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*

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.

Looking Forward

In the few years that this website has been hosting book reviews, I’ve learned several things about book releases. They usually happen on Tuesdays and February is one of the hottest months for book releases in the year. I swear every year in February I pull my hair out wondering how I’m going to read all the amazing February releases. I also have learned the importance of pre-ordering. Pre-ordering a book can increase the likelihood that a supplier (Amazon, your local indie bookstore, Barnes and Noble) will see that demand and order even more, supporting the book and the author.

It has been a difficult couple of weeks. Years really, but the past couple weeks have been particularly asshole-esque. Then this weekend I got a few emails that significantly brightened my day.

The first reminded me that I had preordered the paperback of Tower of Dawn, book 7 in the Throne of Glass series, to add to my current collection. In addition to this I also preordered the hardcover of Kingdom of Ash, the final book in the same series. I don’t usually preorder new releases like this – I prefer to read them via the library first to see if they are books I want to own – but in this case I want the set on my shelf. Much like how I ordered her other trilogy finale A Court of Wings and Ruin to finish out the set despite the fact that it was horribly written smut that gave no satisfying ending to what the first two books set up. I didn’t even touch the novella A Court of Frost and Starlight, and I’m glad I didn’t. Apparently it was even smuttier than ACOWAR and less coherent, and it has no place on my shelves. Kingdom of Ash does though, and I can’t wait to see how it ends.

The other email was from a friend, someone I have never met but feel a real kinship with. It helps that she loves Pizza Hut so much. Paige sent me an email with an Amazon gift card as a get well soon message. ❤ The kindness of friends that I have found out in the wide world of web always surprises me and warms my heart. I took a day or so to decide what I would want to read, and I decided on the second book of the Nevernight trilogy. The first book, Nevernight, was an absolute vengeful delight. Initially I decided to wait to get the next one, Godsgrave, at the library, but I have been waiting forever (the holds list claims it’s been ordered but it’s been that way for a LONG time) and it’s finally time for me to get on book 2 because book 3 comes out next year and I gotta get it. Thank you Paige for your gift, your support and friendship, and your love of reading too. We’re probably going to have to finally meet in real life in March when I’m in Portland for the AWP Writer Conference.

I have all these books to look forward to, arriving on Tuesday of this week, and in November I’ll be off to the Miami Book Fair for more literary goodness. I’m healing well; thank you for all your well wishes!

Read. Be brave. Stay angry.

Hero at the Fall (Rebel of the Sands #3)

Hero at the Fall

Rebel of the Sands (#1)
Traitor to the Throne (#2)

Amani is caught behind the Sultan’s fiery dome with the rest of her small army. Ahmed and their other leaders have been captured and transported outside of the city, and out of reach of their rescue efforts. She, Jin, and the rest must find a way out of the city without being burned by the dome, reunite with their leaders, rekindle the rebellion, and march on the city to dethrone the Sultan.

Amani is still having trouble with her sand powers after being attacked and operated on by the Sultan in Traitor to the Throne. She can use them, but it causes pain in her side which limits how much power she can access and for how long. Luckily she has no problem using a gun, and her skills get them out of quite a few scrapes.

In this book, the Djinni play a much larger role. We meet an ancient Djinni that has been imprisoned by his kin, and because Amani frees him he agrees to help her find and free her friends and to help their rebellion succeed. She kind of knows that he must have ulterior motives, as all Djinni tend to do, but her need to see Ahmed through to the throne is greater than her suspicions.

I waited a very long time to read this book after finishing Traitor to the Throne in March of this year (2018), but the story has been so wonderfully and vividly told all along that picking it up after that long of a break was not a problem at all.  Hamilton continues with the political complexity – this isn’t just a barge in and take over rebellion. Ahmed has concerns and worries, and takes the time to consider how things will change and what should stay the same once they remove the Sultan from power. He consults with all members of his leadership team to make sure he’s making the right choices. This is a compelling theme in this trilogy and is missing from many other “save the world” type narratives.

Along those same lines I was glad to see Amani let go of her guilt. Her understanding that their efforts will have costs and consequences was another welcome addition to the story. Constant character moaning about how everything is their fault and how people wouldn’t be dead if they hadn’t made the decision they made is so fucking tedious. It’s necessary for a bit, especially considering that these characters are just kids and would need to wrestle with these realities, but after enough people die you come to the realization that this is just the way things are and you can either accept them, or make sure that the people who have paid the price of rebellion haven’t died for nothing. In this way each character is given agency, which makes the story even more powerful when one of them dies or chooses to sacrifice themselves. I refuse to give away who those characters are but this book will make you cry if you don’t like goodbyes.

The ending was a little Deus Ex Machina for my tastes but it wasn’t so outrageous that I didn’t enjoy it. One of the final scenes had me sobbing in bed (I have been getting most of my reading done right before I go to sleep). It’s been a long time since a book has moved me so much emotionally. I loved every character by the end and I wanted them all to be okay and have good lives after everything was over. By the end, it was like they were all family.

I strongly recommend this trilogy. It has the perfect combination of fun and complexity to keep you reading as well as make an impression so you’ll want to come back and read them again. I’m adding them to my “must own” Amazon list. Go get you some.

Bright We Burn (The Conqueror’s Saga #3)

Bright We Burn

And I Darken (#1)

Now I Rise (#2)

Just in case someone is happening on this review in the future, I feel like it is relevant to mention that I am reading this book, and writing this review, the week of the Judge Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court confirmation hearing. I’m writing this review the day after Dr. Christine Blasey-Ford testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee about the sexual assault that she experienced at the hands of Kavanaugh. Today they are voting to move him out of committee and tomorrow will be the confirmation vote in the Senate.

Reading this book quite literally soothed my soul this week. I ordered a signed copy which arrived soon after its July 5th publication date, but I kept putting off reading it. First it was because I was in the middle of other things, then I decided I didn’t want to read the signed copy, and so I put the copy at the library on hold. It just became available last week and I picked it up and began reading it over the weekend. Just before all these real world events began unfolding and deepening my rage stores.

This book is very violent, and yet it was so relaxing. Lada Dracul has taken over Wallachia and as prince she has decided that she is not going to be a vassal state to Sultan Mehmed anymore. In the first 100 pages she murders twenty-five thousand people and my pulse was so calm and steady. She did it out of revenge, to send a message, and to pay back the deaths of her own people tenfold. There is no reasoning with her – she has one goal and she will see it achieved. It was beautiful.

The context within which I was reading this book removed all sympathy I have for Radu or Mehmed. My heart was only for Lada. I wanted more blood, more destruction, more suffering heaped upon the men and the systems that would hold her back and prevent her from being the prince and dragon of her country. Every success for her was something I experienced as though it was my own. Her perseverance through capture, her absolute brutality, all of it made me feel like it was possible to seek justice at all costs and experience the fulfillment of success along the way.

She does suffer losses, but we rarely see a vulnerable Lada – when something is taken from her, she takes three things from the person who would dare to steal from the dragon of Wallachia. Justice, revenge, and consequences that were lofty enough to be impressive as well as deterrents. I was cheering the entire time.

Some of the people she kills simply got in the way, or were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Their deaths as named, secondary characters might have made me sad before, but honestly they didn’t touch me. I didn’t have the space for mercy this week. My mind and soul only wanted justice, and in its absence, revenge.

This series is brilliant. I have never read anything like it. Every book was a triumph, the story gorgeously told, the characters are developed with depth and care. I demand that you read every book in this trilogy. If you are a woman who is furious in our current times, you must read this trilogy. Take refuge in these stories. They will bolster you and build you up. Let Kiersten White spin you a tale of a woman who will control her own destiny or die trying. GO GET THESE BOOKS.

Crazy Rich Asians

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I have a terrible confession to make, and that is that I love a good romantic comedy. I haven’t watched one in a long time, but when I saw the clips and reviews coming in from the movie adaptation of the novel Crazy Rich Asians, I knew I had to go see it. I had not read the novel ahead of time, so unfortunately this review won’t have any comparisons to the book.

I didn’t want this movie to end. I needed to see what came next. I wanted to stay in this story with this pair of people who love each other so much that it transcended even cultural and familial obligation. The male lead, Nick, never falters. He never doubts his love. He considers it, he feels the weight of obligation, but every time he is right by Rachel’s side, even in the face of the disappointment of his mother and grandmother, who are expecting him to come home and run the family business.

It was nice when Rachel discovered how rich and connected Nick was that she didn’t stay mad at him long for keeping it from her. She understood that he wanted her to love him for him, without the trappings of wealth and his family name. What I personally fault him for is not telling her before they got on the plane to Singapore, and for being oblivious about her going off to the bachelorette party (Nick’s the best man in his friend’s wedding and has brought Rachel along to meet his family) and not expecting his ex to make trouble.

This movie goes hard with the cultural expectations and honestly I’m glad they didn’t pull any punches. I don’t want to give away the twist(s), but when I say I wanted to cat fight everyone shitting on Rachel I mean it. I would have been there with fucking bells on and no amount of money would have saved those bitches from the beat down this fat American would have brought upon them. If you have seen this movie and you know what happens to her at the wedding they’ve come to attend, you know I mean it when I say that bitches are cold. WOW. W. O. W. BITCHES. I can’t imagine being Rachel in the middle of the wedding craziness, coming to terms with who her boyfriend is, and then having to face THAT. Hold me back, I gotta fight some old Asian women over their disrespect of my girl Rachel Chu.

I did cry, but not for the reasons you might think. I didn’t doubt that Nick was 100% for Rachel, and everything that his family did to her was really shitty. The moments when I cried was when the people that truly cared about her were kind to her. After the wedding she runs to her crazy best friend from college’s house, and she just lies in the guest bedroom for days. One day Ken Jeong (the dad) comes in with the friends younger sister twins and they work together to toddle in to bring her a tray of food because she hasn’t been eating. I lost it. She’s a stranger in a land of her heritage, sad and lost in love, and people are so kind to her. My heart just ached for her and was thankful for the helpers. Even Nick, from the distance he gave her to think, gave her a gift of kindness that made me cry all over again. The most beautiful part of the movie was the thirty minutes in which Rachel regains her confidence and redefines her value with the help of the kindness of others. It was *chef’s kiss.*

I’ll say it again, I didn’t want this movie to end. The cast was flawless, the story was amazing, the acting was so good – it moved me to tears and laughter. It is a movie I will want to be able to watch at home once it leaves theaters. If you haven’t yet, treat yourself to a delightful 2 hours and go see Crazy Rich Asians. You won’t be disappointed. Then come back here and let me know what you thought.