Thoughts on Middlesex

I bought this book for myself. This is an honest and spoiler-free review.

MIddlesex

Released: September 16, 2003
Pages: 529 pages (paperback)
Theme(s): Identity, family, immigrants, race, war
Genre(s): Literary Fiction / LGBT+ / Historical Fiction
Age Group: 16+

★★★★½

Middlesex tells the breathtaking story of Calliope Stephanides, and three generations of the Greek-American Stephanides family, who travel from a tiny village overlooking Mount Olympus in Asia Minor to Prohibition-era Detroit, witnessing its glory days as the Motor City and the race riots of 1967 before moving out to the tree-lined streets of suburban Grosse Pointe, Michigan. To understand why Calliope is not like other girls, she has to uncover a guilty family secret, and the astonishing genetic history that turns Callie into Cal, one of the most audacious and wondrous narrators in contemporary fiction. Lyrical and thrilling, Middlesex is an exhilarating reinvention of the American epic.

My Thoughts

I picked up Middlesex at the end of May while our house was still out of electricity after a crazy storm. I had bought this book early last year as it was a book I’d been aware of for a long time, having loved The Virgin Suicides movie which is based on the book also by Jeffrey Eugendies. So this book was a kind of “bucket list” read for me; there was no urgency to reading it. Despite what I gathered from this book’s summary, I quickly discovered as I was sucked into the world of this book that I had no idea I could have expected.

One word could be best used to describe this novel: EPIC.

Middlesex is told from the narrator of Calliope Stephanides as an adult living in Germany. He describes his family history starting with his paternal grandparents, Lefty and Desmodena, to reveal how he came to be who he is. His narrative voice is absolutely charming. I think he’s one of my favorite narrators of all time, the way he describes his family’s past as if he’s a fly on the wall, zooming in and out of focus to relay his grandparents’ and parents’ unique life experiences as Greek immigrants in the Detroit during the 20th century.

I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974.

Going into this book, I was expecting it to focus primarily on the narrator’s life. So I was so surprised to find that this book lingers far longer upon the experiences of his immigrant grandparents and why they had to leave their home, how they crafted new identities and made it through Ellis Island, and how they adjusted to new lives as Americans in Detroit in the 1920s at the height of its greatness. I loved learning about Detroit, a city of which I’m sad to say I’ve only had negative associations growing up.

I was also surprised at how this book was also a love letter to Detroit, and how much I learned about history: the eastern European immigrant experience pre-WWII, the Civil Rights movements of African-Americans and the LGBT+ community, etc. It was so unexpected but also so appreciated.

I actually loved learning about the history through the grandparents’ and parents’ lives so much that it was a kind of a bummer when the book finally began to focus on Callie, especially after their family moves into the suburbs. Much of the narration at this point begins to center on Callie’s childhood and adolescent experiences leading up to her self-discovery.

End Note

I loved this book. It took me a while to finish, but it was an engrossing read that completely transported me into the story with all its historical and familial detail. To anyone who thinks they might want to read this book, I encourage you to do so. I also recommend that you have a good amount of time to commit to it. It took me almost a month to finish this book, although to be fair I went almost two weeks without picking it up after burnout, even though I was enjoying it! Also, I skipped ahead to the end eventually, impatient to see what would happen.

I think this book is an incredibly timely read right now. If you live in the US and follow the news, you likely have heard about the recent controversy about North Carolina trying to block transgender people from using the gendered bathrooms with which they identify. And just this past weekend, an unbalanced psychopath (likely a closeted & conflicted homosexual) took an AR-15 (an assault weapon which is legal for US civilians to purchase because of the National Rifle Association) to kill 49 innocent people in a gay nightclub in Orlando.

We are still fighting for a world that understands and is accepting of all people, regardless of race, sex, etc. So I really thinks books like Middlesex are great reminders of history that is rarely taught in schools (based on my Texas high school experience) that it’s important to know where we came from so that we can put our best feet forward.

 Thank you for reading!
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May Notes | 2016

As usual, May was a transitional month for me. I finished my second semester of grad school early this month (with straights A’s, woohoo!), moved out of my first real apartment, and returned to Conroe where I’ll be spending yet another summer with my parents (hopefully my last). Most of my time since then has just been spent reading and relaxing as I mull over my future.

Last week were had some really bad weather that resulted in us losing our electricity (& thus A/C and wi-fi) for about 48 hours. It was horrible, but it could have been worse (luckily our house wasn’t hit by any trees and we still had running water during this time). I wish I had taken some pictures of the wreckage in our neighborhood, but my iPhone never had a full-charge over that time and we had to rely on charging our phones in the cars. I got a lot of reading done during this time, but sleeping was difficult because it was so warm.

The power outage also resulted in some difficulty posting here and threw in a wrench in some of my writing plans. But, overall, I feel like I’m ending this month on a high note.

What I Read

I completed four books over the course of May and am currently in the midst of two I also started this month. I had hoped to read more, but I actually did read quite a lot considering how big a few of these books were. Starting with the books I finished: At the Water’s Edge (★★★), A Court of Thorns and Roses (★★), A Court of Mist and Fury (★★★), and A Gathering of Shadows (★★).

watersedge acotar acomaf Gathering-of-Shadows_UKcover-400x586

At the Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen | This book is set during WWII in Scotland where the female protagonist Maddie, her husband, and her husband’s best friend go to get proof of the Loch Ness monster. It’s a wonderful tale of disillusionment and female empowerment. I can’t recommend this book highly enough, it was such a random read and just what I needed at the time I read it. (In case you recognize the author’s name, she also wrote Water for Elephants, which is another magical-seeming historical fiction novel with a movie starring Robert Pattinson & Reese Witherspoon.)

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas | This was actually I reread, I first read it last fall and had wanted to read it again before I started A Court of Mist and Fury which came out on May 3rd! This reread ended up feeling a tad tedious, and a lot less enjoyable than the first. The first 100 pages in particular was rough because reading about Feyre obsess over her family was frustrating. Then we she was reunited with them again, it was terribly slow again.

A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas | I started ACOMAF directly after ACOTAR and it proceeded to take me around a week to finish and it was super long as I found myself needing to slow down parts of the way through. Overall, this book took me completely by surprise and what most impressed me was how well-thought out this book was considering how things changed in character relationships from the first book to the second. I have had to look at ACOTAR so completely differently now.

A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab | I decided to pick up A Gathering of Shadows immediately after finishing ACOMAF, because I didn’t quite know what I was in the mood for next. I had actually started AGOS in March and not gotten very far at the time so it was great to get this one out of the way this month. I’m disappointed to say I did not enjoy much about this book. Very little happens and nothing happens to further invest me in reading the next book, not even that ridiculous cliff-hanger.

Currently Reading

MIddlesex     stokes

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides | I did not have any concrete plans to read Middlesex this month but I started it after AGOS just feeling like I needed to read something that was going to be different. I hoped to finish this book in May, but it just didn’t happen! This book is deceptively long, but it’s also unbelievably good so I don’t even mind! This will be the first book I finish in June and there will most definitely be a “Thoughts on Middlesex” coming as soon as I finish it!

How to Do Media and Cultural Studies | This is the book that came with my order of ACOMAF which I should have bought last fall but didn’t because we didn’t need to read much from this book and it’s pricey. But I realized it might be a good one to get and study over the summer as I am essentially trying to do independent study right now. I’ve only read the first two introductory chapters, but I’m hoping to finish this one up early this month.

What I Watched

Over the course of May I found myself watching a few random movies earlier this month after I returned from Dallas. I watched two smaller independent films, the first of which being Infinitely Polar Bear which starred Mark Ruffalo as a bipolar dad in the late 1970s Boston who has to take care of his daughters in for 18 months as his wife (Zoe Saldana) works on her MBA in NYC. It was very sentimental and harm-warming, but lacked in any grit and was a little anti-climactic. But it showed a nice depiction of a modern family and mental illness.

The other independent film I watched was Ricki and the Flash which stars Meryl Streep as an aging rockstar who never quite made it to the big time but seems pretty happy performing regularly a bar with her band. I was surprised to find this movie was written by the same woman who wrote Juno, which was one of my favorite movies in high school. This wasn’t a great movie, but I loved how it touched on double standards for male and female performers who are parents. As weird as I realize it sounds, I have no trouble believing Meryl Streep could totally have been a rock star. Her voice is perfect for the classic songs she sings.

As far as TV shows go, I finally started watching The Night Manager with Tom Hiddleston which aired on the US channel AMC this spring shortly after it aired in the UK/Europe. I asked my dad to record it while I was still in school, so when I came back I had nearly the entire series waiting for me! It’s only 6 episodes and is a modern day adaption of the novel by the same name. It’s about an ex-soldier who turns spy in order to avenge the death of a woman for whom’s death he feels he is partially responsible. The locations are beautiful and Hiddleston does a great job of infiltrating the ranks of this horrible man’s inner circle in order to thwart and expose his plans to sell illegal arms.

End Note

I’m actually really happy with how May turned out and excitedly enter June. I don’t really know what to expect this coming month, but I have a few plans in the works that I will hopefully be sharing soon. Tomorrow I think I will be posting my June 2016 TBR + Goals. My review of Middlesex should also be out as soon as I finish the book. And I’m hoping to get back into the swing of writing so hopefully June will mark my return and hopefully some successes on that front.

Thank you for reading!
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Thoughts on A Gathering of Shadows

A Gathering of Shadows

I ordered this book from Book Depository. This is an honest and spoiler-free review not to be read if you haven’t read the first book A Darker Shade of Magic.

Gathering-of-Shadows_UKcover-400x586

Released: February 23, 2016
Pages: 508 pages (paperback)
Theme(s): Magic, power, strength, loyalty
Genre(s): New Adult / Fantasy
Age Group: 12+

★★

Four months have passed since the shadow stone fell into Kell’s possession. Four months since his path crossed with Delilah Bard. Four months since Rhy was wounded and the Dane twins fell, and the stone was cast with Holland’s dying body through the rift, and into Black London.

In many ways, things have almost returned to normal, though Rhy is more sober, and Kell is now plagued by his guilt. Restless, and having given up smuggling, Kell is visited by dreams of ominous magical events, waking only to think of Lila, who disappeared from the docks like she always meant to do. As Red London finalizes preparations for the Element Games—an extravagant international competition of magic, meant to entertain and keep healthy the ties between neighboring countries—a certain pirate ship draws closer, carrying old friends back into port.

But while Red London is caught up in the pageantry and thrills of the Games, another London is coming back to life, and those who were thought to be forever gone have returned. After all, a shadow that was gone in the night reappears in the morning, and so it seems Black London has risen again—meaning that another London must fall.

My Thoughts

I first started reading A Gathering of Shadows (AGOS) in March, but shelved it because it was taking rather long to get started and I didn’t want to force myself to read it and end up resenting it. So rather than letting it gather dust on my bookshelves, I made myself a goal of reading in May after I’d caught up on the other series sequels that have come out in the last couple of months. What I most immediately learned was putting it down in March was a good idea, because this book does not truly get started about the halfway point.

Schwab spends more than half the book catching us up on Kell, Rhy, Lila, and Holland. After tethering his life to Rhy’s to save the prince’s life, Kell is struggling with his new responsibility to protect him and the blame most of Red London still places upon his shoulders, including the King and Queen who raised him. Rhy is also guilty and traumatized by the events of the first book. Both Kell and Rhy spend this book trying to prove themselves and adapt to their new bond.

Lila on the other hand after leaving Kell in the first book ends up on the ship of Kell’s mysterious enemy, the pirate–sorry, “privateer”–Alucard Emery. This is a really fun character introduced in this book with a mysterious backstory involving Kell and Rhy. He’s the person who actually ends up teaching Lila her burgeoning powers. He might be my favorite character in the series thus far, and I hate that he becomes side-lined as the story goes on.

Finally there’s Holland, who’s chapters are sprinkled conservatively throughout the book, who awakes after the events of ADSOM in Black London, the London who burned out its magic long ago and was cut off from the other worlds to protect them against its diseased land. Holland is forced to make a difficult choice in order to help his own White London flourish. He also has a plan to transfer his debt to Kell, who has no idea what’s happening in White London since his last visit.

Over half way through AGOS, we finally begin to get hints that Red London’s Essen Tasch, or the Element Games, is at the center of this second novel. Rhy’s in charge of hosting the games, Alucard returns to London to participate, and Kell and Lila disguise themselves in order to participate. Romance, action, and deception ensue.

I did not really enjoy this book. It was very readable, but I never left the book eager to return. I think the problem is that I just do not like any of the characters. For this book to be impactful, I think you need to feel connected to the characters from the first book because this second book is so character-driven, as opposed to plot-driven. Even the Element Games, which should have been more fun and interesting (as it feels very much in the vein of the Hunger Games, the Triwizard Tournament, etc.) lacked of truly high stakes that it felt purely like distraction for the characters.

To even talk plot would feel like a spoiler, because there’s so little to share and it all happens at the very end. The villains don’t have anything to do with the story, including the Element Games, and only pop up at the end to shake things up and end the book on a unjustified cliffhanger.

End Note

If you love the characters from ADSOM, I think you will enjoy this book just fine. But if you like a well-plotted story then this one is most definitely worth skipping, because this book suffers from the worst case of “middle book syndrome” I’ve ever seen. Unless the third book is out-of-this-world-amazing, I honestly think ADSOM would have been better left a stand-alone novel. Because there’s nothing in AGOS that feels like it was important to this series as a whole.

One might say this is a book about “character development” or “worldbuilding,” but I honestly think what Schwab manages in over 200 pages could just as well have been accomplished in 50 and through a better plot in order to make room for more exciting action.

I do not think I will be picking up the final book.

 Thank you for reading!
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Thoughts on ACOMAF

I pre-ordered this book from Amazon. This is an honest and spoiler-free review not to be read if you haven’t read the first book, A Court of Thorns and Roses.

acomaf

Released: May 3, 2016
Pages: 624 pages (hardcover)
Theme(s): Independence, romance, equality, freedom, choice, destiny, war
Genre(s): New Adult / Fantasy
Age Group: 16+

★★

Feyre survived Amarantha’s clutches to return to the Spring Court—but at a steep cost. Though she now has the powers of the High Fae, her heart remains human, and it can’t forget the terrible deeds she performed to save Tamlin’s people.

Nor has Feyre forgotten her bargain with Rhysand, High Lord of the feared Night Court. As Feyre navigates its dark web of politics, passion, and dazzling power, a greater evil looms—and she might be key to stopping it. But only if she can harness her harrowing gifts, heal her fractured soul, and decide how she wishes to shape her future—and the future of a world cleaved in two.

With more than a million copies sold of her beloved Throne of Glass series, Sarah J. Maas’s masterful storytelling brings this second book in her seductive and action-packed series to new heights.

My Thoughts

A Court of Mist and Fury is a monster of book. So much happens that it took me several days to finish it, and by the end I could only read about 50 pages in each sitting. I also could not help but spoil myself by reading ahead at a certain point in the book, which allowed me to take even more time getting to the end. Which, by the way, I do not regret. If I hadn’t skipped ahead, the ending would have killed me even more. Also, knowing the end allowed me to enjoy a slower pace and digest the story better.

Picking up where ACOTAR left off with Feyre adjusting to her new life as a High Fae dealing with the consequences of having been forced to kill two innocent fae in order to save Tamlin and the rest of Parthian. Feyre is a broken mess of a person wrecked by guilt. Tamlin too is changed by the events Under the Mountain and left unable to comfort or understand what Feyre needs in order to heal.

Luckily Feyre has Rhysand to help put her back together after the bargain she made Under the Mountain that requires her to give him a week’s company every month in his territory, the mysterious Night Court.

In this book, we discover more about the history of Prythian and the events that led to Amarantha’s rise and fall in the first book. Although, one might think with Amarantha out of the picture all would be good and well; however, we quickly learn that the King of Hybern has been preparing his own strike on Prythian and to take down the wall that protects humans from the more ill-intentioned fae.

In addition to learning more about Prythian, we meet several new characters and creatures that help move the plot along. Rhysand turns out to have a very loyal Inner Circle of friends that are more like a family of mistfits, the potential allies of the ruling class of the Summer Court, and the troublesome mortal queens who reign over the human realm. But we also see the return of some familiar faces like Feyre’s sisters who turn out to have a bigger part to play in this book than anyone would have thought (including the characters themselves).

Overall, this book has a tremendous more action and romance than the first book and covers a lot of ground rather quickly. I think this book will most definitely satisfy the readers of the ACOTAR because it delivers on everything: worldbuilding, romance, action, you name it. I most definitely cannot wait now for the next book, which I don’t entirely know what to expect that could match this book in scope or depth!

In Conclusion…

If you plan on reading ACOMAF, know that it is a kind of massive undertaking as a book. It also might give you whiplash if you read it directly after reading ACOTAR because the characters end up becoming so different after the final events of the first book. I definitely recommend making sure you have enough time to read, digest, and recover from this book as it might give you a book hangover. Sarah J. Maas proves that she knows how to torture us and her characters, because ACOMAF ends on a horrendous cliff-hanger that promises some exciting things in the next (and final?) book of this series.

I think it is also important to note that more so than any other book of Sarah J. Maas’ that I have read (which is all, minus The Assassin’s Blade) this book has some very graphic, mature sex scenes sprinkled throughout the book. It kind of caught me off guard, seeing as there was none of that in the first book (that I recall).

 Thank you for reading!
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Intimidating TBR Pile

itbr

I’ve been wanting to do the Intimidating TBR for a long time, probably almost two months, but because I also wanted it to double as a kind of Summer TBR I wanted to wait until my summer had started to finally post it! I do not expect to read all these books this summer, but I am motivated to crack down on these books that I’ve owned for a while now so as to assuage my buyer’s remorse.

Q1. What book have you been unable to finish?

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. I first started this book about 3 years ago now and I’ve just never felt compelled to finish reading it. I think it might be partially due to the fact that I’m not exactly the target demographic. But this is still one I hope to read.

Q 2–8. What book have you yet to read because…

…you just haven’t had the time?

A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab. This book came out in February and I’ve just not been able to prioritize it because I’ve gotten busy or I felt more pressure to read other books first. I’ve also debated rereading the first book A Darker Shade of Magic but decided it might just slow me down either further, so I’m probably going to pick this one up soon and just go.

…it’s a sequel?

Eldest & Brisingr by Christopher Paolini. I read Eragon for the first time when it just came out and the reason I haven’t finished this series is because so much time passed between sequels for me at that age and I just didn’t keep up with it. I reread Eragon last summer in preparation for finally finishing the series, but it still just didn’t happened! Hoping to accomplish that goal this summer though.

…it’s brand new?

How to Do Media and Cultural Studies by Jane Stokes. This book was on my required reading list for my EMAC 6300 class last fall and I never bought it. It just came in the mail last week along with A Court of Mist and Fury, and I’m really hoping to read it early this summer so I can try and start my research soon.

…you read a book by the same author and didn’t enjoy it?

Somnambulist by Essie Fox. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy Elijah’s Mermaid…Well, I didn’t because it was more than a little traumatizing. But it’s really that I hated what happened to all the main characters. I felt like everything horrible that happened to them was out of their control and I feel like I did not get enough satisfaction by the end. I did love The Goddess and the Thief, though…

…you’re just not in the mood for it?

Slasher Girls and Monster Boys. I bought this book last fall in preparation for some spooky Halloween reading, but I’ve just not gotten around to finally reading it. I’m worried I won’t like it.

…it’s humongous?

The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton. This book is tall and thick. It’s probably my heaviest non-hardback book. I also don’t entirely know what to expect from it so I’ve no thoughts good or bad about it.

…because it was a cover buy that turned out to have poor reviews?

The Miniaturists by Jessie Burton. I think I first saw this book in a booksandquills video and was enchanted by the cover. I’ve since become more aware of what it is like. I’m not sure I believe the bad reviews I’ve read, rather they’ve just made me hesitant to pick this book up. I feel like this is one that will need to be picked up at the right time to be enjoyed.

Q9. What is the most intimidating book in your TBR pile?

The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton. Of the books I’ve listed here, The Luminaries‘ sheer size is what most intimidates me! I worry it will be slow and drag on and on and I’ll fall into a reading slump.

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May 2016 TBR

My summer break begins mid-May so I’m hoping to get caught up on my Goodreads challenge this month and finally read a bunch of books that have been on my TBR for a while. I have in this post five books I’m fairly certain I will be able to read this month, but I’m actually hoping I’m able to read at least ten. Friday I will be releasing my Intimidating TBR Pile which is also unofficially doubling as my Summer 2016 TBR, so hopefully I’ll manage to get to some of those as well. I want to leave it open for now though.

may2016tbr

Library Books

At the Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen | I started this book on May 1st before I went to sleep. It started off really promising. It’s set during WWII in Scotland and will involve the Loch Ness monster apparently so I’m really looking forward to getting further into the book. It’s by the same author who wrote Water for Elephants, which was another lovely period piece I read around the time the movie by the same name came out a few years ago.

The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer | This is a book I was first introduced to on BookTube last fall I think. It’s nonfiction and written by a woman from the band the Dresden Dolls (which I actually kind of listened to my freshman year of high school). I’m hoping this will be an inspiring read. I’m someone who has had trouble asking for help when it comes to creative stuff because I’m naturally inclined to be as self-sufficient as possible. So I’m interested in learning what this book has to offer!

Owned Books

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas | This will be a reread. I read it for the first time last fall and I unexpectedly became absolutely captivated by the story and this new world Sarah J. Maas created. I ended up ordering it in March so I’m really excited to finally get the chance to read it again during summer as I’m hoping it will inspire me to want to write again.

A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas | This sequel was in my Most Anticipated Releases of 2016 list and comes out finally on May 3, 2016. I actually just preordered it on Amazon today along with another book I’ve realized I need to own for my future studies. So I’m looking forward to reading it as soon as I can finish my reread of A Court of Thorns and Roses! I have a little bit of an idea of what will be happening in this book and I’m so excited!

A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab | I started trying to read this book in March, I believe, and had to set it down because I was just not that interested in reading it at the time. I don’t feel a desire to reread the first book before I get to this one, I just think that I need to be in the right mood to enjoy this book fully so I don’t want to force myself to read it prematurely. I am getting more and more excited to read it now though!

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This reimagining of The Arabian Nights blew me away.

The Wrath and the Dawn

I borrowed this book from my university library on a whim. This is an honest and spoiler-free review.

wrathdawn

Released: May 12, 2015
Pages: 395 pages (hardcover)
Theme(s): Destiny, choice, responsibility, duty, morality
Genre(s): YA/Magical Realism/Historical Fiction
Age Group: 13+

★★½

In a land ruled by a murderous boy-king, each dawn brings heartache to a new family. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, is a monster. Each night he takes a new bride only to have a silk cord wrapped around her throat come morning. When sixteen-year-old Shahrzad’s dearest friend falls victim to Khalid, Shahrzad vows vengeance and volunteers to be his next bride. Shahrzad is determined not only to stay alive, but to end the caliph’s reign of terror once and for all.

Night after night, Shahrzad beguiles Khalid, weaving stories that enchant, ensuring her survival, though she knows each dawn could be her last. But something she never expected begins to happen: Khalid is nothing like what she’d imagined him to be. This monster is a boy with a tormented heart. Incredibly, Shahrzad finds herself falling in love. How is this possible? It’s an unforgivable betrayal. Still, Shahrzad has come to understand all is not as it seems in this palace of marble and stone. She resolves to uncover whatever secrets lurk and, despite her love, be ready to take Khalid’s life as retribution for the many lives he’s stolen. Can their love survive this world of stories and secrets?

Inspired by A Thousand and One Nights, The Wrath and the Dawn is a sumptuous and enthralling read from beginning to end.

My Thoughts

The Wrath and the Dawn is a book I did not expect to love as much as I did. I knew it would be a romance, but I’m always apprehensive about romances with a tricky power-dynamic, so I went into this story expecting a spoiled and ruthless king and a weak but brave girl who changes his heart. I had also read An Ember in the Ashes earlier this year, which has a similar middle eastern feel to it and that weak female protagonist, so those associations were enough to keep me from giving this book a chance. But I’m so glad I ultimately decided to pick up this book because it was nothing like An Ember in the Ashes!

This is a book that not only has a wealth of complex characters and breathtakingly magical world, but also an important message. The romance is just a one part of this book that serves to help the lovers change their assumptions and hope for a better future than the ones for which they believe they are destined. In other words, the romance of this book advances the character development and story and makes this book a treasure no one should want to miss!

Shahzrad 

One of my hesitations about reading books set in the middle east is that I will not like how the women are treated in their world. I do not like to read books where the female characters are unable to control their destinies, specifically because of their gender. It turns out I did not have to worry about this in The Wrath and the Dawn, as the women in this book were absolutely treasured by their families.

This story is about Shahzrad, or Shazi, who sets off to avenge the death of her best friend with the blessing–or at least the understanding–of her friends and family. But The Wrath and the Dawn is also about the lengths to which fathers will go to avenge their daughters. While their passion is clearly stomping out all reason, it is heartwarming nevertheless.

Khalid

I think the tendency in most books these days is for the “bad boy” characters to realize the errors of their previous ways be redeemed by love once they meet the “right girl”. And I get it; I certainly had this girlish fantasy at period of my life as I’m sure most girls do. But Khalid, it turns out, is not so bad we go into this novel thinking. It turns out he has a secret that the protagonist realizes she must be uncover in order to avenge her best friend and also save the boy she realizes she’s fallen in love with. This mystery is part of what made this book such a page-turner!

The storytelling is so enchanting.

In The Wrath and the Dawn, one of the inherent themes at work is the power of stories. In order to live to the next night at the beginning of this novel, Shazi engrosses the king in a story that she is careful not to let end so that he is forced to let her continue to live if he wishes to find out what happens next. I worried these storytelling sessions might grow boring, but they were actually really wonderful and I was sad when they ended! It makes sense why: because Shazi and Khalid become the center of their own story which is the true purpose of the novel.

A valuable commentary on revenge.

The Wrath and the Dawn is a novel all about revenge. It starts with Sahzi’s revenge plot already set in motion, after she’s in the palace and getting married to the man who murdered her best friend. But this novel turns into a commentary on the true cost of revenge. We learn that past revenges have resulted in the current devastating state of affairs in Khorasan. But that is all I can say without spoiling the book!

Final Thoughts

I looked it them up, and it appears the setting of this book including Khorasan and Parthia were real, ancient kingdoms located in, or around, present-day Iran. So I think it’s marvelous to think that this magical world could have once existed. So I love that this book is in itself a love letter to a begone time and a reimagining of a classical work of world literature which not many young Westerners will know about.

I encourage anyone who has even considered the possibility of reading this book to give it a shot. It defied all my expectations and turned out to be an absolutely beautiful work of fiction. The ending was a little predictable for me, especially as I went into this book knowing there would be a sequel. So that was the one downside for me, but I could overcome my disappointment because this book beautifully sets up what will no doubt be an explosive second book in The Rose and the Dagger.

 Thank you for reading!
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March Wrap Up + April TBR

marchapril

Introduction

I finally feel like it’s time to accept that there wasn’t much of a winter where I live and that it’s been spring for a while now. With just a little over a month left of school, I have a lot of final class assignments and projects on my agenda. I also will begin my moving process at the end of April and into early May, but that doesn’t mean I plan to neglect my blog, reading progress, or writing routine! As it’s been such a long time, I’ve decided to do a monthly wrap up and TBR today as I want to begin recording my reading progress again.

March Wrap Up

I was surprised to look at my Goodreads shelf and find that I finished six books this month! It all happened in a relatively short amount of time. Another thing I realized is that March was primarily a month of rereads as The Amulet of Samarkand, Persepolis, and The Winner’s Curse were all rereads!

marchreads

If I learned anything by rereading three books this month, it is the affirmation that books that strike a chord with you are ones that come into your life at the right time, or vice versa. I found that my opinions had changed on all these books, most funnily my opinion about Kestrel from The Winner’s Curse. Having read The Winner’s Crime, I was able to appreciate more of the things she did in this book and be less critical of her overall. (But that ending still hurt as much the second time, I must say!)

The new books I read this month were the Captive Prince trilogy by C.S. Pacat. What a whirlwind these books are. I read them all back-to-back over the beginning weekend of spring break. I was addicted to the story and the characters, which did confuse me to be honest. These books are very risqué and I advise caution to anyone who is thinking about reading them, because I went in a little blind and was shocked to say the least! The writing was not spectacular (we are “told” a lot, but not “shown”) but the plotting and characters were excellent. I was not thrilled by the ending though, it felt cut off a little too swiftly.

April 2016 TBR

This April I will be participating in Camp NaNoWriMo, so I do not expect to read much more than I did in March. But I have a good idea of some of the books I’m itching to read right now. I want to be able to finish rereading The Winner’s Crime before The Winner’s Kiss gets here so I can read it the moment it arrives! I also want to try to read several books that I picked up from the library earlier this week, including: Truthwitch, The Wrath and the Dawn, The Weight of Feathers, The Accidental Highwayman, and A Thousand Nights. I don’t expect to read all these books, but I would like to be surprised and find myself liking them all!

As it will be a busy month, I’ll be really pleased with myself if I read at least four books. That’s my goal.

End Note

This month I also recorded a new introduction video for my YouTube channel and I’m hoping to upload a lot more over April so I encourage you to head over there and subscribe if that sounds like something you are interested in! I would like to do a lot of my Camp NaNoWriMo updates over there, so that be important to note if you’re here primarily for my writing posts. I also expect to post a lot more here on Ink Keys & Other Things over the rest of April so stay tuned for more information on a blog schedule, etc.!

In the comments, let me know how your reading has gone this month. Also let me know if you’ve read any of the books mentioned and which you might strongly be in favor of me reading!

Thank you for reading!
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Most Anticipated Releases of 2016

mostantheadIn recent years, there has been no shortage of young/new adult fantasy series coming out. Over the past year, I’ve read my fair share of these new and on-going series and caught up as much as I can in the ones by which I’ve been most captivated. The books on this list represent an assortment of sequels that are either simply the next installment in an on-going series or the final books which will wrap it up.

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The Winner’s Kiss | March 29, 2016

This is the final book in The Winner’s Trilogy by Marie Rutkoski. I had not read the first two books expecting to be blown away. I still remember how horrible most of the first book, The Winner’s Curse, was in terms of the romantic tension (clichéd and overwrought). But it ended so strongly that I decided to read the second book, The Winner’s Crime, which had just debuted at the time. I am so happy I stuck with the series because the second book was that good. It also ended in a horrible cliff-hanger! Recently there was some controversy over a cover change announcement for this series which (not gonna lie) was a big part of my decision to buy the first two books last month and pre-order The Winner’s Kiss (all in the gorgeous original hardcovers). I will probably read this final book the day it arrives at the end of this month!

A Court of Mist and Fury | May 3, 2016

I read the first book in this series, A Court of Thorns and Roses, last fall. I’ve had a love-hate relationship with the Throne of Glass (ToG) series, and when I saw it at the library I decided to give it shot. It was no surprise that I had the same exact issues with it that I do the ToG series (regarding the protagonist and the romance), but at the same time I was really impressed by the inventiveness of the story. Sarah J. Maas has the ability to get so dark and craft such unique worlds and creatures. It makes up for the shortcomings.

Empire of Storms | September 6, 2016

This is the fifth book in the ToG series. Since the third book, Heir of Fire, I have been truly hooked on this series past the point of no return! Queen of Shadows was the first book that did not end on a major cliffhanger, so I’m really excited to see what happens in Empire of Storms because I have no idea how everything that needs to happen is going to happen!

Crooked Kingdom | September 22, 2016

Six of Crows has easily been my favorite read of 2016 so far. I have no idea how I had been able to put off reading it for so long. I had enjoyed The Grisha trilogy when I read it last semester, but I had not really been enticed by the summary for Six of Crows. Luckily, I read it because it was so good. Like, so good. It is definitely in top favorite books of all time. I loved every single character, and there was literally nothing I would have changed about that book. So Crooked Kingdom is probably the book I’m most excited to get my hands on at the moment! September cannot come any sooner.

The Fate of the Tearling | November 29, 2016

The Queen of the Tearling series was my favorite series that I discovered in 2015, both in terms of quality and enjoyment. There are just so many unique qualities to the book, from the protagonist to the world and setting. I particularly love the mystery elements to the story and hope all my questions are satisfactorily answered in this final series installment! The Fate of the Tearling was originally supposed to debut to summer but was moved to November for some reason. Also there was a cover change (the “original” was purple and of a similar landscape aesthetic as the first two books). So I am hoping nothing else happens to delay this book and that it is worth the wait!

Thank you for reading!
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Bookentine 2016 TBR

♥ ♡ ♥   Bookentine 2016   ♥ ♡ 

This February 8–14th is the second annual Bookentine read-a-thon which was created last year by the Australian book blogging duo Michelle & Ely from Tea & Titles! I can’t believe it’s almost been a year since the original read-a-thon because that is how I met Ely and really began to feel like a part of the book blogging community. It was quite by chance that I discovered this read-a-thon, and I’m happy to participate once again this year!

I don’t do many read-a-thons anymore because I generally burn out after I’ve read my first book and lose all excitement. Also, I really loved read-a-thons when I felt like it was a race for me to complete my reading goal for the year. This year I know it’s more than possible, so I’m in no hurry and just want to enjoy being able to read whatever I like.

You can read whatever books you like, but Michelle & Ely created three optional challenges to help inspire your selection if you feel like spicing things up.

The challenges:

  1. Read a contemporary set outside of America.
  2. Read a 2015 release you didn’t get to.
  3. Read a book by an author you’ve never read before.

I personally will not be focusing on the challenges, although I will be completing the second one, as what I really want is to use this read-a-thon to read books I’ve been meaning to read and think a read-a-thon would be perfect motivation for me to hunker down and finish.

First, I would like to finish Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. I started this book in January and although I’ve enjoyed the first 80 pages or so, I’ve felt the need to finish other books first. I think this book would be perfect to read during a read-a-thon because of the unusual format.

I also would like to read a book called Status Update by Alice E. Marwick. It was assigned reading in one of my classes this past semester and I found it really interesting and important for anyone interested in working in social media, which I think I would like to do. Also, it’s non-fiction so I don’t think I will have trouble reading it after Illuminae if I get a book hangover after reading it.

And if there’s anytime left over from that, I’d like to make a dent in my writing buddy’s first novel draft she gifted me for Christmas! I want to provide her with feedback as she is already going through edits for this story, so I need to finish it up soon!

If you are also planning on participating or have read any of the books I’ve mentioned, let me know in the comments!  Also make sure to use the hashtag #Bookentine16 on Twitter to keep up with everyone and get to know fellow participants.

Thank you for reading!
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