The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Title: The Song of Achilles
Author: Madeline Miller
Genre: Fantasy (mythology)
Audience: Adult
Format: Audiobook
Length: ~11 hours
Publisher: Harper Audio
Release Date: March 6, 2012
Source: Library (Libby app)
Recommended for Fans of: Greek mythology, Circe

SYNOPSIS

The legend begins…

Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the kingdom of Phthia to be raised in the shadow of King Peleus and his golden son, Achilles. “The best of all the Greeks”—strong, beautiful, and the child of a goddess—Achilles is everything the shamed Patroclus is not. Yet despite their differences, the boys become steadfast companions. Their bond deepens as they grow into young men and become skilled in the arts of war and medicine—much to the displeasure and the fury of Achilles’ mother, Thetis, a cruel sea goddess with a hatred of mortals.

When word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, the men of Greece, bound by blood and oath, must lay siege to Troy in her name. Seduced by the promise of a glorious destiny, Achilles joins their cause, and torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus follows. Little do they know that the Fates will test them both as never before and demand a terrible sacrifice.

Built on the groundwork of the Iliad, Madeline Miller’s page-turning, profoundly moving, and blisteringly paced retelling of the epic Trojan War marks the launch of a dazzling career.

MY THOUGHTS

I read The Song of Achilles after reading Madeline Miller’s other mythology retelling, Circe. I liked Circe a little bit more, but this was still amazing.

The writing is beautiful, insightful, and mesmerizing. The story moves slowly, making room for Petroclus’s experiences, emotions, and developing relationship with Achilles.

Even though the book spans the saga of the Trojan War, this is not an action/war story. This is a story about desire versus destiny, identity versus duty. Relationships are central to the story, and not just the relationship between Petroclus and Achilles, but the interactions between all characters.

Madeline Miller has a way of breathing new life into old myths. She tells a story that feels true to the original mythology while grounding and humanizing heroes and gods of legends.

Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Title: Sorcery of Thorns
Author: Margaret Rogerson
Genre: Fantasy
Audience: Young Adult
Format: Hardcover
Length: 456 pages
Publisher: McElderry Books
Release Date: June 4, 2019
Source: Gift
Recommended for Fans of: Harry Potter, Gail Carson Levin books, Beauty & the Beast, Caraval

SYNOPSIS

All sorcerers are evil. Elisabeth has known that as long as she has known anything. Raised as a foundling in one of Austermeer’s Great Libraries, Elisabeth has grown up among the tools of sorcery—magical grimoires that whisper on shelves and rattle beneath iron chains. If provoked, they transform into grotesque monsters of ink and leather. She hopes to become a warden, charged with protecting the kingdom from their power.

Then an act of sabotage releases the library’s most dangerous grimoire. Elisabeth’s desperate intervention implicates her in the crime, and she is torn from her home to face justice in the capital. With no one to turn to but her sworn enemy, the sorcerer Nathaniel Thorn, and his mysterious demonic servant, she finds herself entangled in a centuries-old conspiracy. Not only could the Great Libraries go up in flames, but the world along with them.

As her alliance with Nathaniel grows stronger, Elisabeth starts to question everything she’s been taught—about sorcerers, about the libraries she loves, even about herself. For Elisabeth has a power she has never guessed, and a future she could never have imagined.

MY THOUGHTS

What’s not to love about a magical library? This is every book lover’s dream, and the library’s magic is so unique! I love how the books are “alive” and have their own personalities.

I loved all of the character development in this book, especially Elisabeth’s. She is strong-willed, compassionate, and open-minded. When she is forced to leave the security of the library–the only home she’s ever known–she must confront all kinds of new obstacles for the first time: sorcerers, demons, sexism, and prejudice, including her own. She realizes that she can’t trust everything she was taught and learns to think for herself, and watching her discover her own beliefs and values was a highlight of this book.

And Nathaniel! A brooding and tortured young sorcerer, haunted by his past and his family, who has a kind heart underneath it all. I was here for Elisabeth and Nathaniel’s slow burning and very clean romance (except for one brief scene that doesn’t get very far).

Silas was a great surprise. Cruel and cunning by nature, he is deeply protective and truly cares for Nathaniel, even though it goes against his nature.

This book was utterly magical! It is exactly the kind of book I loved growing up, the kind of book that made me fall in love with reading. It made me nostalgic for all my old favorites like Harry Potter and The Two Princesses of Bamarre. I don’t think a book has ever made me want to go back and reread a totally unrelated book so much! I highly recommend this to fantasy lovers everywhere.

From a Certain Point of View (Star Wars) by Various Authors

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆
Title: From a Certain Point of View
Authors: Various (see below)
Genre: Science-Fiction
Audience: All ages
Format: Hardcover
Length: 479 pages
Publisher: Del Rey
Release Date: October 3, 2017
Source: Purchased
Recommended for Fans of: Star Wars

SYNOPSIS

40 Years. 40 Stories.

In honor of the 40th Anniversary of Star Wars: A New Hope, this unique anthology features Star Wars stories by bestselling authors, trendsetting artists, and treasured voices from Star Wars’ literary history. Over 40 authors have lent their unique vision to 40 “scenes,” each retelling a different moment from the original Star Wars film, but with a twist: every scene is told from the point of view of a seemingly minor character. Whether it’s the X-wing pilots who helped Luke destroy the Death Star or the stormtroopers who never did find the droids they were looking for, Star Wars: From A Certain Point of View places the classic movie in a whole new perspective celebrates the influence and legacy of the unparalleled cultural phenomenon, Star Wars.

MY THOUGHTS

These 40 stories added new perspectives to A New Hope besides the major characters. I was drawn to this collection because I love Star Wars and so many authors I love were included in this collaboration. I bought this book when it was published in 2017 and read a few stories, but I didn’t pick it back up until the end of 2019 when The Rise of Skywalker came out.

Reading From a Certain Point of View was like watching A New Hope in slow motion, zooming into the minds of different characters in the background along the way. Overall I enjoyed these new perspectives, but this book got repetitive at times when multiple stories in a row retold the same scene from different points of view. Other stories seemed kind of pointless when their inclusion did not add anything of particular significance to the original story.

Some of my favorite stories told what other well known characters were up to during the events of A New Hope (like Yoda and Lando), but I appreciated how this anthology gave voices to some blink-and-you’ll-miss-them background characters from the movie, even if they didn’t all hit the mark for me.

I enjoyed this anthology overall, but I would recommend reading it a story or two at a time instead of powering straight through the book (like I did). If you are a diehard Star Wars fan like me, you will enjoy this collection.

Featured Authors

Elizabeth Schaefer (Editor), Ben Acker, Tom Angleberger, Ben Blacker, Jeffrey Brown, Jason Fry, Christie Golden, Pierce Brown, Ashley Eckstein, Mur Lafferty, Ken Liu, Griffin McElroy, John Jackson Miller , Kelly Sue DeConnick , Nnedi Okorafor, Daniel José Older , Ian Doescher, Mallory Ortberg, Madeleine Roux, Gary D. Schmidt, Matt Fraction, Cavan Scott, Sabaa Tahir, Kieron Gillen, Glen Weldon, Chuck Wendig, Gary Whitta, Meg Cabot, Pablo Hidalgo, Adam Christopher, Rae Carson, Zoraida Córdova, Delilah S. Dawson, Paul Dini, Alexander Freed, Claudia Gray, E.K. Johnston, Paul S. Kemp, Elizabeth Wein, Beth Revis, Greg Rucka, Charles Soule, Wil Wheaton, Renée Ahdieh

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆ 1/2
Title: Illuminae
Authors: Amie Kaufman, Jay Kristoff
Series: The Illuminae Files #1
Genre: Science-Fiction
Audience: Young Adult
Format: Paperback
Length: 599 pages
Publisher: Knopf Books
Release Date: October 20, 2015
Source: Purchased
Recommended for Fans of: Marvel, contagion/plague stories

SYNOPSIS

Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the worst thing she’d ever been through. That was before her planet was invaded. Now, with enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra are forced to fight their way onto one of the evacuating craft, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.

But the warship could be the least of their problems. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet’s AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their biggest threat; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady plunges into a web of data hacking to get to the truth, it’s clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: Ezra.

Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents–including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more–Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.

MY THOUGHTS

Reading this was an experience. The unique, epistolary storytelling format made for a fast-paced, action-packed, shockingly beautiful book that is a very fast read despite its 600 pages. Don’t be intimidated by this book’s size; it can easily be read in one or two sittings.

This story has so many layers: interplanetary warfare, rogue AI, a plague, cyber espionage, survival, and a teenage romance. It reminded me of a lot of other stories mashed together (Avengers: Age of Ultron meets a zombie contagion), but those familiar elements came together in a way that felt wholly original.

My favorite thing about this book is AIDAN, the artificial intelligence system. The language on AIDAN’s pages were beautiful and poetic, and the AI’s development provided the most thought-provoking elements that brought the story to a deeper, philosophical level.

I must admit, I wasn’t completely invested in the romance. It just felt like a typical YA teenage romance, and I didn’t particularly care whether Kady and Ezra were together or not. Not to mention that their modern-day slang and text speak felt jarringly out of place for a book set so far in the future (I always enjoy when futuristic stories make up new slang words). However, their interactions did keep the story grounded and provided some light humor in the midst of a life and death crisis.

This book had me laughing, crying, and literally gasping with all the twists and turns. I couldn’t read the pages fast enough. I can’t wait to get my hands on the rest of the series!

10 Series I Need to Finish

One of my reading goals for 2020 is to finish more series than I start. I currently have 19 SERIES IN PROGRESS. And that’s assuming I didn’t miss any when I counted (which is quite possible even though I scrolled back several years through my books on Goodreads). To put that into perspective, I started 10 of those series in 2019, but I only finished or caught up on 8 series last year.

Clearly, I have a problem. It’s so easy to get caught up in all the buzz-worthy series everyone is reading, but right now I feel like I’ve started them ALL and now I don’t know what to read NEXT. Hopefully this year I can get this situation under control and get some closure for all of these worlds and characters I’ve fallen in love with!

Today I’m rounding up some of the series I’m in the middle of, the progress I’ve made so far, and the likelihood I’ll finish in 2020.

1. Renegades by Marissa Meyer

The Series:
Renegades
Archenemies
Supernova

Progress: 1/3
Owned: 3/3
Priority: Very High

Thoughts:
Marissa Meyer is one of my favorite authors. I read Renegades as soon as it came out, but never got to the other books. I now own the entire series, and I just checked out the Renegades audiobook so I can reread it before starting the next two!

2. The Folk of the Air by Holly Black

The Series:
The Cruel Prince
The Wicked King

The Queen of Nothing

Progress: 2/3
Owned: 3/3
Priority: Very High

Thoughts:
I LOVE this series! I won TCP from a Goodreads giveaway when it was released, but I didn’t read it til last summer. I got TWK for my birthday and read it in the fall, and I just got QoN for Christmas!

3. Shades of Magic by V.E. Schwab

The Series:
A Darker Shade of Magic
A Gathering of Shadows
A Conjuring of Light

Progress: 1/3
Owned: 3/3
Priority: Very High

Thoughts:
I can’t believe I waited so long to start a Victoria Schwab series! I absolutely loved ADSOM and I can’t wait to read more of her books, but of course I need to finish this series first!

4. Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

The Series:
The Assassin’s Blade
Throne of Glass
Crown of Midnight
Heir of Fire
Queen of Shadows
Empire of Storms
Tower of Dawn
Kingdom of Ash

Progress: 3/8
Owned: 6/8
Priority: High

Thoughts:
I wanted to read more of these last year, but I ran out of time. I haven’t totally fallen in love with this series like I did with ACOTAR, but I hear these get better as you go!

5. Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin

The Series:
Serpent & Dove
Blood & Honey (9/1/20)

Progress: 1/1 published
Owned: 1/1 published
Priority: High

Thoughts:
This is the only series on this list I’m currently caught up with, because book 2 hasn’t been published yet! S&D was one of my FAVORITE books of 2019. I will DEFINITELY be preordering B&H as soon as I can, and I can only hope there will more books in the future!

6. The Last Magician by Lisa Maxwell

The Series:
The Last Magician
The Devil’s Thief
The Serpent’s Curse (4/7/2020)

Progress: 1/2 released
Owned: 2/2 released
Priority: High

Thoughts:
The Last Magician rocked my world when I got in a Litjoy Crate in 2017, but The Devil’s Thief was released during a reading slump so I didn’t pick it up. I thought this was planned to be a duology, so I was surprised to see that a 3rd book is coming out this year! Hopefully I can catch up in time for its release.

7. The Illuminae Files by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

The Series:
Illuminae
Gemina
Obsidio

Progress: 1/3
Owned: 1/3
Priority: Medium-High

Thoughts:
Illuminae was one of the most shocking and creative books I read last year and I can’t wait to see what happens next. However, I don’t own the next books in the series yet, and I need to read more of what I own before I buy the sequels.

8. The Dark Artifices by Cassandra Clare

The Series:
Lady Midnight
Lord of Shadows
Queen of Air and Darkness

Progress: 2/3
Owned: 2/3
Priority: Medium

Thoughts:
Lady Midnight was my favorite Shadowhunters novel to date, but I was disappointed by Lord of Shadows. I didn’t pick up Queen of Air and Darkness when it came out because my enthusiasm for the series had faded and its size is SO intimidating! But maybe this is the year.

9. DC Icons by Leigh Bardugo, Marie Lu, Sarah J. Maas, and Matt de la Pena

The Series:
Wonder Woman: Warbringer
Batman: Nightwalker
Catwoman: Soulstealer
Superman: Dawnbreaker

Progress: 1/4
Owned: 4/4
Priority: Medium

Thoughts:
This is a series of standalone novels. I liked Wonder Woman, but I didn’t love it. I’ve heard mixed reviews about this series so I’m not in any hurry to finish it, but I already own them all so it’s pretty likely I’ll read them to clear my backlist.

10. A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin

The Series:
A Game of Thrones
A Clash of Kings
A Storm of Swords

A Feast for Crows
A Dance with Dragons
The Winds of Winter (????)
A Dream of Spring (????)

Progress: 3/5 published
Owned: 5/5 published
Priority: Low

Thoughts:
These books are long, dense, slow reads. The story is good, but they are so hard to get through! I read books 1 & 2 in 2014 and book 3 in 2017. I want to finish this series someday, but for now watching Game of Thrones is good enough for me. Maybe I’ll pick up the next book when The Winds of Winter gets an actual release date.

Other Series in Progress:

The Casquette Girls (1/3)
Cormoran Strike (3/4)
The Darkest Minds (2/4)
Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard (1/3)
Red Queen (2/4)
Simon Snow (1/2)
Sookie Stackhouse (3/13)
Spindle Fire (1/2)
The Winner’s Trilogy (2/3)

How many series are you “currently reading”? Have you read any on my list?

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Title: A Darker Shade of Magic
Author: V.E. Schwab
Series: Shades of Magic #1
Genre: Fantasy
Audience: Adult
Format: Paperback
Length: 400 pages
Publisher: Tor Books
Release Date: February 24, 2015
Source: Purchased
Recommended for Fans of: Six of Crows, Pirates of the Caribbean

SYNOPSIS

Kell is one of the last Antari—magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel Londons; Red, Grey, White, and, once upon a time, Black.

Kell was raised in Arnes—Red London—and officially serves the Maresh Empire as an ambassador, traveling between the frequent bloody regime changes in White London and the court of George III in the dullest of Londons, the one without any magic left to see.

Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they’ll never see. It’s a defiant hobby with dangerous consequences, which Kell is now seeing firsthand.

After an exchange goes awry, Kell escapes to Grey London and runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She first robs him, then saves him from a deadly enemy, and finally forces Kell to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure.

Now perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, they’ll first need to stay alive.

MY THOUGHTS

This is very well-written. The storytelling is excellent, the worldbuilding is impressive, the magic system is unique, and the characters are bold, flawed, and likable.

This book does start off very slow. The first 100 pages or so are mostly exposition. We meet the major characters across the different Londons and start to learn about how magic works in each world, but it drags on with very little purposeful action (I wouldn’t say that there’s NO action in the first 100 pages, it’s just hard to see where it’s going). I am SO GLAD I stuck with it though because once the story picked up, DANG IT WAS GOOD. It should tell you something about the quality of the writing that I still gave this book 5 stars instead of docking half a star for the pacing.

Kell is a great MC. His many-sided coat is one of the coolest magical objects I’ve ever encountered. He is reckless but fiercely loyal, willing to risk himself to protect his world and the people he loves.

And then there’s Lila Bard, who just wants to live her best pirate life. My only complaint about Lila is that is took so long for her to be introduced in the book! She is clever and brave, diving headfirst into adventure, mischief, and danger even when her opponents have all the advantages. Her past is very mysterious, but there are some big hints about her true identity to be answered in future books (I hope).

I got swept away in this story, and I think the ending wrapped things up really well. I appreciate a book in a series that can stand on its own. There were no major cliffhangers, but enough unanswered questions to get me excited for book #2!

I’m running a giveaway for this book on Instagram! I got the boxed set for Christmas, so I’m giving away my extra copy to one lucky follower! Enter here.

2020 Reading Goals

Hello, everyone! I’m Caroline! For my first post, I want to share my reading goals for the new year. I’ve thought a lot about what I accomplished in 2019, and how I want to keep growing in 2020!

Read 75 Books

It’s so difficult for me to choose a number of books to read that is challenging but still attainable. In the past few years, I’ve had some really great reading years (90 books in 2017!) and some not so great (25 books in 2018). Based on this, my 2019 goal was to read 30 books to help me rediscover my love of reading without the pressure to read a ton. Well, I ended up finishing 75 books in 2019, so I know I can do it again in 2020. I would love to read 100 books this year, but I don’t need to put that kind of pressure on myself by making that my official goal.

Explore More Genres

My favorite genres are YA fantasy and thrillers, with a sprinkling of sci-fi, and my 2019 reading reflects those preferences because my goal was to fall back in love with reading. Toward the end of the year, I started branching out a bit. I read a couple horror and paranormal books around Halloween. I discovered the joys of the contemporary romance genres. I used to love poetry, but I haven’t read any in awhile. Of course I’ll be reading lots of fantasy and thrillers this year, but I’m going to mix it up and stop judging books by their genre.

Buy Fewer Books

My shelf situation is out of control. I got 16 new books in December alone (most of those were gifts, but still). I need to read what I own before I buy more books, and make sure I’m only buying books I will love. I’m not giving up my BOTM subscription, but I’m avoiding add-ons. I can take advantage of my local library when I really want to read a book I don’t already own. I know I will buy some new releases by favorite authors and books in series I’m reading, but for the most part I will shop my own shelves.

Finish More Series

In 2019, I started a lot more series than I finished. I discovered so many amazing new worlds, but got very little closure. I recently made a list of all my series in progress, and it’s ridiculous. I’m planning a future blog post to share the series I want to finish in 2020, but I don’t think I can make it through ALL my unfinished series in a year. What I do know is that I don’t need to start any new series until I finish what I’ve started.

Reread More

It’s so easy to get caught up in new releases and the overwhelming number of unread books out there that we neglect our old favorites. This is a mistake. Those are the books that made us fall in love with reading in the first place, and why we keep on reading. I’ve worried that rereading an old book will take time away from reading something new. Oh, well. My favorite books are a part of me, and it’s important to make time to revisit my favorite characters and worlds. Audiobooks are a great compromise to make time for old books while still keeping up with the new, but I want to make time for a few physical rereads this year too.

Read At Least 2 Classics

I did not read any classics in 2019. In fact, the last time I read a classic was 2017. I don’t think that readers have to read a lot of classics to be “good readers,” but I’m also an English teacher, so I feel like it’s time. Classics tend to be slower reads for me, but I think one every six months is manageable.

Read 1 Graphic Novel Each Month

I started teaching a Comic Book elective this year, but I am far from an expert on the subject matter. Since graphic novels are quick reads, it shouldn’t be too hard to fit in one each month.

Grow My Blog & Bookstagram

Starting this blog is the first step to reaching one of my biggest goals for the year! I’ve wanted to start a blog for YEARS but I never could decide if I wanted to start a crafting blog or a beauty & fashion blog or a TV & film blog or WHAT. But last year bookstagram reminded me that my #1 love always has been and always will be books, and starting a blog felt like the next step. Instagram has been a great creative outlet, but I need a writing outlet too.

This blog is still a work in progress. It is not yet everything I want it to be. I don’t even know everything I want it to be. But that’s okay. It is DAY ONE. I’ve got plenty of time to figure it out, and I’m so happy you are here on this journey with me!

What are your reading goals for 2020? Let me know in the comments!