Book Reviews

Book Review: EMBER

Full disclosure: I’m friends with the author and read multiple drafts of the book prior to its publication. This hasn’t impacted my review at all.

EmberTitle: EMBER
Author: Anna Holmes
Series: Ember of Elyssia, #1
Publication Information: Self-Published, 2017
Format: Paperback
Pages: 341
Source: Purchased
Genre: Young Adult – Fantasy
Warnings: Light violence (swordplay, magic), maiming
Rating: 5 stars
Recommended For: Fans of the enemies to lovers romance trope (told in dual POV!) and witty banter; fans of The Princess Bride.

The war is over. The island of Elyssia has been freed from the clutches of the Rosalian Empire, power restored to the island’s monarchy. However, after leading the Resurgence from the front, Princess Caelin now finds herself sitting and waiting more often than not. When magical prodigy Alain Flynn breaks into her palace to kidnap her, she hears of a secret slave camp—and forms a plan. Under the guise of a kidnapping, she will investigate the camp, expose the secrets, and take control of the fate of her kingdom.

(Summary from Goodreads)

So, I’ve read this book like three or four times and I’m still not sick of it, so it’s already got that going for it.

So many fantasy books are about defeating the bad guy, and then everyone goes to war to take down the aforementioned bad guy, and everyone is happy when the bad guy goes down, but we don’t get to see very often what happens after the war. What sort of rebuilding goes on? How do the new people in charge gain the trust of the people who fought against them? EMBER, refreshingly, is set during this time of rebuilding. The war has ended, and that’s where the story begins. Caelin has to figure out how to rebuild Elyssia, and how to gain the trust of the people who were on the other side in the war – since a lot of people actually supported the Rosalians. Then, there’s also the fact that, as a teenage girl, a lot of people don’t think she’s up to the task of ruling, so she has enemies inside the palace as well as outside. And, inwardly, Caelin is unsure she has what it takes to be a good ruler. SO MUCH CONFLICT.

Our other POV is Alain, a former Rosalian commander (or Prince, as they’re called) who is put into slavery – a thing Caelin’s advisers are doing behind her back – and, upon escaping his slave camp, decides to kidnap Caelin. He is one of the previously mentioned supporters of Rosalia who hates Caelin and doesn’t want to see her rule. But, all he knows is the propaganda fed to him by the Empire, and when he actually meets Caelin, he starts having conflicted feelings about her as he realizes she’s not the evil person he was always told. MORE CONFLICT.

And then, of course, there is a cast of delightful secondary characters. There’s Riley, my precious brooding child, a palace guard and Caelin’s best friend since childhood; Tressa, a centaur bounty hunter who’s got the best attitude in the world; August, who I just want to hug every time he shows up; and Gavroth, who is The Best. Even the villains are a delight to read, even though they’re terrible people.

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Book Reviews

My Favorite 2017 Reads

Despite grad school, working two jobs until Thanksgiving, and crippling anxiety, I managed to read a lot of books this year, and a lot of those books were really good. So today, I’m going to talk about my favorites. Because I didn’t actually get around to reviewing most of them.

The only particular order these are in is chronological:

F&SOF FIRE AND STARS by Audrey Coulthurst: This was one of my favorite fantasy books I’ve read, like, basically ever. It reminded me a lot of Rae Carson’s THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS (one of my favorite books ever). It also so many of my favorite tropes: forbidden magic, enemies-to-lovers, star-crossed lovers. SO GOOD. (Bonus: nary a tragic queer to be found.) [My full review here.]

GirlMoonTHE GIRL WHO DRANK THE MOON by Kelly Barnhill: I took forever to read this book mostly because I didn’t want it to end. The writing was gorgeous. And it was simultaneously humorous and heartbreaking. I could easily seeing this book being one I reread multiple times because reading it felt so much like wrapping myself in a warm blanket.

WhenWeCollidedWHEN WE COLLIDED by Emery Lord: I’ve been raving about this book to everyone since I read it. It combines a sweet summer romance with a look at mental illness that felt authentic. This was another one that made me want to laugh and cry. sometimes at the same time. Also, I loved that it shows that maybe some of us are a little messy on the inside, but we still get love stories, too.

KissingMaxHoldenKISSING MAX HOLDEN by Katy Upperman: First of all, this book made me really, really hungry, so be warned. There are also a lot of country music references, which I always have a soft spot for. But I really loved how Jillian makes some not so great choices (because real, actual teenagers make some not so great choices), and how she grapples with them and tries not to let them define her.

LongWayDownLONG WAY DOWN by Jason Reynolds: I don’t read a lot of books in verse, but multiple people raved about this one and it’s easy to see why. It’s a really quick read, but Reynolds packs so much history and characterization into such a short space. It’s a compelling story, combined with great poetry.

THUGTHE HATE U GIVE by Angie Thomas: If you only read one of the books from this post, make sure it’s this one. Was it written with black teenagers in mind? Yes. (GOOD.) But if you’re white, this is also a book that will force you to confront your privilege without you even realizing it’s happening. THUG may tackle serious topics, but at its root, it’s also a book about family, community, and figuring out one’s identity. There’s a reason it’s been a bestseller since it came out.

MexicanDaughterI AM NOT YOUR PERFECT MEXICAN DAUGHTER by Erika L. Sánchez: This book was a pretty intense look at anxiety and depression, and I found the anxiety depiction pretty realistic. I think this book does a great job dispelling the idea that mental illness is a ~white issue~ (which is good since, statistically, marginalized populations actually have a higher rate of mental illness). This book covers a lot in not a ton of pages and while the romance didn’t really add much to it for me, for the most part, everything was woven together really well.

DearMartinDEAR MARTIN by Nic Stone: Speaking of packing a punch in a smaller number of pages. This book will destroy your life in the best possible way, and it will happen abruptly, which makes complete sense given that this book is about police brutality. At first I was thrown off by the use of third person present tense, but I got over that pretty quickly, because Stone still manages to get us into Justyce’s head really effectively even without his letters to Martin Luther King, Jr. that show up throughout the book.

TurtlesTURTLES ALL THE WAY DOWN by John Green: I think the best word to describe this book is terrifying. Aza’s mind is an uncomfortable place, and her thought spirals are so realistic, it was a little hard for me to read at times. Green pretty handily deconstructs the conception of OCD in pop culture as a cute personality quirk by showing us how much it disrupts Aza’s life.

RadioSilenceRADIO SILENCE by Alice Oseman: This is the only book I’ve read that actually uses the word demisexual on the page, spelled out in black and white. And the fact that the demi character has so much anxiety over the fact that he’s ace was honestly one of the most relatable things I’ve read this year. I don’t know if I would’ve picked this book up if not for the ace rep (I WANT TO READ THEM ALL [and the fact that that’s physically possible makes me sad, but I digress]), but I ended up really enjoying it on its own. The relationship between Frances (who is bi, by the way) and her mother is wonderful, as well as her friendship with Aled. And if you like podcasts – particularly weird ones such as Welcome to Night Vale – this would be a good one to pick up.

What books did I miss this year that I need to make sure I read in 2018?

And Then Life Happened

Currently…[November 2017 Edition]

IMG_4302
In July, my sister and I went on a casual stroll through a chasm with our mom and grandma.

So, um, I guess I haven’t updated this blog since May? In all honestly, I have so much going on so much of the time, that this tends to get pushed all the way onto the very far back back burner. I don’t anticipate that changing anytime soon, but I’ll make sure to update with a post or a book review or something every once in awhile. (Probably mostly book reviews, because I’ve been doing way more reading than writing lately.)

And now, here’s what I’m currently…

Loving

Colourpop. Specifically, their lipstick. I got one of their Lippie Stix in one of my Ipsy bags, and it was AMAZING, so I ordered a couple more. They’re matte, super pigmented, and SUPER long-lasting, which was all super surprising because they’re also only $5 each.

Reading

Right now, I’m juggling a few different things. Right now I’m focusing mainly on All’s Faire in Middle School by Victoria Jamieson because I have to return it to the library. It’s a

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In August, we were ENGULFED BY WILDFIRE SMOKE.

middle grade graphic novel about an eleven-year-old girl trying to navigate the wilds of middle school while also working with her family at a Renaissance Faire on the weekends. I love everything about it.

I’m also working my way through The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. It’s an absolutely gut-wrenching story about family and identity, and what it means to be black in the United States. I can’t recommend it highly enough…and I’m only halfway through.

The other book I’m working on is Tower of Dawn by Sarah J. Maas. Which I’m enjoying, but also have mixed feelings about. As always, I love how richly imagined the world is, but at the same time, I’m only 200 pages in (out of almost 700) and I’m pretty over Chaol thinking about his “manhood,” and there are some overlong descriptions and internal monologues that feel unnecessary.

Watching

The boy and I started Twin Peaks and got about three episodes in, but I keep falling asleep so I’m not sure when we’ll finish it. I think we’re mostly waiting for The Crown to come back at this point.

IMG_4515
I baked some stuff.

We also watched Harlots and The Handmaid’s Tale last spring, and I strongly recommend them both. Harlots was created, written, and directed entirely by women, and it really shows.

Listening To

I’ve been listening to the new Taylor Swift album today and I’m not sure what I think of it yet? I feel like I don’t like it as much as her other albums, but “Look What You Made Me Do” and “…Ready For It?” really grew on me after I listened to them a few times, so that could change.

That being said, “I Did Something Bad” IS MY JAM. So.

Thinking About

Getting through the rest of this quarter. There’s only a month left and now the big projects are really picking up. In my Information and Society class, my group has to write a white paper about student privacy while accessing information at school, and how it intersects with digital access at home, and how both of these factors interact with privacy policies. And then for my Multicultural Youth Resources class, I’m trying to fundraise so I can donate a few #ownvoices books about POC to a middle school classroom.

Anticipating

So, in my last Currently… post, which was back in December, I said I was anticipating

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I saw John Green again. I am actually planning to post about that soon.

2017 because “I would like to think things will be at least marginally better for the world in 2017. But who knows? Maybe we’re in for a crappy sequel.” I’m just going to present that without comment.

What I’m actually anticipating is going to the Northwest Chocolate Festival again this weekend. Chocolate? CHOOOOOOC-LAAAAAAAAATE.

Making Me Happy

So, in August, while in the process of moving in with the boy, we took out the broken wood stove taking up entirely too much space in the middle of the living room after one of the toddlords fell and cracked his head on the bricks. (He was fine, just had staples in his head, and a noticeably depleted supply of f**** once said staples were in his head. Which is fair.)

Anyway, one of the thoughts that occurred to us was that, now that there’s no stovepipe for the cold air to come in through during the winter, maybe the house will stay warmer this winter. And so far, we appear to be right. So that’s pretty happy-making, because I really hate being cold.

Book Reviews

Book Review: IN FARLEIGH FIELD

FarleighTitle: IN FARLEIGH FIELD
Author: Rhys Bowen
Publication Information: Lake Union Publishing, 2017
Pages: 398
Source: Kindle First selection
Genre: Adult – Historical Fiction, Mystery
Warnings: Light torture, references to war violence, light sexual content
Rating: 4 stars
Recommended For: People who think Downton Abbey could’ve used a little more espionage.

World War II comes to Farleigh Place, the ancestral home of Lord Westerham and his five daughters, when a soldier with a failed parachute falls to his death on the estate. After his uniform and possessions raise suspicions, MI5 operative and family friend Ben Cresswell is covertly tasked with determining if the man is a German spy. The assignment also offers Ben the chance to be near Lord Westerham’s middle daughter, Pamela, whom he furtively loves. But Pamela has her own secret: she has taken a job at Bletchley Park, the British code-breaking facility.

As Ben follows a trail of spies and traitors, which may include another member of Pamela’s family, he discovers that some within the realm have an appalling, history-altering agenda. Can he, with Pamela’s help, stop them before England falls?

(Summary from Goodreads)

I found IN FARLEIGH FIELD very enjoyable thanks in large part to the strong resemblance it bore to Downton Abbey, one of my favorite shows. Like Downton, it was set in a large country estate and followed the exploits of an upper class family during wartime.

The book follows multiple points of view as the Westerhams and the people in the nearby village wait for the surely inevitable German invasion. While some of the characters grated on me – Dido, the second-youngest daughter, particularly – I really enjoyed reading the chapters from Pamela, Ben, and Margot’s points of view (which was, fortunately, most of them). Phoebe, the youngest daughter, was also a delight and I would’ve loved more chapters from her point of view.

Central to the story’s plot is a mystery – who is the soldier who parachuted into the field at Farleigh, and who was he trying to contact? I figured it out pretty early on, but I cared about the characters enough that I didn’t really mind too much. I also loved the world Bowen crafted, both the upper class dinner parties and the intelligence bureaus Pamela and Ben worked for.

Verdict: Predictable mystery made up for with solid characters and setting.