Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Six of Crows

Six of Crows Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

SPOILERS AHEAD!


A fun, dangerous heist story, with a good dose of fantasy and magic mixed in. I loved that the narrator changed with every chapter - it let us get to know each of the characters personally, and see them each from an outside perspective as well. I basically want to give the whole crew a big hug, and then spirit them away to somewhere safe. I enjoy them all in their own ways, but I have to admit, I have a favorite.

I love Inej so much. SO MUCH. She is fierce and sneaky and deadly, but also kind and softhearted. She has been through so much, and was at a loss for a long time on what she wanted out of life, and if she even deserved happiness anymore after all the things she'd been forced to do (and all the things she'd chosen to do to survive). I loved watching her grow and develop a plan for her own future that isn't dependent on what a man wants. I love that, as much as she cares for Kaz, she's not going to sacrifice herself and her future for him if he's not willing to meet her at least halfway.

Speaking of Kaz, I have so much sympathy for him. He was also dealt a poor hand in life, and I'm still not sure how he actually battled, fought, and conned his way to the position he is in now. Clearly Kaz has skillz, but he also has a deadly determination to read his goal: making the man responsible for his brother's death and his own anxiety issues pay. Up until Kaz meets and gets to know and falls in love with Inej, that goal is the only thing that matters, and everything else is just either there to help him or in the way. Inej makes things different for him, though. With Inej, Kaz can see a tiny glimpse of the future he never even dreamed of, one where maybe he is happy, and healthy, and can finally work through the emotional and physical issues he's been dealing with since his brother's death. Of course, the second Kaz lets those thoughts sneak into his brain, his plans go awry, and Inej, despite her deadliness, is captured.

Pretty much the only thing I disliked about this is how it "ended" -- because it's not a true ending!! This is the first in a series, which I'm not opposed to, but instead of this adventure wrapping up, and us getting to see where people head next, we're basically being dragged into a whole new book if we want to make sure our favorites are ever going to be safe. Obviously, I'm going to keep reading, but I can't say I'm thrilled to be getting a "let's all rescue the girl" story instead of a "check out this amazing girl as she hunts down slavers" story.

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Friday, July 27, 2018

I'll Be Gone in the Dark

I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A fascinating, intensely researched profile of one of my most prolific serial rapists and murderers in US history, with in-depth analysis of his crimes and the many investigations searching for "the responsible" over the decades. At the time of writing and publication, the Golden State Killer, aka East Area Rapist, or EAR, had not been caught. Although investigators held out hope that DNA evidence and tenacity would eventually bring them the right lead, this book held the only conclusion it's author, Michelle McNamara, could write for it at the time of her death: her prophetic look into the future, where she had no doubt he would eventually be discovered and apprehended.

"This is how it ends for you. 'You'll be silent forever, and I'll be gone in the dark,' you threatened a victim once. Open the door, show us your face. Walk into the light."

Part of me wishes I had read this book right after its publication, so I could have know all the facts about the GSK, and speculated on who he was along with Michelle and thousands of others. What joy and shock would I have felt to read the headline, "Golden State Killer Apprehended" after knowing so much about the horrors he inflicted on so many? Reading this book now, knowing the name and face of the killer primary makes me feel relieved: he's not out there anymore. He's been caught. Hopefully the victims and their families can feel some sort of relief after so many years in limbo.

What I am also curious about, though, is how the details of this man's life compare to all the speculation and theories that Michelle, the investigators, and the Internet groups discussed over the years. There were theories about how and where he grew up, where he lived, what his job was. We know now he was a police officer for some of the years he was active criminally: how does that play in to the way he seemed to easily evade capture back in the day? I'm hoping that one day, perhaps once his trial is over and he is in jail, someone will write an article or book to help answer these questions, to help explain how he flew under the radar for so long, and to detail exactly how investigators finally caught him.

I have no doubt that Michelle's hard work and detail, persistent research helped the investigation to finally track down and catch this criminal, and I hope that somewhere, she could see it, and rest easy, knowing her work was done.

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Sunday, July 22, 2018

The Runaway Dragon

The Runaway Dragon The Runaway Dragon by Kate Coombs
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another fun adventure! I love that not only is Meg determined to go on a quest, that quest is inspired by her need to repair her neglected relationship with Laddy. I'm happy to see her rely on her friends when she needs to, but also take a stand and believe in herself when necessary. And yay Bain! I was also moderately annoyed with him, but to be fair, it's pretty much impossible to fight off magic if you're a non-magical person. Even Lex had trouble at first.

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I Am Malala

I Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban I Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

"Ok, shoot me. But first, listen to me: what you are doing is wrong."

Not just the inspiring story of a brave girl standing up for what she believed in (education for all), but a cultural, political, and religious history of Pakistan and the Pashtun people. This book documents the horror of the Taliban's increased influence, control, and restrictions from the perspective of a girl who lived through it. Malala recalls countless times she and her family spoke up for what was right, even in the face of extreme personal danger. To this day, Malala campaigns for the right to education, even though many in Pakistan disparage her and believe she's only in it for the glory. Hopefully one day they will understand how wrong they are about her.

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Thursday, July 19, 2018

Carry On

Carry On Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

SPOILERS AHEAD


I loved Fangirl, and I loved this, too! We finally get to meet and love the characters Cath and Wren love so much, and it's worth the wait. Simon and Baz are adorable, and I love how their relationship develops over time. I don't feel like I'm missing out on anything hopping into their story so "late" in the game, as I feared I would. We get just enough pieces of their history for context, without being mired in flashbacks. Hate and love are both passionate emotions, and are so intertwined that it's easy to see how one could be confused for the other.

Also, even though on the surface, this might seem overly referential to the Harry Potter franchise, there are unique differences that make these characters special in their own right.

In truth, this book flips the trope of "the chosen one" on it's head. By latching on to prophecy of The Chosen One in his quest for power and revolution, the Mage inadvertently brings about the great threat their magical world has always feared. Some of the Mages reforms are quite noble - open up the world of education and learning to all magical creatures, not just the old families or the most powerful - but he lost sight of his original goals in his quest for dominance. As for Simon and his friends, is it enough to live for the future, for the hope that one day, you'll be able to stop fighting and just live? Or do you owe it to yourself and those around you to live every day like it's your last, and find your happiness wherever you can? Also, what makes someone a hero, and what makes them a villain? Nothing in life is ever black and white, and it's possible to be both a hero and a villain, both the problem and the solution.

I'm delighted to see there is a sequel in the works, even though it might be years down the road, because I want to read more of the adventures of Simon, Baz, and Penny. Not so much Agatha, who struck me as the blandest character, only redeeming herself in the end. I'm hoping Simon learns more about his parentage, specifically his mom, and I'm hoping he can regain some sort of magical abilities. I'm hoping Penny's boyfriend moves from America, so we don't have to worry about her leaving anytime soon. I'm hoping Baz finds a balance in life that lets him accept himself and not worry too much about being or becoming a monster.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Furiously Happy

Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Both hilariously funny and brutally honest about the difficult mental health struggles Jenny deals with on a daily basis. This book made me both laugh out loud and cry, sometimes within sentences of one another. I appreciate Jenny so much for being so forthcoming and upfront about her life and the way she thinks, and for providing a safe space for a supportive community to develop. Here are a few of my favorite quotes:

"But it's not like all ninjas are automatically great at their job. Someone has to be the worst ninja in the class. That's just basic math."

"Your lack of spoons is not your fault."

"How can we be expected to properly judge ourselves? We know all of our worst secrets. We are biased, and overly critical, and occasionally filled with shame, so you'll just have to trust me when I say you are worthy and important and necessary and smart."

"What I got back in return for being honest about my struggle was an enormous wave of voices saying 'you aren't alone' and 'we suspected you were crazy anyway, we're still here' and 'I'm proud of you.'And louder than all of that were the whispers that became stronger every day from thousands and thousands of people creeping to the edge and quietly admitting, "me, too. I thought it was just me." And the whispers became a roar, and the roar became an anthem that carried me through some of my darkest moments."


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Monday, July 9, 2018

The Immortalists

The Immortalists The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A fascinating story about family and what it means to truly live. If you know the date you will die, are you free to live your life without worry? Or are you pushed to be reckless and foolhardy, because you know what you do doesn't matter in the end? The Gold siblings were permanent split from one another the day they learned their fates, because each became consumed with their own worries and fears.

This story made me really sad a lot of the time, but in the end, I appreciated what I think it was trying to say. Don't sacrifice the quality of your life to ensure a quantity of life, because what is life if you lock yourself away and don't experience it? Be fearless. As Ruby has learned, "magic is only one tool among many for keeping one another alive." There's the physical act of learning to heal, as a doctor, but there's also the power of love. "I love you all." The best part of Ruby is that she means it.

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