The Sword of Kaigen: A Review

“You any good at it?” “I’m a Matsuda.” “I don’t know what that means.” “It means ‘yes,’” Mamoru said.

*takes a deep breath, lets it out* Well, if I was the long-stream-of-expletive type of gal, I’d be letting ‘em roar. Okay, who am I kidding. I am that type of girl but I know some of you aren’t, so I’ll tone it down… but HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOLY SHIT. Sorry. There’s only a few series that have inspired this passion in me. All time: Rothfuss and Hobb, extending somewhat further to Martin. Last year: Abercrombie and Wendig (Wanderers specifically). This year: John Gwynne. And now: M.L. Wang. The Sword of Kaigen. If you’ve heard any sort of accolade about this book, it is well deserved. I expected to enjoy this like I do most fantasy series. I did not expect to have my heart racing, to have my mind consumed by it during daily activities, for it to be the type of book that I long to get back to. There was never a moment of boredom. In the beginning, my only hindrance was learning the terms well enough to be able to continue without a hitch. I am often that person that goes through the whole novel trying to figure out terms without checking to see if there is a glossary in the back. Thankfully, I had the foresight to check out the glossary, so the sailing was smooth. Every unknown term is back there, I promise.

“We can’t claim to be crime-fighters if we disrespect life just as much as the criminals we fight.”

This is an extremely action-packed story. To be honest, I’m not usually that fond of huge battles or constant battles. I tend to glaze over for them, which is ironic, since fantasy is ripe with battle scenes and it’s my most-read genre. John Gwynne and Joe Abercrombie are some of the few authors I have read that write battle scenes well enough that I pay attention throughout the whole battle. Sword of Kaigen can now be added to that list. It starts off with the fight scenes with almost… vigilante superheroes. Misaki’s formative years are much different from her years as she matures, but we start out at Daybreak Academy, where she fights crime with her good friend Robin. Eventually she marries and settles down, hiding her fighting roots from her family. Years down the road, the fighting comes to her home and her whole family is pulled into the fight. This is where the REAL fighting happens. We watch various characters train throughout but you haven’t seen the least of what they can do until this moment. Absolutely breathtaking battle scenes start to take place. It feels like a punch to the gut, I had to put the book down at moments because it was so hard to read, my adrenaline was SOARING.

“We hold this line!” Uncle Takashi boomed. “We hold this line!” the other fighters echoed, matching his ferocity. “We are the Sword of Kaigen!” “We are the Sword of Kaigen!”

If you have any biased or sexist thoughts that women can’t write fantasy, check yourself. This is a prime example of women writing some damn glorious, and often, gory fantasy. What’s even better, it isn’t gory for the sake of being gory. It’s war. It’s ugly. It isn’t glorified. It’s traumatizing and scary and terrible. There’s beauty in fighting well, but there’s always the terrifying devastation of carnage that goes with any physical fight. People you love will die in this book.

“I believe this is why the two greatest empires are Yamma, built on the power of fire, and our own Kaigen, built on the power of water. The two exist in this realm, not to destroy one another, but to create a balance.”

The contrast of these harsh, brutal scenes with the tender, beautiful scenes is exactly the universal balance that these characters take comfort in. There’s a constant theme of yin/yang, light/dark that runs throughout the book. The balance of nature. With every tragedy, there’s a moment of grace and symmetry. The contrast of the man Misaki wanted to marry, to the man she actually married. Her father has a prediction for the man she wanted to marry and what it would mean for their family, and the ironic thing is, for that exact prediction… his worry was about the wrong man. There’s a lot more to her relationship with both men than first meets eyes and there’s a balance between the two men.

“For fifteen years Misaki had lamented being fated to raise her husband’s sons. All that time, she hadn’t considered that these boys might have something of her in them too.”

We go back and forth between Misaki’s narrative and her son, Mamoru. Misaki doesn’t hide that her bitterness at marrying her husband, Takeru, spoiled the love she “should” have felt immediately for her sons. While it makes me sad that Mamoru grew up without feeling the full envelopment of a mother’s love (especially when his father isn’t exactly warm), it reminds us that motherhood isn’t for everyone. Women are told that that’s their purpose when maybe, just maybe, alll women aren’t maternal. Even more so, the fact that Misaka probably would have been more maternal if she was allowed to choose the way she mothered is sad. Instead, she spent years denying a major part of herself. When she’s finally able to reconnect with the fighter that she was prior to getting married, she feels that intense maternal protection of her family. I think that’s so relatable to motherhood in general, as mothers often sacrifice a lot of who they were to become a mother. It takes time to find a balance between the mother you want to be, the person you were, and the person you’re becoming.

“Listen, son… when I was your age, I had to face truths that seemed to break the world. That’s what happens when you come into contact with people who aren’t quite like you. You learn over time that the world isn’t broken. It’s just… got more pieces to it than you thought. They all fit together, just maybe not the way you pictured when you were young.”

As for Takeru, I absolutely hated him throughout the entiiiiire book, almost. M.L. Wang shows her masterful writing with him. I longed for some Takeru chapters earlier because I wanted to get into his head. I didn’t think there could possibly be anything to make me see his side. The way she set this up was so effectively done. I also like that Wang acknowledges that sometimes burning, passionate love isn’t the best love. Sometimes that love can consume until there’s nothing left, can be dangerous. Often, a love that makes you feel safe, that is constant, that has the soft strumming of home to it, is the most sustainable love.

“Falleke!” Kwang swore. “You guys in this village really believe all this stuff, don’t you? You believe everything the government tells you?” “Why wouldn’t we?” Itsuki asked earnestly. “You must see what’s happening here.” Kwang’s voice was almost imploring as he looked from one face to the next. “The emperor is using you.”

I think my favorite part about this book was how it addressed government propaganda, especially in this day and age. Especially RIGHT NOW, when there is a conversation about the sanitization of American history and skewing the facts so that they fit the narrative of what the government wants to sell its citizens. There’s also this idea that you’re supposed to have blind loyalty to your country —that you’re not supposed to question them— that is addressed here. It was a hard pill for some of our characters to swallow, while others were completely aware of this. I think that’s cohesive to our daily lives.

“You’re patriotic and loyal. You’re exactly what everyone’s told you to be.”

There’s this notion that people are meant to die for their country and if you don’t want to do that or you don’t believe in what your country is selling, that you’re not a true citizen. That’s ridiculous and I’m glad that Wang takes that on. It is okay to be proud of your country but you should never blind yourself because of your service to your country.

“The world doesn’t need another powerful theonite trying to force his idea of justice on a city of adyns. That’s not what I’m going to be.”

Another thing I found so in tune with today’s world was addressing brutality from people that have sworn to protect. Robin refuses to kill just to protect himself or others. He refused to be cruel to get his job done. He would rather disarm. Maybe M.L. Wang had the foresight that these conversations were long overdue, or maybe they were just ideals of her own that she wanted to put out into the world, but she puts into words what a lot of people haven’t been able to.

“The power of gods rose, thunderous, like a wave inside Mamoru, and he rode the swell, moving his body with it. As the wave hit its apex, he sent its full force down his arm, through his open palm, into the ice.”

I really loved the pureness of Robin. I liked how Misaki was able to open up like no other when she was around him. There was the air of gentleness that mixed with the fierceness of so many of these warriors. The story starts off so softly, almost dreamlike, and quickly turns into a raging symphony of words, revelations, and war. There’s some absolutely devastating moments that made my heart break, but in the end I was left feeling so satisfied. I’m also a self-professed book masochist. The more heartbreak, the more I end up liking it. The magic system in this was glorious, too. It was a mixture of the elements and science, the power of gods, and sheer will that was awe inspiring. The culture shines through and jumps off the page. M.L. Wang will forever be an author to keep your eye on. If I could give this 100 stars on goodreads, I would. I ended up highlight 58 quotes in my kindle. I was so thankful that I read it on kindle first and ordered a paperback after. For all of the quotes that I put in this review, I easily could have put a dozen more. I was thinking how I would love to see Robin and Misaki’s kids at Daybreak Academy together and then read that her previous books DO involve Robin’s son, at least. If you’re thinking about reading The Sword of Kaigen, just do it!


“A decade later, a fifteen-year-old Hiroshi would become known as the youngest swordsman ever to master the Whispering Blade. What the world would never know, was that he was the second youngest.”

One Year of Ugly: A Review

3.5 stars to One Year of Ugly!

Happy Publishing Day to Trinidad native @carolinemackenziewrites! This was such a fun story. Yola is in the midst of grieving her Aunt Celia when a dangerous man named Ugly pays her family a visit. He brings it to their attention that Celia owes him A LOT of money and he expects them to work off her debt. So begins the journey of using their family homes to harbor the illegal immigrants that Ugly moves across borders for extortionate fees. The matter is made more complicated when Yola falls in lust with Roman, Ugly’s strong arm.

This writing won’t be for everyone but I really enjoyed it. It’s frank and honest. Forewarning, since I know some of my friends on here have strong religious convictions towards sexuality and sexual partners, this isn’t a book for you. I am not religious in the least, so no issue for me. Yola is crass and bold and comfortable in her own body. There was a lot of body positivity in this novel. There were serious moments and hilarious moments. The relationship between Roman and Yola was actually really tender. I liked that Caroline didn’t try to tell the immigrant story since she’s a native, but rather showed the interactions between the immigrants and Yola’s family. It all ended up working towards an ending that I was quite surprised about.

A few thoughts: I actually didn’t think Yola was as “bitchy” as everyone said. She is a strong woman that says her mind, but I found that as a strength. Her Aunt Celia is definitely a different story. She says some things that are pretty awful, sometimes very politically incorrect. I didn’t enjoy the aspect of her older brother dating a minor/just turned 18 year old girl. I don’t condone that in any way and couldn’t get that part of the story, even though they ended up working out okay with the way the storyline went. All in all, I enjoyed this a lot but had a few issues! I found myself wanting to skip forward to the times between Roman and Yola because their encounters were the most interesting to me! All that said, I would definitely read more of Caroline’s writing.

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.