Two perfect audiobooks: The Song of Achilles & Circe by Madeline Miller

Sometimes I read (or listen) to a book, feel completely blown away by it, and yet find myself without words to do it justice, other than the usual gushing of “oh my gods” and “this is incredible” and “this book is so gorgeous!”.

And that’s exactly the boat I’m in now, having just finished my 2nd of two books (audiobooks) by the oh-so-talented Madeline Miller, who I swear I’ll follow to the ends of the earth at this point to get my hands on more of her astonishing writing.

Last year, I finally got to The Song of Achilles:

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. By all rights their paths should never cross, but Achilles takes the shamed prince as his friend, 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’ mother Thetis, a cruel sea goddess. But then word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped. Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus journeys with Achilles to Troy, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they hold dear.

Profoundly moving and breathtakingly original, this rendering of the epic Trojan War is a dazzling feat of the imagination, a devastating love story, and an almighty battle between gods and kings, peace and glory, immortal fame and the human heart.

Audiobook narrator: Frazer Douglas
Length: 11 hours, 15 minutes
Published: 2011

This is such a powerful, gorgeous listen. I loved the story itself, the author’s use of words to describe the glory and beauty of Achilles, and the relationship between Achilles and Patroclus. I felt immersed in the time and place, caught up in the tale of warring men and the gods who played with them or favored them.

 

 

And now, I’ve just listened to Circe too:

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.

Audiobook narrator: Perdita Weeks
Length: 12 hours, 8 minutes
Published: 2018

I know a lot of people have said they preferred The Song of Achilles, and maybe it’s just because it’s so much more recent for me, but I have to say that I adored Circe so, so much, and may even have a slight preference for this book. (Although, really, how can you choose? They’re both excellent).

I love Circe as a character — her passions, her struggles, her pain, her yearning. Her tales spans centuries and hits all the major story beats we know from Greek mythology, yet Circe herself feels fresh and alive in this version of the story, a woman constantly striving to make sense of her own divinity and find a place in the world. It’s heartbreaking and bold and just lovely.

The narrators of both of these books are excellent, each in their own way. There’s something about these myths and legends that really makes them feel right as a listening experience, like listening to a bard or an ancient storyteller. While I think I’ll revisit both of these books in print eventually, I’m so glad that my first encounter with each was through the audiobook version.

The Monday Check-In ~ 7/8/2019

cooltext1850356879 My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

Life.

Weekend visitors, 4th of July — it’s been a busy week!

What did I read during the last week?

The Daughters of Temperance Hobbs by Katherine Howe: A terrific follow-up to The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane. My review is here.

Hope Rides Again by Andrew Shaffer: Another great Obama/Biden action-adventure story. My review is here.

The 5th Gender by G. L. Carriger: Steamy alien fun! My review is here.

In audiobooks:

Anne of Windy Poplars by L. M. Montgomery: I’ve now listened to half the series! I’m loving these books so much. Taking a short break to listen to a few other pending titles, but then I’ll be back for book #5.

In graphic novels:

We Are Here Forever by Michelle Gish: Totally adorable aliens inhabiting an Earth after humans. (Check out the link above for Hope Rides Again for thoughts on this book too.)

Runaways, Volume 3: That Was Yesterday by Rainbow Rowell: Always good fun checking in with the Runaways.

Quiet Girl in a Noisy World: An Introvert’s Story by Debbie Tung: Ever read a book and think throughout, “hey, that’s me!”? Yup. Reading this book was exactly that. Adorable, and yet with an important kernel of truth too.

Fresh Catch:

Oooh. Doesn’t this look good?

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

Wilder Girls by Rory Power: I’ve just barely started… but I’m already intrigued!

Now playing via audiobook:

Circe by Madeline Miller: My book group’s pick for July. Loving it so far!

Ongoing reads:

Two ongoing book group reads at the moment:

  • A Fugitive Green by Diana Gabaldon, from the Seven Stones To Stand or Fall collection.
  • The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens — our current classic selection.

So many books, so little time…

boy1

The Monday Check-In ~ 7/1/2019

cooltext1850356879 My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

Life.

Summer may start officially in June, but when the calendar says July, that’s when I know it’s really here. So… happy July! Happy summer!

What did I read during the last week?

Meet Me at the Cupcake Café by Jenny Colgan: Like all books by this author, sweet and yummy! My review is here.

Cannabis: The Illegalization of Weed in America by Box Brown: Interesting, entertaining, eye-opening graphic novel exploring the history of cannabis’s legal status in the US –and (not surprisingly) how much of the outrage over cannabis was tied to racism and lies.

In children’s books:

I read That Book Woman by Heather Henson, a picture book about the Depression-era Pack Horse Librarians of the Appalachian region. A couple of weeks ago, I reviewed The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, a novel about one such “book woman” (excellent read!), and then learned about this children’s book and other related topics from Hopewell’s Public Library of Life. Check out her post to learn more!

Fresh Catch:

And just as I was reading one Jenny Colgan book, another new one came in the mail!

Meanwhile, I was out of town when an author I love visited my favorite local bookstore, but they were kind enough to get me a signed copy of her latest anyway:

And while I was there picking up my book, well… let’s just say I have no resistance to the almighty temptation of BOOKS.

So I bought these too:

And also these:

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

The Daughters of Temperance Hobbs by Katherine Howe: A sequel to the bewitching (ha!) The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane. I’m getting close to the end — watch for my review in the next few days.

Now playing via audiobook:

Anne of Windy Poplars by L. M. Montgomery: Continuing my Anne adventures!

Ongoing reads:

Two ongoing book group reads at the moment:

  • A Fugitive Green by Diana Gabaldon, from the Seven Stones To Stand or Fall collection.
  • The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens — our current classic selection.

So many books, so little time…

boy1

The Monday Check-In ~ 6/24/2019

cooltext1850356879 My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

Life.

I just got back Sunday afternoon from a week out of town visiting family. It was all a whirlwind, lots of running about and being on the go, but there were plenty of happy times… and some good quality reading moments too!

What did I read during the last week?

The Girl In Red by Christina Henry: Fast-paced post-apocalyptic adventure — a great read! My review is here.

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson: Excellent historical fiction. My review is here.

Anne of the Island by L. M. Montgomery: Finished the audiobook, and loved it! This series has definitely stolen my heart.

Fresh Catch:

I received this adorable ARC in the mail,,,

… and found this in a used book store — how could I resist?

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

Meet Me at the Cupcake Café by Jenny Colgan: I gravitate toward lighter, sweeter reads when I’m about to get on a plane, so this was a great choice for today’s flight. I’m about halfway through — enjoying it so far!

Now playing via audiobook:

Anne of Windy Poplars by L. M. Montgomery: Continuing my Anne adventures!

Ongoing reads:

Two ongoing book group reads at the moment:

  • A Fugitive Green by Diana Gabaldon, from the Seven Stones To Stand or Fall collection.
  • The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens — our current classic selection.

So many books, so little time…

boy1

The Monday Check-In ~ 6/17/2019

cooltext1850356879 My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

Life.

I’m on a visit back east to see family this week. It’s hectic but fun… and I did get to do a lot of reading on the plane!

What did I read during the last week?

Not a single review written… but here’s what I read:

The Umbrella Academy: A graphic novel – just okay. I didn’t love the artwork, and overall, I enjoy the characters on the TV series much more than in the book.

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe: A re-read. The sequel comes out later this month, and I definitely needed a refresher! It’s been nine years since I first read this book. Really enjoyed it again the 2nd time around!

Anne of Avonlea by L. M. Montgomery: The audiobook was lovely! Can’t believe I made it this far in life without getting to know Anne!

And from last week:

Recursion by Black Crouch: Absolutely loved this book! I finished it last week, but just posted a review a few days ago.

Pop culture:

What’s a reader to do when she finishes a book on a plane? Switch over to Netflix for a charming rom-com!

Fresh Catch:

Two exciting ARCs arrived in the mail right before I left on my trip:

The grammar book releases in August; the Obama/Biden book in July. So psyched for both!

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

I have two different books on the go right now:

Now playing via audiobook:

Anne of the Island by L. M. Montgomery: More Anne! My plan right now is to keep going with the Anne audiobooks — so much fun to listen to.

Ongoing reads:

Two ongoing book group reads at the moment:

  • A Fugitive Green by Diana Gabaldon, from the Seven Stones To Stand or Fall collection.
  • The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens — our current classic selection.

So many books, so little time…

boy1

The Monday Check-In ~ 6/10/2019

cooltext1850356879 My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

What did I read during the last week?

The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner: Powerful historical fiction. My review is here.

The Salt Path by Raynor Winn: A truly beautiful and powerful memoir. My review is here.

Recursion by Blake Crouch: So much mind-f*ckery. Just finished reading this Sunday night; review to follow. (Loved it.)

Fresh Catch:

No new books — although I did pick up a paperback edition of The Salt Path to complement listening to the audiobook!

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

Bouncing around between different books right now:

A graphic novel, an ARC of a recent release, and a re-read of a book whose sequel comes out later this month — between these three, I should be able to keep myself busy for the next several days!

Now playing via audiobook:

Anne of Avonlea by L. M. Montgomery: Back to Anne! I read Anne of Green Gables for the first time earlier this year, and have been wanting to continue with the series. I’m only a little way into the book, but it’s charming so far.

Ongoing reads:

Two ongoing book group reads at the moment:

  • A Fugitive Green by Diana Gabaldon, from the Seven Stones To Stand or Fall collection.
  • The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens — our current classic selection.

So many books, so little time…

boy1

Audiobook Review: The Salt Path by Raynor Winn


SHORTLISTED FOR THE COSTA BOOK AWARD 

The true story of a couple who lost everything and embarked on a transformative journey walking the South West Coast Path in England

Just days after Raynor Winn learns that Moth, her husband of thirty-two years, is terminally ill, their house and farm are taken away, along with their livelihood. With nothing left and little time, they make the brave and impulsive decision to walk the 630 miles of the sea-swept South West Coast Path, from Somerset to Dorset, through Devon and Cornwall.

Carrying only the essentials for survival on their backs, they live wild in the ancient, weathered landscape of cliffs, sea, and sky. Yet through every step, every encounter, and every test along the way, their walk becomes a remarkable and life-affirming journey. Powerfully written and unflinchingly honest, The Salt Path is ultimately a portrayal of home–how it can be lost, rebuilt, and rediscovered in the most unexpected ways.

I feel like I could just make a list of relevant adjectives and leave my review at that:

Powerful.

Beautiful.

Moving.

Inspiring.

Courageous.

Not enough? Okay, here goes, with a bit more commentary.

I remember hearing something about The Salt Path when it was released, but didn’t really know what the book would focus on or whether it was really for me. Having just finished the audiobook, I can emphatically state that yes, this IS a book for me, and I suspect for many others too.

In The Salt Path, author Raynor Winn shares the painful story of how she and her husband Moth lost their family farm after a lengthy legal battle stemming from an investment with a friend. While not all that much detail is given about the case itself, it sounds as though this long-term friend was fairly shady and went after Ray and Moth to cover his expenses when the project tanked. Not able to afford counsel in the drawn-out court case, the couple had no choice but to represent themselves, and ultimately ended up losing everything on what seemed to be a technicality.

Given a week to vacate their home, Ray and Moth are thrown into despair, compounded by a visit that week to a doctor who confirms that Moth suffers from a degenerative neurological disease that will kill him after a painful decline at some point in the near future. If this were fiction, a reader might be tempted to protest the melodrama of having characters lose their homes and livelihood AND get a terminal diagnosis all in the same week, but this is real life, and it really happened this way.

The choices available to the couple are slim. They’re left with public benefts that amount to about $60 a week, and can go on the wait list for public housing — but because Moth’s illness isn’t in end stages just yet, they don’t have priority. They can stay with family and friends temporarily, but are afraid of becoming burdens and outstaying their welcomes. And then a strange whim occurs to them as they’re sorting through the remains of their old life — why not just walk? Now in their 50s, Moth and Ray haven’t done any serious outdoor adventuring in many, many years, but the idea of walking the South West Coast Path grabs hold of them as a way of being somewhere, with a purpose, rather than completely buckling under the weight of their bad luck and inauspicious prospects.

And so, they gather gear, put most of their belongings into storage with friends, and set out to walk the Coast Path. It’s not easy. Moth’s illness is painful, to the point that he can barely get out of bed some days. And yet, they’re determined to walk rather than sit still. As they move forward, they face ongoing shortages of food, scraping by on their meager weekly allowance (and eating lots of noodles), camping wild wherever they can find a spot to pitch the tent, and slowly, mile by mile, falling into a rhythm that has a beauty all its own.

Ray and Moth have a marriage that the rest of us can only envy. Together since their teens, the love between the couple is strong and unbreakable, shining through Ray’s writing on every single page. It’s heart-breaking to hear Ray’s thoughts on how much this man means to her, and what the future might hold for both of them as his disease progresses.

Meanwhile, each chapter brings fresh insights and wonders. Parts of the book read like an ode to the natural beauty of the landscapes and seascapes they see on their journey. It really sounds spectacular. There’s also sorrow and harsh realities — the author includes statistics and background information on homelessness in the UK, and shows how the official numbers are only a small representation of the true homeless population.

Homeless themselves, Ray and Moth again and again face the general dislike and fear that most people seem to feel toward the homeless. They meet many people along the path — fellow hikers, local residents, random strangers. When seen as older backpackers with presumably enough wealth to take weeks away from the world to walk the path, they’re applauded and warmly greeted. But when Moth explains to previously friendly people that they’re homeless, the others shrink away from them and can’t seem to distance themselves fast enough.

The writing is simply beautiful. Ray shares her pain and her sorrows, but also reveals the growing sense of belonging that she finds through the path:

The country towered above me, a blank empty space containing nothing for us. Only one thing was real, more real to me now than the past that we’d lost or the future we didn’t have: if I put one foot in front of the other, the path would move me forward and a strip of dirt, often no more than a foot wide, had become home. It wasn’t just the chill in the air, the lowering of the sun’s horizon, the heaviness of the dew or the lack of urgency in the birds’ calls, but something in me was changing season too. I was no longer striving, fighting to change the unchangeable, not clenching in anxiety at the life we’d been unable to hold on to, or angry at an authoritarian system too bureaucratic to see the truth. A new season had crept into me, a softer season of acceptance. Burned in by the sun, driven in by the storm. I could feel the sky, the earth, the water and revel in being part of the elements without a chasm of pain opening at the thought of the loss of our place within it all. I was a part of the whole. I didn’t need to own a patch of land to make that so. I could stand in the wind and I was the wind, the rain, the sea; it was all me, and I was nothing within it. The core of me wasn’t lost. Translucent, elusive, but there and grown stronger with every headland.

A note on the audiobook: Narrator Anne Reid is lovely, making the story feel alive and vibrant, capturing the emotion of Ray’s first-person narration in a way that makes it feel like a friend telling you a story. Really a treat to listen to.

There’s so much to love about The Salt Path. I found Ray and Moth’s journey and their devotion to one another so inspirational. And, this book really made me want to get out and walk a long path some day!

Don’t miss this book. It’s a beautiful work, and is worth taking the time to savor.

_________________________________________

The details:

Title: The Salt Path
Author: Raynor Winn
Narrated by: Anne Reid
Publisher: Penguin Books
Publication date: March 22, 2018
Length (print): 288 pages
Length (audiobook): 11 hours, 2 minutes
Genre: Memoir
Source: Purchased

The Monday Check-In ~ 6/3/2019

cooltext1850356879 My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

What did I read during the last week?

From Twinkle, With Love by Sandhya Menon: Light, fun YA. My review is here.

The Spies of Shilling Lane by Jennifer Ryan: This author is quickly becoming a favorite! Terrific historical fiction. My review is here.

Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey: Loved it! My review is here.

Pop culture:

I suppose I’ll never run out of great TV to watch! This past week, I finished watching Fosse/Verdon — fabulous production, even though (curse it all!) it’s left me with an incurable earworm, constantly hearing either Pippin or All That Jazz songs in my head.

I’ve also been catching up on season 1 of Pose, now on Netflix, before season 2 starts next week. Amazing, powerful show.

Fresh Catch:

Awesome book mail from the amazing Amy Stewart!

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner: Just starting!

Now playing via audiobook:

The Salt Path by Raynor Winn: A really powerful memoir — loving it so far.

Ongoing reads:

Two ongoing book group reads at the moment:

  • A Fugitive Green by Diana Gabaldon, from the Seven Stones To Stand or Fall collection.
  • The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens — our current classic selection.

So many books, so little time…

boy1

Audiobook Review: From Twinkle, with Love by Sandhya Menon


An aspiring teen filmmaker finds her voice and falls in love in this delightful romantic comedy from the New York Times bestselling author of When Dimple Met Rishi.

Aspiring filmmaker and wallflower Twinkle Mehra has stories she wants to tell and universes she wants to explore, if only the world would listen. So when fellow film geek Sahil Roy approaches her to direct a movie for the upcoming Summer Festival, Twinkle is all over it. The chance to publicly showcase her voice as a director? Dream come true. The fact that it gets her closer to her longtime crush, Neil Roy-a.k.a. Sahil’s twin brother? Dream come true x 2.

When mystery man N begins emailing her, Twinkle is sure it’s Neil, finally ready to begin their happily-ever-after. The only slightly inconvenient problem is that, in the course of movie-making, she’s fallen madly in love with the irresistibly adorkable Sahil.

Twinkle soon realizes that resistance is futile: The romance she’s got is not the one she’s scripted. But will it be enough?

Told through the letters Twinkle writes to her favorite female filmmakers, From Twinkle, with Love navigates big truths about friendship, family, and the unexpected places love can find you.

From Twinkle, with Love is my third book by Sandhya Menon this year, and while I loved the other two, this one was only okay.

Perhaps the issue for me is the focus on teen drama, rather than exploring the richer cultural aspects portrayed in the other novels. And yes, it’s quite true that I’m not at all a member of the YA demographic, so maybe I should have adjusted my expectations!

In From Twinkle, with Love, we meet Twinkle Mehra, a high school junior who dreams of changing the world through her films — but meanwhile, she’s an outsider who’s lost her best friend to the in-crowd, and who crushes from afar on school hottie Neil. But when Neil’s brother Sahil suggests making a movie together, he and Twinkle find a connection that takes her by surprise, and as the movie-making progresses, Twinkle finds her voice and her passion, as well as discovering a new set of friends and a place to fit in.

All this is sweet and fine, but then the story introduces a secret admirer who — for no reason at all — Twinkle assumes must be Neil. Why? Because his name starts with N, basically. Not that he’s ever paid any attention to her or is even present throughout most of the story. Still, Twinkle thinks there’s maybe a possibility that N is Neil, and that if she starts going out with Neil, she’ll finally move from outsider to insider status — so even though she’s very aware of the sparks and chemistry between her and Sahil, she leaves Sahil hanging so she can give N a chance.

I think I might have strained something through excessive eye-rolling. For a book about a smart girl, the whole N storyline was particularly dumb. The other thing that truly irritated me was the framing device of having Twinkle write in her diary as if she’s writing to various female filmmakers — Sophia Coppola, Ava Duvernay, Jane Campion, etc. This was so artificial and unnecessary, except as a way of saying ‘look how passionate Twinkle is about film!’. Also, her diary entries are written in the car while driving with people, at school, at parties, etc — really? She carries it with her everywhere? And writes obsessively, even when at Sahil’s house while he’s in the next room? It just felt weird and fake. Sorry.

So… as far as the audiobook experience itself, it was fine. The story is mostly told through Twinkle’s voice, but there are occasional blog posts and text messages by Sahil, and these have their own narrator. I’m not sure listening to the audiobook particularly added to the experience for me.

Sandhya Menon is a talented writer with a gift for creating unusual characters, and I love that she writes about teen girls who feel passionately about their talents and their goals. From Twinkle, with Love isn’t a bad read — it just doesn’t have the special something that really elevates her other works.

_________________________________________

The details:

Title: From Twinkle, With Love
Author: Sandhya Menon
Narrated by: Soneela Nankani, Vikas Adam
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication date: May 22, 2018
Length (print): 330 pages
Length (audiobook): 9 hours, 32 minutes
Genre: Young adult fiction
Source: Library

The Monday Check-In ~ 5/27/2019

cooltext1850356879 My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

Life.

Three day weekend! It’s so nice to get an extra day to relax, chill, and read, especially when the sun is shining!

What did I read during the last week?

Westside by W. M. Akers: Boy, did I not enjoy this book. The initial premise is interesting, but by the time I reached the halfway mark, the story felt like more and more of a slog. Rather than DNF at that point, I skimmed the rest — reading enough to see how it ended and what the point of it all was. I’m glad I didn’t spend any more time on this book!

A River of Stars by Vanessa Hua: An engaging look at the Chinese immigrant community in San Francisco. My review is here.

The Paris Diversion by Chris Pavone: A suspenseful, fast-paced spy thriller — a terrific read! My review is here.

Pop culture:

My son and I saw the new Aladdin! I didn’t expect much going in, but it was actually surprisingly enjoyable.

Fresh Catch:

Two new books this week — one book new to paperback that I’ve been wanting for a while now, and one book that I heard of via another blogger’s TTT list last week!

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

The Spies of Shilling Lane by Jennifer Ryan: I loved this author’s previous novel, The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir, so I’m excited to be starting this one!

Now playing via audiobook:

From Twinkle, With Love by Sandhya Menon: I’ve read this author’s other two YA books recently, so thought I should give this one a try as well. Really close to the end by now…

Ongoing reads:

Two ongoing book group reads at the moment:

  • A Fugitive Green by Diana Gabaldon, from the Seven Stones To Stand or Fall collection.
  • The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens — our current classic selection.

So many books, so little time…

 

boy1