Book Review – Circe by Madeline Miller

This book was not on my TBR. I’d heard of it, thanks to my work in libraries; there was a lot of buzz around Circe when it first came out. Co-workers raved, it made several awards lists that season, and patrons kept checking it out. And yet, it never once lured me to add it to my To-Be-Read list.

And then my school’s staff book club chose it for its Fantasy Month. Despite my misgivings about it not really being a fantasy novel, I read it all the way to the end. My book club hasn’t met yet to discuss it, but I’m ready to share my thoughts here.

Goodreads Rating: 4/5 Stars

circe book cover

Circe is the story of the Witch of Aiaia, daughter of Helios, exiled for eternity. She turned evil men to pigs, loved Daedalus, and Odysseus, and later Telemachus. She’s a figure from Greek Mythology, and this book is her first person account of her life.

The problem is, I had no idea who she was before I started this book. You see, the last time I studied mythology was my sophomore year of high school. We read Edith Hamilton and I remember hating it. Sixteen year old me found mythology so incredibly boring I blocked out all memory of the entire unit. Which really did me a disservice because this whole book HINGES on the reader knowing the bare minimum of who the F*&K Circe is! I missed out on a ton of dramatic irony and tension because I literally knew NOTHING about Circe going into this book. Whoops!

What I loved about this book:

  • The writing! Madeline Miller’s prose is absolutely gorgeous and I frequently had to stop and reread lines that took my breath away. The novel is extremely atmospheric and I appreciated how she brought these deities to life.
  • I really liked how Miller wrote Circe’s love for the various men in her life. She described them with details that showed Circe’s affection, that the way she saw them proved her love. It was beautiful.

What I didn’t love:

  • Um… the whole plot? It meandered and not a whole lot happened. Circe spent most of her time moping around and being extremely passive. She didn’t actually become an active character until she suffered at the hands of some stranded dudes who attacked her. She then takes her vengeance on pretty much all men by turning them into pigs. She doesn’t settle down until Odysseus charms her into freeing his men and sleeping with him. Which in hindsight is pretty wack.
  • The pacing. It felt very one note until the last 80 pages or so, when more characters showed up and started interacting with Circe. Looking back I think that was intentional, that Circe let her self-worth be so wrapped up in others for so long, but damn was that a looooong story to get through for her to grow.

I gave this book a 4/5 star rating pretty much purely because of the sheer beauty of the writing. For instance, “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.”

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

Those are just the two examples that came to me off the top of my head and I love them. They are gorgeous. Profound. The constellation one in particular hit home while I was reading.

So, my final verdict is this: a gorgeous book that’s just a little too slow for my taste. I like an atmospheric read for my short fiction, but expect a bit more punch for my novels apparently. I’m reading Gideon the Ninth right now, which more than makes up for what Circe lacked in grit, so I’ve got that going for me.

If I get City of Ghosts finished before the end of the weekend I might eke in a book review for it. If not, I’ll talk at you all on Monday!

‘Til then, Blogland!

 

BZ

Goals Summary 2019 – Wk #41

Oh, Blogland…

Remember that time when I thought I was back and then I wasn’t?  Oops.

Last Week…?

Weekly Word Count: 746

Well, there wasn’t a last week’s goals because I haven’t been holding myself accountable pretty much since June. I did do a bit of reading last week, which felt really good, so at least there’s that. AND I finished The Lament of Kivu Lacus! I knew I was close to the end, but didn’t think I’d manage to finish it in one morning writing session. Go me!

Let’s move on to the goals for this week!

 What’s Next?

  • Publish two blog posts
  • Revise one chapter of Exodus: Descent
  • Read one short story
  • Finish reading The First Wife’s SecretImage result for the first wife's secret

Not anything too taxing here. I should be blogging quite a bit this week because I have the September Reading Round Up and a book review to share. I got a collection of short stories from the library so I ought to be able to read one of those no problem. I’m out of town this weekend for a work conference (which I’m very excited to attend!) so should have downtime in the hotel to finish reading this book club book before our Monday meeting next week.

The hardest bullet point here is the editing. You know how it goes. Editing blows. BUT, I do really want to get this project done and submitted so I think I’ll manage to make time for it Sunday morning.

Now that my BFF is back in town and managing Starbucks stores, I’m spending my Sunday mornings holed up with some coffee, headphones, and writing projects. Just like the old days. Thanks to my job’s early wake up call during the week, sleeping in isn’t as easy as it used to be. But, the husbando NEEDS his beauty sleep, so I get up and have some me time. Reading, writing, that sort of thing. It’s been quite the indulgence and exactly what I need to reset and prepare for the week ahead.

So, that’s where I’m at. Nothing too daunting for my first week back in the writing saddle. I’m feeling good about it, all things considered. I’ll be back soon Bloggarts to talk about all the reading I did in September.

Til then,

 

BZ

 

I know, I know…

I said I wouldn’t be back. However, I have an announcement to make:

 

I FINISHED MY BOOK!!!!!

 

Here are a series of gifs that capture how today’s writing session (5,419 words) felt:

happy dance gif 2
Don’t stop, get it get it

 

so tired gif
My brain has melted!

happy dance gif
No, wait, SECOND WIND! I am unstoppable!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

so tired gif 2
I’m going to sleep for a million years now.

 

So yeah. The rough draft is done. I’m excited and so so tired. There’s still a mountain of work to do, but that’s for a future Brittany. Right Now Brittany is going to root herself in front of the PS4 and play Overcooked until she passes out.

See you on Monday.

 

BZ

Write Here, Write Now 2019

Hey Bloggos,

Yesterday was Willamette Writers’ Write Here, Write Now event, where a slew of authors give 10 minute talks, followed by 45 minute writing blocks. Lunch was catered and each attendee had two 12 minute one-on-ones with an author. I had sessions with both Devon Monk and Diana Pharaoh Francis and it was awesome!

I don’t want to get into a play-by-play of the day, but just wanted to say that the event was 100% worth it. I wrote just over 3,800 words yesterday. I met authors and local writers and did a fantastic job of being myself. I can’t emphasize how difficult that is for me in a new social setting. But I was funny, unafraid to chat, and made some new writer contacts, so that’s a big win for me. Just as much a win as busting out all those words.

Speaking of, those words put me just slightly ahead of schedule for finishing my novel. I have an outlined one and a half chapters left, but I think there’s going to be more than that before everything is said and done. Which means this rough draft will be over 80k!

happy dance gif.gif

As usual, I’ll be back tomorrow to talk about the week in depth.

Until then,

 

BZ

P.S. If you want my notes from the conference, check out my Patreon!

Reading Round Up – February 2019

Blogland,

I really liked last month’s Round Up. It was  nice to write up smaller thoughts and impressions of books I’d read, and it really streamlines my search for “what the heck I read last month” when I’m writing other posts or want to look at my reading to look for book recommendations at the library. Useful and convenient? Yes, please!

Title: Rivers of London vol. 4: Black Mould
black mould.jpgAuthor: Ben Aaronovitch, Andrew Cartmel, and Lee Sullivan
Format: Graphic Novel
My Goodreads Rating: 4/5 Stars
Thoughts: This is a fun side story in the Rivers of London universe, following Peter and Guleed as they chase down a sentient, malicious, magical mold (mould if you’re British). What I really like about all of the graphic novels is that they give side characters a chance to shine. Guleed, Molly, and even Toby the Terrier get their time in the spotlight. The only reason I didn’t give this a 5 star rating is because they tend to be so fluffy. This are fun spin-offs and nothing more. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
Recommend: Absolutely, for fans of the novels.

Title: Rivers of London vol. 5: Cry Foxcry fox.jpg
Author: Ben Aaronovitch, Andrew Cartmel, and Lee Sullivan
Format: Graphic Novel
My Goodreads Rating: 4/5 Stars
Thoughts: Another good installment, although this one bummed me out a little. The character Renard was introduced in one of the later novels of the series, and I found his true neutral personality to be very intriguing. but in this story, Renard firmly plants himself in the realm of the baddies. *sigh* But, this was another example of side characters getting their time to shine. This issue featured Abigail and Guleed as unwilling players in a modern-day version of The Most Dangerous Game.
Recommend: Absolutely, if you liked the novels.

Title: I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killeri'll be gone in the dark
Author: Michelle McNamara
Format: Digital Audiobook
Narrator(s): Gabra Zackman, Gillian Flynn – Introduction, Patton Oswalt – Afterword
My Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars
Thoughts: Oh my god, where do I even start with this book? I loved everything about it. The prose, the narration, the details. McNamara did an amazing job of not shying away from the horror the Golden State Killer wrought across California, but painting it in an incredibly human light. She focused on the victims and how it felt to be one, or to know one, or to fear you might become one. She also did an incredible job of humanizing herself without making the book about her. She acknowledged the insanity of her obsession and the toll it had on her life and her relationships, without coming across as whiny or unaware of her own privilege. She was thoughtful and that showed in her narrative. The narrator did a fantastic job of bringing this book to life for me, and her voice could be so soft and quiet, and then so gravelly and terrifying. Her range astounded me. I even liked the introduction, afterword, and extras included at the end. A really wonderful book if you have even the slightest interest in true crime or serial killers.
Recommend: Yes. Yes, yes, yes.

Title: Firefly: Big Damn Herobig damn hero
Author: James Lovegrove (original idea by Nancy Holder)
Format: Hardback
My Goodreads Rating: 2/5 Stars
Thoughts:
 You know I hate giving low reviews, but this was an underwhelming and trope-filled adventure through the ‘Verse. There’s better fanfic available for free on the internet. See my full review for more details.
Recommend: Nah. There are better media tie-ins out there. Or better yet, just go back and watch the show. If you really have a hankering, you could always find some high quality fanfic to scratch that itch.

Title: Lies Sleeping (Rivers of London #7) 
Author: Ben Aaronovitch
Format: Hardbacklies sleeping
My Goodreads Rating:
5/5 Stars
Thoughts: Aaronovitch is a really consistent author. I have a great time reading the Rivers of London series no matter which installment is currently in my hands. This latest novel is no exception. It was a little slow to start, but that is likely more my fault than the book’s. This book really picked up in the second half and even brought me to tears once. It’s at once fun, harrowing, and emotional. I really enjoyed my time with it. See my full review for more details.
Recommend:
Yep! But you’ll need to read all the others first. Oh no… more books to read!

Not too shabby for the shortest month of the year, and one with a major video game release. I’ll count this as a win, for sure. In March I’m reading a short story a day on top of my normal reading, so keep an eye on the What I’m Reading page for updates!

Talk soon, Bloggos.

 

BZ

 

 

Goals Summary 2019 – Wk #2

Bloggos,

I hope you had a wonderful weekend! The husband and I have been binge-watching Letterkenny on Hulu and laughing way too hard because of it. That show has no business being as good as it is, and I cannot get enough of it.

wayne baby
Yes, that’s a grown man imitating a baby to illustrate how dumb they are. You seriously need to watch Letterkenny.

Aside from an unusual uptick in my television time, I also had a change in my schedule this week. After years of having Sundays off, I have now switched to Saturdays off and working Sundays at the library. I think it was a really good change for me, and it actually helped me achieve a better work/life balance. Such as it is. I look forward to adjusting to a little extra me time.

Last Week

  • Publish two blog posts
  • Write 3k on Tavi
  • Work on something Santa Sarita related

How’d I do?

  • Publish two blog posts
  • Write 3k on Tavi
    • Holy smokes yes! More on this in a bit.
  • Work on something Santa Sarita related
    • Yes! More than I anticipated, really.

Weekly Word Count: 7,693

Holy crow. That was a lot of writing last week. I don’t even necessarily feel like it either. I just sat down and did a couple sprints, and the words just kept coming, especially in the case of my novel. I crossed the 30k word mark on the manuscript and I’m still so excited about the project. It’s the first novel I’ve ever written that I truly felt led by the characters. Normally I have some vague idea or conceptualization fo the plot when I write a book or short story, but this time Tavi has control and I just go where she does.

For instance, last night she careened headfirst into feelings I didn’t think she was ready to handle, and we had a good cry about it. So that was fun, and I’m not being sarcastic. I love it when a project runs away with me. It’s exhilarating!

I also wrote a Santa Sarita related tumblr prompt, made a new playlist for the longfic I”m working on, and wrote over one thousand words on the newest chapter of Sanctuary.  It was a wildly successful writing week and I feel amazing because of it!

amy santiago.gif
Amy Santiago is my spirit animal.

I’m also awarding myself bonus points because I finished reading Zen in the Art of Writing. I’ll admit now that I wasn’t blown away by it. I enjoy Bradbury as much as the next guy, and maybe even a little bit more, but ultimately didn’t find too many revelations in the pages of this book. Either that means I’m learning my craft well and the nuggets of gold information are fewer and farther between, or it just wasn’t that great of a book. Guess I’ll find out with the next writing book on my docket: The Business of Being a Writer by Jane Friedman.

I have unintentionally set up a lot of nonfiction books in my TBR pile for January. It wasn’t my goal to read/listen to a lot of writing and science books, but here we are. I’m still making slow progress on Tyson’s Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, and even though it’s written with the layman in mind, I am still woefully unprepared to understand this book. But, I’m trying. And Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s voice makes the audiobook bearable.

I also sent off an application for a scholarship to a writing conference this summer, and was notified that they received my app. I won’t hear back until late May, but at least that’s another thing done.

So, What’s Next?

  • Publish two blog posts
  • Write 3,500 words on Tavi
  • Work on Santa Sarita

Last week was such a success, I’m hesitant to change the formula. I plan on finishing the Tyson audiobook this week, and hopefully will make a dent on Knight’s Shadow as well, though with such writing productivity it only tracks that the reading slows down. I’ve got a lot of writing books queued up the first part of the year, with a few standout novels sprinkled in.

I’m on track to meet my writing goal for the month, which feels great. I just have to keep this momentum going. Which isn’t always an easy thing, especially with some very long-awaited video game releases on the horizon.

Submissions continue to continue. I’m being patient. I repeat to myself, endlessly. I think I have a new short story in the wings, but it isn’t ready to write just yet. The nonfiction I’ve been listening to is actually related to this story idea I had last year, but I didn’t choose to read them as research or anything, it’s just where my interests led me. Which means this story is percolating and slowly forming into something like clay I can form into something like a story. But not right now. Tavi comes first, at least until the rough draft is done.

Which, let’s be honest, is probably how much time this story will need to climb out of the muck of my mind and proclaim itself writeable. Funny how these things work themselves out.

So, that’s the week. Write, write some more, and when I can’t write anymore, read about writing. Or maybe science. Whichever calls the loudest.

Until later Blogland,

 

BZ

The Recap – November 2018

Bloggos,

Video games are how I decompress, and apparently I really needed to decompress this weekend. I completely missed the fact that Saturday was the first of the month and spaced on writing up my usual monthly recap post! I’m so sorry for the delay.

November Goals

  • Write 800 words/dayLogo_of_National_Novel_Writing_Month
  • Continue short story submissions
  • Keep Reading!

How’d I do?

  • Write 800 words/day
    • YES! This was a really big win for me and I am still doing (exhausted) happy dances.
  • Continue short story submissions
    • Yep! Both Lifelike and That Which Illuminates Heaven were submitted to various magazines in November.
  • Keep Reading!
    • Um… Yes! I read four titles in November, more than I thought I did.

Total Monthly Word Count: 25,069

November was intentionally straightforward. Three bullet points are not remotely daunting, but the prospect of writing 25,000 words sure as hell is. I needed to keep the docket relatively clear in order to make time and mental space for the giant hurdle I’d set for myself.  And it worked.

Did you see that word count? Did ya? It’s the most I’ve written in a single month in all of 2018 and I am ecstatic about it. I worked hard, stayed up later than I should, drank a TON of coffee, and committed myself to making the time to make my goals, which is the entire point of National Novel Writing Month. So, that was a wild success!

Screen Shot 2018-12-03 at 12.37.27 PM

As for submissions, my stories continue to do well but not quite well enough. It’s an emotional rollercoaster with every email notification, but it’s getting easier. I think I’m becoming desensitized. Which, if that could hurry the eff up, that’d be great. The sooner I don’t feel the sting of rejection, the better.

And then there was the reading. Despite my four titles and my one book review, I don’t feel very successful on this front. I tried to read A Map of Days, and had to abandon it because I simply wasn’t motivated to pick it up. I am on the cusp of doing the same for Skyward, although I am motivated to read it, only too late. I’m out of time with it and there are a slew of holds on it. I’m going to move on to Lies Sleeping and buy Skyward so I can read it at my leisure.

Adding two books to my Did Not Finish pile in November does not feel good, but I’m not really surprised either. There’s simply too much going on in the month for me to feel accomplished at everything I wanted to achieve.

December Goals

  • Write 10k
  • Continue short story submissions
  • Read three more titles!

Another straightforward month. It’s December, a busy time at Starbucks and in my personal life so I want to give myself some wiggle room. The holidays are stressful enough without adding my own unmet expectations into the mix. Besides, I want to end the year on a happy and accomplished note, so I can springboard into 2019 ready to shine!

I’m confident that I will make my reading goal for the year. I only have to read three more titles, and I think two of them are a shoe-in. I just have to pick a third book that will read quick.

Short story submissions will continue until each story finds a home. I am stubborn, infuriatingly tenacious, and there’s a steady supply of ice cream in my house. I will get these stories published!

The writing goal might be a close thing if I let video games get in the way. 10k feels like nothing after the blistering word count of November, but that’s kind of the point. I can’t write at that pace for two months in a row, at least not right now. I’ll just burn out if I try. So, I’m going to dial things back and write a little bit each week. Slow and steady wins the race or something.

Hopefully you’ll see some more book reviews this month, and I’ll get good news about one of my stories. Fingers crossed!

Until later, Blogland!

 

BZ