Raybearer is a West-African inspired fantasy novel, and I cannot believe it’s a debut. I’m so impressed by the writing, world-building, mythology, and magic system. If I read this a few months earlier I would have loved it even more, but in the last month I’ve started transitioning to the adult genre and YA hasn’t really grabbed me. However, I did enjoy this. I look forward to reading the next book(s), and I highly recommend this!
Things I like
the writing is phenomenal
world-building, mythology, magic
asexual and bisexual rep
dynamic in the counsel is fascinating
the cover is gorgeous, and I saw somewhere that it features fabrics/patterns from the different nations in the book, which is so cool!
didn’t feel very connected to the characters- the internal narration was mostly dedicated to the plot, and I would have liked to hear more about the characters’ feelings
I got major polyamorous vibes from the council, and I wanted to see more of it, but hopefully in the next book it will be explored more when the characters are older
Midnight Sun by Stephenie Meyer
DNFed at 21%
I wasn’t going to read Midnight Sun, but the hype totally drew me in. I mostly blame it on Twilight Tik Tok. So I tried, and it was just so bad. If it was a shorter book I might have been able to soldier through, but it’s over 650 pages and I just couldn’t do it. We’ve just moved beyond the need for the ‘girl is so beautiful but doesn’t know it’ and ‘she’s not like other girls’ tropes. It would be interesting if this was modernized a little bit, with some old tropes thrown out, but I get that’s not really possible when you’re just telling the same story from years ago from a different POV.
The 13 by M.M. Perry
DNFed at 11%
I was drawn to this because it reminded me of Unearthed by Amie Kaufman and Megan Spooner, which I loved. Unfortunately, the beginning didn’t grab my attention. I read some reviews that said it got better, but I just didn’t want to put in the time to see if that was true. The main reason why I DNFed this is because of the dialogue. There are sentences like, “we’re max compat, yeah” and it just pulled me straight out of the story. There was so much lingo thrown around that wasn’t explained, so I had no idea what was going on.
Famine, the third book in The Four Horsemen series, is one of my most anticipated releases of 2020, and it did not disappoint! The Four Horsemen series is set in a not-too-distant apocalyptic future on Earth. The Four Horsemen, Pestilence, War, Famine, and Death have come to Earth to end humanity.
My thoughts (spoiler free):Famine is a worthy third book in The Four Horsemen series. The main character Ana subverts and pushes back against stereotypes in such a refreshing way that we need to see more of. The characters are complex- they struggle, they breakdown, they fight back, making them relatable and likable. The plot will shock you and leave you wanting more.
My Rating: 5/5
Now, for the long, spoilery version of my thoughts. If you hate spoilers, beware!
The first two books in the series, Pestilence and War, had a plot that was very similar. The main character meets/is kidnapped by the horseman, eventually they develop feelings for each other and their relationship progresses, and finally after struggling with his purpose, the horseman gives it up and they go on with lives. I enjoyed this plot template, but I admit reading it three times could become a drag. However, after starting Famine I quickly realized that this book was going to break away from the previously established template.
At the beginning of Famine, Ana, our main character, and Famine already have a history, and as a result their relationship and feelings towards each other are more complicated and developed. This immediately created a dynamic between Ana and Famine that was very enjoyable to read. It humanized Famine right from the get go. In the first two books, it takes almost the whole novel to fully develop the horsemen’s humanity, but with Famine we see it from the beginning.
Speaking of Famine, he was surprisingly hilarious and he seemed like the most human of all the horsemen. When he’s anxious he taps his fingers, and he also mindless hums and whistles to himself when he’s doing something. Famine is also by far the most emotionally evolved horsemen. He cries and has mental breakdowns, and it is so refreshing reading about multifaceted characters. He isn’t good or bad- he’s somewhere in that gray area in the middle. One moment that made me laugh out loud is wen Ana kicks Famine the groin, and he “let’s out a painted grunt, releasing me to cup himself.” I laughed because it’s such a human moment happening between a deity-like figure and a normal human woman. It also doesn’t hurt that he’s absolutely gorgeous.
Now on to our heroine- Ana de Silva. Laura Thalassa writes a female protagonist like no other. They push back against stereotypes in such a refreshing way. At the beginning of the novel, Ana works at a bordella, or brothel, and she totally owns it. She doesn’t let anyone shame her for her work or what she’s had to do to survive. Her comebacks when people do try to shame her are absolutely hilarious and made me laugh out loud. Laura Thalassa also writes the most nuanced emotions into her characters. I book like this could easily go down the Stockholm Syndrome route, but she she always manages to stay away from it in the most natural way. For example, at the beginning of the novel when Famine and Ana reunite for the first time in years, Ana wants Famine to remember her. As a reader, I was thinking why on Earth would she want him to remember her? But then Laura Thalassa gives us a look into Ana’s inner dialogue and it all makes sense- she’s trying to assuage her own guilt about the past and justify her past actions. That’s such a human thing to feel- we all try to justify our past actions and rationalize what we’ve done. This all serves to make Ana an incredibly relatable and strong protagonist.
About halfway through Famine I was very pleasantly surprised with what I was reading. Famine is written markedly different from Pestilence and War, and his relationship with Ana was so fun to read about. So there should be no issues, right? Wrong. I noticed about 80 percent into the book that things were going too well. The first two books followed the pattern of the horsemen and protagonist developing a relationship, having small fights that eventually lead to some influential moment that causes the horsemen to change his ways, and then after that it’s good. The climax usually came about 80 percent of the way into the book. Back to reading Famine, I got to 90 percent done and nothing bad had happened yet! Every reader knows that feeling when you’re reading, and you’re close to the end but sh*t hasn’t hit the fan yet. Well boy, did it hit the fan in the last forty pages. Long story short, Death comes to kill Ana, but Famine makes a deal with him. In order to save her, he has to resume his purpose. But then Ana, being the incredible woman she is, stabs Death. And then we end with the most exciting cliffhanger ever: “we’re going to get my brothers. It’s time this ended, once and for all.” There is nothing, and I repeat nothing, I want more than Sara, Miriam, and Ana together. Sara will be older, and her kids will be grown up, and it will just be so fantastic.
Needless to say, I enjoyed Famine tremendously. It gave us so many little fun moments, like finding out Famine and War interacted on Earth, and learning we will see the horsemen together in the final book. It also left me with so many questions, like who saved Ana the first time? If it was Death, then why would he try to kill her later? What changed. Personally I love when books leave me with unanswered questions, and I will be anxiously awaiting the publication of Death.
It’s no secret Cassandra Clare’s Shadowhunter Chronicles are some of my favorite books of all time. I love the characters and their journeys, and with each new series I’m even more impressed with the world and the way Clare has managed to weave all these characters together over the course of five series. I can reread these books for all of eternity. Which is why it is my shame that I hadn’t read Queen of Air and Darkness two years after its release. I am also yet to read Chain of Gold, but it’s only been a couple of months so I’m letting myself off the hook.
At the beginning of 2020 I was prepared for another abysmal reading year. In 2019 I read less than 20 books, which compared to previous years when I was reading upwards of 50, is pretty bad. I attribute this to school, working full time, mental health, and just not being in the right headspace. But then a global pandemic hit and suddenly I wasn’t working. All of a sudden my ability to read came flying back, and I decided to reread, or read for the first time, every single book in the Shadowhunter Chronicles. I also decided to chronicle my reading journey here. So after rereading The Mortal instruments, The Bane Chronicles, Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy, and the first two books in The Dark Artifices, it was finally time to read Queen of Air and Darkness for the first time.
QoAaD is a monster of a book at over 900 pages, and I admit I was worried that I would feel like it dragged on. Looking back, I should have known better because I’ve never had this issue with a Cassandra Clare book (excluding her anthologies). The plot moved along nicely, and I never felt like things were unnecessarily slow. Seriously, I was able to read QoAaD in three days, and I wouldn’t have been able to do that if I wasn’t intrigued and invested.
As always I loved Emma’s and Julian’s tortured romance. It’s Cassandra Clare’s specialty and she just does it so well. Even though I love Emma and Julian, I actually found myself loving the supporting characters even more. Diana, Christina, Mark, Kieran, Ty, Kit, and even Dru just grew on me so much. I enjoyed every single point-of-view, and usually I have a hard time reading books with multiple POVs. I also really love the diversity in this book. This is the first book I think I’ve ever read with polyamory rep. That being said, I can’t compare QoAaD to anything else, but I really enjoyed the way it was written and I’d love to see more of it in books. QoAaD also features Diana, a trans woman, and she’s one of my all time favorite characters, and I hope we get to see more of her in future books. Diana and Gwyn are perfection and one of my favorite couples in the Shadowhunter World. Kit’s and Ty’s relationship was also one of my favorite parts. I was so torn up at them being separated at the end, I hope they find their way back to each other.
While I’m admitting my deepest darkest secrets and telling you all what books I haven’t read, I must also admit that I am terrible at staying away from spoilers. I I read basically every Shadowhunter-wiki page there was on Thule before I read the book, and I was super worried about how this concept would play out. Obviously the wiki articles aren’t the greatest source of information. If you’ve already read a book, they’re a good refresher but if you haven’t they definitely don’t give you the full picture. I didn’t see how this storyline could play out authentically and make sense, but I’m glad I was wrong. It’s worked in seamlessly to the plot, and I didn’t get pulled out of the story while the characters were in Thule. It was so fun to see some of my old favorite characters in an alternate universe. I wonder if Thule and alternate timelines are a one-off in the Shadowhunter world, or if we will get to revisit Thule, or a different dimension with alternate characters, in the future.
The final battle wasn’t my favorite battle in the Shadowhunter Chronicles. While the concept of Thule worked for me, I wasn’t as huge a fan of the way the True Nephilim were written. It makes sense that that is the parabatai curse, but I felt like Emma and Julian as True Nephilim were just standing there for too long not doing anything. They should have been destroying more or they should have started dying quicker, in my opinion. It just felt like it took too long for Dru and everyone to get down to them, and while they were all rallying things should have gone way worse. But for the sake of the story everything had to work out, so Emma and Julian just waited around as True Nephilim for the rest of the Blackthorns to get it together to save them.
Random thought: it’s really weird to me when friends call each other sweetheart, and I noticed it in Lord of Shadows and QoAaD. Emma and Christina call each other sweetheart, and it just about the only thing that pulls me from the story.
I’m unsure how I feel about the ending. I’m excited for the next series to come out, but I don’t know how I feel about the villains. If you’ve read QoAaD you know that at the end, the Thule version of Jace shows up with Ash and says he wants Clary. It’s just… we’ve already had this villain and motivation. In The Mortal Instruments Jace was controlled by Sebastian, so we’ve already had an evil Jace as a semi-villain. A huge motivator for Sebastian doing what he was doing was to get to Clary and have Clary. I’m just worried that this plot will seem redundant, but I’m do have a tremendous amount of faith in Cassandra Clare because she hasn’t let me down yet, and I always end up loving whatever she writes into the Shadowhunter world.
After finally finishing The Dark Artifices, I’m so happy with how this series wrapped up. I’m both content and excited to see what happens next.
September of this year I officially started grad school while in the midst of a pandemic, with a sinus infection, and of course in the midst of moving to a new apartment. A few weeks in, I’m feeling much better and I’ve fully settled into grad school life.
Here’s a quick run down of how I ended up studying publishing. Like so many people working in publishing, I loved reading and writing as a child. I always had a book in hand and I ran my own newspaper from home which was distributed to my family weekly. It was always my dream to work in publishing, but I knew a love of reading and writing didn’t make a career, so I moved on but kept that dream in the back of my mind. Undergrad I studied Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, and it was truly amazing. I interned at the Virginia Festival of the Book, wrote for an online magazine, and worked various other jobs. I graduated with absolutely no plans and no ideas for what I wanted my future to look like. After almost a year working a miserable customer service job and browsing the web for a graduate program that stuck out to me, I saw it- Masters in Publishing. For the first time I was absolutely sure about my future, and my dream job seemed like it could finally be a reality. I applied, got in, and here we are!
This post is a great resource for anyone who wants to study publishing in school, work in publishing one day, write a book, or is simply fascinated with how books are made.
The Publishing Business by Kelvin Smith & Melanie Ramdarshan Bold
A great overview of all stages of the publishing process, enhanced with interviews, case studies, images, and resources.
If you’re not ready to commit to reading an entire book on publishing, or if you’re looking for short but informative articles, The Scholarly Kitchen is an excellent resource with knowledgeable and innovative writers. A great way to keep up-to-date with what’s going on in publishing. Image credit.
In early June of 2020, JK Rowling published her now infamous tweets on transgender individuals, which are riddled with inaccurate information that gender and sexuality scholars could easily disprove and are incredibly harmful to the transgender population. I’m not here to disprove everything harmful JKR said- that’s already been done. I recommend you check out Violence Against Queer People and Normal Life in order to hear from scholars and academics who have researched violence against transgender people and can disprove JKR’s statements about bathrooms and transitioning. For the sake of this article, my big question is: can you separate the author from the work?
When JKR came out as transphobic, I was primed and ready to distance myself from her and her work. At the beginning of 2020 I decided to reread the Harry Potter series for the first time in years. I had just finished Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and I was feeling underwhelmed, to say the least. For context, I was the biggest Harry Potter fan as a child. I reread the books so much and so often that my hardback editions were falling apart- literally, pages fell out and binding just fell apart. I loved the movies, all I wanted was Harry Potter march, and I read HP fan fiction on Quibblo. I loved the books and I couldn’t find one thing wrong with them.
But as a 23 year old woman, I found the books had lost their luster. The writing was not the incredible writing I remember it to be, and at times it was so distracting I wanted to stop entirely. The story wasn’t as fast-paced and exciting as I remembered, and I couldn’t really find myself relating to the characters. The excessive use of “er” in the fourth book made me almost quit altogether. I didn’t like Harry, which surprised me. The house elf plot, and Ron’s and Harry’s feelings towards them, was off putting. So when I read everything JKR had to say, I was ready to be done.
I stopped my reread and decided to not support JKR anymore. Something I’ve noticed that she feels very proud of is that she already has everyone’s money- and yes, she does. I’ve already purchased books, movies, merchandise, and more. If you are looking to not support JKR anymore, don’t let this discourage you. What matters is what you do going forward. Donate to support charities and organizations that provide resources and support for transgender peoples.
So, can you separate author from work? In my opinion, no. But because of the massive cultural impact the Harry Potter series had, I think people are reluctant to fully distance themselves from Harry Potter, even if they know they should. Harry Potter is nostalgic and influenced people during their formative years. Harry Potter is an identity now, and influencers can make livings off of being a fan and collector of Harry Potter items. Take The Bakeey, a YouTube channel with over 200K subscribers, whose most popular videos are all Harry Potter themed and vary from taste tests to challenges/games. Sophie, the creator behind The Bakeey, has a bedroom that is entirely Harry Potter themed, and many videos on her channel are dedicated to redecorating her room and acquiring new Harry Potter merchandise. The Potter Collector, run by Peter Kenneth, has over 300K subscribers, and posts videos showing off a massive Harry Potter book collection and unboxing Harry Potter merchandise. While these are extreme examples of Harry Potter fans who have used their love of a series to gather their own fans, it is clear that Harry Potter has become an identity. For people like Sophie and Peter, and so many others, I’m sure it would feel impossible and painful to have to distance yourself from something that has become a part of your personality.
That’s why some people make the argument that yes, you can separate author from work. Despite being owned and created by JKR, Harry Potter has morphed into something that is completely out of JKR’s control. Characters are claimed and reimagined by fans. Hermione is frequently drawn as a Black woman, and fan fiction is written that reimagines characters as LGBT+. There are LGBT+ fans of the work who say Harry Potter helped them through hard times and is incredibly meaningful to them. On the other end of the spectrum, there are LGBT+ people who say seeing Harry Potter related things is triggering- like seeing a Harry Potter house listed in someone’s Instagram bio.
Some people say no, you absolutely cannot separate the work from the author. Books are incredibly powerful. We carry stories, characters, and lessons with us long after we finish reading. We derive new messages and create our own meaning from books, even if it’s not what the author wanted or intended. Books are a part of us, and because of this I think the no separation argument scares people. For people that feel like they absolutely want nothing to do with Harry Potter or JKR ever again, I applaud you. If you feel like you can appreciate one and not the other, or support one and not the other, then okay. There’s no right answer, and the situation isn’t black and white. This is a time for reflection, and figuring out what feels right and how our actions reflect our beliefs.
Here’s where I stand. I know I’ll never buy another book from JKR. I know I don’t want to buy any more official merchandise or see any movies that she’s involved in. I know I’ll probably never read Harry Potter again, but I’ll still watch the movies because I already own them. I probably won’t post anything related to Harry Potter on my Instagram page anymore. I also know that it’s always been my dream to visit Harry Potter world, and despite everything I have a hard time letting go of that dream, but I’m okay if I never go now. One way I’ve thought about justifying going is making a donation to an organization like The Trevor Project of equal or greater value to the amount of money I would spend at HP World. I know some people are only purchasing Harry Potter merchandise that is unlicensed and unofficial from places like Etsy, and therefore no profit is given to JKR. Personally, I can no longer read Harry Potter without also thinking of the incredibly harmful statements made by the series’ author.
It’s yet to be seen if JKR will suffer any real consequences. Bloomsbury is still pushing her new picture book, and the third film in the Fantastic Beasts film franchise is still set to premier. JK Rowling wrote the screenplay, and following the pattern of the first two films, will likely also be a producer. No matter what happens to JKR, and based on her immense wealth it will probably be nothing, we have to continue to educate ourselves and to support transgender individuals in their quest to live their lives the way they are meant to. Read books from transgender authors. Read scholarly work from academics who spent years studying gender and sexuality and have peer-reviewed research. If you have the resources, donate to organizations that support transgender individuals. Regardless, we must hold JKR accountable for her incredibly harmful statements. Plus, there are so many other incredible, amazing works that are far better than Harry Potter, and are written by incredible people, out there.
I always enjoy The Bane Chronicles much more than I think I will- I managed to finish this in one day. I really enjoy Magnus, Ragnor, and Catarina as characters, and I love their dynamic as friends.
My favorite stories are “The Course of True Love (And First Dates)”, “What to Buy the Shadowhunter Who Has Everything”, “The Last Stand of the New York Institute”, and “Saving Raphael Santiago.” I love the stories with Alec. I can’t wait to finally read The Red Scrolls of Magic so I can see more of their relationship. Raphael’s sacrifice in City of Heavenly Fire is so much more meaningful after reading about the beginning of his and Magnus’ relationship. “The Last Stand of the New York Institute” is so good because I hate it so much, if that makes sense. It’s truly revolting the things that the Circle did, and I can’t believe that Luke, Jocelyn, Robert, and Maryse were all a part of it. It really clouds my liking of their characters. In The Mortal Instruments, it’s never explicitly described what the Circle did. I wish it had been described, because I think it would have made Valentine a much scarier villain.
Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy
Rating: 2 out of 5.
I blew through TBC in one day, and my reading experience couldn’t be any different for TFTSA. I have struggled to get into this- I wish every story was a little shorter. Part of the reason I think I’m having such a hard time engaging in these stories is that Simon’s character seems pretty different from The Mortal Instruments. I don’t know if this is because half his memories are gone, or if it’s because Clare is writing with three other co-authors, or if they’re purposefully trying to make him much funnier. He just doesn’t seem as charming or naturally funny, but that could be because so much of his humor in TMI involved bouncing off and interacting with the other characters. The whole “shadowhunters-vs-dregs” plot is so frustrating, but that’s shadowhunters for you.
Ok, so almost three months later I finally finished this book. It was a STRUGGLE. First, what I decidedly don’t like. The characters just seem so off to me. Simon’s humor is so forced, and for me, his appeal came from his easy and witty humor. The writers just took it so far into the next level that he did not seem funny to me. Also Isabelle just drives me insane in this book. I love her character in every other book she’s in, but this one almost completely destroys her for me. Isabelle even says at one point that Simon has completely changed her and turned her into a sappy, lovestruck girl, and I just don’t think anyone could do that to Isabelle. Her arc in this book seems so forced and very off-line from her arcs in the rest of the books.
The plots are also a weak point for me. When Simon and Clary are drugged my Magnus to make them figure out they need to be parabatai- it just lost me. There was an explanation for why it needed to happen, but it seemed like a poor explanation and did not line up with the characters past actions and motivations.
Finally, what bothered me the most is the fact that (almost) EVERY character is described as having brown skin. Jace, who is just a tan white dude, whose skin is usually described as “golden,” because of course it is- is described as having “brown” skin. Jem, who is half Chinese, is also described as having “brown” skin. There’s a lot of dialogue out there about how writers won’t describe Black characters as having Black skin- they will use weird descriptions like “chocolate colored skin that’s glowy,” or something like that. But then white and Asian characters are described as having brown skin? Definitely don’t understand, and also I think it’s lazy writing.
Perhaps the only saving grace of this book is Malec- and I don’t even know if his story can raise the rating for me. Magnus’ and Alec’s story “Born to Endless Night” is by far my favorite. I also enjoyed “Pale Kings and Princes.” None of the other stories really stood out to me.