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Book Review: Circe (with Spoilers)

Last month I read the classic science fiction book Dune by Frank Herbert. Every amazing world and religion building aside, I still can’t reconcile myself with what the author did to the characters of Chani and Princess Irulan in the end. It left a bitter taste in my mouth. I needed to balance myself with a strong dose of feminist voice. Thank goodness Madeline Miller’s Circe came to the rescue.

Circe’s plot pretty much follows the Greek myths of a minor nymph goddess named Circe. You can check out the myth here. In this post, I want to talk about how Madeline Miller hit so many aspects of womanhood through Circe’s story. Okay, it does span centuries so that’s a hint that Circe goes through a lot. ALERT : SPOILERS!

Womanhood Through Circe

You name it, Circe has it. Daddy issues? Circe was a daddy’s girl through and through. She starts out worshipping Helios (her Titan father the Sun). She ends up asking (demanding, threatening…) Helios to disown her as a daughter to go off and do her own thing. That’s the full circle alright.

First love problems? Say hi to Glaucos whom Circe loved so much she made him a god. And voila, he became not a god but an ass (figuratively speaking). Friends with benefits? She’s tasted it too. Hey there, Hermes, what’s up. A momentary warmth of love, and as always with the Greeks, tragedy? Enter Daedalus, the father of Icarus.

Sibling rivalries are abundant with Pasiphae (the Minotaur’s mummy), Perses, and Aetes. When Circe “grows up” into a more matured goddess, she finds herself playing as Auntie to monsters and menaces. In her exile she learns to finally accept herself and her vulnerabilities. Her powers as a witch grows and thrives on the island of Aeaea.


The climax of the story is in the last third , when Odysseus (yes, from The Song of Achilles!) comes and Circe has an amorous relationship with the married man, leading to her son Telegonus. Circe’s motherhood experience is handled with such a realistic tone that I applaud the author. When time comes for Circe to let her son go out into the world, she is heartbroken like every mom, but she does not prevent him.

By the time we get to Telemachus (son of Odysseus and Penelope), I can’t say how happy I am for Circe. Telemachus is THAT guy “society” says she should avoid in her later years – I mean, she slept with his daddy yo. But love conquers social norms, as the Greeks have said it from ages past. I’ll attest to that.

And here is the author’s most driving point: that Circe chose a different life than the life she was born with. She made a different world for herself, and in that she made her own happiness.

Friends, please read Circe. You won’t regret it.

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Book Review: The Elegance of the Hedgehog

I recently did a reread of one of my favorite books ever: The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery. I read it in English – it’s originally written in French. The message came across well enough through the translated text, at least for me. It must be absolutely glorious in its original language though.


Madam Michel, the concierge of a wealthy apartment building, is an “old soul” hiding behind the pretense of a dull janitor. One of the tenants in the building is the Josse family, with their two daughters: Colombe and Palome. The younger, Palome, is planning her suicide. The story follows Madam Michel and Palome as they observe their separate daily lives. One day a new tenant moves in: the Japanese man Kakuro Ozu. Through Kakuro, Madam Michel and Palome befriend each other. They realize they are invariably made of the same inner material.


The story is purposefully slow, like a film on slow motion. It’s full of lengthy expositions on Madam Michel’s thoughts of the bourgeoisie and Palome’s thoughts of the shallow life of adults. I’ll honestly say it’s one of the slowest books I’ve come across. Yet through their perspective of the small things around them, I have learned so much. In that way, it’s really as much a philosophy book as it is fiction. Think Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being. The author makes plenty of references to literature, art, music, and philosophy. This connects with my liberal arts training back in the States so naturally I feel right at home.

Upon my rereading, I realized I had forgotten how much this book impacted me, to the point that every heroine I now write has a little bit of Palome’s brilliance (and anger!) looking out through their eyes.

Not for Everyone

This book probably isn’t for everyone. It’s challenging, and the ending is as tragic as tragic goes. However, if every once in a while you decide to read something that’s a great introduction to philosophy, art, and the classics, The Elegance of the Hedgehog might be a good place to start. I’ll warn you, I cried as much in the reread as I did the first time around.

By the way, imagine my delight when I found out that between my first and second read, Palome and Madam Michel has hit the big screen!

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Book Review: Cinder’s Adventure

Cinder’s Adventure was released March 2022 in honor of 10 years of Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer. I’m a big fan of this series, so I gulped this right in. Afterwards, I saw a lot of mixed reviews from fans on Goodreads. Some fans are terribly disappointed because they have been waiting a decade for Cinder and Kai’s wedding, and well, Cinder’s Adventure didn’t have a lot of that. Some others enjoyed it for the fluff it is and are satisfied. I’m in the second camp. I’ll explain why below.

First Book

So I’ll be honest, one of the reasons I bought Cinder’s Adventure is because Marissa Meyer announced that she is donating all her royalties to First Book. It’s a non-profit that helps to promote literacy and a love of reading in underserved areas. Okay, support that cause and get a Cinder fluff in the meantime? I’m in. I do think reviews should keep this initiative in mind before slaying the author down.

Interactive Novella

I haven’t read one of these since I was a little girl. I’ll admit they’ve never been one of my favorite book formats. Such a format doesn’t really develop much plot or character or relationship due to the nature of readers choosing their own paths. I ended up jotting down what happened in each chapters and going through in chapter order to read what I missed. It’s like reading a not-so-connected collection of fanfics.

Marissa’s Multiverse

One thing that is fun if you’re a Marissa Meyer fan is the multiverse-ness of this book where characters intertwine and interact with each other. Pst…there is a happy Heartless ending in there somewhere! I haven’t read Instant Karma yet, but the snippet of it in this ebook makes me want to read that too.

Worth it or Not?

To go back to the question. If you keep your expectations in check: this book isn’t canon at all and is a collection of fluff, with a noble cause behind it, then yes I think it’s worth it. Note that it’s only available in ebook so no trees were wasted in the making. I do hope it stays that way!

Last but not least, check out this fancast Tiktok video I made in honor of the occasion: #Lunar10YearsLater

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Book Review: Renegades Trilogy

If it isn’t another Marissa Meyer review from me! I finally hopped on the Renegades fan club about a month ago while on a road trip to Central Java. Many hours in the car = me getting lost in Nova Artino and Adrian Everheart’s story. Happy sigh. I’ll lay out what I think of the whole trilogy with just mild Supernova spoilers, so here goes.

Renegades (#1)

The first book in the Renegades trilogy had me wondering if it’s a Romeo and Juliet retelling. Marissa Meyer does amazing retellings (The Lunar Chronicles, Heartless, Gilded, etc) so it wouldn’t have surprised me. The setup was all there: two kids of two leaders whose family/gang/organization hate each other. They meet, fall in love, and the world falls apart and goodbye happy endings. I nearly stopped because as a principle I avoid tragedy in books (isn’t my life tragic enough?) but Sherry @thecozylibrary and Jules @yourstrulyjulietta assure me it’s not tragic. Phew! Indeed the first book ends with a plot twist that’s wild and I really should have seen it coming but I didn’t and it wasn’t tragic. I have to say, I’m super impressed. Having read (and loved!) The Lunar Chronicles, I didn’t think Marissa Meyer could pull off such a twist. I mean, Lunar Chronicles was great but nothing twisty, so I enjoyed the surprise.

The superhero and superpower world feels familiar with all the Marvel and Xmen movies we’ve grown up with, but the characters are fresh, especially Ruby, Oscar, and of course, Adrian. I mean, sketching things to sleep? Original. Nova’s power of putting people to sleep is cool but I think it’s ingenious to have her not need sleep. At all. It certainly provides a lot of room for the author to explore into her lifestyle (and lifestyle decisions).

Archenemies (#2)

The highlight of this second installment is the budding relationship between Nova and Adrian. Again and again the author excels at sweet, wholesome, completely believable teenage romance, peppered with just the right amounts of humor and fluff. I feel like all of the author’s relationships are organic; nothing is forced and everything is just so natural. Even her slow burns feel just right. Moving on to other aspects, there were set-ups here that have huge impacts in the final book, making for a solid middle book. The overarching structure of the trilogy plays out well, and I love that.

Supernova (#3)

Now the last book of the trilogy…is packed with plot twists and reveals. And a couple deaths but luckily not our Romeos and Juliets. If I remember correctly there were three huge twists. One of them (Hint: Adrian) was ingenious. I’d seen them coming, and it played out kind of flat at first, but had a very moving resolution. Me liked. The other (Hint: Nova) I’d also seen coming, but honestly I didn’t like it. The twist makes the good and evil all too clear, while I think the attractiveness of the whole series is the play on anti-heroism. The last twist is the epilogue. OMG. This had my jaw mopping the floor. This one I didn’t see coming, and frankly I loved it. I had thought the ending was too fluffy, but then I realized it’s working towards the WILD epilogue to make it WILDER. And that, was awesome.

The Mild Spoiler

Having said so, some of Nova and Adrian’s chemistry here felt bland, probably due to a certain scene where Queen Bee does something to Adrian and Nova just sits and watches. Girl. That’s a no no. Please don’t ever just sit still and watch next time. I think it’s difficult to pull off because it’s enemies to lovers trope and it’s in the middle of intense battles where they are supposed to be destroying each other. Here I must say is where Sarah J Maas excels. Even in similar situations (I’m thinking A Court of Thorns and Roses, that scene in Amarantha’s court where Feyre is being tortured and Rhys was there), we know that Rhys still had Feyre’s back, even though he didn’t show it at first. In Supernova though, it was just really painful to read.

So if you ask me, I really enjoyed Renegades but I think the Lunar Chronicles is still my favorite series from Marissa Meyer!

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Book Review: Land of Sand and Song

I came across this book on Jacq’s bookstagram account and have since been really curious about it. I wasn’t let down! I’m always looking for good fantasy, especially good Eastern fantasy written by Asians. Land of Sand and Song by Singaporean author Joyce Chua satisfied that thirst beautifully.

Joyce Chua’s writing style reminds me of fairytale storytellers such as Marissa Meyer and Shannon Hale – that poetic undercurrent explicit during descriptions. It’s a style I enjoy because I’m a sucker for fairytale retellings. Plot-wise Land of Sand and Song is a bit on the predictable end but I don’t mind because most fairy tale story vibes are like that. Having said so, I didn’t expect there to be a love triangle between the protagonist Desert Rose and the two princes so hey that was a little yummy bonus!

Another thing I liked about this book was the strong women characters. Desert Rose is pretty kick-ass and can hold herself up in any situation. The organization she is a part of is an organization of women assassins: of course, I’m gonna love it.

I think anyone who is into Eastern fantasy, Asian myths, and strong women characters would enjoy this read. I’m definitely looking forward to the sequel! Another Asian (historical) fantasy I would recommend is She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan.

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Book Review: The Weight of Our Sky

I started 2022 with this read, which was so thoughtfully gifted to me by one of my book club friends. Written by Hanna Alkaf (Malaysia), The Wight of Our Sky is about Melati, a girl caught in the Sino-Malay riots of May 1969. Melati has OCD, which for her is like a Djinn that is destroying her mind. Alright, so right off the bat you know this book has many, many trigger warnings. The author herself says it’s a hard book. If you don’t think you can go through it in one piece, it’s better to just not to.

I agree with her, though luckily I feel at this point in my life I’m ready. Having said that, The Weight of Our Sky does hit close to home with so many similarities to the May 1998 riots of Indonesia. I salute the author for writing such difficult realities head-on. It reminds me of Marjane Satrap’s Persepolis (graphic novel) in many ways. It is indeed also a reflection of hope if such a story is being published and marketed to the public.

In addition to the painful historical lessons of The Weight of Our Sky, Melati’s journey is at the end a journey of strength. The strength to face her internal demons head-on while standing up to rampaging societal demons of racism, hate, and violence. I find it fascinating that Melati’s fears, the visions plaguing her sanity, actually became real in the wake of the 1969 tragedy. Yet by living through that horrific incident she found that she was bigger than her fears.

The only way forward is through, be it slicing through, or crawling through.

There were hints of an almost-romance budding between Melati and Vince, and I was rooting for them the whole way. In case you’re interested, this book has also been adapted into a webtoon!

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Book Review: Malibu Rising

I’ll admit I was a bit apprehensive going into Malibu Rising. I read The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo (which is super hype) and was somewhat disappointed. However, Grace Tahir suggested Malibu Rising to me on twitter and so I decided to pick it up. I was very glad because I actually enjoyed it a lot!

I liked how the story was told. Essentially it is in two narratives parallel to each other: June Riva’s life and the lives of her four children. Put side by side, it was fascinating to see how their lives played out: affecting and being affected by events decades apart. At the same time, June’s kids resolved a different life for themselves, one no longer beholden to the cycle of destruction started off by their father, Mic Riva.

How the four siblings: Nina, Jay, Hud, and Kit held on to each other was incredibly touching. In a big world which continuously handed them sadness, they were able to create their own happiness, warmth, comfort, and love. I think that’s what got to me the most. These kids had it really bad, but they survived and still thrived thanks to being there for each other.

These kids had it really bad, but they survived and still thrived thanks to being there for each other.

One thing that made me like Malibu Rising more than Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo was because there was a lot of “showing” in Malibu Rising, while in Evelyn Hugo there was more “telling”, and sometimes quite pushy too. I liked Malibu Rising so much I made a short booktok aesthetics of it.

If you’ve read this book, let me know what you think in the comments!

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Book Review: Gilded

I usually read on my Amazon Kindle, but this time Sherry from Mad Tea Book Club informed me of something I couldn’t resist. It was a signed version of Gilded by Marissa Meyer!

Signed version of Gilded

Okay so the cover is also exquisitely beautiful. Somehow I didn’t even see the dark eyes until I finished reading it. I took another adoring glance and realized there’s our wicked king staring at me right there on the cover. Yikes.

Gilded was deliciously dark and with a distinctively “Grimm” vibe. I’m a big fan of Marissa Meyer’s writing; I love the Lunar Chronicles (I even wrote a fanfic of it). She takes on a poetic tone that I find very suitable to the whole atmosphere. Take Heartless, for example. The only downside is she can get a bit repetitive with the internal monologue of her protagonists. The beautiful writing made up for it though.

Plotwise, it is a retelling of Rumpelstiltskin with several other German fairy tales meshed in. So far she seems to stick pretty close to the main structure of the tales, so there isn’t much of a surprise. I did wish with all my heart that in a sudden twist the romance would be between Selene and the Erlking, but after the Erlking’s last atrocious acts, that hope was dashed. Gild’s character is alright, though Gild and Selene’s chemistry seems rushed like those old Disney movies.

All in all, Gilded was an enjoyable retelling told by a fabulous writer. It turns out that Gilded is the first book of a duology, and you bet I’ll be reading the sequel, Cursed, too when it comes out.

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Book Review: Enola Holmes and the Black Barouche

This is the newest installment of my current favorite detective : Enola Holmes! Created by Nancy Springer and produced into a hit Netflix back in 2020, Enola is Sherlock’s (and Mycroft’s) little sister and is herself a detective extraordinaire. This 7th volume starts a new set of adventures after the finale of the previous 6th book.

Sibling Chemistry

One thing that distinguishes this volume from the previous ones is how Enola and Sherlock are actually working together. Sometimes they are jabbing and teasing each other along, but nevertheless they are a team. This is so sweet. In the previous books, Enola was always trying to run away from Sherlock. At times her brothers could even be quite the adversary. But in Enola Holmes and the Black Barouche, they are side by side pulling each other out of sticky situations, all the while still being competitive with each other.

The Case

The case itself had a strong female empowerment theme as is a trademark of the author’s. There are some quite harrowing scenes (won’t say more lest it be a spoiler). This is one of the reasons I like the whole series, because it takes a patriarchal story and setting which we know so well (the Sherlock Holmes series) and puts a hefty dose of feminist twist and views on it.

A Dash of Romance?

Quite a big difference between the first book and the Netflix rendition was the lack of romantic side stories in the books. In the film version, there were definitely sparks between Enola and the young Viscount of Tewksbury, which did not exist in the original pages. In this 7th volume, however, “Tewky” returns and unless my hunches are completely wrong, then I think there could be something growing between those two.

Overall, Enola Holmes and the Black Barouche did not disappoint and was in fact a very enjoyable read. Another series by Nancy Springer I would recommend is the Book of the Isle.

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Book Review: The Stone Sky

The epic conclusion of the Broken Earth trilogy by NK Jemisin snatched 3 awards: the Hugo, the Nebula, and the Locus Award. The Stone Sky was, indeed, grande.

Core Magic

In The Stone Sky, Mother (Essun) and Daughter (Nassun) separately goes into the core of the Earth. There they both experience Earth’s utter power and magic. Only after surviving that can they reach the other side: Corepoint. It’s quite a feat of fantasy and science fiction. What Jemisin pulls off so well is the grand scale of time.

The three books of this series have encompassed between them thousands of years and generations. In this way it reminds me of the Dune series. However, unlike Dune, Jemisin is able to do it while following the lives of mainly two characters: Essun and Nassun.

At the core of the story is how the privileged and powerful of the society treat the marginalized. Jemisin is able to make you feel like you are the one being marginalized, manipulated to benefit the system. Sounds familiar? I am so glad she is writing. As a black woman, her perspective of the human experience is so needed by the world right now.

In her own words: “…a character who is angry at the system, but has learned how to cover that anger in ways that allow him to survive in a system that doesn’t welcome that anger – Lord knows I’ve learned how to do this too.”


I’ll admit even I got confused several times with the second-person narrative style in The Stone Sky. It’s quite tricky to follow, yet I couldn’t have imagined it told another way, as the impact would not be the same.

Apparently TriStar Pictures has secured rights to adapt the trilogy into a series, with Jemisin herself doing the adaptation! I cannot wait. I think done right, the story has potential to be better than Dune as a film!