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.

Angry Angel Books: Top 5 Books of 2019

This year saw my reading slow down a bit as I reshaped my personal time to improve my mental health. Despite this, I managed to read about 60 books, several of which were very exciting. This year’s list includes only books that were published this year too, which is different from years past.

Seven Blades

Seven Blades in Black
Seven Blades in Black was the surprise of 2019. I haven’t read anything by Sam Sykes before this or since, but when they announce the sequel I will preorder it so fast your head will spin. Fallen empires and rogue sorcerers and crazy beasts roaming free PLUS an unreliable narrator on a revenge quest a la Arya Stark and her checklist – you can see me drooling about it, right? It’s a long one but I didn’t want to put it down. If you like fantasy and revenge and kingdoms and you haven’t read Sykes, you should definitely pick this one up.

king of scars

King of Scars
I love Leigh Bardugo and she is on this list TWICE. King of Scars focuses in on Nikolai, the pirate (ahem…privateer!) who becomes king of Ravka. He has a past that he wants to keep covered up and powers that even he doesn’t completely understand, and is chasing dark powers that lead to the re-emergence of [SPOILER ALERT!]. It was one of my favorites this year but it isn’t my favorite Bardugo book, mostly because it just seemed like a long way to bring [SPOILER] back into the universe and I found myself losing interest in a lot of places. But it’s still Bardugo so overall it was fantastic.

 

The Wicked KingThe Queen of Nothing

The Wicked King
The Queen of Nothing
How did both of these books come out this year? Why is Holly Black so amazing? They did and she is so if you haven’t read the Folk of the Air trilogy then now is the time because all 3 books are now in the world and they are all complete masterpieces. The Wicked King won the 2019 Goodreads Choice Award for Best YA Fantasy (I think The Queen of Nothing came out too late in the year to be in contention).
The Cruel Prince is the first installment.

Ninth House

Review: Ninth House
Leigh Bardugo is on my list TWICE because she is a bad bitch and I love her. Ninth House is a twisted tale full of magic, mystery, and finding identity in the midst of desperation. It showcases how dangerous one woman can be when she has nothing to lose, and how much more dangerous she can become when you give her something to fight for. Winner of the 2019 Goodreads Choice Award for Best Fantasy Novel, it is definitely a book that deserves your attention.

Red, White, and Royal Blue

Review: Red, White, and Royal Blue
I could not be happier that this book won the 2019 Goodreads Choice Award for Best Romance AND Best Debut Novel. There was nothing wrong with this book. It was everything I needed and brought light and joy into a life that seems to always be tinged with darkness and sadness. It made me believe that happiness is possible. It made me believe in the goodness of people in general. The story is funny and smart and modern and the romance is hot and believable. Do you need a spritz of lightheartedness in your life? You must put this book on your TBR right away.

The Queen of Nothing (Folk of the Air #3)

The Queen of Nothing

The Cruel Prince (FotA #1)
The Wicked King (FotA #2)

There are lots of reasons I put down a book. Chief among these are uninteresting characters, slow-moving story, and predictable plot/twists. If my mind begins saying “I don’t care” or “I’m bored” or “Ugh, I already know what’s going to happen” then that’s the clock ticking on a did not finish work. I can usually live with one of these if the others are up to snuff. Characters I don’t care about don’t matter as much if the story is the focus, for example. It is very rare that I open a book and find myself on a fast train to everything I ever wanted with no compromises. Holly Black has brought me three such trains, and I have gladly ridden them to the end of the line, my head hanging out the window of my sleeper car like a dog on its way to the park.

Too many analogies? Who cares, these books are amazing.

Jude is in exile after the crazy events that concluded The Wicked King. She is the High Queen of Elfhame and is stuck in an apartment complex with her half-sister Vivi and her brother Oak, who is in the line of succession. Her twin sister Taryn shows up at her door, begging her to go to an inquest to lie on her behalf because she has murdered her new husband Locke and is forced to stand trial. Jude agrees and returns to Elfhame where her foster father Madoc is making a play for the throne and her husband Cardan is fighting to keep the kingdom intact.

I am in absolute awe of Black’s ability to have so many characters in play all at once and have you care about all of them. I have no trouble keeping track of who is who and where they are from and where their allegiances lie (although that last one can be troublesome). She’s also a champion of intrigue – you will read a mile a minute just to find out what happens next, and then you’ll have more questions than answers but just enough answers to make you feel like continuing is justified because WHAT HAPPENS NEXT GODDAMN.

The ending (which lasts about 50 pages) is too good to give away here, even under a spoiler warning. It’s a lesson in power, relationships, what’s worth giving away, and what’s worth sacrificing. It makes you question whether change or the status quo is more valuable. You’ll ponder the true meaning of trust and love. On the surface this trilogy is a beautiful fantasy story about magic and elves and how humanity interacts with that. Deep down this trilogy is a story about the roots of cruelty, love, and how we can overcome even the darkest expectations that others have for us to carve out a life that we can be proud of.

I love this trilogy, and you will too. Please go get you some.

 

The Guinevere Deception (Camelot Rising #1)

The Guinevere Deception

Kiersten White’s writing is one of my favorite things. Her feminist retellings of old tales and historical figures are enjoyable and instructive. I still owe whoever suggested And I Darken to me an Edible Arrangement. So when I saw the retelling of Arthurian legend in her hands, I preordered immediately.

I have read some of the other reviews that have been published, and I believe that the criticism is well founded, but perhaps too harsh. The story is slow going, and even at the end we don’t know who “Guinevere” is or where she came from, or why two of the most dangerous magical beings (the Dark Queen and the Lady of the Lake) want to get at her and the third most dangerous (Merlin) kept her in seclusion, training her until the time was right. The real Guinevere died and Merlin, who has been exiled from Camelot, put this new girl in her place to marry Arthur and defend him from magical enemies in Merlin’s stead.

We interact with a limited number of characters and while the pace of the book is to be expected given how many people we have to meet and the world-building that has to occur to match our ideas of Camelot with White’s, the action is low-key until the very last 30 pages. Most of it is Guinevere sneaking around the castle dropping knots all over the place because that’s the magic that she knows: different knots for different spells. We see a small romance bloom between her and Arthur, and whispers of a forbidden romance with Arthur’s cousin Mordred, but nothing gets too serious. Lancelot appears as well, but I’ll let you discover that underwhelming twist for yourself. I enjoyed her friendship with her lady’s maid as well as a knight’s sister, Dindrane. The final twist that spurs the fast-paced conclusion and cliffhanger is also painfully obvious, so much so that I actually groaned out loud. Overall the story is well-written, but lacks in the suspense you might expect from a story with hidden identities and magic.

I am going to go out on a limb and say that this book is targeted at a much younger audience than even And I Darken or her retelling of Frankenstein. All of the twists were SO OBVIOUS and the writing seemed to flirt with the edges of middle grade in its simplicity. Arthur is 18 and Guinevere is 16: can an angry angel get a story like this but with the girl at the age of consent at least? That’s what made me feel like this was for a younger crowd, because I know full well that YA can stretch into the late teens, early twenties. Even Sarah J. Maas has her heroines at 18 years old, but to be fair there is so much sex in her books that she would have to make it that way. It was not uncommon for young women to marry that young in these times, so I guess I won’t hold this one against White too much.

I found The Guinevere Deception compelling in the same way that The Song of Achilles and Circe were compelling; it was a good story that didn’t ask a lot of my imagination. I didn’t have to stretch my belief too far because I was already familiar with the story. The new elements added to the Arthurian legend were interesting enough for me to want to know what happens next. I am worried because the second book of any trilogy is usually the red-headed step-child, and with this first installment so slow to bloom, the second book will need to be much more exciting to carry me through to the trilogy’s finale.

It’s Kiersten White, so it’s good, but don’t expect the excitement and fire that we have found in prior books. Bring your patience, perseverance, and fresh expectations so that this will be an enjoyable, if slow, fantasy read.

Ninth House

Ninth House

When I heard that Leigh Bardugo was coming out with an adult novel, the speed with which I pre-ordered Ninth House could not be measured by any mortal instrument. I don’t want to spend my review summarizing what happens in the book, so please click here to read the synopsis.

This book was amazing from start to finish, but I did not devour it quickly. Some spots were so disturbing that I needed a few days to process what I had read. Also it would probably be a good idea to not make this bedtime reading if you value dreams over nightmares.

Ninth House is for desperate women who just need a leg up. It’s for women who constantly get eaten up by and then spit back out into the world. Ever felt like an imposter? Oh man this book will speak to you as well. Have you been wronged by someone, especially physically, and wanted to exact revenge? *tents fingers* Excellent.

The underlying theme throughout this book is that desperate women are constantly used, abused, and put away wet. They are seen as a means to an end, and that the ends justify the means, even if it means the death of girl after girl. Perhaps what I appreciated more than anything is that Bardugo not only illustrates the usual male involvement in this abuse, but also sheds light on how women hurt each other to get ahead too.

Alex is in a world where she doesn’t belong, for reasons that benefit anyone but herself, and yet she tries to earn her place there. For anyone who has found themselves someplace where everyone around them knows they don’t belong, reading the first third or so of this book will put that sharp taste of hope and desperation in your mouth – the thrill of simultaneously having an unimaginable opportunity and needing to prove you deserve it.

When things go terribly wrong only Alex embracing all of the events that have made her who she is allows her to push forward to find justice for her friends and to claim the title of a daughter of Lethe, a defender of the normal against the winds of magic, a knight in shining armor. Even if that armor is tattooed on her body in whorls, wheels, and snakes. She becomes the walking embodiment of the old saying that whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger…and dangerous.

As I always do when I finish a Bardugo book, I can only sing in my clearest Ariel voice:

source

Please my darling Leigh, I know you’re busy with the Netflix series Shadow and Bone but I’m gonna need the next Nikolai book and the next Galaxy Stern novel stat.

Stat means now. Please.

Love, Amanda.