The Orchardist

The Orchardist

I had seen this book on quite a few “Best Of ______” lists over the past couple of years, and despite not being super pulled in by the description I decided to take a leap and read something new. Amanda Coplin did not disappoint.

I won’t bore you with the plot. You can look up the book’s description via google, and I can tell you that what you’ll find is very accurate. What’s deceptive is that you think you’re reading one story, then two, then three, and then you realize it was all one story after all.

This is a book about how trauma affects us. How past trauma can color our future relationships, how extreme trauma can damage our minds and decision-making abilities, and how the trauma of others, having seemingly nothing to do with us, can affect our lives nonetheless. As I was reading I thought I would see the end of any of the three main character’s storylines, but really there isn’t a happy ending or an ending at all. It’s a book that reminds us, in case we even needed reminding, that life moves on regardless and we need to do the best we can with the hand we are dealt. And boy does “doing your best” mean vastly different things depending on the type and level of trauma involved.

I knew I wasn’t going to get a happy ending and yet I wanted one anyway. Interwoven with the theme of trauma was the necessity of hope. Hope that people will change or be what we want them to be. Hope that there is a future. Hope that things will turn out differently. Despite the mundane ending, I felt good with the message that in trauma there can be hope. Not always, but maybe and sometimes.

The setting is gorgeous and the writing style kept me hooked. You can almost see the light filtering in through the vast orchard, smell the tilled earth and the ripened apricots. You can hear Caroline Middey coming down the trail on her wagon to visit. So even while you are reading things that will make you melancholy, you are surrounded by beauty and love. Always.

If you’re feeling like you’re in the mood for a deep read that will take you places, The Orchardist is it. Light a fire in the fireplace (or at least call up Fireplace for the Home on Netflix), grab a warm drink, and let this book wash over you. You’ll be glad you did.

Millennial Book Club

I was bored one night earlier this month and decided to scroll through the local library’s event calendar to see if there was anything that was interesting coming up. Besides the usual Friends of the Library Book Sale most of my branch’s events happen during the day for old people and stay-at-home moms with toddlers. I want to play Canasta too, Carol, how about some stuff at 5pm instead of noon, huh?

Then I found something labeled “Millennial Book Club” and clicked into the description. It hadn’t started meeting yet, and it was billed as only for millennials. They even linked to the Pew Research Center to be clear about who was allowed. I was immediately hooked and had to go. I put it on my wall calendar and my Google calendar and every day I said out loud “I am doing this book club” because I am notorious for planning to do something and then the literal day of I flake because I am a millennial.

I did not read the description closely enough and assumed it would be held at the library, but when I checked the event to make sure, I saw it was being held at a local brewery. Oh my god how much more stereotypical and hipster could we be? There would be food trucks, goddamn. Should I wear my fedora and provide avocado toast for everyone? I have never eaten food from a food truck, I do not drink beer, and worrying about not even fitting in with people from my own generation I began to think about not going.

The day came and with encouragement from the husband, I decided what the heck, I would at least go and see what I thought. There probably wouldn’t be that many people there on a Thursday night at 7pm anyway. Boy, was I wrong. I showed up and there were about 10 people already there and waiting, and more were showing up as I walked in. We were sat outside on a large picnic table that was labeled with a poster that screamed Millennial Book Club! The librarians (also millennials) were barely containing their excitement at how many people came – apparently their fellow librarians didn’t think people our age would show up either.

I sat for a while listening to everyone talk. There were a few singletons like me, but others came in friend groups of two or three. Most were in nursing or management and a few were even stay-at-home moms which surprised me. Eventually I went and got a glass of Moscato (thank goodness they had wine), and then we started talking about the books we would vote on.

The Bear and the Nightingale (Fantasy)
10% Happier (Non-Fiction/Memoir)
A Man Called Ove (PopLit)
The Green Mile (Horror)
The Alchemist (I think? – PopLit)

I wished with all my might that the non-fiction wouldn’t be the one chosen, but I also understood that my reading habits aren’t the norm. Self-help and popular fiction are what people read. I also hoped that A Man Called Ove wouldn’t be picked either; I’ve tried and failed to read that book several times because my emotions have me ugly crying by page 40 and I can’t get past it. I would have been okay with the fantasy, The Green Mile (I’ve seen the movie but not read the book) or the other one.

More than half of the group voted for the non-fiction. I’m nothing if not a team player, so I dutifully stood and collected my copy, and then retired for the evening. Honestly I’m just proud of myself for getting out of my routine and trying something different. I’ll be reading it chapter by chapter over the course of the next month, and I’ll post my reactions and review on February 20th, the date of our next meeting.

10 Percent Happier

Goodreads Synopsis: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18505796-10-happier
Dan Harris Books: https://www.tenpercent.com/dan-harris-books (There is a podcast, newsletter, mobile app, and other resources.)

Godsgrave (Nevernight #2)

Godsgrave

Nevernight (Nevernight #1)

If you’ve been a reader of AAB for a long time, you know that I tend to like a revenge story. Survival and revenge – the strength and intelligence it often requires a main character to have in order to achieve their goals is inspiring and makes for a good read. Nevernight also set up that assassin school/competition vibe a la Hogwarts for magic, which only added more tastes that taste great together.

Godsgrave takes a bit of a turn, which makes sense given the end of Nevernight. The Church is rebuilding its network, and one of the only remaining secret places in the world with a blood walk is, you guessed it, Godsgrave. Mia is assigned to its new watcher, her old trainer Mercurio, and he assigns her to find and kill a marrowborn woman, and intercept the map that she is scheduled to receive. SURPRISE! It’s Ashlinn and they have a good ol’ brawl during which Ashlinn implies that Justice Scaeva, one of the men Mia has sworn to kill to avenge her family, is a patron of the Church an knows about her and everything she’s been up to. She says that Mia has been kept busy to keep her from killing Scaeva because they are bound by honor to keep him alive because money.

We’re left, as Mia is, to figure out if Ashlinn can be trusted, but in the meantime she talks to Mercurio, who basically says that he doesn’t know about it but that logically it makes sense. He agrees to help her extend her search for the map as a ruse for her actually concocting a plan to murder Scaeva in secret so the Church doesn’t know it was her.

Here’s where the story goes a bit off the rails for me. Also spoiler alert, because I’m just gonna list some story details and roll my eyes while a type.

  1. She sells herself to a gladiator collector in an attempt to get entry into the biggest gladiator battle of the season, where if she wins, Scaeva grants her freedom directly as per tradition, and she can slit his throat when he’s close enough. THIS IS A TERRIBLE PLAN WHAT IS EVEN HAPPENING.
  2. She is training as a gladiator FOREVER – I’m not going to lie there are like 150 pages that I skimmed because it was just training – cell – escape cell with darkness powers to fuck Ashlinn – cell – training – cell…you get the picture.
  3. SHE HAS SEX WITH ASHLINN – I just…I can’t. SHE MURDERED TRIC AND RUINED YOUR PLANS HOW WHY WHAT?? These kinds of story twists are what remind me that the characters are like 16 and have no fucking common sense. Her shadows Mister Kindly and Eclipse keep telling her she’s being stupid but she won’t listen – again with the teenager bullshit. In Nevernight I kind of forgot how young she was and this book slapped me in the face with it. Good YA, especially YA that Kristoff has repeatedly said is NOT for teenagers, should have characters that can handle their situations as young adults. Don’t give me a 16 year old protagonist that can’t tell her ass from a hole in the ground, especially after a first book that shows her to be cunning and calculating and powerful.

And I’m gonna spoil the ending for you because I don’t want you to get there and be as mad as I was about the dumb ass twist that throws everything off kilter.

  1. Her brother Jonnen is alive and has been given another name by HIS FATHER JUSTICE SCAEVA because he was basically a baby when everything went down.
  2. She’s told by a fellow gladiator (convenient) that her father was gay and her mom slept around with politicians for influence.
  3. Jonnen is also darkin, AND SO IS JUSTICE SCAEVA and so now her revenge for her parents requires her to kill her real father and she has to deal with that knowledge.

Jesus Christ I cannot with this. There weren’t nearly enough breadcrumbs along the way to lead to this twist. It feels really fucking convenient that she just happens to get put in the same cell as someone who worked with her father during the Kingmaker Rebellion that would know these things. And you can’t let us have one delicious moment, now Mia has to reckon with the reality of who her parents were and how that changes her situation and goals now. It’s too hard a left into a final book of a trilogy and I’m not happy about it.

Honestly for me this wouldn’t change anything. Family is who takes care of you, not who contributed sperm to your egg so you could burst into the world. Justice Scaeva still murdered her parents and stole her brother and brainwashed him – knowing he is her biological father changes nothing.

And Ashlinn better get dealt with. This weird romance thing between them doesn’t make any sense and I still want Ashlinn dead for what she did. I’m hoping Mia has other plans and is just fucking her to keep her thinking she’s close so she can deal with her at the right moment.

I was intrigued, then I was mad, then I was bored but hopeful, then I was shocked and mad that Jay Kristoff thinks he could just throw that many twists into the last 50 pages and no one would be like “WTF Jay, this feels too convenient.” I’m going to finish the trilogy because I bought the gorgeous UK edition and got it signed and it’s just waiting for me to crack open. I just hope that Darkdawn is the finale Mia deserves.

2020 Vision

Hello dear readers. As we enter a new decade of this interminable age, where every year is five years long and all we can ask is how it could possibly get worse, and then gape at the events that prove that it can, I think it’s important to remember that all we can do is live our lives and do the best we can.

Despite the fact that blogging is essentially dead and everyone has either a podcast or a tinyletter (newsletter) now, I’m going to keep plugging away here at Angry Angel Books. I tried a podcast and it wasn’t in my wheelhouse, and I don’t have enough to say to make a newsletter worthwhile. When I finish a book, I’ll write about it here, and if you’ve subscribed or followed me, you’ll be the first to know.

I am not on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. I left all social media platforms last year and only Goodreads remains, if you can call that a social media platform. Dropping my memberships around the internet has vastly improved my mental health, and while I do miss Twitter sometimes, I don’t think I’ll ever go back. Following my posts takes a little extra effort because of these decisions, and I’m sorry about that, but I don’t make any money doing this so I have to put my own health over reader convenience.

I don’t really have any resolutions for this year. If I had to make one or express something I want to achieve this year it would be to complete the next draft of the novel I’ve been working on. I’m also going to try a book club at my local library that is apparently for millennials only, so we’ll see if that pans out. I don’t really have any in-person friends that aren’t from work so maybe this is a way I could make some? Can’t hurt to try and I can leave whenever.

Upcoming reviews include Godsgrave (Nevernight #2) by Jay Kristoff and Kingdom of Ash (Throne of Glass #7) by Sarah J. Maas. I’m speeding through the Kristoff but honestly Maas’ writing has become absolutely unreadable so it’s probably going to take me a while to get through the NINE HUNDRED AND EIGHTY FOUR pages of the end of this series.

Due to the stalkerish nature of my family and the students I teach, I won’t be making any more personal or opinion posts. I’m tired of having those used as weapons against me in parent teacher conferences and my anxiety can’t take another principal conversation in which I am told I cannot talk about this or that because reasons – Won’t someone think of the CHILDREN?!?! I could lock that kind of stuff behind a subscription newsletter, but nothing is stopping those same people from subscribing to that too – it’s just easier to save it for my google doc that serves as a diary/journal.

Welcome to 2020. Thanks for sticking around. Let’s keep reading.