Review: The Queen of the Tearling Series by Erika Johansen

queen tearling

**There maybe a few minor spoilers in this review**

First of all, our Cousin Sarah has good taste in books because I really enjoyed this series.  So thank you Sarah for the suggestion.  I’m sorry that I waited so long to read it.

One of the themes I got from this series is how past shapes our present and our future.  As someone who has a degree in history I really appreciate that.  The saying of “those who don’t learn from their mistakes are doomed to repeat them” maybe cliche but it’s also true.  History is littered with examples of forgetting or  ignoring the past and then surprised when the results are the same.  Look about what is going on today.  Many of the same rhetoric that is being said on both side of the aisle have all been said before.  There have been so many correlation between what is currently going in the United States with what lead to other Countries descent into authoritarian regimes.  Agree or disagree that is the direction the US is going, one must be a little nervous with what they are seeing happening around our country.  Right now is the perfect time to look back at our past and see what we can learn.

invasion tearling The Tearling was founded by William Tear and his followers by leaving the United States that had fallen into Martial Law and extreme poverty.  They crossed the Atlantic and through a mysterious portal to land in the “New World” to start an utopian society where everyone was equal.  No one was more important then another but this was never truly the truth in practice, even from the beginning of their new colony.  William Tear always stood higher then everyone else even though he tried not too.  His opinion was enough to sway an issue to right or the left.  He was the King without the title.  You add the people’s unwillingness to talk about their pre-crossing life led to the downfall of the society after only one generation.  They failed to learn from their own past.  They felt that had moved beyond the troubles of their past but when things fell apart they resorted back into the old habits and fear that lead the downfall of the past and again fell part again.  Three hundred years later, Kelsea inherits a country with very little assets and has the traffic it’s own people to a neighboring country to survive.  The people are mostly illiterate and live in poverty.  The ideals of William Tear have long been forgotten.  Kelsea with the help of the Mace, try their best to right the wrongs of their past but with little army and even less of a treasury she is fighting an uphill battle.  Kelsea is not perfect herself.  She is young and inexperienced.  She has a temper on her that makes to make rash decisions.  She was also left in the dark about her own countries history, particularly the resent history that she has to learn about her people as she rules them.  She makes some great decisions but she also makes some terrible mistakes.  Which is important because it is sometimes to easy to make the protagonist to perfect.  It would be very easy to make Kelsea a saint, bringing her country back to it’s former glory but Erika Johansen doesn’t do that.  Nor does she give us the perfect happy ending either but I’ll get to that later.

fate tearling The Tearling is a curious place.  It takes place in the future but is clearly a Medieval  society.  They lost most of their medical supplies and doctors in the crossing and 300 later they still haven’t developed any technology.  They don’t even have a working printing press.  The Horror!  They do have a little bit of magic.  Kelsea also inherits two sapphires that give her abilities to see into the past and powers.  The ability to see into the past and the future help her but also make things a bit tense.  She starts to have visions of the past through two women who helped shape the early Tearling.  She sees how life was before the crossing and how the Tearling fell.  She struggles to figure out how the past is supposed to help her but she knows it’s important.  As her kingdom starts to fall apart and those who are most loyal are starting to question.  When she finally figures out what to do it’s ruthless and brave that runs head on into doing not knowing what the outcome will be.  In the end *spoiler* she does bring back William Tear’s vision for the New World even though it’s not how she imagined it.  It’s very bittersweet that accomplished what she set out to do, she righted all the inequality the country had suffered through but it left her a little alone in her victory.  Then again, who knows what the future will bring for Kelsea.  Maybe all we have to do is gleam into her past to see where Kelsea will go next.

Very Quick Review: The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

queen tearling It’s a rare thing for me to start a series after all the books have been released.  It’s kinda of thrilling to be able to read from beginning to end without having to wait years to finish.  So with that in mind, I’m going to one big review after I have completed the trilogy.  However I do have some thoughts.  Lately, we have seen how some dystopian and fantasy novels could be prophetic, this is kind of a terrifying thought.  The Tearling was founded by people escaping to the New World because the America we know had fallen in disrepair.  The gap between the rich and poor had widen so far that there was no middle class left.  Cities were nothing more then slums.  Food was scarce.  Martial law was enacted and women were forced out of the workforce to become mothers and housewives.  So they sailed across the ocean, to where we don’t know where, looking for better lives only to losing all our advancements in medicine and technology.  Basically the Tearling have traveled back to the Middle Ages and three centuries, Kelsea has inherited a Kingdom that is illiterate, sick, poor and at the Mercy of the Mortemense, the more powerful nation across the border.  The Mort is ruled by the Red Queen, who is just a mysterious as she is terrifying.  Kelsea, only 19 but is brave in her convictions.  She knows her life may be short but she still sets out to do what’s best for her people, even if it means going against the Red Queen and her more advanced army.  It is an intriguing start to the series and I’m already enjoying book two.

Quick Review: Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han

always and forever

**This Review contains some Spoilers**

This series was meant to only be a duology and I thought it worked pretty well as just To All the boys I’ve Loved Before and P.S. I Still Love You.  So I was a little hesitant but excited when I found out that Jenny Han had decided to write one more book.  On the one hand, I felt that Lara Jean’s story wrapped up nicely.  Yes, it had an open ended ending but there was a sense that Lara Jean had finally started to find her Identity.  And on the other hand, there was some unanswered questions, like were her and Peter really going to make it?  What about their senior year?  Would Kitty continue to be awesome?  The answer is to that last questions is of course.  Reading through this book and getting back to Lara Jean’s world of baking and arts and crafts, I was little disappointed to find that Lara Jean’s new found identity pretty much was all Peter.  Her new friends were all his friends.  Their plans mostly seemed to revolve around his schedule of Lacrosse games.  To be fair, she did build friendships on her own with Lucas and Pammy but she wouldn’t have if it wasn’t for Peter.  This became more apparent when they started to talk about college.  Peter had already been accepted into UVA on a Lacrosse scholarship and Lara Jean had always wanted to go there.  It’s a good school and only 15 minutes away so she could stay close to her family.  Well, when she doesn’t get into UVA, there is a panic because now they have to deal with a long distance relationship.  So she makes a plan to go to William and Mary for one year and transfer to UVA so they can be together.  Things get even more complicated when Lara Jean who gets accepted into UNC after originally being wait listed.  After a quick drive to Chapel Hill, Lara Jean is in love and it’s clear this is where she is meant to be.  Now she will be 3 and half hours away instead of only 2.  All this talk of college and what school would is the best, I can’t remember of any talk about what she wants to study.  We know that she loves to bake and loves to crafting but what else in her life?  Is she going to be an English major?  biology? French?  We have absolutely no idea who she is outside of her family and Peter but I could say the same thing about Peter too.  As frustrating as Lara Jean’s behavior I started to realize that Peter’s identity is just as dependent if not more so on Lara Jean’s.  He is very much the perfect boyfriend.  He’s polite and good looking, athletic and charming.  He organizes her father’s bachelor’s party to not only get on his good side but make her happy.  He is also afraid of losing Lara Jean. Thanks for a moment of true honesty they seem to have finally found each other and where they want to go.  They are going to try to make it work and I hope they do but where does it leave them.  I sort of feel like we are left in the same place as were with the last book.  They both are still growing and finding themselves as they should be at 18 and they are still together and going to fight to make their relationship work despite the distance but their future is still up and the air.  I think it’s a very good development for Lara Jean to spread her wings and live on her own for once.  Her life has always been about her family and then Peter.  Finally in college she will be able to truly find her identity without them around and I think it will only make her stronger.  It will make her relationships stronger and if her and Peter do work out them both stronger.   Now, I hope in a couple of years, we come back to Virginia for Kitty, the high school years because I think that would be the most amazing story of all time.

Quick Review: My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows

my lady jane To say this book was delightful would be an understatement. Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton and Jodi Meadows blends the perfect mixture of fantasy and fiction with history.  History will tell you that Lady Jane Grey was the Queen of England for nine days before Queen Mary took the throne and beheaded her.  Well, not in this book.  Lady Jane Grey was the cousin to King Edward, the son of King Henry VIII.  She was named the successor to King Edward because Mary was too Catholic and Elizabeth was a wild card.  Edward’s advisors were afraid that either one of his sisters would take England back to the Catholic church and away for the recently established Church in England.  Well, in this account the fight is over religion but over magic.  King Henry was an Edians, or a person who can turn into animals.  Before his rule, those who had this ability were hunted down and burned at the stack by the Verities or those who couldn’t change into animals.  Mary is very much in the Verities, who blamed Edians for the death of her mother.  Jane at first just a pawn in game of thrones but she soon turns the tables on those who try to control her.  This book is very funny, charming and just plain clever.  I often find myself laughing while riding on the train to the annoyance of my fellow riders.  And it’s a real hoot when you find out what animal Jane turns into.  You will not find a more clever book with horse puns anywhere.  So do yourself a favor and go read it.

Happy One Year Anniversary to The Raven King and Maggie Stiefvater!

April 2016 was our most successful month page views wise.  We had 589 views, which beat our previous record of 552 in December 2015. It made me wonder what were we writing about a year ago to get so much traffic.  Well, The Raven Cycle and Maggie Stiefvater.  It’s hard to believe that the The Raven King came out a year ago.  That it has been a year since we found out if Gansey, Blue, Ronan and Adam would find the sleeping Welsh King and If Blue and Gansey would kiss and if Gansey would die.  Those mysteries have been solved.  Thankfully, we know that we haven’t read the last of the Gang as Maggie is working on a trilogy about Ronan. Whee!!!

And we have another Maggie book coming in October.  So we have a lot to look forward to but let’s take a moment, in honor of the 1 year anniversary of the release of The Raven King and the end of the The Raven Cycle, to look at everything we have ever written about the series.

What I’m Listening to Now: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Public Service Announcement

What I’m Thankful for

Cover Reveal: The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater

Books that Rocked My Face off, Part two

Let’s Do Some Reading: Goals for 2015

Cover Reveal: The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater

Discussion Posts: Re-reading series before the new installment comes out

Books that Rocked My Face Off in 2015

What I Can’t Wait to Read in 2016

First Listen of The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater

Countdown to The Raven King!

What I’m ReReading Now: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Observations on The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Observations on The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater

Observations on Blue Lily Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater

My To-Read List for the next month or so

Discussion: The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater Part 1

Discussion: The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater Part 2

Discussion: The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater Part 3

Discussion: The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater Part 4

Discussion: The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater Part 5

Discussion: The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater Part 6

Discussion: The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater Part 7

What I’m Reading Now: THE RAVEN KING BY MAGGIE STIEFVATER

What I’m Listening to: The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater

Review: The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater

Our Top 5 Posts of 2016

My Top 10 Books I read in 2016

Top Eight for 2016!

Th Raven Cycle as a TV Show Yes Please

Quick Review of A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro

study-in-charlotte A Study in Charlotte was a very fun read.  It’s new take on the Sherlock Holmes stories.  This time it’s the descendants of Holmes and John Watson.  In this world, the famed detective and his assistant were real.  Watson chronicled Holmes’ cases and well fictionalized them.  The Holmes family continue to solve crimes and being eccentric, while the Watsons continue to be normal.  Here we catch up with the latest generation of Holmes’ and Watson’s when Jaime Watson starts at a new boarding school. Jaime meets Charlotte Holmes, the girl who is full of mystery as anything else. (For some reason I thought Jaime was a girl and I was a little disappointed to find out that he isn’t but I got over it.) There are little sprinklings of the originally stories throughout the novels and the nastiest parts of the stories like Holmes’ drug use.  Charlotte is just as impossible as the original Holmes or Benedict Cumberbatch’s.  Shortly after Holmes and Watson meet a fellow student is murder in a way that is reminiscent of Holmes’ stories.  Of course, they are the prime suspects.  They have to work together to clear their names. They story goes through many twists and turns that will keep you guessing all through the story.  You don’t have to be a fan of Sherlock Holmes to love this book.  You just have to enjoy a good mystery with interesting characters and you’ll be set.

Throne of Glass Novellas by Sarah J. Maas

assassins-bladeAfter I finished reading Empire of Storms, I decided to go back and read the prequel novellas as many of the characters we meet in these stories make appearance and play a role in the final book to come out next year.  It’s very common for authors to publish novellas or short stories in connection with successful series.  Most of the time they have little consequence to the actual narrative of the series themselves.  They are just a fun story about the time before, or another character’s perspective.  The further I got into Empire of Storms and the big reveals starting to come out, I realized that I these novellas were more important then I originally thought.  The end was blending of Aelin’s present with Celaena’s past.  If Aelin is going to defeat Erawan and reclaim her crown in Terrasan she is going to have call in all of Celaena’s favors.  And so I went back and bought all the novellas. The five novella’s The Assassin and the Pirate Lord, The Assassin and the Healer, The Assassin and the Desert, The Assassin and the Underworld and The Assassin and the Empire tell the story of the months that lead her to be arrested and sent to Endovier where we meet her in the Throne of Glass that starts everything in motion.  All five novellas were collected together and later published under the named The Assassin’s Blade.

The novella’s we see  Celaena in her full Adarlan’s Assassin glory.  She is the most feared assassin in the land and she knows it.  As Arobynn Hamel’s protege she is at the top of her game, when she is sent to the Skull’s bay to meet with Captain Rolfe, the Pirate Lord.  When she finds out that her master is going into the Slave business, she defies him for the first time.  With the help of fellow assassin Sam Cortlandt she not only saves the slaves Arobynn was trading but all the slaves.  All good deeds don’t go unpunished.  She is severely punished and sent to the desert to learn from the Mute Master of the Silent Assassins. Here she meets Ansel of Briarcliff, her first real female friendship and new skills. Upon her return Arobynn gives her a mission that she can’t refuse but it ends up in even bigger betrayal that she pays off her and Sam’s debt’s and leaves Arobynn behind.  Celaena and  Sam have fallen in love and plan to Rithfold behind but not before they do one last job.  This leads to tragedy and ultimately what leads to the beginning of the series.  Caleana’s exploits are alluded too in the earlier books but didn’t really have much to do with the actual plot until our heroes make their way to Skull’s Bay to try to convince Captain Rolfe to join their cause.  Since the last time Aelin was there, she destroyed the docks and ended the very profitable slave trade for the Pirate King.  So, not the best impression to leave on the a possible ally. The Pirate Lord and Ansel have been mentioned before but in passing.  I used to think it was just a wink to not only Celaena’s past but also to all those readers who read the novellas but both Rolfe and Ansel play a pivotable role in Aelin’s plans to win the war. The stories gives us a sense about who Celaena was before the action of the series and how deep the scars run for her.  From the books, we know how complicated her relationship with Arobynn is but since it all happened before the action of the series we didn’t get see how toxic it truly was.  We also get to know Sam. His death is major part of Celaena’s story arc in the first two books.  It’s what haunts her and motivates her to seek out Arobynn for the truth. These are some of the rare series novellas that actually further the series plot and for that for fans of the Throne of Glass series, it’s worth reading all the novellas.

Quick Review: Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas

empire-of-storms **Spoilers**

First, can we talk about her badass jacket on the cover? I really want a jacket like that. Anyhoo, at the end of the last book.  The King of Adarlan is dead, killed by Dorian while he was under Erawan’s spell. He broke away from his power but not in time to save Chaol from terrible back injury that we still don’t know the extent of his injuries.  Will he be able to walk again? Is he even still alive? Aelin, has taken her former masters money and has one of the Wyrdkeys and now is heading home to Terrasan with Rowan, Aedion and Lysandra. Manon and her thirteen save Elide from Morath after Kaltain blows up half the mountain not before she gives Elide the second Wyrdkey.  Lorcan, has come to Erilea to get the keys for Maeve. So all the players are in play, well except for Chaol who is MIA and eventually they all meet up to find the lock that will once and for all rid the world of Erawan.  With a book with so many characters it would be easy to lose track of who is who and where they belong in the story but the story lines are woven so seamlessly together that it feels like one story.  Each character has their arc that we have seen true growth in.  Dorian was a sheltered and naive Prince when we first meet him but now he has hardened.  He has experience loss and has find strength in his power.  As he begins to understand his power, he starts to gave more confidence in himself.  They all have grown so much from the first book.  When I think about Throne of Glass it almost feels like a completely different series because they books have gone so far.  As Aelin, Dorian, Aedion and Manon have grown and mature so have the books. They are far more complicated as the characters themselves have become far more complicated.  The most complicated of them all is our former assassin turned Queen, Aelin. She has so much power that she doesn’t even know how powerful she is but one thing that has changed her ability to outsmart her opponents. She always had a plan in motion but I had no idea how long she had been planning her strategy.   Some go as far back as the first and second book.  It’s almost mind blowing about how the dots all are connecting and with one book to go the endgame is in sight.  The ending is pretty devastating but totally worth the pain.  Really looking forward to finding out how this will end.

Series You Should Check Out: Necromancer and Firebug by Lish Mcbride

hold me closerIt’s been awhile since I did one of these. In fact it’s been 5 months.  Oops.  I think it’s about time I did another one, don’t you think?  I can’t think of a better series to welcome back this column then Necromancer and Firebug series’ by Lish McBride.  Really, I can’t believe I have waited this long to write about them.  It’s actually two different series but they take place in the same world, just on opposite coasts.  Necromancer consists of Hold Me Closer, Necromancer and Necromancing the Stone. Two of the best book titles in history of literature. I decided to read the first book based on the title alone.  With a title like Hold Me Closer, Necromancer it had to be good right? Firebug at the moment is the only book in it’s series but the sequel, Pyromantic, another great title, comes out in March of next year.  (I hope, I’m pretty sure. It’s released date has been pushed back more then once to my chagrin)  They both take place in the underground world of the supernaturals.  Sam, our hero in Necromancer is a necromancer.  When he is discovered by another Necromancer he brought into a world of werewolves and other supernaturals creatures that he didn’t even know exist but now is in the thick of it.  You’ll think about Seattle in a different way after reading this book.  Ava, our little firebug from Firebug, is forced to work for the Coterie, a magical mafia.  She along with her friends, Lock and Ezra, she must track down creatures of all kinds who are behind in their payments or doing something they are not supposed to.

necromancing the stoneSo why do I like these books so much?  For one thing they are hilarious!  Like laugh out loud funny you just can’t help yourself.  The situations the characters get in are at times so ridiculous and absurd it’s just too funny.  They are also very original. Sure, there are a lot of other books that feature werewolves, ghosts, nymphs and other supernatural beings but nothing is like this.  I’m not sure how to describe the weirdness of these books but they just work.  There is also a realness to them as well.  Sam and Ava are both great protagonists.  They both find themselves in situations that are out of their control but with the help of their friends and their own gumption they find ways out of them.  They both have a little sassiness to them that I love in my characters.  The supporting characters are more then just comic relief or filler but true characters in their own right.

firebugFirebug came out two years ago and I have been waiting (mostly) patiently for Pyromantic to come out.  Like I said earlier, publication has been pushed back a few times because well life I guess.  Lish Mcbride is not just an author but also a bookseller as well.  The biggest secret of the publication world is that just because you have a book published doesn’t mean you are set for life. Most authors don’t live off of their writing.  They have to have day jobs to make ends meet.  Recently Lish started a Patreon page.  If you not familiar with Patreon, it’s sort of a crowd sourcing website for creators and artist.  You can pledge to give so much money a month to an artist and in return you get exclusive material from them.  Lish so far has posted a new short story and read a chapter from Pyromantic. It’s been satisfying so far.  It ties me over until her new book comes out and I also can feel good about supporting an author I love.  It’s a cool way to support artists and all for that.  So before Pyromantic comes out, I suggest you read Hold Me Closer, Necromancer, Necromancing the Stone and Firebug and read her public post on patreon page.  You will not be disappointed.

Review: Front Lines by Michael Grant

front lines So how would World War Two be different if women could have been drafted or enlist in the military? From what I can tell, not that much?  Obviously I don’t know what it was like from personal experience but basing on other books and movies I have read, the experiences of Rio, Frangie, Jenou and Rainey didn’t seem all that different.  To say, war is awful.  Though maybe it was a little harder for the ladies, as they had to endure sexiest comments about how woman do not belong in the military.  Even worse for Frangie, who had deal with the racist along with the sexist.  I would think what our heroines deal with was pretty much the same things as women in the military still face.  I’m thinking about the all the comments and criticism I read about the first women to train to be Army Rangers, recently.  “Women can’t handle the pressure.” ” They are not physically strong enough”.”How will they handle combat?” “The Military is just not the place for women.”  Front Lines may be a work of fiction that takes place 70 years ago but it could easily be written about today.  I studied history in school and it’s what my B.A. is in.  The one thing that I always found fascinating about history is that you can study something in the past and can make direct correlation with what is going on in today’s world.  Basically, Human Being’s don’t learn from the mistakes.  We do the same things over and over again. Just look at our election and how we are fighting over issues of Civil Rights.

But back to the book.  It’s 1942, the Japanese have attacked Pearl Harbor and America is going to war.  A few years earlier, the Supreme Court had ruled it was unconstitutional for only men be eligible for the draft, women had to as well.  (This has also come up in the campaign about whether or not women should be eligible for the draft) Rio has just finished having breakfast with her family when news comes that her sister, who enlisted in the Navy has died when her boat was attacked by the Japanese.  A few weeks later, her best friend Jenou says she is going to enlist so she ca get out of their small California town and meet some cut officers.  Rio decides she wants to do something else with her life before she gets married and have kids.  Elsewhere in Oklahoma, Frangie decides that the money from enlisting and being in the Army will be enough to keep her family from being destitute and in New York, Rainey has already gone through basic training and now going for special training for Army intelligence.  We follow all their progress though boot camp to actual theater of war.  Frangie is the only who really thinks she will be in the war since she plans on being a Medic but the rest see themselves as secretaries or drivers, away from the front lines.  Women may enlist and can be drafted but they US Military isn’t really going to send them to war, right? Of course they all end up there eventually.  They trained along with the men, though still separated by race.  As one character puts it “only America would go to war against a white supremacist with a segregated army” (not exact quote, I paraphrased)  Rio and Jenou have mixed results during basic training.  Rio finds that she actually enjoyed it and is a good shooter.  The girls all struggle with what it is to be a soldier and a woman.  Now that they have been trained to be soldiers, how are they supposed to act as women.  Will Men like that they have more muscle now?  Should they act more demure?  In battle, are they still supposed to act ladylike while the enemy is shooting at them? Once they get to the front lines, they still have to prove they belong even to the male soldiers that they trained with back in boot camp.  For Frangie, who is now a medic has to deal with being called a Nigra as she’s patching up soldiers and attempting to save their lives.  And Rainey is stuck being a secretary while male soldiers not as qualified as her get called into meetings and missions.  It never ends.  It was a fascinating read that got more interesting once our girls finally got to war.  The second half of the book only covers one battle, their first battle.  It proves that they had no idea what they were getting themselves into the .  The romance of war quickly dissolved into the reality.  They all have done something that they will remember for the rest of their life and you know it will haunt them.  I’m curious how that will play out in the upcoming books.  We saw glimpses of what is to come for them but it’s still only 1943 and their are two more years left and I think 2 more books to go.