Asunder by L. Steinworth: A Review

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

Liz’s inspiration for Asunder‘s rogue, Alden

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

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

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

“What makes you think I was anything worthwhile?”

“You are a good person.”

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

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

He looked up from his blade. “Huh?”

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

Pg. 181

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

L. Steinworth: IG | Twitter |Website

L. Steinworth and her Mayli painting

It is Wood, It is Stone: A Review

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

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

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

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

Happy and You Know It: A Review

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

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

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

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

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

I would give this a 3.5 out of 5!

The Fellowship of the Ring: A Review

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

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

The Road goes ever on and on

Down from the door where it began.

Now far ahead the Road has gone,

And I must follow, if I can,

Pursuing it with eager feet,

Until it joins some larger way

Where many paths and errands meet.

And whither then? I cannot say

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pato: Goodreads | Youtube | Twitter

J.M.: Twitter

My links: Twitter | Goodreads | Blog | IG

Hollywood Park by Mike Jollett

Happy Release Day to Mikel Jollett! Well, I absolutely adored Hollywood Park. 5/5 stars. First off, I love memoirs. Getting access to someone else’s brain and a true insight to their life is something that we don’t often get in real life. People can tell you, but I find when someone is able to sit down and sort through their life and the feelings attached to their experiences, it’s so much more thorough and enlightening. You can see from the way my cover won’t lay flat that I took this book everywhere with me until I finished it. It was breathtaking, heart-wrenching, horrific, and endearing all at once.

Hollywood Park is written by Mikel Jollett, front man to The Toxic Airborne Event who was a child escapee of the cult Synanon. If you haven’t heard of Synanon, it started out more as a drug rehab and turned into taking children from their parents to become children of the universe (aka, raised as independent beings instead of nurtured by biological parents), forcing couples to divorce and be with other partners, and beating the hell out of anyone that disobeys the rules or tries to leave the commune. Eventually, Mikel’s parents leave the commune separately and Mikel’s mom sneaks him and his brother Tony out and here is where our book really takes off.

Hollywood Park is a poignant, revelatory window into a child’s brain that has been affected by trauma. Not only that, but the way that trauma follows us into adulthood. Mikel’s mother is clearly a narcissist, it’s plain as day from the first few chapters. Once she frees her sons from Synanon, it’s all about hers It’s INFURIATING to watch her play her emotions off of her two sons, to put the blame of her depression on them, to constantly tell Mikel that he’s supposed to be taking care of her. She takes no responsibility for what has happened in her life, or the misery she inflicted on her children. Mikel perfectly describes this pure love that a child has for their family, and how easy it is for an adult to take advantage of that pure love instead of nurturing it. When he starts the story off, he does his best to put us in his childhood perspective, his misunderstanding of words and their meaning, of behaviors, of all the bad parenting that he was none the wiser to at the time. How different the world would be if children were able to recognize the trauma that they are being exposed to, if they could set themselves aside for it and say, “I’m not going to let this affect me.” Kids don’t have that ability, though. They are sponges, absorbing the good and the bad parts of their parents, and later in life it will be up to them to sort through those parts of themselves and see what they can keep, what they desperately need to work on, and where they need to cut things off completely before it destroys them.

We see the way Mikel transforms. He has this amazing journey of succumbing to his childhood, fighting his way out of that destruction, and the long and winding road of constant vigilance that is often required when you’re a child that has been mentally, emotionally, or physically abused. Trauma is similar to addiction, in that it’s something you spend your whole life fighting, relapsing, and fighting some more. Through his sad childhood, through all the bad stuff, there’s this sweet spot that runs through it. Mikel’s relationship with his father is absolutely beautiful. It’s not perfect. Mikel has this reckoning where he realizes he can love his dad and not want the same path as him. He describes that feeling of love for a parent, even admiration you have for a parent, while wanting better for yourself. He struggles with this, and I think it’s something that really should be talked about because it’s very natural to want more for yourself. I believe his father would have been completely understanding of that as well, and probably was subconsciously. You should always want your kids to be a little (or a lot) better than you are. It’s okay to not be perfect, to make mistakes as a parent. I have the utmost respect for Jollett’s father. He had a hard life and still managed to be there emotionally and physically for his sons, where their mother failed to do so. I just really loved how this book took us from a child’s perspective, to a teenager’s, to a young adult’s, to a man’s. Seeing the way his thoughts changed through the different stages of his life, his reactions to his family’s behavior, to his own self awareness becoming more potent. I think there’s a lot of adults out there with traumatic childhoods that this book might be cathartic for. I hope that writing this WAS cathartic for Mikel Jollett. I can’t imagine something more freeing than writing down these raw moments and putting them out into the world regardless of judgement or the shame he felt in these moments, regardless of what his mother might think. There was a part of the book that Jollett talks about that shame, about how ridiculous it is that we feel shame for the things that were done to us. It’s a natural human reaction, but man, that just stuck with me. Well done, Mikel. I wish you all the success. Thank you for sharing your life story with us, there’s a lot of people you’ll be helping by doing so. Thank you to Celadon for this ARC to review, I am very appreciative of this chance.

Re-read, Review, and Theory Speculation of the Wise Man’s Fear

“All the truth in the world is held in stories.”

* theories will be separated at the bottom, after a mostly spoiler free review (I won’t go into specifics throughout the first portion of this)*

Ahhh, the series that makes my soul sing, the one I have read countless times and yet… it gets no less intriguing, no less confounding, no less eloquent. For this reread of The Wise Man’s Fear, I joined my bookish friends David and Lily for a buddy read. I had never done a buddy read prior to this, but I am a big fan now. Though I have read the series many times and gained something each time, this was the first time that I got to go chapter by chapter, write out my thoughts, and discuss it. For a book like Name of the Wind or Wise Man’s Fear, WOW. Whole new perspectives, more time to thoroughly get my hands dirty by digging through those theories, it was so satisfying to be able to discuss this phenomenal book as I read through it. This is one of those series that you BURST to talk to someone about but by time you find someone, you forget half of what you wanted to say.

“Then I played the song that hides in the center of me. That wordless music that moves through the secret places in my heart. I played it carefully, strumming it slow and low into the dark stillness of the night. I would like to say it is a happy song, that it is sweet and bright, but it is not.”

Okay okay, enough. Onto the gushing. Here’s the thing that sets Rothfuss apart for me. I think it’s safe to say that he really distinguishes a writing style for himself, nobody writes like him. One thing that is really remarkable, is that we don’t linger in certain areas you would think are important such as his trial or the adventure on the ship to the Maer’s. The focus of this series is on building the legend of Kvothe, and where other authors would use that time on a ship or a trial as filler for the book, it serves no purpose here. This book doesn’t need fillers, on the contrary, there’s SO MUCH knowledge and so many intertwining lines that if anything, I think we all agree that the next book will be far too short for our liking at whatever length (and Rothfuss has indicated that he doesn’t intend for it to be any longer than the previous ones). Rothfuss has pulled us in so thoroughly and efficiently. As I said: let us not forget, this series IS about the building a legendary man. I’ve heard people complain that Kvothe is too perfect, too good at things. Kvothe is extremely talented in many ways. That’s the thing about legends though… they are gods among men, so to say. They become legends for a reason. Kvothe takes his share of beatings, literally and figuratively. He knows tragedy. His life isn’t perfect, but he makes himself into something larger than life. I love how Rothfuss touches on all of these simple folklore that have been mentioned in passing, in some way these shaped Kvothe’s story and the tales told about him. Dracus, Chandrian, Fae, Amyr, even the Adem. These seemingly mythic people and creatures all come to life, after being mentioned casually throughout the novels. Honestly, I’m waiting for the shamblemen to make an appearance in the next book, they’re one of the only superstitions talked about more than a few times that we haven’t come across yet. There’s even whispers about Kvothe wearing varied rings that we eventually get reasoning for. All of these little pieces are making this story, and it’s beautifully done. As I said, I think the way Rothfuss does this is so unique, using smaller moments to create a whole instead of leading us into a pirate ship for months at a time or dragging us through a trial. We get a shock almost, when he chooses not to divulge those moments, but these would-be interesting things have been done many times in fantasy. Alternatively, I can’t say that this intricate and subtle way of building this larger-than-life person is something I’m often exposed to.

“On his first hand he wore rings of stone,
Iron, Amber, Wood and Bone.
There were rings unseen on his second hand,
One blood in a flowing band,
One was air all whisper thin,
And the ring of ice had a flaw within.
Full faintly shone the ring of flame,
And the final ring was without name.”

The subtleties create such an immense and powerful story, which I find extremely satisfying in tandem with the innate magic system that Rothfuss creates. I can’t say enough about how much I love this magic system. It’s the best sort of “sorcery”, the kind that is wholly believable because it comes from probing your brain, from reaching deep within and coaxing, training yourself to harness this power that people so rarely have the discipline or self-awareness to reach. That’s the magic that as young kids or teenagers we wish to find within ourselves, until we are older and shelf that longing, immersing ourselves in fictional worlds where it IS possible.

“What use is care? What good is watching for that matter? People are forever watching things. They should be seeing. I see the things I look at. I am a see-er.”

As I mentioned in my review of Name of the Wind, Rothfuss is a god when it comes to characterization. The women burn with passion for life and for control over their own lives. This is furthered even more when we meet the Adem women. That is a whole new scope of female empowerment. I won’t spoil anything about their culture, but I will say: lol, man-mothers. Rothfuss takes something that is a very well known fact and completely spins it on its head. The best thing is, though it seems illogical to us, Kvothe has no way of convincing the women otherwise, especially in this time period where scientific advancement hasn’t progressed that far yet. I always get the best chuckle out of this part. While we are talking about characters, I’d like to mention that every time Bast calls Reshi, my heart grows three sizes. The tenderness between these two is something that is scored on my heart, and I long to know the journey that led them to this absolutely endearing friendship. I love that Rothfuss has created this world at the University where the oddballs of society have found a home. Puppet, Auri, Elodin. Even Manet, to some degree. The overly intelligent, the cracked ones, the ones in need of a safe haven, the ones who regard knowledge as the meaning of life. The man has absolutely seized my heart with these books. They are pretty close to perfect, my ideal fantasy series. The streak of humor that runs through them too, at the most unexpected times (the disposal of the rings, the letter to Ambrose, Elodin’s absolute manic weirdness).

“You can divide infinity an infinite number of times, and the resulting pieces will still be infinitely large,” Uresh said in his odd Lenatti accent. “But if you divide a non-infinite number an infinite number of times the resulting pieces are non-infinitely small. Since they are non-infinitely small, but there are an infinite number of them, if you add them back together, their sum is infinite. This implies any number is, in fact, infinite.”
“Wow,” Elodin said after a long pause. He leveled a serious finger at the Lenatti man. “Uresh. Your next assignment is to have sex. If you do not know how to do this, see me after class.”

The last thing I’d like to touch on is the progression of love in this novel. You can finally see the maturity in Kvothe and Denna’s love. After Tarbean, when they picnic by the river, you can feel a palpable tension in the air. The first awareness between the two of them that their relationship is special. It’s like going from middle school-high school relationships to that first true, deep love. You can feel it, others can see it. No longer are they two street urchins with a fondness for each other. Their fates are set together, in a way. Their souls call to each other. They might be annoyingly afraid to tell each other, but I think they finally feel it, subconsciously. Rothfuss made ME feel that raw emotion between them, so vicarious that it brought about nostalgia for the times I’ve experienced it. This is the end of my spoiler free review, if you couldn’t guess, it’s. 5/5 stars for me. After linking David and Lily’s pages, I’ll be posting some of my favorite theories, please scroll down if you’d like to read any of those! As we know, Rothfuss hides so much meaning in his words, I can help but pour over them for clues of the story to come.

“There are so many men, all endlessly attempting to sweep me off my feet. And there is one of you, trying just the opposite. Making sure my feet are firm beneath me, lest I fall.”

You can find my fabulous buddy readers at the following links

David (BookMeanderings at Fanfiaaddict): Blog | Twitter | IG | Goodreads

Lily: Twitter | IG | Goodreads

If you’d like to follow me elsewhere:

Me: Twitter | IG | Goodreads

Favorite theories:

•Auri being the piece of the moon that Jax/Iax kept. We do hear a bit more of this story in The Fae. Earlier, Elodin takes notice in Kvothe’s naming abilities once he sees what Kvothe has named her, and Kvothe thinks of her as his little moon Fae. I am also equally fond of the theory of her being a cracked Princess Ariel. Kvothe does try to tell the Smith’s Apprentice that he could tell him the true story of Princess Ariel, so we can probably expect to hear more about her in the next book. There’s a very interesting reddit link on that HERE. I’m also very scared that she’s the angel that Kvothe supposedly killed to get his heart’s desire. I think that would break my heart more than it being Denna, though I would SOB regardless (I don’t fall into the Denna hate group, a woman has gotta hustle to live and she IS good to Kvothe, he’s just a shy little lamb around her and doesn’t take his chances).

•Bredon as Master Ash. Dude. You cannot convince me otherwise. Bredon is Master Ash. First off, white hair. Second, why does this dude just come and insert himself into Kvothe’s life and guide him with the nobles? Why is he being so giving? Duh, he wants to play a beautiful game. I’m talking about more than Tak. What is more beautiful of a game than you having your hand in Denna’s live, beating her, while cozying up to Kvothe and making him trust you? Getting little secrets out of him. He puts such an emphasis on playing a beautiful game that I am sold on this theory. Also, the Cthaeh mentions that Denna’s patron BEATS HER WITH A WALKING STICK (ahem, Bredon uses a walking stick with a wolf’s head) and that IT IS A GAME TO HIM, to see how far he can push her. Yep. Also, the letters about Bredon being some pagan because he dances in rituals in the woods, Denna mentions dancing with her patron (which I assume is in private since nobody can know about him), and I think Bredon mentions something about learning to dance. There’s also a theory about Cinder being her patron but I am not convinced there.

•Kvothe’s loss of power is due to his “true” name somehow being changed. Elodin FREAKS when he thinks Kvothe or Fela has been changing their name, so we can assume this is very bad. I can’t see how else he’s lost the ability to do sympathy, to fight like an Adem, or any of the other things he’s learned. This is probably combined with the obvious tragedies he’s experienced before becoming Kote but there’s obviously a larger power at play.

•Kvothe might have some Amyr blood + some Lackless theories. Okay, okay, hear me out. Cthaeh promises Kvothe will eventually get its witty comment about sticking with the Maer because he will lead him to the Amyr’s door. After leaving the Fae he comes across some travelers and the son tells him a song about the Lackless, which mentions the Lackless door that is unopenable (and is similar to the song about the Lackless box in NotW) unless you have or do these 7 things (interesting number, given that the Chandrian are called the 7, but 7 and 3 are the most common numbers used in this world). Anyway, Felurian mentions that the Amyr sealed the first shaper behind stone. It’s curious that the Lackless supposedly have a stone door that they cannot open, though we haven’t heard a mention of it yet. Hence, Amyr blood may distantly run through their veins, if this sealed door is that same door. The Lackless were said to be much more powerful than they are now (which would make sense as they are all very intelligent but want to keep a low profile). This also would mean that Kvothe has Amyr blood running through his veins, if his mother is indeed Netalia Lackless (which, I THINK it’s safe to say, she is). If you aren’t aware of that theory, I think Kvothe’s father’s song about Laurian confirms it: Dark Laurian, Arliden’s wife,
Has a face like the blade of a knife
Has a voice like a pricklebrown burr
But can tally a sum like a moneylender.
My sweet Tally cannot cook.
But she keeps a tidy ledger-book
For all her faults, I do confess
It’s worth my life
To make my wife
Not tally a lot less
|(Netalia Lackless)

The Loeclos box that Meluan shows Kvothe may be the key to the door, or one of the 7 things needed to open the door. Either way, Kvothe’s training at the University makes it so he can feel some sort of power in the Yllish knot, and Meluan can barely feel it, whereas the Maer can’t at all. The Lackless/Amyr blood running through this undoubtably has something to do with them being able to sense it, and Kvothe will probably be the one to open the door. Here’s the two Lackless Rhymes. Kvothe already has the ring of wood, which could be the ring unworn, or a ring of air like Elodin and the song about his rings suggests. This box undoubtably holds another part of the puzzle. Sorry that this portion was a bunch of random thoughts but it’s still fun to try to piece stuff together!

•This is more of an observation, but I think we can take “It was the patient, cut-flower sound of a man waiting to die” quite literally. Kvothe is speaking of the Chandrian, the Cthaeh, of the teachings at the University, of the teachings of the Adem. He’s not supposed to be talking about any of these things and he’s putting them all in print. He isn’t just waiting to die, he’s inviting death with relish.

Thanks for listening to a few of my theory ramblings, it’s so hard to get my thoughts straight when there’s so much to speculate.

“It’s the questions we can’t answer that teach us the most. They teach us how to think. If you give a man an answer, all he gains is a little fact. But give him a question and he’ll look for his own answers. The harder the question, the harder we hunt. The harder we hunt, the more we learn.”

Think he’s trolling us, just a wee bit?

Now I’d love to hear your thoughts! What are your favorite Kingkiller Theories? Is Ambrose the king? Is Simmon? Who is the Angel? Is it Auri, Denna, or Fela? Why is Cinder stealing money, isn’t that a petty crime for a mythical being? Are the Amyr good or bad? Is the Chandrian’s evil fueled by a great cause? What’s behind the four plated door? How did Kvothe start the war? Who is Auri? What happens to Denna? Where is Caesura?

“Words can light fires in the minds of men. Words can wring tears from the hardest hearts.”

Daughters of Smoke and Fire By Ava Homa: A Review

“Trees and flowers bloom despite human barbarism. Maybe I can too?”

Happy Release Day to Daughters of Smoke and Fire by Ava Homa! You can pick this novel up starting today. One of the first novels written in English by a Kurdish woman, this book is a beacon for Kurds everywhere. I was woefully ignorant of their plight beyond minor knowledge of ongoing turmoil in the Middle East. We have all heard of the different customs, torture, and outright genocide, but when you live the US, it’s easy to view these as nightmarish tales used to scare us into valuing our freedoms. This is a deeper look into the things we hear, and while it may not be the experience of everyone, it is certainly the experience of many Kurds. The Kurdish people are an estimated 30-40 million and are stateless, having been denied land, forbidden to speak their own language and practice their own customs.

“I can’t fucking stand the degradation anymore. If you are a leftist, they kill you; if you are an activist, they kill you; even if you don’t believe in anything and just say ‘Yes, sir,” they kill you. Maybe not physically, but they kill you inside.”

Leila is our primary voice and she’s expresses how the only people treated worse than a Kurd, is a Kurdish woman. She lives in a world where women set their own bodies on fire rather than go on living the painful lives they are allowed, where anything traumatic that happens to a woman is only what she deserved, where SHE can be punished for a man raping her. Through Leila’s eyes, I learned about the Peshmerga, a group that fights for security and an independent Kurdish state. They were partly responsible for the capture of Saddam Hussein and their name literally means, “those that face death”. They are quite revolutionary for their region. Leila’s brother is an activist that has followed in his father’s footsteps, and though he is younger, Leila looks up to his strength and courage in the face of tyranny. In the US, we make jibes about the government’s ability to make us discreetly disappear if they wanted to, without any real concern of it. Where they live, the government will bust in your house in light of day and shoot you for having banned books or torture you for the slightest bit of “progressive” thinking. Leila and her friend Shiler live under the constant threat of the morality police, that will sentence you as they please for any impure contact with a man. Leila, at one point, is hit by a car and is terrified that she will be ruined in the eyes of her father because of the possibility that her hymen broke from the impact. The world that these women live in is completely different from what I am used to. Leila eventually has an opportunity at life in a new area and she marvels at the differences. She is able to see the beauty in her culture and religion when not surrounded by an oppressive government, the beauty in the choice instead of the cruel hand suffocating her with the requirement of all that she’s supposed to be, all the rules of how a woman must act.

A large part of the novel focuses on her brother’s activism, which is modeled loosely around Farzad Kamangar. Throughout his imprisonment and torture that transpired because of his work, Leila publishes his words and it spreads like wildfire. His words offer hope and a huge focus for him is progressiveness for women. Throughout this, he inspired Kurdish women to fight, protest, and learn more about their forbidden culture and language. Hence, the title Daughters of Smoke and Fire. This novel is a testament to the willpower it takes to fight those who would do anything they can to take away your humanity and leave your life in ruin. It’s a recognition of the women that would rather die a fiery death than live a life where they are barely acknowledged as human.

“Women who lost all reason to live wanted their internalized, burning rage to manifest on the outside too. A dramatic death testified to an agonizing life.”

It’s a novel like this that reminds me why people flee their homes and face judgement for immigrating, or the possibility of being torn from their families because they had to leave too hastily to apply legally. Whatever you feel on the immigration process, you cannot read a book like this and not feel empathy for those that are forced to take this route. Sometimes it’s the choice between an unmarked grave in a oppressive country or a jail cell in a “safe” country. It’s the choice of a country that you know the language and customs, but could be killed at any moment, or a country that offers you security but doesn’t fully welcome you, that wants you to adhere to their customs.

Ava Homa writes a novel that expresses the pain and terror that the Kurdish people experience. It’s heart-rending in its injustice, but it isn’t self-pitying. It’s a novel about finding your strength when it doesn’t seem possible, about making revolutionary moments with simple words and actions, with a gentle hand in contrast to the abuse suffered. This is one of the best novels I will read all year, and easily five stars. Homa writes piercingly and her story will quickly grab hold and set root into your heart. I marvel at the strength and courage it must take to write a novel such as this, the author herself is just as important to the Kurdish cause as she has portrayed her characters as being.

Head Over Heels by Hannah Orenstein: A Review

I was offered a galley of Head Over Heels by Hannah Orenstein through Atria Books and I gladly accepted! This rom-com focuses on the 2020 Olympics, which were unfortunately cancelled, but was no less satisfying despite that detail. It did make me feel even more horrible for the Olympic athletes that have put themselves under immense pressure and rigorous training for this chance of a lifetime.

As far as rom-coms go, this was a 5 star within the genre. Our main character is Avery, a former gymnast that missed her shot at the Olympics after an injury. Years down the road, she still deals with depression that stems not only from this twist of fate but from the emotional abuse that her renowned coach spewed at her during her years of training. She finds herself lost and reeling after a breakup and back in her hometown when she’s offered the chance to coach a promising contender for the 2020 Olympics. This offer is extended by a former Olympian acquaintance named Ryan (hence where the romance comes in).

When Avery is thrust back into this world, she really has to face the repercussions that stem from years of training with an emotionally abusive coach. This novel stands above most that I’ve read within this genre because it addresses some serious issues. It focuses on the sexual abuse a lot of a female athletes face, which is often a product of trusted professionals or adults grooming and taking advantage of young girls. It discusses the self-image issues that come from some of the more severe coaching strategies and whether the brutal techniques are worth the results if they come at a detriment to a young woman’s mental or physical health. I loved that this novel managed to keep me interested enough to read this all in one go, with lighthearted prose, while tackling these issues. The romance was there, for those that are interested in the relationship aspect, but it didn’t play a more important part in Avery’s life than her addressing the issues she faced in the world of female athletes. This sends such a good message, because Avery didn’t sacrifice herself or what she believed in for a man, when it came down to having to put her experience out there. She cared more about helping other female athletes than getting the guy. Another aspect I really enjoyed was Ryan’s coaching style in contrast to the experience that Avery had when she was in training. He coaches with authority but gentleness in comparison to the ridicule, insults, and taunting that she experienced as motivators. They also recognize that his experience as a male athlete was likely very different than her experience as a female athlete in the same sport.

All in all, this was a delightful and brisk read. It never felt like a chore to read, and it wasn’t filled with fluff like a lot of rom-coms are (which, there’s nothing wrong with, if that’s what you’re looking for). I felt like I got an insight into the lives of a female Olympic athlete (since I’m the farthest thing from it) and this is an important novel to have available for young women, especially in a time when women are finally starting to be heard when it comes to holding men accountable for their mistreatment of them. Thank you to Atria and the author for the opportunity to read this wonderful distraction from the reality that 2020 is, which is utterly lacking from the excitement that the Olympics would have brought. Pick this up on June 23rd, 2020!

The Hilarious World of Depression: A Review

“Depression is formless, colorless, and odorless, and doesn’t show up on medical imaging.”

See all of those bookmarks? The Hilarious World of Depression by John Moe was a delight to read. He makes a point early on to say that he hopes that this book helps people, that they highlight or bookmark and I certainly did that. 4.5/5 stars for me. Thank you to St. Martin’s Press for sending me a copy to review. For those of you who are into podcasts, the author is actually a host of a podcast under the same name, which discusses depression with a bit of a comedic take.

First let me say, as someone who most certainly deals with depression, but has been too embarrassed to ever get screened for it… this book was extremely relatable. I felt as if John Moe plucked thoughts from my head. The more I read this book, the more I am convinced that there will come a point where I have to deal with it. He talks about how people with depression often think that if you are able to stop from getting worse, that you’ll be fine. No need for treatment, therapy, but also no improvement mentally. You become a standstill of numbness. He says often, we think the next big achievement in our life will make our depressive thoughts go away and then it follows us, and we think, “if I could only get to THIS POINT, I would be so much happier.” Then you get to that point and you’re not happier. That isn’t your fault, you’re not just pessimistic or an overachiever. You’re probably depressed or at least suffering mentally.

With such clarity and honesty, Moe talks about his journey of dealing with the idea of death. It started out as not wanting to be alive, but not actually wanting to kill himself. As his mental state worsens, he talks about contemplating killings himself and how he would do it. It might have been half serious, he might not have ever gone through with it, but that act itself is a cry for help in your own mind. If you think of how you would kill yourself in the most efficient way, that’s not a normal thing people think about when mentally stable. He even talks about his anger and guilt when his brother actually does kill himself in a manner that Moe felt like his previous writings may have influenced. People that commit suicide are people that have fallen to their illness. If someone dies from cancer, we say that their cancer killed them. When people kill themselves, others are angry or confused, like how could they have done that? How selfish? We don’t say, “their depression killed them” or “they fell prey to their illness” when it IS an illness. Moe drives this point home.

“Trauma is a wolf and your mind is a house and it’s like, “Oh, I’m safe from that wild because I trapped it in my house before it could hurt me.” But then a while later, it’s “Oh no! What happened to my house? My furniture is shredded and there’s wolf poop everywhere! How did that happen? Oh hey, I’m being mauled.”

What I love about this book is that it is so quotable. Moe talks in metaphors and through his experiences, because when it comes to depression, that’s what we’ve got. He teaches us through his traumas, through his reaction to them. He doesn’t paint himself better than he was or is, he talks about mistakes, moments of rage, moments of hilarity. He relates his comedic streak and self-deprecation to his depression, which is something not talked about enough. A lot of people hide mental insecurities and instability through humor. This is obviously a mask, a way to keep people from seeing the turmoil that lies underneath, but it made me really ponder… if we screened every comedian for depression, I wonder how high the statistics would favor positive for depression? Moe prods at this topic throughout his book and brought that question forth in my mind.

There was a part in this book that really stood out to me. I think we all know teachers have enough on their plates, we unfairly expect them to teach our kids EVERYTHING. So, I’m not pinning this on them and I don’t think THEY failed us, especially since they are following the curriculum that higher ups provide for them. Anyway, Moe talks about during his health classes, how depression or mental health was never brought up. I can relate to that, our health class was no more than a week block in a classroom near our PE class, and lightly covered STDs and the food pyramid. Now, it is definitely a parent’s job to teach all of this stuff. Sex Ed, proper nutrition, healthy ways to deal with mental health issues but if we are going to include health into the curriculum, it should include mental AND physical, as they’re equally important to our wellbeing. As a society, we do not prioritize mental health. We all fail each other when we view depression as taboo to speak about. My earlier mention of being embarrassed to be screened for depression is proof of that. Why am I embarrassed? Probably because I’ve been conditioned to think that way. It isn’t acceptable to succumb to your mental health even during tragedies, it seems. In college, there’s professors that don’t even view family death as an excuse to be late on an assignment. We are just taught throughout our lives that we need to be strong at all times, we live through war and watching death on the television. We saw people DIE on a live broadcast during 9/11 and we are all just supposed to be okay. We are supposed to happy all the time even though for generations now, we have lived with the threat of nuclear warfare hanging over our heads, which is something I never thought about until John Moe mentioned. I look around and I can say that there’s a pretty equal amount of mentally distressed and mentally healthy people in my life. Thankfully due to books and podcasts like this, our conversation is starting to turn to more acceptance and honesty in relation to mental instability even though we have a long way to go.

I get that this review has turned more into a think piece, but that’s what a good book should make you do. Honestly, I probably covered about 4 out of 20 highlights in a book that’s under 300 pages. I can’t quote every relatable thing he said. Well, I could but then I’d just be relaying the entire book to you when you should just read it for yourself. So here’s a long story short: John Moe takes a topic that is… well, depressing (because yes, talking about depression IS often as depressing and draining as it is therapeutic) and he makes it not seem like a chore. He brings laughter and moments of camaraderie to his writing. He makes you feel seen because of his own experiences and vocalization of those experiences and the thoughts that stem from them. Pick up this book if you suffer from depression or if you have a loved one that does, it is amazingly easy to read. It comes out May 5th!

The Book of Unknown Americans: A Review

“We’re the unknown Americans, the ones no one even wants to know, because they’ve been told they’re supposed to be scared of us and because maybe if they did take the time to get to know us, they might realize that we’re not that bad, maybe even that we’re a lot like them. And who would they hate then?”

Five stars for The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henríquez. I devoured this richly-written novel, that is simultaneously poignant and hopeful. We follow the lives of two immigrant families closely, as well as pepperings of perspectives from minor characters.

“and I felt the way I often felt in this country—simultaneously conspicuous and invisible, like an oddity whom everyone noticed but chose to ignore.”

As a white woman born in the United States, I will not even pretend to know the hardships that the average immigrant faces. This book doesn’t focus so much on the journey TO the US but the fight to survive once you’re in the US. In the US, we loudly proclaim about our freedoms and our progress, but if you’re not a white, English speaking, native born American, the experience is likely very different. We build our nation on the back of immigrants but make it so hard for them to succeed. Henríquez highlights the longing for home, the longing for safety, for acceptance and recognition, for the chance at a specialized education. Our characters love their countries of origin, where they aren’t an outsider, where the food is familiar and people speak their language, where they had a nice house that they traded for the cramped apartment building, but they all have their reasons for emigrating. One of our families moved solely to provide their daughter that sustained a head injury with better treatment and education. They gave up a comfortable life for a one bedroom apartment, for a low wage job, for looks of disdain and intolerance, for threats of their safety solely for being an immigrant. Through this writing, I felt a fraction of the weight that our immigrants carry, how small they’re made to feel, the huge sacrifices for some of the liberties that we take advantage of every day. I could feel our characters silently retreating into themselves. Henríquez writes so vividly that I was able to get a window into their lives.

“Like they really want to be tied to the underside of a car or stuffed into a trunk like a rug or walking in nothing but some sorry-ass sandals through the burning sand for days, a bottle of hot water in their hands? Half of them ending up dead, or burned up so bad that when someone finds them, their skin is black and their lips are cracked open? Another half of them drowning in rivers. And half after that picked up by la migra and sent back to where they came from, or beaten, or arrested.”

The thing is, this book had tragic moments but it managed to maintain a clear vision of hope. I spoke of our characters retreating into themselves but they were also resilient, beating back at the forces trying their damndest to make them feel insignificant. At heartbreakingly depressing moments, they found laughter. Some of our characters soldier on through, make a humble life for themselves, some achieve great things, some go back to their home countries willingly, happy to return. We get a sense of how brutal the US can be, how unsafe for some, and we also get a sense of pride that our immigrants hold for having built a life here, pride for the US itself. It isn’t one or the other. We can be brutal and safe at the same time. Everyone doesn’t have the same experience. Some people are more realistic and others are more idealistic, some people maintain their optimism despite anything they’ve experienced. The thing is, I felt more resentment for the way we treat immigrants after reading this book than the characters themselves did. The forgiveness and kindness in these characters was humbling, the optimism while breaking their backs for a chance at a simple life was simply awe-inspiring. Natural born Americans often treat immigrants cruelly, and in this book I am reminded at how often we are undeserving of the kindness that they unselfishly extend. I don’t know if that was even a point intended in the book, but it very much rang true for me.

All in all, this was a book I read very quickly and turned to most often while simultaneously reading multiple other books. Henríquez gives each characters their own voice that is easily distinguishable each other. They speak clearly and evocatively. Their feelings and experiences are varied but there is a unity threaded lovingly into their stories. I could envision Panama or Mexico from her words, imagine the scenery or the respective foods described. I could sense the longing for home warring with their will to start a new life. Things aren’t tidied up neatly with a bow on top. There’s some harsh moments. At the end of the day, this was a beautiful and heartbreaking read.