Reviewletts: Recently-Released Tearjerkers

by Kim on March 8, 2013 · 20 comments

Even though I’m not really behind with reviews (which was the purpose of doing mini-reviews in the first place), I decided that I like the format and want to keep it up. As a way to balance out my reading/reviewing, I’ve decided to mostly focus on fiction in mini-reviews and save “real” reviews for nonfiction. Fiction gets covered extensively by other bloggers who write much better than I do, so I feel comfortable leaving the territory to them.

Anyway, for this pair of reviewletts I decided to focus on two recently-released books that made my cry: Me Before You by Jojo Moyes and The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller.

Be Before You by Jojo Moyes

me before you by jojo moyes coverLouisa Clark is an ordinary girl living an exceedingly ordinary life—steady boyfriend, close family—who has never been farther afield than their tiny village. She takes a badly needed job working for ex–Master of the Universe Will Traynor, who is wheelchair bound after an accident. Will has always lived a huge life—big deals, extreme sports, worldwide travel—and now he’s pretty sure he cannot live the way he is.

Will is acerbic, moody, bossy—but Lou refuses to treat him with kid gloves, and soon his happiness means more to her than she expected. When she learns that Will has shocking plans of his own, she sets out to show him that life is still worth living.

I decided to read Me Before You during a mini-readathon I had last weekend because I’d heard from several people that it was a book that made them ugly cry (you know, the red-faced, snot running down your nose, can’t see through the tears cry) and I was in the mood for a good sob. And boy howdy, did this book not disappoint. I fell in love with Lou and felt such strong emotions for her in the book that I cried several times. It was a really, really good read.

But since I can’t say what I want to say much about the crying for fear of spoilers, I decided to hide them with white text. If you don’t mind spoilers, you should be able to highlight and see some final thoughts about why this book made me cry like a baby:   I don’t think I cried at this book because of Will making the decision to end his life. It’s wasn’t that surprising to me that he did and that Lou’s love wasn’t enough to help him forget the life he wants to have. I cried because this experience changed Lou so much. There’s a moment at the end where she’s standing on the beach and actually sees a world with possibility for herself. I felt so grateful that she had found this and so happy for her (and sad for her, having a feeling about what the next crushing moment would be) that I just started bawling. And then didn’t stop. It was a complicated mix of emotions, but the best kind you can get from a book. 

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

song of achillesAchilles, “the best of all the Greeks,” son of the cruel sea goddess Thetis and the legendary king Peleus, is strong, swift, and beautiful— irresistible to all who meet him. Patroclus is an awkward young prince, exiled from his homeland after an act of shocking violence. Brought together by chance, they forge an inseparable bond, despite risking the gods’ wrath.

They are trained by the centaur Chiron in the arts of war and medicine, but when word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, all the heroes of Greece are called upon to 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 cruel Fates will test them both as never before and demand a terrible sacrifice.

I picked up The Song of Achilles as part of Book Riot’s tag-team effort to read all of the books in the 2013 Tournament of Books (you can read my discussion with Amanda of Dead White Guys here). Amanda also wrote a review of this book on her blog that says basically all of the things I think, so I’ll try to be brief here without plagiarizing all her smart ideas.

Basically, there is a ton to love about this book. It takes the story of Achilles (made famous in Homer’s The Illiad) and makes it more gentle, more personable, more warm. Miller writes both Patroclus and Achilles in such a way that by the end of the book I deeply cared for them, enough that I may have even been ok with Miller messing with the inevitable, tragic ending if it meant happiness for them (she doesn’t, but still). And Miller balances out all of the romance with just enough war and one-liners from Odysseus (who I really liked in this story) to keep the book humming along. The Song of Achilles is a moving, smart, interesting adaptation of a classic that I’m glad to have read. 

Disclosure: I borrowed Me Before You from my wonderful local library and purchased a copy of The Song of Achilles.

Photo Credit: albertogp123 via Flickr

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Trisha March 8, 2013 at 8:54 am

My brain is currently melding Achilles and the terms gentle, personable, and warm…interesting.

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Kim March 9, 2013 at 8:54 am

This is definitely not The Illiad :) Part of what sets the tone is that the narrator is Patroculus, and this book is really a love story between him and Achilles. Patroculus stays out of most of the violence (until the end, anyway). Despite him being a guy, it’s a more feminine take, I guess?

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softdrink March 9, 2013 at 9:11 pm

Feminine is a good way to describe it! It’s a gorgeously written book. And Trisha needs to read it right now. :-D

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jenn aka the picky girl March 8, 2013 at 9:09 am

I have heard such great things about Song of Achilles, and I love mythology so much. It’s definitely a must for me. Now I just need time to read it.

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Kim March 9, 2013 at 8:54 am

If it helps, it’s a really fast read. I got through it just a couple of hours.

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Nikki Steele March 8, 2013 at 9:33 am

Song of Achilles was so very very great. I loved that she played so much with these mythical characters, almost to the point where we thought maybe, maybe it wouldn’t end the way it had to. And of course it did.

Ooh and what about Thetis’ character in the book? I thought she did an amazing job of portraying this goddess that’s such a hard ass, but still obviously loves her son. Those scenes at the end with her and Patroclus really got me all the sad.

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Kim March 9, 2013 at 8:55 am

Oh man, Thetis. I think in my notes about the book I wrote something like “worst Mother-in-Law ever!” because wow, was she scary.

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bermudaonion(Kathy) March 8, 2013 at 9:36 am

I really want to read Me Before You – now I know to have my tissues handy.

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Kim March 9, 2013 at 8:55 am

Definitely. The premise is pretty devastating, but what she does with it is really emotional.

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Joanna March 8, 2013 at 12:25 pm

I just recently hear of Jojo Moyes, I have to try this book. Though I can’t say that I need any ugly crying right now, I think I’d prefer uplifting!

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Kim March 9, 2013 at 8:56 am

I hadn’t heard of her before this book either, but all the reviews were so good I had to try it. But if you don’t want to cry, I’d avoid it!

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Jenny March 8, 2013 at 7:30 pm

I could use a bit of ugly crying! It’s still wintery here and I am just about done with wintertime, so it would be great to have a legitimate intense sad feelings time, instead of feeling dreary and out of sorts. Stupid winter. Stupid snow. It is March and thus time for spring.

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Kim March 9, 2013 at 8:57 am

I’m feeling that way too. We just had a storm last night where it rained on everything, then froze over, and now it’s going to snow on top of it. Seriously!? This book was good for getting out All The Feelings.

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Jennifer March 9, 2013 at 7:20 am

I love short reviews and I’m glad you’ve decided to keep it up :) I’m going to be reading Me Before You sometime in the next week and I can’t wait! I thought Achilles was absolutely lovely…one of my faves of 2012.

Happy Reading!

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Kim March 9, 2013 at 8:57 am

Good, I’m glad they dont’t feel like cop-outs! I loved that book. I hope you do too.

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Sheila (Book Journey) March 9, 2013 at 9:27 am

I am excited to read Me Before You. Not excited about the snot it may create. LOL

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Kim March 11, 2013 at 6:35 pm

So much snot :) But good snot? I have no idea where to go with that.

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Laurie C March 9, 2013 at 10:55 am

It can be harder to write a short review; that’s why mine are always too long! I’ve been wanting to read both of these books.

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Kim March 11, 2013 at 6:35 pm

I think what I hate about “full” reviews is writing book summaries… these let me out of that :)

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Jennifer March 16, 2013 at 4:21 pm

I love a good tear jerker and I know that sometimes you kind of need them. You need a good cry every now and then.

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