Three Dark Crowns (TDC #1)

Three Dark Crowns

I have been waiting for my library to get a physical copy of this book for at least a year. They had the ebook but if I learned one thing about myself last year it’s that I don’t do well with ebooks. I download them and forget about them, and then I have the audacity to get angry when they aren’t available anymore. In my pre-2019 TBR searches I discovered that the book was finally available and grabbed it!

On a magical island surrounded by a mist that holds in magic, a Goddess provides magical powers to three populations. Poisoners can eat, make, and cure poisons and are very hard to kill. Elementals control water/fire/air/earth. Naturalists control plants and animals and are paired with animal familiars that reflect the strength of their power. One queen rules over them all with the help of the Black Council and the Temple of the Goddess. The queen chooses a king-consort, and when the Goddess sees the queen’s rule as finished the queen gives birth to a set of triplets and is forced to leave the island.

The triplets are raised together in a cottage on the island until they are 4 or 5, at which point they are sent to be fostered by the communities that match their given abilities. In this generation Katherine is the youngest and sent to live with the most influential poisoner family, the Arrons, who control the Black Council and have fostered the triplet who became queen for the last 100 years. Arsinoe is fostered by the naturalists and is friends with one of the most powerful naturalists ever born. Mirabella (the firstborn) is raised by the elementals who are in with the Temple and its priestesses, who are doing their best to be sure their triplet becomes queen and ends the century of poisoner rule. Once the triplets turn 16 they enter their ascension year, which is a year in which they display their powers to the entire kingdom and then proceed to kill each other.

Three queens enter. One queen leaves.

The political intrigue and the magical systems are very interesting. My questions about how and why this all works kept me reading to the very end. The fact that Blake doesn’t take a lot of time to give any backstory keeps the story moving, and we are given glimpses of history and tradition as the need arises, which leaves you with more questions than answers, but enough answers that you don’t get frustrated.

I loved this story from beginning to end. It hits the ground running and I kept asking “why is this happening???” or “OMG what will happen now???” and even though I kind of had an inkling about the big reveal at the end, it still felt powerful. The knowledge you end with is a magnificent cliffhanger that will have you clicking “Buy Now” on the next book.

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Angel Picks: Best Books of 2018

Welcome to the 2018 Top Ten Angel Picks! (In no particular order.) Most of the covers are clickable to read my original review, and when they are not, the links and titles are provided under the covers in the description.

Tess of the Road

Rachel Hartman did not get half the credit or attention that she deserved for this triumph of a novel. It should have been on many of the year-end fantasy lists but I felt it was overlooked. The strong female lead was one of the best I read this year and Hartman seamlessly ties the story in with her other novels set in the same universe.

Blue Sky

Marisa de los Santos should know that she can have all of my money until the end of time. This novel centered around a safe house for battered women and children and its history will teach you things and pull on your heartstrings. If you haven’t picked up any of de los Santos’ books, you are missing out on deep, wonderfully written stories.

 

Rebel of the Sands (#1)
Traitor to the Throne (#2)
Hero at the Fall (#3)

With Hero at the Fall set to release in 2018, I decided to read the first two books before it came out. Alwyn Hamilton sets up a fantastic magic system rooted in the djinni of old, terrifying monsters that crawl up into the darkness, and the need for revolution to be in the hands of the next generation. This series had the most satisfying ending of a fantasy trilogy that I have ever read, making me feel like I understood the immediate ending, and how the kingdom survived into the future. Hamilton also didn’t pull any punches when it came to the violence and loss in the midst of war and revolution, and I really appreciated the fact that she did not sugar coat it. This trilogy is a must read for anyone who loves fantasy, magic, and good villains.

The Name of the Wind

True, The Name of the Wind did not release in 2018, but I read it for the first time in 2018 and it knocked my fucking socks off so here it sits. Very few books are able to pull me so completely out of my reality and into that of the story that I forget I am reading and believe I am experiencing the realm in which the main character finds himself. I raced back to this book each day because the magic system, the struggles of the main character, and the world itself was so compelling that I couldn’t wait to know more. I do not feel the same way about book 2 (The Wise Man’s Fear) and book 3 seems a long way off, but this first book was so amazing that I feel it’s still worth it to read just on merit.

On writing

I began writing a novel this year and hope to have the first draft finished by the new year so I can post and brag about 100,000 words on paper that are all mine. 🙂 One of the very first craft books (how-to) I read on writing was Stephen King’s memoir/writing manual. His writing on writing is split here between before and after his accident with the van that hit him as he was walking down a rural Maine road. Of all the books I have read on novel writing, this is the one that has inspired me the most and that I related to most closely. Again, this book wasn’t published in 2018, but I read it for the first time in 2018 so it gets to be on the list.

Song of Achilles

Madeline Miller’s retelling of the Achilles myth from the point of view of his lover Patroclus is one of the most beautiful stories I have ever let into my brain via my eyeballs. I made multiple attempts to read the book she actually published this year (Circe – a similar myth retelling) but it was always on hold so I couldn’t keep it long enough to finish it. I sobbed at the end of this book because the powerful emotions Miller communicates will wrap themselves around your heart and refuse to let go until you finish. This book was a work of art.

The Distance Home

I received The Distance Home as an advanced reader copy at the AWP Writer’s Conference in Tampa this year. This book wrecked me by mirroring my experience as a child raised rurally. The brutal nature of masculinity and the impatience with difference all wrapped up in unreasonable expectations and embarrassment – Paula Saunders created a book that offers a window into a life that too many people in this country never see. It hurt to read, but not so much that I wouldn’t recommend it as one of the best I read.

Bright We Burn

And I Darken (#1)
Now I Rise (#2)

I waited relatively patiently for the final book in Kiersten White’s And I Darken trilogy. Along with Leigh Bardugo, I will recommend White’s books always without hesitation. This trilogy was nonstop action and intensity. The female lead, Lada, is the most terrifying female main character I have ever read, and even just writing this small blurb makes me want to go reread the trilogy so I can live vicariously through her bloodthirsty adventures. GET YOUR REVENGE, LADA. If you haven’t read this trilogy yet make it a New Year’s resolution to do so.

 

The surprise on this list is Jasmine Guillory. She came into my life late in the year when I decided to finally pick up The Wedding Date off my shelf. I bought it for myself earlier in the summer and just hadn’t gotten around to it. It was luxury, sexiness, and fun wrapped up in an enjoyable long-distance relationship, so of course I decided to pick up her next one right when it came out. The Proposal wasn’t as intense romantically as The Wedding Date, but it was just as luxurious and I would say more complex in its exploration of romance and relationships. I can’t wait to read The Wedding Party next summer!

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That concludes our broadcasting year. Thank you for being with us and we hope you’ll stay with us as we barge into 2019 with torches and guillotines.

Read. Be brave. Stay angry.

Goodreads Challenges

Since learning about Goodreads and beginning to use it to track my reading and post my reviews, I have participated in the Goodreads Challenge. You choose an amount of books you would like to read within the year, and then log them as you go. I set a goal of 100 books each year, just to see if I can make it.

Last year I did pretty well considering everything that happened. I made it to within 13 books of my goal and read a ton of really excellent work.

2017 Goodreads Challenge

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Angel Picks: Best of 2017 (Read my favorites list from last year!)

This year I saw a dip in my reading due to my multiple changes in jobs and how difficult the jobs I took were. Despite this I feel like I put on a good show.

2018 Goodreads Challenge

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I might read a few more before the end of the year but honestly I’m knackered and just want to sleep the rest of 2018 away. I’ll set my 2019 goal back at 100 books and see if I can reach the bar next year. 🙂

My Angel Picks: Best of 2018 will be up tomorrow! Have a great day!

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.