Mini reviews and DNFs: Daisy Jones & The Six, Raybearer, and more

Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Rating: 3 out of 5.

This is the first contemporary fiction novel I’ve read since 2018! I thought this was good, I probably won’t ever reread it, but I am looking forward to the TV adaptation.

Things I like

  • complex, feminist female characters
  • examines complex, tough issues (abortion, drug addiction, alcoholism)
  • realistic, messy relationships
  • oral history format

but…

  • cliche ‘band breakup’ story, but my connection with the characters kept me involved

Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

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!

but…

  • 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.

The end of the world has never looked better: Famine by Laura Thalassa

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

Follow Laura Thalassa

Buy Famine

Can you separate the author from the work?

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?

Image by Manuel Schäfer from Pixabay 

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.

What matters is what you do going forward.

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.

Tips for Allies of Trans people https://www.glaad.org/transgender/allies

The Trevor Project https://www.thetrevorproject.org

Trans Lifeline https://translifeline.org

Review: The Fallen World Series by Laura Thalassa

The Fallen World Series by Laura Thalassa

The Queen of All that Dies: 4 stars

The Queen of Traitors: 4.5 stars

The Queen of All that Lives: 4 stars

Finally I am out of my reading slump, and suddenly I’ve found myself a new favorite author: Laura Thalassa. Last year I read her novel Pestilence, and I really enjoyed it. At the end of March I got around to reading the sequel, War, and thus launched my Laura Thalassa reading marathon.

Thalassa has quickly become one of my favorite authors due to her refreshingly realistic female protagonists and her interesting and complex world-building. The Fallen World series takes place in a future version of our current society, where the entire world is war-ravaged and conquered by an evil king, Montes Lazuli. The main character, Serenity Freeman, is a soldier and emissary, and through a strange series of events ends up married to Kind Lazuli.

At first glance, the plot sounds familiar: helpless girl is kidnapped by evil guy, falls in love with him flaws and all. I started this series expecting that to be the case, but I was pleasantly surprised. Serenity Freeman is a mix of Jason Bourne, Evelyn Salt, and Natasha Romanov. When trapped in a van full of her enemies, she is the lone person to emerge alive. Her serious badassery made her such a refreshing read.

As for the enemies to lovers storyline, sometimes it works for me sometimes it doesn’t. In The Fallen World series it worked for me all thanks to Serenity. Her internal struggle with doing the right thing, saving the world, and falling for a monster is what kept me intrigued. Thalassa is excellent at making you hate, then love, then hate her characters. I understood Serenity’s reasoning, and sometimes even though I didn’t want to, I understood King Lazuli’s reasoning.

The main reason I love this series is because Laura Thalassa went there. That’s the only way to describe it. Laura Thalassa took the dial for “insane plot twists” and turned it up until it broke. The end of book two shook me to my core. I won’t give any spoilers here, but please go read this series for a killer world, badass heroine, and unpredictable plot. I seriously love this series, as evidenced by the fact I read it in five days, and I hope you’ll enjoy it too. Now on to reading more Laura Thalassa books!

Check out Laura Thalassa’s website: http://www.laurathalassa.com

Review: The Queens of Innis Lear by Tessa Gratton

29982722The Queens of Innis Lear by Tessa Gratton

Pages: 576

Publisher: Tor

Note: I received a 193 page sample from the publisher through NetGalley.


Book Summary (from Goodreads)

The erratic decisions of a prophecy-obsessed king have drained Innis Lear of its wild magic, leaving behind a trail of barren crops and despondent subjects. Enemy nations circle the once-bountiful isle, sensing its growing vulnerability, hungry to control the ideal port for all trade routes.

The king’s three daughters—battle-hungry Gaela, master manipulator Reagan, and restrained, starblessed Elia—know the realm’s only chance of resurrection is to crown a new sovereign, proving a strong hand can resurrect magic and defend itself. But their father will not choose an heir until the longest night of the year, when prophecies align and a poison ritual can be enacted.


My Thoughts

The Queens of Innis Lear is a wonderful, beautifully written novel.

What most impressed me about this novel was the writing. Gratton’s writing is descriptive, mesmerizing, and magical. I felt like I was reading an old fairy tale.

When I saw how many different POV chapters there were in this book, I got worried that I wouldn’t like it. I tend to like one character’s chapter more than the others and that decreases my enjoyment of the book because I’m just rushing to get back to the POV I like. However, in The Queens of Innis Lear I enjoyed all the POVs. I empathize with and like all three of the sisters, Elia, Regan, and Gaela.

I also really enjoyed the mystery surrounding the world and the king. I felt so much anticipation while I was reading.

It’s hard to write a review based on only 193 pages, so once this book comes out I will definitely be purchasing a complete copy and writing a more in-depth review!

Review: Ophelia by Lisa Klein

Ophelia
Ophelia
by Lisa Klein
 
My rating: ★★/★★★★★
 
I admit this book was a cover buy for me. I bought it for two dollars at our library book sale. The cover immediately caught me eye, and once I saw the title I was intrigued. I’ve read Hamlet in multiple classes and spend numerous hours discussing Ophelia, her madness, and her death. A book dedicated entirely to her untold story seemed like it would be very interesting.
 
Lisa Klein is a good writer. She writes with a very beautiful, descriptive style. But I found that as I got further into the book, the writing started to bother me more and more. I think that because she writes in such a slow, descriptive way, Klein takes much longer to get a point across and say anything. So by the end of the book the writing seemed so, so slow. 
 
I understand that this is Ophelia’s untold story, but what I didn’t think this book would be was a chronicle of her entire life. It’s more like a biography. I thought this would be Ophelia’s story specifically around the events of the play, which I think would have been much more interesting. Part I was about Ophelia’s life as a child. At the beginning it was interesting, but by the end I was ready to move on. There wasn’t really any plot, it was just chronicling her life. By the time Part II came around, I was ready for some action. This is when most of Hamlet’s madness and the events of the play take place. But still, Ophelia is pretty far removed from the action. Part III seemed entirely unnecessary in my opinion. Ophelia escapes the castle, hides as a convent, and worries. 
 
One of the things that bothered me about this book is that Ophelia is a member of the “special snowflake” club. She’s the only girl in court who wants to educate herself, and she’s the only girl who finds like at court boring and unfulfilling. Since Ophelia is so different from other girls, I assumed she was being set up to the hero of the story. However, in this novel, just like the play, Ophelia is a bystander. Part III really bothered me because all Ophelia does is worry about her safety. She greatly overestimates her importance, which is why she had to pretend to die and flee the castle. 
 
Ultimately, this wasn’t the book I was expecting. It seems like a lazy retelling. It was pretty boring and Ophelia as a character wasn’t much stronger than she was in the play. However, after reading this, I am more excited for the movie coming out. I think the movie is going to end up being very different from the book, because if the movie is exactly like the book, that is going to be one boring movie.