One Dark Throne (Three Dark Crowns #2)

Three Dark Crowns (Three Dark Crowns #1)

This is not going to be a spoiler free review, so if you haven’t read Three Dark Crowns (#1) yet, you should come back to this review when you are deciding to move forward with the series.

These two books were originally intended to be a duology, and I can see why. This book could have ended with a queen who changes the system of murder and they all live kind of happily ever after. But then the series got extended to four books and we had to have a cliffhanger.

It’s just another whole book about the triplet queens taking part in the Ascension Year by trying to kill each other. The only difference is that after being thrown into the Breccia Domain (the deep crevasse in the center of the island where all dead queen’s bodies are thrown to be forgotten) by Peter, Katherine is fucking bonkers crazy and completely different than she was before. We’re not sure why at first, but eventually we’re told it’s probably because she’s possessed by the spirits of the dead queens who are completely out of fucks to give and want everything dead.

So I have some questions.

First, how does this end? Are you telling me that in the thousands of years that this island has been murdering teenagers there has never been a year in which a queen died in childbirth? Or all three queens died  for one reason or another without bearing the Goddess-blessed triplets? So this is the ONE TIME in the history of the island where the queens refused to murder their sisters and one of them is a fucking psychopath who is basically made out of poison?

Second, I must have not received the message of how the queen’s magicks work in this universe. Katherine has sex with her king-consort and murders the everloving daylights out of him because every part of her seethes with poison. How? When? Why now? Why not when she touches Mirabella at the ball? When she touches Arsinoe’s bear? When did she turn from crazy small girl to leaking bag of poison?

Third, Mirabella and Arsinoe escape to the mainland and you don’t think those “humans” aren’t going to turn them right back around? Sure, they have William Chatworth Jr (whose scheming dad is super dead now – I won’t spoil that one) so I guess that’s how they’ll survive, but how will they hide that they are queens? I guess I’ll need to wait for the next book to find this one out.

Fourth, I’m almost at the point of who cares. I felt like this at the end of book 2 of the Hunger Games – there’s only so much senseless killing and cruelty I can take without something changing or being different to allow for a change of pace or tone. This has been two books of WHO WILL DIE AND WHO WILL BECOME QUEEN and idk, who cares? I don’t feel any hope. I don’t feel like things can change. I’m glad that Arsinoe and Mirabella escaped, why can’t we just let them have their lives and let this nasty island burn itself out? Who cares?

I am going to read the next book Two Dark Reigns to see if it turns around, and the final fourth book comes out this year so perhaps we’re heading for a satisfying conclusion. Go get this one to keep up, but I’m tentative and skeptical about what the remaining books of the series have to offer and whether I want to stick around long enough to find out.

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Fangirling

 

Today is the release date for King of Scars, the next book in the Grishaverse by goddess and queen Leigh Bardugo.

She’s one of the only authors that I will ever preorder a book from as opposed to waiting for it to arrive at the library. The hardcover should be arriving today while I am at work.

This new release, on top of the Netflix news about Shadow and Bone and Six of Crows, has made my January one of my best book months yet.

If you need me I’ll be reading King of Scars.

Read. Be brave. Stay angry.

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Unf*ck Your Habitat

One of my 2019 goals was to find a way to slowly bring our current house into reasonable order. As it is with any partnership, I am the partner that becomes more unsettled when things are cluttered or untidy, and so I wanted to find a way to do everything I wanted to do without becoming resentful of the husband, who may not feel the need to clean/organize as often or as thoroughly as I do.

A book that kept popping up as a recommendation on Amazon as well as in Goodreads (thanks targeted marketing!) was Unfuck Your Habitat by Rachel Hoffman. I caught it on a Kindle deal and figured that just like any self help tome, it had to have at least three useful takeaways that would help me move forward. In this way, UYH did not disappoint.

TAKEAWAY #1: Stop Marathon Cleaning

I tend to want the entire house to be clean all at once. The dream is to walk through it as though it was a model home, marveling at all of my hard work and how good everything smells. This is not reality and more likely than not I see all the things I need to do (oh god the walk in shower tiles…) and then my mind simply gives up. But once in awhile, if someone is coming to visit or I’ve just had enough, I clean as much as I can all at once, which continues my bad relationship with housekeeping and tires me out, making it certain that it will be awhile before I get around to any of the maintenance type things again.

So I am taking Hoffman’s marathon cleaning suggestion to heart. I have slowly been cleaning in little ways every day. For example today I sprayed down half the shower with a bleach foam cleaner and then scrubbed and rinsed it away. Did it get up everything in the first try? No, but tomorrow I can spray it again and get a little more. Dusting is another culprit, one that I have started attacking with a single Lysol wipe. If I’m waiting for something or bored I get up and grab a Lysol wipe and start cleaning the tops of things I don’t think about. When the wipe is completely dirty or whatever I’ve been waiting on is ready, I stop. I don’t have to dust the entire house all at once.

I do a good job with doing the dishes, vacuuming, laundry, the regular type stuff, but the rest I am going to start tackling just a little bit each day. Counters, dusting, even power washing the pool deck – a little bit each week, each day and eventually it’ll all be a reasonable 2 minute chore I do and it’s done.

TAKEAWAY #2: Don’t Put It Down, Put It Away

Our house is very tiny, and the living room and kitchen are separated by a breakfast bar type countertop that also hosts the dishwasher and sink on the kitchen side. We don’t use the breakfast bar for eating, but we do use it for setting everything down. Right now there is a bag of bananas from the grocery delivery, a box of dog dental treats, a pint-sized personal ice cream maker, a dirty Nalgene bottle, and an empty seal-top container (the kind that pops up a thing that you push back down to seal it closed). All of those things have homes that are not on this counter, but there they sit because that’s where they were set. When I’m done typing this I’m going to get up and put them away.

I mentioned earlier I’m good about doing laundry. That’s true, until I have to put it away. I don’t usually put it away as well as I wash, dry, and get it into my laundry basket. Honestly I’m considering getting rid of the laundry basket because that would force me to put away my laundry right out of the dryer with no place else to put it. Putting the laundry down but not away is my worst habit, I think. I throw trash away, I put books back on shelves, I keep my side table clear…it’s the small knick knack stuff and that damn laundry.

My current mantra is “don’t put it down, put it away” or alternately “where is its home?” and my depression thanks me for keeping the clutter to a minimum.

TAKEAWAY #3: Do A Little Every Day

I am a completionist. This makes me at risk for marathon cleaning. I hate to do a job halfway. So what I’ve been trying to do is just clean part of something, and later clean the other part of it. Maybe today I just vacuum the livingroom rug, and tomorrow I vacuum down the hallway. Dusting just one room. Doing even one thing every day makes everything better.

I’m already starting to notice certain things becoming a routine. It’s nothing for me to grab a Lysol wipe and just walk around a room wiping off surfaces and picture frames. I run a Lysol wipe over the toilet surfaces every night and squirt in some cleaner before I go to bed. I’m vacuuming more often, doing the dishes faster, and noticing cleaner counters and cleaner air the longer I work on these life skills.

It’s ok to do a small bit every day as long as whatever you do gets finished. This viewpoint is really making cleaning and organizing much less intimidating for me, which means I’m more likely to do it.

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I’ve been putting many of the tips in this book into practice for the past 3 weeks or so, and I can report that I am noticing a big difference. Every little bit helps. Even on days when I am fighting a depressive episode, I find that simply dusting the picture frames in the hallway or throwing away a few pieces of trash makes me feel accomplished, like I am fighting the effects of depression with action. A great strength of this book is that it takes mental health into consideration when offering suggestions for regular housekeeping, and offers suggestions for those with both mental health struggles and physical disabilities.

My house isn’t as cluttered and the small cleaning tasks are ones I can keep up with as I move through the house square foot by square foot, day by day, bringing things back to square one so that I can maintain them in 5 minutes a day instead of hours all at one time once a month. Doing this in a better way has improved my moods and made me feel more productive and sane at home. I strongly recommend this book if you want to change how you approach housekeeping. Take what works for or applies to you and leave the rest, skip around and find ways to make your home more comfortable and clean.

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Happy 3rd Anniversary! (2019)

Three years ago on January 27, 2016 I registered my blog on WordPress. I was working from home, and had the time to consider a non-work activity, I believe they are called ‘hobbies.’ The more I thought about it, I kept returning to reading. Being in college studies (Bachelor’s, master’s, doctorate) for so long restricted the reading I could do for pleasure. Perhaps I could use a blog to hold me accountable for reading more, for making reading for pleasure a part of my life again.

I took a trip back to find my first post. I posted only this once in February 2016, and once in March 2016. I began to make an effort to post once a week in May 2016, and by the end of the year I was posting 1-2 times a week on a regular basis and had read enough to make my first Angel Picks: Best of List.

My first review was actually a movie review!

My first book review was for The Expatriates by Janice Y.K. Lee.

If you’d like to see some of my first posts please visit my Goodreads page and sort my Read shelf by Year Read, or you can use the calendar on the right side of the website to click back in time. Reading some of those first reviews really showed me how far I’ve come, not only with my writing style but with my goals for this site as a whole. As we head into year 4, I want to thank all of you for reading and supporting me. You are my online family and I am so grateful. Happy Anniversary!

screenshot 2019-01-27 at 9.32.44 am

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We Cast A Shadow

We Cast a Shadow by Maurice Carlos Ruffin was provided to me by Random House Publishing Group via NetGalley as a digital review copy in advance of publication in return for an honest review. We Cast a Shadow is scheduled to release on 1-29-19.

Ah yes, we have reached the first “did not finish” book of the year. We Cast a Shadow follows a young, black lawyer as he attempts to climb the corporate ladder while navigating the inherent racism in the system. While I recognize that these books bring important truths into the world and allow black voices to be heard, if I’m reading fiction I cannot immerse myself in the evils that I am already drowning in every day in the real world.

The very first chapter describes a party in which the four black junior associates are being asked to be as stereotypically black as they can in order to earn a promotion. The narrator arrives at the party dressed as a normal lawyer, and discovers he must perform or be fired. The host offers him an African garb costume from her in-house museum-esque collection, and through a silly African dance and subsequent nudity when the costume falls off, he runs out of the house and into a promotion to the head of the diversity committee for community outreach. There’s so much there to unpack that I was completely stunned but also not surprised when I read the scene.

And that’s just his work life. At home he is married to a white woman and they have a biracial son with a birthmark that gets bigger every day; the blackness that he has given him that grows to overtake the whiteness. The father/narrator uses creams, bleaches, and is pursuing this promotion at work to be able to afford an operation to have his son’s birthmark removed. He seems to be the only adult involved that is concerned about it, and the son goes along because he loves his dad and doesn’t completely understand what the problem is.

I see all the symbolism here that is relevant to the struggles with race and society that black people face every day. The idea that a father would become nervous the darker his son became resonates with me in a world where unarmed black men are killed so often we don’t even see them on the news anymore. Where I decided that it was enough was when drugs and squalor entered into the story, and suddenly everything became a hallucination that the narrator had to describe life through to me, the reader. I just…I don’t know. I don’t feel like I’m in a position to see this all presented in this way and be able to appreciate it. It is important to understand the difference between when something is not good and when something is not written for you.

We Cast a Shadow is well-written. The stories told present a plethora of black diasporic experience and struggle in a way that doesn’t preach, it shows you what it looks like in practice. I simply do not think that it was written for me, and that’s why I cringed my way through about 32% of it and then gave myself permission to put it down. Please do not see this review as a non-endorsement. This book is good and troubling. It was not boring and the story was very compelling. It just wasn’t for me.

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Windwitch (Witchlands #2)

Truthwitch (Witchlands #1)

Synopsis (Goodreads)

I don’t usually link to a synopsis, but I want to take my review time to talk to you about more intricate pieces of this book as opposed to “this happened! and then this happened!” because SO MUCH HAPPENS and I don’t want to get caught up in WHAT happens, I want to talk about FEELINGS caused by what happens.

I stand by my previous assessment of Dennard’s worldbuilding and character development. It is absolutely amazing that there is so much going on in the story and yet I remember all the characters, what they want, what they care about, AND I’m able to see how all of their separate stories are woven together into the larger plot. Windwitch focuses in primarily on Merik and his sister Vivia in their defense of their country Nubrevna, but both Safi’s and Iseult’s stories feed into the future of Nubrevna while letting us know that in the next books we’ll be taking the story in other directions.

You will learn more about what Iseult’s powers are all about in this book. It’s possible that she’s not a Threadwitch at all, but a Weaverwitch, a more advanced Threadwitch who can manipulate the threads and magic of other witches. Aeduan, the Bloodwitch hunting Iseult, is now working with her and believes she may be a true Voidwitch as well as one half of the mythical Cahr Awen. I find her situation compelling, but every time we get a small glimpse of what she’s really capable of, I wonder back to Safi. Is she only a Truthwitch? If she’s the other half of the Cahr Awen, destined to reawaken the Origin Wells and heal the land, what more is there that we need to learn about her magic that might be more than we think?

Dennard asks us to consider the sentiment of all for one, one for all in many different parts of our journey. Is it ever appropriate to sacrifice one person for the sake of all? Or can a single person be important enough to save at the expense of the suffering of many? Honestly Windwitch seems to show us that both are possible, that making the decision is next to impossible, and there are always consequences that you will have to live with either way. I am glad that the constant guilt machine I briefly bemoaned in my Truthwitch review seems to have ground to a halt here in Windwitch.

The way that Windwitch illustrates so many different kinds of relationships is also thoughtfully done. Parents and children, brother and sister, friendships, life-debts – all of these are played out so we can see that nothing is as simple as we think, and everything is connected. All witcheries, all people in this universe have threads that Threadwitches can see. Threads that bind, threads that break, threads that show all manner of emotion. It only makes sense that we should see how the characters that we care so much about might be working to bind themselves to one another to face an even greater foe that we have not yet even been introduced to. I can’t wait to find out what that will be.

I have preordered Bloodwitch, out in February 2019, and I caught the novella Sightwitch on a Kindle deal this past weekend. I’m into this series, and I think you should be too. Try it out and see what you think.

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Circe 🍍

What is the journey of  a woman? If you had to make a list of the lessons a woman must learn as she travels through life, what would you include. I would suggest that you look no further than Circe by Madeline Miller for your guidance.

How do we, as women, leave the house of our father, of our mother, and find strength in solitude? The act of redefining ourselves simply as ourselves is no small feat. Our entire childhood is influenced and controlled by those who chose to bring us into this world. We believe what we are told to believe, what we see around us, what we hear and see and feel. Those moments where we are separate give us the opportunity to explore what we know and compare it to what is real.

But sometimes in that exploration, naivete can be dangerous. If we come to the world too trusting, or not trusting enough, balancing is necessary. Such balancing can be harmful, and we must add coping with tragedy, abuse, or rape, either of our minds or bodies, to our journey of self-definition.

We use others as mirrors. Is this who I want to be? What does being like this person feel like? Relationships with others allow us to put on costumes and outfits that others wear to see if we can use their definition as a piece of ours, and in the process we become other people instead of being ourselves. It’s like a thrift store or a patchwork quilt that we make for ourselves. Keeping the things we enjoy, and leaving the bad pieces behind.

Once we have shed the skin of our family and decided we can not be anyone else, our mind opens to what we truly want, who we truly are, and if we are very lucky we get the chance to make the choice to become that person we were becoming all along. We get the chance to choose to be ourselves.

It’s worth mentioning that The Song of Achilles was one of the most moving books I have ever read. I knew the myth and the stories but to hear it told through the eyes of Patroclus, Achilles’ lover, was a balm to my spirit and a soft hand on my soul. Having now added the experience of Circe to my reading I find myself in the position to demand at least fifty more myths retold by Madeline Miller. If each one sings to my heart as these two have, I will read them all, and gladly.

Please go and read Circe. Especially if you are a woman. Especially if you have had a difficult road. Especially if you’ve found your way back to yourself. You will absolutely love this literary, mythical journey.

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The Dreamers

The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker was provided to me as an advanced digital review copy by Random House Publishing Group via NetGalley.

Many novels like to explore the aftermath of a pandemic or a natural disaster, often from the point in time where everything normal takes a hard right onto survival street. The tension is in the survival, the alliances, whether or not a decision will turn out okay or spell disaster for the decider.

I would argue that true tension lies in the onset of a disaster: patients zero-ten, the 10-day weather forecast, the detection of the distant meteor – and watch ’em scramble like eggs in a pan. Is there enough water? Can we get out of town? Can we defend ourselves? Have I been exposed? Oh man yes, this is the thriller I ordered, now don’t forget to refill my breadbasket.

I have never read a normal length book this fast. From the moment the girls in the dorm start falling and staying asleep I was locked into this story to find out how far the sickness would spread, whether it would be contained, and how it would all turn out. Babies, adults, children, college professors, all will fall to the airborne virus that makes you fall asleep and dream really fucked up dreams that might be windows into the past, reflections of the present or *gasp* predictions of actual or alternate futures.

The best part of the book is when the sickness is spreading and you don’t know how far it will spread or whether the people infected will ever wake up. They are all alive and dreaming, and they keep flying in people to help take care of all these sleeping people, and those volunteers then fall victim to the sickness. I was shocked/not shocked at how long it took them to accept the reality that something was wrong and lock that town down. Kids were trick or treating even after many people had already fallen ill. WOW.

Which leads me to my major critique, which is that all this build up leads…nowhere. I was on the edge of my seat, until I wasn’t. The crisis builds and builds, but then there is very little payoff for it. A few people die, but for the most part everything goes back to normal with some psychological after affects for the dreamers to deal with. Oh, their dreams were so real that it was like they lived another life so they were sad when they woke up and found that they had a different life? BOO HOO PUT ON YOUR BIG GIRL PANTS – that’s what waking up every day is like. The ‘getting to sleep for three weeks’ part of it all is a fucking benefit if you ask me. Sign me up for the sleeping plague.

You should read this book. The escalation was enjoyable enough reason to do it, just know that you’ll feel just a little empty at the end because your thirst for disaster and suffering will not have been quenched. I’m not sure how that’s possible in 2019, but Karen Thompson Walker has achieved it.

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LEIGH BARDUGO ALERT

Oh my god.

I am so excited right now I can’t even.

THERE IS GOING TO BE A NETFLIX SERIES BASED ON SHADOW AND BONE.

SOMEONE HELP WHAT DO I DO WITH THIS MUCH EXCITEMENT AND HAPPINESS???

Read about the show!

Leigh Bardugo is one of like 3 authors that I would preorder without worry. 100% support. If you like fantasy – magic, intrigue, politics, mystery – you MUST read her books. All reviews are linked to the covers.

shadow-and-bone siege_and_storm ruin

six-of-crows crooked kingdom

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Truthwitch (Witchlands #1)

Susan Dennard is one of the most amazing writers I have had the ability to follow and interact with on Twitter. Her newsletter (which I need to subscribe to this year) provides publishing and writing advice to the community and her online persona is warm and helpful. She’s the kind of person who, when people fuck with her, I want to queue up to avenge her.

I’m not sure why it took me so long to begin reading her Witchlands series, but with the third full installment of the series releasing in February, I figured I would try them out.

Truthwitch is a book that is a masterclass in character development and investment. It took exactly one paragraph for me to ride or die for Safi and Iseult, the Threadsisters and witches that are troublemakers that can’t help but step in it, but when they do they are always there to support each other and get out of whatever trouble they are in together.

It would have been so easy for Dennard to have given me long chapters about how this universe works – the myriad of witch types and the powers they wield are vast and far-reaching – as well as the politics of the different regions – they are reaching an end to a 20 year worldwide truce that has several long-reaching consequences across all lands – BUT SHE DOESN’T. And its absence is almost as magical as her storytelling.

We are exposed to the aspects of the Witchlands universe as our characters interact with them. Witches can cleave, which is basically their magic being overused and turning them into elemental bombs, but we don’t get a long explanation about how that happens, we see Safi and Iseult (and Merik, the prince from the water region) encountering a cleaved Tidewitch right at the start. We’re immediately exposed to this danger, we learn how it is typically dealt with, and we get a foreshadowing about Iseult in the process.

I think this is YA(?) but it has one of the major strengths that I love in a well written YA, which is that you forget how old the characters are. It’s part of what makes all of Leigh Bardugo’s work so genius – the kids are all 16 and 17 but you forget and the story is so epic that you read it as though you’re reading about adults.

You never get kicked out of the action, the forward motion of the story, in order to learn things. Right from the first chapter you will care about the characters, and the claws which Dennard will have sunk into you will pull you through the story at a breakneck pace; you will be sad to ever have to put it down to eat, work, or sleep.

I have very few critiques for this one. I felt like a LOT was thrown into the first book, almost too much for me to keep track of and I had so many questions about the world that a little bit of exposition wouldn’t have hurt things too much. I am hopeful that the sequel, Windwitch, will stretch things out a bit to give depth to the breadth of Truthwitch.

The romantic moments between Safi and Merik will seem eerily familiar if you enjoyed the A Court of Thorns and Roses trilogy by Sarah J. Maas. The acknowledgements show that Dennard and Maas are very good friends, with Maas reading and commenting on the work in progress. Another echoing theme from Maas’ books here in Dennard’s Truthwitch is the “everything is my fault, I feel so much guilt because if I’d only never been born…” kind of stuff. It’s not there a lot, but when it was I rolled my eyes and just kept reading.  I’m fine with this as long as the future books don’t involve the word mate in reference to a partner or feasting in reference to oral pleasuring.

If you love fantasy, magic, mystical creatures, surprises, intrigue, and a little romance, then Truthwitch is a book you should pick up right away.

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