“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!
“Your whole life has been true. It happened to you.”
Thank you to Abrams Press for sending me a review copy of The Fixed Stars by Molly Wizenberg. This memoir is a quick, intelligent read revolving around Molly’s life and her journey with identifying her sexuality. While married, she finds herself intensely attracted to another woman when she is called into jury duty. Throughout her life, she had thought she identified as straight. She thought of sexuality as linear: you are straight or you are gay/lesbian. As time went on, she found that what we think of as “girl crushes” were actual sexual attraction to women. She takes us on her journey of finding love with other women, the demise of her marriage and the road to healthy co-parenting, and her current partner’s help in her education on non-binary awareness.
This was one of the quickest books I’ve read in a while. Molly doesn’t preach at you, she gets the confusion towards sexuality and gender identification, as she experienced it herself. Understanding the fluidity involved in those things can be confusing BECAUSE of the fluidity. At one point Molly makes a comment about how she doesn’t think of herself in loving men or women, but in loving a person because they are who she needed at that point in her life, regardless of the body parts they have. She states things much more eloquently than I do and her writing has a balance of poignancy and warmth that is consistent with normal life. There’s a real takeaway here that it’s okay to not pin down your identification, just as much as it is okay to be absolutely sure of how you identify.
“I never fell in love with a man because he was a man, you know? I mean, I wasn’t falling in love with a penis. I loved his body because it was his.”
There was also a raw look at motherhood and the dissolve of her marriage, about moments of selflessness and selfishness. There’s emotions of separating from someone you dearly love, but doesn’t complete that part of your soul anymore. The terror and guilt of your child being affected by your decisions. The loneliness of motherhood can bring about some scary and amazing resolutions that Molly has to face.
“While a woman is taking care, who takes care of her?”
This book is beautiful, captivating, and personal. At the end, you’ll feel like Molly is an old friend catching you up about everything that happened to her in the last few years. If you are looking for a book about divorce, motherhood, gender and sexual fluidity, this is a perfect read. If you’re not, try it out, you might still get something out of it and learn from it.
The Fixed Stars releases August 4th! Thank you again to Abrams Press and Molly Wizenberg.
3.5 rounded up to 4 stars for The Switch by Beth O’Leary. Thank you to Netgalley and Macmillan Audio for this copy to review! This was a charming little story that starts out when Leena has a meltdown at work. As she is still coping with the death of her sister, her work MAKES her take a two month sabbatical. She calls her grandmother, Eileen, who is trying to find life and love after her husband leaves her for a younger lady. In a moment of genius, they decide to switch homes and take on each other’s cities and responsibilities. In this novel, our characters will find love, themselves, and most importantly, each other. At the heart of this story, is family. It’s generations women lifting each other up. This was a cozy novel and the perfect book to take your mind off the hectic world and remember all of those warm and fuzzy feelings that come about when people that love you are looking out for you. O’Leary writes witty, relatable stories.
One thing she opened my eyes up to was the mistreatment of the elderly. Not in the physically abusive sense, but in the sense that we tend to lump every old person into the same ornery categories. We treat them almost childlike. She made a remark about how when older people try to find love late in life, we almost scoff at them or giggle about it. Our elderly are often forgotten and isolated.
As for the audio, DELIGHTFUL. I would be withholding if I didn’t tell you that I picked up this audio solely because Daisy Edgar-Jones narrated Leena’s portion. Her voice is like velvet. I could listen to her speak all day. After having seen Normal People, I knew that I would enjoy listening simply for the sake of listening. Just lovely. Alison Steadman did a fantastic job for Eileen as well, with her crisp, elegant voice.
His & Hers by Alice Feeney is my first foray into Netgalley audiobooks! Yay for Netgalley adding audio! Thrillers can be fun to listen to, especially when you have great narrators. I think Richard Armitage and Stephanie Racine were superb. They did a great job at conveying moods and tones, enunciation was crisp even at 2x speed. I liked the voice modified narration for the killer, as it didn’t give away any clues about who it was. That was a really neat touch that I haven’t seen (or rather, heard) done in a thriller audiobook yet.
I’ve read and enjoyed Alice Feeney’s Sometimes I Lie, and the same can be said for this novel. I always find her hard to rate, too. She has a different writing style than the popcorn typical thriller, which is a good thing. Things are a bit darker with her. As usual, there were so many twists and turns, it gave me a bit of whiplash. I really didn’t guess the killer, even though this novel offers you quite a few possibilities. These are definitely novels that will do well on television or film, they practically play out as a movie in your head. I would think I had it all figured out and it switched many, many times. I think if Feeney had gone any other route, it would have been too predictable. I won’t give any plot because there’s potential spoilers with anything I would describe. Just know that Feeney writes intoxicatingly and you’ll easily be sucked into this novel if you’re looking for a thriller. After a lot of debate, I give this a 4/5 stars. Though the twists could be a bit much at times, I found myself wanting to return to this audiobook and found myself searching out tasks around my house just so I could listen to it while doing so. Thank you to Netgalley and Flatiron for the opportunity to listen and review His & Hers, which comes out on July 28th.
“You any good at it?” “I’m a Matsuda.” “I don’t know what that means.” “It means ‘yes,’” Mamoru said.
*takes a deep breath, lets it out* Well, if I was the long-stream-of-expletive type of gal, I’d be letting ‘em roar. Okay, who am I kidding. I am that type of girl but I know some of you aren’t, so I’ll tone it down… but HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOLY SHIT. Sorry. There’s only a few series that have inspired this passion in me. All time: Rothfuss and Hobb, extending somewhat further to Martin. Last year: Abercrombie and Wendig (Wanderers specifically). This year: John Gwynne. And now: M.L. Wang. The Sword of Kaigen. If you’ve heard any sort of accolade about this book, it is well deserved. I expected to enjoy this like I do most fantasy series. I did not expect to have my heart racing, to have my mind consumed by it during daily activities, for it to be the type of book that I long to get back to. There was never a moment of boredom. In the beginning, my only hindrance was learning the terms well enough to be able to continue without a hitch. I am often that person that goes through the whole novel trying to figure out terms without checking to see if there is a glossary in the back. Thankfully, I had the foresight to check out the glossary, so the sailing was smooth. Every unknown term is back there, I promise.
“We can’t claim to be crime-fighters if we disrespect life just as much as the criminals we fight.”
This is an extremely action-packed story. To be honest, I’m not usually that fond of huge battles or constant battles. I tend to glaze over for them, which is ironic, since fantasy is ripe with battle scenes and it’s my most-read genre. John Gwynne and Joe Abercrombie are some of the few authors I have read that write battle scenes well enough that I pay attention throughout the whole battle. Sword of Kaigen can now be added to that list. It starts off with the fight scenes with almost… vigilante superheroes. Misaki’s formative years are much different from her years as she matures, but we start out at Daybreak Academy, where she fights crime with her good friend Robin. Eventually she marries and settles down, hiding her fighting roots from her family. Years down the road, the fighting comes to her home and her whole family is pulled into the fight. This is where the REAL fighting happens. We watch various characters train throughout but you haven’t seen the least of what they can do until this moment. Absolutely breathtaking battle scenes start to take place. It feels like a punch to the gut, I had to put the book down at moments because it was so hard to read, my adrenaline was SOARING.
“We hold this line!” Uncle Takashi boomed. “We hold this line!” the other fighters echoed, matching his ferocity. “We are the Sword of Kaigen!” “We are the Sword of Kaigen!”
If you have any biased or sexist thoughts that women can’t write fantasy, check yourself. This is a prime example of women writing some damn glorious, and often, gory fantasy. What’s even better, it isn’t gory for the sake of being gory. It’s war. It’s ugly. It isn’t glorified. It’s traumatizing and scary and terrible. There’s beauty in fighting well, but there’s always the terrifying devastation of carnage that goes with any physical fight. People you love will die in this book.
“I believe this is why the two greatest empires are Yamma, built on the power of fire, and our own Kaigen, built on the power of water. The two exist in this realm, not to destroy one another, but to create a balance.”
The contrast of these harsh, brutal scenes with the tender, beautiful scenes is exactly the universal balance that these characters take comfort in. There’s a constant theme of yin/yang, light/dark that runs throughout the book. The balance of nature. With every tragedy, there’s a moment of grace and symmetry. The contrast of the man Misaki wanted to marry, to the man she actually married. Her father has a prediction for the man she wanted to marry and what it would mean for their family, and the ironic thing is, for that exact prediction… his worry was about the wrong man. There’s a lot more to her relationship with both men than first meets eyes and there’s a balance between the two men.
“For fifteen years Misaki had lamented being fated to raise her husband’s sons. All that time, she hadn’t considered that these boys might have something of her in them too.”
We go back and forth between Misaki’s narrative and her son, Mamoru. Misaki doesn’t hide that her bitterness at marrying her husband, Takeru, spoiled the love she “should” have felt immediately for her sons. While it makes me sad that Mamoru grew up without feeling the full envelopment of a mother’s love (especially when his father isn’t exactly warm), it reminds us that motherhood isn’t for everyone. Women are told that that’s their purpose when maybe, just maybe, alll women aren’t maternal. Even more so, the fact that Misaka probably would have been more maternal if she was allowed to choose the way she mothered is sad. Instead, she spent years denying a major part of herself. When she’s finally able to reconnect with the fighter that she was prior to getting married, she feels that intense maternal protection of her family. I think that’s so relatable to motherhood in general, as mothers often sacrifice a lot of who they were to become a mother. It takes time to find a balance between the mother you want to be, the person you were, and the person you’re becoming.
“Listen, son… when I was your age, I had to face truths that seemed to break the world. That’s what happens when you come into contact with people who aren’t quite like you. You learn over time that the world isn’t broken. It’s just… got more pieces to it than you thought. They all fit together, just maybe not the way you pictured when you were young.”
As for Takeru, I absolutely hated him throughout the entiiiiire book, almost. M.L. Wang shows her masterful writing with him. I longed for some Takeru chapters earlier because I wanted to get into his head. I didn’t think there could possibly be anything to make me see his side. The way she set this up was so effectively done. I also like that Wang acknowledges that sometimes burning, passionate love isn’t the best love. Sometimes that love can consume until there’s nothing left, can be dangerous. Often, a love that makes you feel safe, that is constant, that has the soft strumming of home to it, is the most sustainable love.
“Falleke!” Kwang swore. “You guys in this village really believe all this stuff, don’t you? You believe everything the government tells you?” “Why wouldn’t we?” Itsuki asked earnestly. “You must see what’s happening here.” Kwang’s voice was almost imploring as he looked from one face to the next. “The emperor is using you.”
I think my favorite part about this book was how it addressed government propaganda, especially in this day and age. Especially RIGHT NOW, when there is a conversation about the sanitization of American history and skewing the facts so that they fit the narrative of what the government wants to sell its citizens. There’s also this idea that you’re supposed to have blind loyalty to your country —that you’re not supposed to question them— that is addressed here. It was a hard pill for some of our characters to swallow, while others were completely aware of this. I think that’s cohesive to our daily lives.
“You’re patriotic and loyal. You’re exactly what everyone’s told you to be.”
There’s this notion that people are meant to die for their country and if you don’t want to do that or you don’t believe in what your country is selling, that you’re not a true citizen. That’s ridiculous and I’m glad that Wang takes that on. It is okay to be proud of your country but you should never blind yourself because of your service to your country.
“The world doesn’t need another powerful theonite trying to force his idea of justice on a city of adyns. That’s not what I’m going to be.”
Another thing I found so in tune with today’s world was addressing brutality from people that have sworn to protect. Robin refuses to kill just to protect himself or others. He refused to be cruel to get his job done. He would rather disarm. Maybe M.L. Wang had the foresight that these conversations were long overdue, or maybe they were just ideals of her own that she wanted to put out into the world, but she puts into words what a lot of people haven’t been able to.
“The power of gods rose, thunderous, like a wave inside Mamoru, and he rode the swell, moving his body with it. As the wave hit its apex, he sent its full force down his arm, through his open palm, into the ice.”
I really loved the pureness of Robin. I liked how Misaki was able to open up like no other when she was around him. There was the air of gentleness that mixed with the fierceness of so many of these warriors. The story starts off so softly, almost dreamlike, and quickly turns into a raging symphony of words, revelations, and war. There’s some absolutely devastating moments that made my heart break, but in the end I was left feeling so satisfied. I’m also a self-professed book masochist. The more heartbreak, the more I end up liking it. The magic system in this was glorious, too. It was a mixture of the elements and science, the power of gods, and sheer will that was awe inspiring. The culture shines through and jumps off the page. M.L. Wang will forever be an author to keep your eye on. If I could give this 100 stars on goodreads, I would. I ended up highlight 58 quotes in my kindle. I was so thankful that I read it on kindle first and ordered a paperback after. For all of the quotes that I put in this review, I easily could have put a dozen more. I was thinking how I would love to see Robin and Misaki’s kids at Daybreak Academy together and then read that her previous books DO involve Robin’s son, at least. If you’re thinking about reading The Sword of Kaigen, just do it!
“A decade later, a fifteen-year-old Hiroshi would become known as the youngest swordsman ever to master the Whispering Blade. What the world would never know, was that he was the second youngest.”