Throne of Jade (Temeraire #2)

Throne of Jade

His Majesty’s Dragon (Temeraire #1)

Throne of Jade begins months after the battle at the end of His Majesty’s Dragon, with a Chinese envoy (and prince) demanding the return of Temeraire as a Chinese Celestial to the Chinese emperor. Laurence of course refuses, as does Temeraire, and so they travel with an English crew and the envoy back to China to negotiate the continuing partnership of Temeraire and Laurence.

I regret to inform you that this book was so slow and boring that it took me *checks notes* 16 days to read 338 pages. The first 100 were tense and exciting – the beginning of their journey is fraught with peril and after becoming to close to them after the first book, I felt very upset that they might be forced to part (although there being another 5 books in the series helped ease my fears a bit). But then the sea voyage that brings them to China lasts almost the entire book and it’s almost all translations and diplomacy and weather and negotiations…ugh. I finally made it to the part where they take off for Peking and Temeraire even meets his mom, but I’m so bored I don’t even care anymore.

This one is going back to the library on my way home from the Miami Book Festival and I’ll be moving on to a different set of books over Thankgiving break. Honestly I’m really disappointed, I thought this would be a series I could really get into after loving the first book so much. *sadface*

Heart Enlargement

This morning, after sleeping off the 5 hours full of stress, fear, and anxiety from the drive that finally saw me safely to my hotel last night, I filled myself with free breakfast, called for my rental car from the valet, and attempted to drive through downtown Miami to the parking garage on the Miami-Dade College campus where the Miami Book Fair website claimed my parking would be free, provided I arrived early enough. I arrived at the start time of the fair, 10am, and was able to get a spot.

After I took the elevator down to the street and turned out of the parking garage, I then proceeded to walk three blocks in the wrong direction. After fumbling with Google Maps I turned back around and walked the four blocks back to the streets that had been closed for the Miami Book Fair. I arrived when it opened, and I was so early that some vendors were still setting up shop. There was a religion street and a children’s street, a writer’s row and a food vendor square, and straight down the middle of it all was a selection of new and used books from various vendors, including the most prominent independent bookstore in Miami, Books and Books.

I walked down the children’s book row first (not realizing they were themed) and by the time I hit the end and began walking back, I was starting to feel a bit discouraged. I drove 5 hours and paid for a hotel for this? The equivalent of a street book sale? And why was it so crowded right at opening? There were children EVERYWHERE. Little kids, high school kids, groups of kids following adults with signs and silly hats. I had arrived not at a book fair but at a field trip convention. Every public school English/Language Arts teacher from every surrounding school had gathered their 10-30 student max and set off to get them excited about reading at a street book fair with children’s books and meat on a stick.

And then the Grinch thought of something she hadn’t before. Maybe the Miami Book Fair, wasn’t just books brought out on the street by the stores. Maybe the book fair, perhaps, means a little bit more.

I turned at the end of the street and looked around. There were children of every color and every age. Dancing in the street and having a good time. Speaking different languages. Some bounced from booth to booth, looking for their favorites, others quietly moved between the tables, lightly opening the covers of those books they thought looked interesting. At one point I passed a booth of middle grade books, and approaching from the opposite direction was a herd of small boys. The one at the front suddenly screeched “DIARYOFAWIMPYKID” and it was like a dam breaking – they all sprinted past me in one excited wave to get at the books.

Reader, I felt my heart smile. I felt…joy, maybe? I almost turned around and bought them each one book of their choosing. When I returned to the main thoroughfare and began to look through the booths that were more my speed, I saw kids there too. Older ones to be sure, but they were tentatively looking at adult books, and it seemed as though they were trying to gauge if they were ready. If the jump was one they could make. Watching them all discover books they loved was more enjoyable than finding books for myself.

There is a moment in the beginning of LOTR: The Fellowship of the Ring that I love very much. Gandalf is arriving for Bilbo’s birthday at the beginning of the movie, and he is talking to Frodo about Frodo’s suspicions that something is up with Bilbo. As they trundle down the road in the horse cart, the children from the nearby houses (holes?) come scampering out and run in a little cluster behind his wagon yelling “Gandalf! Gandalf!” When he doesn’t turn around or wave to them, they stop running and let out a despairing “awwww Gandalf?” and hang their heads. Frodo raises his eyebrow, Gandalf looks at him, and then suddenly a small display of fireworks bursts from the back of the wagon, and the children erupt into elated cheering and clapping. Frodo and Gandalf chuckle as they continue towards the town.

The way I feel every time those kids get excited about those fireworks is how I felt at that book fair, seeing kids get excited about books. Books are old friends that we can get excited about and will always provide us enjoyment, and for these children to learn this and for me to be able to see it happen in real time is like seeing Gandalf set off his fireworks to cheers. I’m old. I’m tired. There is so much darkness. But time should still be taken to bring joy to the young.

I wish I could go back and buy that whole table of Wimpy Kid books for those kids. Think of the fireworks!

***

Also, in case you were interested, I ended up buying two books for myself.

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Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan

allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson (She has a more recent release, Monday’s Not Coming, but I wanted to grab this one first.)

I wanted to get several more – a copy of The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein by Kiersten White was one of them, but the hard and fast truth was that there just isn’t enough money for me to buy books. The two I bought totaled $30, and thus were your November Patreon contributions spent. THANK YOU SWEET  PATRONS, YOU MOVE ME TO PLACES I COULD NOT GO OTHERWISE. I AM SENDING YOU HUGS.

Tomorrow I’ll be attending a few author panels and attempting to get some books signed and then it’s back to Tampa. Keep your fingers crossed for me; the journey here was not kind. Let’s hope the journey home is smooth.

Most Wonderful Time

October, November, and December make up my favorite quarter of the year for a multitude of reasons, one of which is that it is “best of” list season. This weekend I’ve been googling different Best of 2018 book lists and scanning through them for any I might have missed and confirming that I have read some that are being celebrated.

I have had my library holds list under control for the last couple of months but now it’s got some new additions.

Elevation

 

Stephen King got me earlier this year with The Outsider and when I saw that he had a second new release this year I decided to trust in my newfound fandom of his work and request it in at the library.

Synopsis

I’m always ready for a trip back to Castle Rock, let’s gooooo!

 

The Incendiaries

 

The Incendiaries is a book that kept popping up all year in my literary circles, and when I saw it on the lists I said “fine, I’ll try it.”

Synopsis

I am intrigued by the love story wrapped up in grief wrapped up in fundamentalist religion bullshit, I’m just hoping it doesn’t make me cringe too much. It’s difficult to read stories about people making bad emotional decisions and avoid armchair quarterbacking out of context.

 

The House of Impossible Beauties

 

Set in the drag scene of 1980s New York, this is a book that kept peeking at me on Twitter all year and with week long school breaks just around the corner, I decided I could finally give it the time it deserves.

Synopsis

I find drag fascinating and I still have so much to learn about it. I can’t wait to get my hands on this one.

 

 

The Great Believers
A 2018 National Book Award finalist, The Great Believers wasn’t on my radar until this morning. It has been on every list I’ve looked at in addition to this award nomination so it must be one I need to see.

Synopsis

Here we’re in 1980s Chicago (not sure why there’s a 1980s trend in literature…) and the story is woven in with the AIDS crisis. It is a much more serious book than I usually read, but if it’s as good as they say, I want to experience it.

 

There There

This is another book that has been screaming at me since the beginning of this year. I knew There There was out there but I just never picked it up. It is time.

Synopsis

This novel explores a variety of Native American experiences in urban settings. To be honest I wish there was more fiction that centered around these experiences. I feel like America forgets about its first peoples more than they should. Every time I read someone’s view of this book they are shouting that people should read it, that it really is as good as everyone says, and that it should be required reading for all Americans. Well, I’m on it.

What are some books you are excited about this holiday season? Are there any you’ve been meaning to read but haven’t yet? Do you have any suggestions for me? Let me know in the comments!

Get It Together

A recent Twitter thread asked the question: What is the one thing that regular adults do that you just can’t seem to master? For me, there are two definite answers to this question.

First, I can’t seem to send greeting cards. I can’t tell you why but all of my family and friends need to settle for texts, phone calls, or emailed gift cards on special occasions. I’ve tried before, and every so often when we move or I decide to cull the boxes stashed in the office closet, I find the small tupperware of cards that I bought ahead of time to send ahead of time and forgot about. Even Christmas cards aren’t immune, but they are the most likely to get sent – about once every 4 years I send out a set of super fun holiday cards with little paw prints stamped inside as signatures from the pets with our signatures. But honestly I have to know myself, and something to know about me is that you just aren’t going to get a card in the mail from me. It’s not because I don’t care, it’s just something  can’t do, like play the piano or do a pull-up.

Second is something I REALLY WANT TO DO but all my efforts seem to be futile. I love fun lotions and I always feel so much better when I use them, but I can’t seem to get into a more than once a month routine with that Sweet Pea lotion from Bath and Body works. I even forget to use the fancy hand lotion that I got to help repair the cuticles I can’t stop tearing at anxiously even though I keep it right in my desk at work next to stuff I use all the time so I will see it and remember to use it. My skin is so dry that even with how white I am people know my elbows are ashy, so why can’t I work lotion into my morning after showering steps? I haven’t given up on this yet though like I have with greeting cards. Like flossing (which I have successfully added to my daily routine for years now!) putting lotion on can only help and I need to find a way to make this a regular thing I do. Maybe if I put it on at night instead? I could find a nice relaxing scent that can help me drift off to sleep maybe? If you have suggestions let me know.

What’s something that normal adults do that you can’t seem to master? Have you accepted it about yourself or are you determined to make that a part of your adult routine? Let me know in the comments.

 

The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein

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Let it be known that Kiersten White can do no wrong in my eyes and has earned that privilege through her absolutely spectacular writing and storytelling. I will recommend her books to anyone looking for something to read because I am sure that they will enjoy her books.

The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein tells the story of Victor Frankenstein through the eyes of his family’s adopted ward, Elizabeth Lavenza. They adopt her from a foster home to be a friend and companion to their son Victor. He has strange moods and falls into fevers, and in order to survive Elizabeth learns how to act and perform to satisfy his parents and keep him calm.

Anyone that has ever been in a relationship with a volatile personality knows the slow eclipse that darkens their personality in favor of the happiness and stability of the volatile partner. Years of mincing words and actions to preserve the peace creates a woman who forgets who she is outside of the shadow of the man she is yoked to. For strong, independent women who take no guff this might be hard to imagine, but an inescapable situation can create survival instincts that demean even the best of girls.

Maybe if I don’t ask so many questions.

Maybe if I do more around the house.

Maybe if I don’t get so emotional.

And suddenly all of his actions become blame-able on you because YOU didn’t do enough to avoid them because you should have known better. You understand how he works. You’ll do better next time.

The organization and planning it takes to keep a volatile man from exploding is truly exhausting. The tasks you take on because he gets so frustrated doing them that he lashes out so it’s just easier for you to do them to avoid  the confrontation. You don’t communicate your frustrations because he feels attacked and then starts a fight with you and then you end up apologizing for bothering him with your needs because the results of the fight over you bothering him were worse than the daily issues you were attempting to discuss. All of your energy goes to keeping him under control instead of into making the relationship stronger and then you realize you are trapped and under HIS control and getting out from under that kind of situation is next to impossible, as Elizabeth finds in this novel. Her “support” of his endeavors only causes him to become the real monster in the story.

I cannot think of a more appropriate time for White’s book to have been released into the world than in the midst of the #metoo movement, in the wake of the Kavanaugh hearings, and during this moment where women are demanding that men deal with their own emotions and take responsibility for their own actions. We’re not going to take the blame anymore. We’re not going to bear the brunt of your anger, your lack of control, your issues. YOU need to handle your business. WE are not your mothers or your therapists. WE want to be partners, not managers. What we wear, say, and do doesn’t give you the right to be physical with us. We have the right to stand up for ourselves, and if that makes you angry it’s up to YOU to hold yourself back from hitting us, we don’t make you do it.

This book is a slow burn where we see Elizabeth do what’s necessary to survive. She chases Victor around Europe to save him from himself because she sees him as the only person who can keep her safe and she’s the only person she believes can keep him safe from himself. Eventually she realizes how her overprotective actions allowed Victor to assume he had her permission to create things that she would have never condoned had she known exactly what he was up to. His insanity is only revealed once she realizes her own agency, and she fights to figure out a way that she can escape and be her own person.

All of Kiersten White’s books that I have read so far have the Angry Angel Books stamp of approval and you should go get them right away because to read them is to avoid missing out on a singular genius. White makes stories we are all familiar with into stories we can relate to, love, and return to reread again and again. Go get you some.

His Majesty’s Dragon (Temeraire #1)

His Majesty's Dragon

Naomi Novik stole my heart away with Uprooted. It was one of my first ever reviews on this site. Her writing was evocative and fresh and kept me hooked from chapter to chapter. Reading her book was like being welcomed into a new universe by an old friend and I had to stay to hear all her stories because I LOVE her stories!

When I began reading His Majesty’s Dragon, I gave an inward sigh because the writing style and language was reminiscent of very stilted and suffocating movies like Master and Commander. The height of propriety, every word has a place, every statement is backed by deep consideration for tradition and expectations, and everyone’s station is life is set. Think honor and duty above all else.

Imagine my surprise when I sank into this language and writing like I was being cuddled by the most comfortable chair, covered in blankets, with a hot beverage, watching the snow fall softly outside as my best friend told me the story of his old war days riding on a dragon against Napoleon. It was a story I didn’t realize I wanted to hear that I couldn’t get enough of as I moved through the chapters falling in love with character after character. Angels, I cried openly during one particular part because by the time I reached that point in the narrative everyone involved was someone I loved and I could not stand to see them hurt or in pain.

An English naval vessel captures a dragon egg from a French ship, and when it hatches before they can reach land Laurence, the English captain, moves forward to harness the dragon to ensure that it flies for England. His deep sense of duty drives him to act for the good of his country, but out of this action grows one of the deepest friendships and loves that I have read about in a very long time. He names the dragon Temeraire and they plan to enter the aerial Corps once the ship makes land.

Now the traditional military branches view the Corps as ‘lesser than’. It’s seen as a rougher life. People who enter the Corps traditionally don’t marry, they aren’t involved in the typical English social circles or ladders anymore. Their only duty is for England, the Corps, and the dragon to whom they are bound from the hatching. This kind of isolation gives most people the vapors, and Laurence, having been fed a steady diet of this misinformation, enters this new world with some nervousness. He soon discovers that the people who are involved with the Corps are just as smart, honorable, and duty bound as any other part of society that he has experienced thus far.

Temeraire is a very different dragon from those typically used in the Corps. Laurence speaks with dragon scholars and they believe him to be an Imperial breed from mainland China, sent as a gift to Napoleon but intercepted by England. Temeraire is disappointed because he cannot breathe fire or spit acid like some of the other dragons, and you get to watch him grow and eat and develop throughout the book to finally reach his full growth and abilities to reveal an identity even bigger than they initially thought. He loves for Laurence to read to him, and he knows both English and French, having heard them both spoken while he was still in the egg. In this book dragons speak with humans and it is so entertaining to see them as equal participants in the process instead of simply being beasts of burden.

Novik asks us to consider relationships in this first book of the series. Abusive relationships, especially ones that you cannot escape. What is kindness in the face of such inescapable bonds? How do we balance duty to our country and duty to each other? When is love the greatest duty that we hold? What is consent? YES CONSENT.

Honestly the most comforting aspect of this novel, and what creates the most tension, are the moments where the riders consider their dragons as equal partners and ask their input before doing things and when they do not. For example, Laurence insists on removing Temeraire’s harness at the end of exercise and washes his dragon after he eats and trains because Temeraire asks for it. Because it makes Temeraire comfortable. And what’s really excellent is that these simple acts of consideration and kindness spread to the other dragons, creating a community of deeper companionship among the members of the Corps. The lengths to which people consider the needs and comfort of others in this novel, both people and dragons alike, will renew your hope that such a society might be possible in our dragonless world.

Naomi Novik has written a novel in the traditionally formal style of an old naval story that will capture your imagination and your heart, making you wish for your own dragon as a partner. Please go read this book. You will be better for having read it and I would not lead you wrong. Go get you some.