A (Not Much) Anticipated Return

Hey all. When I left this blog I wasn’t quite sure if/when I’d be returning. And now, two months later, here I am.

I was starting to think about what to do with this blog, since it’d been a couple of months, but I’ve decided that I will be transitioning slightly. I’m no longer going to be solely blogging about bookish things from a reader and consumer perspective, but it will also involve my own thoughts on writing and my own writing journey (maybe occasionally writing samples, if that ends up being something people are interested in) as well as maybe more thoughtful and analytical posts about literature. I’ll still be talking about books, but review-type things will be move pretty much solely to my GoodReads moving forward, so if that’s what you were here for feel free to add me as a friend or follow me over there.

While I’ve been away, I’ve toyed with the idea of setting up a BookTube/AuthorTube type channel, but after much reflection- and my own waning interest in a lot of the channels I watch there- I’ve come to the conclusion that that’s not the move for me. I’d like to get back into blogging, but I don’t really want to keep myself boxed into one thing, nor do I have the time or energy to keep up with separate blogs for all of my passing interests that I might want to post about here and there. So this is going to be focused on literature and writing, there may also be other things I post about from time to time including general life stuff and other interests and hobbies of mine. I understand if that’s not something you want on your feed and decide to unfollow me for that.

Otherwise, thanks for reading along.

Indefinite Hiatus

So, I’ve sort of dropped the ball the last few months with keeping this blog up to date. However, I have been super active over on my Goodreads. For now that’s probably a better place to follow what I’m reading than this blog because I’m sort of in limbo right now with what I want to do in terms of this blog, which is a feeling I go through every couple of months I know but it just can’t be helped. (I’m a Sagittarius after all.)

I’ll probably be back eventually, but who knows.

Review: ‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King

'Salem's Lot

Genre: Horror

Publisher: Anchor

Date Published: October 7, 1975

My Rating: ★★★★☆

When I read a book that a good chunk of people agree is one of the scariest they’ve ever read, I expect it to be scary. And ‘Salem’s Lot got a lot of people’s votes for being King’s scariest novel, with a good chunk of people admitting to it being one of the scariest books they’ve ever read.

Two notes: First, I admittedly cannot compare the scariness of this book to any of King’s other works because this is the first book of his I’ve ever read. Second, I read a lot of this during the day time, and everyone knows that horror is best read at night when everyone else is asleep, but what can I say? I’m a morning and day reader. Evening and night are for video games or Netflix.

‘Salem’s Lot is a book about vampires, and an old creepy house, but more than that it’s about a town. ‘Salem’s Lot or just The Lot is how the locals refer to Jersalem’s Lot, Maine.

Writer Ben Mears returns to The Lot as an adult, after having spent a short part of his childhood there, at the same time that the Marsten House, the site of a murder-suicide and known to the town for being creepy as hell, gets bought by two men who plan to open an antiques shop in the town. Shortly after his arrival, things start getting weird. Two boys disappear in the woods, and only one returns home. From there, the story takes off.

I really enjoyed this book, and it was a great read for the month of October, what with the main antagonist being a vampire. It did make me want to play the Sims and create some vampire sims or re-watch Castlevania.

There are a couple of scenes here that are creepy, and after reading the prologue you know only two of the main cast likely survives the goings-on in town, and I did feel a lot of anticipation for what would happen to all the characters. I felt particularly attached to Matt Burke and Father Callahan, despite knowing they probably wouldn’t make it to the end.

Otherwise, though, I didn’t feel as scared as I expected to after all the people who said this book was actually scary. It is scary, of course, but not in the way I was expecting, outside of a few dark scenes at the beginning of the book.

The way vampirism spreads through the town reminds one of a disease. It’s like reading a story set during the black plague, not knowing who’s going to catch it next, but knowing that not everyone will make it out alive.

It’s not scary in as gory of a way as others in the genre might be. Sure, there is some gore, but the bulk of that takes place in the last part of the book. I didn’t mind this, and the anticipation of what was going to happen to each of the characters kept me turning the pages- most days I read over 100 pages at a time.

The characters are what really shine. There wasn’t a single member of the main cast that I disliked. Mark Petrie was probably my favorite of them, but I liked Ben, Matt, Susan, and Father Callahan. I didn’t feel like I had enough time with Jimmy to care about what happened to him all that much- and when it did happen I felt worse for Mark.

As for the writing itself, there were scenes where the writing really shined- the scenes at the beginning that actually made me feel a little scared are the best example of this. But for most of the book the writing ranged from good to fine. There were some places that I ended up skimming because there was a little too much description of things that didn’t have anything to do with the plot.

I really enjoyed this book, and I may end up changing my rating up to 5-stars, depending on how I feel about this book after I’ve a week or so to digest it. I would highly recommend this, and it’s the perfect time of year to read it, so if you haven’t I suggest picking it up.

Review: Circe by Madeline Miller

Circe

Genre: Adult Fiction, Fantasy

Subgenre: Retellings

Publisher: Little, Brown

Length: 393 pages

Date(s) Read: April 28, 2019 – April 30, 2019

Date Published: April 10, 2018

Goodreads Synopsis:

In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child—not powerful, like her father, nor viciously alluring like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for companionship, she discovers that she does possess power—the power of witchcraft, which can transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods themselves.

Threatened, Zeus banishes her to a deserted island, where she hones her occult craft, tames wild beasts and crosses paths with many of the most famous figures in all of mythology, including the Minotaur, Daedalus and his doomed son Icarus, the murderous Medea, and, of course, wily Odysseus.

But there is danger, too, for a woman who stands alone, and Circe unwittingly draws the wrath of both men and gods, ultimately finding herself pitted against one of the most terrifying and vengeful of the Olympians. To protect what she loves most, Circe must summon all her strength and choose, once and for all, whether she belongs with the gods she is born from, or the mortals she has come to love. 


My Rating: ★★★★★

My Review:

This is, without a doubt, the best book I’ve read so far in 2019. I’m calling it now, I think this is it. If not my favorite book of 2019, it’s gonna be close.

Madeline Miller’s writing style has done it again. Even though there were parts of this book that I was bored enough to skim, I found myself so emotional at the end that I couldn’t give this less than 5-stars. It’s rare that I find an author whose writing style I both love and envy and am confused in the best way by (Like, how does she do that?) The Song of Achilles was by far my favorite book that I read in 2018, and now this. Now Circe.

Circe is portrayed in a way that makes her feel so real. She’s a goddess who hates her own divinity, and has been exiled by the other gods to live on Aeaea for the rest of eternity. I loved how it began with her compassion for Prometheus during his trial before the gods. I loved all the mythology intertwined throughout the novel. Madeline Miller’s love for Greek mythology really comes across in her writing, only an expert in the field could do it so well, of course. There were glimpses of this in The Song of Achilles, but she honestly shows this off much more in Circe.

She also has a way of writing emotions that makes me feel like I am the character. In Circe, I feel her heart aching for Glaucus, her jealousy of Scylla, her hopeless admiration for her brother, her anger at the men who come to Aeaea and try to take advantage of her, her fierce love and protectiveness for Telegonus, her quiet love for Telemachus. It’s all there on the page and, yet, the way that Madeline Miller shows Circe’s feelings through words brings the same feelings in me. This isn’t something most authors are capable of, and I cherish that she is.

The other characters come and go throughout the book, but none of them feel undeveloped. Odysseus feels like a fully formed character, not something untouchable. Penelope and Telemachus feel equally developed. The same can be said of Aeëtes, Pasiphaë, Hermes, and all the others.

I won’t spoil anything, but the ending of this book had me teared up, and it’s probably the perfect ending for this book. I can’t think of anyway it could have been done better. If you haven’t read Circe, please, do yourself a favor and read the heck out of it.

OWL’s Readathon 2019 Wrap-Up

I set out to read 9 books and I read 7. I’m just happy I managed to read my goal of completing the Metal Charmer career path. Here are the books I read:

Ancient Runes — A Retelling

Circe

Circe by Madeline Miller

Page Count: 393

Dates Read: April 28-30

My Rating: ⭑⭑⭑⭑⭑

I want Madeline Miller to write my biography. Circe was more than I could have possibly hoped for.Full Review To Come

Arithmancy — A Book Written by More Than One Author

Monstress, Vol. 3: Haven (Monstress, #3)

Monstress, Vol. 3: Haven by Marjorie M. Liu (story), Sana Takeda (illustration)

Page Count: 168 pages

Dates Read: April 1

My Rating: ⭑⭑⭑⭑⭒

I really enjoyed this. At the moment I don’t feel comfortable doing full reviews of graphic novels but if that ever changes perhaps I will write a full review for the books in this series.

Charms — Age Line: Read an Adult Work

American Gods

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

Page Count: 541 pages

Dates Read: April 16 – April 27

My Rating: ⭑⭑⭑⭒⭒

Had a hard time not comparing this to the (in my honest opinion, superior) show adaptation, so the rating suffered because of that. Full Review to Come.

Defence Against the Dark Arts — Reducto: Title that Starts with an ‘R’

Red Sister (Book of the Ancestor, #1)

Red Sister by Mark Lawrence

Page Count: 469 Pages

Dates Read: April 2-9

My Rating: ⭑⭑⭑⭒⭒

Originally I gave this 3.5 stars, but I honestly keep forgetting I even read it so I’m glad I rounded down on that. Full Review Here.

Transfiguration — Sprayed Edges or Red Cover

Vicious (Villains, #1)

Vicious by V.E. Schwab

Page Count: 371 pages

Dates Read: April 9-12

My Rating: ⭑⭑⭑⭑⭒

A 3.5 that I rounded up to a 4. I somehow simultaneously really enjoyed this book while also feeling like maybe it’s a little overhyped. Full Review Here.

Herbology — Plant on the Cover

The Devouring Gray

The Devouring Gray by Christine Lynn Herman

Page Count: 368 Pages

Dates Read: April 27-28

My Rating: ⭑⭑⭒⭒⭒

How can I put this succinctly? This was uhh…. a giant disappointment. Full Review Here.

Potions — Next Ingredient: Sequel

Before the Devil Breaks You (The Diviners, #3)

Before the Devil Breaks You (The Diviners, #3) by Libba Bray

Page Count: 552 pages

Dates Read: April 1-16

My Rating: ⭑⭑⭑⭑⭒

These audiobooks, man. I’m already excited to listen to book 4 when it eventually comes out. Full Review Here.

That’s all the books I read for the OWLs Magical Readathon! I’m hoping to participate in the NEWT’s magical readathon in August, but it may depend on the prompts for the Metal Charmer subjects. I literally finished Circe the last day of the readathon, I was so scared I wasn’t going to finish on time, but Madeline Miller’s writing just makes me want not to put her books down.

Did you participate in OWLs 2019? What books did you read? Do you plan to participate in NEWTs as well?

Review: The Devouring Gray by Christine Lynn Herman

The Devouring Gray

Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Fantasy

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Length: 368 pages

Date(s) Read: April 27-28, 2019

Date Published: April 2, 2019

My rating: ⭑⭑⭒⭒⭒

Goodreads Synopsis:

Branches and stones, daggers and bones,
They locked the Beast away.

After the death of her sister, seventeen-year-old Violet Saunders finds herself dragged to Four Paths, New York. Violet may be a newcomer, but she soon learns her mother isn’t: They belong to one of the revered founding families of the town, where stone bells hang above every doorway and danger lurks in the depths of the woods.

Justin Hawthorne’s bloodline has protected Four Paths for generations from the Gray—a lifeless dimension that imprisons a brutal monster. After Justin fails to inherit his family’s powers, his mother is determined to keep this humiliation a secret. But Justin can’t let go of the future he was promised and the town he swore to protect.

Ever since Harper Carlisle lost her hand to an accident that left her stranded in the Gray for days, she has vowed revenge on the person who abandoned her: Justin Hawthorne. There are ripples of dissent in Four Paths, and Harper seizes an opportunity to take down the Hawthornes and change her destiny-to what extent, even she doesn’t yet know.

The Gray is growing stronger every day, and its victims are piling up. When Violet accidentally unleashes the monster, all three must band together with the other Founders to unearth the dark truths behind their families’ abilities—before the Gray devours them all.


My Review:

Underwhelming.

If I had to review this book in a single word, that’s the one I’d choose.

Frankly, I wasn’t even going to give this book a chance when I’d first heard of it. That it was being compared to the likes of Stranger Things and The Raven Cycle had me intrigued, but I wasn’t quite sure if it could live up to those comparisons. Then I saw some Booktubers I like deciding to give this a shot, and I thought, “Why not? Maybe it’ll surprise me. Maybe it’ll live up to its hype.”It did not live up to its hype. It did surprise me, though, with just how much I didn’t like it.

Let’s pause for a sec so I can get something out of the way: I always take comparisons with a grain of salt. I go into everything I read, regardless of what it’s been compared with, expecting something new and different. If I wanted another Raven Cycle I would have re-read those books. If I wanted Stranger Things I would have turned on Netflix. Okay? I wasn’t expecting this book to be those things, but I did expect it to illicit similar feelings from me. That’s it.

Also, I can definitely see why the comparisons to ST and TRC have been made with this book, but that’s not necessarily a good thing. The Gray felt like a clearance rack Upside Down from Stranger Things, and the writing style doesn’t hold a candle to Maggie Stiefvater’s in The Raven Cycle.

The first 30% of this book was actually a page-turner for me. It wasn’t mind-blowing, but I was entertained. There were some flaws in the writing style, but I figured that was the fault of trying to fit in the backstory before the rest of the story picked up and then… The story didn’t pick up. At about the halfway mark I found myself turning the pages not because I was still entertained or because I still cared but because I just wanted to be done with it.

I have a lot of grievances with this book. First, the writing style. Telling not showing. Almost nothing was shown to the reader. We’re constantly told how the characters feel about things, we’re never actually shown anything. Everything is spelled out for the reader, and yet there’s nothing on the pages to make the reader believe anything they’re being told. It was really difficult for me to find this writing style enjoyable, especially after the 30% mark.

We’re also constantly told about the town’s past and the town’s secrets. Some good writing advice I heard once was that if the backstory is more interesting than the story you’re writing, you’re writing the wrong story. Christine Lynn Herman was writing the wrong story. This could have been about the original founders of the town and their interactions with the Beast. This could have been about Stephen and Augusta and Juniper and Daria. Instead it was about characters and a plot that felt like nothing more than pieces moving on a chessboard.

There’s a lack of nuance, too. The non-founding members of the town don’t matter at all to the story, they’re just victims to the monster without their own stories at all. If you’re not a founder in this town, good fucking luck because if you die, no one cares. The author tried to make it seem like the town was fed up with being treated that way, but since we didn’t get a single perspective of a regular citizen of Four Paths, it lacked any substance or nuance. Even the group that wanted to overthrow the Hawthornes was essentially lead by another founding family.

I think the author thought giving all the main characters some backstory involving grief would make them interesting but, frankly, I didn’t give a single fuck about Violet’s dead sister or father, or about Justin’s absent father and issues with his ritual, or Isaac’s missing family, or Harper’s issues, whatever the fuck those were. None of that shit made them interesting, because even though we’re constantly told that Violet cares about her dead sister or that she wishes she were in contact with her father’s family, we’re never actually shown either of those things are true. Similarly, we’re told Isaac is grieving over his part-dead part-absent family, but we’re not shown it until the epilogue when we get his POV for 0.2 seconds.

Isaac was interesting and given how flat the other main characters were it was pleasantly surprising whenever he showed up. I kept hoping we’d get his POV, but we didn’t until the epilogue, and that was a massive disappointment. I would have liked this book so much better was the writing throughout the book as good as it was in the epilogue. The fact his character actually seems to have some depth and nuance, and that it looks like the next book might revolve more around him is a plus for me and I am curious to see what happens to him.

As for the others… Harper: boring. Justin: boring. Violet: boring. I don’t care about anything going on with them throughout most of the book. How they interact with the Gray is interesting plot-wise, but I didn’t necessarily care about the characters themselves. Any one of them could have died and I wouldn’t have batted an eyelid.

The biggest issue with this book: I wanted to know more about the Gray. I wanted to know more about the Beast and the Founders. I wanted to know more about Juniper and Augusta’s history. I wanted to get more glimpses into Daria’s inner-workings and how she ended up the way she is when we meet her. But the book spends more time on stuff that I just didn’t care about. For example, I didn’t want anything to do with the history between Harper and Justin— because they were both boring and I didn’t care about them— and so much of the book was spent attempting to explore that.

Isaac’s feelings were the only part of any of the teen drama, and probably the entire book up until the epilogue, that were shown and not told, and I think the author only managed that one because she was attempting to be sneaky about it… but it just resulted in my feeling more chemistry between him and the person he had feelings for than either of them with the characters I assume they’re both getting paired off with in the next book. Which is kind of annoying for me as a reader.

Overall, this book was pretty much just a whole bunch of wasted potential. I feel bad saying that, but it’s my honest opinion. If the author had taken the time to develop the characters on the page, a lot of these issues wouldn’t have existed. The writing itself needs a lot of improvement, too, but as this is a debut that means the room for growth is definitely there and while this book disappointed me I’m really rooting for the author to grow and develop her skills and I’m hoping that we see that growth with book two.