Parasites: A Review

“I’m so sick of this. Sick of scavenging and proves and scouting and caution and harvesting. I don’t care that we’re amazing at it. I don’t care that we can just dampen down every part of our curiousity which make us human. I’m sick of just wandering around and taking what we can find. I’m sick of being parasites.”

I started this book this morning and I easily finished in a couple of hours. Parasites by Matthew Samuels is an easily devourable YA science fiction and space odyssey novel. Our home-world is Lyra, which is rapidly declining. Our main characters, Alessia and Kael are best friends that explore other worlds to scavenge objects, food, and other means to keep their home and people from crumbling at an even faster rate. Alessia sets out on a mission with Kael and their friend/bodyguard/father figure, Basteel, to find a solution to the imminent danger to their planet. It happens to be that this is the same mission her father was on when he disappeared.

What I loved most about this book was the friendship between Lessie and Kael. I think it makes it easier to face dangers over and over when you have someone to trust. Eventually, they acquire a good little group of trusted individuals that make their mission easier. Also, Alessia was conflicted about her feelings towards her father when he disappeared and I think Samuels was very wise in doing that. I think it made her more human and relatable. Sometimes people die and you have unresolved feelings or you feel bad about the conflicted feelings you had. Part of this story was about finding peace within herself after her father disappeared.

I think that this is an especially fabulous introduction to the majesty that is science fiction and solar punk for YA. I felt like I was learning new things while reading an entertaining story and this is the type of story that you feel smarter after reading. At the same time, it’s completely marketable to readers of all ages. If you’re looking for an indie author to support, give Samuels a try. You’ll hardly believe this is an independent publication. Thank you, Matthew for sending me this delightful story.

Malice (The Faithful and the Fallen #1): A Review

“Two born of blood, dust and ashes shall champion the Choices, the Darkness and Light.”

Wow. First, I wanna thank Petrik for recommending this book to me. Malice by John Gwynne lives up to the recommendation. On goodreads, I rated it a 5/5 stars without a second thought. This first book revolves around a prophecy that the world will be divide into two sides, basically your classic fight between good and evil.

“Black Sun will drown the earth in bloodshed, Bright Star with the Treasures must unite.’ Again he stopped, carefully turned more pages, eventually continued his halting reading: ‘By their names you shall know them – Kin-Slayer, Kin-Avenger, Giant-Friend, Draig-Rider, Dark Power ’gainst Lightbringer.’ And so he went on: read, pause, search. Read again. ‘One shall be the Tide, one the Rock in the swirling sea. Before one, storm and shield shall stand; before the other, True-Heart and Black-Heart. Beside one rides the Beloved, beside the other, the Avenging Hand. Behind one, the Sons of the Mighty, the fair Ben-Elim, gathered ’neath the Great Tree. Behind the other, the Unholy, dread Kadoshim, who seek to cross the bridge, force the world to bended knee.”

What I found interesting about this book, is that while the characters are pretty easily distinguishable between good and bad, the concept of good and evil itself rides the grey line. I can only assume that this line will keep getting thinner. We have characters that we see committing heinous acts while truly believing they are doing things for the greater good. There’s supposed to be certain races of people/creatures that are servants of the sides of good and evil, but these aren’t always as they seem. There’s a lot of politicking going on in Malice and truly nobody is safe. I love that we get multiple POVs and most of the chapters are short because it keeps the story really fresh and fast moving. The way this book is written, it TRULY reminds me of A Song of Ice and Fire. What sets it apart is that John Gwynne is MUCH more straightforward in his writing. We don’t see long-winded passages filled with descriptions that don’t serve to advance the plot. It is much more palatable to the average fantasy reader, and this is coming from someone that loves ASOIAF with a passion. That being said, EVERY moment of this book served the greater objective. I raced through each chapter to get to the next POV because they were all interesting, though I will claim Corban’s as a favorite.

Speaking of, here’s a brief introduction to our POV characters:

•Corban: a wolven-raising, colt-loving boy with immense talent in the training field. He deals with bullying from another boy with kindness and grace. Okay, if you know me, you know I’m a sucker for a wolf-human bond in a story. This satisfies that craving for me. Corban loves animals and they love him.

“Your colt, Ban. He just raced past us, from nowhere, threw himself into the hound. He killed it, Ban, defending you. I’ve never seen the like before.”

•Cywen: a smart and hardworking girl, sister to Corban. She’s often found embarrassing him by protecting him (aka beating up) the bullies. Strong and capable, her mother taught her knife throwing at a young age.

“Cywen remembered her knives suddenly, fumbling one from her belt and hurled it at a face in a red cloak — saw him fall backwards, clutching at his throat.”

•Evnis: I don’t know much about this guy yet. From his first chapter, it makes it clear that he’s a two-faced, self-serving weasel. I’m not sure his motives yet for acting the way he does, but he’s one of the few that are easily put in the EVIL pile. He’s a mentor to King Brenin.

“You hide your greed behind a cloak of revenge, Evnis. Power is what you seek, and will grasp it where you can.”

•Nathair: the son of High King Aquilis. A warrior with a penchant for battle strategy. Fiercely ambitious and capable of charming leagues, he believes he is destined for greatness that even his father can not comprehend.

“I know who you are, what you will become. That is why I serve you.”

•Veradis: eager to prove himself as capable as his older brother, Veradis quickly becomes Nathair’s first-sword and best friend. Veradis believes that Nathair is the key to saving their realm and protects him at all costs.

“Then stand, brother, for that is what you are to me now, and let us seal this oath with our blood.”

•Kastell: orphaned from his immediate family, and caught in feud with his jealous cousin, Kastell is torn between serving his uncle or joining the Gadair, a group of prestigious sword-brothers. He is mentored and protected by his family friend, Maquin. Kastell is pure of heart and motive.

“You are like a son to me and I fear for you. Let me make one thing clear. The only thing that will part me from you is death.”

•Camlin: a brigand with morals, he refuses to harm women or children. He will play a major part on both sides of the war at certain points.

“No more innocent blood…

I am thankful for your coming, more than I can ever show, but I’d rather walk right back into my cell and face the headsman on the morrow than see their blood spilt.”

And that’s it for POVs. We truly have a wonderful cast of characters, good and bad. no one character‘s chapters are so lingering that you get bored of them. Before you know it, you’re reading the next character’s chapter and wanting to get back to the previous… IN A NEVER-ENDING, GLORIOUS CYCLE. I can say that the last 25 percent of the book gave me heart palpitations and probably more than a few gray hairs. Nobody is safe here. John Gwynne is good at making your heart tender towards his characters and then stabbing you in your perfectly primed, tender heart. If you like getting stabbed in the heart repeatedly because you’re a book masochist, like me, this is for you. I can only see the series getting better –and more heartbreaking– from here. Dare I say, this book/series is already primed to be in my top ten favorite fantasy books ever. By the end of this series, I won’t be surprised if John Gwynne joins the ranks of Rothfuss, Hobb, Martin, Sanderson, Abercrombie, and Lawrence in my favorite authors.

“Both the brave man and the coward feel the same. The only difference between them is the brave man faces his fear, does not run.”

The Blood Mirror: A Review

“Look at your mistakes long enough to learn from them, then put them behind you.”

I finished listening to The Blood Mirror by Brent Weeks last week but just now got around to reviewing it. It was a 3.75 stars for me, which I rounded up to a 4 on goodreads.

Honestly, there’s not much to say about this one. Altogether pleasant storytelling and while we learned quite a few new things, I feel like the plot was a bit stagnant. Don’t get me wrong, I fully enjoy being immersed in this world. I just don’t feel like much was accomplished in this installment.

That being said, I don’t have much BAD to say about it. Kip is fully coming into his own and though he’s always going to have that shred of modesty and self-deprecation, he’s harnessing his power and fully taking on his leadership role. His marriage might not have been his initial choice, but in true Kip fashion, he’s making the best of it. Heck, by the end, he’s starting to thrive in it. No lingering in a wallowing state for him. I think it’s good that Kip has realized that he has an incredible woman in front of him and that his bond with Teia was something that would probably never have came fully to fruition.

To realize in an instant that you aren’t going to have the life you’d hoped for, but not waste a moment complaining, instead acting instantly to save what good you can? That’s more guts than I’d have had.

Gavin Guile is still as low as we have ever seen him and we start to learn some important and revealing things about him. He is looking at himself in the mirror and for the first time, really disliking what he sees. He’s always had an undercurrent of distaste for himself but with these revelations, he’s disgusted with himself. Yet, to the rest of the world, he’s still a god. He is the reason so many people keep fighting.

“With no small amount of swagger, Gavin Greyling said, “I remember Gavin fucking Guile, who won the False Prism’s War, who outwitted the Thorn Conspirators and ended the Red Cliff Uprising. Gavin Guile, who brought low pirate kings and bandit lords, who ended the Blood Wars with wits and one deadly wave of his hand, who brought justice to the Seven Satrapies. Gavin Guile, who hunted wights and criminals, who built Brightwater Wall in less than a week, who aborted the birth of gods, destroyed at least two bane, and killed a god full fledged at Ruic Head. Gavin Guile, who faced a sea demon and lived, saving all the people of Garriston and the Blackguard, too. Gavin Guile, who sank Pash vecchio’s great ship Gargantua with a rat. Gavin Guile, who armed us for war and gave the Blackguard the seas entire with our sea chariots and hull wreckers. Gavin Guile, heart of our heart, our Promachos, the one who goes before us in war, who came and conquered and will come again.”

That moment gave me chills and brought a tear to my eye. I love the goodness in Gavin Greyling and I don’t think Gavin Guile even realizes the positive effect he’s had on people. I think he knows people idolize him but he doesn’t know that he makes people want to be GOOD and strive for better. Brent Weeks definitely knows how to pull a heartstring here and there.

I don’t have much more to say about this story, but I can say that I hope it sets us up for a great finale. I’m ready to see the conclusion of this all!

The Roxy Letters: A Review

Simon and Schuster sent me this uncorrected galley of The Roxy Letters by Mary Pauline Lowry in exchange for an honest review.

Honestly, it was a 5 out of 5 stars for me. I loved the style of the book. Roxy is a flawed, love-able, passionate over-sharer. She has let her ex-boyfriend-turned-close-friend, Everett, move into her house to help pay the mortgage. Everett is a bit of a slacker, a hippy, and doesn’t use a cell phone so Roxy leaves him letters, partly to keep him informed on her daily life (and grievances towards living with him) and partly as a therapeutic release for herself. Through her letters, we learn about her sex life and relationships, her desires and plans to topple the corporations taking over her beloved neighborhood in Texas, her (sometimes failed) veganism, and money issues stemming from being underemployed and overqualified as a Whole Foods employee.

Something about this book and Roxy reminded me of an adult version of Georgia from Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging. I mean that in the best way, it was one of my favorite series when I was younger. Roxy is earnest, charming, smart, talented… and an absolute chaotic mess at times. She has hilarious encounters with men that will leave you laughing and cringing. In her letters, she’s constantly detailing her crazy antics. A feud with her boss, Dirty Steve, featuring laxative brownies. An ongoing battle between herself and her neighbor, Captain Tweaker, involving a meth van in front of his house. Taking on Lululemon using her artistic abilities to create protest signs. An immediate regret after venturing into OMing (meditation featuring clitoral stimulation). Lots of laughs and fun in this book.

Roxy’s voice really makes this book, she’s full of passion in every regard of her life. Her messiness makes her more of a realistic character. She’s also a woman’s woman, a tarot card lover, lover of the goddess Venus. She has two female friends, Annie and Artemis, that are complete contrast to one another while still encouraging her to make the most of her life. Together, they face Roxy’s problems and get into a bit of trouble while doing it. There’s a few men that come in and out of Roxy’s life that are wholly entertaining, as well. I loved that all of these characters have their flaws: alcoholism, addiction, mental illness, chronic unemployment, simple irresponsibility.

This was a completely delightful read. If you’re looking for a lighthearted book filled with laughs, this is your book! The Roxy Letters will be released on April 7th, 2020. Thanks Simon and Schuster and Mary Pauline Lowry for the opportunity to read and review this!

January Wrap Up: 13 Books

I didn’t realize until the end of the month that this month seemed so long! Maybe a time lord is out there jumping through the passages of time and extending our days longer, or maybe it was the sheer amount of events that happened this month (impeachment trials, earthquakes, viruses, Kobe, the ever lingering doom of war)… but damn, January has seen a lot.

On the upside, I had a pretty good reading month ending at 13 books finished. Here’s what I read and how they rated out of 5 stars

1. Room to Breathe, Liz Talley⭐️ (it’s just fluff… and not even of the entertaining, beach read fluff variety)

2. Red, White, and Royal Blue, Casey McQuiston ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (enthralling, sweet, with a diverse cast of characters)

3. 4. & 5. The Folk of the Air Trilogy, Holly Black, overall ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (if you’re open to YA fantasy romance, you’ll probably like it. Otherwise you’ll hate it)

6. We Met in December, Rose Curtis ⭐️⭐️ (not awful but nothing special or original)

7. Trick Mirror, Jia Tolentino ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (probably the best book I’ve read this month and the most stimulating, only knocked off a star because it can be a bit hard to read)

8. My Sister, The Serial Killer, Oyinkan Braithwaithe ⭐️⭐️⭐️ (easy to read, unlikable characters)

9. 10. & 11. A Court of Thorns and Roses Trilogy, Sarah J Maas ⭐️⭐️⭐️. 75 overall (some were phenomenal, but a lot of cheesiness. Another YA fantasy romance, so I think that comes with the territory)

12. Esemtu Vol 1: A Graphic Novel, Karin Springer ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (Unique subject for a graphic novel, mythology, and a quick read)

13. The Broken Eye, Brent Weeks ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (the most ME book out of the lot. Adult fantasy: ahhhh, that’s the good stuff)

I’m excited to get into more adult fantasy in February. I think I’ve had my fill of branching out for the next few months, unless some library holds come through. I would also like to read more memoirs this month!

Currently reading/listening to:

The Unspoken Name, A.K. Larkwood

Malice, John Gwynne

The Blood Mirror, Brent Weeks

The only other book I know for sure that I’ll be getting to is Parasites by Matthew Samuels.

Happy reading, everyone! Is everyone else happy with their reading this month?

The Broken Eye by Brent Weeks: A Review

“This world has only two kinds of people: villains and smiling villains.”

Phew! Okay, admittedly, The Broken Eye took me a while to finish. Got distracted by tv binges and then had to reacquaint myself with what I had already listened to. About a halfway through, it started zooming for me and I turned that narration speed up because I was eager to finish it.

First off, if you’ve read my reviews for the previous installments, you’ll know that I love the world-building and the plot. You’ll also know that I started to get irked by the focus on female bodies. It was distracting me from how good the story was. Well, maybe Brent Weeks grew up or his wife or publisher put a leash on him, but that’s almost completely erased from this book. I can handle a bit of focus on the human form, it’s natural, and PORTRAYED a lot more naturally in this one. I’m open to people learning from their mistakes and refocusing their internal narrative away from the way we’ve been conditioned to think/act.

One of my favorite things in The Broken Eye is actually the domination of powerful women. Karris Whiteoak isn’t the maiden in distress, she’s actually on a mission to save dGavin from HIS doom. She’s handling restraining from drafting remarkably well. She’s guiding multiple teens into their power. I was cheering for her by the end of the story. She’s always been a woman to be reckoned with, being in the Black Guard, but she’s a whole new level of power now. The *twist* at the end, wasn’t so surprising, though. I was like DUH, Karris.

Tisis even becomes a player in the game beyond

just being a pretty face. She has motives and she’s actually surprisingly sweet underneath the coy facade she’s put up. I’m excited to see where she goes in this story, good or bad.

Teia starts really coming into her power, too. She’s being tested from all angles and she still manages loyalty to Kip. Their friendship and feelings for each other is such a heartwarming plot line. She is so young and so uniquely powerful, and she takes all the wacky —and at times, heartbreaking— plans that Kip brings forth with such grace.

“Don’t judge a man by what he says his ideals are, judge him by what he does. Look at what the Color Prince has done. They’re wrong, Teia. They’re liars and murderers. It doesn’t mean everything we do is right. It doesn’t mean our house doesn’t need a thorough cleaning. I just don’t think we need to burn it to the ground to do it.”

Honestly, the only woman in this that makes me cringe is Liv. I know it’s partly because she is on the opposing team but I just don’t understand how she can actively fight against her father and is just like… dumbfounded when her father expresses disappointment or counsel against the way of thinking that she’s adopted. But she’s powerful and can be a gamechanger in this series, I’ve just kinda stopped caring about her storyline at this point.

Minor spoiler coming up (don’t read the next paragraph if you’re worried). One thing that threw me off in the beginning was dGavin’s capture. I wanted him to come back avenging halfway throughout the book. The more I reflected, the more I was okay with where he ended up. Do I still want him to come back and avenge the heck outta himself? Yes!!! I’m okay with it being played out though. This book was about humanizing dGavin, humility, and really showing that he IS a good person. I think that we are supposed to have our doubts because of all that he has done in the past but… I’m not convinced. dGavin is a beloved prism for a reason. He has a lot of good in him. And I’m just saying, I woulda been totally okay with him drafting black luxin and obliterating the HECK outta people when they were in the midst of torturing him. He didn’t though. He chose not to. That’s pretty freaking stand up. I can’t say I’d have the same grace in that situation.

KIP. He’s really making progress and I’m so proud. Instead of Kip the Lip, he’s really thinking. He’s working hard even though his original intentions are going awry. He is EMBRACING being a Guile. He’s done apologizing for it or feeling meek or resenting the privilege he is getting from it. Own it. He’s powerful. He’s kind. He grew up in a crappy environment and is now meant to change the world in some shape or form. He is such an earnest character that the deceit really affects him but he pushes through for the true greater good.

“I am of you,” said Kip.”I am Guile as much as you are. True, I have a scrap of decency, but only a scrap. How do you think you can treat a Guile with such disregard and get away with it? Because I am you. I’m as cold as you, I’m as smart as you, and when you push me, I’m as evil and cruel as you. I have a thin film of goodness floating on the top of my Guile, grandfather, but I don’t know how senile you must be to miss just how thin it is.”

Andross… still a brilliant bastard. These webs are getting so delightfully tangled and it’s making my anxiety skyrocket. He’s playing all the right keys and getting away with it all.

Except…………….. that ending. That gosh darn glorious ending. That’s all I’m gonna say. Excuse me, I need to start the next one.

”This is what it is to grow up. It is to live beyond the blind rush of passion, or hate, or green luxin, or battle juice. It is to see what must be done, and to do it, without feeling a great desire or a great hatred or a great love. It is to confront fear, naked. No armor of bombast or machismo. Just duty, and love for one’s fellows. Not love felt, not the love that compelled action without thought, but love chosen deliberately. I am the best person to do this thing, it said, though I may die doing it.“

Review of Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self Delusion by Jia Tolentino

E05DF8EF-B14F-4E25-9A12-17CF2762FA3A 3.JPG


Wow. This one. There’s a lot to unload here. First off, Jia Tolentino is incredibly smart and insightful. This was not a book that I flew through in a day, because frankly, she’s way smarter than I am. I don’t say this to be self-deprecating or to underestimate myself. There’s always gonna be someone smarter in the room. That’s partially WHY we read, right? To get a glimpse into the brain of intelligent people, to learn something. Jia is wise and skilled writer, and thus, a lot of her thoughts were deserving of a reread and reflection. The title Trick Mirror is so fitting, if you’re aware of trick mirror photography, which is done by placing a subject between two mirrors to create four reflections. The purpose was to enable a person to see themselves the way other people might see them, to see all angles. Jia has certainly approached a multitude of subject from a multitude of perspectives in Trick Mirror.

c. 1905. Dittrich Studio, Atlantic City, New Jersey. IMAGE: COLLECTION OF CHRISTOPHER B. STEINER

“When I feel confused about something, I write about it until I turn into the person who shows up on paper: a person who is plausibly trustworthy, intuitive, and clear.”

Here’s a warning for people that might be thinking this is an uplifting self-help book… this book gets uncomfortable. It’s about shedding self-delusions. It’s about the necessity, at times, of self-delusions in a cruel world. It gets depressing. It’s poignant and raw, and a slap in the face at times. It’s also necessary and important at a time where we have media, the internet, influencers, politicians, and trolls alike shaping our world and discourse. This book is really Jia working through her inner feelings towards a range of topics: the internet, feminism, sexual assault, marriage, religion, drugs, reality tv, body image, marriage, scams of the century. I’ll tell you, I’m super happy that I read this on kindle merely because I highlighted over 200 quotes… it was almost comical the amount of things I related to, the revelations that I had.

We start out with the internet and the good things that have come about because of it. People found a way to express themselves, creative outlets, ways to promote their business with satisfying and quick results. We were able to connect with friends and family instantaneously. It was all new and glorious. Jia explores how things have become so caustic in the span of a decade. Instead of feeling liberated by the internet, a lot of us feel chained and insecure. Scrolling through our instagram/facebook/twitter/etc., we are exposed to tragedy after tragedy, decimation, unrealistic bodies, opinions shouted merely for the point of shouting, to tear another person down behind the safety of a screen. As Jia points out, it can be overwhelming. It can be depressing. A lot of us also rely on the internet, the business world has become so entangled unto the internet that it seems that there’s no way to escape social media usage at times. Sometimes it feels like we are forced to choose between burying our head in the sand or taking severe hits to our mental health when it comes to internet usage, we have become so reliant on it.

“Platforms that promised connection began inducing mass alienation.”

What started out as getting to know our peers, ended up being in a never-ending competition with our peers and strangers alike. Jia points out that while the internet can seem incredibly rewarding for some (in fact, for those who are alienated in real life, it can be the only place they feel rewarded, in front of an adoring audience that barely knows them), it is also incredibly harmful and alienating for others. The internet doesn’t forget. The internet doesn’t go gently into the good night… it rages. It rages over big and small things alike. It ruins lives without a second thought. Every comment, every troll, every sarcastic retweet and stray thought can be the undoing of another person.

“Online reward mechanisms beg to substitute for offline ones, and then overtake them. This is why everyone tries to look so hot and well-traveled on Instagram; this is why everyone seems so smug and triumphant on Facebook; this is why, on Twitter, making a righteous political statement has come to seem, for many people, like a political good in itself…

Few of us are totally immune to the practice, as it intersects with a real desire for political integrity. Posting photos from a protest against border family separation, as I did while writing this, is a microscopically meaningful action, an expression of genuine principle, and also, inescapably, some sort of attempt to signal that I am good.”

Moral superiority is easy when all you have to do is repost an article with an emoji or quip. For some of this, this feels like the only way that we can help, by spreading awareness. The internet was made for instant gratification. We are so used to it that we can repost a multitude of tragedies, political statement written by other people, feel-good stories while scrolling down our feeds and it seems like we’ve done our part. We are not like “the other side” —because there’s always the other side— we are worldly and we understand everything so much more clearly than THEM.

“These deranged takes, and their unnerving proximity to online monetization, are case studies in the way that our world—digitally mediated, utterly consumed by capitalism—makes communication about morality very easy but makes actual moral living very hard.”

“The internet reminds us on a daily basis that it is not at all rewarding to become aware of problems that you have no reasonable hope of solving. And, more important, the internet already is what it is. It has already become the central organ of contemporary life. It has already rewired the brains of its users, returning us to a state of primitive hyperawareness and distraction while overloading us with much more sensory input than was ever possible in primitive times. It has already built an ecosystem that runs on exploiting attention and monetizing the self. Even if you avoid the internet completely—my partner does: he thought #tbt meant “truth be told” for ages—you still live in the world that this internet has created, a world in which selfhood has become capitalism’s last natural resource, a world whose terms are set by centralized platforms that have deliberately established themselves as near-impossible to regulate or control.”

The fact is that we spend every day in our own little bubbles, our internet is shaped for our needs. The algorithms on the sites we visit are catered to us: they know what enrages us, what makes us exclaim in excitement, what political figures appeal to us. These constant feeds designed specifically to us only add to our moral superiority. It’s all designed to keep us coming back, to keep us scrolling, to keep us screaming our opinions into the pit that is the internet. And yet, like Jia points out, it leaves us with the feeling that we can’t change anything. We can yell and yell all day but we still get scammed. As a people, we LIVE for being scammed. We eat up empty promises. We are scammed by the politicians that promise outlandish things that they’ll never accomplish (because they know we want to hear it), by the atheleisure outfitters charging $90 for a pair of leggings to look good in an outfit that yells to the world, “I WORK OUT. LOOK AT HOW MUCH I’M WILLING TO SPEND TO MAKE SURE YOU NOTICE THAT.” We are scammed out of our private information. We get scammed into buying millions of products that we think make us look good because being beautiful (especially when you’re a woman) is the most important and profitable thing in our society. We get scammed into festivals that aren’t really happening because we have a fear of missing out.

This depth of what Jia discusses here is so mind-blowing that it’s never going to be feasible for me to unload it in a blog post. The woman has looked at things from all angles. She defends feminism and can blow apart mainstream feminism in one sitting, gracefully. She is proud of the feminist movement, yet can see how people use feminism to self-serve. There’s many self-proclaimed feminists that can accept the reckless, “bitchy”, bossy woman but rejects another woman fighting for our rights while building a home, or being “basic”, which totally defeats the purpose of loving women outside of the box that society expects. The “boss lady” who built her empire on the basis of female power while firing workers because of pregnancy isn’t a feminist for the collective, she’s hungry for power at the expense of other women. Jia eloquently points out that women fought SO LONG for recognition outside of the home that sometimes it can feel like we HAVE to be unruly, we have to be “nasty women.” The fact is, and it’s important to us to understand this, women don’t have to be ANYTHING SPECIFIC to be a good feminist. We can have a multitude of qualities. We can be basic, loud, alternative, domestic, married, single, quiet, kind, bitchy, etc. as long as we are supportive of women as a whole. Now, this does NOT mean that women are free from criticism solely because we are women. Jia notes how people, often people that have NO USE for feminism, will pull the “you’re not a good feminist” card when it comes to people criticizing.. say, the women of the Trump administration. Like I said, Trick Mirror. Looking at things from all angles. There’s so many facets to everything that Jia talks about and she explains it all so much better than I am. I’m just rambling about the stuff that she opened my eyes to, or articulated thoughts that I’m sure a lot of us have had.

One more interesting topic, and this is going to be a controversial thing for many, that Jia brought up was her loss of religion. She grew up in Houston: mega churches, religious guilt and shaming, private high school, conservative college, the whole lot. First off, I think this is proof that a person can make their own political and religious decisions despite their upbringing. It’s pretty amazing, actually. I guess that’s always an option as an outcome though, you have it shoved down your throat so completely that eventually you purge it out of your system.

“I have been walking away from institutional religion for a long time now —half my life, at this point, dismantling what the first fifteen built. But I’ve always been glad that I grew up the way I did.

“It gave me a leftist worldview: a desire to follow leaders who feel themselves inseparable from the hungry, the imprisoned, and the sick.

“It made me want to investigate my own ideas and what it means to be good. This spiritual inheritance was, in fact, what intially spurred my defection: I lost interest in trying to reconcile big-tent Southern evangelicalism with my burgeoning political beliefs.”

What I found super interesting is that she compared her religion to experimentation with drugs. She related the high of having faith in God to the high of ecstasy.

“Both provide a path toward transcendence—a way of accessing an extrahuman world of rapture and pardon that, in both cases, is as real as it feels.”

This sounds outlandish, especially if you’ve never experimented with drugs or had a religious experience. I haven’t had many experience with either, but the experiences I have had are extremely relatable. Everything is heightened, you feel enveloped with possibilities, the good is great and bad feels like a slap in the face. She compares a woman who had “talked to God” and experienced feelings of joy, peace, love, invincibility and said the come down from that feeling was almost painful, that she felt a feeling of being weary of oneself to the transcripts of Erowid, a site that catalogs the experiences of people who have used psychoactive substances as treatment. I find this interesting because drugs and religion are two of the most controversial subjects, often outsiders aren’t able to understand people’s need for one or the other, but people that use them are often searching for something. This may be a sense of self, safety, love, acceptance, avoidance, enlightenment. It’s also curious that addicts often go through programs where a love of God often seems to be a tool to replace that addiction. Even though that wasn’t specifically one of the points that Jia made, it makes a lot more sense to me that this actually works after reading this book. People are looking for a reason to be.

Alright, I feel like I could ramble on for ages about this book and I haven’t even began to scratch the surface. Jia discusses Trump, the way he has scammed the US into voting for him, his various scams over the years in his businesses, his treatment of women, and more. Through her bashing of the internet, she also praises it for taking us to places that never seemed possible: a revolution towards the treatment of women, the age of TRUE reckoning towards sexual predators (or at least the start of it), the livelihood many of us reap from it. The institution of marriage, the shapes that it has taken over time, her disdain for it, and finally her realization that though it may not be for her, marriage in our generation has transitioned more towards partnership instead of the ownership/loss of independence for women. She talks about our society’s need for things and people to beautiful, that even though that beauty can be inclusive of many types, we focus more on beauty than we do on things/qualities that should be more important.

“The default assumption tends to be that it is politically important to designate everyone as beautiful, that it is a meaningful project to make sure that everyone can become, and feel, increasingly beautiful. We have hardly tried to imagine what it might look like if our culture could do the opposite—de-escalate the situation, make beauty matter less.”

Just… read Trick Mirror. It can be a challenging read. You will read a passage and think you have a handle on what Jia thinks and then she will come at that from two more perspectives. Jia is the first to admit that she’s full of contradictions, but that’s the beauty of this book: we are all full of contradictions. Some of these contradictions are easily changeable, some of them require more effort, some of them are seemingly impossible at the moment and often a product of the society we live in. If you want a feel for what this book is about, definitely go check out some of the quotes on Goodreads. This is one of those books that YOU could literally make a book dissecting. It’s not gonna be for everyone. You might hate it. You might learn or unlearn a way of thinking. A few criticisms after all of the mad raving I’ve done: some of the passages we long-winded and seemed to veer off on a tangent… they often circled back to the point that she was trying to make but at times it was easy to lose sight of that point because of the sheer length of those passages. I also understand that like Jia said, this is her trying to make sense of all of these thoughts bouncing around in her head and writing is her way of doing it. Also, the passages about Jia tended to be far more interesting and attention-worthy than some of the other passages. I know that Jia didn’t want to make this all about her as part of the book’s focus was how we as a society tend to do that. It was just that in the other passages, there’s a lot of bouncing around to her various references (which she gratefully  cites at the end of the book), and that could be distracting at times, too. On the other hand, it would have been impossible to make this book without most of them! This all being said, it’s pretty reasonable that this book would end up on Obama’s favorite books of 2019. Even though it’s one of my first 10 reads in 2020, it’s probably also going to be one of the most stimulating and thought-provoking for me.


WELL, that’s enough of me today. My brain is melting. Time for a fantasy read.

“I have felt so many times that the choice of this era is to be destroyed or to morally compromise ourselves in order to be functional—to be wrecked, or to be functional for reasons that contribute to the wreck.”
Jia Tolentino, Trick Mirror

A Review of The Folk of the Air series

This is an inclusive review for the series of Holly Black’s The Folk of the Air. It is comprised of The Cruel Prince, The Wicked King, and The Queen of Nothing. There’s also a novella called The Lost Sisters (which I didn’t read and don’t intend to… Taryn isn’t my favorite character). I’m reviewing them all at once because I read the series in three days and the reviews on them separately would be pretty short.

First off, I was pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed this series so much. YA fantasy set in a faerie world isn’t exactly my favorite form of fantasy, usually. This book is perfect for people who want a little bit of romance in their fantasy, who like their fantasy mixing with reality, who enjoy murderous, politicking, badass female leads.

“To our clever Jude, who made the Folk remember why they stay in their barrows and hills, for fear of mortal ferocity.

It was a good fix for me! Will it be a series that I read again and again? Probably not, but it was immensely enjoyable while I was reading. The Cruel Prince starts out with three girls in their mortal home, their world is turned inside out when a man walks in and murders their parents. Madoc (aka the murderer) is the father of their eldest sister, Vivi. He takes all three girls to live in faerieland and acts as father to them all. Jude (our main character) and her twin sister Taryn were young enough that they accept the faeries as their people and Madoc as their father easily. Vivienne, not so much, even though she’s the only one with powers and faerie blood. Jude happens to be a badass fighter and a target to the faerie nobles around her. She won’t submit to them and they don’t enjoy that. Her biggest enemies are Cardan and his group of friends. Their friend, Locke, befriends Jude and becomes a romantic interest. Cardan is known for being cruel (hence the title), spoiled, hateful. Jude makes it a personal mission to get on his bad side after a few attacks from his group.

So, I’m not gonna go into much more plot for this, but there’s a lot of betrayal. By friends and family alike. I was truly surprised by one of the twists early on during The Cruel Prince and lets just say… Taryn, is a bad person for the majority of this series. The last book kinda redeems her, but she really is so selfish. She’s 100% my least favorite character.

“Nice things don’t happen in storybooks,” Taryn says. “Or when they do happen, something bad happens next. Because otherwise the story would be boring, and no one would read it.”

My favorite things about these books, besides Jude being a badass with a sword who slowly poisons herself each day to build an immunity… the romance between (minor spoiler, but most of the books are based on this) Jude and Cardan. The chemistry between them is one of those that while you read, you’re smiling to yourself and blushing.

“But kissing Locke never felt the way that kissing Cardan does, like taking a dare to run over knives, like an adrenaline strike of lightning, like the moment when you’ve swum too far out in the sea and there is no going back, only cold black water closing over your head.

The Cruel Prince ends with a lot of political maneuvers to get the crown and Jude is a HUGE mastermind behind this. This leads us into The Wicked King. The Jude and Cardan hate/romance continues and the political scheming continues. There’s war with the Undersea, which is another kingdom. Holding onto the monarchy is not easy, and Madoc is a huge instigator in this.

“You can take a thing when no one’s looking. But defending it, even with all the advantage on your side, is no easy task,” Madoc told her with a laugh. She looked up to find him offering her a hand. “Power is much easier to acquire than it is to hold on to.”

There’s a lot of murder, as usual. Jude is the biggest strong arm in the series besides Madoc. She’s truly his daughter, even though she isn’t biologically his. The intricacies of their relationship is one of my favorite. She knows she should hate him, but she doesn’t completely. She knows she shouldn’t love him, but she does. She admires him, she’s afraid of him, she loves him, she hates him. And he feels the same, except I don’t know if he even hates her. I think he respects her but is still true to his own maniacal nature.

“Your ridiculous family might be surprised to find that not everything is solved by murder,” Locke calls after me. “We would be surprised to find that,” I call back.

Eventually, just when Jude is starting to really trust Cardan, after he saves her from a dangerous situation, he seemingly betrays her. This leads us to Queen of Nothing. It starts out with Jude exiled to the mortal world, where she doesn’t fit. She’s stuck here until Taryn comes to ask her for her help with a task.

“Prince Cardan will be your last born child,” the Royal Astrologer said. “He will be the destruction of the crown and the ruination of the throne.”

We learn a lot about Cardan throughout this book. We learn more about his mom and her horrible parenting. We learn about his dad and the prophecy that shunned Cardan from his love. We learn why Cardan was so accepting of his cruel brothers’ behavior/love. Cardan at the beginning of the series seems unredeemable, but there’s a lot of psychology involving the way that he acts.

“Prince Cardan ought to have been suspicious of this kindness, but he’d had little enough of the real thing to tell true from false.

Jude learns a lot about herself too. She realizes that she’s been so conditioned to expect betrayal that she didn’t think Cardan’s “betrayal” through. She learns that Cardan HAS been learning from her, and has started using his cleverness and power to make changes. She didn’t want to see it but he did. Cardan and Jude FINALLY admit their love to each other just in time for him to be cursed into a giant serpent, where she’s faced with a choice.

So, here’s some overall thoughts:

  1. Vivienne adds almost nothing to the story except a reason for her father to come kill their parents. She is supposed to hate her father so much but there’s a only few words here and there, and some snideness. She’s almost entirely useless. I guess she’s useful for helping their brother Oak stay in the mortal world but a lot more could have been done with her.
  2. Taryn is an utterly annoying character, but she is needed. The divide she creates in their household provides for a good storyline. The fact that she is Jude’s twin is good for confusion among the characters. That doesn’t mean that she’s a good sister, in fact she’s a pretty awful and selfish one, but she’s a good character.
  3. 70% of my interest in this story after book one was the love story between Cardan and Jude and MY GOD, there needed to be more interaction there. The last two books could never be 5 stars for me because of the bouncing around and the missed opportunities to provide that, but that’s just me.
  4. I love that Jude realizes that a lot of her inclination towards violence is because she’s so unhappy within.

“It feels good to be fighting someone other than myself.

With all of that said, here’s my final ratings:

The Cruel Prince: 4.75/5

The Wicked King: 4/5

Queen of Nothing: 3.75-4/5 (hard for me to decide this one)

And my god, would I love a POV from Cardan. He makes the story so much fun.

“By you, I am forever undone.”

Body Image and Self Reflection (Non-Book Related Blog)

Body Image

I have struggled with body image since I was a young girl. I remember being in elementary school and hearing one of my sister’s friends saying I was chubby. I wasn’t. I probably still had baby fat and experienced swelling because of the constant steroids being pumped into my body (asthma), but I wasn’t overweight. So begins the consciousness of my body. I had never before even thought of my body as fat or skinny, I was an innocent kid living life without a thought to my appearance or anyone else’s. But that seed was now planted in my brain.

Read more

Know My Name by Chanel Miller: A Review and Reflections

“Gone is the luxury of growing up slowly. So begins the brutal awakening.”

I recently finished Know My Name by Chanel Miller. If you are unaware of this book, maybe you’ve heard of Brock Turner and Emily Doe (aka Chanel Miller). Chanel Miller was sexually assaulted while unconscious and blacked out. The trial was covered throughout the nation (and world), with her identity kept secret throughout it. This is her story, her silence broken. 

“In this story, I will be calling the defense attorney, the defense. The judge, the judge. They are here to demonstrate the roles they played. This is not a personal indictment, not a clapback, a blacklist, a rehashing. I believe we are all multidimensional beings, and in court, it felt harmful being flattened, characterized, mislabeled, and vilified, so I will not do the same to them. I will use Brock’s name, but the truth is he could be Brad or Brody or Benson, and it doesn’t matter. The point is not their individual significance, but their commonality, all the people enabling a broken system. This is an attempt to transform the hurt inside myself, to confront a past, and find a way to live with and incorporate these memories. I want to leave them behind so I can move forward. In not naming them, I finally name myself. My name is Chanel.”

First off, it was easily a 5 star read for me. You can tell that writing is therapeutic for Chanel Miller.  Her metaphorical writing style expresses all of the emotions that she has endured pertaining to her assault by Brock Turner. It’s her way of dealing with those emotions bubbling out of her without just saying, “I’m hurt. I’m angry. I was violated. You took away my feeling of safety. The End.” Because it’s never as simple as that. We are poetic, layered beings… and the way we express and work through trauma is the greatest nod to those dimensions. 
For all of the metaphors used, she also spoke incredibly clear when it came to the abuse she suffered. I will be quoting her a lot in this blog because I can’t say it much better than she did. Not only did she suffer physically from the assault, but her mental state took a turn. Her emotions ran wild. If this book was simply about the way that Brock physically molested her, it would be a very short book. Assault is more than the physical stuff. It’s everything that comes after, too.
She suffered at the hands of cruel strangers on the internet, willing to drag a stranger and vilify a woman instead of believing a white, privileged male assaulted her. 

“Haven’t you ever heard of gang rape in India. There are women out there suffering real abuse and you want to call this assault. Bored suburban kids can’t keep it in their pants. Lame. It’s not like he dragged her. If she had a boyfriend why wasn’t he there? Mother of the year award. What kind of mom dumps her two daughters at a frat party? Not trying to blame the victim but something is wrong if you drink yourself to unconsciousness . . .She didn’t even go to Stanford. Did she pass out with her underwear off while peeing? Whatever happened to the buddy system? I, for one, am not convinced there was a crime of the felony magnitudes charged here, and possibly no crime at all aside from consensual lewd behavior. Did he give her a roofie? If not, why would any woman get so drunk? I have never allowed myself to get so drunk that I don’t know what I am doing… 

They seemed angry that I’d made myself vulnerable, more than the fact that he’d acted on my vulnerability.”

She suffered at the hands of the trusted individuals in the legal system, the ones that were supposed to help her heal, the ones that were supposed to set an example for other victims of sexual abuse, the ones who are put in place to protect us from people like Brock Turner. There were witnesses that stopped Brock. Brock ran. He was able to lie and create a narrative for Chanel because SHE didn’t remember. 

“When Brock was arrested and questioned by the detective, all the supposed dialogue between us that he failed to mention was not due to a lack of memory. It was due to the fact that he did not have an attorney to help him construct a narrative, feed him words, brush the clouds from his mind, and figure out which story might get him off scot-free.”

They showed videos of her in court with her dress hiked up, behind a dumpster, breast out, and she looked DEAD. Her dad saw these photos and said it looked someone tried to throw a body into the dumpster and missed.The jury favored Chanel. The judge obviously favored Brock, because he got six months in jail with an almost guaranteed release of three months (which he got). You’d think looking at photos of a clearly unconscious woman, after a man has admitted that he was performing sexual acts on said woman, the obvious answer would be to punish harshly (and fairly). Ah, the good old boys club. 

“Alcohol freed Brock of moral culpability. The judge laid out reason after reason: he was youthful, had no prior criminal offenses, no weapons, and the degree of monetary loss to the victim is not really applicable. He said the crime didn’t demonstrate criminal sophistication, Brock did not take advantage of a position of trust or confidence to commit the crime, and registering as a sex offender was already a consequence. Obviously, a prison sentence would have a severe impact on him. I was struggling to comprehend, wanted to lean forward and tap my DA, What’s happening?“

Chanel knows this isn’t a unique situation, and her anger is for ALL women. The rules are different for men. Chanel cries in court, she’s weak. She’s seeking attention. She’s unfit to testify. She isn’t allowed to get angry. She’s not allowed to be too numb to it. Chanel isn’t allowed to enjoy drinking. She isn’t allowed the mistake of overindulging… because she was born a woman. Her every reaction to her assault was monitored and analyzed. To compare, like Chanel did in this book, remember when Brett Kavanaugh cried in court?  Remember when he threw a fit? Remember him talking about beer? “Well duh, of course he’s crying, why wouldn’t he? Why wouldn’t he be angry? Okay… he likes beer, is that a crime?” Nope, not when you’re a man. Make no mistake, this isn’t a hate letter to men. This is ripping the ugly bandaid off of the misogyny associated to women dealing with pain, to helping victims or catering to their abusers. They uncovered texts of Brock regularly eating acid, smoking, trying different drugs, multiple run ins with the campus police over alcohol. None of this was a judge of his character. Chanel’s dress, her phone call to her boyfriend about sex, her alcohol tolerance WERE ALL front and center, a defamation to her character. Those don’t define her. They don’t make sexual assault okay, or more understandable. Brock’s recreational drug and alcohol use don’t define him. What he DID to her should be the defining factor. I love that when Brock’s father and the judge said that Brock’s “twenty minutes of action” would cost him so much for so little, Chanel immediately related it to swimming, which Brock excelled in. One one-hundredth of a second can cause you to lose everything in swimming… but twenty minutes shouldn’t mean anything when it comes to sexually abusing your power over an unconscious girl? 

 Twenty minutes was just the beginning: Who counts the six-hour flights we took back and forth across the country? Who counts the doctor visits, the hours spent wringing my hands in therapy, the nights spent lying awake? Who counts the trips to Kohl’s, wondering is this blouse too tight? Who counts the days devoid of writing or reading or creating, instead wondering why I should wake up in the morning? Who counts it?

At the very start of the sentencing, the judge said that the question he had to ask himself was, Is incarceration in state prison the right answer for the poisoning of Chanel’s life? I thought it had been strange the way he’d phrased it. To him, my lost job, my damaged hometown, my small savings account, my stolen pleasures, had all amounted to ninety days in county jail.”

Chanel so eloquently points out that Brock was treated with empathy by the judge and many others, something that would never be extended to her by these people. Poor Brock, he sexually assaulted someone and *gasp* is expected to face consequences for it. Chanel’s hours of therapy don’t matter to them, the way it has changed her relationship with sex and sexuality don’t matter, the shattering of her feelings of safety don’t matter, the money she put into this case doesn’t matter, the analyzation of her body by medical professionals/legal professionals/family/friends/strangers… NONE of that mattered to this judge and to Brock or his family. She was a girl who got fingered while unconscious behind a dumpster, “whoo hoo, er… I mean, 90 days in jail, you naughty boy.”

“There is a certain carefree feeling that was stripped from me the night of the assault. How to distinguish spontaneity from recklessness? How to prove nudity is not synonymous with promiscuity? Where’s the line between caution and paranoia? This is what I’m mourning, this is what I do not know how to get back. Still I keep those memories close and remember it is possible to be naked, amongst men, and not be asking for it.”

This issue with the legal system isn’t uncommon. I watched a friend go through this. I went to court with her. Talked to police. She was young, he was a trusted adult. Known for encouraging his young daughter’s friends to drink around him. A pedophile. A year in jail, out in six. Much like Chanel’s case, the prosecutor confused (bullied) her into agreeing to less time. The cop on the case made a deal with the abuser for less time in exchange for information that would be a bigger win for the cop reputation. When you aren’t familiar with a legal system, it’s easy to get confused. You’re trusting people to work for you and your wellbeing. It’s often not the case. This isn’t okay. Chanel writes that it’s completely possible for the boy next door, the trusted adult, the president, the judge, people of usually upstanding character… to sexually abuse someone. The good person you know is able to be a person who has done bad things, too. The goodness that they’ve done for you doesn’t excuse the bad they’ve done to others. They’re two separate things.  Chanel… thank you. Thank you for being strong enough to write this. Thank you for months of your case being plastered to every insensitive asshole with a smartphone or computer. Thank you for SCREAMING at the men who catcalled you daily, after this. Thank you for scaring them. I’m sorry that it has come to that. I’m sorry that you HAVE to scream that you don’t have any interest in a man for them to leave you alone. I’m sorry all women deal with this. 

“Men had lines other men didn’t cross, an unspoken respected space. I imagined a thick line drawn like a perimeter around Lucas. Men would speak to me as if no line existed, every day I was forced to redraw it as quickly as I could. Why weren’t my boundaries inherent?

…screamed with my chest open, ruthlessly. My friends were stunned, began laughing, and the men grew testy, looking around uncomfortably, stuck at the red light. They began peppering my scream with Crazy bitch! Crazy bitch! But I didn’t care. Their polished Mustang, their specks of hair, their dumb logistics; even if we did want to come to the club, we couldn’t all fit in the tiny car. I don’t want to have sex with you, I don’t want to go to the club, I don’t want you walking next to me, asking me where I’m going, how I’m doing, in a tone that wraps around me and pulls my shoulders up into my ears, making me want to go deaf and disappear. The tire full of nails had burst, tinkling like rain down onto their car. I felt powerful, intimidating, insane. I didn’t care if the entire world woke up.”

Chanel, you are paving the way to a safer world for women. We aren’t there yet, we’re not even close, but you’ve taken the first step. You’re brilliant. You’re not just a victim. My thoughts have been jumbled here, there’s a lot of quotes and a lot more I want to say. Just read this memoir. Women, hug each other. Men, please understand how exhausting it is to walk around every day trying to make yourself smaller as to not get catcalled, covering your drinks at the bars, evaluating the attention that your clothes will draw from salacious eyes. Some of you roll your eyes when you hear this stuff. Please uncondition yourself to misogyny. Don’t call at that random woman walking down the street. Don’t take it upon yourself to touch a woman without asking. We are tired of being told to protect ourselves because men can’t control themselves. Be an ally to the women around you. Open your eyes. We aren’t all just bitching to bitch. We deal with the burden of being expected to be FLATTERED by unwanted attention. We just want to be left alone. We want women’s bodies to be as OURS, as men’s are to THEM.

Do not become the ones who hurt you. Stay tender with your power. Never fight to injure, fight to uplift. Fight because you know that in this life, you deserve safety, joy, and freedom.