ass kicking your mom gave you or the ass kicking that life gave you, you’ll stop pushing the boundaries and breaking the rules. It’s better to take it, spend some time crying, then wake up the next day and move on. You’ll have a few bruises and they’ll remind you of what happened and that’s ok. But after a while, the bruises fade and they fade for a reason. Because now, it’s time to get up to some shit again.”

“Trevor, remember a man is not determined by how much he earns. You can still be a man of the house and earn less than your woman. Being a man is not what you have, it’s who you are. Being more of a man doesn’t mean your woman has to be less than you.”

 “The name Hitler does not offend a black South African because Hitler is not the worst thing a black South African can imagine. Every country thinks their history is the most important, and that’s especially true in the West. But if black South Africans could go back in time and kill one person, Cecil Rhodes would come up before Hitler. If people in the Congo could go back in time and kill one person, Belgium’s King Leopold would come way before Hitler. If Native Americans could go back in time and kill one person, it would probably be Christopher Columbus or Andrew Jackson. “
“The world doesn’t love you. If the police get you, the police don’t love you. When I beat you, I’m trying to save you. When they beat you, they’re trying to kill you.”

 

 

Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier

Rebecca

Guys, if you’ve been around for a minute you know I tend to have a hard time with classics. By hard time I mean I hate them. I try, I really do, but more often than not they leave me with a bad time-wasted taste in my mouth. So when my book club decided on Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier I was slightly hesitant. I hate being the person who doesn’t read the book club book. I had bailed on a couple in the past few months because we have been remodeling our kitchen and I legitimately had no extra time. However, the remodel is [mainly] done, so I knew I just had to buckle down and do it.

That is one thing that I love about book clubs. Without mine, I never would have read this book. If by the off chance that I had picked it up on my own, I wouldn’t have made it past the first three chapters.

The beginning is very dry. A lot of explanation of things that don’t exactly matter, so I did a fair bit of skimming for the first quarter. If you are a fan of pretty sentences that are there just for the sake of being pretty sentences, you will probably really enjoy this part. If you are like me and need some meat and bones to a story before you get really hooked, hang in there. I promise it is worth it.

What is this meat you are speaking of, you ask? I give to you, the worlds most confusing and surprising love triangle in novel form. Love triangles are played out you say? What if I told you a member of this love triangle was dead? Yeah. Thought so.

Also, what if I told you that Daphne Du Maurier has succeeded in doing something to my brain that only that great and powerful Gaiman has ever done before? An entire book in which we never learn the narrators name and I didn’t even notice.

Let me set the scene for you. This story takes place in I am going to assume 1940-50ish? Dates are never given, but given context I think that is a fitting time frame. Our narrator marries the widower of a famous estate known as Manderley, Mr. De Winter. His first wife perished at sea. The house keeping staff, as well as the majority of the townspeople in the surrounding area, adored the first Mrs. De Winter, Rebecca. Most notably, the head house keeper Mrs. Danvers. Without giving too much away, that bitch be crazy.

Essentially, our narrator, who comes from a very modest upbringing and is very young, is thrust quickly into the life of a stranger, in an extravagant estate that she is expected to run. Which was ran previously by a woman whom everyone adored and did everything perfectly. She is married to a man around 25 years older than her, who can’t seem to figure out if he should treat her like a child or his wife, but mainly is just an ass most of the time.

Everywhere she turns, Rebecca is lurking. Rebecca was a better wife. Rebecca was adored by the estate. Rebecca was prettier. Rebecca, was more. 

How is she supposed to compete with someone who isn’t even there anymore?

The twists and turns in the last quarter of this story are phenomenal. It absolutely makes up for the first quarter. They come out of nowhere and then they just unfold in the most brilliant way.

If you love a thriller, you will love this. Look past the 1940’s English countryside facade and see it for what it really is, a ghost story.

 

Book Review: My Sister’s Grave by Robert Dugoni

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An ex-sharp shooting chemistry teacher turned homicide detective investigates the death of her sister after remains are discovered that force her to question the innocence of the man who was convicted of the murder twenty years ago.

Sounds a little ridiculous, yeah? Well, for the most part it isn’t. Tracy Crosswhite is an intriguing character on her own, but I could have done without the wild west cowboy shooting history. It didn’t add much to the depth of her character, and seemed a bit silly. I think Dugoni was searching for a way to delve into the relationship between Tracy and her sister, Sarah, and needed a setting for the flashbacks. I get that. But I found the whole premise a bit ridiculous. The western shooting that is, not the actual plot. The plot was amazing!

With thrillers, it is always hard to do justice to the story in a review without giving away a bit too much. What I can say is, give it a chance past the first two chapters. Seriously, the western thing kind of calms down and it gets more intriguing. Like, exceptionally more intriguing.

The romance is not overdone. It’s believable and doesn’t detract from the story.

However, the best part of this story is obviously the mystery. The suspense that innately comes with a who-done-it kind of criminal thriller. It keeps you guessing while constantly making you question yourself. It has just enough twists to keep you hooked, while not becoming exhausting.

The last quarter of this novel was some of the best suspense I’ve ever read. It gives you that heart pumping, slightly claustrophobic, feeling in your chest. The pacing is so well done, that you should just plan to read at least the last quarter in one sitting. Seriously, carve out the time or else you will burn dinner and maybe lose a child somewhere. I clearly am not talking from experience. Probably.

There is a sequel to My Sister’s Grave called Her Last Breath, which is less of a sequel and more of a continuation of Tracy’s character, not of the first story arc. I’m only about 15% in, but I would already recommend reading My Sister’s Grave first, unless you want some spoilers. In which case I question your reading habits. But, to each their own.

The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

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I was a mollisher, the protegee of a mime-lord. My boss was a man named Jaxon Hall, the mime-lord responsible for the I-4 area. There were six of us in his direct employ. We called ourselves the Seven Seals.

It has been a while since I have been able to lose myself in a dystopian novel. Lately, they all seem to follow the same path. Heavier on the romance than the world building. Which is not a bad thing, its just the same thing. Sometimes, it’s nice to get back to a story that the romance is secondary and the action is drawn to the forefront. Before I jump on into my thoughts about it here is the summary from goodreads!

 The year is 2059. Nineteen-year-old Paige Mahoney is working in the criminal underworld of Scion London, based at Seven Dials, employed by a man named Jaxon Hall. Her job: to scout for information by breaking into people’s minds. For Paige is a dreamwalker, a clairvoyant and, in the world of Scion, she commits treason simply by breathing.

It is raining the day her life changes for ever. Attacked, drugged and kidnapped, Paige is transported to Oxford – a city kept secret for two hundred years, controlled by a powerful, otherworldly race. Paige is assigned to Warden, a Rephaite with mysterious motives. He is her master. Her trainer. Her natural enemy. But if Paige wants to regain her freedom she must allow herself to be nurtured in this prison where she is meant to die.

Paige’s world, although complicated and harsh, is so easy to jump into. You start off knowing absolutely nothing about the state of the world, what kind of society this dystopia is built on. Shannon does an amazing job of easing you right into it. She starts using slang and phrases that are new to you right from the get go, and I don’t hate it. Some books, like The Maze Runner, try to do the same thing but fall short a bit. You have all these new words and have no idea what they mean or what to make of them, making you hesitate. The Bone Season doesn’t hesitate. Shannon is so sure of the world that she built that it flows through the pages. Her confidence is apparent, as it should be.

The  character building in this story is everything you would want it to be. Paige is complicated, but not confusing. You guys know I talk all the time about secondary character building, and how important I think it is. The secondary characters in this book are amazing. Some of them you get to know for maybe a total of a page collectively through the whole book, and you fall in love with them. That kind of building is so so important! When you only care about the protagonist, you don’t care about the world that they live in, which is so contradictory in a dystopian! My favorite secondary character in The Bone Season is Michael. If that guy doesn’t at least get his own short story, I might die a little inside.

I know I said that the romance takes a back seat in this one, and it does, but that does not mean it dissapoints 🙂 you will love some of the men in this one, and hate others. But you will love the right ones, if you know what I am saying 😉 It isn’t without it’s steamy bits.

I know with dystopians reviews are more like teasers, because I want to keep it as spoiler-free as possible, but trust me on this one you guys. It’s good. I mean really really good. I’m pretty excited to start the sequel, The Mime Order, but I’m gonna take a break and read And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie for my book club first! So you will see a review on that one up before The Mime Order. I’m also listening to The Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard on Audible because I like to bite off more than I can chew 🙂

Also, go follow @thebookboozer on Instagram! All the cool kids are doing it.

Last Review: Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman

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