When we crash, we intertwine: Reviewing Children of Virtue and Vengeance by Tomi Adeyemi

Hello everyone! It has been a hot minute since I’ve posted. I promise I won’t abandon this blog any time soon. I’ve just been all caught up with university, anxiety, social distancing, and all that other fun stuff (See? Sarcasm). I’ve still found enough time to go out a little and enjoy things. Of course, I wasn’t about to give up on Tomi Adeyemi’s series. Feel free to check out my review for the first novel, Children of Blood and Bone. Now it’s time to talk about the recently released sequel.

Zelie and Amari had finally succeeded in bringing back to Orisha, but they were not prepared for the other consequences it might bring. Now, Zelie must unite all of the maji in order to defeat Inan and put Amari on the throne. When the monarchy launches an attack on the maji, it is up to Zelie to protect her people and avoid the war or else everything she loves will be destroyed.

Even though this book took me a little while to get through, it is actually very fast paced and has tons of action. The magic system in the novel is incredibly well thought out, which helps add to the incredible world building that Adeyemi has done. When it comes to fantasy, though, a lot of authors tend to make their characters either too powerful or neglect any consequences that their characters may have to deal with. Adeyemi completely avoids that pitfall by making her characters understandably, albeit frustratingly, imperfect. I wouldn’t enjoy the book if I couldn’t sympathize with Zelie, Amari, and the rest. That is why I love this series. It harkens back to my love of shows like Avatar: The Last Airbender. Though this is a YA fantasy series, I think adult and teen readers alike can bond over this series with it’s incredible action, high stakes, and emotional beats that will keep you wanting more.

Blank, lovely eyes. Mad eyes. A mad girl: Reviewing Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

Hello everybody! I’m back with another novel that I am reading in class but this one will be a full review since it fits into my area of studies. I am currently doing a critical history of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre for my grad school portfolio. As much as I love the British Romantics, it is important to acknowledge where it is problematic. Trust me, it is rather problematic. That is why I am glad to hear and read new angles about these classics that everybody has loved in one dimension for so long. So let’s talk about Jean Rhys’ take on Bronte’s “madwoman in the attic.”

Before she was Bertha Mason, Antionette Cosway was a young girl struggling to survive in Jamaica. After the Emancipation Act, her mother is driven to madness and her father to drink. When she reaches adulthood, Antoinette is then sold into marriage to an Mr. Rochester. As more of the past comes to light, Antionette finds herself in a downward spiral that threatens her dreams of moving to England.

This novel, though short, is incredibly compelling in its feminist and anti-colonial narrative. I have always liked the “other side of the story” genre. I am not sure what else to call it but I am talking about novels that re-tell a story from the perspective of another character. Anyways, Rhys delivers a powerful look at a character who has been written off for so many years. The novel is has beautiful visuals that pair with a unique story that is not explored often. Post colonial novels have only come to light in recent years and Rhys offers one that anyone who has read Jane Eyre should read. Now, this isn’t meant to bash Charlotte Bronte. It is meant to give a more in depth-look at the feminist critiques that lie within Jane Eyre and other novels of the time. This is a short read, but there is so much to talk about. I would recommend this to any fan of Charlotte Bronte or those who are a fan of period pieces but are tired of the marriage and/or manner novels.

Let Your Chaos Explode: Reviewing Blood of Elves (Book 1 in The Witcher series) by Andrzej Sapkowski

Hi everybody! I’m back far sooner than I thought I would be as I am suddenly incredibly motivated to get through my TBR list. I’ve also just loved reading any sort of source material if I watch a show that its based on. When I was younger, my mom came up with a rule that if I wanted to see a movie that was based on a book then I had to read the book first. That was obviously no issue for me and has only made me a bigger nerd as the years have went on. The Witcher is simply my latest in the long line of fantasy novels I have devoured so let’s talk about Blood of Elves.

Geralt of Rivia is the Witcher, a famed assassin with magical abilities, who hunts down monsters. His current mission, though, is to protect Ciri, the lost princess of Cintra and the Child of Surprise. Ciri possesses a great power that can be used for good or for great evil. With a war between elves, humans, dwarves, and others on the horizon, Geralt must do everything in his power to prevent this war and save as many lives as he can – no matter what the cost.

Like I said in my review for the prequel novel, this is definitely the perfect series to fill the Game of Thrones – shaped hole in your life. I thoroughly enjoyed the action in this book as well as the elaborate world building. Albeit, there were a couple scenes that involved politics which were pretty slow but, with this being the first official novel in the series, I am going to give in the benefit of the doubt since its important to establish these things. It all ties together nicely and creates a build up for the action, which is very well written. Even though the characters give off the impression that they are “perfect,” they are flawed in the best ways. Sapkowski managed to avoid the Mary Sue tropes that tend to pop up frequently in modern fantasy. It gives off a high fantasy air without any pretentious tropes. I am still thoroughly enjoying this series and have re-watched the Netflix series multiple times.

Mini Double Review: Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad and Passing by Nella Larsen

Hello everybody! While I work on finishing up the first novel in The Witcher series, I thought I would do a review of some of the novels I have just finished for two of my classes this semester. I am only on week two but these novels (or novellas, rather) are worth me sharing my opinion on as there are some classics that others might be interested in. Now these novels aren’t really related to each other but they both just so happen to be short enough to include in a single post. Let me give you my brief in put on Conrad and Larsen.

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad: Conrad’s most famous and controversial novel explores the bloody colonization process in the Congo. This novel follows Charlie Marlow as he follows the charismatic and ruthless Kurtz through the jungles, while trying to understand what the British really want out of Africa. This novel is certainly shocking and graphic. It is definitely not a casual read by any means, but it is worth a read. The subject matter is important when getting into the field of colonial and post-colonial literature. I would recommend it if you want a complicated but brief novel. It is ideal for analyzing, if that is what your interest is. There is a lot to uncover when reading Heart of Darkness that no one can really answer and that is what makes it so intriguing.

Passing by Nella Larsen: Larsen’s sophomore novel follows the struggle of Irene Redfield, a black woman who is able to “pass” as white. When Irene reunites with a childhood friend, Clare Kendry, she must face the reality of her situation and come to terms with her insecurities that she had worked so hard to hide. This novella was particularly compelling in its subject matter. It also offers a look at a complicated subject with Larsen’s eloquent writing highlighting the social minefield that Irene must navigate. I enjoyed this one more as far as just reading it goes but the analyses is just as interesting too.

Between the two, I would say I actually enjoyed Passing more even though it still dealt with darker subject. Larsen has more tact whereas Conrad is very ambiguous and hard to truly understand. Both are equally important in their respective literary fields so it is worth discussing both.

It’s dangerous for people who shine: Reviewing Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

Hi everybody! I am here, I am alive, and my mental health is more stable than it has been. I don’t know why I have been dragging my feet with book reviews since I have had so much extra time on my hands. There was a time in my life when I could read three to four books in one day, but that day has passed and technology is partially to blame. Admittedly, I have mostly just been watching Hamilton on repeat. I am a week out from returning (albeit remotely) to university. I am trying to get in as much fun reading as I can before that. Though I am not technically finished with the novel yet, I am close enough to the end where I feel I can give you all a solid opinion. Let’s talk about Doctor Sleep, the sequel to The Shining.

Dan Torrance has spent his entire adult life trying to escape from the aftermath of the Overlook Hotel. After relying on drugs or alcohol to silence his “shine,” he decides to start clean by getting a job as a hospice worker, where he uses his abilities to comfort the dying and elderly patients, which earns him the nickname “Doctor Sleep.” Everything seems to be going alright for Dan until he encounters Abra Stone, a remarkable young girl with the same abilities as him. The unlikely duo must work together to stop a murderous and immortal cult called The True Know, who prey on kids who “shine.” Now, Dan Torrance must battle this group of murderers while also facing the ghosts of the Overlook.

Before I begin, I will encourage you to check out my review of The Shining. Spoiler: I did enjoy that book so I was a little skeptical, but hopeful, as I am with all sequels. I will start by saying this is a slow but carefully plotted novel. King has always had a knack for build up and this novel was no exception. The scariest parts of this novel are in the smaller details, along with the use of repetition. Like its predecessor, this sequel focuses on the idea of inevitability, which is what makes it so suspenseful. You always feel like you’re waiting for that jumpscare (metaphorically speaking), but the scariest part is that it never comes. When the horror happens, it hits fast and bloody. It doesn’t feel like the most necessary sequel, but it fits nicely next to the suspenseful nature of The Shining. If you’re a Stephen King fan, then definitely read this novel as it is reminiscent of The Shining while still holding its own as a great horror novel.

A kingdom, or this?: Reviewing Captive Prince (Book 1 in the Captive Prince trilogy) by C.S. Pascat

Hello everybody! I’m back and in an incredibly pessimistic mood, which is why I needed to escape into fiction again. I have read this book previously, but in the form of an e-book so I feel like I couldn’t properly absorb what was happening. I don’t know if anyone else feels that way about e-books, or if it just me. The Barnes and Nobles by me re-opened recently and this was my celebratory purchase. Time to talk about the Captive Prince.

Damen had everything as the legendary warrior prince, until his brother took the throne. He strips Damen of his identity and sends him off to Vere to be a pleasure slave, which has long been an enemy to his home country of Akeilos. While there, Damen learns that he will serve Prince Laurent, who is just as beautiful as he is deadly and cunning. Damen quickly learns of the danger that lies beneath the glamor of the Veretian court, meaning he has to hide his identity and make unlikely allies, or he faces a deadly end.

I realize that this book is rather controversial in its subject matter and not because of the Male/Male romance. For those of you who are not familiar with this novel, it does contain graphic sexual violence within the context of a society where slavery is commonplace. Maybe this does not shock me as much because I studied Rome and this reminded me quite a bit of Rome. Obviously, this isn’t to justify it and we have a main character, Damen, who is in the same mindset of the reader. This book is more about politics than anything, which I thought was the most interesting aspect. It actually has a very Game of Thrones feel to it where every character is trying to navigate through complicated politics in which they are trapped. Nothing can be done simply and that is what makes the novel so interesting. Again, I understand any reservations anyone else might have about the subject matter, but I personally enjoyed it. It was just steamy enough without being gratuitous and it leaves you wanting more. It felt like a reworking of some of the worst tropes that tend to pop up in erotic fiction. It certainly doesn’t feel like mom fiction or fan fiction. Pascat is very mature in the way she handles touchier subjects, while also bringing in some inclusivity in the LGBTQ+ genre of literature. Captive Prince is a unique take on a genre that has often been disregarded for so long.

Warning: The novel does contain moments of torture, graphic sexual violence (including assaults on underage characters), and mentions of blood and gore.

One Embraces One’s Enemy: Reviewing Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James

Hello everybody! Again, I hope you are all doing well and still holding together as we all start to realize that quarantine isn’t nearly as fun as it sounds. (Not that anything about this situation is fun. I’m just hoping my sarcasm is clear in text). I am officially done with my semester and my brain is fried. Thankfully, I have time to get to my TBR list. I’m also planning on posting a “boredom” list of random things I have found to keep myself occupied. Before I get that, let’s talk about Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James.

Tracker was well-known for his ability to hunt down anyone or anything with his remarkable sense of smell. When he’s hired to track down a nameless boy, he must team up with a shape shifting man only known as Leopard and other misfits. The more Tracker searches for the boy, the more creatures and enemies he runs into who are also after the boy. Now, Tracker is in over his head and he must find the boy and the truth behind his search.

It took me longer than I would like to admit to get through this novel but I was thoroughly immersed the whole time. The narrative voice is so authentic and layered with different characters overlapping each other. The world of the book is so rich and detailed. Some of you might enjoy that this novel has several maps in it. This book is also so infused with mythology that it gives the novel an almost hallucinatory quality (in the best way). It is a truly unique experience reading Black Leopard, Red Wolf. It is definitely a novel you might need to re-read in order to fully absorb the world. I would recommend this if you are a fan of either The Children of Blood and Bone or Game of Thrones. It delivers that epic element that all fantasy novels should.

Warning: The book does contain graphic violence and sexual violence. Please be aware if you are uncomfortable with either of those subjects.

Whatever I am, Let it be enough: Reviewing A Gathering of Shadows by V. E. Schwab

Hello everyone! I’m coming at you with (probably) my last book review of the year. I’m planning on doing my annual favorites list after Christmas. I have a stack of books that has grown considerably over the past couple of months. At the university I go to, we have a table where people can put books they want to give away. Obviously, I checked it every day and will continue to do so. All the while, I am hooked on V.E. Schwab’s series, Shades of Magic. Now, let’s talk about the second book, A Gathering of Shadows.

It’s been four months since Kell, Delilah Bard, and Rhy faced off against the Danes in White London. Since then, Delilah had run off with the handsome sea captain, Alucard Emery. Now, Kell and Rhy prepare for the Essen Tasch, a magical tournament created to unite the kingdoms. All the while, something dark stirs in White London and can only return to life by destroying another London.

I absolutely adored the first book in this series and this second one was still enjoyable. The pacing was a little slow in the beginning, as it went back and forth between Delilah and Kell. There was some great world building, along with plenty of action when it was needed. Schwab does an excellent job fleshing out the other cultures without just making them “others.” The plot is still very grounded in Kell’s story, which is endlessly enjoyable. Like I said, the novel was slow for a bit but once it got going, I couldn’t put it down. I am incredibly excited to keep reading this series. I still recommend Shades of Magic if you want a “new adult” series that keeps the balance between entertaining magic and an intriguing storyline.

I Have Built a You in Me: Reviewing This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone

Hey everybody! Well, it has been a decent chunk of time since I’ve been on here. Fortunately, I am reaching the end of fall semester so I will be doing a lot of catching up during the winter break. Next semester I will be teaching a class so I will definitely be blogging about that. Thankfully, I was able to get a hold of this novel as I had seen it everywhere and was ever so curious. So, let’s talk about This Is How You Lose the Time War.

Red is deadly, resourceful, and relentless on the battlefield. She comes from a future ruled by the Agency, a post-singularity technotopia. Blue is strategic, cunning, and just as deadly. She belongs to Garden, an omnipotent and omniscient consciousness contained within all organic matter. The two agents are sent by their respective societies to stop the other from changing the future. Red and Blue, however, begin a correspondence that transcends time and space. Soon, they will have to choose between the future of their worlds and their own futures.

I was incredibly intrigued by this novel upon seeing it online and I am so glad I was able to get my hands on it because I loved it. This novel combines the abstracts and language of poetry and the thrill and action of science fiction. It is a fairly short novel at just under 200 pages. I became emotionally invested quickly in the characters. The language of their letters is fascinating. They feel like real people in a sense, the way that Blue and Red express their emotions through humor or angst. I don’t plan on making this review too long as I don’t want to give away too much. I do recommend this novel if you are looking for a quick read that will captivate you with its world building and poetic structure. You don’t have be a huge sci-fi fan either to enjoy this book. Also, bonus points if you wants a book that features LGBTQ+ characters.

To Travel, To Dispel, To Heal: Reviewing A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

Hello everyone! I’m coming back at you with another book review sooner than I anticipated. In truth, it is because I had a really hard time putting this book down. I have reviewed two other novels by Schwab, so feel free to check out those. Now, we are starting a new series and I’m going to tell you all about A Darker Shade of Magic.

Four Londons exist along side each other and only few can travel between them. Kell is an Antari, one of the few who possess the magic needed to travel between these Londons. Officially, he works as a royal ambassador between the kingdoms. On the side, he smuggles magical artifacts across the worlds. When an item from Black London, the fallen London, comes into his possession, he finds himself in much more trouble than he anticipated. While trying to hide this item, Kell runs into Delilah Bard, a professional thief and pirate, who forces him to take her to his London. The two must return the artifact to Black London and keep it out of the hands of those who mean to use it to destroy the boundaries between the Londons.

It has been a minute since I have gotten so invested in a novel from the very first chapter. Schwab excels at world building and this novel is no exception. The action and pacing are steady and suspenseful. The characters are charmingly imperfect. The magic rules in the world are well thought out. This book certainly is violent but not in a gratuitous way. It has the kind of exciting magical duels I’ve only really seen in the likes of Harry Potter. This novel is for the more mature fantasy seeker who is ready to move beyond the magic of YA novels. I highly (highly!) recommend this novel if you are looking for an awesome fantasy and adventure novel with a nice dose of magic. A Darker Shade of Magic delivered on all fronts for me.