Hello there! So it’s officially the halfway point of #TheReadingQuest hosted by Aentee at readatmidnight. The time has absolutely flown and while I haven’t been able to keep up with my ambitions by a long stretch, I’ve had a bit more time to dedicate to it this week and am now quite a bit further on in the quest with a few more completed books under my belt. I’ve also been working on some of the side challenges at the same time, which has slowed down my main quest a little but has been thoroughly worth it.
I have completed three books this week, although one of them is a bit of a cheat because I was nearly finished with it at the end of last week.
A Book Based on Mythology: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (Audiobook)
HP: 34 in total (4 this week)
A Book With A One Word Title: Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
HP: 60 in total (47 this week)
Side Quest – Open World (Read Whatever You Want): Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
I’ve been very remiss with the old social media, so no HP from that.
Books in Progress
Side Quest – Time Warp (A Book Set In The Past or Future):
We Are Legion: We Are Bob by Dennis E. Taylor
This is a science-fiction novel set 100 years into the future. I’m actually very nearly finished, having listened to 8 hours already. I have 1 hour and 27 minutes left to go.
HP so far: 24
The First Book Of A Series:
Nevernight by Jay Kristoff
A book following a trainee assassin in a world where night only falls once every two and a half years. I’m very early on in this, but am liking the humour and writing style. The footnotes perhaps slightly less so.
HP so far: 5
So? What did I think?
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (Audiobook)
Based on the myth of the demi-god Achilles and the Trojan War, this beautifully written novel is narrated by a young prince called Patroclus, who is exiled by his father after he accidentally kills another boy. Sent to live in a faraway kingdom, he meets Achilles, the son of mortal King Peleus and the sea nymph Thetis. Achilles is beautiful, proud and the best warrior of his generation. Patroclus is quiet and awkward, but the two boys strike up an immediate, close friendship, which develops into something more as they grow up together. When Achilles is called to fight in the Trojan War, there is no question about it: Patroclus will accompany him. But there is a terrible prophecy haunting the two young men: if Achilles goes away to fight, he will never return.
I’m not going to lie, this wasn’t the best narrated novel I’ve ever listened to, and because of that I’d be keen to reread it in physical book format. There just wasn’t a great deal of expression in there and it was a little slow. I was, however, fascinated by the ancient Greece conjured by Miller and the background of myths and legends against which the main story is based. Most of all, the central relationship between Patroclus and Achilles was wonderfully told and it was a pleasure to watch their initial childhood friendship develop into something deep, tender and passionate. I was also quite surprised because the book wasn’t a simple retelling of the Greek myths we’ve all grown up with – there was no mention of Achilles’ heel or the Trojan Horse! Instead, the focus was on the brutality of the war and its ability to fundamentally change the men who battled for over 10 years to return Helen to her husband. ]
The power of this book came from the intensity of Patroclus and Achilles’ love and the depth and attention paid to each and every character. I would recommend this to anybody who is interested in Greek mythology or just a good story, beautifully told. However, another reason I’d like to read it physically is that I think the ending lost some of its impact for me because I was listening to it while out and about and maybe my attention wasn’t as fully invested in the story as it deserved.
Star Rating: 4/5
Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
This is probably the most hyped book I’m reading for this challenge. It’s told in a really unique way – essentially, at the beginning it’s explained that a group called Illuminae have been working to compile a dossier, composed of emails, instant messages, interviews, transcripts, etc., to record what happened in the aftermath of an attack on a small planet that left many of the population dead and forced the rest to flee on their remaining undestroyed ships. The refugees are then pursued across space by the attacker, who is determined to eliminate all witnesses – and to make matters worse, it seems that some of the survivors were subjected to a bio attack and contaminated with a deadly and very contagious pathogen. The two central characters are Kady Grant and Ezra Mason, who are both seventeen and have just split up when their planet is attacked.
As I said in the previous post, I’d just read a pretty awesome British dystopia and went straight into Illuminae, meaning that I was struck perhaps more than I would have been by the American teen language and some of the tropes so frequently found in YA literature. However, the pace of this book soon picks up – something is always happening, the documents and perspectives flash by and the plot just takes over. You can’t fail to appreciate how clever this is and how much thought must have gone into ensuring that all the documents meshed together into a coherent story. It was actually shaping up to be a solid 4 star read: I was flying through and there were a couple of unexpected twists that really knocked me for six. Unfortunately, though, I felt quite let down by the ending – some rather improbable last-minute events all conspired to wrap everything up into an overly neat bow in a way that just wasn’t believable.
I would definitely recommend it though, because it was highly unique, fast-paced and, at the end of the day, so much of what I liked/didn’t like about it was very much based on personal taste. I’m definitely going to read its sequel, Gemina.
Star Rating: 3.5/5
Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
Oh. My. Goodness. This book! How it packs such an emotional punch in 238 pages I really don’t know. It follows Charlie Gordon as he begins to write reports to record his progress as a subject in a scientific experiment designed to increase his intelligence. With an IQ of 68, Charlie’s intellect is very limited and he has very little capacity to understand the world around him. To start with, his reports are riddled with spelling errors and we observe the simplicity with which he views the world. The operation he’s about to have has been performed on a mouse, Algernon, with apparently very successful results. We observe the changes in Charlie as the operation begins to take effect and he comes into an understanding of the world that he’s never had before. But, just as Charlie reaches the peak of his intelligence, Algernon’s behaviour becomes erratic and he begins to decline rapidly. What are the implications for Charlie?
This thin little volume is so incredibly clever. I loved following Charlie’s ascent into awareness and was deeply moved by his emotional confusion, his attempts to discover who he is and his struggle to take a new place in society. This novel serves as a powerful reminder that intelligence and intellectual greatness means very little if we cannot connect emotionally with people, be loved and feel compassion. It had a real impact on me and some of the issues it deals with, such as how we view and respond to mentally disabled people, are still extremely valid today, even though this book was written in the 60s. I think this is one of those books that can boast true timelessness and I believe that everybody would benefit from reading it, despite the rather painful lump in the throat that is an almost certain side effect of doing so.
Star Rating: 5/5
Plans for the Coming Week
I plan to complete Nevernight and follow up with my final book on the Mage’s path, which will be A Book Set In Another World:
The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin
My next audiobook will be for the Animal Companion side quest, for which you have to read a book with an animal in the title. For this, I’ve chosen:
The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
If I do well, I may even post a tentative TBR for the next pathway – I would like to become a Knight even if I don’t manage to finish off a second quest. It’s looking quite unlikely but I do have some books I’d like to read that fit quite nicely into the reading prompts for this character.
Have you read any of these? What did you think? How are you getting on with your Reading Quest, if you’re joining in? I’d love to know!
Bye for now!