The Kiss of Deception (The Remnant Chronicles #1)

The Kiss of Deception

I would like an explanation for why no one prepared me for how fucking awesome this book would be. I demand to speak to a manager. From the very first chapter Mary E. Fucking Pearson had her claws in my soul and was dragging me through this story at a breakneck pace.

The book is YA Fantasy, but it’s that YA that I love when yes, the characters are in their late teens, early adulthood, but it’s mentioned so rarely that you can read this and imagine them older too. The main character, Princess Arabella a.k.a. Lia, runs away with her maidservant Pauline on her wedding day, escaping an arranged marriage meant to forge an alliance between two neighboring kingdoms. They take refuge in an inn run by Pauline’s aunt in an oceanside town. They work to earn their keep and see a future for themselves there.

Problem is that in her rush to escape, she was tracked by her betrothed from Dalbreck and an assassin from the barbarian realm of Venda. Both these men (boys) are referred to as The Prince and The Assassin when we hear the story from their point of view, and when Lia interacts with the both of them when they both find her at the same time in her hidey-hole they are referred to as Kaden and Rafe and we don’t have any fucking idea which is which as we watch their interactions. 

MARY. WHY DID YOU PLAY WITH ME LIKE THIS MARY. I need to know whether she was into the prince or the assassin to know whether to be filled with hope or dread and you gave me naught a clue so I was nervous THE WHOLE TIME.

BITCH I NEED TO KNOW WHO I’M ROOTING FOR.

Aside from the character drama that I am still fucking salty over (MARY YOU MUST MEET ME AT DAWN CHOOSE YOUR WEAPON) the fantasy elements are set up so slowly and sneakily that by the end I’m like omg there is a prophecy and what does it imply is gonna happen? Who is the Dragon? Venda has magic? WHAT IS THE GIFT WHAT IS HAPPENING I NEED TO KNOW MORE MARY.

Do you want to know how fast I went to the library for the next book in the series? I finished this book Wednesday night, and when I went by the library on my way home on Thursday to return it I picked up The Heart of Betrayal (The Remnant Chronicles #2) while I was there and if you don’t think I went to bed early so I could get through the first 100 pages before I passed out from exhaustion then you must be new to Angry Angel Books. 

(By the way, I just finished day 9 of the new school year and I think I’m sleep-teaching at this point because I am so exhausted I’m either sleep-walking or dead or maybe I’m dreaming but I AM SO TIRED SOMEONE SEND HELP.)

I don’t even want to spoil this experience for you. You need to suffer as I have suffered. YOU WANT THIS SUFFERING EMBRACE IT READ THIS BOOK ARE YOU READING IT YET WHY NOT HURRY UP HOW ABOUT NOW NO WHY NOT BITCH GO GET THIS BOOK DON’T WALK AWAY FROM ME I’M TALKING TO YOU.

***

Side story: When I was at the library checking out this book a girl walked in with one of those rolling backpacks and she was still in her school uniform and she was 12 if she was a day and she made a direct beeline from the door to the children’s section in the most businesslike way that I was absolutely struck with a fit of laughter and when the librarian asked what I was laughing at I said “nobody better get in that little girl’s way because she is here for books and she is not messing around” and I hope that little girl gets all the books she came there for because I totally respect her attitude.

 

Everything is Awful: And Other Observations

Everything is Awful

Matt Bellassai is one of my favorite internet personalities. From his weekly, angry videos about a topic to his podcast Unhappy Hour where he talks about infuriating things int he news and pop culture, he provides me with an important infusion of anger and dissatisfaction. My favorite topics that he covers are the ones that we all put up with but secretly hate, and it’s nice to hear him take that topic head on so we can nod in agreement while maintaining a facade necessary for work or family relationships. He’s the no-filter existence I wish I could have. So much of his ranting sounds like freedom to me. The freedom to be absolutely fucking done with everything.

But this isn’t a people review blog, it’s a book review blog, and I’ll say this about his memoir(?) – it’s not funny. Matt is funny when he screams about something stupid for like 5-10 minutes. He’s funny on his podcast because he has other people to break up his screaming and bounce his hate off of. This is 247 pages of stories about his life that I just didn’t need. Stories about peeing his pants and getting picked on in gym are just…uh…I don’t know, boring? They aren’t new. Any angry nerd that is a fan will relate to these stories, but they aren’t really enough.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not looking for angst or suffering – I’ve written before about how some memoirs seem to bleed for you to get you to keep reading and that they aren’t for me. The stories in a memoir have to be similar enough to my experience that I can relate, but different enough that I’m interested. The kind of story isn’t important, but those elements are. I got through a few more chapters – the horrors and embarrassments of having braces and other dental procedures and how he can identify the type of ball he’s being hit with with his eyes closed (i.e. more gym stories, kickball, dodgeball, etc.) – and then I set the book aside. I can’t imagine how difficult the audiobook would be to get through.

Matt Bellassai is in the same category as Louis Black for me. Hilarious in small doses or mixed in with others, but surviving an entire stand up show (or book) just becomes an exercise in surviving monotony.  Their only level is loud and angry, so there’s no fluctuation or building of tension. I’ll keep him in video and podcast form, but the book is a no from me.

The Wedding Date

The Wedding Date

I don’t read a lot of romance novels. I’m not sure why that is, or why the entirety of my romance experience is Nora Roberts trilogies, but The Wedding Date was a new experience for me which has widened my view on what a romance novel is and can be.

The main characters get trapped in a elevator when the power goes out in their hotel, and in the time they have to meet cute and get to know each other he has nervously asked her to join him at the wedding he is in town for as his plus one. She agrees and pretends to be his girlfriend for both the rehearsal dinner and the reception. They discover that they are very attracted to each other throughout the course of the two outings and when they go back to his hotel room after the reception (that’s where she got ready for the wedding to help add to the girlfriend lie) they have sex.

The rest of the book is them having as much sex as humanly possible while working in two completely different cities that require them to fly to see each other on weekends. I enjoyed how Guillory also incorporated ideas about weight, race, and the tenuous situation of communicating via text. The number of times they almost break up because one of them assumes the worst over an emotionless text (or an intended joke) adds a bit of tension to their love fest.

I appreciated that Guillory gave me what I usually complain about missing in other romance series: the passage of time. Crazy, immediate attraction and constant sexing is a lot easier to believe when it isn’t followed up by being in love and getting married within a three month span. This book was believable. Even their stumbling blocks of texting and the distance were believable. It was a stumbly-bumbly beginning of a relationship that would feel familiar to anyone that’s ever suffered through those first few months.

My only critique is that after the initial anticipation of the rehearsal dinner and reception, there isn’t a lot of build up to the actual sex. The first time they have sex you’ll be like “YES THAT’S RIGHT” and then ever other time it’s just BAM THEY ARE TOGETHER SEX which I get because that’s what the honeymoon phase is but, I mean, romance me a little. They’re supposedly texting constantly, lemme see some of those sexy exchanges. This is a small critique though, because this book was really good.

You learn some things about how the world works AND you get a hot steamy romance. Learning and licking (LOL). Go get you some.

The Wise Man’s Fear (The Kingkiller Chronicles #2)

The Wise Man's Fear

The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicles #1)

This book has taken me a little over a month to read, mostly because it’s 1,000 pages and significantly more boring than the first one. I can’t even remember now what happened in the first like 250 pages of the book – the basics are that Kvothe and his friends come together for a caper against his nemesis Ambrose Jakis that involved setting his apartments on fire and stealing back something Ambrose stole. While it cannot be proven that Kvothe did it, there is enough information at hand that in his current financial situation he would be unable to afford the very subjective tuition amount that he would be given by the professors at his admissions interview. So the professors that like him, along with his friends, advise him to go out into the world and seek his fortune for a bit to let things cool down.

One of his friends from the Eolian where he performs says he has a possible patron for him. The Maer of a city across the sea is willing to entertain having him  and has requested assistance with a delicate matter. So Kvothe takes a ship that is attacked and sinks, and he survives with nothing but the clothes on his back and his lute case and somehow makes it to Severen, the town next to the Maer’s estate. The Maer wants Kvothe to write songs and poems and things to help him win the heart of the eligible Lady Lackless from the neighboring  city so he can produce some heirs. Kvothe helps, but then he’s sent away with a band of mercenaries to deal with bandits that are stealing the Maer’s taxes from his tax collectors on the road.

I mean, I would tell you more but I’m not really interested in giving you a full book synopsis. I want to tell you how it made me feel, or how exciting it was. The story was still interesting in that how a sixteen year old boy survives on his wits alone and the occasional infusion of cash is enough tension to keep me reading for the inevitable fall from grace. Seeing Rothfuss expand his world beyond the University was interesting too. Kvothe has to learn the cultural norms of the Maer’s nobility and then, after he deals with the tax bandits he goes to the Ademre where he has to pass a series of tests to be accepted into their society as well. Oh, and he fucks a famous Fae creature that he stumbles upon on his journey. That interlude is looooooooooong but necessary because he encounters a creature there that might not be such a good thing for his psyche.

It’s a book 2, what can I say? I mean, was I expecting more information about the Chandrian that killed his parents in the first book and set him on this course in the first place? Yes. Am I constantly surprised when I am reminded that I’m reading about a 16 year old boy doing all this crazy shit? Yes. Was I just as irritated about the presence of Denna flitting about and advancing the plot not a whit? YES. But we moved forward in the story, we got a little info here and there, and he’s back at the University at the end right where he belongs. This sets up his future expulsion I guess? How it possible for a main character to go to so many places and still have the plot go nowhere?

The thing I’m the most upset about is the fact that the Amyr/Chandrian issue doesn’t move forward at all. There are seven of these terrible creatures and I know nothing about them. I can’t picture them. All I know is that they show up like Beetlejuice if you say their names too much and they kill everyone within half a mile of the naming. I’m just not convinced they are any worse than any of the other crazy shit waiting to kill Kvothe at the University, including his own mishandling of sympathy (magic). How am I supposed to feel tension and fear about a group of creatures I don’t even see more than once in 2,000 pages?

I’m a patient woman, and the storytelling in these books is quality enough to keep me reading. But some shoes have got to start dropping. Soon. Which doesn’t seem likely since The Wise Man’s Fear came out in 2011 and there’s no third book in sight.

You should still go read it. It’s a good book. Just know that there will probably never be a third.

Second Reading: Six of Crows

Six of Crows

I read Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo back in October of 2016 (original review linked). It is the inspiration for the team component of my current novel, and so I returned to read it again now to remind me how the elements and points of view worked together. This is not so much a review as it is a revisit to see if any of my opinions changed from the first reading and to encourage you to enjoy some of my favorite books.  

There are only a few authors that I trust so implicitly that I would preorder their books without taking them out of the library first. One of these authors is Leigh Bardugo. I have read every single one of her books and they all are amazing and I will sing her praises from on high until everyone that can hear me has read her books.

I was in a bit of a reading lull this summer. Every book I picked up seemed to make fart noises into my brain and I couldn’t get into any of them, even the ones that were identified as HOT SUMMAH READS. Eventually this got tiresome so I decided to return to the Grisha universe and reread Six of Crows.

This book goes from 0 to 60mph in 2.5 seconds and it never stops. Everyone is hot, and while you might think that’s creepy because they are all 16-18 years old I will repeat what I said in my original review and say that you forget all about that. Their age doesn’t matter. This story could be written with them as older teens or in their mid-thirties and it would still work. So I choose to see Kaz Brekker as a cranky af 32yo ready to get some crazy revenge and I AM HERE FOR IT.

The backstories are absolute gold. Kaz’s traumatic childhood experience with the death of his brother and being fooled past the poorhouse and into the streets of Ketterdam. You see exactly why he is who he is and why, and you understand that he has one purpose, which is to get revenge on Pekka Rollins for essentially murdering his brother and creating the bastard of the Barrel.

Nina is me and I am Nina – a Heartrender Grisha who can control people’s hearts, pulses, and consciousness. She longs for her home in Ravka and is wrapped up with Matthais, a soldier from the very anti-Grisha country where the prison is that they have been hired to break into and steal a scientist who has come up with a formula for a drug that will turn all Grisha into drug addled killing machines.

This book is just so fucking tight. It’s the perfect game of Tetris. Everything makes sense. Everything has a purpose. Everything fits. Bardugo does not waste a single word or action. Everything that happens moves us towards a goal, one of six mind you. Intertwined with the character stories and backstories is an unfurling of the world that they work in. All the different locations are mentioned and described in this book and you get a sense of what a person coming from each location might believe, especially in relation to Grisha and the use of “magic” (what they call the Small Science).

This book is one that I love so much that I have a difficult time describing why. I just want to shove it in your hands and then sit there and wait until you are done reading it so we can talk about it together because you will love it too.

If you haven’t yet, PLEASE, go get you some.

The Distance Home

The Distance Home

Book due to be published on August 7, 2018.

This book was provided to me by Random House publishing as an advanced reader copy in return for an honest review.

It is difficult to describe how growing up poor in a rural area is different. Even to my own ears it sounds like whining. Perhaps I’m too close to the issue, the kind of thing that happens when a teacher is SO smart about the content she is teaching but cannot break it into its pieces to help students understand it, it difficult for me to point a finger at exactly what elements made the whole thing so miserable.

This is why I am thankful for Paula Sanders’ novel The Distance Home. Reading this book was painful for me because so much of it rang so true and so deep in my bones from my childhood that at a couple of points I had to put the book down for a couple of days just to recover so I could read on.

Even sitting down to write this review it’s difficult for me to unwind the tangled web that is this novel. The distant father, the mother who hates her mother-in-law and plays favorites with her children. The homophobic environment of any rural area that enforces the manliest man idea while destroying anything outside of that definition. The restriction of women to certain roles.

The most tragic part of this tale is how the son, who is not homosexual, simply loves to dance, especially ballet. He is good at it, it makes him light up inside, it gets him through the day. It’s the classic story for why we should have arts in school – that for some kids that’s what they enjoy and put their efforts into, and that’s just as valuable as math and science.

But of course his dad is ashamed of him but proud of his daughter who eventually joins him at the dance studio where he studies. His mom and dad fight over how he is treated by his dad, how he is never encouraged or recognized for his skill and effort. His dad sends him to work at a ranch to get the “phase” to pass, he beats the ever-loving daylights out of him, and eventually it is inferred that he is raped by a photographer who takes him for a special photo session alone with his mother’s permission after providing photos for the dance studio’s advertisements.

It is passive neglect. Day after day hoping things will just happen and when they don’t (or happen but not how they expected) anger is the only way to address the disappointment. The lack of communication ability, the constant fights that reinforce anxiety and inadequacy in the children, the poor school system and insular community – everything is set up for these talented, passionate children to be forced into unhealthy patterns and habits just to get by.

I appreciate that Saunders made her ending realistic. These people are damaged, there isn’t a happy ending for them. The daughter escapes, but she doesn’t escape whole, she escapes with bites taken out of her and does what she has to do to stay away, successful, and “safe.” This pressure alone, the pressure to “make it” and escape where you came from, is still the pressure of poverty. The danger of making a mistake and backsliding is always there, so you must double your efforts to keep it at bay because there is no safety net if you fall. Only poverty and the abuse it fosters, both physical and mental.

I think amidst all these Cletus-safaris (stories about “real” Americans) and attempts to romanticize and explain rural America it is helpful to be reminded that these areas are harmful. They are real, but they are dangerous. So much of what we are seeing in the national spotlight: racism, sexism, violence, aggressiveness towards gender diversion – this has been the American reality for years, especially in the places where the national spotlight didn’t reach (until now). This is America, and it is damaging in the long-term for people who have no choice but to be born into its clutches.

If you were not born in a rural area you need to read this book. It’s perfect. It depicts what it is and you will feel what it feels like because Saunders’ writing is evocative and clear. It also serves as a reminder that in the midst of our current national crisis, there are probably millions of people living in very real fear due to nothing other than the element of chance in where they were born.

This is a real one. Go get you some.

One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter

Scaachi

Scaachi Koul is one of my favorite personalities on Twitter. I discovered her through other people that I already knew and followed, because they would constantly favorite and retweet her stuff. In my current online friends existence that was the best endorsement she could have received, and so I clicked a follow. I have not been disappointed. She’s fabulous.

Her collection of essays dropped in 2017, but I didn’t buy it until I saw it at the AWP writing conference in March. I brought it home and it sat on my bookshelf, waiting for me to work my way through my library holds that had deadlines. I finally put a hold on my holds (for now!) so I could focus more on my ARCs and owned books, and Koul’s collection was the first book I grabbed.

I have no contact with my family other than my grandmother. Finally taking the step to disconnect has made my life so much better than it had been. So when I began reading the life and times of Scaachi and her family, it seemed very close and boisterous in comparison to my no family at all. It was lovely to read about how much her parents cared about her, and funny when they seemed to care too much.

This collection of essays speaks to the pull of obligation. Obligation to family, friends, relationships, and yourself, and how you balance them all to cobble together a semblance of a balanced, fulfilling life. Because her connection to family is so strong, things like moving across the country (Canada) to go to college or dating a significantly older and white man were difficult, even when she knew they were what was right for her as an individual.

Obligation comes out of not only family but culture, because she struggles to remain connected to a culture that she has never truly grown up in. As a child of Indian immigrants that was raised in Canada, she talks about how she feels like she’ll never really be home. This discussion takes us through the racism she experiences as a result of her body type and brown skin in Canada, and then the privilege she experiences when she visits family in India and her skin is suddenly light there and a sign of being a part of the upper class. That her body and appearance could go from reviled to revered so quickly must have been (and still is) very confusing and strange.

This is an important collection to read in this moment in time. Understanding the different elements of the immigrant experience must come from as many sources as possible, and Scaachi is an amazing storyteller that will take you from Canada to India and back again. The reading that we do must include books like Scaachi’s, written by authors from all over the world about a myriad of experiences so that we can be sure to never let ignorance or inexperience stop us from being understanding, intelligent, accepting, empathetic, and supportive.

This was an amazing, quick, informative, wonderful read. Go get you some.