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

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

WWW Wednesday | 23.05.18

I’ve seen this meme (hosted by Taking on a World of Words) around the blogsphere quite a lot since starting The Infinite Library but have never actually given it a go myself. Recently I’ve been wanting to try and do some different kinds of posts from my usual so I thought why not give this one a go – it’s quick, straight forward, and a great way to update people on what’s going on in your reading life. Let’s get stuck in then, shall we?

What did you Recently Finish Reading?

 

Lifel1ke – Jay Kristoff

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My most recent read was Jay Kristoff’s new YA entry, Lifel1k3. I was a little unsure about the book at the start as there’s a lot of jargon and some world building to sift through but I really, really enjoyed it by the end. In other words, still a major Kristoff fangirl.

SYNOPSIS:

On a floating junkyard beneath a radiation sky, a deadly secret lies buried in the scrap.

Eve isn’t looking for secrets—she’s too busy looking over her shoulder. The robot gladiator she’s just spent six months building has been reduced to a smoking wreck, and the only thing keeping her Grandpa from the grave was the fistful of credits she just lost to the bookies. To top it off, she’s discovered she can destroy electronics with the power of her mind, and the puritanical Brotherhood are building a coffin her size. If she’s ever had a worse day, Eve can’t remember it.

But when Eve discovers the ruins of an android boy named Ezekiel in the scrap pile she calls home, her entire world comes crashing down. With her best friend Lemon Fresh and her robotic conscience, Cricket, in tow, she and Ezekiel will trek across deserts of irradiated glass, infiltrate towering megacities and scour the graveyard of humanity’s greatest folly to save the ones Eve loves, and learn the dark secrets of her past.

Even if those secrets were better off staying buried.

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What are you Currently Reading?

 

38736273Furyborn – Claire Legrand

I’ve been waiting for this one to come out for a while so it was a nice surprise to find it at the bookstore early last week. I’m over 300 pages in now and quite liking it. Both female characters feel distinct from one another and have action going on in their storylines which is great, but Eliana seems to do things that are a tad frustrating or unlikeable at times. Also some action scenes do feel a little bit rushed. So there’s some things that could be improved on but I’m definitely motivated to keep going.

SYNOPSIS

When assassins ambush her best friend, the crown prince, Rielle Dardenne risks everything to save him, exposing her ability to perform all seven kinds of elemental magic. The only people who should possess this extraordinary power are a pair of prophesied queens: a queen of light and salvation and a queen of blood and destruction. To prove she is the Sun Queen, Rielle must endure seven trials to test her magic. If she fails, she will be executed…unless the trials kill her first.

A thousand years later, the legend of Queen Rielle is a mere fairy tale to bounty hunter Eliana Ferracora. When the Undying Empire conquered her kingdom, she embraced violence to keep her family alive. Now, she believes herself untouchable–until her mother vanishes without a trace, along with countless other women in their city. To find her, Eliana joins a rebel captain on a dangerous mission and discovers that the evil at the heart of the empire is more terrible than she ever imagined.

As Rielle and Eliana fight in a cosmic war that spans millennia, their stories intersect, and the shocking connections between them ultimately determine the fate of their world–and of each other.


37922797Iron Gold (Red Rising 4#) – Pierce Brown

I’ve stagnated with this one at the moment. It’s too big for me to take on the train conveniently so I’m restricted to reading it at home which is when I tend to be watching TV now that I have a working laptop again. Things were starting to engage me a bit more at the time I stopped so I should go back to it. There’s just so much information to process though!

No synopsis for this one because it could be spoilerific for those who want to read the series and haven’t yet.

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I’m a bit unsure at this point, as usual, but I think it’ll come down to one of these. Happy to take votes on which one I should pick.

Option 1: The Song of Achilles – Madeline Miller

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Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the court of King Peleus and his perfect son Achilles. Despite their differences, Achilles befriends the shamed prince, and as they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine, their bond blossoms into something deeper – despite the displeasure of Achilles’s mother Thetis, a cruel sea goddess. But when word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, Achilles must go to war in distant Troy and fulfill his destiny. Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus goes with him, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they hold dear.

35561971Option 2: Crazy, Rich Asians – Kevin Kwan

When Rachel Chu agrees to spend the summer in Singapore with her boyfriend, Nicholas Young, she envisions a humble family home, long drives to explore the island, and quality time with the man she might one day marry. What she doesn’t know is that Nick’s family home happens to look like a palace, that she’ll ride in more private planes than cars, and that with one of Asia’s most eligible bachelors on her arm, Rachel might as well have a target on her back. Initiated into a world of dynastic splendor beyond imagination, Rachel meets Astrid, the It Girl of Singapore society; Eddie, whose family practically lives in the pages of the Hong Kong socialite magazines; and Eleanor, Nick’s formidable mother, a woman who has very strong feelings about who her son should–and should not–marry. Uproarious, addictive, and filled with jaw-dropping opulence, Crazy Rich Asians is an insider’s look at the Asian JetSet; a perfect depiction of the clash between old money and new money; between Overseas Chinese and Mainland Chinese; and a fabulous novel about what it means to be young, in love, and gloriously, crazily rich.

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All caught up! What are you guys reading at the moment? Any good?

Love Ashley

New Additions to my Goodreads To-Read Shelf

I’ve added a few new books to my good reads to-read shelf lately. As usual, so many books and not enough hours in the day, week, month, LIFETIME.

I read recently that we’re likely to die without having read all the books we want to read. How damn sad is THAT *cries* but it’s a perfect reason not to waste time on things you aren’t enjoying or don’t want to read. In other words, DNF all you like!

On that depressing note, here are some of the most recent additions to my virtual shelf (notice I haven’t bought them yet, because I’m being good this month.)


City Of BrassYou guys know I can’t resist good quality fantasy. Plus, pretty cover.


Song of AchillesI’ve heard so many good things about this and Circe, and it pops up on bookstagram all the time. A bit of Greek history, a little romance, some battles – seems like a good combo to me!


Dread NationA badass female lead, another historical setting, and zombies. I am so there.


WinterOne more book to go! I’m so close guys. This one is the biggest of the series but the books are so much fun that time flies by. Here’s hoping for an enjoyable conclusion.


To Kill a Kingdom

Sirens. Little Mermaid re-imaginings. Sounds pretty damn cool. Also, 4.1 average GR rating. So yep, doing it.


Children of Blood and Bone

Alright. I cave to peer pressure. It’s happening. I’ll do it. I can’t deal with everyone going on about how amazing it is. Stupid FOMO. Also, magic.


The Lady's GuideThe Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue was a lot of fun. The sequel should be just as enjoyable. Plus, Felicity was definitely the brains of the operation in book 1 so it’ll be good to see her on her own adventure. Unfortunately this one doesn’t come out until October so there’s still a while to wait.


What was the last book you added to your Goodreads to-read shelf?

Love Ashley