December 27, 2019

Abbreviations #98

In an effort to get back on track with my book reviews and start 2020 with a cleaner slate, I'm sharing as many of them as possible before the year ends! We've got an interesting mix of books included in today's post, but the one thing that ties them all together is that I own finished copies of each that I purchased myself.

I read The Odyssey when I was a whole lot younger and hadn’t revisited it in years. When Kristin alerted me to #InnAThon (which I sort of participated in) and I saw that it was the group book, I decided it was high time for a reread and decided to opt for the audio version of the Robert Fitzgerald translation, as narrated by Dan Stevens. It was initially a struggle to get into because, as something translated from Ancient Greek, the writing style and word choices are very different from what I’m used to reading in most of my normal book fare. But once I got myself conditioned (which took a few chapters), I found myself flying through this tale yet again. I was confident about remembering the major plot points in The Odyssey, mostly because it was about Odysseus and his journey away from and back to his home (and I did remember a good chunk of it). But I did come to a few conclusions after reading this one again. First, the men are not great in this story, as they run the gamut from being dumb to overly manipulative (and the women aren’t much better). Before I get yelled at, I do understand that this was an epic written many, many years ago and that it provides context for societal expectations at that time, but from a modern perspective, it is not a flattering portrayal. Second, I had forgotten how much of this story happens due to the involvement of the gods, particularly Athena. Third, and the most important, the real highlight of this story is the quest and adventure portion of the tale – and I’m pretty sure that this is the story that made me fall in love with quest stories as a young age. If you’re interested in reading (or rereading) The Odyssey for whatever reason, keep in mind that you’d have to put in the work to really dig into this classical translated text. For the most part, it’s an interesting story and I’m glad I was able to read it a second time. [The Odyssey was written near the end of the 8th century.]

Where the Crawdads Sing came highly recommended by several readers, but I specifically picked it up to read because of Rachel. The novel has two timelines – one in the present day where Kya Clark is on trial for the murder of the town’s beloved golden boy Chase Andrews, and one that starts in the past on the day that Kya’s mother leaves their family home in the marsh to pursue a different life altogether. Unfortunately, I didn’t end up falling in love with this book. The setting was so well done, because Owens had a knack for bringing the marsh and Carolina setting to life. I really felt like I was there with Kya and company – in their small town, in her home, in the marsh. I also enjoyed Kya as a main character, which is a good thing since we spend the story in her company as we watch her grow up. We’re there as she learns hard lessons, falls in love, and develops the skills she needs to survive; we’re also witness to her imprisonment and trial as an accused murderer. Apart from these two specific elements, the plot felt a little bit on the slower side (which makes sense, considering its mostly character-driven) and played out predictably. That, along with the fact that I didn’t end up emotionally invested (though I was interested) in Kya’s story, meant that this book just didn’t hit me in the same way it has other readers. It was still a good read, but not one that really stands out to me months later. [Where the Crawdads Sing was published on August 14, 2018 by G.P. Putnam's Sons.]

The Goldfinch intimidated me every single time I saw it in person because it’s a very long literary fiction novel (and that’s not normally something I gravitate towards). But, armed with an audiobook copy to read alongside the physical one, I finally read this one after my cousin Carmela picked it out for me! This story centers around Theo, who was visiting the Met with his mother on the day that the museum was bombed. He ends up walking away with a famous painting featuring a goldfinch in his possession, and the book follows the events of his life after the tragedy. It’s told as if Theo is writing a journal where he recounts all his memories, so you can’t even rely on them being objective as you read! Anyway, this is not going to be a book for every reader. It will, however, appeal to readers who enjoy character studies (and I’ll even caveat that by saying you must be willing to read about a character you might not even like). Theo’s life after the tragedy is a mess, and it’s interesting to see how it affected him and his choices. And he truly makes a lot of bad (or impulsive, I should say) decisions, which make reading this story like watching a train wreck and being unable to prevent it from happening. I’m hard pressed to say that I enjoyed this because it wasn’t at all easy or comfortable to read, but I also don’t regret finally picking it up. [The Goldfinch was published September 23, 2013 by Little, Brown.]

The Darkest Part of the Forest came to me with high praise from a lot of my friends, so I was nervous that it wouldn’t live up to my expectations. This reading story has a happy ending though, as I really and truly adored this book (and it may just be my favorite from Holly Black, though right now, it simply ties with The Cruel Prince)! It’s a well-written standalone about siblings Ben and Hazel, who live in Fairfold, a small town right on the border of Faerie where a sleeping horned faerie boy in a coffin is the main draw for visitors and residents alike. Nobody knows how to wake him up, or what will happen when they do, so when it does finally occur, this story is set into motion. There are a few things I adored about this book: the fairytale vibe that permeated the storytelling, the faerie magic aspect, the exploration of these two siblings and their different struggles, the look at relationships of all sorts in their lives (portraying both the good and the bad), and the themes integrated into the plot. It all came together in the loveliest way! I can foresee rereading this one and loving it in the future, and I definitely recommend adding this to your TBR. [The Darkest Part of the Forest was published on January 13, 2015 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.]

Circe is Madeline Miller’s fictionalized portrayal of the life of the sorceress Circe, from the moment of her birth until the end (though it’s not really an end, since Circe does happen to be an immortal goddess). This was such an excellent read! It does help that I was obsessed with Greek mythology growing up, and so was familiar with many of the events and characters that are woven into the tale. Miller does a great job showing readers all the wonderful and terrible parts of Circe’s life, and how these things shape Circe into the woman she becomes by the end. But what truly stands out to me about this story is how often Circe is backed into corners where she needs to decide what to do, and how her agency and personality continue to develop until she comes to the point where she is empowered in and of herself. It was compelling to read, and I’m so glad I finally had the opportunity to get to this one! [Circe was published on April 10, 2018 by Little, Brown.]

The Wicked Deep is set in the small town of Sparrow, where every year there is a time known as the “Swan Season” where the spirits of three sisters murdered for witchcraft have their spirits possess town girls to use them to lure and drown boys until the season is over. Penny, a girl who lives on an island just off the coast with a lighthouse, is determined to protect people in the town, including a newcomer named Bo. I really enjoyed the atmospheric setting and felt transported to this small town and its corresponding lore (which was intriguing). But where this story fell flat for me were the other two key elements that I tend to measure my enjoyment of stories with: the characters (not so memorable) and the plot (which felt weak). While I can see how this one would appeal to other readers, it sadly did not end up working for me and I thought it was simply okay overall. [The Wicked Deep was published on March 6, 2018 by Simon Pulse.]


  1. I know everyone is going on and on about Where the Crawdads Sing, but it just doesn't call to me. I liked The Darkest Part of the Forest and need to read more Holly Black.
    Check out my review of Song of the Crimson Flower on Lisa Loves Literature

  2. I'm so glad you also loved Darkest Part of the Forest!


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