Book Review: A Court of Thorns and Roses Series – Sarah J. Maas

I need to start out with saying I think this series is on the right track for things we need in YA Literature. I loved it. I shamelessly loved it, and I will continue to read it, probably even after the publisher ruins the plot with those added six books they signed.

When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she knows about only from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin—one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.

As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she’s been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow over the faerie lands is growing, and Feyre must find a way to stop it . . . or doom Tamlin—and his world—forever.

So that’s the excerpt from the first book. It’s going to get spoilery from here on out as this is more of a discussion than a real review. The review is: I loved it.

So anyone who’s read the books knows everything goes to shit in the second book and Feyre and Rhysand are mates and DEATH TO TAMLIN… right? Well. While I love Rhysand, and I truly believe he and Feyre were meant to be, and I love where the plot took them, I want to take a little time to argue for Tamlin.

I took to tumblr to get my fill of Feyre x Rhysand fanart and found everyone and their mother talking about how they knew Tamlin was just an abusive relationship from the start and how grotesque he is etc etc -___-

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But let’s talk about Tamlin for a second because there is a very important lesson here that a lot of discussions miss. I just read a point by a tumblr user that pins Tamlin as irredeemable because he killed Rhysand’s family, or idly watched.

Tamlin’s father felt threatened by Rhysand’s court. That was the point. Tamlin’s only fault is that he followed his father. His father told him that, as a king, this is what had to be done to keep their families safe. Tamlin standing on the sideline and watching Rhysand’s mother and sister die was purely a matter of “whose side are you on?”

When a war breaks out, each side thinks they’re on the side of the righteous. No one ever fights a war because they think they’re wrong. We are horrified that Tamlin watched because we love Rhysand. We are on Rhysand’s side. We see him as the righteous leader we would get behind because we are reading through Feyre’s unreliable narrative.

Now, is Tamlin a shitty ass boyfriend? Sure he is. But was it justified? Absolutely. Feyre keeps saying that he stopped trying to woo her after they got engaged. Which might be true. But he was upset and heartbroken when she didn’t break the curse at first. He could have helped her, but maybe he was hurt and outraged by the 50 year curse he had failed to break. He probably blamed himself as well as Feyre.

Now. When they got back to the Spring Court, the boy who lost everything is trying to protect Feyre. The boy who already demonstrated for us how controlling he had learned to be from his father’s fae tradition, is being a dick. Tamlin is a product of his environment. The only problem with Tamlin is that he is ignorant.

Tamlin has feelings. He loves Feyre. He just thinks he is displaying his love, and going to the ends of the earth to help her, to find her, to make up for what he didn’t do under the mountain for her. (Because keep in mind, Tamlin doesn’t know Rhysand the way we do. Tamlin knows the Rhysand of the Court of Nightmares. Please keep that in mind. He knows that Feyre hates Rhysand. He has not seen what we’ve seen.) The problem with Tamlin is that he needs to be taught how to love and Rhysand has already been taught how to love.

Tamlin is a victim of circumstance.

Rhysand is a good person because he has had life experiences that have lead him to understand true empathy and Tamlin is ignorant to that kind of love.

Tamlin is shitty and redeemable. His heart is in the right place.

** Edit**

I got a response here basically stating that Tamlin shouldn’t be excused because he “Doesn’t know any better.” Because he is not a child. And I agree, this is my response:

He has to learn how to behave differently from how he was raised. Tamlin follows the law and does not question it. Because he is an adult it is taking him much longer to learn to question the establishment, where Rhys grew up with that mindset. He didn’t help Feyre because tradition told him not to. Be isn’t someone who doesn’t know any better at all, that is not the point I was trying to make. He is someone who was taught values and truly believes he is on the side of the just. He believes in tradition. But he is willing to change ad displayed in the last scene with Feyre. It’s just taking him a while because he is so old and has grown up with this set of values. I think he’s shitty and I’m glad we got to know Rhys who is undeniably a better character no matter how morally ambiguous he is, but again, Tamlin doesn’t know Rhys as we do.. so if we knew Rhys as Tamlin does, we probably would have acted as Tamlin did. And regarding watching Rhysand family die, again, he thought his father was right. He believed his court was the righteous. It isn’t that he didn’t know better, it’s that this is what he believed to be true and because he believes in tradition, he doesn’t have the mind to question anything.
Tamlin has a lot of learning to do. To be redeemed he has to stop doing things he thinks are right, and start educating himself. I don’t think he has very many unique opinions or ideas. He needs to step outside of tradition and become his own person.

**Edit Edit**

Another user replied “So abuse is excusable under certain circumstances?” and I just thought it was a good part of the discussion to address

My answer for that is:

No, Abuse cannot be justified. But he is not irredeemable because he made decisions based on his past experiences. He was acting in a state of war, trying to keep her safe the only way he knew how based on how his own family was slaughtered in their beds. He tried to keep her safe as he was taught to, and traumatized enough to do, and she left and found a good relationship. He went to find her, not because he wanted to chain her up, but because the last time he saw Rhysand, he was Rhysand of the court of nightmares, the dickhead Rhysand who we know Feyre understands to be a false front. Let us not forget that Rhysand drugged Feyre so she wouldn’t remember him kissing her and grinding on her and having very lewd dancing for all to see. That is how Tamlin remembers him, and that is why he went after Feyre. Tamlin being redeemable does not mean he didn’t do things which are inexcusable. It is up to him to learn from his mistakes. Every character in this book is morally ambiguous and our side in the war determines whose actions are excusable and whose are not.

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Book Review: The Making of Gabriel Davenport – Beverley Lee

41y4hndgmAL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_I highly recommend this book to anyone with a taste for the supernatural. I grew up a very superstitious person and afraid of ghosts and demons, so naturally I gravitate to a good supernatural story, like this one.

This book was thrilling from front to back and filled with characters to love, hate, and be afraid of.
I thoroughly enjoyed Gabe and wished I could see more of him in the book.
Some characters I didn’t like, such as the twins, and Carver. Maybe they took too much time away from Gabe, or maybe they were actually just not my type of people. You’ll have to read to find out.
All I can say that despite my character preferences, the book was well written. It was extremely well written and I cannot wait to read what happens next.

I have an absolute soft spot for Moth. Beverley has made me absolutely fall in love with him and I think he might be my favorite of the book. He’s another one I can’t wait to see more of!

I don’t want to spoil anything, so if you like mystery and superstition, ghost hunts, and demons, this one is for you.

BUY IT HERE

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Book Review: Wink Poppy Midnight – April Genevieve Tucholke

wink poppy midnightApril Genevieve Tucholke never fails to impress me. I am absolutely a fan. I picked this one up first because the cover is GORGEOUS, and second, because I read the Between series by Tucholke and it was incredible.

I have to admit, I was a little thrown off that these three weren’t elves. Wink, Poppy, and Midnight, are the main characters we follow through this story, and are really just high school kids.

I loved how the naming bought a bit of magic and mystery to the book. The whole thing was rather dream-like and even maybe a bit fairy tale, and yet we had some pretty normal characters.

Maybe there wasn’t magic in the book at all. Maybe it was more about how we want magic. Doesn’t everyone want magic?

I think the blaring point of this book is that no one is ever one thing. These characters are multifaceted and will keep you guessing until the very end.

I also enjoyed the strong theme of how outside influence can make you feel like something else entirely. There were strong themes dealing with identity, influence, and labeling.

The whole thing was great, full of incredible characters, and I urge you to read this so we can discuss it.

Book Review: Lady Midnight – Cassandra Clare

Let me preface this by saying I am a fan of Cassandra Clare and though this review is harsh, I respect her as a writer and will continue to read and buy her work.


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Lady Midnight, for me, was a war over Quality vs Quantity. Did we get a 600+ page book? Sure we did. Though as an aspiring writer, I cringed over the unclear plots and redundant description of clothes.

When I first started reading, I gave Cassandra Clare the benefit of the doubt because she had to reintroduce us to the world for the new series without a Clary or a Tessa, who were learning the world with us. But what ended up happening was anytime we learned something new, I felt like it was info-dumping. The narrator took us aside and dumped a Shadowhunter Textbook on our heads and then resumed the story.

The next worrying bit for me, was how much description of appearance there was. How many words are there for the Blackthorn verdigris eyes? I feel like Lady Midnight maybe should have been called Emma and Julian’s closet. I think I know every article of clothing they own.

I have a few bits I want answered but am hopeful will be answered later and are no just abandoned plot lines, like Julian’s sea-glass bracelet everyone stopped talking about halfway through the book.

I did like seeing cameos from the Shadowhunter Alums, but sometimes it just felt like a crutch. The climax of the story dragged on a bit too long and the resolution seemed redundant, mostly because the Alums came back.

We could talk about Emma going Will Herondale on Julian (spoiler, if you know what this means for love) And how at first I just thought Emma and Julian seemed like genderswapped Jace and Clary. (They grew into their own and became their own characters but it took a while for me to connect to them)
We could also talk about Mark being in the middle of an overlapping love triangle. (Though I don’t feel the bond between Cristina and Mark wasn’t enough to hold up an angle of a love triangle.
The betrayal seemed regurgitated…so many things seemed like a stitching of her own novels until they looked like a new one.

But let’s instead talk about what was great: Mark Blackthorn is a sly fox and he’s wonderful.
The forbidden love between Julian and Emma is so hot.
Necromancy!
Honestly, the major plot of the story, the introduction to Faerie was all great and creative and fresh. (though I hated the shadow market and how getting there was exactly like Diagon Alley)

I am excited about the return of Jem and Tessa.

And Kieran’s love story, my goodness. That boy is a tragic gem!

So overall, I liked the story, I don’t mind the love triangles, I just wish the writing was tighter and more precise. Also, Cassie, stop telling me about their clothes every five seconds!

But I’m still going to read the rest of her books and buy everything Cassandra Jean illustrates because I do love the world Cassie Clare creates.

Book Review: Radio Silence – Alice Oseman

25322449I need to tell you first and foremost how much I adored this book. Alice Oseman is a goddess. Solitaire was gorgeous, and her second book, Radio Silence is even better.

So what do you need from a good book? Juicy Romance? Strong Female leads who never miss a beat? Is that what you really need? Because you won’t find it here and I promise you, this book gave me more ‘feels’ than anything I’ve read this year.

I definitely commend Alice Oseman for keeping her cast of characters diverse in sexuality, gender, and ethnicity. That’s just normal, isn’t it? Alice Oseman has a way with making the ordinary extraordinary, doesn’t she? And she doesn’t have to whitewash her characters to do it. Alice showed her mostly non white, entirely LGBTQIA+ characters as normal people, being normal– And guess what? That’s because everyone is normal regardless of these labels, and everyone can carry a novel if the character is fleshed out enough. And no, (for you more conservative readers) it doesn’t mean anyone is shoving an agenda down your throat.

So let’s move on then: Moral of the first section, Alice is inclusive of all people in this book.

Aled Last. I love Aled. He is a sweet and snuggly boy (Alice has said he doesn’t necessarily label himself according to gender, though he was born a boy)  I don’t love him because he needs saving, or because he is in love with the female protagonist, because arguably, neither is true. I love him because he is Aled, and he is remarkable. It is so easy to feel a connection to Aled, … and all the characters for that matter.

But what about the strong female lead? Well. Frances is strong, and female. But the trope we’re all tired of is that women have to be infallible to be strong. I love Alice Oseman because she keeps writing incredibly complex women, even in her minor characters, and you cannot tell me they’re not strong women. They’re real women, girls, people going through things, and she treats her beautifully flawed women the same way we treat cis white male characters… and you know what? I love them, I love her characters. It’s what makes everything so profound and resounding about her plots. Her women aren’t assassins or damsels, they’re just girls, which is what we need.

There had to be one thing right? It’s spoilery. So stop reading if you want to read this book.

Aled is in a complicated relationship with Daniel/Dae Sung. And the realness is a little bit too uncomfortable here because I worry about Daniel influencing Aled to dress in ways he wouldn’t normally do himself. I wondered if Daniel was a little too controlling, though, again, they seem to be in a real relationship with real everyday problems, and I’m hoping it’s something they can eventually get over.

Anyway, please read this book. I give it all my approval. Alice Oseman is doing what we all should be doing, writing real characters who are inclusive of all ethnicities, gender, and sexuality without stereotyping, or defining anyone by one trait.

 

 

Book Review: Ink – Amanda Sun

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I loved this. It was beautiful. The beginning worried me, why are you doing this Katie, he’s trouble, Katie! But I quickly understood.

I loved the mix of ancient Japanese gods, the harmonizing and clashing of cultures, and real urban adventure in this book.
At times, it read like a painting, full of fluid color. At other times, I almost felt like I was reading a text version of a manga, so punchy and full of drama. Everything was lovely.

However, that all being said, it was very generic in it’s basic plot. Ordinary girl is maybe not so ordinary, she falls for the bad boy who is definitely not ordinary, her friends are annoying etc etc.

I know on goodreads the readers think this is somehow a disservice for what the story could have been. What I think this generic plot did was serve to bring YA readers a bit outside their comfort zone.

Unloading Japanese mythology and Yakuza and a completely different culture on teens through literature is a wonderful way to do it, but how do you get them to take the bait? You tie in elements of what they already love through tried and true methods and give them something more, teach them about culture. The story is extraordinary when you think about how seamlessly stitched the two worlds were.

I think this book was engaging, beautifully written, and well designed.

Please pick up this book!

Book Review: Trick – Natalia Jaster

26594092We need to talk about Trick by Natalia Jaster. It was simply the most beautiful books I’ve ever read.

There is a rule amongst his kind: A jester doesn’t lie.

In the kingdom of Whimtany, Poet is renowned. He’s young and pretty, a lover of men and women. He performs for the court, kisses like a scoundrel, and mocks with a silver tongue.

Yet allow him this: It’s only the most cunning, most manipulative soul who can play the fool. For Poet guards a secret. One the Crown would shackle him for. One that he’ll risk everything to protect.

Alas, it will take more than clever words to deceive Princess Briar. Convinced that he’s juggling lies as well as verse, this righteous nuisance of a girl is determined to expose him.

But not all falsehoods are fiendish. Poet’s secret is delicate, binding the jester to the princess in an unlikely alliance . . . and kindling a breathless attraction, as alluring as it is forbidden.

It was all too easy to hang onto every word Poet and Briar spun. I could not put this book down and I wanted to much to savor it. I wanted it to last forever.

Now for the spoilery bits.

Natalia Jaster’s blurb about Trick had me just as tricked about Poet as all of Whimtany. While he enraptured me, and kept me just as painfully interested in him as he did his Sweet Thorn, Briar, it wasn’t until we learned about his sweet secret, everything changed.

I don’t want to go right out and say it, because if you haven’t read this glorious book, I want you to stay surprised.

Beyond the beautiful craft of Jaster’s writing, a very important message about humanity and the cruelty of it pokes its head from the pages. This story is so much more than a tense love story about a boy and a girl who judge each other too quickly.

Never have I read a book which spoke so truly about the many facets of love and it’s different faces.

I can only dream that Natalia Jaster would contribute something to Crows on Heartstrings, because this story was everything anyone needs to know about love. Love of country, love of family and friends, romance. This book had everything. I only wish I could craft my characters the way Natalia Jaster crafted this masterpiece.

My rating: YOU’D BETTER GO BUY THIS BOOK NOW

🙂

 

Book Review: Carry On – Rainbow Rowell

23734628 I was a little conflicted.

But this is a good review. I liked this book. A lot.

When I was in art school we had a rule. If you’re going to do something, make it look like you’ve done it on purpose.

I felt like Carry On wasn’t sure what it wanted to be, and I found myself wondering if any of this was done on purpose.

Is it painfully like Harry Potter in the most silly way? Sure. But I really need to put away all my annoyances at words like “The Humdrum” and how Ebb was clearly Hagrid, and how the Mage was like a pirate/robin hood Dumbledore, and the little reference to McGonagall.  I cannot talk about these things because frankly, I wish they weren’t a thing. I wish they hadn’t been put into the book. But I’ll get to that later.

Carry On addresses the power of words and how we must be the answer to our own problems. No matter how alone we feel, we can always get ourselves back on track. That was a resounding message to me and I think the way Rainbow Rowell approached magic really illustrated this beautifully. She just didn’t do us any justice by making it a little too similar to Harry Potter.

I wish she would have pushed her original ideas (original meaning her own personal ideas rather than the Harry Potter bits) because they were really great. I think she relied on us knowing about the Harry Potter world to heftily support her world building and it really just took away from the story.

For instance, Simon and Baz have a really complicated relationship, but it gets backstoried in a lot of passive voice about just how HarryxDraco they are, and in what ways they aren’t. I would have liked to feel Simon’s disdain for Baz, and see how everything they did was a push and pull. Their relationship was very complex and it would have been nice to see them slowly fall in love. We really just get Simon at the very end of it, when he makes his realization that Baz is the boy he will be gay for, and it left me curious as to how he got to that point. I actually skipped through the last pages because some of the other stories didn’t interest me as much as their love did. I think Simon and Baz went on some intense personal journeys and I just wish we had more of them.

The second thing is that the Humdrum reveal at the end was marvellous, but I was so wrapped up in the quick passive world building of how this is not like Harry Potter in these specific ways , That I just really didn’t ever appreciate the plot there is because I compared it the whole time. The comparison to Harry Potter both in description and of the marketing strategy, made me lose interest in an otherwise brilliant stance on magic, and how that magic can translate into our everyday lives.

The power of words and the power of you is such a great theme and I just wish we had an unadulterated Rainbow Rowell take on magic. The parts of this that were good WERE SO GOOD IT HURT, and I wish I could have had more.

Book Review: Six of Crows – Leigh Bardugo

Six-of-Crows-BookThe Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo was phenomenal and this was even better. In Six of Crows, we follow six teenagers, all with their own specialties, pulling off an impossible heist.

Leigh Bardugo crafted six very unique characters for this new series set in the Grisha world. The character development blew me away.

Can I just gush over Kaz Brekker for a second? The little street urchin lost everything and was reborn a cutthroat thief. We’re sucked into his reputation, and boy, does he live up to it. But as ruthless as our Dirtyhands is, he shows us his fears and concerns, basically that he isn’t the demon Matthias is convinced he is, through his idiosyncrasies he turns into legend.

The twists and turns in this plot were endless, and not solely concerned with the adventure the Crows take us on. We’re thrust into hints of romance, secret treasons, and outright death threats, all while each and every member of the team displays how wonderfully competent they are.

Bardugo made me root for them when I was sure they would fail, and slyly slipped their plans into the reading, just so I could be slapped in the face with “Of course! I never should have doubted you assholes!” after they managed to get by.

I cannot recommend this enough. If you want to fall in love with a gang of teenaged rats who will undoubtedly teach you there is real power in street smarts, man please, just read this. It’s so very well crafted and put together, and it was just a beautiful piece of literature.
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art by kevinwada