“This was not a tragedy. Dying on your couch watching TV by yourself is a tragedy. Dying while doing something you love with every part of your body is magic. I wish you magic, Edward.”
I finished out the year reading Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano. Edward is the only remaining member of his immediate family, after being the lone survivor of a plane crash. This is a tale of how one survives the aftermath of devastation, of how you reconcile with the person that you were and the person you become because of it. It’s inspired by a plane crash that happened in 2010, where a 9 year old boy was the only survivor.
Don’t expect this to be a rollicking tale, it is slow burning. The build up to the crash is quiet, chilling, and unassuming. It seems more real because she didn’t dramatize the crash. I felt anxious while reading, knowing the characters’ fates and hearing the direction their life was taking before they tragically passed. I had goosebumps and a lump in my throat as the book progressed.
Most of us haven’t been through something as traumatic as our whole family dying in a plane crash, thankfully. Ann Napolitano’s writing still struck a chord with me. She evokes that keen sense of melancholy that one feels after they’ve experience a shock, a heart break, the loss of a loved one. The capacity to be numb and deeply, deeply sad all at once.
One of the hardest lessons portrayed in this book, is dealing with the fact that everything DOES NOT always happen for a reason. Edward’s friend Shay wants him to be “the boy who lived” and relates him to Harry Potter. She speculates that his powers will show themselves. Sometimes we have to recognize that bad things happen. Life is about learning to deal when they do. We sometimes have to live through being a mess before we heal. There isn’t always a bright side to tragedy. We live in those dark places until we have enough strength to climb out of them.
I’m not sure the slow burn of this book would have resonated with me as much if it wasn’t at this exact point in my life. 2020 has been rough for me even if you took the pandemic out of the equation. I found myself relating to Edward’s reaction to trauma, the numbness that is only dispelled when you allow yourself to feel the pain and break down. This can relate to many moments of our lives, even when they aren’t as intense as what he’s going through. Sometimes books find you at the perfect time and you enjoy them all the more.
“Humans need community, for our emotional health. We need connection, a sense of belonging. We are not built to thrive in isolation.”
Here’s to more reading in 2021 and hopefully, a better year for all!
“We can’t have change without loss, which is why so often people say they want change but nonetheless stay exactly the same.”
Oh, where to start. This book has been sitting on my shelf for about a year now, not because I didn’t want to read it, but because I wanted to save it for when I was feeling low. After the year I have had, I knew it was time. Whenever I read a book that involves therapy, it becomes completely evident to me that I could benefit from it. Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb is no exception, in fact, it makes me want to talk to someone even more. If a therapist can benefit from therapy, what does that say for the rest of us?
“Will you spot the insecurities that I’m so skillful at hiding? Will you see my vulnerabilities, my lies, my shame? Will you see the human in my being?”
As I read this book (which isn’t particularly sad, Gottlieb has an amazing sense of humor) I found myself on the verge of tears. I think it speaks to her abilities that she can make you feel seen throughout this book, and she validates that even the most self-aware to have things to work through. We all hide pieces of ourselves, moments that shamed us, the secret pride in our heart. Even when we think we are being entirely open, even when we are paying someone to help us work through our issues. This book highlights how the therapists and counselors of the world SEE that. They work through your memories and help you see the truth and the lies that you hide even from them, even from yourself. I found myself wishing Gottlieb was MY own personal therapist.
“An interesting paradox of the therapy process: In order to do their job, therapists try to see patients as they really are, which means noticing their vulnerabilities and entrenched patterns and struggles. Patients, of course, want to be helped, but they also want to be liked and admired. In other words, they want to hide their vulnerabilities and entrenched patterns and struggles.”
Throughout the book, we get to see her through her work with her patients and her time with her own therapist. I found myself incredibly endeared to her patients, even the tough-to-love ones. I cried when they were grieving, laughed when they laughed, and took joy in their breakthroughs. The one that was most insufferable, John, ended up being my favorite. There’s certain people that you’re positive won’t find any clarity in therapy, and yet, they do. John was one of those, and he really found a way to reveal himself to Lori AND to himself.
Gottlieb tackles many issues; death of a loved one, terminal illness, love, guilt, addiction, the lack of societal support when it comes to men and mental health. Especially when it came to the men’s health aspect, I realized how many men are unintentionally angry because they don’t have an emotional outlet. We have conditioned men for ages to not seek help for their mental health. This creates generations of people simmering with unresolved issues, pulling others into their destructive orbit.
“Men tend to be at a disadvantage here because they aren’t typically raised to have a working knowledge of their internal worlds; it’s less socially acceptable for men to talk about their feelings. While women feel cultural pressure to keep up their physical appearance, men feel that pressure to keep up their emotional appearance. Women tend to confide in friends or family members, but when men tell me how they feel in therapy, I’m almost always the first person they’ve said it to.”
During this book, she blends her professional schooling and training with real life experiences. She approaches things from a clinical stand as well as from a tangible, personal viewpoint. She feels like a friend and a professional all at once. I highly recommend reading this! I give it a 4.5 stars out of 5.
There were so many amazing quotes and moments that I can’t pepper this article with them all, but if you’re interested, I put my kindle highlights in this link here!
“In this room, I’m going to see you, and you’ll try to hide, but I’ll still see you, and it’s going to be okay when I do.”
Yay! I was able to get a spot on Storytellers on Tour’s promotion of Marcus Lee’s new book. Tristan’s Folly picks up where Kings and Daemons left off. I can tell you one thing, the action was immediate. That’s something that I enjoyed in the first book as much as the second book. Lee knows how to pull his readers in.
Straight off the bat, Taran and the crew makes new enemies, as well as new allies. It is fun to see the characters that we followed in the previous novel coming together in this book more. The banter between characters comes easy and made me smile quite a bit throughout the novel. While others are coming together, The Witch King is still up to his dark ways and cruelties.
Maya is one of those characters that is a breath of fresh air. She’s truly good and compassionate and wants the best for those are her. The love story being her and Taran is soft and sweet, just enough to flavor the book without overpowering it or making it feel like a romance. This is a nice contrast to the constant cloud of doom, the battles that are always near. Speaking of Maya’s kind soul, through her and Astren, Lee brings up some thought-provoking conversation about the cost of war, weighing the immediate effect against the the long term effect that will strike a chord with many. There’s such a shade of grey that comes with war. It is easy to say that it is never needed, but sometimes you have to fight back. Sometimes it simply comes down to survival of the fittest. I love books that dig deeper into your subconscious.
Tristan’s Folly is a book that makes for smooth reading. Lee doesn’t fall prey to too much imagery, he sprinkles enough in to capture your attention while keeping the book’s plot at the forefront. No long, meandering paragraphs where you gloss over. I appreciate this in a novel. I like my novels to be driven by the characters, and this is certainly the case.
I also like that we get a lot of Daleth’s POV in this. Often we don’t get to see much of the “bad guy’s” thoughts, we just see them through the eyes of the other characters. Daleth’s sinister thoughts are compelling and at times, humorous. His response and thoughts to Taran’s crew are so entertaining. He leads with strength, and though people know he’s evil, they’re still willing to follow him. Reversely, on the side of good, people are having to accept a leader that isn’t quite up to their expectations. There’s treachery and twists aplenty happening. This treachery adds to the earlier question, how much are you willing to sacrifice to win? For the greater good? Is it worth giving up your own happiness?
Lastly, I just wanna say: I think the storyline Lee gave Kalas is GENIUS. It is so unique and I can’t say much without spoiling it for those that haven’t read the books yet, but he’s such an intriguing character. Whenever he’s in a scene, I always perk up a bit more than before.
Marcus Lee made another compelling read in his series, The Gifted and the Cursed. The lines between friends and foes, dark and light, monster and man are all muddled. These are some fun reads! If you haven’t had a chance to read them yet, enter this giveaway Here. Thanks to Marcus and Storytellers on Tour for including me!
Check out the other bloggers on this tour by clicking Here.
I’ve been thinking about this blog post for a while because I am a SUCKER, a straight up FOOL for animal companions in novels. This goes back to my elementary school days reading Harry Potter (owls, cats, rats, oh my!). The animals have always mattered SO much to me in books. I am especially partial to wolves, as you will see in the list below. That’s likely because I’ve grown up with dogs. If you want to feel your heart grow ten sizes… while spending the entire novel (or series) in a panic, wondering when the beloved animal might get in a scrape, this a list for you!
We will start with one of the most well-known:
1. George R. R. Martin – A Song of Ice and Fire: The original wolves in my heart! The direwolves of ASOIAF are what we all care about, right? Pro: there’s enough of them that at least some HAVE to survive *chuckles nervously* Con: there’s enough of them that you’re having constant heart palpitations waiting to see which ones get ticked off on GRRM’s inevitable kill list. I love Ghost so much, I named my dog Ghost and got them tattooed on me. One of my favorite things about the direwolves in these novels are that you can always count on them to come rip out a throat to protect the Starks. You’ll get a jolt of adrenaline reading about them coming in to save the day. You’ll also spend the rest of YOUR LIFE mourning our fallen friends.
“When the snows fall and the white winds blow, the lone wolf dies but the pack survives.”
2. Robin Hobb – Realm of the Elderlings (specifically the books that feature Fitz, starting with The Farseer Trilogy): My number one, my boy, my son… Nighteyes! There’s never been a better doggo. So, a huge part of Robin Hobb’s Fitz books is the Wit bond. This is a bond with ANIMALS. Any animal you can think of, if you’ve got the innate power. For some reason, the townspeople don’t like when people have this bond because they’re LAME AND NO FUN AT PARTIES… er, or something like that. As you imagine, we see quite a few animal bonds in this series but the bond between Nighteyes and Fitz is the best. We can actually hear the thoughts of Nighteyes and he’s snarky, hilarious, and protective. He has also graced my arm because he’s a very good doggo with a rating of 15/10. There’s a bunch of other moments where we will get to see the Wit bond in play, too!
“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.”
Keeping with the theme of 15/10 very good doggos…
3. John Gwynne – The Faithful and the Fallen: I read this series after I got tattooed or I’d end up being that weird girl with 500 wolves on her arm instead of just two. The Banished Lands of tFatF heavily features wolven, dogs, war horses and talking birds. You can tell Gwynne is an animal lover! A lot of characters have faithful dogs that follow them from home to battle and beyond. Our main character has a wonderful wolven named Storm and a loyal horse named Shield. Some of our characters have strong relationships with birds, too. Craf the Crow is something special, with a lot of heart in a little dude. The animals all help at some point or another with the overall battle. My heart swelled 500 sizes during this series.
“One shall be the Tide, one the Rock in the swirling sea. Before one, storm and shield shall stand; before the other, True-Heart and Black-Heart.”
4. Robert Jordan – The Wheel of Time: Animals aren’t heavily featured in the three books I’ve read so far (I’m working on it, OKAY?) but the wolves in this book definitely help Perrin and friends out of some messy situations. Perrin is all, “oh, I don’t want a wolf bond,” because he’s CRAZY. Just kidding, I actually like Perrin the most and I’m confident he will grow into his wolf pack. By book three, he’s becoming more accepting of it and they’ve helped out in battle. All hail the wolf pack!
“A young wolfhound must meet his first wolf someday, but if the wolf sees him as a puppy, if he acts the puppy, the wolf will surely kill him. The wolfhound must be a wolfhound in the wolf’s eyes even more than in his own, if he is to survive.”
5. Jane Linskold- The Firekeeper Saga: I’m gonna have to give this one another go. Way back when, someone recommended it to me because if my love for Hobb. I enjoyed the first one but got bored with the second. Basically, a girl is left in the woods and ends up being raised by wolves. She is human in form, but she can communicate with the wolves. Eventually, she is brought back into society because she’s somebody to the Royal line and has to be taught to partake in society. Her pack companion, Blind Seer, comes with her for protection. Lots of political intrigue woven in this animal-heavy novel. This is another book where certain people are able to communicate with various types of animals.
“After a day of watching the two-legs interact from within their midst, she was certain that they could talk as well as any wolf. Unlike wolves, however, they mostly used their mouths, a thing she found limiting. How could you tell someone to keep away from your food when your own mouth was full?”
6. Outlander series – Diana Gabaldon: this isn’t as animal-heavy as some of the others but I would hate to not mention Rollo, the wolfhound/wolf mix. Ian and Rollo’s relationship is truly just heartwarming, especially because much of Ian’s story is heartbreaking. Their companionship is a nice reprieve.
“That dog is a wolf, is he not?’
‘Aye, well, mostly.’
A small flash of hazel told him not to quibble.
‘And yet he is thy boon companion, a creature of rare courage and affection, and altogether a worthy being?”
Now we get away from the wolf theme.
6. His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman: okay, this whole series!! Daemons, aka animal companions that are literally a part of your soul!!! Yes, please. Who wouldn’t want a beautiful little furry friend to rely on throughout life? One that only dies when you do? When you’re younger, they change shape. As your personality solidifies, so does theirs, and the settle as one animal. This is an oddly dark series and I haven’t finished the last book yet but I LOVE it so far. Pantalaimon is the daemon we get the most of, he first appears as a moth but takes many forms, ranging from ermine, to eagle, to wildcat, and even a dragon at times. We also see quite a bit of Mrs. Coulter’s absolutely terrifying monkey! There’s a whole cast of furry friends (and enemies) in this one.
“But your daemons en’t just nothing now; they’re part of everything. All the atoms that were them, they’ve gone into the air and the wind and the trees and the earth and all the living things. They’ll never vanish.”
7. Red Rising – Pierce Brown: this happens a bit later in the series, but Sophocles!! A fox kept by House Telamanus. He’s over 700 years old after being cloned 21 times and he’s a loyal companion to Kavax. He loves jellybeans and Kavax trusts his judgement. If Sophocles finds jellybeans on someone, they’re immediately in with Kavax. Sophocles is a fierce protector when he doesn’t trust someone. He will also poop in your room if you give him licorice flavored jellybeans, as an admonishment. Sophocles is a sign of what fun you can have in Brown’s world, even though it is predominately brutal and murderous. Let us not talk about what happens to the wolves in this series, though. *winces*
“Grape! It is a sign. A sign! Sophocles has given Lyria his blessing. There is magic yet left in the world, and Sophocles has found it.”
8. Spellslinger – Sebastien De Castell: I am ashamed to say that I haven’t read De Castell yet, but I WAS told that there is a murderous squirrel cat named Reichis. I’ve done some digging and he is a witty, talking animal companion to a guy named Kellen. It also seems like he enjoys butter biscuits quite plentifully throughout the novels. This series is sure to be a magical ride with a deranged, thieving squirrel cat and I must say, this is a huge selling point for me.
“Eventually Reichis asked, ‘You know why this is such a stupid idea?’ ‘You said that already. Like, twelve times.’ ‘Yeah, but do you know WHY it’s a stupid idea?’ I stopped. ‘Why?’ Reichis shivered on my shoulder. ‘Because this place is giving me the creeps, and I’m a squirrel cat – normally we’re the ones giving other people the creeps.”
9. Nevernight – Jay Kristoff: Shadow Daemons aka not-cats and not-dogs. Specifically Mr. Kindly and Eclipse. I still have Nevernight sitting on my shelf but these seem to be protectors of our main character(s). As the name suggests, they are animals made up of shadows. I believe Eclipse is actually a wolf from the digging I’ve done. These animals are known to cater to Darkins to help devour their fears.
“Before I found you, I was just a shape waiting in the shadows.”
10. The Old Kingdom Series – Garth Nix: I’ve heard about Mogget the Cat, a being enslaved and forced to take different forms, settling into a cat for the long haul. He’s cantankerous, murderous, with a streak of good in him. There’s also The Disreputable Dog, another being trapped in a physical form. She’s known to modify her form to fly, read, and cross over into Death with her companion, Lireal. I don’t know much about this series but I am pretty intrigued by the little I have heard. It seems complex with heavy world building, and best of all, ANIMALS.
“Life,” said Yrael, who was more Mogget than it ever knew. “Fish and fowl, warm sun and shady trees, the field mice in the wheat, under the cool light of the moon.”
Some honorable mentions that I don’t know enough about or couldn’t find much info regarding the animals, but my friends on Twitter have mentioned:
• Once and Future Witches by Alix E Harrow: (witches and familiars)
•Valdemar by Mercedes Lackey: (referred to as having a whole zoo of animals)
•Hiero’s Journey by Sterling Lanier: (moose and mind-reading bear)
•The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart: (talking animal companions)
•The Winnowing Flame by Jen Williams: (war beasts)
If you know anything about the books I haven’t read and want to let me know how awesome they are, please feel free! I want to know about ALLLLL the animals companion reads.
•If you’re looking for dragons, Alex from Spells and Spaceships has an extensive list! Just click Here
•If you’d like some more animal recs, head over to The Fantasy Hive and check out their post by clicking Here
“We rode on the winds of the rising storm, We ran to the sounds of the thunder. We danced among the lightning bolts, and tore the world asunder.”
I thiiiink The Dragon Reborn might be my favorite read thus far in the Wheel of Time series. Do you know why I think that is? Less Rand. Rand is boooooooooooring compared to the other characters so far. I’ve said it before, but I really feel like Robert Jordan forgot to give him a discerning personality because he was so concerned with making him The Chosen One.
“The only people I ever met who were sensible all the time were so boring that watching them could put you to sleep.”
On the other hand, Perrin really takes root in this installment. We get more insight in his wolf bond (I go crazy for a good wolf bond), and he starts to really take a stance and stick up for himself and others. We get a lot of Mat in this one as well. Mat has the funniest inner dialogue and he isn’t afraid to be who he is. I love the way that he acknowledges a woman he’s attracted to by thinking, “I’d ask HER for a dance.” It makes me laugh every time. Also, Perrin, Rand, and Mat are all pretty different but they all have a sense of humility about them. Even the confidence that Mat exudes has a shadow of humbleness to it. They are all always thinking how good the other two are with women and it cracks me up (since none of them are particularly GREAT with women even though many fawn over Rand, of all people).
The magic steps up a notch in this, too. The dreamworld makes it a bit hard to tell what is reality and what is truth, which I think adds to the stories as much as it can confuse it. If it is confusing the reader, we can definitely understand how it might muddle the characters. Also, the women are underrated in this series. They’re all badasses and capable of taking care of themselves, though they need a little help here and there. Egwene especially furthers her instruction and abilities. Her future starts taking solid form. There’s so much power flowing through all of the characters in this book.
“Kill a man who needs killing, and sometimes others pay for it. The question is, was it worth doing it anyway? There’s always a balance, you know. Good and evil. Light and Shadow. We would not be human if there wasn’t a balance.”
Unfortunately, Jordan still falls victim to being overly verbose at times. The imagery is beautiful but too much of a good thing can spoil the whole pot, eh? In this installment, it isn’t nearly as bad. I don’t think he’d make it in the modern age without taking the advice of a good editor, but times were different and fantasy was less plentiful. Though the books are long, not THAT much happens in them. Lots of action that I’m sure will build to a larger story, but we shall see.
Speaking of action, I DO enjoy the battle scenes immensely. Seeing Perrin fight amongst the wolves was amazing. The dream fighting and seeking was nerve wracking. These are the moments that I find I can truly submerse myself in this world.
Overall, I’m enjoying my journey. It’s a fun series! So far, I wouldn’t rate it in the best I’ve ever read, but that may change. I hear the next book really helps solidify it as THE Wheel of Time.
“Just because fate has chosen something for you instead of you choosing it for yourself doesn’t mean it has to be bad. Even if it’s something you are sure you would never have chosen in a hundred years. ‘Better ten days of love than years of regretting,’ she quoted.”
“The means by which we achieve victory are as important as the victory itself.”
It’s that time of year. Brandon Sanderson is releasing Rhythm of War next month and it is time to refresh my mind. These are behemoth novels and a reread gives me a reason to write an official review. So here we go, The Way of Kings book one of The Stormlight Archive. Get ready for a lot of quote action.
Sanderson writes fantasy that is rife with death and destruction, but the tones manages to stay hopeful and uplifting. You know that people will die, battles will be fought, but we never feel like doom is inevitable. Whatever the opposite of grimdark is, Sanderson is that. I guess he reminds me of Robert Jordan in that sense. There’s good and bad but the bad doesn’t constantly overwhelm the good. It’s just has this vibe of wholesome reading, which is wild to say because Sanderson doesn’t shy from killing off our favorites. Stormlight is definitely some of the darkest reading you’ll get from Sanderson. Especially as the story progresses, we get more layers of this very emotive storytelling that will wrench your heart in two. I ended this novel with tears streaming down my eyes, even though I’ve read it many times. Sanderson always knows how to pack a punch in the last 20% or so of his books.
“Was there no hope for men? They killed those they should have loved. What good was it to fight, what good was it to win, if there was no difference between ally and enemy? What was victory? Meaningless. What did the deaths of Kaladin’s friends and colleagues mean? Nothing. The entire world was a pustule, sickeningly green and infested with corruption.”
If Rothfuss is the lyrical prose King and Hobb is the emotional storytelling Queen, then Sanderson is the Worldbuilding Wizard. Nobody builds a world like him. The fact that Sanderson can create these awe-inspiring worlds and these intricate magic systems while consistently putting out multiple books a year simply makes him a genius. I die for eloquently written fantasy. Though Sanderson has his eloquent moments, that’s not what I associate him with, he is all about the experience of being in his world. It is immersive and unique. His story arcs for Stormlight are especially gratifying and wondrous. I know whenever I’m in a book slump that Sanderson will cure it. I never struggle with his books.
“Just because I do not accept the teachings of the devotaries does not mean I’ve discarded a belief in right and wrong.” “But the Almighty determines what is right!” “Must someone, some unseen thing, declare what is right for it to be right? I believe that my own morality — which answers only to my heart — is more sure and true than the morality of those who do right only because they fear retribution.”
Sanderson, being a deeply religious person, often has themes of religion in his books. He is always having his characters question religion, defend religion, lose faith, regain it. Being the exact opposite of a deeply religious person, I have never felt like Sanderson is preaching at me through his work. That can really turn me off from a an author. He supplies questions and seems to understand wholeheartedly why others can’t take solace in faith, but he also showcases why many people do. It seems as if he has a deep respect for people of all mindsets. The smartest person in this series has no faith, while some of the most terrible people in here have faith. Some of the best people in here have complete faith while others are more shaky. God(s) play a huge role in this series. Sanderson’s novels are all about humanity coming together to defeat evil plaguing the world. It’s about honorable people standing up to destructive forces, taking in those with apprehension and honing their unique skills for the common good.
“Somebody has to start, son. Somebody has to step forward and do what is right, because it is right. If nobody starts, then others cannot follow.”
Speaking of characters, Shallan starts off rather irritating. Her “witty” retorts seem forced. Sanderson falls prone to his famous dad jokes in this one, where he (and in turn, Shallan) seems rather self-satisfied with her cleverness. Thankfully as the series goes on, I know this tones down and I end up really liking Shallan. I will say, I loved her defense of herself to Jasnah. It takes a lot to do this as Jasnah is rather intimidating and formidable. Jasnah is one of my favorite characters and she’s intelligent without trying, important without peacocking. Shallan has always fought to prove her worth, as a result of her childhood, and she it comes off as her being a show off. I think that contrast of her with Jasnah shows how young she really is. The irritation I feel with Shallan’s personality dims when I think of her circumstances.
“I will protect those who cannot protect themselves,” he whispered.
Kaladin’s story starts off with such force. It immediately pulls me in and his journey unwraps layer by layer, in heartbreaking but captivating bursts. Sanderson was like, hey how much can I DEVASTATE the readers while keeping them invested in the story when it comes to him. Luckily, Kaladin is so honorable that it is easy to want to continue his story. He’s truly as honorable as they come. Dalinar and Adolin are lovely additions as well. Dalinar is older and wise, his honor stemming from years of experience and regret. I couldn’t help but think of Hamilton’s “Ten Duel Commandments” while he was drawing his Shardblade. Adolin has a sense of honor deeply imbedded as a result of his father’s guidance, though he keeps a streak of confidence (which can veer into cockiness) that offsets his humble moments.
“A man’s emotions are what define him and control is the hallmark of true strength. To lack feeling is to be dead, but to act on every feeling is to be a child.”
Tarvangian is one of the most interesting characters I’ve ever come across. There’s so much more to him that originally meets the eye. Same with Wit. These two characters are done splendidly and this is only the beginning. I won’t say more, as it will only spoil the journey.
“The purpose of a storyteller is not to tell you how to think, but to give you questions to think upon. Too often, we forget that.”
Finally, the magic systems and societal norms. Obviously, there’s shardblades, shardplates, the Knight’s Radiants. You’ll learn about those quickly but also in pieces. There’s a lot to unpack with the magic system here. Also, Sanderson feeds us the barest hint of the Old Magic in this installment and the people that have sought it, and it’s truly woven into the story exquisitely. Every paragraph you read in this series hums with the bits and pieces of this magic system, revealing itself at every turn, of the Cosmere, of the rise and fall of civilizations. It’s breathtaking and a lot to wrap your head around. The societal norms are so funny and shed a bit of insight on how ridiculous our ideas of modesty can be. The pinnacle of modesty is whatever has been passed down through generations. Women in this series clothe and hide their “safehand” aka their left hand as a form of social propriety. It is very scandalous if a man sees your safehand. As ridiculous as it sounds… cultural norms are what we make them. Also, systemic bias is heavily employed in this series. The people with Light Eyes get treated better, more satisfactory living, higher wages, and outstanding opportunities. Reversely, Dark Eyes are treated poorly, given low paying labor jobs, put in camps that almost positively ensure their deaths, aren’t privy to the same opportunities as Light Eyes. Sanderson manages to nod his head at all of these social issues that are conducive to real life (if you extend the thoughts to where they are due) while keeping you immersed in the story. It doesn’t feel like Sanderson is pushing and political or moral views on you but he uses his novel to expose oddities in our real life. Why should a person’s eye color determine their worth? Skin color? Heritage?
Well, that’s enough blathering from me. This series is awesome, to the deepest connotation that the word applies to. No doubt it will go down as one of the greatest fantasy series of all time. This is Sanderson’s “BIG ONE” and though I believe ten novels are scheduled, you can tell from the first few that we are in deep. The Way of Kings is just dipping a toe into the Cosmere, into The Stormlight Archive. Enjoy! Savour it.
“Death is lighter than a feather, duty heavier than a mountain. So many duties.”
Here I am, slowly chugging along in The Wheel of Time with my friends Ambrine and Nahid. I just finished The Great Hunt and I enjoyed it a lot more than book one. Speaking of chugging, a drinking game for every time you hear “The Wheel weaves as the Wheel wills” or any close variant of it would definitely get you a bit toasty. Jordan is a fan of repetition, if nothing else.
The Great Hunt kept a good pace throughout the whole book, unlike Eye of the World, where pacing was slow and the journey between all of these characters dragged for ages. I still maintain that Rand is about the least exciting character in the bunch, but maybe that will change. Like… if he wasn’t the Chosen One, I would probably not care about him at all. Perrin’s got the badass wolf bond, Loial has those charismatic ears that convey his emotions, Mat is full of fire, Nynaeve is a badass, Elayne is strong royalty, Min sees future paths. I don’t really have anything specific to say about Egwene, but I did enjoy her arc in this novel, it provided a bit of nail-biting conflict. Rand is supposed to be super powerful but he’s kind of just BLAND in personality. Maybe that will change. Towards the end of the novel, I started warming to him a bit, so there’s still hope.
Honestly, I loved the girls’ storylines throughout this. I mean, the first half of the book kept a decent pace, but the second half really soared for me. For the first time, I found myself eager to return to this series. I liked seeing their Aes Sedai training, though I know some other readers loathed that. Seeing the process of damane being forcefully created was super interesting, as well.
“The best of men are not much better than housebroken.” Nynaeve paused, and added half to herself, “But then, the best of them are worth the trouble of housebreaking.”
I feel like I’m finally starting to get a hang of what everything is. Aes Sedai and their rankings, Forsaken, Dark Friends, Ogier, Trollocs, etc. The world the Jordan built is really intensive and it takes a while to navigate the characters and regions but it becomes immensely enjoyable once you do. I’ve found that I don’t quite care for the dry tone of classic fantasy in the likes of Tolkien, but this bridge between classic fantasy and modern fantasy that Jordan seems to provide in the second book is more my style. The first book felt more info-dumpy and dragged, where this book felt like it started advancing the plot and characterization. I would agree with the sentiment that Eye of the World felt like Jordan was trying to be like other successful fantasy authors, The Great Hunt is where he starts being himself.
I am actually pretty excited to move forward! I think the slow pacing of one every month or so, in addition to other reads, will keep me from burning out on this series. I would give The Great Hunt a 4/5 stars!
“There is one rule, above all others, for being a man. Whatever comes, face it on your feet. Now, are you ready?”
“Because fate cannot be cheated, it governs us, and we are all its slaves.”
I’ve continued on my journey with Bernard Cornwell’s The Saxon Stories by reading Lords of the North. This will also be my first read for Alex’s (Spells and Spaceships) Norsevember event, which is taking place from now until the end of November, though the bulk will obviously take place then.
If you’re unfamiliar with The Saxon Stories, maybe you’ve heard of The Last Kingdom on Netflix. This is what that is based on. I didn’t do blog reviews for the first two installments (The Last Kingdom and The Pale Horsemen), although I loved them and rated them both 4 stars. Lords of the North is a 5 star read for me.
“And yet I knew it was not my fate to be king. I have known many kings and their lives are not all silver, feasting, and women…
I wanted the silver, the feasting, and the women, but those I could have without a throne.”
As with the first two books, we follow Uhtred, who was born a Saxon but raised a Dane. He continues to straddle this line, affecting Dane mannerisms and beliefs while fighting for the Saxon cause under Alfred. Cornwell’s way if writing witty banter and humor that endears us to Uhtred. What I absolutely loved about this book is that we are finally introduced to Sihtric and Finan aka THE SQUAD. Uhtred is an amazing character because he inspires belief and loyalty from those around him. He is flawed and he is about his honor, but he is never intentionally cruel. He lives and dies by his oaths and does not make them lightly. This gets him into quite the conundrum now and again, as he’s often put into battle against people he cares about. He could rule if he wanted to, but he doesn’t. People seem to be blind to the fact that he doesn’t want to rule, so they are often wary of his charisma.
“Oaths can be broken,” he said quietly, and that was true, but in a world where different gods ruled and fate is known only to the three spinners, oaths are our one certainty. If I broke an oath then I could not expect men to keep their oaths to me. That I had learned.”
This installment had so much action, so much emotion, so much more depth. We are introduced to the slave king, Guthred, who is silly and boyish. I felt much more of a connection with him than I did in the show. He is very likeable and we get a good amount of time with him. Gisela is flawed in this book but Uhtred is drawn to her, nonetheless. Sihtric and Finan get more in-depth with their storylines and I loved reading about their roots. Finan is true and strong, always jesting, and his time with Uhtred makes him as loyal as they come. If you haven’t read this book or watched the show, I won’t ruin how they meet but though it is heart-aching, it plants that deep seed of friendship that cannot be broken. We get moments with Ragnar, Brida, and even Thyra, which speaking of heartache, Thyra’s storyline is the embodiment of that.
“Finan the Agile, he had been called, and I watched, astonished, as he leaped ahead of both Guthred and Rollo and took on the three men alone, and his two swords were as fast as a viper’s strike.”
Cornwell can pack a punch while keeping his books relatively short. He covers many events over a period of time, but it never feels rushed. There are moments without a lot of dialogue, but they always serve the plot. This is one of the finest works of historical fiction I’ve read. It almost feels like fantasy because of how outlandish some of these events read, but they are very true to life in that time. Uhtred may be fictional, but most of these characters are very real. He serves to bring together the storyline of the Danes and the Saxons, to get us in both of their mindsets. I love how he draws the juxtaposition of the Danes and Saxons when it comes to faith and honor. They both care about these things, but in different orders. The Danes are all about personal and familial honor, and they will dine in the halls of Valhalla by fighting, avenging themselves and their families. They pay homage to their Gods by living life for themselves and taking care of their family. The Saxons do everything to serve their God and their faith, and they expect everyone to serve God first. There were a few offhanded remarks about how the church takes money to serve God, and how they are willing to forgive things they normally condemn for a bit of silver. This book and series in general offers a lot of questions about faith and organized religion. The Danes worship in their own way compared to the organized fashion that The Saxons do, but is either wrong? They both kill, pillage, and wage war, but they do so under different premises. The Saxons do it to unite England under one God, and the Danes do it for honor, to make Odin proud. In actuality, they are pretty similar, though they don’t see it. The Saxons think they are civilized because they have faith in a Christian God, the Danes think they are civilized because they have faith in themselves. I also think it is funny that we often think of Danes or Vikings as barbaric, but they did things like bathe more often than the Saxons (who didn’t bathe often as they believed the cold water would kill them) because they were more in tune with the elements and how to survive. The Saxons are more reserved in their emotions where the Danes wear their emotions in their sleeves. Obviously, we see where history landed them both, but these novels show how easily we could have had a different way of life because of the fights of these two peoples. Everything could have been different if even one or two battles had gone differently.
“The other thing I like about our gods is that they are not obsessed with us. They have their own squabbles and love affairs and seem to ignore us much of the time, but the Christian god has nothing better to do than to make rules for us. He makes rules, more rules, prohibitions and commandments, and he needs hundreds of black-robed priests and monks to make sure we obey those laws. He strikes me as a very grumpy god, that one, even though his priests are forever claiming that he loves us. I have never been so stupid as to think that Thor or Odin or Hoder loved me, though I hope at times they have thought me worthy of them.”
This series is phenomenal and I highly recommend to anyone that likes historical fiction or fantasy. Though it isn’t fantasy, it has a lot of elements that make people love western fantasy specifically.
If you have any Norse inspired reads for Norsevember, let me know!
I received an advanced copy of When Harry Met Minnie by Martha Teichner, CBS correspondent, from Celadon books. I was absolutely charmed and devastated. This book was about Martha’s friendship with Carol Fertig, designer, during her journey with cancer, as well as her role in caretaking for Harry, Carol’s dog. Martha was introduced to Carol because they both had bull terriers. She would take her dog, Minnie, out every day to the market in NYC, when an acquaintance came up to her and asked her if she would be interested in meeting Carol and Harry. From here, a friendship bloomed while Carol’s health declined. Harry’s health was quite unstable as well, but Martha became enamored with him. When Carol eventually passed, Harry became a part of Martha and Minnie’s family.
This book was bursting with emotion. If you’ve ever had a pet that you’ve cared deeply for, this book encompassed the beauty and tragedy of that. Dogs will love you like no other, unconditionally. They’ll bring you happiness, but there’s also the inevitable sadness when they pass. This struck me deeply, as I have dogs that are aging quickly, as dogs do, and accruing health issues. Martha talks honestly about the quirks of bull terriers, and about how costly our pets can be. Somehow, dogs have worked their way into our hearts and we will spend our last dollar keeping them well, just like any other family member.
Another thing that resonated with me was watching a loved one fall into the depths of cancer. Carol’s cancer was a result of 9/11’s proximity to her apartment. Martha describes the way Carol declines, how her speech isn’t the same, but somehow keeps that fire and strength burning. This reminded me of my grandmother. So much diminishes in them but you still see the spark that makes them who they are.
If you want to laugh a bit, if you’re a dog lover, if you have a loved one dealing with cancer, or need a good cry, When Harry Met Minnie is for you. It is filled with heartwarming moments and tearful moments. If you’re from Michigan, you might like this even a bit more, as Martha talks here and there about her childhood in Traverse City and Leelanau, and her conservation efforts there as an adult.
When Harry Met Minnie will be available February 2nd, 2021.
Wow! What a powerful book. I’ll get to it right off the bat, this was a 4.5 star book to me, rounded up to Goodreads. I’ll be honest though, if you fall as a very far right conservative, especially due to religion, you probably won’t enjoy this book. There’s the challenging of a lot of ultra conservative ideals. I can say that Overlook Press and Abrams Books KILLLLLLLS it with these powerful releases. I think they might be my favorite publishers outside of fantasy, I have enjoyed every book sent my way or purchased from them. This Little Light by Lori Lansens was no exception.
Let us start with a short synopsis. Rory and Fee are on the run after their Christian school is bomber during an Abstinence Ball where they are all pledging their virginity. They perform a cringe-inducing ceremony where they pledge to their fathers to abstain til marriage. Rory is an atheist and decided to partake since all of her friends did and it was an excuse to wear a beautiful dress. The newest addition to their school, Jinny is a Crusader, and has it out for Rory for not believing. When the school gets bombed and Rory gets blamed, Fee ends up along for the ride. While on the run, Rory journals her experience in unpublished blogs (as you not give away their location) and tries to figure out if Jinny set her up.
This all too realistic near-future novel starts out in ultra rich Calabasas (think Kardashians) where fanatical religion and hypocrisy walk hand in hand. The US has become obsessed with virginity and religion, women’s rights are being stripped, birth control and abortions are banned even in the most serious if circumstances. The country is afire with bounty hunters, seeking out those running underground services for women to receive safe womanly care. The bounty on Rory and Fee climbs in the millions. Everyone is obsessed with religion and purity, though they don’t practice what they preach behind closed doors. Affairs, fake celibacy, sexual aggression towards minors, scoffing at the poor when passing by them on the streets. Fake activism, writing passages about the huddled masses and how Jesus loved the poor, but calling them free loaders, wishing death upon the homeless “dirtying” their streets, and not stopping to help but scurrying last disdainfully.
“We write essays about Jesus’s love for the poor and disenfranchised then go shop Louis and Prada. We laze around our pools snarking in those who have no, idolizing those who have a shit-Tom. We’re jumping back and forth all day long—spiritual double Dutch—-and it makes me seriously dizzy.”
There’s a large look at the way the ultra rich hide behind conservatism fiscally, and how that can outweigh morality. People that are okay with their taxes and money being used to help the downtrodden get called bleeding hearts or libtards (which is thrown around in this book). Conducive to many instances in real life, this novel highlights the way greed can overshadow the love that religion is supposed to teach. The longing to control women, preaching abstinence to them while turning a blind eye to whatever the men do. Measuring the length of their skirts or shorts because they are supposed to be your idea of pure, which in theory itself is ridiculous, because no woman’s body is the same. These guidelines, checking for fingertips against shorts, using a yardstick for “skirting” in religious schools, are objectionable not only because clothes lay different on our bodies than the next person, but because a woman’s body shouldn’t be surveyed for how appropriate we deem it. The swell of a breast is immodest? Your thigh? These are social constructs and Lori Lansens highlights what happens when we let people run away with commanding women and their bodies.
Rory talks and thinks like a teenage girl, if not an intelligent one. Though she’s an atheist and a free spirit, she’s also afraid to fully break away from the crowd. Her friends go to a Christian school, so she does. Her friends attend an abstinence ball, so she does. They follow the Kardashians and like expensive clothes, so she does. She isn’t a perfect character. She’s an utterly believable teenage girl. She has hidden biases even though she’s more accepting than the other girls. She’s Jewish and her mother is an immigration lawyer, so she is more accepting of people of different culture and religion, as she’s been exposed to a wider worldview. She also understands that she has a lot to learn about racism, feminism, and privilege.
“The thing is, I don’t want to be a dick. The racism thing? The white privilege thing? The white feminist thing? I want to understand it all, and acknowledge it beyond the obvious, and I actually wanna get this shit right.”
I loved the juxtaposition of Jinny, a devout “virgin” used to market the Crusader cause while being this very sex kittenish bombshell. It really highlights the way women are salivated over for their virginity and the unhealthy obsession with it. It reminded me of how Britney Spears was marketed as this virgin sex icon to sell records, even though it was later found out that she wasn’t (and it shouldn’t matter what she was doing with her own life anyway).
The virginity pledge was straight creeeeeepy too. They essentially pledged to keep their virginity to their dads until they are married, but the way that it was done reminded me of certain weird politicians and celebrities that fawn over their daughters’ sex appeal and ability to be chaste. This happens closer to home, too, it’s just easy to cite people that are in the public eye. The fascination from men about their daughter’s sex life is really unhealthy and concerning, when they are fine with their sons doing whatever they want.
“You are my light. You are my love. And I promise Heaven up above. That I’ll keep you pure as the driven snow, till the day I have to let you go. I’ll always be your daddy. You’ll be my baby girl. One day I will share you, but until then you’ll wear my pearl.”
Makes you feel icky, right? Lori Lansens touches on everything; gaslighting victims, women’s reproductive rights, fake activism, hidden biases, fanatical religion, fiscal vs moral responsibility. I devoured this book over the span of a few hours. It was very easy to read, intelligent, witty, and important. If you were a fan of The Handmaid’s Tale, you might enjoy this one too. I find that it is a middle ground between our current reality and the severity of that book/show. The character of Chase was a bit too neatly wrapped up and more thoroughly introduced right at the end, but I enjoyed it alla. This Little Light came out earlier this month and you can purchase it now. Thank you to Overlook and Abrams for sending me a finished copy for an honest review!