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About a year ago, I gushed about the latest Amie Kaufman/Jay Kristoff collaboration, Aurora Rising. In reading that review, I realize I did not do it justice. Unfortunately, with the way its sequel, Aurora Burning, ends, I don’t think this review is going to be much better because I really do think Ms. Kaufman and Mr. Kristoff are out to kill their readers through their emotional roller coaster of a novel.
The Kaufman/Kristoff partnership continues to push out novels that stand head and shoulders above their peers, of which Aurora Burning is just another example. Their world-building is beyond excellent, but it is their characters that truly make their stories shine. The eclectic Squad 318 should not work given the myriad of voices and personalities of which it consists. Yet, the characters and their individualities bring the greatest joy because Ms. Kaufamn and Mr. Kristoff make them so very real. Not only that, but there are no flaws in their voices. Their personalities and voices are so unique, you could remove all references to names and still know from whose point of view you are now viewing the story.
Adding to that magic are the emotions Ms. Kaufman and Mr. Kristoff make you feel. When you read a lot, you can become emotionally numb to stories. Good ones will make you feel something. Truly excellent novels will make you feel even more. And then there are stories like Aurora Burning, which had me crying, laughing out loud, screaming in frustration, nauseous with worry, and stunned with shock. The ending alone had me feeling ten different emotions at the same time. Ms. Kaufman and Mr. Kristoff have that mystical ability to convey the human experience as thoroughly as if the events are happening to you, making all of their novels something you absolutely must read.
Aurora Burning is most definitely a sequel, referencing previous events and building upon them. Similarly, it is the second book in a trilogy. The ending is one of the cruelest, most stunning, and emotionally wrought cliffhangers I have ever read. In spite of that, I cannot recommend this series highly enough. It may be science fiction with a story that occurs in space, but don’t let that deter you. At its heart, it is a story about a group of misfits who find out what it means to be a family, a story that transcends its setting. Plus, there is plenty of action and romance to keep your interest. So, do yourself a favor and treat yourself to an Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff collaboration. You will not regret it!
The post I think Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff are trying to kill us appeared first on That's What She Read.
It has been a few weeks since I last posted, and what a few weeks it has been.
When last I posted, I mentioned that we were going to downsize. This meant getting our house ready for selling, which confirmed why we need to downsize. Between Holly and me, we went through every closet and every drawer of our fourteen-room, 3,600 square-foot house. We cleaned every baseboard, washed every wall, purged, deep cleaned, and organized every square foot. I mopped the floors so many times it makes my head spin. Jim and Holly moved 90,000 pounds of landscaping rock as we switched out our landscaping beds, while I cleaned up all of the landscaping edges and tackled the weeds on our 0.75-acre lot. And we did it all in eight days.
At the same time, we were puppy-sitting for our neighbors, a lovely Huskie/American Shepherd mix who just happened to be blowing his very fluffy and massive winter coat while we had him. Plus, we were getting ready to go on vacation the same day the house was to officially enter the market, AND Jim worked full days during all of this. So, insanity ruled around here for the last half of June.
Thankfully, the house is now for sale, and we have had quite a few showings and a lot of expressed interest. We have even had a second showing already, but we are still missing that important offer. In the meantime, our condo progresses nicely. We signed all the paperwork and put down earnest money before we left so that they could continue construction. We meet with the cabinet vendors next week and are now in that stage where we get to see little changes every day. I would feel better if we had an offer for our house on the table, but I remain confident right now that we will sell it in plenty of time. Now, try me again in two weeks.
Our vacation was not really a vacation but a trip to Pittsburgh to visit with Jim’s oldest brother as well as his oldest sister and her family. All involved followed the safety measures against COVID before we arrived, and we received everyone’s permission to visit before we left. Even as the number of cases started to balloon while we were there, we all stayed safe and had a good visit. We got to meet and visit with our new great-nephew, born just five days before we arrived. Holly had her first unofficial college visit to Penn State, which she decided she does not want to attend after walking the campus. We hiked, we hit all the famous Pittsburgh places to eat. It was nice to get away and not have to worry about the house for a week.
Now we are back. Holly’s dance kicks into gear on Wednesday of this week as she heads back into the studio for four long days of dance seminars and choreography. It does seem weird for her to go back into an enclosed setting like that, but the directors swear they will follow proper protocols for cleaning and distance and are keeping the numbers in the rooms to under 20, as the guidelines for Wisconsin suggest. Our COVID cases remain low compared to the rest of the country, so I don’t think the risk is huge for Holly. However, we did tie our one-day record number of cases yesterday, so I will be keeping an eye on things.
We still have no idea what school is going to look like in September. Our neighbor is the Director of Curriculum for the school district, and he tells me they have three different scenarios depending on what phase we are in when school starts again. It is frustrating to have no answers, but I get that everyone is trying to do their best with a truly shitty situation. Patience seems to be the keyword as the first wave of the pandemic lasts a lot longer than anyone expected.
I hope everyone is safe, practicing social distancing, and wearing their mask when out in public. Now is not the time to be selfish or ignorant. The sooner we get the pandemic under control, the sooner we can get back to some semblance of normalcy.
The post Yep. Still Alive. appeared first on That's What She Read.
- The new queen of the slow burn
- The new queen of the slow burn
- The new queen of the slow burn
Seasons of the Storm by Elle Cosimano is a cute story that personifies our seasons. In theory, it is the beginning of a new series, but with the ending it has, I am not certain how that is; the story is complete as it stands. While I can see the potential storyline should Ms. Cosimano continue, I don’t think it necessary for her to do so. I would much rather she leave her characters alone, especially because I don’t believe Seasons of the Storm is all that strong a story.
I say that because the love story that drives the plot, between Winter and Spring, is weak. This storyline, I believe, is more like love at first sight, but without any zing or any other indicator. We meet Jack and Fleur well into their odd relationship, developed over years of their flirting before Fleur kills Jack each spring, but we never get insight into how their relationship developed. As such, we never get the chance to build a relationship with them, something I feel is necessary to champion for them as they flee for their lives.
Also, while the elemental magic is cool, as is the idea of personified seasons, we don’t get much knowledge regarding why the seasons need to kill each other every year. We hear about the rules that guide their lives, but we don’t really get a chance to understand them or know why someone established the rules until the very end. For a story that is all about people bucking the rules and trying to escape, I feel this is a severe lack of knowledge that, once again, fails to build a connection between the characters and the reader.
Lastly, when a story’s existence hinges on two potential lovers fleeing so that they can be happy together, the chemistry between the potential lovers is key. Sadly, I feel there is little to no chemistry between Jack and Fleur. I just don’t get their relationship. Wanting to flee a rigid cycle of death, waiting, and rebirth makes sense, as does wanting to get to know other seasons. To cheer on Jack and Fleur as they cross the country, I want to experience butterflies. I want that little frisson of delight in my belly that denotes a truly believable and swoon-worthy relationship, and I never get that.
Seasons of the Storm does its job as being a pleasant distraction from the dual weights of the ongoing pandemic and Black Lives Matter revolution. But that is all it is – a distraction. Unfortunately, the lack of backstory, the lack of world-building, and weak character dynamics make it all too forgettable. I appreciate the unique approach to weather and enjoyed every time the characters used their powers, but I want to know more. With more, I believe Seasons of the Storm could be great. As it stands, however, it is simply okay.
The post Bring on the seasons…maybe appeared first on That's What She Read.
I was looking through my printed advance proof of This Little Family by Inès Bayard for a trigger warning because if ever a book needs one, this is it. Any book about rape is going to be tough and potentially triggering, but Ms. Bayard’s description of the scene is particularly bothersome because she manages to depict one of the most traumatic events a woman can face without emotion. It is this lack of anything but the facts that shocks the most.
The rest of the novel is not much easier to read. Blunt, crass, and crude, it is almost as if Ms. Bayard delights in Marie’s base behavior. Except, I don’t think it is a delight that Ms. Bayard takes in presenting such an awful fall from grace. Rather, it is a grim determination to present rape and its aftermath in as blunt and unemotional light as possible.
This Little Family is an ugly story, made even uglier by the harsh truths about being a woman that Ms. Bayard presents. Take the following passage:
“She was ashamed. Filled with a shame that grips women from the start to the very end of their lives. Never changing. Shame for bodies that are imperfect, not spotless, condemned by collective virtue. Bodies that suffer, groan, contort, bleed, change, evolve, grow fatter and thinner, penetrated their whole lives, impregnated, opened, emptied, closed up again, inflated and deflated as a result of successive ordeals, rammed full of acetaminophen and ibuprofen to force them to calm down.”
I cannot imagine there is not a woman alive who would read this passage and nod along with what Ms. Bayard is saying. We can tout loving our bodies and appreciating what women alone can do, but the fact is that society has always and continues to view women’s bodies as inferior to men’s. For which, there is an inherent shame in being a woman.
Then there is this passage:
“Not once since her rape and the announcement of her pregnancy has anyone asked her whether she wants to keep this baby. Every pregnant woman should be asked that question at least once during the first gynecological consultation. Conjugal harmony is never adequate to assure genuine happiness or a sincere desire for motherhood….No one ever really knows what’s going on in a woman’s mind. Here too, after tumbling downstairs, the first news Marie is given is about her unborn child, not herself. She’s simply a womb. The child is prioritized, almost sacred.”
The first half of this passage, about asking a woman whether she wants to be pregnant, seems like such an easy question to ask, and yet, the statement is such an eye-opener. Why do we assume that every woman who enters the OB/GYN for a pregnancy appointment wants to be pregnant? This ties into the last sentence of that passage, which every person who has ever been pregnant will understand and intimately know. The way we revere an unborn fetus over the woman who carries that fetus is beyond disturbing. And it doesn’t stop in utero. Many a mother laments the fact that they lose their identity as a person once their babies are born. Ms. Bayard fills the entire novel with such unemotional and yet profound observations about being a woman, about being pregnant, about being raped that you struggle to read it and yet want to continue because you know the next truth bomb is right around the corner.
I can’t decide if I sympathize with Marie or judge her for her behavior, again another thing I believe Ms. Bayard is purposely driving readers to decide. Unless you have been in Marie’s shoes, I feel it is difficult to find fault with her, which would mean that I sympathize with her. Then again, I can’t shake the idea that she would not fall quite as far if she confided in a loved one, which means I judge her as well. Perhaps the key is that readers can feel both. Or that the indecision means that we truly see the situation for its lack of easy answers. I can say with confidence, however, that This Little Family shows just how much the legal system in any country fails rape victims. The reason Marie heads down her path is because of a lack of options and the knowledge that no one would believe her. That is the saddest tragedy of all.
The post So dark and yet so powerful appeared first on That's What She Read.
2020-06-16 15:00 UTC by Michelle
Death in Her Hands by Ottessa Moshfegh is the type of novel that, upon finishing, had me mentally throwing the book across the room screaming “What. The!” We are stuck in the mind of a judgmental, fat-phobic, psychologically-abused widow who is so damn lonely and isolated that you end up questioning the whole damn novel. No thank you.
To make matters worse, the narrative is not stream-of-consciousness nor is it the ramblings of someone who is mentally ill. I might be able to appreciate it more because at least I know that we are literally in the narrator’s mind. Instead, we have to listen to this omniscient narrator who may or may not be unreliable. We just don’t know because the ending is so nebulous.
Even more disappointing, the note that the narrator finds within the opening sentences is nothing more than a lure to get you to read the story. Once the narrator starts down the road of imagining her own murder mystery surrounding the note, you understand that no one will find out the note’s origins or validity. Then again, by the end, you wonder whether the note ever truly existed.
I feel duped having read Death in Her Hands. Maybe it is my own fault for not understanding what metaphysical suspense is, but there is literally no point to this story, in my opinion at least. It is not a murder mystery nor is there a satisfactory conclusion, let alone any conclusion. The only suspense comes from a dawning realization that our narrator may not be as trustworthy as we initially think. Other reviewers point out that this is a typical Ottessa Moshfegh novel. If so, I don’t think she is the author for me.
The post Nope. appeared first on That's What She Read.
Happy Mother’s Day to those who are celebrating! Happy Sunday to those who are not!
I know I am repeating what so many others have said, but things are absolutely crazy right now. Never in my wildest imagination would I imagine living through a pandemic and a revolution at the same damn time. These are exciting and exhausting and uncomfortable and educational times we are experiencing.
My little corner of the world is progressing as normal. Jim is working from home. His company recently made the decision to work from home indefinitely because productivity has been so high during the shelter-in-place mandates. Upper management is looking to convert the office space they previously had into more production space with one modular area for those who may need to go to the site for any reason. Needless to say, this eliminates a daily three-hour commute for him, so he is very excited about these plans.
Connor remains in Ames, Iowa. He is back to work and looking at plans for the fall. These plans most likely do not include full-time school again but rather knocking out at least a class or two at the community college level before jumping back into full-time student status. He and his girlfriend are participating in the current revolution in any way they can. It is interesting to me that he and I had a discussion about the corrupt police system back in February of this year, where he insisted we need to defund or even disband police departments then. I now know how right he was, which is yet another reminder that it is my kids’ generations that make the necessary changes to our world to ensure equal rights for all.
Holly officially finished her sophomore year last week and has one more week to go of dance classes. She gets a small break and then starts summer classes in July. Right now, she should get back to competing in July as well, but, like so many other things, the dates might change once again. She already knows she has to postpone the date she gets her drivers’ license because she has no instructor-assisted drive time yet, and that is one requirement the state has yet to waive for new drivers. It is all frustrating, but she remains in good spirits about it all. In fact, she put on her activist hat and is busy posting and calling out racism and hatred her peers post. She too has been calling for a revolution for some time, so I know she will continue to be active in promoting needed change.
As for me, I am still not working, and I find I am perfectly okay with it; I don’t miss conference calls or the politics that come with management. I keep busy cooking and cleaning, reading, and sewing. In the next few weeks, I will be working towards getting our house ready to put on the market. Jim and I have been discussing the idea of downsizing for a few years now, and we finally made the decision to do so. We found a condo a mile from our current house that is in the process of being built. Once complete, the association takes care of all lawn and garden maintenance, including snow removal. Since it currently is at the stage where it is nothing but studs and two-by-fours, we can make any changes to the design we want. The condo is significantly smaller than our current house, which means less time cleaning. It also means a smaller mortgage, which helps provide me with more options regarding going back to work. Our long-time realtor is confident our house will sell quickly because the current housing market is on fire right now. Fingers crossed!
So, that is what is keeping us busy these days. Not that we are truly busy. I think I speak for my other two family members when I say we enjoy this slower pace and more time at home. I know the dogs definitely like us home all the time!
How are you doing? What are you doing to survive? Read anything good lately?
The post Sunday Reflections – 14 June 2020 – Still Surviving appeared first on That's What She Read.
- A Les Miz reimaging that just might be better than the original
Book three of The Bone Season series, The Song Rising, by Samantha Shannon is memorable for several different reasons. Not only is it the first book where we move beyond London and Oxford to see other Citadels, we see Paige as the natural leader she is. We also get the exquisite torture that is Warden and Paige trying to define their relationship, and it redefines the meaning of slow burn.
In every book, my love and admiration for Paige increase tenfold. She is not a reluctant heroine, like Katness. Instead, she understands what is at stake, recognizes her role in the revolution, and seeks to save her fellow voyants at any cost. Every action she takes is with the goal of taking down the Scion. Her willingness to put herself in danger is with the understanding that she is the face of the rebellion and therefore leads by example. Fiercely loyal, highly conscious of her role within Scion and the Syndicate, and dedicated, she is an admirable heroine.
Paige is not without her faults, however, as is true of any good heroine. While she understands that she is the face of the rebellion and therefore must lead, she does take on much of the danger herself. She recognizes that her willingness to do so threatens the resistance but cannot seem to change. Plus, she has a tendency to underestimate her foe, something that leads to problems on more than one occasion. In addition, she lives in her head a lot, afraid of sharing her thoughts with loved ones. For someone who is so quick to throw herself in harms’ way, she is very slow to admit her feelings and express her concerns. These failings only make me love her that much more though.
With the situation in London fraught with peril, Paige makes the decision to seek help and answers in other Citadels, which allows the reader to discover what Scion and the clairvoyant society are like in other major cities. Her travels take her to Manchester and Edinburgh, where we see differing degrees of Scion control. We also see the beginning fruits of Paige’s efforts to foment rebellion against Scion among all clairvoyants. This opportunity allows the story to progress in a necessary fashion, but it also provides us more information about Scion’s reach. For, it is one thing to know that Scion exists outside of London and Ireland, but it is another thing to see it for ourselves. Once we do, we understand just how monumental Paige’s goal is and how very far away we are from her achieving it.
The Song Rising also gives us more of what is truly important – more Paige and Warden alone time. Here is where I view Ms. Shannon as a true wordsmith. I say this because there isn’t much that happens physically between the two, but these scenes are still HOT. And frustrating. Paige suffers too much from not sharing her thoughts with Warden, but had she done so, they could avoid a lot of frustrations and awkwardness that occurs between them. Plus, they both deserve happiness in their lives, and their continuous hot and cold spells delay that. Still, those scenes show the potential for fireworks, and I cannot wait for that moment.
I finished The Song Rising convinced that The Bone Season series will end up becoming one of my all-time favorite series. Also, I am thankful that I delayed my continuation of the series because it means a shorter wait for book four than if I had read this one immediately upon release. I already have a few must-reads among the list of 2021 releases, and book four is at the top of my list. If you have been waiting to start this series, don’t. You won’t regret it.
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I was reading through my review of Jennifer L. Armentrout’s Storm and Fury and realized that I did not fangirl nearly as much as I could have. With the sequel, Rage and Ruin, all bets are off. The only thing I can do is fangirl…HARD.
First of all, in this world where all demons should be evil and all angels good, I adore the fact that Ms. Armentrout not only does not dwell in absolutes, she fully challenges them. She specifically calls out the danger that occurs when dealing with such absolutes, something I completely respect. Sure, the story may be about heavenly creatures, but we can still learn from the lessons Trinity faces as she struggles to uncover the end of the world plot about which her father warned her.
Second, I LOVE Trinity. She is feisty and sarcastic but oh-so-vulnerable. She has a disability but never lets it conquer her ability to kick ass – quite literally most of the time. She never waivers from her mistakes either. Sure, she may grumble about admitting them, but she does not shirk from their consequences. She feels so much but never forgets her duty. Responsible but still very much a seventeen-year-old, she is everything I hope my daughter will become – a fighter for others with a tremendous capacity to love.
Speaking of love, can we just take a minute to wipe the drool from our mouths over Zayne? Because HOLY HELL is he one of the hottest characters I have ever met on the page. He is not just a pretty face either. He has a heart of gold and says the most swoon-worthy things. It is tempting to give the book to my husband and tell him to read it and take notes.
Trinity and Zayne together are the sweetest and a fantastic example of what a healthy relationship should be. Their more ***ahem*** romantic scenes are perfection. Steamy without being explicit, these scenes show what such intimacy should be and what it brings to a relationship.
That ending may have taken at least a year off my life. Never have my emotions swung so violently in such a short period of time. With the number of questions I now have, waiting to get answers to those questions may just take another year off my life. Can we please rush the publication of the series finale? Please?
In short, Rage and Ruin is no disappointing sequel. I think it a stronger story overall than the first book in the trilogy with more character growth and more progress of the overarching plot. Zayne and Trinity together are amazing, but the secondary characters are equally fun and complex. The wait for the finale is going to be interminable.
The post Now THIS is a sequel appeared first on That's What She Read.
If ever there was bad timing for a book’s release, it is the release date of Night. Sleep. Death. The Stars. by Joyce Carol Oates. With its discussion of police brutality and bigotry, one would think it is a perfect time to publish the book. However, the police brutality, in this case, occurs against a wealthy, white family patriarch, which feels more like a declaration of “All Lives Matter” rather than a timely story that contributes to the fight against racist police violence.
Also, the tragedy that befalls this larger-than-life patriarch is only the impetus for the rest of the story, which is, in fact, more about the dissolution of the family at the father’s death. Granted, the scene of his beating is horrible. It is rare for a scene of violence to bother me in a story, but I had a very difficult time pushing through that scene, which occurs within the first few chapters. I almost opted to mark it as a DNF because the scene was so uncomfortable. However, it is a brief flash in an over-long story, seen and then passed over for his death and the aftermath.
The rest of the novel follows the five children and wife of the patriarch as they each struggle to cope with his passing and his impact on their lives. We quickly find that three of the children are horrible human beings. Selfish, angry, racist, and wholly absorbed in maintaining the status quo, you find those scenes that focus on them to be just as uncomfortable as the police beating. They hide behind their white privilege and ability to donate money to worthy causes to justify their racism and abhor anyone who may actually comingle with someone of another skin color, including their mother.
If that were not bad enough, the scenes that focus on the widow and her grief drag on interminably. I read the novel for over an hour one night and still did not get through that first rush of grief the widow experiences. At some point, you no longer care about her suffering and her utter lack of interest in life. As callous as it sounds, you just want the scene to end so that the story would move forward.
In the background of all this is the fact that the family files a lawsuit against the local police department who caused their father’s death. It truly is in the background of the novel, mentioned only as a point of the eldest’s anger and obsession. Here is another example of where the story’s release may not be the most timely. The McClaren family is wealthy. They can afford to seek legal justice for their father, but they are the exception. Ms. Oates discusses the expense associated with such lawsuits and how they can last for years. There are very few families who can afford to take on such cases and pointing out this fact seems rather tactless.
Night. Sleep. Death. The Stars. is too much of everything. It is too long. Ms. Oates drags out certain scenes, like the widow’s grief and battle to simply survive after her husband’s death so that they feel never-ending. Three of the siblings are too selfish. The family exhibits too much bigotry and hatred towards those who are not among the family’s class. Ms. Oates tries to soften this through various love interests and a burgeoning interest in social justice within the widow, but it does not feel enough. No one calls the three siblings on their white privilege. The family receives closure in their lawsuit, again something that just does not happen in real life. The entire story made me feel uncomfortable, and not because it forced me to look at my own ignorance regarding racism. I don’t feel that the story contributes anything to the Black Lives Matter movement. In fact, as I previously said, it feels more like a statement that white people can suffer at the hands of the police as well, which is the epitome of those who declare “All Lives Matter.” I finished Night. Sleep. Death. The Stars. rather disgusted with the family, the story in general, and the publisher for releasing the novel. I know Ms. Oates is a literary darling, but this is simply the wrong story for the current situation within the United States right now.
The post Not the right timing for this release appeared first on That's What She Read.
Yeah. I said it. I think that The Court of Miracles by Kester Grant just might be better than Les Misérables, of which it is a feminist reimagining. There are so many twists of the original story that are exciting and give the story a freshness to it without detracting from Hugo’s masterpiece. Plus, there are some sly nods to key aspects of the original, as well as the musical, which are more than a little amusing when spotted.
First and foremost, The Court of Miracles is a female-strong story. Ms. Grant gives the tragic figure of Eponine a makeover, not only by making her the heroine but also by making her strong, clever, and fearless; in fact, she accomplishes things no one else is able to accomplish. Ms. Grant also makes Cosette more than a pretty face by giving her a backbone. Javert is now a woman. There is no love interest. Valjean’s identity will surprise you. Plus, Ms. Grant includes the stealing of the bread, the silver candlesticks, and a little fall of rain – just not in any way you would expect.
Better yet, there is a fascinating criminal world hierarchy at the heart of The Court of Miracles that oddly makes sense. You see such things in other novels about criminal activity and its need to organize in order to avoid mass arrests and disruption by the police, but here we get the history, the exact organization, the rules and regulations of the hierarchy, and the reasons for all of it. The details are outstanding and add to the richness of the story.
I would love to describe The Court of Miracles as a romp but while I found the entire story highly entertaining, it is not nearly light-hearted enough to be able to call it a romp. Make no mistake, the story is dark and violent, involving mature themes and may require trigger warnings in very sensitive readers. However, with its clever nods to Hugo’s story, the great characters, and its well-written storyline, I cannot recommend it highly enough as an escapist summer read.
The post A Les Miz reimaging that just might be better than the original appeared first on That's What She Read.
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