The Kiss of Deception (The Remnant Chronicles #1)

The Kiss of Deception

I would like an explanation for why no one prepared me for how fucking awesome this book would be. I demand to speak to a manager. From the very first chapter Mary E. Fucking Pearson had her claws in my soul and was dragging me through this story at a breakneck pace.

The book is YA Fantasy, but it’s that YA that I love when yes, the characters are in their late teens, early adulthood, but it’s mentioned so rarely that you can read this and imagine them older too. The main character, Princess Arabella a.k.a. Lia, runs away with her maidservant Pauline on her wedding day, escaping an arranged marriage meant to forge an alliance between two neighboring kingdoms. They take refuge in an inn run by Pauline’s aunt in an oceanside town. They work to earn their keep and see a future for themselves there.

Problem is that in her rush to escape, she was tracked by her betrothed from Dalbreck and an assassin from the barbarian realm of Venda. Both these men (boys) are referred to as The Prince and The Assassin when we hear the story from their point of view, and when Lia interacts with the both of them when they both find her at the same time in her hidey-hole they are referred to as Kaden and Rafe and we don’t have any fucking idea which is which as we watch their interactions. 

MARY. WHY DID YOU PLAY WITH ME LIKE THIS MARY. I need to know whether she was into the prince or the assassin to know whether to be filled with hope or dread and you gave me naught a clue so I was nervous THE WHOLE TIME.

BITCH I NEED TO KNOW WHO I’M ROOTING FOR.

Aside from the character drama that I am still fucking salty over (MARY YOU MUST MEET ME AT DAWN CHOOSE YOUR WEAPON) the fantasy elements are set up so slowly and sneakily that by the end I’m like omg there is a prophecy and what does it imply is gonna happen? Who is the Dragon? Venda has magic? WHAT IS THE GIFT WHAT IS HAPPENING I NEED TO KNOW MORE MARY.

Do you want to know how fast I went to the library for the next book in the series? I finished this book Wednesday night, and when I went by the library on my way home on Thursday to return it I picked up The Heart of Betrayal (The Remnant Chronicles #2) while I was there and if you don’t think I went to bed early so I could get through the first 100 pages before I passed out from exhaustion then you must be new to Angry Angel Books. 

(By the way, I just finished day 9 of the new school year and I think I’m sleep-teaching at this point because I am so exhausted I’m either sleep-walking or dead or maybe I’m dreaming but I AM SO TIRED SOMEONE SEND HELP.)

I don’t even want to spoil this experience for you. You need to suffer as I have suffered. YOU WANT THIS SUFFERING EMBRACE IT READ THIS BOOK ARE YOU READING IT YET WHY NOT HURRY UP HOW ABOUT NOW NO WHY NOT BITCH GO GET THIS BOOK DON’T WALK AWAY FROM ME I’M TALKING TO YOU.

***

Side story: When I was at the library checking out this book a girl walked in with one of those rolling backpacks and she was still in her school uniform and she was 12 if she was a day and she made a direct beeline from the door to the children’s section in the most businesslike way that I was absolutely struck with a fit of laughter and when the librarian asked what I was laughing at I said “nobody better get in that little girl’s way because she is here for books and she is not messing around” and I hope that little girl gets all the books she came there for because I totally respect her attitude.

 

The Wise Man’s Fear (The Kingkiller Chronicles #2)

The Wise Man's Fear

The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicles #1)

This book has taken me a little over a month to read, mostly because it’s 1,000 pages and significantly more boring than the first one. I can’t even remember now what happened in the first like 250 pages of the book – the basics are that Kvothe and his friends come together for a caper against his nemesis Ambrose Jakis that involved setting his apartments on fire and stealing back something Ambrose stole. While it cannot be proven that Kvothe did it, there is enough information at hand that in his current financial situation he would be unable to afford the very subjective tuition amount that he would be given by the professors at his admissions interview. So the professors that like him, along with his friends, advise him to go out into the world and seek his fortune for a bit to let things cool down.

One of his friends from the Eolian where he performs says he has a possible patron for him. The Maer of a city across the sea is willing to entertain having him  and has requested assistance with a delicate matter. So Kvothe takes a ship that is attacked and sinks, and he survives with nothing but the clothes on his back and his lute case and somehow makes it to Severen, the town next to the Maer’s estate. The Maer wants Kvothe to write songs and poems and things to help him win the heart of the eligible Lady Lackless from the neighboring  city so he can produce some heirs. Kvothe helps, but then he’s sent away with a band of mercenaries to deal with bandits that are stealing the Maer’s taxes from his tax collectors on the road.

I mean, I would tell you more but I’m not really interested in giving you a full book synopsis. I want to tell you how it made me feel, or how exciting it was. The story was still interesting in that how a sixteen year old boy survives on his wits alone and the occasional infusion of cash is enough tension to keep me reading for the inevitable fall from grace. Seeing Rothfuss expand his world beyond the University was interesting too. Kvothe has to learn the cultural norms of the Maer’s nobility and then, after he deals with the tax bandits he goes to the Ademre where he has to pass a series of tests to be accepted into their society as well. Oh, and he fucks a famous Fae creature that he stumbles upon on his journey. That interlude is looooooooooong but necessary because he encounters a creature there that might not be such a good thing for his psyche.

It’s a book 2, what can I say? I mean, was I expecting more information about the Chandrian that killed his parents in the first book and set him on this course in the first place? Yes. Am I constantly surprised when I am reminded that I’m reading about a 16 year old boy doing all this crazy shit? Yes. Was I just as irritated about the presence of Denna flitting about and advancing the plot not a whit? YES. But we moved forward in the story, we got a little info here and there, and he’s back at the University at the end right where he belongs. This sets up his future expulsion I guess? How it possible for a main character to go to so many places and still have the plot go nowhere?

The thing I’m the most upset about is the fact that the Amyr/Chandrian issue doesn’t move forward at all. There are seven of these terrible creatures and I know nothing about them. I can’t picture them. All I know is that they show up like Beetlejuice if you say their names too much and they kill everyone within half a mile of the naming. I’m just not convinced they are any worse than any of the other crazy shit waiting to kill Kvothe at the University, including his own mishandling of sympathy (magic). How am I supposed to feel tension and fear about a group of creatures I don’t even see more than once in 2,000 pages?

I’m a patient woman, and the storytelling in these books is quality enough to keep me reading. But some shoes have got to start dropping. Soon. Which doesn’t seem likely since The Wise Man’s Fear came out in 2011 and there’s no third book in sight.

You should still go read it. It’s a good book. Just know that there will probably never be a third.

Second Reading: Six of Crows

Six of Crows

I read Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo back in October of 2016 (original review linked). It is the inspiration for the team component of my current novel, and so I returned to read it again now to remind me how the elements and points of view worked together. This is not so much a review as it is a revisit to see if any of my opinions changed from the first reading and to encourage you to enjoy some of my favorite books.  

There are only a few authors that I trust so implicitly that I would preorder their books without taking them out of the library first. One of these authors is Leigh Bardugo. I have read every single one of her books and they all are amazing and I will sing her praises from on high until everyone that can hear me has read her books.

I was in a bit of a reading lull this summer. Every book I picked up seemed to make fart noises into my brain and I couldn’t get into any of them, even the ones that were identified as HOT SUMMAH READS. Eventually this got tiresome so I decided to return to the Grisha universe and reread Six of Crows.

This book goes from 0 to 60mph in 2.5 seconds and it never stops. Everyone is hot, and while you might think that’s creepy because they are all 16-18 years old I will repeat what I said in my original review and say that you forget all about that. Their age doesn’t matter. This story could be written with them as older teens or in their mid-thirties and it would still work. So I choose to see Kaz Brekker as a cranky af 32yo ready to get some crazy revenge and I AM HERE FOR IT.

The backstories are absolute gold. Kaz’s traumatic childhood experience with the death of his brother and being fooled past the poorhouse and into the streets of Ketterdam. You see exactly why he is who he is and why, and you understand that he has one purpose, which is to get revenge on Pekka Rollins for essentially murdering his brother and creating the bastard of the Barrel.

Nina is me and I am Nina – a Heartrender Grisha who can control people’s hearts, pulses, and consciousness. She longs for her home in Ravka and is wrapped up with Matthais, a soldier from the very anti-Grisha country where the prison is that they have been hired to break into and steal a scientist who has come up with a formula for a drug that will turn all Grisha into drug addled killing machines.

This book is just so fucking tight. It’s the perfect game of Tetris. Everything makes sense. Everything has a purpose. Everything fits. Bardugo does not waste a single word or action. Everything that happens moves us towards a goal, one of six mind you. Intertwined with the character stories and backstories is an unfurling of the world that they work in. All the different locations are mentioned and described in this book and you get a sense of what a person coming from each location might believe, especially in relation to Grisha and the use of “magic” (what they call the Small Science).

This book is one that I love so much that I have a difficult time describing why. I just want to shove it in your hands and then sit there and wait until you are done reading it so we can talk about it together because you will love it too.

If you haven’t yet, PLEASE, go get you some.

The Distance Home

The Distance Home

Book due to be published on August 7, 2018.

This book was provided to me by Random House publishing as an advanced reader copy in return for an honest review.

It is difficult to describe how growing up poor in a rural area is different. Even to my own ears it sounds like whining. Perhaps I’m too close to the issue, the kind of thing that happens when a teacher is SO smart about the content she is teaching but cannot break it into its pieces to help students understand it, it difficult for me to point a finger at exactly what elements made the whole thing so miserable.

This is why I am thankful for Paula Sanders’ novel The Distance Home. Reading this book was painful for me because so much of it rang so true and so deep in my bones from my childhood that at a couple of points I had to put the book down for a couple of days just to recover so I could read on.

Even sitting down to write this review it’s difficult for me to unwind the tangled web that is this novel. The distant father, the mother who hates her mother-in-law and plays favorites with her children. The homophobic environment of any rural area that enforces the manliest man idea while destroying anything outside of that definition. The restriction of women to certain roles.

The most tragic part of this tale is how the son, who is not homosexual, simply loves to dance, especially ballet. He is good at it, it makes him light up inside, it gets him through the day. It’s the classic story for why we should have arts in school – that for some kids that’s what they enjoy and put their efforts into, and that’s just as valuable as math and science.

But of course his dad is ashamed of him but proud of his daughter who eventually joins him at the dance studio where he studies. His mom and dad fight over how he is treated by his dad, how he is never encouraged or recognized for his skill and effort. His dad sends him to work at a ranch to get the “phase” to pass, he beats the ever-loving daylights out of him, and eventually it is inferred that he is raped by a photographer who takes him for a special photo session alone with his mother’s permission after providing photos for the dance studio’s advertisements.

It is passive neglect. Day after day hoping things will just happen and when they don’t (or happen but not how they expected) anger is the only way to address the disappointment. The lack of communication ability, the constant fights that reinforce anxiety and inadequacy in the children, the poor school system and insular community – everything is set up for these talented, passionate children to be forced into unhealthy patterns and habits just to get by.

I appreciate that Saunders made her ending realistic. These people are damaged, there isn’t a happy ending for them. The daughter escapes, but she doesn’t escape whole, she escapes with bites taken out of her and does what she has to do to stay away, successful, and “safe.” This pressure alone, the pressure to “make it” and escape where you came from, is still the pressure of poverty. The danger of making a mistake and backsliding is always there, so you must double your efforts to keep it at bay because there is no safety net if you fall. Only poverty and the abuse it fosters, both physical and mental.

I think amidst all these Cletus-safaris (stories about “real” Americans) and attempts to romanticize and explain rural America it is helpful to be reminded that these areas are harmful. They are real, but they are dangerous. So much of what we are seeing in the national spotlight: racism, sexism, violence, aggressiveness towards gender diversion – this has been the American reality for years, especially in the places where the national spotlight didn’t reach (until now). This is America, and it is damaging in the long-term for people who have no choice but to be born into its clutches.

If you were not born in a rural area you need to read this book. It’s perfect. It depicts what it is and you will feel what it feels like because Saunders’ writing is evocative and clear. It also serves as a reminder that in the midst of our current national crisis, there are probably millions of people living in very real fear due to nothing other than the element of chance in where they were born.

This is a real one. Go get you some.

Nothing Good Can Come From This

IMG_20180630_181543.jpg

Due for publication August 7, 2018

This book was provided to me by the publisher in advance of publication in return for an honest review.

I am not the biggest fan of memoir, specifically the kind of memoir that seems to trod out the idea that we are in a suffering Olympics. That someone’s story isn’t worth reading unless they have enough trauma and hurt in their lives to kill a bull elephant. Those kinds of memoir just weren’t for me.

So when this ARC came across my desk I decided to read it immediately to get it out of the way. It was only 220 pages and wouldn’t take me very long. Once I started, however, I ended up not wanting it to stop. Kristi Coulter has written a memoir about addiction and freedom that will make you feel free and empowered no matter what your personal struggles might be.

She describes the slow slip into alcoholism as one glass of wine a night turns into two, and then three. We watch her as she attempts to live a normal life in a high powered job in the midst of a society that seems to drink to relax, celebrate, cope, socialize, really you name it and booze is there to hold your hand. The beauty in this book is seeing Coulter come to recognize that she is an alcoholic, make the decision to become sober, and then navigate the road to rediscovering who she is without alcohol.

It is that rediscovering that spoke to me the most. Her questions seemed to always start with “What would I like to…” as she discovered what she enjoyed and who she wanted to be now that she was sober. The constructive struggle mixed with the hope and freedom that these kinds of choices bring makes this a memoir that sees past the struggle to a bright, limitless future full of possibility. Maybe the closest comparable would be breaking up with a long-time partner. Who am I without this person? It’s a bigger discovery than some people realize.

What would I like to eat now that I don’t drink? Will food taste different? Will I be able to taste new things out of the haze? All these questions are so interesting and wonderful that I would have read an entire book of her talking to me about the things she discovered about herself while sober. It was like she had emerged from the cocoon and stumbled around for a bit before realizing she had wings. “What do these do?” she mused, and then she took flight.

I love that her husband quit drinking with her. That is love and support. He may not have been an alcoholic but she describes him as different and a bit angry when he drank, so that decision was probably good for them both.

She changed her goals and team at work too. Once she wasn’t drinking she discovered that the project and team she was working with was too fast-paced and, as she described it: “this isn’t me.” Not only was she discovering how things she wanted to keep around were, she gained the clarity to be able to determine those things that had to go. The aspects of her reality that just weren’t tenable anymore.

The luxury of space to breathe and the freedom to make choices concerning your own reality and well-being are front and center in Coulter’s journey, and while that is couched in the struggle of alcoholism, her tale is only ever reaching forward, only looking back in an effort to fuel progress. The only thing you can do is cheer her on, because you will be so proud of her perseverance.

I have placed this book on my Christmas list. I plan to place it alongside Megan Stielstra’s The Wrong Way to Save Your Life and Samantha Irby’s We Are Never Meeting In Real Life on my shelf. Very slowly I am making a small library of stories that make me feel inspired and, more importantly, less alone. No matter your struggles, Coulter’s journey will inspire you to ask about what you like in your own life so that you can surround yourself with joy and not miss out on a single experience. Go get you some.

Morrigan’s Cross (The Circle Trilogy #1)

Morrigan's Cross

Time travel? Check. Sorcerers and witches? Check. Vampires? I mean, okay. Celtic vibes? FUCK YEAH.

The goddess Morrigan has come to Hoyt McKenna in Ireland after his twin brother Cian has been attacked and turned by the vampire queen Lilith. Hoyt is a sorcerer and Morrigan tells him he must travel through time to gather a circle of six people who will lead an army to take down Lilith. If they do not, Lilith will bring about the apocalypse across worlds and timelines, turning some, murdering others, and enslaving the rest. So Hoyt travels through a stone circle and lands in present day New York. He finds his brother, now about 1,000 years old and ready to help bring his maker down.

A witch named Glenna (I know, right?) also lives in the city, and is connected to Hoyt in her dreams. She follows her intuition and clues to Cian’s club and find the twins collaborating in the apartment upstairs. They all agree that returning to Ireland via Cian’s private plane is the best course of action, and along with Cian’s giant, black bodyman King, fly to Cian and Hoyt’s childhood home to train and wait for the remaining two members of the circle. Moira and Larkin do arrive through the same stone circle, but from a different realm of Geall, and then they all begin to train.

Nora Roberts’s books have a formula, and it’s a coupling per book, no more, no less. Our first couple is Hoyt and Glenna and what I find hilariously inconvenient is that every time they have sex all the candles and fireplaces in the giant old Irish house get REALLY BRIGHT AND DANGEROUS and instead of letting the sex scenes get me excited I laugh because I imagine the other characters reading or listening to music somewhere else in the house and then suddenly their candle blowtorches to the ceiling and they’re just like “really painted the ceiling with that one, huh Hoyt?” omg I can’t stand it, it’s too funny.

I love this trilogy because of the magic and the honest to god creepy and scary villain. I believe Lilith is terrifying. I believe that having drunk the blood of hundreds of sorcerers and witches she has gained their power and more and can reach between timelines and realms. This is a problem that must be solved or else all worlds will end. And I’m here with my popcorn, ready for it.

My problem with any Nora Roberts novel is the timeline of romance. Hoyt and Glenna know each other for like 6 days and he proposes to her after having sex twice. It’s just difficult for me to really invest in the love story when in a week and under duress characters are pledging their lives to each other. This book was written in 2006 so I don’t feel like it would be completely wild to just have them be together without bringing marriage into it.

I can accept that they have a deep connection, and that magic brings them closer together, and that the end of the world creates a sense of urgency – all of that is believable and I am with you when they are just suddenly attracted and having sex. What I’m not here for is for some reason throwing in marriage proposals like us ladies can’t handle Hoyt getting it in without making an honest woman of Glenna. It’s the end of the world. Get it in when you can, don’t worry about planning a ceremony or anything.

By the end of this book the circle is complete, if not in the way you expect, and plans are in place to return to Moira’s land so she can take up the mantle of queen and lead her people as the circle’s army to take down Lilith in a battle of the ages. It’s really a fun trilogy, one of her best. Go get you some.

 

Face the Fire (Three Sisters Island #3)

Face the Fire

Dance Upon the Air (#1)
Heaven and Earth (#2)

(Spoilers abound.)

This is easily the weakest book in the trilogy. Mia Devlin is the red-headed, older, wiser witch. She’s helped both Nell and Ripley through their magical awakenings – Nell discovering that she has power, and Ripley with controlling hers. But the third test still remains, and with the darkness exorcised from Jonathan Harding, there’s a gross evil shadow wolf lurking about the island, working to drive Mia to her ancestor’s fate of jumping to her death in despair.

That premise alone is shaky. Bolstered by the prior success of her two “sisters,” it stands to reason that Mia would be confident about facing her demons. She’s been presented to us as nothing but the confident leader, and with a complete circle and full support, we would expect her to just absolutely flatten anything that comes her way. Her thoughts of suicide just don’t add up with everything we’ve seen so far in the serious.

I also don’t like how Sam Logan, her former lover, just comes back to the island and barges into her world, and she gives into him almost instantly. Their first kiss is him grabbing her and forcing himself on her – not totally down with that – and then she just grabs him for more kissing. Honestly their “romantic” entanglement isn’t hot because I don’t believe it. I don’t believe that a strong, smart, 30-year-old woman who is a powerful and knowledgeable witch who teaches and leads others would act like this. It’s like Nora Roberts just guessed at what a suicidal person might have running through their heads and had her think it – and it doesn’t add up.

I hate the ending. I hate it so much. I already have to suspend belief about the previous two books, but having it end with a shower of stars and her being a starry eyed babe wanting marriage and children ASAP and that’s how the curse is broken…I don’t know man, I know it’s a romance novel and ending it with an independent woman who don’t need no man isn’t how these things go, but could we at least have had a second love interest? Like, new love versus old love, and she has to choose? But no, we end right where we expected to, with marriage and babies for everyone! Yuck. Just a complete 180, out of character resolution to the trilogy. Okay, I guess.

It’s still one of my favorite trilogies of hers, because the first two books are so strong and I love the magic and the curse. But this last book always makes me mad that Mia, the best of them, couldn’t have been more than this. I wanted more for her.