Love, War, and Cranky Sea Goddesses: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

5 stars

tsoa.jpgThe Song of Achilles is one of those books. The books you’ve heard so many amazing, gushy things about that you find yourself experiencing the completely normal reaction of: well, it can’t possibly be that good.

Friends, I’m here to tell you, this book is that good.

If you’re looking for a perfect blend of history, mythology, action, romance and crush your heart into a sad, bloody, pulpy mess, then this, right here, is the ticket.

Who, What, Where?

The Song of Achilles is a greatly expanded and more in-depth retelling of Homer’s epic poem, The Iliad. Our protagonist is Patroclus, an exiled young prince sent to live in nearby Thessaly. It’s here that Patroclus befriends the beautiful, demi-god prince Achilles. Yep, you know the one – as in, should have invested in heel protective sandals. The two boys grow up together, developing a special relationship which eventually evolves into something more (*spoiler* it’s L-O-V-E). However, when Helen, wife of Spartan King Menelaus is “kidnapped” by the Trojans, Achilles is called to fight in the coming war. The problem is, there’s a prophecy that he’s to die on the battlefield. Hello, tragedy.

Why You Should Read this Book

Attention to Detail

There is so much love in this book. So much. The attention to detail is just staggering – places, names, music, weapons, myths, it’s mind bogglingly wonderful, but because of the simplistic style of the prose, it rarely feels overwhelming. If I’d been assigned books like this during my history studies, it would have made things so much more enjoyable. This is a classics teacher using their powers for good! If you read books to get away from the everyday and visit somewhere else for a little while, this is the perfect choice.

Character Development

I’ll admit, I knew nothing about Patroclus when this book started. I was like, who the hell is this scrawny ass kid that I’m stuck inside the head of? By the end of the book, I wanted to cuddle him, stroke his hair and tell him it was all going to be okay,  creepy or not. Patroclus starts out as a quieter character, even perceptibly weak, so it’s easy to dismiss him as a mere sidekick. But if we’ve learned anything from Samwise Gamgee, hobbit and gardener extraordinaire, it’s that you don’t have to kick ass with a sword to be a hero. Sidekicks are the real MVPs. Patroclus is brave, compassionate, knows how to play to his strengths, and is just generally one of those characters you can’t help but love because of his pure heart.

Then there’s Achilles. Ah, Achilles. I have a complicated relationship with this one. Achilles begins the book as a reasonably likeable character – he’s kind to Patroclus and there’s a good deal of emotional depth in regards to how he thinks about his destiny. And then…he gets older. And arrogant. And proud. And stubborn. It’s NOT a good combination, leaving him looking like a bit of an ass. He’ll make you want to yell and throw things but despite this, I can’t deny that Miller’s written him well.

Aside from Achilles and Patroclus, there are also a couple of great side characters. Some of these include Odysseus, the smooth-talking king of Ithaca (and hero of Homer’s Odyessy)  and Briseis, a trojan slave captured during the war who forms a close bond with Patroclus. Achilles mother, the (angry, judgy) sea goddess, Thetis, despite her role as a significant romantic obstacle, is also memorable. Each serves to add to the richness of the story in different ways but without ever stealing the limelight.

All Aboard the Sinking Ship

One of the best parts of TSoA is the beautifully written relationship between its two leads, which I shipped right to novel’s bitter end (what can I say, I’m a glutton for punishment). It’s developed gradually from friends to lovers over a period of several years, with all the associated emotions. P & A are vastly different but they complement each other perfectly, their contrasting personalities providing balance to the story. They’re completely honest with each other and in the face of that, accept the other for exactly who he is and what he’s done. One of Achilles most redeeming qualities is just how much he cares for Patroclus, and through Patroclus’ eyes, even in the face of everything he’s done, we see the good in Achilles. The pair share secrets, climb trees, gaze at the stars, and fall asleep wrapped in each other’s’ arms.

Prepare yourself for much ‘awww’-ing.

It’ll Make you Feel Things

This book. Honestly. I don’t think I’m spoiling anything when I say that this is a Greek tragedy. Get ready to either (a) collapse into a puddle of tears or (b) sit on the end of your bed wondering whether there’s enough joy in the world to fill the hole of despair now taking up residence in your chest where your heart used to be. There is no third option. You know it’s coming and it still feels like being run over by a speeding bus (cool it, Keanu Reeves).Divider

Why You Might Want to Skip it

It’s All About the Characters

Even with its dramatic subject nature, The Song of Achilles is definitely a slower build novel. At its heart, this is a book about the relationship between two people. While there’s certainly war, gods and prophecies, most of the novel is devoted to Patroclus and Achilles’ growth as people (for better and worse) and the strength of their relationship. The later parts of the novel do showcase some larger scale drama but you need to have the patience to make it through to the emotional pay off. If you aren’t interested in slower, character-based books, this isn’t for you (me, I loved every conversation).

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HOWEVER, this slower pace rapidly increases in the climax of the novel but not necessarily for the better. There’s a heartbreaking tipping point towards the end of the novel which sets several events into motion. Unfortunately, after this “thing” happens, the plot makes a mad dash for the finish line in a way that causes emotional whiplash. Bonus points to Miller, though, for being able to bring it back in time for the last pages to leave a lasting impression.

Who Are You Again?

A warning. This is ancient Greek history and mythology. There are A LOT of characters, many with long or similar sounding names who pop up infrequently without heaps of background. There will be moments of, now who the hell is this guy again?


Basically, if you love Greek history and mythology, epic battles, great character development, and wonderfully written romance, get that butt into gear and read this book. Now.

It’s amazeballs.

5 Stars*

* In my June wrap up, I gave this book 4.8 stars but I now realise that’s completely stupid and I’ve just rounded the damn thing up, as it should be. Half stars or full stars Ashley, you have rules for a reason. 

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Top 10 Tuesday: Best Books I’ve Read in 2018 (So Far)

This week’s top ten Tuesday topic is a list of your favourite reads of 2018 so far. I touched on this briefly when I did the mid-year freak out tag a few weeks ago but since it’s always fun talking about fantastic books, I thought, why not expand on it here. Creating this list was really tough in places because I’ve read some great books this year. If you were to ask me the same question again tomorrow, I’m likely to have changed the list by then, it’s just that hard. I’m so indecisive – did I like this book better than this book? Oh, but I rated this book higher, but then I read this one super quick, it’s just crazy. So here are the ten I’ve come up with for today. The books are listed in order of the date I read them (because who wants the grief of trying to rank them, heaven forbid)


1

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Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda (Becky Albertalli)

★★★★★

I feel like I’ve raved about this one enough for you guys to know how much I enjoyed it. Like I said in my review, it’s better than Oreos – sweet, funny, emotional, and uplifting, this is the definition of a good YA contemporary.

Review here.


2

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A Torch Against the Night (Sabaa Tahir)

★★★★

It’s always a nice thing when books avoid sequel suckage syndrome. This was a great adventure. I love both Helene and Elias so it’s was really interesting watching them play cat and mouse across the country. The prison scenes were also extremely entertaining and the book ended in a place that left me super excited to read A Reaper at the Gates.


3

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The Cruel Prince (Holly Black)

★★★★

I’ve never been a huge fan of fairy books, with a few exceptions, but it’s books like this that have started to change my mind of late. Yes, the world building is a little lacking and some of the plot is on the slow side but I had a great time reading this one. The characters are morally ambiguous, there’s scheming and backstabbing, and the ending is fabulously dramatic. I can’t wait for The Wicked King.

Review here.


4

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Red Rising Series (Pierce Brown)

★★★★★

Yes, this is three books so I’m cheating but 1) they were all excellent and 2) I didn’t want a third of this list to just be RR books. I loved this series. LOVED. Well written characters, epic action scenes, dramatic twists, amazing world building, and some intense emotional moments, what more do you want? Also, unlike some other series, it finishes even stronger than it begins. Definitely would recommend to sci-fi fans!

Series review here.


5

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Call Me By Your Name (Andre Aciman)

★★★★

This book was such a change of pace for me. I picked it up after falling in love with the film and the novel is just as magical. The writing is absolutely beautiful and the book itself is just heartbreaking but so, so worth it.


6

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Warcross (Marie Lu)

★★★★.5

This was my first experience with Marie Lu and it was wonderful! The Warcross matches themselves were so much fun and Emilka was a strong, smart and well developed MC. The plot twist at the end is predictable but still enjoyable because of the direction it takes the story. The sequel, Wildcard, is one of my most anticipated releases for the second half of 2018.


7

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Scythe (Neal Shusterman)

★★★★★

I had to wait for ages to get this book in Australia but it was worth it. The world is unique and extremely well constructed, the book deals with some big questions about morality, power, and life itself, and the characters are complex but likeable. The plot will be a bit slow for some people but I enjoyed it immensely!

Review here.


8

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Leah on the Offbeat (Becky Albertalli)

★★★★.5

I’ve had a good year so far with Becky Albertalli books. Leah was one of my least favourite characters in Simon but after this book, I gained such a new appreciation for her. She has her stubborn moments but she’s also super relatable and I loved the development of her relationship with Abby. Plus I got to spend some more time with the other adorable Simon characters. Winner!


9

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The Last Olympian (Rick Riordan)

★★★★.5

Up until this book I’d had fun reading the Percy Jackson series but I had yet to reach a book where I was genuinely super keen to find out how it would end. That was this book for me. The plot was exciting and actually felt like it’d have a lasting impact on the world of the books instead of just being Percy and co’s latest adventure. I loved that the stakes felt real and there was a chance for characters to showcase true bravery. It was a much more mature read and I really appreciated that!


10

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The Song of Achilles (Madeline Miller)

★★★★.8

Wow. I cannot believe I waited so long to read this one because it was AMAZING. Miller puts so much detail into the book but without bogging down the story. I loved Patroclus as a narrator and the romance between him and Achilles is beautifully done. The downside, however, is that the book leaves you an emotional wreck at the end.

Review to come soon!

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And that rounds out my top ten! Are there any favourites we’ve shared? What have been some of your best reads of 2018 thus far?

Here’s to many more fantastic books in the second half of the year!

Love Ashley

Let’s Talk: Things Book Characters do that Make no Sense

Books are not reality,  I think we’re all aware of that. I mean, am I currently riding through the skies on a dragon, having romantic meet-cutes with boys wearing crooked smiles, or saving space ships from crazed AIs and zombie virus outbreaks? That would be a no. However there are a bunch of things that protagonists seem to do in my books that don’t make any sense to me. Perhaps they’re all crazy, or it might just be because they’re fictional….hmmm, who knows?

1. Charging into Danger with Little or No Concrete Plan

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Do you WANT to die? Let’s consider this for a moment. The bad guy has likely got an epic-ally thought out plan against all potentially appearing heroes (no really, he’s going to stop and tell you all about it right before he murders your ass because it’s just that awesome), and you should do the damn same! I’m sorry but the following excuses are just not going to cut it, in the slightest:

(a) We’ll just wing it

(b) It’ll be fine, don’t worry

(c) We can do it if we all work together

And my personal favourite,

(d) If we just sit around and wait, he’s going to kill her/him

Pfft…you know, the usual excuses.

2. Now We’re on the Subject, Charging into Danger Full Stop

Why. Just why. Villains and monsters are scary. *whispers* They kill people. If it were me, I’d be turning to the side kicks, who are obviously way more qualified for this whole mess, and being like: Well, off you go, before finding myself a blanket to hide under with a never ending stash of chocolate as I battle a massive panic attack. I mean, where do these MC’s find all this bravery and courage stuff? Thank god, I’m not a chosen one – we’d all die.

3. Having the Perfect Thing to Say in an Argument

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Teach me your ways quick witted protagonists! How is it that you always know exactly what to say at the right moment in order to come off sounding smart, sexy, hilarious and like a compete badass? Save me from my constant conversational replays in the shower during which I am compelled to come up with better and better burning comebacks, all of which will never be appreciated for their awesomeness (except by my shampoo bottle). This is how I prepare myself to one day develop a witty rapport with a slightly sarcastic boy wearing a crooked half smile with a minor case of overconfidence to hide his deeply buried heart of gold.

4. Saying They’re Not Hungry

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Honestly, if hobbits can be attacked by ring wraiths and still be concerned about second elevenses and afternoon tea, so can you. Fuel is important for the high functioning protagonist! Don’t blame the side kick when you’re being chased by a giant monster or a pair of ugly goons and your body suddenly gives out from lack of sugar. Listen to Professor Lupin  guys, food saves lives. It also stops hangry-ness, which is probably why the next point happens so often…

4. Making a Big Deal out of Stupid, Insignificant stuff at the Worst Possible Times

I get it. You feel massively betrayed right now. I’m sorry your best friend failed to tell you what she had for breakfast this morning and whether or not she happened to have had a random conversation on a street corner with someone who later turned out to be an evil mastermind pumping her for information, but is it really that big a deal? And do we have to discuss this right now, you know, as you’re preparing for the final battle and will likely need to rely on each other to keep your asses safe? They apologised, move on already.

5. Telling Lies or Avoiding Subjects and Making Minor Things Massively Worse than they Should Be

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Things in books would be so much simpler if protagonists stopped trying to hide things that really aren’t that big a deal. What once was a molehill is now a mountain, full of goblins, guarded by a basilisk, located in the Bermuda Triangle, and you’ve only got yourself to blame. It’s always the case that the chance to say something comes up and the MC lies to cover up the original slightly smaller lie, thereby making things even worse. Hello, snowball effect. So, the other love interest kissed you. Big deal. You pushed them away, just tell your damn partner already! Or, the MC thinks, why don’t I just wait until the other person happens to bring it up at the worst possible moment, thereby making me look like a lying, cheating, ass. Now that sounds like the way to go.

6. Never Needing to Use the Bathroom

Do protagonists never need to pee or shower? They’re constantly forced into terrifying situations and somehow never seem to have a problem. Kidnapped, stuck in an underground cell for the past 48 hours and still…nothing.  Clearly everyone just has iron bladders and never gets dirty. They’re like Legolas, a walking, talking make up/conditioner advertisement. Me, I love my showers and don’t even get me started on my ridiculously small bladder. The villain would be five minutes into his monologue and I’d be nudging a nearby henchman asking for directions to the bathroom.

7. Resisting being with the Character They Clearly Love and want to have Many Babies with til the End of Time

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Why are you fighting this? The reader sees it, every minor character in your story sees it, the other third of the love triangle sees it, hell, even my cats see it. Get together already and stop causing me stress and heartache with all these stupid, manufactured reasons as to why not. And while we’re at it, if you could never, ever break up or hurt one another, that’d be fantastic. Forget about that other love interest, he’s just in it for plot padding.

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What things do book protagonists do (or not do as the case may be) that make no sense to you? Let’s rant (aka. talk)!

Love Ashley

WWW Wednesday | 4.07.18

Time for the usual spiel: WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Taking on a World of Words designed to keep people updated on how you’re going with your reading by answering three questions: what did you just finish, what are you currently reading, and what are you planning on reading next? Now, let’s dive in.


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15749186To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before – Jenny Han

As you may have seen from yesterday’s book review, I just finished the first book in Jenny Han’s popular ya series, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. I thought this book was really cute and despite it’s obvious flaws I had a great time reading it. The protagonist Lara Jean is a little bit young and naive at times but I  still generally found her likeable. I’d really like to read the sequel very soon but I’ll probably have to put it off because of my readathons for the next two months. Sad face. Here’s my full review if you’re interested.


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34499221To Kill a Kingdom – Alexandra Christo

Yes, I’m finally reading this one! I’d been trying to track down this book ever since it was released and only managed to find it at the book store at the end of June (damn, Australia). It perfectly fits my Care of Magical Creatures prompt for my Harry Potter readathon this month so I didn’t need much more prodding than that. I’ve been powering through and it’s been really enjoyable so far. The plot has a good sense of pace and direction, the characters are engaging and likeable, and I’m having a lot of fun reading as Lira and Elian verbally spar with one another. The world building is pretty decent too. It’s looking like a winner to me.


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33158541The Wicker King – K. Ancrum

Another book from my July readathon reading list! I think this will be a pretty quick read because of the writing style variations. It looks like a very different book from my usual so it could go either way in terms of how much I enjoy it. I’ve heard some really good things though (and it has a 4.07 average Goodreads rating) so here’s hoping the result is positive. It might also be nice to read something that deals with some real world issues such as mental health.  I mean I love magic, pirates, dragons and assassins, but I really do need to branch out on occasion. Divider

What are you currently reading? Is it any good?

What do you plan on tackling next?

Love Ashley

 

A lot Better than Fruit Cake Cookies: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

4 stars
TATBILB

Well, hello there you adorable, sweet, lovely, bubbly, fun, all the cute adjectives in the English language, book. Why yes, I do see your flaws, of which there are many, but for some reason my brain seems to have short circuited to the point where I can’t seem to get enough of you.

TATBILB (gosh, what an acronym, I need a breather after just typing that), is one of those young adult contemporaries that people seem to bring up among a couple of choice favourites every time the genre is mentioned in conversation. You know the ones, Anna and the French Kiss, Fangirl, The Fault in Our Stars, Simon vs the Homo Sapiens AgendaI’ll Give you the SunAll the Bright Places, etc, etc. I’ve had some good experiences with YA contemporaries and some not so good. So even though I’d already committed to giving this one a go, I went into it expecting it to be silly, childish and disappointing.

Apparently I really need to stop going into things so cynical because occasionally the hype train does, in fact, pick some winners. And yes, I know basically everyone out there has already read this one but eh, I’m going to review it anyway because cute contemporary. And yes, I’m going to use heaps of completely unnecessary gifs.

Who, What, Where?

Our story’s protagonist is sixteen year old Lara Jean. She’s half Korean, dresses in outfits almost bordering on costume, bakes great cookies, is the middle child of three sisters, and has never had a boyfriend. She has, however, been in love – five times. And for every boy she’s loved, she’s also written a letter. Not to send of course, because that would be embarrassing. She keeps these love letters hidden away in a hatbox in her closet, where no one will ever find them.

That is, until one day the letters are mysteriously sent out in the post. Can you say, awkward?

The bigger problem is the fact that one of LJ’s five happens to be her older sister’s ex-boyfriend, Josh, which is a big no-no in any sense of the girl code. In order to convince Josh her feelings are long over, Lara Jean makes a deal with Peter, another of her letter receivers. By pretending to be in a relationship, LJ can throw Josh off the scent and Peter can hopefully show his controlling ex, Genevieve, that he’s over her. It’s the perfect plan, because neither of them has feelings for the other, right?

Yeah, right.

Reasons You Should Read this Book

Finally, an Asian Protagonist!

Alright, half Asian but still! Just like with Simon, it was nice to have a little bit of diversity going on in the MC department for a change and to see some representation of families that don’t often get featured at the forefront of YA. Lara Jean being mixed race also provided the chance for Jenny Han to raise a few of the more frustrating parts of being of Asian descent in a western country. Some of these are small such as feeling the pressure to dress up as only Asian characters on Halloween. However, others are bigger, like having to deal with the constant insensitive questions about where you come from (no really, where? No, I mean, where were you born?) and trying not to lose connections to your heritage whilst being surrounded by another culture 24-7.

The Romance is Adorable

Come on, this is not the sort of book you read if you aren’t keen on romance. Don’t try to deny it, you care. As I’m sure you worked out from the synopsis, there are two main love interests to Lara Jean in this story, Peter and Josh. Yes, it’s the beginnings of a love triangle but don’t worry, it never really becomes an annoyance here as LJ’s focus is always on one person at any given time and there’s none of that annoying ‘who do I choose’, ‘oh, woe is me’.

Josh is sweet, if a little boring, but as I’m in the camp of if you’ve dated someone’s older sister you MUST NOT go after their younger sister, I can’t root for him to win this one. You move that little butt on, mister. Peter, on the other hand, is that cocky, amusing guy who acts like an ass but actually has deeper emotions and a good heart. In other words, he’s the character archetype I’m a real sucker for. Every damn time. I was a goner from the moment he showed up with his fancy car wearing that stupid grin.

“That’s when I see him. Peter Kavinsky, walking down the hallway. Like magic. Beautiful, dark-haired Peter. He deserves background music, he looks so good.”

The relationship development here is predictable but it’s still really nice to watch the two characters bounce off one another in cute sections of dialogue. While Peter encourages LJ to get out into the world instead of just fantasizing about it, LJ brings out more of Peter’s sweet side. Even just seeing Peter hang out with Lara Jean and her little sister Kitty is delightful and by the time feelings develop, they feel well earned.

It has it’s Giggle Moments

Is it even a good YA-contemporary if you don’t let out a few snorts once in a while? A few of my personal favourites:

“Oh, I used to lie all the time as a kid.” I didn’t think of it as lying, though. I thought of it as playing make-believe. I told Kitty she was adopted and her real family was in a traveling circus. It’s why she took up gymnastics.” 

“That’s the biggest lie I’ve ever told him, even bigger than the lie about my so-called dead twin Marcella. Until a couple of years ago Josh thought I had a twin sister named Marcella who died of leukemia.” 

“Your house is lovely,” I say, even though it isn’t. It’s old; it could use a good cleaning. But the things inside it are lovely.
“It’s empty now. All my things sold up. Can’t take it with you, you know.”
“You mean when you die?” I whisper.
He glares at me. “No. I mean to the nursing home.”

Easy, Breezy, Short and Sweet

TATBILB is your typical YA-contemporary. It’s a short read and despite some sad moments for LJ, it’s still light and fluffy. Jenny’s writing is really easy to read – there’s no unnecessary descriptions, Lara Jean’s internal monologues never drag on for too long, and even the quieter plot sections still feel like fun time with the characters. The book is a great choice if you’re looking for something to break up some of your denser reads or if you’ve been stuck on another less engaging book for a while. Read this one in only a few days (or one sitting) and you’ll feel ready to tackle the rest of your TBR with enthusiasm.

Why You Might Want to Give it a Miss

The issue of Lara Jean

Alright, let’s deal with the big one first. On the whole, I didn’t mind LJ as a protagonist (her cringy use of “Daddy” aside). She’s relatable, sweet, and tries her best to do the right thing. BUT. LJ hasn’t really experienced much of the world. She’s never been in a relationship and her sister, Margo, has protected her from a lot of responsibility since their mother’s death. Because of this there are moments when her narration comes off a lot younger than sixteen. She’s naive, romanticizes things, doesn’t handle awkward situations very well, and is a little over the top at times.

For this reason a lot of people are going to find her childish and annoying, and that’s completely okay. If you can’t handle a slightly sheltered protagonist with a lot of learning to do, then maybe this one isn’t for you.

What Mystery?

The whole reason the events in the book kick off is because someone decides to send out Lara Jean’s box of love letters. With this in mind, you’d think that part of the story would be devoted to figuring out who send the darned things, yes? Wrong. While LJ considers this very briefly at the beginning of the book, she then forgets about it completely until the answer is given to us at the very end. The culprit is ridiculously obvious but it would have been nice to have a little mystery and some more potential suspects.

Wait, it’s Over? (Except not Really)

Everyone knows that the best part of a rom-com is the end, the happily ever after where everything is resolved in an unrealistic but still love-heart eye worthy reconciliation. Well folks, if that’s what you want here, better move along because there ain’t none of that. TATBILB unfortunately ends in a blunt and somewhat unresolved fashion. Yes, we all know there’s a sequel but would it kill you to give a girl a bit of temporary closure. I feel like the Rolling Stones, where be my satisfaction Jenny Han?Divider

Despite it’s flaws, I had a great time with this one. Perhaps it’s a little bit of a guilty pleasure read but TATBILB is just one of those books that I can’t help but like because of its tone and the fluffy, warm feelings it gave me while reading. It’s cute, and makes you feel good about the world for a little bit, so plot issues withstanding I’ll unashamedly admit that I’m so excited to read the rest of the series. Sue me. Lara Jean and Peter forever.

4 Stars

P.S: Just in case you hadn’t heard, or worked it out from my gif usage, this book has been turned into a movie by Netflix and will be released in August. Woo, excitement!

Love Ashley

And That’s a Wrap: June Edition

And just like that we’re half way through 2018. Everybody remain calm!

Books I Read

At the beginning of this month I had a major panic for some reason that I was reading at really slow pace and I’d get to this wrap up with essentially nothing to share. I clearly need to have some chill pills on standby. In the end I read 6 and a half books (the half being a DNF) which I’m pretty happy with. Once again there was a wide range – some highs, some lows, and a few in the middle.

June Reads

Thunderhead – Neal Shusterman: ★★★★.5

I had been really looking forward to reading this one after recently finishing Scythe and I wasn’t disappointed! This book introduced some new characters, gave us additional insight into the mind of the Thunderhead, and ended with a fantastic, cliff hanger of a climax. You can find my full review here.

The Battle of the Labyrinth (Percy Jackson and the Olympians 4#) – Rick Riordan: ★★★

While I wanted a little more out of this one, I did like the idea of the Labyrinth and had fun with Percy, Annabeth and Grover on their new adventures. The books still read a bit young at this point but as usual the mythology is awesome and so are the characters.

The Last Olympian (Percy Jackson and the Olympians 5#) – Rick Riordan: ★★★★.5

Now this is what I’ve been looking for out of a Percy story! The characters are a bit more mature, the stakes are higher and the ending ties things up really well. I’m not sure how I feel about how the prophecy ended up being resolved (it’s a bit muddled) but overall I had a blast with this one and it’s probably my favourite of the series. I’m so keen to read The Heroes of Olympus series now.

The Crown (The Selection 5#) – Kiera Cass: ★★★

I read this series because it’s trashy fun but even I had to say this one was a little lackluster. Eadlyn’s character certainly improves a lot and I was happy with who she chose in the end but a lot of the story is well… eh, for lack of a better description. Not bad but not good either. A palate cleanser if anything else.

Fingersmith – Sarah Waters: ★.5

I can’t say I didn’t try with this one. The book is over 550 pages long and man, there are times when you really do feel it. I made it to 59% before finally deciding to DNF. The book has a good concept but there’s so much useless description and repetitiveness. Points for a good twist at the end of part one however it’s dampened by the fact that part two requires you to then read nearly all of part one over again from another character’s perspective. I’m afraid, I just don’t have the patience.

The Song of Achilles – Madeline Miller: ★★★★.8

I was so tempted to give this one a perfect score. I usually only do ratings in half or full stars but the rule had to be broken here. The characters are so rich and the amount of work that went into this novel is evident from every page. I loved the romance, mythology, battles, even the heartbreak of the ending. The only minor negative for me was that I found the events after a “certain person”’s death a little rushed. But still, one of my favourite reads this year so far!

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before – Jenny Han ★★★★

Hello, absolute adorkableness. I went into this one with low expectations. I thought it’d be silly, childish, and that the main character would be annoying as hell. It turns out the hype was actually correct for a change and I ended up enjoying it a lot! Lara Jean was silly and naive at times, yes, but she was also very relatable and sweet, and I just wanted her to get her happy ending. The ending of the book is a bit incomplete and sudden but I really liked this one. I’ll be picking up the sequel as soon as I can.
Books I Bought

June buys

Three books and one graphic novel for this month seems pretty good to me! I was actually sitting on just the 1 book and graphic novel until about a week before the end of the month – I was shocked! And then, of course, I went to the book store.  Unfortunately I couldn’t get some of the books I wanted so my tally ended up being less than it would have been. Technically, I’ve also ordered an additional four books off book depository but I’m not going to count those because I haven’t received them yet. Therefore, when they’re in my hot little hands next month, they’ll count (way to skirt around the rules, Ashley).

I’m so keen to read these and three of them I’m potentially using to fulfill prompts for my July readathon so I’ll be getting to them really soon if all goes to plan! Watch this space.

blog posts

Book Reviews

Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman

Yes, I very much failed on the ‘write reviews for all books read in June’ front.

Top Ten Tuesday

Books I feel like Everyone’s Read but Me

Best Book to Movie/TV Adaptations, Part 2

Series I’d Like to Finish or Continue Someday

Book Tags

The 20 Questions Book Tag

Mid-Year Freak Out Tag

Miscellaneous

New Additions to My TBR

WWW: Wednesday | 13.06.18

Harry Potter Readathon/ July TBR

Personal Life

In the middle of this month I turned 25 which was a bit of a ‘whoa’ moment. I feel so old and yet ridiculously young at the same time which is kind of hard to reconcile with. It was a bit of a boring birthday but there was chocolate cake, The Incredibles 2 and Thai food so I can’t really complain much.

The kitty-bears, Archie and Lexie, are growing! It’s crazy how small they used to be and how big they’ve gotten in only a few months. They’re super cuties but they do have their moments… *ahem* attacking the curtains…

TV

This month I finally started watching The Handmaid’s Tale and just as people have said, it’s fantastic. It’s a lot closer to the book in season one than I’d been told and I’ve been enjoying it immensely. Don’t get me wrong, as a woman it’s extremely maddening and freaking terrifying, but so well acted and brilliantly done. Later in the month I also started re-watching good old Game of Thrones from the beginning. I’ve only watched it all the way through once, which is surprising (even though I’ve seen bits here and there more times), so it’ll be a good way to kill time in the agony that is waiting for the final season. Can it be 2019 yet?DividerHow was your June? What was your favourite read? Which book are you most excited to read in July?

Love Ashley

Harry Potter Readathon: O.W.L Exams TBR

Recently I came across a post by Bex @ BexnBookx in which she was discussing prepping for a readathon based on the OWL exams of the Harry Potter series. However, confession time: I’ve never participated in a readathon. *gasps*

Yes, I know.

It’s super weird considering that I’ve now been book blogging for over a year. So, as you can imagine, I was extremely curious about this one and decided to look into it some more. Honestly, the minute anyone says the words ‘Harry’ and ‘Potter’, I’m like WHO, WHAT, WHERRRREEE.

Anyway, so it turns out that this readathon was created by booktuber G @ Bookroast and was actually held back in April – I am clearly late to the party. However, she had so much fun doing the OWLs readathon that she’s now created a second one based off the NEWTs set to be held in August.  Because of this,  many of the people who missed out on doing the OWLs back in April have decided to take them in July, meaning they’ll be able to participate in the NEWTs the month after with everyone else. This seems like the perfect opportunity for me to test the readathon waters and embrace my HP obsession in a new and very TBR productive way.

The way it works is, there are twelve challenges which correspond to each of the courses Hogwarts students take for their OWL exams in their fifth year. By reading a book that fits the challenge, you complete that OWL. 

The scores to pass are (because let’s face it, failure isn’t an option in my mind):

A – Acceptable – Sit and Pass at least 2 OWLs

E – Exceeded Expectations – Sit and Pass at least 3 OWLs

O – Outstanding – Sit & Pass at least 5 OWLs 

I’ve had a good, long think about the challenges and what books will work for both them and me, and man, some of them were hard. I, in no way, intend to complete every OWL on the list, my average book count per month is about 5, but I wanted to have some choice depending on how I’m feeling throughout July so I’ve tried to find a book for as many of the subjects as I can. Here is the TBR I’ve come up with:

Ancient Runes

A Book With A Symbol on the Cover

The Wicker King – K. Ancrum

33158541As you can probably see, there’s a lot of symbolism going on with this particular cover. This is a bit different from my usual reads but it’s got some really great reviews, and I’m very curious about it. It doesn’t look like it’ll be a long read either which is great for a readathon.

SYNOPSIS:

When August learns that his best friend, Jack, shows signs of degenerative hallucinatory disorder, he is determined to help Jack cope. Jack’s vivid and long-term visions take the form of an elaborate fantasy world layered over our own—a world ruled by the Wicker King. As Jack leads them on a quest to fulfill a dark prophecy in this alternate world, even August begins to question what is real or not. 

August and Jack struggle to keep afloat as they teeter between fantasy and their own emotions. In the end, each must choose his own truth.


Arithmancy

A Book with a Number on the Cover or in the Title

One of Us is Lying – Karen McManus

32571395It always seems like I have heaps of novels with numbers in the title but trying to find a book for this one ended up being a struggle. That is, until I remembered that I’d bought my sister a copy of One of Us is Lying which I’d been considering reading a little while back. Apparently this book is the love child of The Breakfast Club and Pretty Little Liars or Riverdale. I’m a fan of TBC however I’m not that big on the other two. Apparently the culprit is pretty obvious but hey, it might be a fun read.

SYNOPSIS 

Pay close attention and you might solve this.

On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.
Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule. 
Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess. 
Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.
Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.
And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app.

Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention, Simon’s dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn’t an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose? 
Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them.


Astronomy

A Science Fiction Novel

Saga Vol. 1 –  Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples

15704307According to the rules, graphic novels count! I normally don’t read much in the way of graphic novels or comics but I’ve seen Saga popping up repeatedly on people’s blogs so last week I went out and bought the first volume. It looks weird but cool, and at the very least it’ll be a quick read which fulfills the prompt!

SYNOPSIS

When two soldiers from opposite sides of a never-ending galactic war fall in love, they risk everything to bring a fragile new life into a dangerous old universe. 

From bestselling writer Brian K. Vaughan, Saga is the sweeping tale of one young family fighting to find their place in the worlds. Fantasy and science fiction are wed like never before in this sexy, subversive drama for adults.


Care of Magical Creatures

A Book that Includes Magical Creatures OR Features a Magical Creature on the Cover

To Kill a Kingdom – Alexandra Christo

34499221I’ve wanted to read this one for ages now and I’ve heard SO many good things. I’ve never read a The Little Mermaid adaptation before so that’s exciting, and the fact that it features sirens makes it a good fit for Hagrid’s favourite prompt. Here’s hoping it lives up to the hype. I’d rather not be bitterly disappointed.

SYNOPSIS

Princess Lira is siren royalty and the most lethal of them all. With the hearts of seventeen princes in her collection, she is revered across the sea. Until a twist of fate forces her to kill one of her own. To punish her daughter, the Sea Queen transforms Lira into the one thing they loathe most—a human. Robbed of her song, Lira has until the winter solstice to deliver Prince Elian’s heart to the Sea Queen or remain a human forever.

The ocean is the only place Prince Elian calls home, even though he is heir to the most powerful kingdom in the world. Hunting sirens is more than an unsavory hobby—it’s his calling. When he rescues a drowning woman in the ocean, she’s more than what she appears. She promises to help him find the key to destroying all of sirenkind for good—But can he trust her? And just how many deals will Elian have to barter to eliminate mankind’s greatest enemy?


Charms

A Fantasy Book

Truth be told, I haven’t selected a book for this OWL yet and that’s because I have so many books to pick from for this one. Fantasy books are my usual go to novels so I have a lot of freedom here. I’ll probably just select whichever fantasy book from my existing TBR I most feel like reading during the month.


Defence Against the Dark Arts

A Book about/Featuring Secret Societies or Clubs

I tried guys, I did, but I honestly have no clue about a book for this one which is really annoying because if I was selecting subjects based off my choice of wizarding career, as some people are, this would probably be a necessary subject. *sighs*


Divination

A Book Featuring Prophecies

The Lost Hero – Rick Riordan

7736182Despite my mixed feelings at the beginning of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, by the end I was really enjoying myself and I’m now so, so keen to get stuck into The Heroes of Olympus. I’ve heard these ones are a bit more maturely written than Percy and it might help having it in third person. I’m also interested in the introduction of the Roman vs Greek gods mythologies and finding out about everyone’s favourite character, Leo.

SYNOPSIS

Jason has a problem.
He doesn’t remember anything before waking up in a bus full of kids on a field trip. Apparently he has a girlfriend named Piper, and a best friend named Leo. They’re all students at a boarding school for “bad kids.” What did Jason do to end up here? And where is here, exactly?

Piper has a secret.
Her father has been missing for three days, ever since she had that terrifying nightmare about his being in trouble. Piper doesn’t understand her dream, or why her boyfriend suddenly doesn’t recognize her. When a freak storm hits during the school trip, unleashing strange creatures and whisking her, Jason, and Leo away to someplace called Camp Half-Blood, she has a feeling she’s going to find out.

Leo has a way with tools.
When he sees his cabin at Camp Half-Blood, filled with power tools and machine parts, he feels right at home. But there’s weird stuff, too—like the curse everyone keeps talking about, and some camper who’s gone missing. Weirdest of all, his bunkmates insist that each of them—including Leo—is related to a god. Does this have anything to do with Jason’s amnesia, or the fact that Leo keeps seeing ghosts?


Herbology

A Book with a Nature Related Word in the Title

Stormdancer – Jay Kristoff

10852343I think we can say ‘Storm’ meets this criterion pretty well. I’ve had Stormdancer on my shelf for a bit and I’m not sure why I’ve taken so long to read it. I really love Jay’s books and this was his first published series. Finger crossed it’s as enjoyable as his other books. I’m always up for badass female protagonists who know their way around a sword.

SYNOPSIS

Arashitoras are supposed to be extinct. So when Yukiko and her warrior father Masaru are sent to capture one for the Shõgun, they fear that their lives are over – everyone knows what happens to those who fail the Lord of the Shima Isles. But the mission proves less impossible and more deadly than anyone expects. Soon Yukiko finds herself stranded: a young woman alone in her country’s last wilderness, with only a furious, crippled arashitora for company. Although she can hear his thoughts, and saved his life, all she knows for certain is he’d rather see her dead than help her. Yet trapped together in the forest, Yukiko and the beast soon discover a bond that neither of them expected.

Meanwhile, the country around them verges on collapse. A toxic fuel is choking the land, the machine-powered Lotus Guild is publicly burning those they deem Impure, and the Shõgun cares for nothing but his own dominion. Authority has always made Yukiko, but her world changes when she meets Kin, a young man with secrets, and the rebel Kagé cabal. She learns the horrifying extent of the Shõgun’s crimes, both against her country and her family.

Returning to the city, Yukiko is determined to make the Shõgun pay – but what can one girl and a flightless arashitora do against the might of an empire?


History of Magic

A Historical Fiction

Circe – Madeline Miller

32993458Okay, yes we’re being a bit liberal on the “historical” side with this due to it’s reliance on Greek myths and legends as well as historical elements but hey, it still meets the brief. I’m currently reading The Song of Achilles and really enjoying it so I’m looking forward to this one, especially after how much praise it’s been getting since its release. It also happens to have the kind of cover that makes people jealous on a train, so there’s that too.

SYNOPSIS

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.


Muggle Studies

A Non-Fiction Book

The Princess Diarist – Carrie Fisher

26025989This is another genre I don’t usually spend much time with. I bought this book along with Lauren Graham’s memoir in the hopes of shaking my reading up a bit. Carrie was supposedly a very witty and funny woman, and I’m a big Star Wars fan so this feels like a good choice.

SYNOPSIS 

The Princess Diarist is Carrie Fisher’s intimate, hilarious and revealing recollection of what happened behind the scenes on one of the most famous film sets of all time, the first Star Wars movie. 

When Carrie Fisher recently discovered the journals she kept during the filming of the first Star Wars movie, she was astonished to see what they had preserved—plaintive love poems, unbridled musings with youthful naiveté, and a vulnerability that she barely recognized. Today, her fame as an author, actress, and pop-culture icon is indisputable, but in 1977, Carrie Fisher was just a (sort-of) regular teenager. 

With these excerpts from her handwritten notebooks, The Princess Diarist is Fisher’s intimate and revealing recollection of what happened on one of the most famous film sets of all time—and what developed behind the scenes. And today, as she reprises her most iconic role for the latest Star Wars trilogy, Fisher also ponders the joys and insanity of celebrity, and the absurdity of a life spawned by Hollywood royalty, only to be surpassed by her own outer-space royalty. Laugh-out-loud hilarious and endlessly quotable, The Princess Diarist brims with the candor and introspection of a diary while offering shrewd insight into the type of stardom that few will ever experience.


Potions

Read a Book about/with Alchemy

I kind of wish I hadn’t already read The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue because it would have worked perfectly for this prompt but as things are, this has definitely stumped me. If you have any good recommendations, hit me up in the comments.


Transfiguration

A Book that Deals with Transfiguration/Shapeshifting or a Similar Theme OR A Book with a Cat on the Cover

My Lady Jane – Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton & Jodi Meadows

22840421

I was struggling to find a book for this heading but then I realised that My Lady Jane, which I was really looking forward to reading very soon, actually involves a character that changes into a horse! I’m so keen for this one, I think it’ll be good for a laugh. I’ll have to buy it to read it which is unfortunate but eh, I was going to do it anyway so now I have a good excuse.

SYNOPSIS

Edward (long live the king) is the King of England. He’s also dying, which is inconvenient, as he’s only sixteen and he’d much rather be planning for his first kiss than considering who will inherit his crown…

Jane (reads too many books) is Edward’s cousin, and far more interested in books than romance. Unfortunately for Jane, Edward has arranged to marry her off to secure the line of succession. And there’s something a little odd about her intended…

Gifford (call him G) is a horse. That is, he’s an Eðian (eth-y-un, for the uninitiated). Every day at dawn he becomes a noble chestnut steed—but then he wakes at dusk with a mouthful of hay. It’s all very undignified.

The plot thickens as Edward, Jane, and G are drawn into a dangerous conspiracy. With the fate of the kingdom at stake, our heroes will have to engage in some conspiring of their own. But can they pull off their plan before it’s off with their heads?

Divider

I think I’ve assembled a good list of books with these ones and I’m really looking forward to tackling my first readathon challenge. If all goes well, I’m hoping to take on NEWTs in August. Unsure how many of these I’ll actually get through but I’ll do my best to read as many as possible and open up my options for the NEWTs challenges. Regardless, I’m sure it’s going to be a really good reading month!

What’s on your TBR for July?

Love Ashley