Saturday, October 28, 2017

Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch

Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


A hilarious and insightful story about the end of the world, and the true nature of good and evil.

I love the idea that no one is fully good or fully evil, not even an angel or a demon when they have spent a significant amount of time with humans. Humans are capable of insane cruelty, but also of vast love. As Crowley puts it, "And just when you'd think they were more malignant than ever Hell could be, they could occasionally show more grace than Heaven ever dreamed of. Often the same individual was involved. It was this free-will thing, of course." As Crowley and Aziraphale spent more and more centuries among humans and with one another, they slowly started to become more alike. The battalions of Heaven and Hell didn't care if earth and humanity was destroyed in their eternal battle for dominance, but Crowley and Aziraphale had grown to love their lives on earth and the humans there.

There is something to be said about the formative power of friendship. As Crowley and Aziraphale influenced one another over the years, so too was Adam the erstwhile antichrist influenced by his terribly human parents and his crew of friends. The best thing that could have happened to Adam was being misplaced by all the supernatural beings that were trying to mold him and shape him and eventually use him for their own agendas. Adam grew up fully human, with capacity for both love and hate in him, and once he came into his power, a unique perspective on the eternal battle between good and evil. In the end, he chose to stop the battle between good and evil because he had chosen his human friends over his potential apocalyptic entourage. He wanted to live as normal a life as possible. Who knows where Adam might end up in the future, but the possibilities are endless.

Anathema's journey is a uniquely fascinating one as well. What would it be like to know the major plot points of your life - where you go, what you do, who you kiss, when you die? On the one hand, at least you don't have to wonder if you're doing the right thing, but on the other, you never feel like you are making your own choices. Anathema is shocked when the world doesn't actually come to an end, and she's left with the prospect of living her life with no expectation or future knowledge. When presented with one final opportunity to go back to her previous way of life, Anathema decides to embrace the mysterious unknown, which Agnes knew she would do, of course. I think that's why Agnes send a second book in the first place, to give Anathema a choice.

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Thursday, October 5, 2017

Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places

Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places by Colin Dickey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A fascinating book about not just the most famous ghost stories and haunted places in America, but an in-depth and unbiased analysis on the psychological, societal, and historical reasons why each story developed. From ghosts being invented for profit and marketing purposes, to the psychological need to create stories that explain the unexplainable, Colin Dickey dives deep not only into America's past, but into the minds of those who choose to believe. If nothing else, I've learned that every place has a story to tell, and those that have left are never truly gone if they are remember, regardless of who does the remembering.

This is one of those reviews where if I tried elaborating, this would turn from a short review into a pages-long thesis. Every chapter brought a new story and a new insight into history. I liked it so much, I feel like reading it again, and this time actually stopping to write down every little thing that struck me or I was amazed by. And I just might do that. And you should, too.

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Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Big Little Lies

Big Little Lies Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Several months ago, I watched and really enjoyed the series, and belatedly remembered it was based on a book. Even though the essentially plot mystery was "spoiled" for me this time, I enjoyed the book even more than I expected, even more so than the show. The TV show was an excellent adaptation, but there's no way to capture the intimacy of being inside a character's head and hearing their every thought, knowing their every emotion. It was truly breathtaking sometimes.

Buried in the complicated story and complex characters are some profound thoughts on things such as bullying, gossip, abuse, and rape culture. This is one of the few times reading a book (or listening in this instance) that I've had to pause and make a note of a particular thought, because I was afraid I'd forget it by the end of the book. (Curse my tiny memory.)

There is a lot of conflict around the relative worth of working moms versus stay at home moms, but you also see how working or not working accepts each woman's own self-worth as well.  You also see expressed the different in gender expectations - no one blames working dads for having long hours, but working moms are held to a different standard. A mom should innately know when something is going on with her child, but a dad isn't expected to notice, or blamed when he doesn't.

One of the central conflicts in the book revolves around rape and abuse. Madison gets upset when Jane is called a "silly girl" because such talk cuts very close to victim blaming. The "I wouldn't have gotten in that situation" or "I would have fought back" is a kind of victim blaming, too.  For Celeste, she seems to think that because she fights back, she condones it, and maybe even asks for it. The time after the abuse is so pleasant that the time of abuse becomes "worth it."  Of course, the line in the sand for Celeste ends up being drawn when she realizes that her sons have seen the abuse all along, and Max has begun aping his father's behavior. At the school, following Jane's revelation, Celeste seems more shocked that Perry's abuse wasn't just a private, intimate thing between them than she was that he was abusive at all. Celeste has a lot of complicated feelings about Perry and his death, and it makes sense. No one is black and white, and Celeste knew a different side to Perry. Even though she knew the truth about his abuse, and knew she had to leave him, and even knew he deserved to die, she was still in love with him, and those feelings don't go away overnight. So yes, her relief is mixed with mourning.

I also appreciated the way the book ends: abuse can happen to ANYONE, regardless of who they are and how they seem in public.

Jane also had a complicated relationship with Perry, obviously. She was hesitant to call what happened to her rape because she went up to his room intending to have sex with him. When the sex ended up being not what she expected, and she said no, that she didn't want to do it that way, it immediately became rape, regardless of whether she had literally been asking for it before. Add to that the verbal abuse, and it became a multi-layered assault. In many ways, Jane had continued to feel his abuse for the whole past 6 years because she had kept what happened to her a secret. She couldn't eat because she kept hearing his voice in her ear saying she was fat. She compulsively chewed gum because he had said her breathe stunk. She pulled her hair back harshly because she knew she'd never be beautiful anyways. She couldn't even think about a man dating or touching her without breaking out into cold sweats. She even thought Ziggy might be capable of cruelty because of his father's DNA. The night she told Madison what happened, it's like a spell was broken, and she slowly started recovering from the weight of the abuse and the secret she'd lived under for so many years.

Poor Ziggy. Not only is he not a monster, he's a true friend to Amabella, and keeps her secrets for her, even when it does him harm. People can be ridiculously cruel, especially when the scapegoat is an easy target, like a poor, new-to-town single mom with no status or influence. Celeste even mentions, if they had known Max was the real bully, there never would have been a petition to suspend him from school because his parents are rich and beautiful. I don't blame Renata being angry and wanting to protect her daughter, but she handled it poorly.

The gossip in this town was RIDICULOUS. It's highlighted by the interviews the townspeople did throughout the book, but rumors spread like crazy, whether they had any truth to them or not. Throw in a drama-hound, center-of-attention type like Harper and you have a recipe for disaster.

Central to this book is lies, both the ones each character told to others and the ones they told themselves. Jane's big lie (the secret she's kept for years plus why she came to Pirriwee in the first place) and Celeste's lies (we're fine, everything's fine) both to herself and everyone around her take center stage for much of the book, but central to the story itself are all of Perry's lies, about his abuse of his wife, his infidelity, his casual and vindictive sexual abuse of other women, even his use of his cousin's name to skate out of potential trouble.

There are also a lot of other lies - all the cheating husbands, Madison's complicated feelings about her ex and his wife, Abigail's ridiculous virginity website, Ziggy and Abigail and Josh and Max lying about the bullying. And of course, there are the lies a person tells themselves, to save themselves from the pain or sadness of the truth. There are Celeste's self-delusions about Perry's character, but also the lies Jane tells herself about being fine being Tom's friend, because she was worried that was the only thing they could be, and didn't want to be hurt. One of the happiest moments from the book was when Tom said he would be a fool not kiss Jane straight away, and she felt a flutter in her stomach and finally admitted to herself that she didn't want to be just friends. ❤️❤️❤️

I have to also mention the big lie that wasn't told, and one of the major ways the show differentiates from the book. In the show, only the women are out on the landing for the final confrontation with Perry, and although it's still Bonnie who does the pushing and causes the fatal accident, the women all agree to lie and go about their merry ways, bonded together as friends playing on the beach while the police look on. I think the books ending has more impact and is more true to life. Some of the husbands are there as well this time, and although initially the women decide to lie, which Ed in particular has a very difficult time with, Bonnie decides that after a lifetime of lying, she doesn't want to lie anymore. Book Bonnie has a more complicated backstory that we don't hear in the show - her dad abused her mom her whole life, while she and her sister watched and lied for him, and when Perry claims his boys don't see him hit his wife, Bonnie is enraged. In normal conditions, a tiny woman pushing a big man wouldn't have hurt him at all, but wet railing + tall stool + physics meant that Perry toppled over and slipped trying to catch himself. It made sense for Bonnie to tell the truth, because it was truly an accident, and because at this point, there had been too many lies and truth was too important.

Madison was central to the book in many ways - she was the one constantly standing up for her friends, and the one who bound their little mom trio together. She certainly had her own issues - her unshaking resentment of her ex for abandoning her and Abigail, and her unfailing belief that he didn't deserve the love Abigail gave him. It's hard enough having a 14 year old (I presume, I wouldn't know), but when you and her father aren't on the same page, and she can essentially play you against one another, it doesn't make life any easier. Despite these issues, I'm wondering if the producers of the show felt they needed to increase Madison's (aka Reese Witherspoon's) role in the story? Other than the relatively minor change to the ending and the subtraction of Renata's French nanny subplot, the most major changes between the book and the movie surrounded Madison and Ed. Not only are they more affluent in the show (Madison doesn't *have* to work at the theater, she does it because she wants to), but there's this huge subplot about the show her theater is putting on (She wants Avenue Q, Renata and her cronies are protesting), and of, she'd been having an affair with the theater's director the year before and he's still in love with her. There's obvious issues with her and Ed's marriage, and Ed is kind of passive-aggressive with Nathan, who is aggressive back, and there is additional conflict there. Abigail is also aged up to an older teen, which makes her virginity website actually seem plausible, if still horrifying. Oh, and their son Fred doesn't even exist.

Overall, I can't recommend this book highly enough to satisfy how much I loved its richness and complexity. I would still also recommend the show, and I don't think, in this case, it really matters what order you watch or read them in. Reading the book second felt like I was diving behind the scenes of characters I had already met, but I imagine watching the show second would feel like finally seeing characters you already know in real life, and since you know what they're thinking, you can fill in any blanks. Either way, both are joys.

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Saturday, September 9, 2017

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An engrossing and detailed account of a true tragedy of warfare, and one that had far-reaching influence on America being pulled into the First World War. The pervading feeling I have reading this book is sadness at both the unnecessary loss of innocent lives, especially those of so many children. The feeling of sadness is followed closely by anger at those responsible for those deaths.

First, you have Germany and its decision to stop caring about civilian deaths. They gave permission to their U boats to destroy ships at will, regardless of whether they were being used for military purposes or were transporting passengers. Specially, U20 captain Schwieger, despite having the reputation of a nice, affable person to her fellow sailors, showed no compassion or remorse in killing innocent men, women, and children. You know what happens when you explode and sink boats? People die. I don't care if his "fiancée" says he came back a changed man, full of despair at how the Lusitania was destroyed, I don't believe it. Actions speak louder than words, and he went on with his role, continuing to sink boats indiscriminately, both British and neutral, both cargo and passenger. I wish no man death, but their is justice in the way he died, exploded in a mine field.

Second, I would agree that there seems to be some conspiracy between Room 40 and Winston Churchill in both deciding not to protect and advise the Lusitania, and then in their insistence that Captain Turner was at fault. Not only did they not send out any ships to help protect the Lusitania (while they sent ships to protect their strongest, safest ship??), but they withheld information that would have kept the Lusitania safer - they could have rerouted them to the newly opened, safer northern route, they could have told them exactly what ships and where had been sunk. They could have sent faster boats to try to save those in the water, but they didn't want to risk their boats, and many ended up dying of hypothermia, especially small and vulnerable children.

I've always had a vaguely positive impression of Winston Churchill, and that is now shattered. That he would know all the facts and still try to blame Turner until the very end is unconscionable and cowardly. People can make mistakes, but they have to admit to them before they can be truly forgiven.  If you're still wondering what the purpose would be in deliberately allowing the Lusitania to be sunk, it's that America had to be drawn into the war on the side of the British, or Germany would have won. They admitted it themselves in 1917 after the Americans joined the war effort.

As for the book itself, I loved the glimpses into the lives of the passengers on board the Lusitania. Larson was able to build such a vivid picture of those aboard that they truly came to life in front of our eyes, which made the loss of so many of them even more heartbreaking. Children wrenched from their parents, husbands from their wives, friends lost from one another forever - every loss was truly felt, every soul truly missed. Even those that survived did not do so unscathed.

In the end, the sinking of the Lusitania was perhaps a bigger tragedy than that of the Titanic. The Titanic was lost due to unfortunate coincidence, negligence in design and foresight, and the cruelty of nature. Much coincidence and bad luck led to the destruction of the Lusitania, but it was ultimately the cutthroat decisions of men that caused the deaths of so many, and helped lead the way to a new era of warfare where there is no mercy, and not even children are safe. And that is a sad day.

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Saturday, August 26, 2017

The Martian

The Martian The Martian by Andy Weir
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A fascinating survival story with a smart, witty main character who doesn't do everything perfectly, but still manages to macguyver his way to surviving and participating in his own rescue. The science is complex but understandable, and more than anything, you can't help but root for Mark.

I love the style the book is written in, with Mark's portion of the story being presented as a diary, and the rest traditionally. It felt like we as readers were really in Mark's head, seeing what he saw and thinking what he thought. It was fun seeing the earth perspective as well, especially when they watched him remotely without communication, trying to interpret his actions. I can only imagine the heartbreak the rest of the Ares 3 crew went through after they first thought they lost Mark, and then knew they had abandoned him to die, even if it was necessary to save everyone else. There's no way all 6 of them would have survived on Mars that long, so it was a small blessing that only one of them was left behind, and that of the 6 of them, it was the botanist, who could figure out how to grow more food, and engineer, who could take things apart and put them back together.

If you've seen and enjoyed the movie, you'll enjoy the book as well. The two felt remarkably similar in tone and pacing, which can be quite rare in book to film adaptations.

I loved this quote at the end, and I'm choosing to believe it, too, just like Mark:

But really, they did it because every human being has a basic instinct to help each other out. I might not seem that way sometimes, but it's true. If a hiker gets lost in the mountains, people will coordinate a search. If a train crashes, people will line up to give blood. If an earthquake levels a city, people all over the world will send emergency supplies. This is so fundamentally human that it's found in every culture without exception. Yes, there are assholes who just don't care, but they're massively outnumbered by the people who do. And because of that, I had billions of people on my side. Pretty cool, eh?

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Saturday, August 19, 2017

Lincoln in the Bardo

Lincoln in the Bardo Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This one was a little strange and kind of hard to follow. I heard the audio book was really good so I requested that version from the library, and while it was nice to have lots of entertaining voices and a great cast, I was very confused at first and it took at least an hour before I could figure out what was actually going on.

The juxtaposition of history versus this supernatural world was really interesting. The set up of the book alternates story narration from the point of view of various ghosts with actual historical quotes from real life sources, talking about Lincoln and the circumstances of Willie's death. It's quite a sad story, and we hear a wide variety of opinion on it, from those sympathetic for the Lincolns in their loss, to those who condemned and blamed Lincoln and his wife, both for allowing Willie to "run wild" in the cold and for having a party when Willie was so sick. Some of the eyewitness reports also refer to Lincoln's grief-fueled visits to the graveyard, so that also appears to be based on historic fact..

The ghost world is fascinating, but still holds a lot of ambiguity and uncertainty. I don't know that I realized that they were ghosts at first, which is part of the confusion. Once I figured that out and could follow what was going on, the world was really interesting: the ghosts didn't always appear the same way, they only had vague memories of their former lives, they even denied that they were dead, calling themselves "sick" instead. I'm not sure how much they really know about the dead versus not-dead situation - I think it might have actually been a very strong case of denial

The Reverend's story of going to sit before some sort of God-figure and have his actions weighed was an interesting scenario. In many was, this whole book is about what happens after you die and one of the traditional ideas is this weighing of scales and judgment to see if you were a good enough person to go to a glorious heaven, or if you didn't and you have to go to hell. We hear later on that some of people that went to hell are those ones you see mummifying the children in the ghost world. My guess is that when you decide to move on from the ghost world and are zapped out of the graveyard (and out of your clothes), you go to the judgement place, and then either to heaven or hell from there.

The big rescue sequence was really exciting and I was happy for the Reverend that he had that moment - maybe that tipped the scales in his favor this time.

I don't know what it is about children not being able to stay in the ghost world. I never really figured that out, and I don't know that they did either. They tell the demons that it doesn't seem fair, and the demons basically reply that nothing is fair. But I agree, it doesn't seem fair that if a child doesn't move on right away, they are somehow trapped in a cocoon-like shell for all eternity. There was something else that happened to them eventually, too - whatever was going on with that girl where she was continuously changing forms. I'm still not sure what that was all about, as it didn't make sense to me at all. It seemed like the adults had abandoned her to that state our of fear and hopelessness, but I feel like at the end they sort of rescued her from that, maybe. Maybe not. It's one of those things that maybe reading the book instead of listening to it would make more clear.

When Mr. Bevins and Mr. Vollman shared space with Lincoln and thus with one another, I loved that they could *feel* each other after that, and could really see each other's true selves. I loved the whole concept of sitting inside a person and knowing what they were thinking and feeling. Also, I really enjoyed whatever was happening when they finally all saw one another how they truly had been, not as they had existed as ghosts for the many years in the ghost realm. Mr. Vollman had his clothes back (no more bouncing member, thankfully), Mr Bevins had the proper number of eyes/mouths/ears, the Reverend's face had resumed a more natural expression, etc.

The most touching moments involved not only Lincoln's grief over the loss of his son, but alsoWillie's grief for losing his father and family. Willie suddeningly realizes he's by himself, and he can't go back - there's no way to. But Willie also finds some the joy in the end, when he tells everyone, "We're dead! My dad says we're dead and he doesn't lie to me, and that means I can go somewhere better, and you all should come with me!"

This is definitely one I think I'm going to need to re-read, physically next time, because there was just a lot that I was confused on and it was hard to keep track of who was talking. For a long time, the character that's voiced by David Sedaris, Mr. Bevins, I thought was a woman, and so I  was confused as to why his lover said they can't be together because he needs to do the right thing. It wasn't until later that I was like, "oh, he's a man! Got it!" I enjoyed the story, and I enjoyed the premise and the world that was built, and I appreciate all the different voices, but I think it would be better to read it first. Maybe it would be less confusing then, and then if you enjoy the book itself, listen to the audio book.

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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Fun Science: A Guide to Life, the Universe and Why Science Is So Awesome

Fun Science: A Guide to Life, the Universe and Why Science Is So Awesome Fun Science: A Guide to Life, the Universe and Why Science Is So Awesome by Charlie McDonnell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A fantastic overview of science that explains some difficult concepts while still remaining accessible and entertaining. For someone like me, who hasn't particularly studied anything science-related since high school (don't ask how long ago that was), this book was both a great refresher on things I once learned and a fountain of new, fun facts, many of which I plan to commit to memory so I can spout them at parties like small talk. That's how small talk works, right?

All joking aside, scientific topics can feel hugely daunting to those like me who might have a hard time wrapping my brain around string theory and partial physicals. This book distills down those topics and more, and Charlie does a great job both delivering the facts and also sandwiching those facts in wonderful puns and interesting stories.

I've always loved space, and I particularly enjoyed the sections on the stars and planets. I feel like the solar system and everything contained in it is a topic I've previously learned very little about, other than the obligatory memorize-the-planet-names task and the oops-just-kidding-Pluto fiasco. There is so much more to learn, and now I'm thinking I need to find a good book just on Astronomy, though maybe Charlie should just write one and save me the trouble of looking.

I would be remiss if I didn't express my love for both the design and illustrations of this book, which make up a huge part of why it's so entertaining and engaging to read. The changes in font size, type, and color help definite each topic and idea and help to smooth the reading and information-absorption process. With such great design, it would be easy to pass over Charlie's clever writing as "just another science book." The illustrations are so wonderfully whimsical and lighthearted, I couldn't wait to turn each page and see what popped up next. This is the kind of art I want to blow up and put on my wall - not only is it informative, but it just makes me very happy. So congrats and thank you to Dave Brown for his wonderful design work, and to Fran Meneses for her fantastic illustrations.

And thank you to Charlie for writing such a well-informed and accessible book about science, and one I would be happy to pass on to everyone know, adult and child alike. (Those jokes go straight over kids' heads anyways, right?)

PS. My new favorite fact: WE ARE ALL MADE OF STAR STUFF.

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Monday, August 7, 2017

A Court of Wings and Ruin

A Court of Wings and Ruin A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Such a fun story! I think I like the second book better (because I loved that one so much), but this one was wildly entertaining. My favorite part is learning more about each character and seeing how they develop.

The first quarter/third of this book can be difficult to read - Feyre is in essence undercover in the Spring Court, trying to undermine Tamlin's influence with his people and find out as much as he can about Hybern's plans. It was satisfying to see her wield her power, especially against the Hybern generals and Ianthe. Feyre changing Ianthe's summer ritual for her own purposes was masterful, and SO delightful to read! And her final fight again the Hybern generals was so amazing, I wanted to cheer out loud! From the perspective of reading the whole book, though, I can see how things she did undermined how Spring was able to operate in the future. Even though I can't necessarily forgive Tamlin for the way he treated Feyre, I was relieved to see he still had her back when it mattered, no matter how much it pained him to see her with Rhys.

I was shocked to find out that Jurian was playing spy! I'll admit that his motives for joining Hybern always seemed suspect - would "going crazy" being trapped in a ring truly turn him completely from his previous motives? Yes, he was going crazy obsessive at the end of his life, but would it totally change his personality? I get why he is a little hurt that Mor and the others didnt question his allegiance after all they'd been through. Hopefully he will be able to do good with Vaasa in the future.

I am SO glad Ianthe is dead and gone. What a reprehensible person, with no redeeming qualities as far as I can tell. Her ending was as perfect as if Feyre had planned it. Good riddance.

I loved getting to know so many of the other High Lords. I already liked Tarquin, so it was great to see him reconcile with Feyre and Rhys. (Also Amren + Varian = RAWR.) It was awesome to see the rest of the Lords in more detail as well -- Helion (omg that info about Lucien!!!!), Kallias and his wife Viviana, Thesan of the Dawn Court and the Peregryn soldiers, even Beron and Eris of the Autumn Court. Autumn court makes a little more sense now that Lucien's parentage is in question - his father hates his because he's not his real father, his oldest brother never tried to kill him because he knows he's not a risk.

As for the changes and develops we see in Feyre's night court family, there are a few striking developments. For one, Amren came back from her assault on Hybern and the cauldron as fully Hugh Fae, not whatever she used to be. First of all, I'm so relieved she's back, as I love her. Even when she was confusing Feyre at the cauldron, I KNEW she couldn't be betraying them. I'm super interested in seeing how Amren adjusts to life with so much less (or maybe just different) power. Second, we finally learn why Mor had kept Azriel at arm's length all these years. I totally support her right to keep her own secrets, and understand the fear she has to tell even her closest friends about her true nature. Interestingly enough, though, as much as Azriel has loved Mor for centuries, I feel like maybe he's starting to feel something for Elain as well. That in itself might lead to an interesting love triangle, and an in-depth discussion of love vs the mating bond. At the end of the book, we can see Elain extending a hand to Lucien, and perhaps start opening herself up to a relationship with him, her mate. But she and Azriel seem to have also some sort of mutual connection, and they've made a big deal about the fact that a mating bond does not give a male exclusive rights to a female. Elain still has the right to choose whom she loves and wants to be with. Obviously the discussion of the nature of mating relationships is relevant to the beginning of Feyre and Rhys' relationship, but I can't believe they talked about it so much if the issue wasn't going to come up again.

Moving onto the Feyre's sisters, even though they started off on a rough footing after they were made into Fae, I love how much their relationships with each other grew and developed over the course of the book. Nesta and Feyre especially had a lot of past history to overcome, and seeing them communicate and move past that issues was so heartwarming. Their turning point seemed to come after Feyre returned from saving Elain, and Nesta rushed to hug Feyre first and thank her. And then, when they were sleeping in the tent together, as they did as children, I was really touched, and wanted to just hug them all.

That final battle was EPIC. You have all the ancient gods that Feyre and Rhys brought out, The Bone Carver and Bryaxis and Stryga, who were just a huge surprise to everyone else and battled so amazingly. I was surprised to be quite sad when the cauldron took out the Bone Carver, even if it's what he actually wanted in the end, and when the King of Hybern took out Stryga, all I could feel was appreciation for all she had done for them.

How amazing was it when Drakon's legion and Vassa's fleet arrived? And then when it turned out that Feyre's father had been rallying troops with Vassa this whole time, I couldn't stop the shivers that went down my spine! I knew he had to have been doing SOMETHING on the continent this whole time, but to be honest, I was afraid he was going to show up on Hybern's side. I love that he named his ships after his daughters, and also that they were able to see each other, even if for a moment, before he was killed. The funeral they gave him was especially touching.

I love that it was Elain and Nesta who ended up taking out the King of Hybern. Nesta finally made good on her promise to kill the king after he changed them into Fae, and it was as majestic as it was gory. It was perfect, though, that it was unsuspected Elain who surprised him and delivered the blow that lead to his death. Dealing with the Cauldron felt almost more difficult than killing the king when you factor in the destruction and rebuilding power that was necessary. I was going to be so mad if Rhys ended up truly dead after all they had been through, so it was a relief that the Lords were willing to give parts of themselves again to help save him, especially Tamlin.

When I first started reading this series, it was partially because I thought it was a trilogy and I would be able to read all the books right away. Now that I've finished the third, I realize that there are more Court of Thorns and Roses books coming, but I'm hoping that they are more along the lines of being within the world of the books rather than an exact continuation of the story. I'm hoping that's Feyre and Rhysand's story is pretty much told, for the most part, and that future books have a different narrator and different focus. There is still a lot to learn about Nesta and Cassian's story, which I realize I hadn't mentioned until now and WHICH I LOVE, FULL CAPS, THEY ARE THE BEST AND I LOVE THEM AND WANT TO SEE MORE OF THEIR STORY. Also of interest is the love story of Lucien and Elain and maybe also Azriel, depending on where the author wants to take that. I feel like we could also follow the story of Vessa and her battle to free herself of her firebird existence, and that might also include Jurian. So there are lots of places to go with this story that wouldn't feel like you are dragging Feyre and Rhys through more pain.

I'm reminded of McCaffrey's Dragon books, where the whole world was interconnected, and you'd see characters pop up in each other's stories as the main character changed from trilogy to trilogy and story to story. I hope this ends up being something like that. But I'll have to wait and see! And wait I will. Until then!

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Friday, August 4, 2017

The Wicked + The Divine, Vol. 5: Imperial Phase I

The Wicked + The Divine, Vol. 5: Imperial Phase I The Wicked + The Divine, Vol. 5: Imperial Phase I by Kieron Gillen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


There's so much going on in this one, I actually had to read it twice. Some of my questions have been answered, but none of them in full.

First of all, the Great Darkness is apparently real, and is these large shadowy beast things that can manifest and steal people. Also, Baal and Ameratsu have know about them for ages, and they are what killed Baal's father. I still don't know why Ananke needed to sacrifice the goods, especially Minerva, to keep the darkness at bay. We get a bit of a flashback to the night everything went down, but still, nothing makes much sense. Ananke seems regretful, but who was she writing that letter to? Baal? And did she know she would die?

Let's talk about Persephone the Destroyer. Ananke seemed to think she needed to die. Her powers don't hurt the darkness creatures, but help it grow. And then you have her systematically destroying her relationships, because she thinks she is bad for them. I liked her with Baal, and I y agree that Minerva was being a little too judgey with her.  It's not fair to expect Persephone to fill Innanna's shoes for anyone, even Baal. And if Baal was with Persephone because she reminded him of Inanna, that's not exactly fair either. I'm sad to see her distance herself from him, as I think he was a good influence on her.  Hooking up with Sakhmet on the regular, whatever was going on with Ameratsu, and then dragging Baphomet into a situation that puts him at odds with the Morrigan, who basically treats Baph like her slave - none of those are particularly sound decisions. I just hope she can figure things out in time to help in the final battle.

Dionysus: Something is majorly up with this guy's energy levels. He never sleeps and it is definitely starting to effect him. Not good!

Wooden: woah, we learn some very interesting family history here. Does knowing Wooden grew up knowing all about the gods because of his dad change anything? Maybe. You could infer that he knows more about the darkness than the others, and about the various history of different reincarnations.

Ameratsu: girl is legit starting an actual cult. Where is she going with this? Definitely seems a little crazy.

Sakhmet: A LOT crazy here. Obviously she's pro-anarchy, but she has an irrational murder streak that we're only seeing the start of. She's paranoid and irrational, and managed to turn an orgy into a bloodbath. Are they going to be able to cover this one up? Or will Baal step up and take out the one who is out of control, like he promised?

The Norn: she is trying to make sense of everything so hard, and it's just not working. Sigh. If she could figure out that machine, it would surely hold some answers, but no luck so far, and it doesn't seem promising.

Once again, I can't wait for the next volume, and am sorely tempted to pick up reading in single issues, even though I know I enjoy that less. I don't know. We shall see.

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Thursday, July 20, 2017

A Study in Charlotte

A Study in Charlotte A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A really fascinating take on the Holmes/Watson story. In the past several years we've seen projects that move these classic characters into our time and cultures, but this is the first I've read where the original Holmes and Watson maintain their own history, while the focus shifts to their descendants, our current Holmes (Charlotte) and Watson (Jamie). I appreciate the change this allows as it provides a richer background for the relationships these families have build over the decades to develop. Sure, not every person is the same as their ancestors, but there are enough similarities that Jamie's dad is able to pass on to him a how-to list on dealing with a Holmes, based on his own friendship with Charlotte's uncle. Of course, there is an added layer to Charlotte and Jamie's relationship that might not have been relevant to other Holmes-Watson pairs throughout history - possible romantic interest certainly changes some things.

Maybe it's my place as a reader, hearing everything from Jamie's perspective, but the most frustrating part of this book is that Charlotte keeps so many secrets. Even when she trusts Jamie fully, she keeps things from him. Regardless of whether it's "for his own good" or he "doesn't need to know," at this point, they are close enough that when he asks her a question, she should tell him the truth. Hopefully that will improve in the next book (though I kind of doubt it, based on what we've seen of Charlotte's character so far).

All in all, this was an enjoyable read with some interesting characters and a twisty plot. I'll definitely continue with the series.

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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

A Court of Mist and Fury

A Court of Mist and FuryA Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Normally I wouldn't try to read a book this long in one day anymore, but I had Memorial Day off, and had spent the previous 2 days doing outdoors active stuff with my family, so I allowed myself a full day of lounging around and reading, a real luxury. And then, how could I just stop reading and go to sleep at a reasonable hour when I'm already at 75% and I NEED TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS NEXT? That alone is generally a good sign that I am liking a book.

I already had a soft spot for Rhysand - I could tell based on the way he helped Feyre in the first book that he wasn't as needlessly cruel as he pretended to be. I was delighted in this book that we really get to know who is his beyond the facade he presents to the world, especially when we get insider peeks into what he's really thinking, either through seeing scenes unfold in his memory, or through him basically rebelling the first book from his perspective. I'll admit, I got a little swoony when he finally told Feyre the whole truth, how he started having dreams of her years ago, ones that kept him sane Under the Mountain, and how he knew they were mated but kept his distance when they finally met, both to keep her safe and to honor the love she felt for Tamsin, and how to tortured him to see her slowly losing weight and becoming more and more withdrawn, but he still kept his distance until he heard her ask for rescue at the wedding.

I appreciated how the love story or triangle or whatever you want to call it transitioned from Tamsin to Rhysand. It felt real, and the reasoning behind Feyre's actions and emotions made so much sense, especially when you throw in the wildcard of being magically mated to someone. I liked that being in love and being someone's Mate weren't assumed to be the same thing, or mutually exclusive. Rhys's story about his parents' mating and marriage was an interesting case study - they mated but we're ultimately incompatible and fell out of love - and I loved that Rhys was willing to give up a future with Feyre, even though she was his Mate, if she was in love and happy with Tamsin.

People change overtime, and sometimes the person who is right for you at one stage of life is not the person who is right for at another. That doesn't give you free reign to bail whenever things get difficult, but there is room to say, "I loved you once, but I have been through this traumatic event and you don't even see who I am anymore." It reminds me of someone in a domestic violence situation - their life wasn't always like that, otherwise they never would have been with that person, but somewhere along the line things changed and life became untenable. If someone is hurting you physically or mentally or emotionally, regardless of their intentions, you can't stay with them just because you love them.

This book talks a lot about respect, and allowing people, and women specifically, the right to make their own decisions, regardless of how it makes you feel or what you think is best. Rhys mentions that he doesn't want to be compared to Tamsin, but I don't think he realizes how far ahead he comes out in that comparison. Every step of the way, he watches Feyre but allows her to make her own decisions regarding her safety and life choices, which Tamsin could never do.

Tamsin wasn't an inherently bad person. Feyre would never have fallen for him if he hadn't been kind and caring, especially in the beginning. But somewhere along the way, it became more important for Tamsin to have peace of mind that Feyre was safe back at his house than for Feyre to actually be happy and healthy. He claimed to love her but stopped truly seeing her, leaving her to deal with her own nightmares and issues entirely by herself. Even to the end, Tamsin was convinced he was doing the right thing, that he was "saving" Feyre, when anyone could see that was not the case.

I was glad to see Feyre call Lucien out on not stepping in and helping her when she was clearly miserable and slowly wasting away. He continuously backed Tamsin, even when he was making careless, dangerous moves like making a deal with the King of Hybern, even when Feyre explicitly told him that she was never going back. Lucien claimed to be her friend, but refused to help when she needed it most.

I love the new characters we meet in this book, and the ones we get to know so much better. Mor is lovely and kind and sassy, and it would be interesting to compare her to other Morrigan characters throughout myth, literature, and pop culture. The ones that come first to mind are the Morrigan from the comic the Wicked and the Divine, which is about reincarnated gods and one of my favorite comics ever, and the Morrigan from the TV show Lost Girl, which is about the Fae, both good and bad. I'm super curious to learn more about Amren and what exactly she is under that human shell. Cassias and Azriel remind me of angels, in both the style of their names and their mighty wings.

While I'm sad Ianthe ended up being traitorous and power-hungry, I'm excited to see what happens with Nesta and Elain now that they are both Fae as well. We barely saw them in s book, which seems fitting, but I'm sure they will play a much larger role in book 3. I totally called Elain and Lucien having a connection, and I'm hoping his inherent need to help his Mate will cause Lucien to side with Feyre instead of Tamsin in the coming battle. I'm also really curious to see what Nesta is like as Fae. Cassias already has some sort of connection with her, and I'm looking forward to seeing how that plays out. I'm also skeptical about what Feyre's father has been doing on the continent for so many months. I can't imagine he's completely out of the story.

Perhaps my favorite aspect to this book was seeing Feyre grow, not only learning how to use her new powers, but also training physically and slowly healing her heart. It takes time, because she has to not only admit what has been haunting her - killing of innocents - but learn to accept and love herself again, for doing the best she could under difficult situations and saving the most people she could. Her trip to see the Bone Carver was particularly enlightening, when she admits that she was prepared to kill herself rather than live with what she had done. Part of her recovery was also being able to share in Rhys's recovery - knowing you're not alone can lift a huge weight off your mind, especially when you can talk through what haunts you with one other. Tamsin and Feyre had been aware of each other's nightmares, but they pretended them never existed, basically ignoring them and hoping they'd go away. With Rhys, he would hold her hair and comfort her while she threw up, and try to distract her so she could slept, and in return, Feyre wake Rhys from his own nightmares and was a comfort to him as well.

The action scenes, as I like to call them, were fast-paced and riveting. It seems the best way Feyre learned to use her powers was to be thrown into a situation where she needed them - escaping from the Weaver (YUUUUUCK), tracking Rhys and winnowing to rescue him from torture and certain death, the battle in Velaris where she conjures the water wolves and turns the attacking army into ice, even the underwater theft of the first half of the book. When given the chance, Feyre proved time and again that she had a lot of power and ingenuity, and wasn't to be messed with.

Also, I just have to say, I'm SO happy and relieved that it wasn't the mating bond that was broken by the King, but just the more superficial deal bond. AND how amazing that Feyre was officially made High Lady of the Night Court?! I can't wait to see what impact that has on events in the third book.

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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

A Court of Thorns and Roses

A Court of Thorns and Roses A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This series has been super popular in my Facebook circles, and since the 3rd one just came out, I figured it's safe to pick up the series now that I won't have to wait eons between books. :)

For the most part, I really liked this book. I didn't realize it was a play on the Beauty and the Beast story until Feyre got to Tamlin's castle. I appreciated how it used the traditional story as a loose guide without feeling the need to stick completely to the story. Twisting the elements of magic and the curse so that everyone in the castle are faeries who have been cursed by another fae was really interesting, as was the reasoning behind the curse - that Amarantha cursed Tamlin not just to gain his power for her own and control him, but because she wanted him and and hated that he didn't love her and refused her. The curse itself was particularly twisted, and the fact that Feyre hit all the particulars to fulfill the curse was both fate and convenient for plot reasons. :)

The trials that Feyre had to go through under the mountain were all really fascinating. I love how many contributors there were to helping her succeed. The first task, hunting the giant worm monster, was a success mostly because of her own ingenuity and hunting skills, but it was a timely warning from Lucien that was the tipping point in that task. After the task, Feyre would have died without the assistance of Rhysand - no matter what Lucien says, that he would have come to help her, he was in so much pain he wouldn't have arrived in time. During the second task, it's Rhysand that basically solves the task for her. For the third task, yes, it cost Feyre her own soul to kill the first two innocents, but I'm not sure she would have been able to stab Tamlin had she not thought back to the advice Alis gave her, and played back the conversations she'd been purposefully let to eavesdrop on that told her Tamlin had a stone heart that couldn't be stabbed. After Feyre solved the riddle and was killed, it was the High Lords of all the Courts who pooled their power and brought her back to life, even if it was no longer as human. I will admit, I figured out that love was the answer to the riddle pretty early on, but I had not caught on to the whole stone-heart thing, so that was a nice surprise.

I really enjoyed all the characters and how their relationships were built. Feyre and Tamlin didn't fall in love at first sight, but were eventually drawn to one another and fell in love. I saw another review that was annoyed and called it "instalove," but that really didn't feel like the case to me here. They spent months together building that connection, and you can tell that when Feyre first arrives at the castle that she is truly terrified of Tamlin. Feyre's relationships with the other fae also built strength over time. Lucien hated and resented Feyre at one point, but eventually felt kinship and loyalty to her. Rhysand saw Feyre as merely an interesting pawn in his battle to regain his own life, but eventually was helping and saving her, even when it wasn't to his benefit. To be honest, I think he also fell in love with her. Maybe it's a trope, but there's something about Feyre's brokenness and loneliness that, combined with her probable beauty, really attracts these other broken, lonely people to her side. Someone that's never had to fight just to survive likely wouldn't have much in common with guys like Tamlin and Rhysand, and part of what they see in her is themselves, reflected. And although Tamlin and Feyre clearly love one another and are dedicated to each other, I could see a future where there is a bit of a love triangle, especially since Feyre will be spending 25% of her time with Rhysand in the Night Court. I can't imagine her betraying Tamlin, but I can see how she could start to really care for Rhysand, which could potentially cause drama in her other relationships.

We don't see much of Feyre's relationship with her family throughout the book, but I do appreciate the development we do get to see. Their connection at the start of the book seems to be purely superficial, and owed in large part to the vow Feyre made to their mother on her deathbed. After returning from the Spring Court, however, we really see those relationships blossom as she spends more time with each of her sisters. Elain has such a kind heart that she is easy to love and a joy to spend time around. The connection I was most touched to see, though, was Feyre's with Nesta. It's easy early on to write Nesta off as an uncaring, spoiled, proud woman, but she really is a complex person, so it was nice to see the two sisters to connect and finally be honest with one another. I love that Nesta was the only person the glamour didn't work on, and especially that she actually tried to go north to find and save Feyre. Nesta will be a good protecter for their family, but I'm kind of hoping that instead of taking the family south to safety on the continent, she sticks around so we get to see a bit more of her.

Not knowing much of the trilogy as a whole, I was kind of hoping each book in the trilogy would be about a different sister. Now that I've finished the first book and read the back-of-book blurb about the second, I see that isn't the case, but I hope we do get to see more of the sisters in the future. Maybe it's the matchmaker in me, but I could totally see Elain and Lucien together and Rhysand and Nesta together. :) I guess we shall see! It looks like the next book will have more relationship stuff and more conflict with the King of Hybern, now that Amarantha is gone, as well as Feyre dealing with the emotional (and possible other) consequences of killing innocent people, even if it was for "the greater good."

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Sunday, April 30, 2017

Emerald Green

Emerald Green Emerald Green by Kerstin Gier
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I'm so relieved we finally have answers! Though I must admit some of the weavey-windey time travel stuff still doesn't make much sense to me. I shall chose to suspend my disbelief because in general, I really enjoyed this series, even if it should have been one big book. ;)

So what are my final thoughts?

I still feel like the relationship between Gideon and Gwen should have been given more time to develop. Considering how deep their connection ended up being, it would have made more sense if more time had elapse during Gwen's training. As the characters specifically mentioned several times, it didn't really matter how long it took in the future for them to go back because they could go back at any time TO any time. I really would have believed in their love more had it been given more time to grow instead of simply being "love at first sight."

If I'm reading the time travel/secret elixir shenanigans correctly, this is how things went down for Gideon on that last "day": Gideon travels from 2011 to 1786 with Gwen to drop her off and be threatened, and then back to 2011. Gideon then travels to 1912 to get Lucy and Paul's blood for the Guardians' chronograph, and while there, he drinks the elixir that he and Gwen produced when they closed their family's chronograph, and then he heads back to 2011. While in 2011, they put Lucy and Paul's blood in the Guardian chronograph, and Gideon travels back to 1786 to deliver the elixir to the Count. After Gideon leaves 2011, "Mr. Whitman" attacks the Guardians and locks most of them in the chronograph room to await Gideon's arrival back in 2011. What I don't get is, if the prophecy says that the person who was immortal stops being immortal when Gwen was born, why is Gideon still immortal? Is it because he went back in time from a time after Gwen was born and then took the elixir? And now his immortality will be unending because there's no more Ruby to be born to end it? I get that the point was for Gwen to have an immortal companion for the rest of her life, but how we got there could have been cleaned up a bit. Oh well.

I loved the bit in the epilogue where Lucy and Paul's new last name is Barnard! Does that mean it's their descendant who becomes the Montrose butler?? No wonder he knows so much and is so devoted to the family! I hope Gwen and family find that out so they can spend more time together.

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Thursday, April 27, 2017

Sapphire Blue

Sapphire Blue Sapphire Blue by Kerstin Gier
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


If you haven't read book 1 in this trilogy, or even my review of book 1, I would highly recommend you stop reading here and check out Ruby Red. :)

I've said it once, and I'll said it again, and again, and again. This really should have been one big book. We've reached the end on the second book and it still doesn't really have any sort of separate, defined plot. That's often the problem with middle books in trilogies, but it seems especially pointed here. I'll leave it at that for now, as I really am enjoying this book series for the most part.

So, where are we now? Gwyneth, as the Ruby and the last Traveller, has the power of the Raven, which is most likely her ability to see ghosts of both people and demons. There are still only a few people that know she has this power, and even fewer who believe she's telling the truth. I'm not sure where Gideon falls on that scale, because when Gwyn was telling him about it, he was a little distracted, both by her being drunk and by wanting to kiss her. But her friend Lesley and Mr. George definitely know and believe her, and there's a possibility that the Count knows as well, though I can't figure anything out about the count and his intentions, really.

It's still unclear who is on who's side in this whole mess. I think the dividing line is going to come down to who cares more about Gwyneth's life than closing the circle and fulfilling whatever prophecy has been foretold, because I'm pretty sure the part that's been redacted by the Count and the reason why Lucy and Paul rebelled and ran away is that Gwyneth has to die to close the circle. I'm not sure why they would need more of her blood than the others', but that's the impression I've gotten.

It also seems important to the Count that Gwyneth be separated from Gideon, and I'm guessing it's because he wants to keep her closer to his side, and maybe that he didn't expect Gideon to actually fall in love with Gwyn. I'm pretty sure the Count gave Gideon instructions to make the Ruby, whether that be Charlotte or Gwyn, fall in love with him, because in his mind, a woman in love is controllable. The tables turned, though, when the Count realized that Gideon actually did love Gwyn, and that shifts the power towards Gwyneth and those who will want to save her (Paul, Lucy, Lady Tilney, probably others). I feel really bad for Gwyn because no one likes to be deceived, but you have to admit, she is very emotional, and she doesn't trust people easily (or at all, really).

Forgive my disbelief, but Gwyn and Gideon have known each other for maybe a week now. I have a hard time believing that they really are "in love" in a meaningful, forever type of way. That appears to be the path they are headed down, but speeding up the process just makes it feel less real and likely. As deeply as Gwyn claims to feel for Gideon, you'd think she'd give him a little benefit of the doubt. Only asking him a yes or no question isn't very fair, because it doesn't tell the whole story. Even if he went into meeting her with the task of making her fall in love with him doesn't mean everything he has said and done has been a lie, carefully constructed to win her over. Yes, it's hard to figure out who to trust, especially when your hormones and emotions are flying every which way, and people are hiding things from you at every turn, but in the end, you need to trust your gut, follow your instincts, and ignore what the creepy old guy is telling you.

My favorite part of this book has been Xemerius, the gargoyle-shaped demon-ghost who has quickly become Gwyneth's (and my!) best friend. He's so helpful and adorable and insightful, and he's become a great sounding board for Gwyn as she tries to figure out what the heck is going on. I just wish he could travel through time with her, because most of the danger to Gwyn seems to lie in the past, when she's visiting the Count & friends.

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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Be With You

Be With You Be With You by Takuji Ichikawa
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


A gentle, thoughtful story that explores love and loss.

This book did NOT end the way I expected! I figured that ghost-Mio was probably not a shared hallucination, but I've read enough magical realism to immerse myself in the idea that ghost-Mio was able to come back for a short time to help Takkun and Yuji move on and regain some semblance of normal life again. Yuji was able to let go of some of his pain over feeling responsible for his mother's death, and Takkun was able to fall in love with his wife one more time, even while knowing she had to leave again.

And then! We find out that actually Ghost-Mio had come from the past and was Timetravelling-Mio! Love how open she was while getting to know Takkun and her son again, even though she had no memories of them. You could see how much she was falling in love with them and their life, and wanted Takkun to look at her and see HER, the woman returned (or so they thought), and not the memory of his dead wife. I think by the end of their 6 weeks, he really did see her for who she really was.

I really loved her letter, and how in the end, it wasn't just loving him that determined her fate, even though she did love him deeply, but it was also her choice. She chose to enter that life and bring Yuji in the world and everything that came with it, even knowing she would die, because she'd rather be with them than live longer. And that is what they mean by true love. I could read Mio's letter over and over again, it really is that special. It alone earned one of the stars I give this book.

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Saturday, April 22, 2017

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Vol. 1: Squirrel Power

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Vol. 1: Squirrel Power The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Vol. 1: Squirrel Power by Ryan North
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love Squirrel Girl so much! She's funny and sassy and kind and smart and super strong and TALKS TO SQUIRRELS. What's not to love? The fact that this book is written by Ryan North is just perfect - I've loved so many of the things he's done, and I love the voice he's given to Doreen/SG. Erika Henderson's art is perfect - it really feels like a classic comic, almost Archie-style, but full of depth. Also, I love that Squirrel Girl isn't a perfectly formed bombshell, she actually looks like a normal girl - with a tail, of course.

I've loved all of Doreen's adventures so far - heading off to school, trying to make friends and fit in, her obsession with her villain collector cards. I love how she defeats and subverts villains in unexpected ways, prioritizing friendship and a happy future for all over actually kicking butts.

All in all, if you're wondering if you should read this comic, then YES. The answer is YES.

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Saturday, April 15, 2017

Ruby Red

Ruby Red Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This one moved quickly, and I wasn't ready for it to end! And that's mostly because it DIDN'T end. It just stopped, mid adventure. This is the type of trilogy that should really just be one really long book, because even if it's a series, each book needs to have some sort of narrative arc in and of itself. As it stands, this first book just ends, with no real conclusion for any of the many plot lines or mysteries. I would roll right into the next book of the series, but I have to wait for my hold request to go through at the library. This lack of conclusion itself is one of the reasons why this book is getting 4 stars instead of 5, because I'm rather enjoying the storyline and characters for the most part.

Time travel can become very sticky, especially when multiple people can travel through time, and you never know where people have been and who they've already talked to and how they've influenced the timeline. It can be really hard to keep straight, even as an outside observer, so I can only imagine how hard to is for the characters to wrap their minds around and keep track of.

This book actually reminds me a lot of the Chronos series that begins with Timebound - a girl has the ability to time travel through her genetics, and must use it to save the world/reveal some sort of unknown secret power, and she doesn't know who she can trust, even those in her own family tree. At least that series seemed to have a clear goal: stop the dude from taking over the world and changing the course of history bit by bit. This one, not only can't I figure out who the bad guys are and who the good guys are, I can't figure out what anyone's goals are. What is going to happen when the chrono-thing is complete? Do they even know? Why do some want to stop it? Why would it be bad if the count knows about Gwenyth's abilities? Is that the Power of the Raven?

The only thing I'm a little disappointed by is that the relationships don't feel very developed yet. Plus, it added to the confusion at the end of the book, because I turned the virtual page to see what would happen next, because surely that wasn't the end, to discover the epilogue. Uh, what? I had to go back to make sure I hadn't missed anything. I'm hoping in the next book we get a little more insight into their relationship, more than just "you're different from other girls. You don't do what I say. It's so fascinating."

I also am really looking forward to learning more about Gwen's powers. Seeing ghosts and gargoyles is pretty cool and unique, and I wonder what it means, in the grand scheme of things. I'm especially looking forward to ghost James teaching Gwen all about the past, and maybe she can even meet him while he's still alive sometime! There's other interesting characters, too, like the best friend and the teacher. I'm curious about them, but hopefully the development of the main relationships won't be sacrificed for their sake.

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Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Stone Heart

The Stone Heart The Stone Heart by Faith Erin Hicks
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


At this point, Rat and Kai's friendship is well-established (I ship it!), so this book mainly shows them growing closer and opening up more and more. Rather than focusing on Rat and Kai, we dive more into the parent-child relationships in the book.

We have Kai, who grew up with a strong mom and an absent father. I appreciate that Kai finally told Andren how he felt about his abandonment, that even if Andren told himself he was doing it for Kai's good, the result was the same: Kai had no relationship with his dad until he arrived at the city, and he hasn't yet earned the right to be respected as his father. I always wondering how Kai's parents came together, and why they lived so far apart. Theirs is definitely a sad story.

Rat's parents seemed very loving, and it's unfortunate that she lost them so young. I wonder who she would have grown into without that event shaking her life.

The saddest relationship was that between Erzi and his father the General. I knew Erzi was unhappy, entitled, whiny, and angry about "losing his birthright," whatever the heck that means, but (view spoiler)

I'm still trying to figure out Mura. I kind of liked her in the first book, but now that we're seeing behind the curtain into her twisted past, she is definitely a sneaky snake. She clearly has resentment towards the monks for kicking her out as a kid (I'm guessing what she'd tried to steal was that book?), and feels some sort of loyalty/devotion/love for Erzi, who saved her from the streets. I can't tell if Mura is manipulating Erzi or the other way around. Either way, sometimes she has a seriously crazy look in her eyes.

At this point, all we can do is hope that Andren and Kai's plans succeed.

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Saturday, April 8, 2017

The Girl with All the Gifts

The Girl with All the Gifts The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I really enjoyed this one - it was a great mix of action, adventure, mystery, and thoughtfulness. It's obvious to us as readers pretty much from the start what Melanie is, and it's fascinating that it takes her so long to recognize it herself. Maybe it's because, although she's extremely smart, she only knows what she's been taught. She's been told for years that she's a little girl, and so she believes that. She knows what a hungry is intellectually, but doesn't really she IS one until she truly feels the hunger. Once she realizes the danger she poses, she is the first one to suggest extra precautions to protect against her.

I love her relationship with Helen Justinbeau. It wasn't her intelligence that won Helen over, it was her obvious love and clear emotions. Those 2 were so devoted to each other, and I loved how they protected and helped one another.

Parks was an interesting guy - in many ways, he was just doing what he was taught, trying to keep as many people safe as he could. As he spent more time in proximity with Melanie, he was slowly won over by both her humanity and her obvious intelligence, and started to trust her more and more.

Dr. Cauldwell was so frustrating. On the one hand, her research was vital to figuring out how the hungry disease was spread and what the next step was. Without her findings, Melanie wouldn't have known what to do to help reboot the world, so to speak. To Dr. Cauldwell, the cost was worth it. But is the cost ever worth it when innocents are experimented on and killed in the name of progress, in the name of science? It sounds a lot like what the Nazi doctors did in WW2, what early researchers did across the world while conducting illegal research on uninformed and thus non-consenting human subjects.

I did appreciate how much the science made sense, the reasoning behind how and why Melanie and the other kids were different from the normal Hungries. I feel a little bad for the life Miss J will be leading from now on, but I think she will probably look on it as penance for the wrongs she committed, and as more and more hungry kids start awakening emotionally, she'll start to love them as much as she loves Melanie. Hopefully that's enough.

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Monday, April 3, 2017

The Nameless City

The Nameless City The Nameless City by Faith Erin Hicks
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm so not shocked that I loved this - I have been enjoying Faith Erin Hick's work for years now. I picked this one up at comic con last year, but 2016 was quite the reading lull for me, so I hadn't read it yet. Luckily, book 2 comes out tomorrow, so I decided to finally read this one tonight.

I love how Kaidu and Rat's friendship develops. She is quite wary of him at first, but Kai's persistence and consistent friendship not only brings her to eventually trust him, but also to rethink the way she looks at Daos as a whole people. Kai gains not just a friend in Rat, but a really awesome and amazing friend. From Rat, Kai learns to be bold, work hard, and question what's going on around you.

This is such a fascinating look at the different way culture groups interact with one another. The Nameless City has a million names, yet no name at all. To the Dao, the Named city-dwellers are Skral, Not-Dao, not a person. To the Named, the Dao are conquerors, oppressors, murderers, thieves, invaders. Some of the Named hope to merely drive the Dao out, but who will fill that void? Kai's father, Andren, hopes to establish a council where all the surrounding countries and the Named run the city together. While it seems quite idealistic (and therefore far-fetched), the General seems convinced to at least hear him out, and we can thank Rat and Kai for that. (view spoiler)

The character who confuses me the most at this point is the General's son, Erzi. He clearly is not prejudiced against non-Daos - His bodyguard Mura is not of the Dao, and not only does he trust her with his life, he knows she the best fighter and that is right to defend her. Yet he is adamant that their army needs to be stronger to protect their hold over the city, and seems absolutely shocked and dismayed when his father says he'd like to meet with representatives from the city.

Just to briefly mention the art - I LOVE Faith's style, so it's not a shock that I love the art in this book. It's so lush and details and sweeping. The colors by Jordie Bellaire are just perfect, setting the tone in every scene, from the dusky early morning runs to the richly warm festival.

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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Paper Girls, Vol. 1

Paper Girls, Vol. 1 Paper Girls, Vol. 1 by Brian K. Vaughan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Such a great first book! I love the art and colors, and the story so far is twisty and intriguing. It appears to be time-travel related, but I still have so many questions!

I'm curious what the "Grand Father" means by generational conflict. There appear to be two sides, an older more established group (with flying monsters and machines that make you relive your life) and a teenage scavenger renegade group.

I'm still not sure what happened in the girls' town that caused the old-timers to zap up all the inhabitants and put them in stasis pods. Also, what is this "Calamity" the boys spoke of?

I liked the explanation of time travel, but I wonder what happened with the exploding space ship - how did it happen to send the girls (just 3 of them?) to a different time? And what does that mean? What does it mean that future Erin is there?

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Monday, March 20, 2017

Bitch Planet, Vol. 1: Extraordinary Machine

Bitch Planet, Vol. 1: Extraordinary Machine Bitch Planet, Vol. 1: Extraordinary Machine by Kelly Sue DeConnick
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Definitely a book for our times. Yes, this is an extreme view of our possible future, but when our supposed president degrades and abuses women with no consequences, and women rise in reaction to those abuses, it's not hard to see it getting to this point.

I'm ending this book being just very sad. I can't believe Meiko is dead. There was a tiny glimmer of hope, and it just feels so unfair that these smart, courageous women keep getting slapped down and taken out, though I can't believe I am still shocked by that at this point. Nothing is fair in this world.

Obviously Kam's main goal is finding her sister. That seems to be her main motivation on going to BP. But what is she willing to put up with in order to reach that goal? What more is she willing to risk? I can imagine that Meiko's death will be devastating to her - will she continue to push on with her Megaton team? At what cost?

I loved getting to know more about Penny Rolle. Despite her rough childhood, she great into an amazingly confident woman. I loved the part where they showed her an image of her ideal self, and she wasn't changed at all. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it. And I ain't broke." If only we could all be so confident in ourselves!

The most frustrating people in this society are the women who just go along with their own marginalization. The teacher at Penny's school who continually punished her and insisted on calling her grandmother Mrs. Chester Alexander. The girls in Penny's shop who eat 15 calories at a time and measure their defecation. The young new wife in issue 1 who doesn't care that her predecessor was murdered to make room for her. And worst of all, Miss Whitney. Who actively instigates and organizes the death and humiliation of thousands of women. I truly don't understand her motivation.

Looking to the future, I'm also afraid to hope. I want Kam to keep fighting back, but who is going to be killed next? I'm curious to know who the Fathers are and how they got so much power (and why do they keep it). Will Kam find her sister? What will Meiko's father think when he arrives? Will they tell him about her death? So many questions.

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Thursday, January 26, 2017


Juliet Juliet by Anne Fortier
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


A fascinating premise - what if Juliet and Romeo were real people, and those real families involved in the tragedy were truly cursed. And what if the only way to break that curse was for a Juliet and a Romeo in our time to fall in love and fulfill theirs and their ancestors destinies?

I really enjoyed how this book was written, jumping back and forth between the past and present. As I followed along with Guilietta's research, it felt like I was there with her, learning the true story, and falling in love. You can also tell that this book was well-researched, and it made me want to learn more about Siena and it's history. I also loved the author's note at the end when she mentioned all her mom's research. So sweet!

So was there anything I didn't like? This is where we enter the spoiler zone. Probably my least favorite part of this story was the mafia element. I get that there needs to be a villain element to explain the twins' parents' deaths, but we spent so long thinking Luciano was the villain that it seemed like an odd switch at the end to see he had been threatened and coerced all along. It would have been nice if they had at least mentioned the real bad guy (whose name I don't even remember) at some point before he appeared. As is was, I was left with a, "wait what??" when they suddenly showed up at the house.

Also, I couldn't figure out Luciano. Did he really die? Or escape with the jewels? You'd think he'd want to be with his girls, but I guess he was still a wanted man. Plus, did he just really not like Janice? Even though she seemed horrendous at the beginning, she kind of grew on me at the end, and I'm sure she was disappointed when she learned who her real father was, considering how he treated her all her life. Probably my least favorite part of this story was the mafia element. I get that there needs to be a villain element to explain the twins' parents' deaths, but we spent so long thinking Luciano was the villain that it seemed like an odd switch at the end to see he had been threatened and coerced all along. It would have been nice if they had at least mentioned the real bad guy (whose name I don't even remember) at some point before he appeared. As is was, I was left with a, "wait what??" when they suddenly showed up at the house. Also, I couldn't figure out Luciano. Did he really die? Or escape with the jewels? You'd think he'd want to be with his girls, but I guess he was still a wanted man. Plus, did he just really not like Janice? Even though she seemed horrendous at the beginning, she kind of grew on me at the end, and I'm sure she was disappointed when she learned who her real father was, considering how he treated her all her life.

The other issue I had was, did there really have to be so much secrecy? I mean, I get that it makes for a more exciting book, when you don't know who is out to harm you, but if the Alessandro and Eva Marie had been honest with Guillietta when she first showed up, even if it was after they did the DNA test and realized she was telling the truth, she's such a trusting person that she would have helped them and saved everyone a world of trouble.

The other issue I had was, did there really have to be so much secrecy? I mean, I get that it makes for a more exciting book, when you don't know who is out to harm you, but if the Alessandro and Eva Marie had been honest with Guillietta when she first showed up, even if it was after they did the DNA test and realized she was telling the truth, she's such a trusting person that she would have helped them and saved everyone a world of trouble.

Overall, I'm happy to have read this, and am already researching a trip to Siena. :)

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