On Podcasts: The Read

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I have moved several times since I graduated from undergrad. Each time I have managed to build up a small group of friends that I get close to, before moving again and shedding those friends because despite the internet, distance doesn’t make friendship grow fonder. At this point most of my friends are either friends I made from meeting/being with the husband or friends I have been brave enough to trust on the internet but whom I have never met. Close friends are hard to come by, and I can’t remember the last time I just had people over to hang out. Kid Fury and Crissle have moved to New York, and are keeping each other company as they discover their new environment.

pizza

What I absolutely love about The Read is that it feels like I’m sitting around, having a drink, and chatting with friends. It doesn’t matter that half the time I don’t know anything about the music or celebrities they are talking about, I learn by listening and they are so goddamn hilarious that it makes learning fun! I sit and I listen and I get to make fun of the Kardashians or Kanye or pay homage to Beyonce or learn about whatever the Real Housewives are doing (I don’t watch, but I know what this is). I love listening to them talk to each other. I love it when they disagree and I love it when they get into it with each other because they are so, fucking, respectful about it.

All joking and paparazzi stuff aside, their Reads at the end of the podcast are really deep and wonderful. They talk about some very personal things and some very serious things, from coming out to family members to dealing with hypocritical nonsense at work – it’s really worth a listen.

My only complaint (and it’s not even a complaint, just a problem for me, not for them) is that the individual podcasts are SO LONG. It’s difficult for me to listen to one all in one sitting, so when I come back to it I lose the comedic/conversational flow a little bit when I want to listen to the second half.

Despite the length, I always look forward to sitting down and shooting the shit with these new friends. Take a moment and go take a listen yourself. You’ll feel refreshed, informed, and entertained.

A Court of Thorns and Roses (#1)

COTAR

I love the Throne of Glass series, and that love encouraged me through this first, slightly understuffed pillow of a book. Again, there is the flavor of Beauty and the Beast which seems to be the tale as old as time in a lot of my books lately. Instead of her father stealing a rose, Feyre kills a wolf and sets things in motion. The overarching idea is that we have Fae and High Fae that live in Prythian, and there is a magical wall that protects the human world in the South from the multiple Fae courts of the North (Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter, Dawn, Day, and Night). Humans cannot enter Prythian, but the Fae can travel into the human world.

It turns out that the wolf Feyre kills is actually a Fae in his animal form, and Tamlin (the High Lord of the Spring Court) comes to the human realm to claim her life in exchange for the one she took. She comes to live with him and slowly discovers the secrets and horrors of the Fae world. He discovers she likes to paint and gives her a gallery and another room in which to paint her own works (a la B &the B library scene), and eventually when the lurking danger becomes too immediate he sends her back to her family, and turns to face his fate alone. The only major difference is the set of trials Feyre has to face when she returns to save him and has to outwit Aramantha, the Queen of the High Fae who holds court Under the Mountain.

This book was…derivative. The sex scene was pretty hot, but my one complaint is the major complaint I have with all Disney movies: when did they have time to fall in love? How were they together enough to develop these feelings? Tamlin knew about the curse, so how did he organically fall in love with Feyre without feeling the duty to? If you read the book I ask you to let me know when you start feeling any chemistry outside of the one scene where he goes to her room. It’s emotionally barren. She doesn’t even know their history or that there is a curse, as Belle does in B & the B, so there would be no real reason to feel love out of pity even. When Tamlin suddenly tells her he loves her, I don’t believe it. It comes out of nowhere. He lets her go so she won’t be brutally murdered. The Beast lets Belle go because he loves her and wants her to go to take care of her father because he is sick and alone, and he knows that would bring her pain and unhappiness to know of that suffering and not be able to care for him. He is willing to let her go back because he cares about her happiness. If you love something let it go, and all that. Tamlin orders Feyre to leave because he doesn’t want her to be killed. I mean, I guess it’s the same but I would argue that the empty declarations of love plus the motive for sending her away does not endear me to Tamlin’s character. Any decent person would send her away to save her life.

The ending was very nice. The way the High Fae thank Feyre for her efforts and sacrifice is admirable and enviable. It holds hope and promise for the future. I hope it portends hope and a future for this series, because while I will be moving on to the second book out of respect for Sarah J Maas, had she not been at its helm it would have gone the way of dropped series.

Me Before You

me before you

My immediate impression was that we were dealing with a bit of a Beauty and the Beast setup – an odd girl who doesn’t fit in goes to care for a gruff, shut-in quadriplegic man and “then somebody bends unexpectedly.” But then she discovers that he is planning to go to Dignitas, an assisted suicide center in Switzerland, and the book becomes an exploration of the indignity of life as a disabled person and a race to see if she can convince him to choose life.

The story isn’t just about this though. There is a theme there about how parents treat their children. Will’s parents are equal parts distant and overbearing. His mother especially goes into extreme overprotective mode after the accident (he is hit by a motorcycle crossing the street) and basically assumes he shouldn’t be left to do anything himself.  Louisa’s parents do that thing parents do when they wish their kids would get their shit together – sideways jabs, guilt trips, veiled insults – as she returns time and time again to the job search center to help earn an income for her family. Parents are kind of jerks and you know they mean well but you wish they would be quiet.

In an age of increased advocacy, this book also speaks to the struggles of life as a disabled person. Disabilities run a gamut, and present a plethora of difficulties that the world should accommodate for, and in no way do the obstacles in this book speak for all people, but it gives a glimpse into the concerns of a world that many able bodied people may not even think about.

The overall idea of this book that really captured my heart is the idea that we should listen to what other people love/think/feel and take them at their word. I think I’ve said this before, we live in a world where everyone is screaming into the void, hoping someone will notice them and learn about them and understand them but it is so rare to encounter someone who actually listens, let alone acts on that knowledge. Also everyone feels like they know you better than you might know yourself and they tell you so. There is a great scene in the book, it’s Louisa’s birthday and she invites Will to attend her birthday dinner at her home (and we get the omg he’s rich and my house is such a hovel stuff). Her distant and disconnected boyfriend gets her a gold chain with a small star on it which initially made me feel like “aw, it’s quirky and at least he got her something” until Will gives her two pair of bumblebee tights (black and yellow striped) that he had made for her when she said she loved them as a kid and wished she could have some now but that she couldn’t find them anywhere to buy. My emotions in that scene betrayed me; I felt how I so often feel when people get me gifts, putting out the “well it’s the thought that counts” and feigning thankfulness – it was so familiar and well rehearsed. But when she unwrapped the tights, I think I cried a bit. Someone heard her. Someone listened to her heart. Someone made it about her on her birthday, which is what it should be. Now the obvious, much more serious example is that Will’s family should support his decision to end his own life given his circumstances, but I feel like that example could be a bit…divisive? It’s the same idea though. If we recognize

There are studies on studies on studies that talk about how using social media actually makes people feel more lonely. I maintain that I would rather be completely alone than be in a room full of people and feel lonely. Said another way, sometimes loneliness feels even worse when you have people around you. It’s like you get into an argument with yourself “look at all these people, why do you feel lonely? Is something wrong with you? You have no excuse!”

This book isn’t about social media, but our characters are isolated and forced to deal with their lives alone despite the fact that they are surrounded by others. They are lonely. Who is listening? Who really cares about them? Reading this book allowed me to enjoy the moments when people got out of their own way to truly care about others and honor their wishes.

PS: This book did not make me cry. Don’t be afraid to read it. 🙂

Angry Angel Abandonment: All Our Wrong Todays

all our wrong todays

When I began this book I felt like I had read it before, and I realized I kind of had. It felt like a weird combination of the tv show Fringe, the book Dark Matter by Blake Crouch, and this other book Version Control by Dexter Palmer (that I didn’t finish or review here, but it has the same vibe). The central ideas are as follows: (1) there are other timelines, often because YOU were fucking around with going back in time (2) even the smallest change in the past can completely rewrite the future, and (3) you gotta keep your cool when traveling back to the future bc it might be different but you have to blend to avoid being locked up in a crazy house.

The new flavor injected into this chicken cordon bleu is the Idiocracy plot line. If you haven’t seen the movie Idiocracy, it’s basically this normal, average guy gets frozen and wakes up in a future where his mediocrity is genius compared to everyone else. So Tom knows the future that was possible had he not done what he did, but he’s surrounded by our 2016 instead of his and he has no way to help us make things better because he was the disappointment in the advanced timeline or whatever.

This book was so fucking boring. I tried to finish it but I didn’t care about any of the characters, I’d read better books with similar plots before, I have other, better things to read, and limited time to do so. I made it to page 247 and then I finally said “ugh I DON’T CARE” and put it away. It wasn’t even suspenseful, it was just “try to feel bad for this male protagonist who is trying to figure out the consequences of his time travel temper tantrum” and I DON’T CAAAAAARRRREEEEE.

So this one goes in the stack of abandoned books. The plot line makes sense, and if you’re into the time travel type thing you should definitely give this a try, but like Ill Will by Dan Chaon I just had to be like “there’s a story here, and it has potential, but damn it’s unseasoned chicken and I just don’t have time for that.”

On Podcasts: Happier

happier

I have been getting into podcasts. “Podcast” is just a fancy word for “radio show” but they are enjoyable so I’m not going to be that person who’s like “if there are other people in the picture it’s not a selfie!” A podcast is a 20-80 minute show that you can listen to at your leisure, and there are thousands of them on any topic you could possibly want to listen to. I asked my friendly, neighborhood Facebook group members to suggest some podcasts for me to start with, and got a LOOOOOOONG list that’s going to take me a while to get through.

One that I found that I’ve stuck with on a regular basis is Happier with Gretchen Rubin. It has a very predictable formula which makes my brain happy. They start with any updates on previous podcast topics, then suggest something to try at home to make yourself happier. There is always a commercial for Barkbox and ThirdLove (bras), and the meaty part of the podcast varies from interviews, guest contributors, or just a larger issue in life to watch out for. Gretchen does these podcasts with her sister Elizabeth, and at the end of the session they share a happiness demerit and a gold star – mistakes to learn from and observed excellent behaviors in their own lives.

Don’t get me wrong, some of these are very “married white lady in the suburbs with 2.5 kids and a mortgage” so I skip them or just get through that particular segment to get to the next one. But for the most part Rubin’s suggestions are on point and small enough to be realistically applicable. I also appreciate that they are research based actions and not just “take my word for it since it worked for me!” kinds of stories.

I have been drowning in my depression for a couple of months. On the face of it I’m mostly fine, but I have lost my grip on several aspects of my happiness internally, so it’s getting more and more difficult to keep up the facade for others. If I’m being honest, this podcast caught my eye because I wanted to try to find any strategies to get myself out of this Neverending Story swamp I seem to find myself in. *waves at Artex*

I’m about 20 episodes in with many more to go. I think I will begin one of her Try This at Home tips and keep a podcast one-liner journal so I can remember the suggestions and actually try them at home. The episodes are short and sweet, and a welcome small slice of motivation to incorporate good habits into your life. Click on the picture above, take a listen, and see if you can find some ideas to increase your happiness. Or click here: http://gretchenrubin.com/podcast/

 

Queen of Shadows (Throne of Glass #4)

Queen-of-shadows

Throne of Glass (ToG#1)
Crown of Midnight (ToG#2)
Heir of Fire (ToG#3)

At this stage I may not be able to avoid spoilers from past books, but as always I will try to avoid major spoilers for this particular book.

Queen of Shadows was exactly one million pages long, and it came across my desk at the same time that my job caught on fire, and not like “fire” like when something is so good it’s amazing, fire like things aren’t going so hot. I mean, it’s that time of year, but it seems to be more stressful this year than in years past because 2017 is an even larger dumpster fire than 2016.

But I digress.

There is a lot going on in this book but shit FINALLY happens and while this book doesn’t end with a cliffhanger like the previous three, you’ll be really nervous to know how the next book starts.

I love the inner turmoil that Manon the Ironteeth witch goes through in this book. If you aren’t paying attention, you will miss what I think will become a very important side story. What’s with those golden eyes? Why are the Valg afraid of her? What power does she have that she is not yet aware of? I’m ready to know! But we don’t get answers in this book so Empire of Storms better come into my library holds quick. But what’s happening where the witches and their wyverns are stationed is super gross, scary, and important. Pay close attention.

Another inner battle is happening between Dorian and the Valg prince that entered his body after the king clapped that Wyrdstone collar on him at the end of Heir of Fire. We know Dorian has magic now, and that magic was revealed, motivating the king to act. Will Dorian survive this possession? Or will the Valg prince take over and become heir to the throne of Adarlan?

Hey guys, when did Chaol become such a douche? I mean, I get that he has this sense of honor, and that he’s torn between serving the country he loves and doing what is right, but what’s up with him being such a dick to Aelin? If you have been reading my reviews for awhile you know I hate the petty “you’re responsible for this situation I’m in” kind of guilt circles and I think this is Sarah J Maas’ only time dabbling in that trope. It was irritating for a while but thankfully it goes away. Despite this the bad taste in my mouth for Chaol lingers, and I’m not sure if I can forgive him. I’m almost a little glad about what happens to him in the large battle at the end, but not really because I’m not a monster.

Guys, I don’t think you’re ready for how hot Rowan and Aelin are together. They are a total fucking tease. I did not appreciate Maas playing hard to get with me through this romance, but I better get some closure in the next book or I’m going to have to write a sternly worded letter to the editor.

Overall this book was a journey for all of the characters towards their chosen side in the coming war. Like other fantasy sagas, this war appears to be against something bigger than existence, come to consume all it surveys, and our heroes must come together and fight. There are still distant threats that we are not sure about, but the ultimate big baddie is clear, and now that Aelin has returned to Terrasen, all that’s left to see is how she calls the nations to her side to fight the coming darkness.

I don’t know how to sing the praises of this series any more than I already am. If you haven’t started it yet do yourself a favor and get going. Find Throne of Glass and join Celaena Sardothien on her journey. You will not be disappointed.

 

Caraval

caraval

There is a fancy grocery store near me called Fresh Market. It’s the kind of store that people go to when Whole Foods is too big. There are bins for candy, nuts, and other things by the pound, an expansive deli section, and a bakery where there is an assortment of individual desserts to choose from. My favorite thing to do is to get a small dessert when we go there, because it’s like having a gourmet dessert made just for you.

But what do I pick? The flourless chocolate cake with the miniature chocolate chips coating the outside edge of the frosted slice? The puff pastry, stuffed with real whipped cream and strawberries, all told as big as your head? The creme brulee, crystallized before your eyes? Each choice is rich, colorful, and delicious – just looking at the case would make your mouth water.

Garber’s book is a feast for your senses. Emotions and feelings are colors in Scarlett’s experience, and even the names of our two sisters: Scarlett and Donatella, are luxurious. You can see, taste, smell, and hear all the exciting twists and turns of this book. We discover that both sisters have been writing to the leader of Caraval, Master Legend, requesting that he grant them entry to his game, Caraval. When Scarlett has a marriage arranged for her, ‘Tella decides it’s time to take action. They escape their abusive father and become a part of the game. (That’s a lot to take in but the first few chapters mercifully set all this up in a clear, concise manner. Like, you hate dad from the get go, it’s not hard.)

One thing about this book that you might miss in the grandeur is the theme of escaping abuse. It is not as easy as it looks. It’s not just about escaping the actual, physical person, it’s also about overcoming the effects. The fear and the instinct to protect and preserve are difficult to get rid of, because you never know when they might come in handy again, you never know when a peaceful situation could turn violent.

Scarlett’s journey through Caraval, the magical game of deceit and intrigue, is actually her journey away from fear and towards a stable and healthy future. She learns to trust a little, give a little, and hold some things back. She learns what she is willing to give to keep her sister safe, but also what she is willing to give to have a life of her own.

This is a shiny, delicious, sensual book about women finding their own power and cleverness to escape the schemes of men. While Scarlett might have (partially) found her way, our rambunctious Donatella may have her own path to follow in the next book. I myself eagerly await book #2. Enjoy!