Hamilton and the Controversy

I originally wrote this as a tweet, then switched to my notes app as it got longer… and then remembered, oh yeah! I have a blog. Duh. So instead of posting screenshots of my notes app, I copied it over here. We all know of the play Hamilton: An American Musical. Whether you’ve seen it or not, in theatre or filmed, you know of it. It happened to launch on Disney in the midst of the height of BLM, so it has sparked some conversation on slavery. Here’s some of my thoughts on Hamilton and the controversy surrounding it:

1. I think people forget that a lot of the intention in this play, besides focusing on a founding father that got very little attention historically, is to show the people against immigration how this country was built was built on immigration. Does it focus on colonization? No. But it’s also a musical about a specific guy’s life, not truly about the nitty gritty details of everything that happened in American history. By casting a diverse cast, it’s a subtle touch on the fact that immigration is okay when it is whites illegally—forcefully—immigrating, but not when Latinx/Muslim/Black/etc people want to take an opportunity to better their lives. You put people of color into these roles and ask if everyone would be so patriotic about the stuff they did if their skin color was different? No, likely, their flaws would outweigh the good they did. Which is the opposite for these white founding fathers. Hamilton did have a pretty shitty upbringing and came to America and found a way to become one of the most important men in the country, and this play absolutely fueled the conversation on how that particular rise in power is available to white men predominately. The “American dream” that is often available and sustainable only for whites.

2. Hamilton was one of the few guys that chose not to own slaves, though his wife’s family did. Don’t get me wrong, all of these guys are pretty shitty in one way or another, but him and Laurens (who he was most likely in love with as he was likely bisexual) were for Black freedom. Hamilton was likely WAY too elitist and worried about creating a government that fit HIS vision to really rally behind the movement, which is also pretty shitty because he was complicit by inaction. He was an often crappy, complex person who also did some cool stuff and you SHOULD recognize that Hamilton wasn’t just some angelic genius, he was often a POS… which I think is pretty obvious in the play. You aren’t expected to romanticize him. But people shouting that he was a slave owner when he was one of three founding fathers that didn’t own slaves is incorrect. Everyone else sure did… but again, this was about Hamilton’s life, not theirs.

3. Fuck yeah, Lin-Manuel, get your bag. He does a lot of good with his money and influence. HE’s a theatre genius. The continuity from one song to another, the specific way he leads from one song to another, the pitch of the words, the perfectly timed moments of laughter, sadness, and overwhelming emotion came together so cohesively. Do I full support a Puerto Rican man grabbing that “American dream” for himself and making himself some money? Yep.

4. Broadway representation matters. This musical was being made regardless. Lin-Manuel made an amazing work of art and it would have been big no matter what. They could have easily cast all white actors, which isn’t in line with hip-hop, rap, or the R&B styles that it imitates, in general. If you want to use those styles, you SHOULD have people that pioneered those genres as actors in your musical. Also, let some of these old fucks roll in their graves while a cast of talented, diverse actors play them. Broadway in general is WHITE AF. This wildly successful play is paying diverse casts of actors. Since Hamilton has been in theatres, diverse casting has been at its highest ever, and there’s still never been less than 60% white casting in New York Broadway. It’s opened up the conversation on the woefully low amount of BIPOC/POC actors in theatre, and the conversation on the need for more Black/non-Caucasian creators and stories in theatre. It is absolutely okay to point that out, but to take all of your anger out about the inequalities in Broadway on the Hamilton production is kind of ridiculous. Hamilton didn’t create this inequality, it has tried to change that inequality. People are enjoying the music, and hopefully smart enough to know that this isn’t historically accurate, is essentially historical fiction, and are seeing relatable actors up there.

5. Upper/upper middle class have been able to afford to see this play, and theatre in general, and the second someone makes a Broadway play available to anyone with streaming capabilities, people wanna shame others or make them feel bad about wanting to see AND enjoy this. Kids are being exposed to theatre. Kids are seeing representation of themselves and falling in love with theatre. People who have never had the money or privilege to see theatre are having an opportunity. Let people enjoy things. Lets not forget that every single Hamilton show ever, across the country/world, holds 40 tickets as a random lottery for people to get tickets for $10, giving lower classes an opportunity to go.

Talk about the inconsistencies, talk about the historically inaccurate aspects. Research those inaccuracies! I have learned A LOT about history on my own accord after seeing this musical. This is a MUSICAL, it’s not supposed to tell us everything we already knew/didn’t know about history. Talk about how shitty and flawed and cruel these men were in addition to their accomplishments. Talk about how we need more plays written, produced, and represented by and for BIPOC/POC. Expect more from the theatre world going forward. Hell, write a historical play, musical, film, book, short story on what YOU’D like to see in regard to Hamilton or any of these founding fathers. This was the story that Lin-Manuel couldn’t get out of his brain and it is adapted for theatre. Scream Black Lives Matter from the roof tops because you SHOULD. Remember that this is a musical, a work of art, or at the very least… just some fun entertainment and you can enjoy it for what it is. You do not need to feel bad for that! You can—and should—also embrace the deeper conversations, intentional or unintentional, caused by this play.

Lastly, here’s where you can donate to Broadway for Racial Justice: Donate

Here’s where you can donate to actors out of work that are being affected by COVID: Donate. You can also push for the COVID relief to be extended, as these actors won’t start getting paid until at least January. Write to your representatives!

Support writers in the industry by donating here: Donate

If you have any other links for donating, please drop them in the comments and I can add them 🙂

Reread and Review of Royal Assassin (Farseer #2)

“You’re not dead, son. You’re not dead.”

Whenever I finish a Hobb book I kind of want to just yell and start a review off with something like, “UGHHHHHH. Ahhhhhhhh. WTF,” even though I’ve already read the entire Realm of the Elderlings series. Her writing is just THAT good. As was I was rereading Royal Assassin, I was like, “huh, maybe this isn’t going to be the same 5 star read that I thought originally,” because the middle of this one is a bit slow. It ended up still being pretty dang close. I’d give this one a 4.5 out of 5 stars and round up for Goodreads purposes. How can I NOT rate the book that we meet Nighteyes highly? Also, that ending was absolutely superb, one of the most memorable, emotional endings to a story I’ve ever read.

“‘Nighteyes, my brother. How do I thank you?’ ‘Stay alive.’ A pause. ‘And bring me ginger cake.’”

Speaking of Nighteyes, I absolutely love the bit of comedic relief he provides. Lets be honest, we all know Hobb could depress the happiest of souls with her writing. If there was a handbook on how to write poignantly, Robin Hobb would be the expert on it. I mean this in the best way. Nighteyes has this cheeky, intelligent way of talking while still being puppy-like. Fitz takes himself quite seriously and Nighteyes knows how to knock him down a peg, evoke silliness or emotion in him. He’s the first true friend that Fitz has ever had. Fitz has grown up without a friend and entirely too early. After learning at a young age to be an assassin, Fitz went straight into the responsibilities of a man. The people he associates with are often adults or have had major responsibilities at a young age as well. Nighteyes reaches into this part of Fitz that longs for the unconditional love that he has rarely received, love that he has always had to earn. Nighteyes is someone that he can let his guard down around, someone that expects nothing from him but the occasional ginger cake. He is the one who actually guards FITZ’S back. I could cry to think about how much Fitz gives to everyone at his own expense, but knowing that Fitz has Nighteyes makes it all worth it. Okay—I still want to cry, but happy tears. It was fun to look back and see the evolution of how Nighteyes goes from snarling and untrusting to perceptive and devoted.

“‘My brother. Are you dying?
No. But it hurts.
Rest. I will stand watch.

I cannot explain what happened next. I let go of something, something I had clutched all my life without being aware of gripping it. I sank down into soft warm darkness, into a safe place, while a wolf kept watch through my eyes.”

Though Fitz hasn’t had a true-blue friend before, he’s unconsciously building a family within people around him. Patience was meant to be Fitz’s mother, one way or another. She’s a true example of a woman finding her child that she couldn’t bear herself. It’s another testament to her name, she patiently waited for a child by Chivalry and she was content and honored to take in his bastard as her own. It’s funny to me that Fitz is the product of Chivalry, but his parents were truly Patience and Burrich. Oh, the irony. Burrich has a gruff way about him, but the love he has for Fitz is of a father. He’s tough, brutal at times, but he’ll whoop someone’s butt for mistreatment of Fitz and loses sleep at night over Fitz’s well-being. He’s got this gentleness about him that is in contrast to his bullish ways. Chade is another father figure—or grandfather figure—to Fitz. Chade mentions to him that he’s sad Fitz can’t seem to trust anyone as a product of his upbringing, and it’s true that he doesn’t even realize the extent of how much those around him love himself. He truly is Changer in ways other than the wolfy merging, because he’s taken all these people that have had allegiance to others and has worked his way into their hearts with his selflessness to the point that they are willing to risk themselves for him. They want to protect this boy-turned-man even though that is diametrically opposed to his lifestyle… which as a reader, I can relate to. We start to see the beginnings of a deeper friendship with The Fool. At this moment, The Fool is much too immersed in protecting King Shrewd to be as involved with Fitz as he is later on, but there’s a blossoming of what eventually becomes deeply rooted trust. The Fool does put the barest notion out there that Fitz is meant for more, that he sees a million different options for Fitz. He’s endlessly capable of changing his—and everyone else’s—world, and he certainly has earned their love.

He shook his head pityingly. “This, more than anything else, is what I have never understood about your people. You can roll dice, and understand that the whole game may hinge on one turn of a die. You deal out cards, and say that all a man’s fortune for the night may turn upon one hand. But a man’s whole life, you sniff at, and say, what, this naught of a human, this fisherman, this carpenter, this thief, this cook, why, what can they do in the great wide world? And so you putter and sputter your lives away, like candles burning in a draft.”
“Not all men are destined for greatness,” I reminded him.
“Are you sure, Fitz? Are you sure? What good is a life lived as if it made no difference at all to the great life of the world? A sadder thing I cannot imagine. Why should not a mother say to herself, if I raise this child aright, if I love and care for her, she shall live a life that brings joy to those about her, and thus I have changed the world? Why should not the farmer that plants a seed say to his neighbor, this seed I plant today will feed someone, and that is how I change the world today?”

I will say, Molly could frustrate me in this book. It’s painful to see the woman he loves pile onto Fitz’s life instead of offering him some emotional relief, but I do need to remember that she’s also had to grow up too quickly. She deserves someone that can reliably be there for her and right now, Fitz isn’t that person. You just want to shake both of them, but they both have understandable reasons for their actions. That doesn’t mean I always loved how rude Molly could be to Fitz when they did have disagreements, but that doesn’t mean that her feelings weren’t realistic. I think she’s just had enough of living a hard life. She’s a tough woman and wants some relief from that constant wall she’s got held up.

Another woman that I admire is Kettricken, the way that she leads and is willing to sacrifice completely for the betterment of this kingdom, even when she’s lonely and feeling unloved. Her and Verity are very alike in that way. I wish they would have come together more in this novel, though I do see that she’s almost courting HIM and he is starting to care about her.

There’s also a bit more action in this installment compared to the first. Between Kettricken trying to win some respect, Verity leaving, Red-Ships at Neatbay, Skill fights, and Regal, there’s a lot more drama and battles. Speaking of… REGAL. I think it’s safe to say that Regal is one of the best-worst villains I’ve ever read about. I’m not going to ruin what happens in this book for people that might read this and haven’t read Royal Assassin yet, but he’s a schemer. The CRAP he does will infuriate you. It all leads up to this incredibly gut-wrenching climax and ultimately, this really profound moment for Fitz and the people that surround him *takes a deep breath and tries not to let the emotion overcome me*

“But there was something there, a feeling almost of relief. I had seen that before, in a man who had had his maimed foot removed, or the family that finally finds their drowned child’s body. To finally confront the worst there is, to look it squarely in the face and say, “I know you. You have hurt me, almost to death, but still I live. And I will go on living.”

I’m pretty sure that a lot of people that have read and enjoyed this series gets a tiny bit emotional or nostalgic when they hear the phrase “we are pack” thinking about the evolution of Fitz and his little makeshift family. Hobb really made the fans of this series care about Fitz and I think we all want to claim ourselves as part of that pack. It’s part of what I love so much about this entire series. Okay, I’ll stop being a nerd and gushing on. As always, Robin Hobb is QUEEN.

“Come, hunt with me, the invitation whispers in my heart. Leave the pain behind and let your life be your own again. There is a place where all time is now, and the choices are simple and always your own. Wolves have no kings.”

Buffy, Omnibus Vol 1: A Review

If you’ve been following me for a while, you’ll know that I started my journey into the Buffy Comics/Graphic Novels a while back after finishing a rewatch of the show. I read the Vampire origin story and the Slayer origin story. This one focuses on Buffy’s origin story before the show started. Let me tell you, for people that think graphic novels are a walk in the park, I am going to have to politely disagree. Maybe it’s the fact that I had a 3 year old running around in the background reciting all 45 presidents while I was simultaneously trying to read the conversation bubbles in the correct order and analyze the pictures, but it definitely takes some brain power. I commend those of you who regularly read comics/graphic novels/manga because I feel like they exercise your ability to multi-task while reading.

So, we get to see more into Buffy’s life before finding out she’s a Vampire Slayer and during her first moments of dealing with the revelation. If you’ve watched the show, you know we get the briefest look into that and this really expands on that time in her life. I thought it was curious that Dawn is in this series from the beginning, as she doesn’t become a part of Buffy’s life until later in the show (no spoilers). I am wondering if they’re going to keep that show storyline as part of this or go in a different direction completely. One part of Omnibus Vol 1 that I loved was visiting Buffy’s stint in the mental institution. That’s another thing we don’t find until later in the show, that Buffy was wrongly institutionalized when her parents first found out she “thought” she was a Vampire Slayer, we also don’t get to see much of how she spent her time there. Seeing a little of Giles’ time as Ripper and how he came to be Buffy’s watcher was also a cool insight.

The thing that knocked this down to a 4/5 star read for me was that weird casino moment. I get that we are supposed to see that Angel has been following her to care for her and that Pike had to leave because Buffy doesn’t need distractions, but the whole thing was confusing and kinda creepy. Making a fifteen year old girl dress up in this sleazy outfit while this old vampire follows her is still weird, Angel immortalized is still quite a bit older than her in the show, but maybe they’re bridging that age gap in the comic? We will see.

I love the illustrations though and the witty commentary! It still feels like Buffy and very connected to the show. I liked the continuity from the show and the comic, and these little hidden Easter eggs, such as Buffy bringing April Doublemeat burgers (you’ll understand if/when you watch the show). Really cool and exciting to have more Buffy to explore! I found a blog link that has a really thorough reading order for Buffy, if you’d like to take a look here: Buffyverse

The Bromance Book Club: A Review

Okay, The Bromance Book Club caught my eye a while ago and it was on sale so I finally bought it! I usually don’t do reviews for chick-lit/romance novels but this one inspired me to do so. It actually rated a 4/5 stars for me. First off, I thought that the concept of a book about a group did men reading romance novels to connect with their wives more was super endearing.

“Don’t be ashamed for liking them. The backlash against the PSL [Pumpkin Spice Latte] is a perfect example of how toxic masculinity permeates even the most mundane things in life. If masses of women like something, our society automatically begins to mock them. Just like romance novels. If women like them, they must be a joke, right?”

That quote, though! Wow! What a true statement. There is that internalized misogyny towards women when it comes to making fun of the things that a large amount of women like. Other women even get in on it because it makes them “the cool girl.” I loved that there was this group of men actively discussing toxic masculinity and the shaming tactics used on women. Obviously, this was written by a woman author, so these are fictional men, but I think it points out that men in this day and age are becoming more aware of those issues.

“That’s why fiction resonates with people. It speaks to universal truths.”

These characters weren’t perfect and Gavin and Thea both had their faults. Gavin didn’t realize Thea was “faking it” their whole marriage and Thea didn’t take the time to address the issues in their marriage and just shut down completely and wanted to quit. I liked that Thea didn’t chase after him, but there were moments where I wanted her to discuss the issues instead of putting all the blame on him. For his part, Gavin obviously wasn’t paying enough attention to his wife if he didn’t realize she was unsatisfied throughout their relationship. I loved this group of guys holding him accountable and getting angry at him for these stupid, thoughtless mistakes he would make instead of turning a blind eye. The streak of humor that ran through it actually made me laugh out loud.

“The room finally erupted like he knew it eventually would. Every man jumped to his feet. Del began to pace, punching his fist into his other hand. Malcolm stroked his jingly beard and starting chanting like a monk. Mack shoveled angry forkfuls of brown noodles into his mouth, alternating between eating and pointing a silent, angry finger in Gavin’s general direction.”

There were also moments that were so off base that I was like… I hope men don’t read this and take it as the end all, be all. Like when Thea says that women love when suggestively men wink at them? No. I’d be more likely to laugh in their face.

“It absolutely is true. A woman remembers every time a man winks at her, because we love winking. It’s like catnip. Wink at us, and we roll over and start purring.”

No… get that crap out of here. I am cringing just reading that quote again. I loved how she normalized marriage issues though. She mentions how people change their entire lives and you need to address that change instead of just pretending that it isn’t happening. When you marry someone, you can’t expect that person to be the same person their entire life.

““All spouses become strangers to each other at some point in a marriage,” Del said. “All human beings are a work in progress, and we don’t all change at the same pace. Who knows how many people have gotten divorced simply because they failed to recognize that what they thought were insurmountable problems were actually just temporary phases?”

All in all, this was enjoyable. It was fun and hilarious and perceptive. I actually want to continue the series because I enjoyed it so much more than I thought. I’m glad this lived up to the hype!

“Good. First rule of book club?” They finished in unison. “You don’t talk about book club.”

Good Morning, Destroyer of Men’s Souls: A Review

I was sent a review galley of Good Morning, Destroyer of Men’s Souls by Nina Renata Aron. The title immediately interested me and the beautiful cover drew my eye, as it is even more impressive in color. This is a memoir about love, addiction, codependency, and women.

If you’ve heard one addict story, you’ve heard a thousand; man made homeless from his drug problem gets clean and makes his fortune, teens stealing from their parent’s purse to fund their habits, people finding their loved ones cold and blue after an overdose. There’s a million stories with a variety of endings. The public is fascinated with the stories of addicts (that’s not to say that the public is enamored with HELPING addicts, just poking and prodding them for their “journey”). What we hear about less, is the perspective of the loved ones of addicts. You might hear a testimonial here and there, but we rarely get into how deeply one’s life is affected by loving and taking care of an addict. Nina makes a comment about how the family members are just usually just seen as supporting cast in the story. I think this is an important narrative that she brings to light. Aren’t their lives torn apart? Aren’t they affected by depression, by the money drain that comes with taking care of an addict, by the instability and havoc that an addict can impose upon their lives? They are working, cleaning, nurturing, and worrying while the throes of addiction grasp the person that they love.

In Good Morning, Destroyer of Men’s Souls, Nina highlights her childhood, where she was forced to take on the responsibility of an adult at a young age in the midst of her parents’ divorce and her sister’s growing addiction to drugs. She watched her mom date and nurture a drug addict for close to a decade after her father. This habit of nurturing an addict, which seems to have been psychologically instilled into her at a young age, follows her into her adulthood. She reunites with an old flame and is absolutely consumed by him. Nina is very honest with us. She cheats on her husband and trades her financially stable, solid, predictable life for the instability and at times, excitement, that comes from loving an addict. By the end of the book, Nina has come to terms with the fact that her codependency is putting her children at risk.

This is one of those books that is hard to read because you want to shake Nina and yell, “leave him! What is wrong with you? There’s children involved!” That’s part of the issue though, obsessive love doesn’t make sense. You can say that family and friends are enablers —and they are, to an extent— but what is the alternative? Seeing your loved one on the street, their body rotting from misuse, starving, dying alone. An addict will rarely be forced by others into fighting their addiction. Nina understand this, and knows there’s people out there that can cut someone off as soon as their offers of help are being abused, and I think she understands there’s a strength in that. She was not one of those people. Her whole life she’s been conditioned to help the people around her, to the detriment to herself, her kids, her stability.

Nina speaks with a clear, poignant voice. She’s that rare type of person that can look upon her past with a keen sense of awareness. I think those of us that are aware of our trauma tend to be a bit sadder. Though I haven’t ever been in a codependent situation with an addict, I have been in a codependent relationship with someone that adamantly ignored their own trauma’s existence, which spurred into a toxic, harmful relationship. I related heavily to Nina’s talk of obsessive love, to the addiction of the adrenaline that an unstable relationship provides, of how a calm relationship can be difficult to adjust to after. She is also a middle child, like myself, and talks about how that made her more likely the peacemaker, the pleaser. Less likely to say no, more likely to say yes. I could see a lot of myself in her descriptions even though I didn’t have the same experience.

There’s also a theme of female empowerment here. Women are often the ones caring for people at their own expense, but most of our growth comes from when we are alone. Nina watches her mother blossom after the end of her relationship with an addict. When she ends her own relationship, she is able to provide a secure and stable life for her kids. It can be hard to find the line between empathy for others and respecting the needs of our own lives, but there’s a strength in both. There’s a really lovely quote about women becoming themselves in the space where men aren’t, that I’d love to include after publication.

I must admit, there were a few moments that I glazed over. There was a cycle of attending Al-Anon while alternatively berating Al-Anon. I’m sure this would be more interesting to people that have gone through this cycle, though. There were also moments that our author skipped around and then kept going back to parts of her life that she had previously talked about. Some of those moment seemed like they would have been more interesting to address this chronologically instead of tearing us away from the current topic to revisit. These were some of the only flaws I could see. Ultimately, I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.

There’s some beautiful quotes from this book that I’d love to share but I am obligated to wait until after publication. I will repost with quotes at that time. Good Morning, Destroyer of Men’s Souls will be published April 21st, 2020. Thank you Crown Publishing for the opportunity.

Reread and Review of Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb

“Men cannot grieve as dogs do. But we grieve for many years.”

Well, I’ve been on this journey of rereading a bunch books/series that I’ve loved over the years, since I read them before I got into blogging. Robin Hobb’s Realm of the Elderlings books are worth so much more than the few words I mentioned on Goodreads the first time I read it. I’ll be transparent from the start, I absolutely adore this entire series and I’m very curious to see how each individual books holds up in my memory. I will say that to me, there’s very few series that can hold a candle to RotE. The worlds, characters, and storylines that she built and connected over 16 books is absolute genius, and I can truly say that from where she started to where she ends was this masterful journey, powerful and delicate all at once. This book is a 5 stars for me. I can see how it would rate lower for others, because it’s a lot of character building and reads almost like a prologue, but I LOVE the process of character development. Hobb is tactfully building the groundwork of what makes RotE so amazing. I was hooked on Fitz and The Farseer Trilogy from the moment I dipped my toes into Assassin’s Apprentice the first time.

“I think myself cured of all spite, but when I touch pen to paper, the hurt of a boy bleeds out with sea-spawned ink, until I suspect each carefully formed black letter scabs over some ancient scarlet wound.”

If you’re a lover of beautiful prose, Hobb is easily among the greats. She’s one of those authors that reminds us that fantasy isn’t just a genre for people that love magic, dragons, and sword fights (though they’re definitely a bonus). She writes with compassion, with words that reach deep into your soul and pluck on your heartstrings. Hobb is capable of writing in this extremely intimate manner, as if she’s able to find these deep, hidden parts of yourself and reveal them to you. Let this be a warning: there’s tragedy in every bit of her writing, but there’s also tenderness and this ability to pick you—and her characters—up, teaching you to carry on even after she’s just broken your heart. It is such a beautiful reflection of what real life can be like, these moments that make your heart ache just to think about them and the way life goes on after. The way life can still be sweet after enduring so much trauma.

“All events, no matter how earthshaking or bizarre, are diluted within moments of their occurrence by the continuance of the necessary routines of day-to-day living. Men walking a battlefield to search for wounded among the dead will still stop to cough, to blow their noses, still lift their eyes to watch a V of geese in flight. I have seen farmers continue their plowing and planting, heedless of armies clashing but a few miles away.
So it proved for me”

I love that Hobb starts our story out with a moment that leaves us wanting to know more about the characters and then DOESN’T give us more. It puts us more into the mind of a child, in those patchy bits of memories that don’t entirely make sense but we recall them nonetheless. This moment leads us to the mystery surrounding Fitz’s mom and his father, Chivalry. It’s impossible to not be curious about their relationship and what happened between them, but we don’t NEED that information. And though we may long for it, Hobb firmly shuts that door behind us and ushers us into Fitz’s life, which isn’t shaped by his biological parents very much at all, except for the fact that he’s a royal bastard. In fact, it’s made pretty clear that Chivalry thought he was doing the best for his son by not being an influence in his life. I admire that Hobb doesn’t dally about trying to tie up their histories, they are just shadows in the background of this journey.

I love the naming system. It’s this way of Hobb acknowledging that parents set these lofty goals for their kids by naming these virtues into existence, but also a nose rub at the way parents often set themselves up for disappointment. You can hope and aspire for your kid to be something but even if they achieve that, they’ll achieve it in their own way, and they might make horrible mistakes along the way. It’s human nature. For example: Chivalry wholly lived up to his name, until a weak moment with a woman other than his wife (who he truly loved). By all accounts, Chivalry isn’t a bad guy, in fact, he’s one of the best men people know… but he did this discourteous thing that had huge consequences. Patience is the epitome of her name, but she is often brusque with Fitz when she’s teaching him. Regal is certainly lush and extravagant, but doesn’t carry himself in the way we hope a good, benevolent noble would.

“It was inside me. The more I sought it, the stronger it grew. It loved me. Loved me even if I couldn’t, wouldn’t, didn’t love myself. Love me even if I hated. It set its tiny teeth in my soul and braced and held so that I couldn’t crawl any further. And when I tried, a howl of despair burst from it, searing me, forbidding me to break so sacred trust.

It was Smithy.”

Hobb weaves a subtle magic system around us almost immediately, and employs one of my favorite devices, which is mental magic. I have said before, I love mental magic because it makes magic make sense. Instead of some outlandish system, it’s so delicate and natural. It’s believable. The Skill is an innate telepathic magic that is specific to the Farseer line. The Wit is especially brilliant because it takes that warm, special feeling that an animal lover experiences when around a furry friend and turns it into a magical ability, a gift (or a curse if you want to listen to the ignorant people in the Six Duchies). Guys… I love animals. I love animal companions in novels. This acknowledgment of the way animals can fill a void, the way they can heal and support you. It’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve read in fantasy. Between The Skill and The Wit, this is one of the most gently built magic systems I’ve ever read, Hobb doesn’t come out and define it word for word for you. She shows it to you slowly, as if it’s the most natural thing.

“Very little worth knowing is taught by fear,” Burrich said stubbornly. And, more warmly: “It’s a poor teacher who tries to instruct by blows and threats. Imagine taming a horse that way. Or a dog. Even the most knot-headed dog learns better from an open hand than a stick.”

Simply put, I love these books. I love this amazing and vast world she has already started to build in book one, that we are only seeing a small portion of. We already hear whispers of the Rainwilds and Elderlings in passing. I found myself noticing things that become really important later on that didn’t catch my attention on the first read. I love these characters. From Verity, the most noble. To the Fool, who sees more than most. To Patience, who loves freely. To Burrich, who protects people and creatures, big and small. To Kettricken, who sacrifices. To Chade, who serves faithfully. To Fitz, who experiences many hardships and never hardens his heart. Who was brought up by the aforementioned people, who made an odd sort of family out of them. Who learned from them and built himself into a man out of their guidance and love. Who took a small part of each of them and learned from their experiences.

“Too late to apologize, I’ve already forgiven you.”

Here’s a reading order for anyone interested in the Realm of the Elderlings. The Farseer Trilogy to The Liveships Traders Trilogy to The Tawny Man Trilogy to The Rainwild Chromicles to Fitz and the Fool Trilogy

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Asunder by L. Steinworth: A Review

Oh man, this one was a fun read! I won a giveaway by Liz and eagerly jumped into Asunder and the world of A Vatan Chronicle. Okay, first off, lets talk about this cover. Liz painted this cover herself, and it’s a depiction of Mayli, the Princess of Ammos. Liz was inspired to write this novel after painting her character, Alden. She wanted to tell the story of the man beneath the hood. I am absolutely FLOORED by her abilities, her paintings are so lifelike that they could be photographs.

Liz’s inspiration for Asunder‘s rogue, Alden

So, book reviews and blogs are SO important for an independent author, and I must say, I was nervous to read this. Not because I doubted Liz’s abilities, but because I had gotten to know her before receiving the book and I really wanted it to be my cup of tea. I did not want to have to give her a bad review, but that’s the name of the game. LUCKILY, I loved this book. If you’re looking for political intrigue, a bit of fantasy, and some romance, then you have come to the right place. I know some people that absolutely despise romance in their medieval/fantasy books but I am not one of them. I like seeing relationships build, and Asunder did that beautifully. It wasn’t the cheesy, bodice ripping romance either. Just true connections, tender moments. In the package Liz sent me, there was a twenty-sided die, feathers, bookmarks, stickers with crests on them, a page with a donut attached to it. I was delighted to see all of these little pieces start to make sense as I read. There’s a dice game, Mayli wears feathers, the royalty wears tattoo crests on their shoulders.

“Feathers from her jacket floated downstream as if they were too embarrassed to be with her any longer.”

The crests were an amazing touch. I loved this unique way of marking nobility being presented. The world building in this was gradual and encompassing, rather than in-your-face. We learn about the rivalry between noble houses, and there’s a mystery as to who killed Mayli’s mother, whether it was Mayli’s suitor, Colin, or someone less obvious. The rogue, Alden, has made it his mission to find out the truth of this, to try to bring peace between kingdoms, when his band of thieves is sent to capture Mayli, on her way to a new suitor’s home. From here, we are taken on a journey while Alden tries to keep her out of harm’s way.

“What makes you think I was anything worthwhile?”

“You are a good person.”

Alden sneered. “Look, knights, soldiers, guards, queens, and princes are not free from wrongdoing—you should understand that the best of anyone—and thieves, murderers, and liars can rationalize their actions to be good. Everyone is just in their own mind. Title is irrelevant when it comes to virtue,” he said, then continued rubbing his nail against the black steel.

She grinned, clamped her hands on the chair and pushed up to stand with a hop. “See, you said it yourself.”

He looked up from his blade. “Huh?”

She lowered her chin and peered up at him with wide, smiling eyes. “You said: thieves can be good!”

Pg. 181

This was a fun, fast read. If I were to rate how much I enjoyed it, it would be a 4.5/5 stars. Liz doesn’t write like a debut author and she’s a testament to the quality of independent, self-published authors. There were moments that I stopped to reread a line because Liz’s imagery was so potent, her metaphors were witty and grin-inducing. You can tell she really enjoyed writing this and her attention to detail as an artist really gave her an upper hand in writing. Alternatively, she was careful not to let that hinder her either. She didn’t dally about for pages describing scenery, her imagery was concise and perfectly calculated. Now I’ve joined the crowd patiently and eagerly waiting for book two, especially after that MAJOR CLIFFHANGER she leaves us with. Wonderful job, Liz. I’ll leave her site links below if you’d like to check her out, she’s constantly posting her wonderful artwork and creative processes.

L. Steinworth: IG | Twitter |Website

L. Steinworth and her Mayli painting

It is Wood, It is Stone: A Review

I was approved for an early reader copy of It is Wood, It is Stone by Gabriella Burnham through Random House and Netgalley. We follow Linda on her journey to Brazil with her husband, who has taken a year abroad to teach at a University. Through this journey, we watch Linda lose herself in her husband’s shadow, searching for her place in Brazil. Waters are made murkier by the fact that their apartment comes equipped with a maid, taking even the duties of being the keeper of the house away for Linda. She feels a wariness around Marta, the house maid, as this new place seems like more of a home to her than Linda. Frustrated with her life, she wanders the streets of São Paulo until she meets a captivating woman named Celia, and here our story really takes hold.

I’ve seen other people describe this novel as a fever dream and can’t help but agree. It is the story of a woman who doesn’t quite have hold of herself, and her uncertainty holds a sort of captivating effect over her audience. She seeks love and reassurance in her female companionships almost as if in a way to prove her worthiness of love to herself. Though her marriage problems aren’t entirely her own, I think she realizes that her inability to vocalize her needs to her husband is her biggest downfall. She takes in the power of the women around her to choose their lives, to choose happiness, to choose family, even though those aren’t always the same thing. Burnham evokes a keen sense of longing in Linda that is so strong, you can’t help but to catch wisps of it yourself. Her writing is melodious and pulls you along, I remember checking the time left on my kindle and being flabbergasted that I was already at 91%. Reading this book was soothing even though our characters were going through this major, troubling life experience. As the story unfolds, we see the strength that comes when women open up to each other, as well as the toxicity that comes with putting too much of yourself into someone else.

Though we don’t get as much face time with Marta, I found her intriguing. We end up learning a bit about her background and her feelings in regards to herself. She’s a true woman of strength, and there’s a moment that she grapples with sickness and there’s a loss of something that was very important to her identity. She comes back even stronger and it made me realize she is truly the backbone of this story, and a good example to Linda.

Burnham is sure to be a stand out author, I see a big future for her in the writing industry. This is her debut, though her voice and writing style are so strong that it seems as if she’s been churning out novels for ages. This has a publication date of July 28th, 2020.

Happy and You Know It: A Review

Happy & You Know It by Laura Hankin surprised me! I expected it to be all fluff and just a light read, and while it read super easily, there were some witty underlying tones.

It starts out when Claire is called to use her musical talents for a rich mother and baby playgroup. Soon, she’a sucked into their perfectly instagrammable lives and drama.

This book highlights the strategically curated idea of motherhood on social media, where everything is whitewashed, quite literally, with a light and airy filter. You know the type: the bless this mess wooden plaque hung in an absurdly sophisticated laundry room, where families are always smiling, the husband is always happy, and the house is always clean and modern. It pokes fun at this plastic notion of the ideal life, played out in perfect pictures meant to hide the flaws, where the “flaws” that are shown are placed with a perfectly calculated degree of honesty to garner likes and accolades.

At the same time, the author recognizes that mothers are under pressure to maintain themselves and the lives of their whole family. That these women, usually innocently, start posting pictures to have a log of their family’s moments together, and slowly but surely, companies latch on to these women to push their agenda. May that be vitamins, workout classes, tummy tea, weight loss programs, etc. Women have been raised to do it all while secretly critiquing themselves, grasping at any “secret weapon” that makes their lives more palatable in those first moments of motherhood, moments that are incredibly empowering while also being incredibly lonely and full of doubt. There’s people out there waiting to take advantage of this, to push products (that can sometimes be harmful) on a woman that is trying to make sense of where she fits in the world as a mother, to women that are looking for that validation of their worth, and see that company’s attention as just that. They then market this stuff onto others and spin that wheel along.

I loved how subtly this was woven into the plot and ended up playing a major part in the development of the story. Though there was a deeper message, there were also moments that seemed immature or not fully developed. I didn’t like how Claire jumped to assumptions about the major issue in the story and immediately thought the worst of her friends instead of talking to them, which I don’t think someone would do in real life in this exact situation. It was actually a completely unintentional and understandable mistake.

I would give this a 3.5 out of 5!

The Fellowship of the Ring: A Review

The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater.

I finally started my journey into The Lord of the Rings, courtesy of another buddy read, which I will link at the bottom. I probably would have never gotten to it if it wasn’t for this push! I’ve got some mixed feelings. If I were to give an overall rating, I would give it a 3/5 stars. Bear in mind, I have never watched the movies or formed an attachment to this series in any way. This is one case where I think I would have enjoyed the books more if I watched the movies first, and I intend to watch at least the first one before I go into the next book, which I will continue with eventually. Unfortunately, you shouldn’t have to watch a movie to get into the book that it is based off of, so the rating will stand.

The Road goes ever on and on

Down from the door where it began.

Now far ahead the Road has gone,

And I must follow, if I can,

Pursuing it with eager feet,

Until it joins some larger way

Where many paths and errands meet.

And whither then? I cannot say

I started off pretty intrigued in the hobbits and Frodo and that quickly turned to boredom. 50% of the book, it felt like a struggle to get through. I got to Tom Bombadil and was like, this guy is pretty unique and then got bored again because that section lingered a bit too long. I think Tom in general is pretty interesting since he’s shrouded in a bit of mystery. I actually love when our authors don’t feel like they have to tell us every little bit about a character, because that’s true to life, we don’t know everything about ANYONE. Two of my favorite authors, Rothfuss and Hobb, employ this tactic. It can drive you absolutely mad with wanting to know more about specific characters, but that intrigue can build an amazing story. It’s good for us to use our imagination to complete characters in our minds. Then Strider came in and things started to get interesting. Up until this point, I felt like the character development with our forefront characters was so bland that I wasn’t connecting with Frodo’s group. In contrast, the world building is outstanding. Tolkien spends most of his time building this world up instead of developing his characters. For some people, this is exactly what they’re looking for. There’s a reason why people love Middle Earth, and it’s absolutely due to Tolkien’s time spent weaving its illusion. The lore and the songs were something that I adored because I have a penchant for subtle clues when building a story, if you pay attention to the words in the songs, they provide a lot of detail. I LOVE world building but my true heart lies in character development. When Strider came in, I felt like we finally start to get some depth to our characters and our merry little band of friends start talking more, rather than it feeling like we are just reading about them walking. It wasn’t until about 75% that I actually was INVESTED in the story and I felt like we were starting to experience enough action for me not to glaze over and have to reread paragraphs.

Deserves it! I daresay he does. Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends.

Don’t get me wrong, I knew that this was going to be a verbose novel. At times, it’s more than just verbose… it’s plain ole dry in that first 50%, at least to me. There’s always going to be people that have read more fantasy than I have, but I have a decent range. I read A Song of Ice and Fire before watching Game of Thrones and fell into the camp of wanting people to read the books before watching the show because I feel like the show is more enjoyable after having read the books. It is another series that is loquacious, but I can’t say that I ever spent 50% of the first novel glazing over. I say this because you get scoffs here and there about not having read LotR. I’ve read plenty of fantasy. This personally would never be the book I recommend to get someone into fantasy. Most people aren’t going to wait 50-75% of a book to see if it gets better. It makes me wonder how many of the people who have told me that they have tried fantasy and hated it was due to trying to start with LotR. That’s not to say that people can’t (in fact, I know many people HAVE) jump into fantasy by reading this first, but I would recommend something more universally palatable. That being said, Tolkien drops these little nuggets of wisdom that absolutely reminds me of why I love the fantasy genre. It’s a testament to the fact that fantasy is capable of being this magical journey while teaching us about ourselves and our world. We are capable of bravery in unlikely times, we can be compassionate when we least want to. Fantasy has always been so much more than it is marketed, it’s not just for “nerds” or dreamers, it’s for people that like looking deeper into themselves and humanity as a whole. Tolkien drives that point home effortlessly.

Even the smallest person can change the course of the future.

There’s no doubt that Tolkien was truly a pioneer of the fantasy genre. I am not debating that in the least. Throughout Fellowship, there were times that I was found myself with that Eureka! moment during a scene or when seeing certain terms or an expression, where it was obvious that another author’s book was heavily influenced by Tolkien. He’s the father of epic fantasy and there’s no doubt that the fantasy genre as whole would be much smaller without his influence. Gandalf’s awareness that absolute power corrupts absolutely is groundbreaking. To have a powerful being capable of taking more power into his hands and saying no is monumental. This certainly isn’t a new comparison but you can’t read Harry Potter, learn about Dumbledore and not think of that influence. This is just one of the millions of comparisons you could make.

All in all, I am excited to see where this journey goes, as it leaves on quite the cliffhanger and I am completely in the dark about what happens. I’m happy I did finally decide to read this because now I am able to have some narrative on the subject. Thanks to David, Pato, and J.M. for the push on this buddy read, I wouldn’t have done it without you!

David: Twitter | Blog | Goodreads | IG | David’s review for this book can be found Here

Pato: Goodreads | Youtube | Twitter

J.M.: Twitter

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