review: circe

13 August 2020

 35959740. sy475

 book info:

on sale: now
copy from: epub
pages: 393
review written: 13.8.20
originally published: 2018
edition read: Little, Brown and Company

title: Circe
author: Madeline Miller

summary:
In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe has neither the look nor the voice of divinity, and is scorned and rejected by her kin. Increasingly isolated, she turns to mortals for companionship, leading her to discover a power forbidden to the gods: witchcraft.

When love drives Circe to cast a dark spell, wrathful Zeus banishes her to the remote island of Aiaia. There she learns to harness her occult craft, drawing strength from nature. But she will not always be alone; many are destined to pass through Circe's place of exile, entwining their fates with hers. The messenger god, Hermes. The craftsman, Daedalus. A ship bearing a golden fleece. And wily Odysseus, on his epic voyage home.

There is danger for a solitary woman in this world, and Circe's independence draws the wrath of men and gods alike. To protect what she holds dear, Circe must decide whether she belongs with the deities she is born from, or the mortals she has come to love.

Review:

After over a year of trying to read books and losing interest, I decided to finally sit down and read Madeline Miller's second book, Circe. Her first, The Song of Achilles, is a frequent re-read from my bookshelf. I'm so in love with the storytelling and characters that I just cannot get over the fact that all I have is one book when I wish it would be seven. The Iliad, my favorite classical work, tells the story of those two main characters amongst a host of other heroes and side characters so I can understand why the book was short as well if it were to stay true to Greek mythology. Now, all I know of Circe is from what was written in The Odyssey, a work I read in my high school English class. I put off reading this for so long because her character in the Odyssey was just one among so many and I even confused her for Calypso. I'll tell you this now - Circe is not the Circe you're probably familiar with. I love how Madeline Miller took from many sources to piece together a relatable and human story of the famous witch beyond what we know of her as the witch that transforms men into pigs.

I read every chapter anticipating Odysseus but I soon forgot about him and got lost in the tales of Circe's other encounters, her upbringing, her relationships, her motivations, her desires...and I found that she was a feminist hero that I didn't expect to find in classical literature. Women in Greek mythology are often weak, sex objects, jealous, angry, and foolish except for the one or two rare exceptions. Circe as I remember from my class also embodied many of these traits. However, Miller takes us deeper into our preconcieved notions. She pains Circe's foolishness almost as a virtue, one that makes her love humans and hate gods. It was refreshing to see Circe not as a tormented and lonely witch, but as a powerful and independent, fierce and brave. She even openly discusses how nymphs are treated as sex "jelly" to be "fucked" and rebels against this world that makes it so. Her hatred and open defiance to a system that so actively worked against the innocent and the female is so relatable in today's world. I find it remarkable how Miller takes these stories of old, maintains their antiquity, yet tells them in a way so relatable to readers today. I often read "versions" of Greek mythology that are modernized, that paint Greek gods and heroes in a different way than they are originally represented. Miller keeps true to historic writings are much as she can and it gives a sense of authenticity as I read, like Miller was actually writing closer to Homer's time than today. 

For those who are into Greek mythology, as I grew up reading picture books of them before grade school and made my way through Edith's Mythology in 3rd grade, you'll find Miller's poetic, lush, and illustrative storytelling to be rich with small references to other tales of Greek mythology. Finding each one and recognizing them is like discovering a hidden gem. For those that don't necessarily read too much mythology, you'll still be able to follow the story and enjoy it as it's truly well written.

I think the downsides of the book can only be attributed to Circe's story itself where, for most of it, she's trapped on her island. However, Miller keeps up the pace of the plot so the only way we know the passing of time is through snippets here and there that reveal it so.

As I revel in my post-reading mood, I find myself really wondering about my own place in the universe and I'm sure we've all felt loneliness and confusion about our fate as Circe has. The difference is, she's an immortal and we're all mortals here. The way she thought about the world was different than her other character Achilles, a demigod doomed to die early in life. It was interesting to reflect on my own life, which I think is the mark of a great writer. It's not just telling stories, but telling it in a way that the reader can reflect upon themselves. I've always known I would be just a speck of dirt amongst others. All things come, all things go. Fame was never for me. Did Achilles, if he ever existed, ever wonder how his name would be remembered forever? Actors and actresses of the 1800s are forgotten. Celebrities are short-lived. Only the greatest live in name, real or fictional. 

I may be unfair in my rating, which I disclose is out of 6 umbrellas. I dock 1 because of the sometimes slow moving of the story and also because, after I finished reading, I looked up Circe's story to see how it ended according to original texts that describe her. The ending in Miller's book is less harsh than the "real" ending but it left me feeling happier than the kind of ending in "The Song of Achilles" which I knew would come (as a fan of the Iliad, I dreaded the ending from the very first page). I'm glad Miller wrote her version as I prefer it to what original texts described but somehow, I feel that for Circe's life and story, the ending almost seemed out of place? Circe faced a lot of shit in her life but it was mostly peaceful whereas my heart was torn every other chapter of The Song of Achilles. I know Miller spent 10 years writing that book and probably spent less time writing this one, and it's probably unfair of me to compare the two works, but I can't help it. My ratings are my own.

Therefore, this book gets 5/6 umbrellas :) It's basically as good as a 5 star ratings since 6 umbrellas indicates it's one of top favorite books ever like perfection



Note: I feel that I need to clarify my rating system since I notice I only did so when I first introduced the system a long time ago. Maybe I'll add a graphic on the sidebar? Let me know!

review: rooftops of tehran

20 January 2018


book info:
on sale: now
copy from: public library
pages: 348
review written: 21.12.17
originally published: 2009
edition read: Penguin NAL 2009

title: Rooftops of Tehran
author: Mahbod Seraji

In a middle-class neighborhood of Iran's sprawling capital city, 17-year-old Pasha Shahed spends the summer of 1973 on his rooftop with his best friend Ahmed, joking around one minute and asking burning questions about life the next. He also hides a secret love for his beautiful neighbor Zari, who has been betrothed since birth to another man. But the bliss of Pasha and Zari's stolen time together is shattered when Pasha unwittingly acts as a beacon for the Shah's secret police. The violent consequences awaken him to the reality of living under a powerful despot, and lead Zari to make a shocking choice...

my thoughts:

This book was first published in 2009 and I remember adding it to my list around that time but never actually reading it since I preferred checking out library books to buying them (a child's allowance is often not enough to cover a single book). I decided I would wait until the library got a hold of a copy in order to read it. Now, eight years later, I am finally writing the review for this book.

The book takes place in a small Iranian neighbourhood where everyone knows everyone. The main character, Pasha, is a remarkably intelligent and well read boy, was relatable in every way. Perhaps his young age allowed him to show qualities we all have but try to suppress or its just the nature of his character, but Pasha's growth through love, jealousy, and pain was well expressed. I think because it's from the perspective of a boy, the narrative was easily understood, almost like a young adult novel. Not to mention, Pasha's education made him a little more "Western" compared to the others such that he shared similar views. For example, and this is a point made in the book, Pasha criticises Iranians for "falling in love" upon sight instead of getting to know the other person first. He pursues romance the same way a Westerner would. While this made it easier to understand from my own perspective, I wished that I could've glimpsed an entirely Iranian point of view. While the book was written about Iran pre-revolution, I felt as if it was written for Westerners. This may not necessarily be a bad thing, as I still enjoyed the book, but I think there could be a lot of improvement.

My favourite part about the book was not actually the story or the characters, rather the setting and the time period. Seraji attempts to illustrate a scene of Tehran before the Iranian Revolution, before Iran became the way it is now. Tehran is a modern city full of houses with yards and pools and young scholars, homes of wives making tea, and school children playing games in the streets. The best of Rooftops of Tehran may actually be the most subtle element of story telling - setting. Here's the first few sentences of the book:

"Sleeping on the food in the summer is customary in Tehran. The dry heat of the day cools after midnight, and those of us who sleep on the rooftops wake with the early sun on our faces and fresh air in our lungs" 

As I was reading, I inadvertently compared the book to a watered down, young adult Iranian "The Kite Runner." It's an unfair analysis, as Rooftops had be reading almost without break until the very end. I got so eager with the pace of the plot that I skipped only a few pages to realise I needed to read every single word carefully to understand. It's an exciting and quick read unlike The Kite Runner, which was exciting but far more literary.

Overall, this book was decent but it didn't impress me too much. I'd recommend it to younger readers or simply curious readers who are looking for something entertaining and cultural. I'll give it three umbrellas.

Summer Book Giveaway

05 July 2016

Hello everyone!
  It's been a long time since I've had a giveaway and as I was cleaning out my storage boxes, I discovered a box of books that I enjoyed so much as a teen that I felt it was worthy to keep throughout all the giveaways I had in the "hay-day" of this blog. However, it's unlikely that I'm going to read them again or keep them on the shelf anymore, so why not pass it along to readers who might actually enjoy them? 
 These books must seem really old by now but they were actually new and popular books once. Why not give 'em a go? I haven't really been keeping up with how blogs are run nowadays as since I've had this blog from October of 2008, I've run giveaways the same. I tried Rafflecopter once but I didn't quite like it so please use the form below :) 

Thank you all so much for sticking with me on this incredibly long voyage of book reviewing here on Pages and welcome to all the new followers who're helping me continue sailing <3 nbsp="" p="">

Package 1

Anatomy of a Boyfriend: Daria Snadowsky
Glimmerglass: Jenna Black
Empty: Suzanne Weyn (ARC)

Package 2


Cinder: Marissa Meyer (ARC)
Passion: Lauren Kate
Intrinsical: Lani Woodland

Rules

  • Must have a US Mailing Address (If you are international and are willing to pay shipping fees, comment below!)
  • Must fill out the form below by September 30th 2016
  • Must be a follower of this blog via Google Friend Connect
Fill out the form here

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