Review: Circe by Madeline Miller {3.75}


Title: Circe
Author: Madeline Miller
Series: N/A
Genre: Adult, Fiction, Mythology, Retelling, Fantasy
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication Date:  April 10th, 2018
Pages: 288
My Rating: 3.75 Stars

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.

Circe is a book that has been on my TBR for a while now and I’ve always been excited about. As a pre-teen, Greek mythology sparked my interest like no other. I devoured series like Percy Jackson, Heroes of Olympus, and the Starcrossed trilogy, but these are middle grade and young adult books. On the other hand, Circe is an adult book, shelved under general fiction. With that, I did not know what to expect. However, so many booktubers were all praise about this book, so I finally listened to it in audiobook.

From the first few minutes of the audiobook, I was already enthralled by the world that I delved into. Circe the book does not shy away from violences, and gives a more rounded telling of Circe’s story. Here, we get to see how Circe evolved from a meek child who was always bullied, to being a powerful witch who turned men into swine. Here, we get to see the rationale behind her decisions, and get to see her as humane, rather than an evil witch as she is portrayed in some literature. Filled with a lot of stories abut Circe from her time with Helios, her exile, meeting Glaucos, Hermes, Deadalus, Odysseus, Penelope and Thelemacus, this novel gives us a view of how Circe lived her life – how she suffered, how she rejoiced, how she loved, and how she hated.

There were some parts of the novel that did not interest me as much as the other parts, and there was this certain part where I had to listen to it 4 times because it just didn’t hold my attention, so I cannot give it more than my rating. However, I really enjoyed it. I also really enjoyed how we got a glimpse of a lot other Greek gods and characters, and enjoy their stories and personalities alongside that of Circe’s. Overall, this is a very interesting novel especially if you are interested in Greek mythology. It’s a great read, and the ending left me smiling like an idiot. For all of Circe’s suffering and pain throughout her earlier years, there certainly was a rainbow after the rain.

3.5 magical and enchanting stars

Review: Catwoman: Soulstealer by Sarah J. Maas {4.0}


 Catwoman: Soulstealer
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance, Retelling
Publisher: Random House Books for young Readers
Publication Date:  August 7th, 2018
Pages: 384 pages
My Rating: 4 Stars

When the Bat’s away, the Cat will play. It’s time to see how many lives this cat really has. . . .

Two years after escaping Gotham City’s slums, Selina Kyle returns as the mysterious and wealthy Holly Vanderhees. She quickly discovers that with Batman off on a vital mission, Batwing is left to hold back the tide of notorious criminals. Gotham City is ripe for the taking.

Meanwhile, Luke Fox wants to prove he has what it takes to help people in his role as Batwing. He targets a new thief on the prowl who seems cleverer than most. She has teamed up with Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn, and together they are wreaking havoc. This Catwoman may be Batwing’s undoing.

Catwoman: Soulstealer is the first book I finished in 2019, and I take a lot of pleasure in that fact. Sarah J. Maas has always been one of my favorite authors and I long ago vowed to read any book she publishes. I also read Batman: Nightwalker, which is why I was super excited about this one.

If you guys know me, you would probably know that I did not grow up with superheroes. In fact, I don’t know much about them. And then I read Batman: Nightwalker, and I started getting interested, until I binge-watched the entire Marvel universe movies. I still don’t know a lot about DC, so I don’t know back stories and all that. So fair warning, this review is from the perspective of a person who doesn’t know anything at all, and may or may not have pestered her brother to inform her about such things.

When I first picked up Catwoman: Soulstealer, I didn’t know if I would like it or not. I had such high expectations because of Batman: Nightwalker but this one was slow in the beginning. I enjoyed being transported into the world, but not much exciting was happening yet. And then I got to about 50% and things started become so exciting that I forgot to put the book down. Towards the end, I was wiping tears from my eyes and my heart felt full.

Catwoman: Soulstealer centers on Selina Kyle, who disguised herself as socialite Holly Vanderhees. She goes to Gotham to wreak havoc, while Luke Fox – Batwing – tries to anticipate and stop her. I like how this novel centered on Catwoman being a villain instead of the superhero portion. I like how this story gave dimension to her character and how she formed amazing bonds within the novel. It’s amazing how human villains can be when we look into their backstories. I really liked the way everything tied together and unfolded.

Catwoman: Soulstealer is not a fast-paced action novel in my opinion, which was what I was expecting. This novel gave just the right amount of action, but it focuses more on the humanizing part, as well as the wit. It was also humorous in some parts, and I may or may not have been caught grinning like a fool on the airplane. This novel is well-rounded and exciting, and I really enjoyed it.

Mini Review: The Stepsister’s Tale by Tracy Barrett {3.0}

Title: The Stepsister’s Tale
Author: Tracy Barrett
Series: N/A, Standalone
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Fantasy, Retelling
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Publication Date: July 24th, 2014
Pages: Kindle, 272 pages
My Rating: 3 Stars

What really happened after the clock struck midnight?

Jane Montjoy is tired of being a lady. She’s tired of pretending to live up to the standards of her mother’s noble family-especially now that the family’s wealth is gone and their stately mansion has fallen to ruin. It’s hard enough that she must tend to the animals and find a way to feed her mother and her little sister each day. Jane’s burden only gets worse after her mother returns from a trip to town with a new stepfather and stepsister in tow. Despite the family’s struggle to prepare for the long winter ahead, Jane’s stepfather remains determined to give his beautiful but spoiled child her every desire.

When her stepfather suddenly dies, leaving nothing but debts and a bereaved daughter behind, it seems to Jane that her family is destined for eternal unhappiness. But a mysterious boy from the woods and an invitation to a royal ball are certain to change her fate…

From the handsome prince to the evil stepsister, nothing is quite as it seems in Tracy Barrett’s stunning retelling of the classic Cinderella tale.

When I first started reading The Stepsister’s Tale, I was actually very invested in the story. As a fan of fairy tale retellings, it’s always interesting to be able to read from the villain’s perspective. But as I read on, I found the book to be too long because it was full or narratives, which I never seem to enjoy. In addition to that, I actually read Snow, Glass, Apples by Neil Gaiman, which is a Snow White retelling from the Evil Queen’s perspective.

The main difference of that book and this one is in Snow, Glass, Apples, it showed the misrepresentation of the story, but it also showed that the events were still true. The Evil Queen really tried to poison Snow White, but she had her reasons. In The Stepsister’s Tale, the author made it so that the stepsisters were absolutely kind, and everything was Cinderella’s fault. In this sense, there was a role reversal. I think I would have liked it more if the characters weren’t made to be so absolutely good or so absolutely bad.

I would have to admit though, that Tracy Bennett’s imagining of the novel is very much commendable. It seems like a simple enough plot, but if I were tasked to think of something like this, I’m pretty sure that I won’t be able to do it. The idea is really great, and I always enjoy reading from another perspective, but I think it could still be improved.

amazing-interpretation stars

ARC Review: Hunted by Meagan Spooner {4.5}

Title: Hunted
Author: Meagan Spooner
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance, Retelling
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication Date: March 14th, 2017
Pages: 384 pages
My Rating: 4.5 Stars
Beauty knows the Beast’s forest in her bones—and in her blood. Though she grew up with the city’s highest aristocrats, far from her father’s old lodge, she knows that the forest holds secrets and that her father is the only hunter who’s ever come close to discovering them. 

So when her father loses his fortune and moves Yeva and her sisters back to the outskirts of town, Yeva is secretly relieved. Out in the wilderness, there’s no pressure to make idle chatter with vapid baronessas…or to submit to marrying a wealthy gentleman. But Yeva’s father’s misfortune may have cost him his mind, and when he goes missing in the woods, Yeva sets her sights on one prey: the creature he’d been obsessively tracking just before his disappearance. 

Deaf to her sisters’ protests, Yeva hunts this strange Beast back into his own territory—a cursed valley, a ruined castle, and a world of creatures that Yeva’s only heard about in fairy tales. A world that can bring her ruin or salvation. Who will survive: the Beauty, or the Beast?

“If you’re reading this book, then you’re also that child reading by flashlight and dreaming of other worlds. Don’t be scared of her, that inner Beauty, or her dreams. Let her out. She’s you, and she’s me, and she’s magic.”

Oh my goodness, thank God I gave this one a chance! Honestly at first I was going to skip this one because I haven’t been having luck with retellings lately, but I’m glad I scheduled a buddy read and was able to read it. Just like the romance in this novel was slow burn, so was my love for this book – increasing with every page.

The Beauty and the Beast aspect of this book kicked in a bit late for me. I was already at 50% when I really started feeling the vibe. However, at the same time, I also felt and A Court of Thorns and Roses vibe. Granted, they stem from the same retelling, but it kind of felt similar for me when it came to having another world with different magical creatures; how only Yeva could hunt and provide for her family, and such. I thought it was going to be problematic at first, but I realized that Hunted has a story of its own to tell, and the thought quickly vanished from my mind.

“We curse everything, for we are cursed, and we have no arms to shelter her and no lips to press to her hair and above all no words to tell her that we know loss and we know pain and if they were monsters we could fight we would have slain them in her name long ago like the heroes of old. But we are not a hero. We are cursed.” 

My absolute favorite thing from this book is the Beast’s point of view. My goodness, they’re just a few short sentences, but they mean a lot. The words were straight to the point, but so full of meaning that I immediately connected with his character. They were only a few words, but the emotion behind them were so impactful. Also, I am someone who gets easily impatient by long narratives that seem pointless, so those short chapters really were perfect for me.

One of the things that makes or breaks a book for me to even considering giving it 4.5 or 5 stars is how much I could feel emotions from reading this book, and let me tell you that this book made me feel a lot of complex emotions. I was really both connected and invested in that characters and story, and I was really able to put myself in their shoes.

“Fairy tales are about lessons. Those who are virtuous and true are rewarded, while those who are wicked and greedy are punished.” 

One of my complaints about this book is how unsatisfying the ending is, in the sense that I still want more. The ending was not crappy or anything like that, but I felt like there should be so much more. I felt like there could have been a little bit more extension of that ending. Of course, this may be totally for selfish reasons.

Overall, my love for this book grew gradually. I was wary of it at first, but it just became more and more amazing. The Beast’s POV is gold, and I was left wanting for more. Too bad there isn’t a sequel. Anyway, I recommend reading this, especially at the height of the movie remake of Beauty and the Beast (for those who need more of it).

“To the girl

who reads by flashlight

who sees dragons in the clouds

who feels most alive in worlds that never were

who knows magic is real

who dreams

This is for you” 

4.5 surprisingly magical stars. 

ARC Review: A Crown of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi!

Title: A Crown of Wishes
Author: Roshani Chokshi
Series: The Star-Touched Queen #2
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance, Retelling
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Publication Date: March 28th, 2017
Pages: Paperback, 352
My Rating: 4 Stars

An ancient mystery. An unlikely union. For one young princess in a state of peril, a dangerous wish could be the only answer…

She is the princess of Bharata—captured by her kingdom’s enemies, a prisoner of war. Now that she faces a future of exile and scorn, Gauri has nothing left to lose. But should she trust Vikram, the notoriously cunning prince of a neighboring land? He promises her freedom in exchange for her battle prowess. Together they can team up and win the Tournament of Wishes, a competition held in a mythical city where the Lord of Wealth promises a wish to the victor. It seems like a foolproof plan—until Gauri and Vikram arrive at the tournament and find that danger takes on new shapes: poisonous courtesans, mischievous story birds, a feast of fears, and twisted fairy revels. New trials will test their devotion, strength, and wits. But what Gauri and Vikram will soon discover is that there’s nothing more dangerous than what they most desire.

I remember when The Star Touched Queen was just released, there was so much hype surrounding that book that I vowed to read it, or some other books by Roshani Choksi, someday. Then I saw that A Crown of Wishes was available for request, and I thought, “Close enough” and I immediately jumped at the opportunity to snag a review copy. Indeed, I do agree with all the praise the author has been receiving with regards to her writing style, because A Crown of Wishes is one of the most beautifully written books I’ve ever read.

A Crown of Wishes is a very interesting book. It’s filled with magic, enchantment, mystery, intrigue, and excitement. The characters mostly stay in one place all throughout the novel, but it felt like an adventure book to me, what with all the things that they had to do in order to win. And oh, what challenges they had to face in order to win! It was all very exciting and it kept me on my toes.

The word building in this one is fantastic. As we read on, we get to know more and more about the Tournament of Wishes, as well as the two kingdoms. The world is intricately woven, and the images that burned in my mind are as vivid as the beautiful cover of this book. I think what I most enjoyed about this book were the descriptions of everything, without it sounding dragging.

I also really liked how badass Gauri was. I don’t think I realized just how badass she was until the part near the end. And oh, when that happened, I just wanted to get to know her more. I wish I could read more of this world and more of Gauri. I liked her in the beginning, but I just fell in love with her character in the end.

The thing that made this book so enjoyable was the constant banter between Gauri and Vikram. I don’t know about you guys, but if a romance is built on banter, that just does it for me. I find books with banter incredibly more enjoyable than those that don’t, and it just adds to the story for me. And ugh, the ending? Guys, that was incredible! It made me feel things, and it made me giggly, and it was just amazing!

Overall, this book took me by surprise. Honestly I thought it would be a boring book when I started reading it, but boy was I wrong! I can’t wait to read more of Gauri and Vikram! I hope we’d get more of them because I really am not sure whether or not we would. It would be a pity if we wouldn’t.

intricately-woven stars

ARC Review: Bright Smoke, Cold Fire by Rosamund Hodge

Title: Bright Smoke, Cold Fire
Author: Rosamund Hodge
Series: Untitled #1
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Retelling, Romance
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publication Date:  September 27th, 2016
Pages: Kindle, 448
My Rating: 2.5 Stars

When the mysterious fog of the Ruining crept over the world, the living died and the dead rose. Only the walled city of Viyara was left untouched.

The heirs of the city’s most powerful—and warring—families, Mahyanai Romeo and Juliet Catresou share a love deeper than duty, honor, even life itself. But the magic laid on Juliet at birth compels her to punish the enemies of her clan—and Romeo has just killed her cousin Tybalt. Which means he must die.

Paris Catresou has always wanted to serve his family by guarding Juliet. But when his ward tries to escape her fate, magic goes terribly wrong—killing her and leaving Paris bound to Romeo. If he wants to discover the truth of what happened, Paris must delve deep into the city, ally with his worst enemy . . . and perhaps turn against his own clan.

Mahyanai Runajo just wants to protect her city—but she’s the only one who believes it’s in peril. In her desperate hunt for information, she accidentally pulls Juliet from the mouth of death—and finds herself bound to the bitter, angry girl. Runajo quickly discovers Juliet might be the one person who can help her recover the secret to saving Viyara.

Both pairs will find friendship where they least expect it. Both will find that Viyara holds more secrets and dangers than anyone ever expected. And outside the walls, death is waiting. . . 

  I was given an ARC by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

I have always been a fan of Rosamund Hodge’s writing. Despite the not-so-high ratings of others for her books, I found Cruel Beauty and Crimson Bound to both be 4.5-star reads. However, with this one, I would just have to say that it has lost me. I didn’t really like it, and I wasn’t as sucked into the story as her other books. I think it might be because the other two are standalones and this one is part of a series, so the first two were complete and this one isn’t. 

Bright Smoke, Cold Fire is told in two perspectives of two simultaneous events that were happening. One is from the side of Runajo and Juliet, while the other is from the side of Paris and Romeo. I am usually a fan of dual perspectives, but for this one, I just hated it. I would have liked this book more if it were only told from the side of Paris and Romeo because I found that to be more interesting and badass. Also, I found that the alternating chapters just took away from the excitement that was currently happening, and it just disrupted the flow of the story. 

I also thought that this book was excessively long for a story that is not yet complete, and there were certain things that didn’t need to be included. I think if this was only done in one perspective, then that could have been avoided. I also didn’t like the awkward chapters in the middle, which recounted the three nights that Romeo and Juliet spent together. And ugh, the ending didn’t feel like a proper ending because there were still so many things left unresolved. I mean, I get that this book is part of a series, but I just really didn’t think that that ending was enough.

All that aside, there is one thing that I love from this book though. Even though it was marketed as a Romeo and Juliet retelling, it focused on friendship rather than romance. Yes, there are snippets of romance here and there, but mostly it focused on how the friendship between Runajo and Juliet, and between Romeo and Paris developed. That’s something that’s not usually explored in books, especially in fantasy books such as this one.

I also liked how the topic of obedience and loyalty to family was explored. In this novel, it showed how blind loyalty and obedience can bring you harm. This novel shows that we can only be obedient and loyal to our families to a certain extent, because otherwise we would be blinded by all the horrible things that this is causing.

Finally, I really like the title and the cover of this book. The title is so paradoxical, and it just rolls off your tongue easily. It gets confusing, but it’s part of the charm. The book cover, on the other hand, is so cleverly crafted. I mean, it was love at first sight for me when I saw the cover, but after reading it and looking at the details, I feel like the creator really knew what the novel is about. Ahh, I just really admire the book cover!

Overall, I was disappointed in this book because I have loved all previous Rosamund Hodge books that I read, but there are still some qualities to salvage this book for me. I’m not sure if I will read the next book, but I would surely love to know what happens.

2.5 disappointing stars

ARC Review: Queen of Hearts by Colleen Oakes

Title: Queen of Hearts
Author: Colleen Oakes
Series: Queen of Hearts Saga #1
Genre: Young Adult, Retelling, Fantasy
Publisher: Harper Teen
Publication Date:  May 3rd, 2016
Pages: Kindle, 320
My Rating: 2.5 Stars

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As Princess of Wonderland Palace and the future Queen of Hearts, Dinah’s days are an endless monotony of tea, tarts, and a stream of vicious humiliations at the hands of her father, the King of Hearts. The only highlight of her days is visiting Wardley, her childhood best friend, the future Knave of Hearts — and the love of her life.

When an enchanting stranger arrives at the Palace, Dinah watches as everything she’s ever wanted threatens to crumble. As her coronation date approaches, a series of suspicious and bloody events suggests that something sinister stirs in the whimsical halls of Wonderland. It’s up to Dinah to unravel the mysteries that lurk both inside and under the Palace before she loses her own head to a clever and faceless foe.

Part epic fantasy, part twisted fairy tale, this dazzling saga will have readers shivering as Dinah’s furious nature sweeps Wonderland up in the maelstrom of her wrath.

Familiar characters such as Cheshire, the White Rabbit, and the Mad Hatter make their appearance, enchanting readers with this new, dark take on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

  I was given an ARC by the publisher through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. 

Queen of Hearts was one of my most anticipated reads of early 2016. Being a lover of retellings, this one was immediately on my list of books to read after first hearing about it, and it being a retelling for the Queen of Hearts was just gold because I’ve never heard about one before. However, I am sad to say that I was disappointed. Because despite the low ratings that some gave this book, I still really wanted to read it and I thought that my opinion will vary with them.

The thing with Queen of Hearts is that I had trouble imagining the world. Yes, it kind of is a given that we would be familiar with the world of Wonderland, but still, there were only few descriptions given in the book. I also hated the fact that I didn’t learn anything from reading this book. There were a lot of hinted mysteries, but no answers were given even in the end. I know that this is only the first book in the series, but I would have appreciated a little information. This actually reminds me of Legacy of Kings, because my problem with it is similar to this one.

That being said, Queen of Hearts is a pretty interesting book. With the mystery to keep me hooked, I read this one for only a day. And of course, it was interesting to see Dinah’s childhood. Actually, it’s kind of strange for me to say Dinah, because I only know her as the cruel Queen whose famous line is “Off with their heads,” which we see was actually something that her father used to say too.

In this book, we see that Dinah’s childhood is horrible. Her father is ruthless, and for some reason, he hates her with a passion. We also see a lot of anger in Dinah, even as a teenager, and we see that she was already feisty even back then. And then there’s Vittiore, her half-sister who came from nowhere, whom I think is not who she says she is at all. My mind is screaming, “Why, why, why?” which is the main thing that kept me from enjoying this book because none of those were answered.

Even so, I am interested in the 2nd book, although I am not 100% certain that I would read it. I would love to know what happened, of course, but maybe just a synopsis would suffice.

2.5 why-why-why stars