Review: A Court of Silver Fire by Sarah J Maas

This series is about trauma and found family. It’s not an easy read but it’s also very engrossing read. I do love this series. The first three books focused on Feyre and her journey from human to High Fey. I’m not going to say she is over her trauma but thanks to Rhys and her new family she is in a much better place now then she was. Not something that can be said for her sisters, Nesta and Elain. In particularly, Nesta. This book focuses on Nesta and her trauma over the last few books and beyond. The eldest Archeron family, she was supposed to marry a Prince and continue to help rise the family but when misfortune struck her family she felt helpless and guilty that it was her youngest sister, Feyre that kept them fed. When she and Elain were brought into the Fey’s struggles and turned immortal by the Cauldran, Nesta’s troubles only got worst. She never had the opportunity to deal with the issues of her past life and then she’s thrown into a world strange to her and given more struggles to deal with it.

After the end of the war with Hybern, Feyre let Nesta to her own devices fearing that if she stepped in Nesta would just resent her but when Nesta continues to self destructs she finally can’t let it go on. She orders Nesta to train with Cassian in the morning and work in the library in the afternoon and live in the House of Wind. Nesta and Cassian have had a fiery relationship so it was only a matter of time before things really started to spark between them but this is not the relationship I want to talk about. Throughout the book she meets two other women. Gwyn, a priestess who also works in the library and Emerie, an Illiayrian with her own shop. Together they all train together and bond over their own personal traumas and become their own family. Gwyn and Emerie understand Nesta in a way that Feyre, Rhys and the others can not and she understand them too. It’s such a joy to see three women grow with each other and support each and lift each other up. They can just be themselves with each other as they all work through their own struggles. It’s not that female friendships are missing in this series, Feyre and Mor have a strong relationship but it was never the focal point like Nesta, Gwyn and Emerie are. I like reading strong female friendships and making it up front and center because it doesn’t happen very often. Even in YA novels that are mostly written by women. Friendships are usually secondary to the love line of the story. So yes, more female friendships.

This is such an incredible series because it has so many different elements of fantasy. Yes, it’s not always easy to read all the trauma that the characters have gone through but the characters in the story are well thought out and fleshed out. It’s worth the read for fantasy lovers out there.

Review: Stormbreak by Natalie C. Parker

I will miss this series. Caledonia and crew are special and took me on a quite of adventure. When the series begins the crew’s motto has run and hide and stay away from bullet ships. They are no longer running or hiding. They are striking back in hopes of creating a new world. Despite of all the trials Caledonia and crew continue to inspire others to join them and fight. They do it by giving the people the power of choice. They can stay and help them or they can go back to their life of servitude but for once it’s their choice. They all grow as characters but this is Caledonia’s story. She starts guilt ridden and angry, seeking revenge on Lir and Arik’s Bullet army to killing her family. Her need for vengeance often got her in trouble. Her inability to let it go and to not let her sisters in made her fail over and over again. It wasn’t until she was able to let go of her own wants and needs and let her crew burden some of the responsibility did they succeed. The book doesn’t sugar coat her flaws. It doesn’t gloss over her mistakes and her bad decisions. Her own personal struggles with who she is and the choices she has to make. She knows that to win they have to be as ruthless as their enemy but how do you do that without becoming them. She does it by again letting people choose their own destiny. When the fight is over it doesn’t mean that everything is now perfect or that she can go back to living as she did because life doesn’t work that way. She may have succeeded but now she has to live with everything she did to get there and that’s not easy. Caledonia wasn’t the only one who grew over the three books. Picses was always Caledonia’s second in command. There to help and follow Caledonia’s lead. She was Caledonia’s moral compass when she ever went to far but seemed at the beginning only wanting to follow. Over the series, she found her voice and began to not only challenge Caledonia more but also take more of the lead until she was the one giving orders. It’s great to see.

This books is full of great characters of all spectrums that anyone can see themselves represented. They all brought their own strengths to the crew and made it possible to win the day. From Amina to Hime to Nettle to Tin to Oran to Pine, Sledge and more. I don’t think there was an unlikeable character. Lir, our big bad was a good villain. He did unthinkable things but it wasn’t just for evils sake but born out of years of violence and abuse. It doesn’t excuse his actions but makes sense to the story and motivation. I do hope that someone buys the rights to this series because it would make a great series or movie. I would say TV show then movie because there is just so much into that it would lend itself well to an episodic format. So yes read this series from beginning to end. Especially if you liked Mad Max: Fury Road. You won’t regret it.

A Quick Review: Time’s Convert by Deborah Harkness

This one was fine. It didn’t pack the same punch as the previous books in the series as it didn’t have quite as high of stakes. To be honest I’m not sure if it’s a standalone novel set after the events of the All Souls Trilogy or the beginning of a new series. As a Standalone it’s good. It showed us the aftermath of the last book and what happened to Diana, Matthew and their twins but it mainly focuses on Marcus and Phoebe. They have been separated as Phoebe goes through the transmission from human to Vampire. It gives Marcus time to look back at his life and work through his feelings. We finally get to know how Matthew met Marcus and how he was made to a vampire and more importantly what happened between the two of them in New Orleans. It also interesting to see the process it takes to become a vampire. It doesn’t end with being bitten by a vampire. You have a lot to learn to be a vampire and a lot to give up. It seems to have ended on a happy note. So if it is a standalone it was fine but there is still the issue of Gerbert punishment and other issues with the congregation left open. Matthew hasn’t cured his blood rage yet and one of the twins is a weaver and has a Griffin for a familiar. There are so many left open questions to answer but there really wasn’t a lot of set up to what is to come. Sure there were hints of problems brewing in the congregation and Clairmont-Bishop family. I’m curious as to what is going on in Romania between the warring vampire clans. It feels important because why else mention it? So there has to be more books to come, right? It can’t just end here with Marcus and Phoebe being together as vampires and Diana and Matthew going back to teaching? There just has to be more.

Thoughts on Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness

  1. I like this one better than the first one.
  2. Matthew is still a little too bit possessive for my liking but Diana has also starting to come into her own and is better at standing up for herself.
  3. Of course, Matthew would be a friends and collegues of some of the most important people of the time and of course he would be one of Queen Elizabeth’s favorites.
  4. Gallowglass is a delight and happy that he is still around for the next book.
  5. I loved the little family that they made with Jack and Annie.
  6. Who would I want to meet if I could go back in time?
  7. Diana meeting her dad as an adult was really touching.
  8. The Book of Life is gross. Who would want to make a book like that?
  9. Matthew’s son is going to be an issue.

Quick Review: Dividing Eden and Eden Conquered by Joelle Charbonneau

I believe I bought Dividing Eden because it was on sale and I had read other books by the author and thought why not? I finally got around to reading it thanks to USPS delivery The Tower of Nero to the apartment building across the street. (Yeah, tenant association email chain for the assist) I’m glad that I got around to it because it was a fun read. The premise is that Eden was at war with a neighboring kingdom, the previous royal family still had influence in the kingdom and the power of the wind that kept the power going to the kingdom and the threat to the terrors of the night at bay was failing. Twins, Carys and Andreus were not expected to ascend to the throne thanks to having an older brother but when he and their father, the king die they must compete against each other for the crown. Once inseparable, their loyalty gets out to the test when power is on the line. At least for one. Carys never really wanted to be in power but she is clever. You see, when she and her brother were born the seer made a prediction that one of them is cursed and would be the downfall of the Kingdom. It was assumed that the cursed one was Andreus because he was born sickly. Carys has always stepped in to protect him. When he has one of his episodes, she’ll do something to draw attention away from him so no one will be the wiser. It was her role and she thought it would always be. That was until Andreus met the new Seer, Imogen and his brother was dead and he could be king and out of everyone’s shadow. But who was behind the deaths of their brother and father? Wasn’t the Neighboring Kingdom? The ousted royals? The members of the council? Carys does what she always done and goes out of her way to help and protect her brother. Andreus betrays her the moment he sees he could have everything he ever wanted and a pretty girl. Typical boy believes a woman he wants to sleep with over his sister who has done nothing but protect him his whole life. The end of the first book, we get the resolution of who wins the crown but who is behind it all not so much. It’s much more complicated then that because there a lot of things at play here. All pretty well set up too. I was able to guess some of who was behind but one subplot I didn’t really see coming. All in all it was a good two books. If you are looking for a quick fantasy read with lots of subplots and palace intrigue, this is for you.

Quick Review: The Tower of Nero by Rick Riordan

I know that I’m super behind in my reviews. I’ll try to get them all written before the end of the year. On to this one. The Tower of Nero was a satisfying ending to the series and really to whole Olympian Saga. Pretty much every character got some closure with one notable exception but we will get to that. Apollo the former God, turned human because of the events of Heroes of Olympus but also because he was on the only one who could save the world this time. Apollo had grown so much over the series. He wasn’t just turned human but became human. As a God with immortality and unlimited abilities he often didn’t think about how his actions affected others because there would always be more for him. More people to worship him. During his journey he had to come to terms with all the destruction he caused and the hurt he inflicted and it was painful but doing so he grew up. He understood that everything has consequences and that you can’t just walk away or send a demi-god to do your work for you. Meg also grew up. She was finally strong enough to stand up to her father and abuser but also have the strength to help her siblings begin their healing as well. It was truly a powerful moment when she finally stands up to him and help her family. The one character from the original series that is still working through his grief is Nico. I have a feeling we are being set up for another series following his journey as he grapples with years of grief and depression that he is only know coming to terms with. Poor kid. He was born in Mussolini’s Italy, frozen in time in a weird Vegas time warp. Lost his sister. Was forced out of the closet but a cruel Cupid and now loss of another friend. A lot of has happened to this kid. Anyways, Great series. Great ending. I will miss these characters but at least they are all in a safe place. Rick Riordan has said that he is going to take a break for a while and he deserves one. He’s been releasing about two books a year for over a decade. Whatever he does now I’m sure it will be great. In the meantime, he’s imprint is still publishing great stories. Percy Jackson is getting his own Disney+ series and the Kane Chronicles are being made into a movie for Netflix. I think his fans will be well served in the coming years even if a new book from him isn’t on the horizon.

Review: Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 by Cho Nam-Joo

I write this knowing that I will not able to truly express how I feel about this novel. It is equal parts breathtaking, heartbreaking and infuriating. I was drawn to this book by the title. If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know that Kate and I have an interest in Korea and I was born in 1982. You add the feminist storyline and it had me. Kim Jiyoung quit her job that she liked to be a full time mother and wife. She starts speaking in other women’s voices which not surprisingly concerned her husband so he enlist the help of a male therapist to treat her. The novel plays out out a narrative her life as she explains it to her therapist during their sessions. Through this we see the hardships she endures throughout her life and everything that has led her to today. Like so many women of our generation, Jiyoung was encouraged to follow her dreams and pursue a career that she wanted but also expected to give it all up once marriage and children come into the picture. As the novel progresses and she gets older I could see of how the toll of constantly being undervalued, dismissed and harassed by a misogynistic society has taken on her. There are the all too familiar stories of having expectations of taking care of ones family over yourself. The expectation that her brother should get cherished because he will be the one to bring the family honor and not the sisters. The expectations that women have to do just deal with being harassed and belittled at the work place. That she will always come in second to the wants and needs to the men in her life. Every woman knows how this all feels. Growing up in the US during a time of mostly prosperity, there were things about her childhood I could not identify with but what I could was being told that the boy teasing you/bulling you means that they secretly like you. The assumption that the boys are just smarter and some how more mature and more immature then you too. I remember a specific incident in college getting a grade two points below my fellow male student even though it was a group project and we both did equal amount of the work. At least twice I was passed over for promotions in favor of a less experience male coworker. As a single woman living in New York City. I am constantly aware of my surroundings and cautious of what I say and do when I’m around men. On the occasion I went out with friends, we always make sure to text each other when we get home to check in that we all got home safely. It’s exhausting to be a woman. Admittingly, Kim Jiyoung had it harder then I did. I do admit that I have a certain amount of privilege that has allowed me to live an easier life than most. I have had some sense that Korea is a very patriarchal society based on the amount of Kdramas and Kpop I’ve consumed but how it’s illustrated here makes it feel so oppressive. It seems to be getting better but you can’t change thousands of years of thinking and traditions overnight. Jiyoung is constantly trying to find the balance of sticking up for herself but also not rocking the boat. She sees that what she is being told and taught is unfair but doesn’t what to to say or do about it. When she does stand up for herself it is often her that gets in trouble and not the man in question. Again all too familiar. It really is a wonder that after a lifetime of this abuse and oppression that all women don’t just snap. The sense of dread I began to feel as the narrative came closer and closer to her getting married was just heavy. I wished I could tell her no. Don’t do it. Don’t quit your job. Insist more that your husband give up more of his time once the baby is born. At the end we get to read the therapist diagnosis and like so many good intention men he gets so close to getting to the truth and understanding what she is really going through but in the end fails to comprehend. Mostly because it would mean he would have to start to actually see women as something other then just their wives, mothers, daughters and human beings and to do that he would have to make them people, equal and that is just too hard for too many men. So nothing changes and we all suffer for it.

Review for Midnight Sun by Stephenie Meyer

Oh My. Where do I start? Let’s just get this out of the way. Those who are fans of the books and are willing to look past all the problematic elements of the series will love this. The rest of us, meh. It doesn’t really reveal anything new. It is literally a retelling of Twilight but from Edward’s perspective. So no surprises, no twists or subplots. It’s all the same. Okay not really. We are treated to more scenes with the Cullens and get to see more insight into their family dynamic which I’ll admit is interesting but not enough to say this was worth it. If I’m being honest this was hard for me to get through. 1. All of my feels about rereading Twilight were still fresh and my mind and well yeah that definitely played in how I viewed this book. 2. It didn’t change my opinion on either Edward or Bella if anything just reaffirmed what I already believed about each character. 3. It’s kinda boring. So much that I got as far as the Port Angeles incident to realize I didn’t care about Edward’s thoughts on things. I just didn’t. It was 600 pages of Edward going back and forth of feeling guilty for putting Bella and danger but feeling even more guilty for unable to walk away. Like ugh. I can’t.

Let’s talk about Edward here When we meet Edward he is a bored out of his mind 100+ year old vampire high schooler. Just going through the motions of playing the average teenager to try to blend in with all the humans and try to have a normal life. Like Bella I kind of have dislike to him from the beginning. He has such contempt for his fellow students based on reading their thoughts. He calls them all simple and shallow for worrying and thinking about such mundane things but like they are all teenagers. What are they supposed to think about. He sneers in judgement at all of them for getting so excited about a new student who is starting as it’s the most interesting thing in the world. I remember when a new kid started at school and how we all were all excited to meet someone new. It’s human nature but I guess that’s the point. Edward isn’t human. Of course, we all know what happens next. Edward meets Bella in Biology. She smells so amazing that he immediately wants to kill her and suck all her blood out of her. He contemplates if he could do it before anyone would stop him? How many others he would have to kill? Can he lure her away from the rest of the student body after class? He miraculously makes it through class without killing anyone and immediately runs away to Alaska as to not to risk exposing his family. After a week sulking in Alaska he decides to go back mostly out of out pride. How dare this little girl force him from his home and family? How dare she make him feel weak for running away? Who does she think she is? So he comes back and eavesdrops and everyone else’s thoughts about her because frustratingly he can’t read her thoughts. He’s intrigued by her because she doesn’t do what he expects her to do. For someone who has known everyone thoughts for almost an hundred years, not being able to is an exciting challenge for him and add to that that she doesn’t react to him the way everyone else does. She doesn’t seem scared or wary of him like she should be. She challenges him and his principles. So he does what any normal vampire does. He observes her through others and see that’s she different from the other humans. He thinks she’s kind and shy and incredibly unlucky because he has to save her from Tyler’s truck. Next thing you know, Bella is all Edward can think about. He obsesses over everything about her. Why does she do that and say this? Why is she is so unlucky? Like seriously, she could die at any moment. He must protect her! This includes breaking and entering into her bedroom to watch her sleep. BTW, the mental gymnastics he goes through to justify doing this is pretty impressive if not scary and wrong but I digress. When I say he’s obsessed with her I mean it. I’m not convinced that he is actually in love with Bella. He’s in love with the challenge of her. The enigma of her. Bella is the first interesting thing to happen to him in decades and he is desperate to hold on to it despite the fact he knows that he is wrong for her. He knows that every moment he is with her he puts her in danger either from him and his family or outside forces and instead of walking away like he knows he should but can’t because he’s obsessed. This really isn’t a love story at least from Edward’s perspective.

The good thing about this book is we do get to know more about the Cullen’s like Rosalie. In the original series she is nothing more then just a spoiled pretty girl who doesn’t like Bella because has what Rosalie wants. To be human. To be able to grow old, start a family and have a normal life. Apparently it’s more than that. Rosalie hates Bella at first because she’s vain. She was meant to be Edward’s partner and Edward rejected her and even though she found Emmett the rejection still stings. Which really makes her seem shallow and easy to dismiss when she raises questions about Bella and the risks she presents to their family. She could undo everything that they have built and what happens when she wants Edward to turn her? What happens if she disappears? The rest of the family don’t listen to her because they think she is just being difficult but she’s right. She was absolutely right. When James, Victoria and Laurent come in the area, things would have been fine if Bella hadn’t been there and even before the whole James’ incident Bella is already thinking about becoming a vampire so she can be with Edward forever. Even Alice has seen a possible future of Bella being turned so they all know it could be happy. We need to give Rosalie an apology because she was all right all along. #Rosaliewasright

So yeah it was a ride. I wouldn’t say I would recommend reading it unless you are looking for some nostalgia in your life. It’s not a good book, well not any better than the original. It doesn’t add to it, except for maybe the car chase to get from the Airport to the dance studio to save Bella. That was pretty fun. Also Alice’s planning the cover up afterwards was amusing but neither of those things make it worth reading this if you weren’t already planning on it. I’ll never regret reading the Twilight Series because it did introduce me to a whole new genre and new authors that I wouldn’t have every thought about before. For that I’ll be forever grateful for but as for Edward, Bella it was good while it lasted but in the end I’m just not that into you after all.

Final Thoughts on Twilight

It’s funny how time and age makes you look at things differently. I know both Kate and I have mentioned this before on this blog. When the Twilight first came out 15 years ago we were fans. I personally was borderline obsessed with the series. I reread them multiple times back to back to back. Once I finished with Eclipse, I would go immediately go back to Twilight and reread them all over again. I even scheduled my move to New York around the Breaking Dawn Midnight release party. I don’t remember the last time I read Twilight but I’m thinking it was probably some time around 2008. Obviously, a lot of happened in the 12 years since the last time I read Twilight. The movies came out and that lead to more discourse to be written about them. The inevitable backlash and burnout happened. My own opinion changed. I’ll admit there was a short period that I felt embarrassed for liking them though over time I had began to soften on them and even start to defend them. Our one and only podcast we discussed vampire novels and Twilight featured heavily. I started to feel that some of the backlash was unwarranted. That it mostly focused on the fact that it was written by a woman and had a fan base made up of young girls and their mothers. Two demographics that are rarely taken seriously. When Stephenie Meyer announced that she was going to finally release Midnight Sun I was ecstatic. Kate and I planned to reread the series to prepare. It was going to be amazing! I did not anticipate how hard it was going to be me to get through just Twilight. Not all of it had to do with the text. The pandemic really has interrupted so much of our lives but yes the story was hard to get into. I’ve already talked about my feelings Bella. My feelings about Edward are not any better and honestly Midnight Sun does improve it but more on that in another post. How did I think this book was romantic? I was more Team Jacob than Team Edward because I always felt that Edward was a little to controlling even back then but this time around I was more horrified by his actions. The manipulation and gas lighting that Edward pulls on Bella throughout the series is not okay. I realize to keep him and family safe there is a certain amount of lying is a must but the things he continue to keep from her. The fact he breaks into her house to watch her sleep. How he appoints himself her guardian without her knowledge or consent. How he justifies all of this as for her own good to try to convince himself that he is still a good guy despite also being aware that he is the greatest threat to her safety then anything else in forks. Bella is also not so great. Meyer’s tries to make her selflessness as a virtue but I think it’s kind of her weakness. She has no self preservation or just no self. She sees no issues with Edward entering her house without her consent. She’s flattered. She refuses to tell Charley that she is going on a date with Edward because she wants to protect him and his family if something goes bad like killing her. She runs off the meet James alone to save her mom but more importantly save Edward. The moment she starts to get involved with Edward she drops everything else. To be clear, she didn’t really much care for many of her other friends before so her dropping them wasn’t a hardship but it really does show her priorities. Being in my late thirties now, how quickly Bella is to give up her youth for immortality the most troubling. The one thing I agree with Edward. She is so focused on the fact that she will age and Edward won’t and the aesthetics of how that will look as time goes by. That she never considers of what she’ll give up or that her own priorities might change. She might go to college, meet other people and find a subject that she is passionate about and decide that she wants more then just Edward. She denies herself the opportunity to grow. Not to mention the abuse she suffers. Make no mistake, Edward is an abuser. He may not be physically hurting her but he is emotionally. He manipulates her to feel to certain ways. He constricts her movements of where she can go and who she can see. He constantly puts her in danger and not just by being in her presence but from other vampires as well. Edward is not the romantic lead he or Bella thinks he is. I’ll go more into it with Midnight Sun but I have a feeling that Twilight Series written as it is now would not be published or at least would not be the world wide sensation it became. Not in the Me Too era. If anything Twilight is cautionary tale and maybe that’s how she view it from now on.

TV Review: The Baby-Sitter’s Club

I’ll admit that I wasn’t a big fan of the books. I know that I read a few of them when I was a kid but don’t really remember much about them beyond Stacy’s struggles with diabetes and Claudia being the artist. When I was a bookseller I often recommended it to parents because I may not have been to it as girl I knew so many who had and it had very few things for any parent to object about. While self-quarantining this last week, I decided to check out the Netflix series based on the books and was just so blown away. It is so happy and wholesome and exactly what I needed in times like this. This is very much the Baby-sitter’s club of our childhood and it’s also not. The characters are the same. Kristy is the president and bossy. Mary-Ann, her best friend is still smart and caring. Claudia is still the artist and fashionista. Stacy is still boy crazing and Dawn is still the cool California girl but they’ve been updated to today’s world. The very first scene we meet Kristy and Mary-Ann talking about a teacher and school and Kristy gives one sweet burn to Thomas Jefferson and it doesn’t let up. Each girl is fully fleshed up as they navigate middle school and friendship. They are all going through changes from parents divorces and remarriage, sickness, boys, first loves and other heartbreaks. Each girl gets their own episodes that they narrate and center in and we see how they are coping or not coping with all the changes going on in their lives. I feel in love with all five of them and want the world for them. I love their friendship and how they support each other. They fight and argue but even during times when they are made with each other or unsure of each other they are always there when they need each other. We don’t always get stories of girls friendships like this so when it’s like this we need to celebrate it. I can’t recommend it enough. Go watch it and bring some tissues.