January Recap: Rereads

I didn’t read very much this month so I decided to give you mini-reviews for everything. This will be in two posts: Rereads and Goodreads. This one will cover the books I read this month that I’ve read before, so they’ll be more “what-did-I-notice-this-time?” than legit reviews.

By the way if anyone finds my blogging brain please return it. I miss it and I need it.

Cress and Winter by Marissa Meyer

I’ve been rereading The Lunar Chronicles for a few months, and it’s really rewarding. I think Cress is overall the best Lunar Chronicles book (although I enjoy Scarlet more because Scarlet and Wolf are The Best). We finally have the entire main cast on the page, and lots of little things are setting up for the conclusion in Winter. There is a lot happening and all of the main crew have their roles and strengths, but Cress and Thorne have the most growth in their arcs.

In particular, I’ve appreciated Kai more this time around. He’s in really difficult political position, and inexperienced. He knows enough to know that he can’t win every battle, and so he focuses on picking and choosing where he can do the most good in a war against a superior enemy. He’s also very self-sacrificing but not happy about it; he’s a grouchy selfless emperor playing a long game.

I’m still mad about how long Winter is. It’s twice as long as any of the other books in the series, and while there are a lot of characters to deal with and lose ends to tie up, they should have edited this thing more. If they moved some stuff around and revamped other parts, they could cut out one whole palace visit, and therefore a couple hundred pages at least.

That being said, I love this series, these characters, and how Winter deals with the Snow White fairy tale. Winter is a beloved character (both in her world and to me personally). Her sacrifice, in not using her glamour and “brainwashing” people, is one of the strongest parts of this book because it’s not an easy or simple decision to make and live with the consequences.

The Silmarillion by JRR Tolkien

This book was published posthumously and therefore I love over-analyzing the editorial choices and wondering if Tolkien would have presented it in the same way. The organization is so interesting! They put everything chronologically which is probably the best choice, but it means that some topics gets separated out and scattered throughout the book.  For example, what the “Men” are doing while the Elves are throwing themselves into shenanigans. Some sections are much stronger and better developed than others. The creation of the Trees of Valinor and the Silmarils, and the final stories of the Quenta (Beren/Luthien, Turin, Gondolin) are the best. The rest is, essentially, context. I’d love more development of Finrod, Fingon, and the trash pile sons of Feanor. But. There’s so much here as it is. The last two sections seem more like appendices to cover the years between Quenta and The Lord of the Rings than anything else.
There should be more ladies. I always find Yavanna really interesting because she’s just trying to create and accomplish, and everyone else gets in her way or ruins it all the time. Melian has A Lot To Deal With pretty much all the time. Galadriel doesn’t get much screen time but she’s great. Luthien gets the biggest role and is AMAZING but I wish we got more of girls like Haleth, Idril, Elwing, Morwen, Nienor, and Rian.



January Recap: Goodreads

I didn’t read very much this month so I decided to give you mini-reviews for everything. This will be in two posts: Rereads and Goodreads. This one will cover the books I read for the first time this month.

By the way if anyone finds my blogging brain please return it. I miss it and I need it.

Meet Me In St. Louis by Sarah Benson

This was a light and enjoyable read for the most part. The book is divided into the months between June 1903 and May 1904. The “chapter” months are very episodic, almost like a series of short stories, as there aren’t any strong arcs to speak of. The characters are consistent but a little shallow; Esther and Rose, especially, don’t ever move past their boy-crazed silliness; but at least they keep us entertained. Grandpa Prophater was my favorite, as he is the most “aware” of the hilarity of this family. One of the scenes I found most interesting was when Mrs. Smith said she could understand why someone would want only one child, creating an ABSOLUTE UPROAR in the house from her five kids. Mr. Smith explains she’s upset because she can’t care for all five kids the way she wishes she could, but there’s a subtext of real frustration in Mrs. Smith’s pronouncement, as well. No matter how hard she tries, life is always uncertain and keeps her anxious about taking care of everyone.

So. Light and enjoyable read, but with some darker undertones that kept it interesting.


Rey’s Survival Guide by Jason Fry

This Middle Grade book is a delight. It’s a fictional nonfiction book, written by Rey about the planet of Jakku and the people, places, and things you will find on it. There are lots of pictures: Rey’s drawings and schematics, manuals, documents that she has picked up in her wanderings. I have never cared about Jakku much, either as a fictional setting that I wanted to know more about, or a place I wanted more stories set on. However, author Jason Fry make Jakku really fascinating through Rey. Part of it is all the plants and animals she describes, which make Jakku feel more like a real place with an actual ecosystem. The geography was even more fascinating: some of the locations Rey draws and describes we see in The Force Awakens, but some of them we don’t, like The Sitter on his rock and Old Meru’s shack. Rey mentions lots of stories and legends floating around Jakku as well, such as a secret imperial base that someone is still guarding, buried beneath the sand.

If you’re looking for a “story,” though, you won’t find much of one here. It’s almost entirely exposition, with anecdotes from Rey’s childhood, her scavenging adventures, or about other scavengers that she knows or has known (she knows a lot of dead scavengers who weren’t careful enough to avoid sinking sand or live wires or leaking fuel lines. Yikes.). The end of the book tries to tie this book into TFA more, but it was the only part of the book I didn’t like. If she takes her “survival guide” with her off-planet it becomes more of a diary with a lot of useless tips about how to survive a place she no longer lives in. I like the idea of Rey leaving her journal behind, so someone on Jakku exploring can find it in her AT-AT house, and use the information to survive.

Beloved by Toni Morrison

What a heartbreaking book! Each of the characters from the protagonist Sethe, her boyfriend Paul D, her lost husband Halle, her MIL Baby, to her daughters Denver and Beloved have their own personal scars and brutal histories. In multiple ways this book is a horror story: the horror story of American slaves and their owners; the horror story of Sethe’s murdered daughter and the family she is haunting; the horror story of Paul D’s life history.

However, there is such a strong hope throughout the book, even in the very worst moments, that redeemed the story from a bleak resolution. Sethe begins to realize that maybe she can hope for more than just getting by, or living in the horrible choices of the past. She learns how to want things for herself, and since she’s got her freedom legally, all she needs to do is seize it psychologically. The way the different members of the family persevere and support each other, and the way their community forms around them to help at different stages, is amazing.

Even if every happy bit in this book was gone, it would still be worth reading to remind us of how horrific American slavery was and how we should never ever ever forget or gloss over it. It happened, to real people, by real people, in a country that prides itself on liberty and justice for all.  Beloved doesn’t shy away from this or completely excuses the choices that anyone makes, whether they’re slaves, ex-slaves, slaveowners or employers.

The ending of Beloved, with the emphasis on community, and the importance of asking for help, concluded the psychologically-messy story very well. I would have liked to see Paul D take some responsibility for his actions re: Beloved and being so rude to Sethe but it is implied that he’s going to make up for past behavior.

The Wicker King (Review)

The Wicker King by K. Ancrum

33158541The format of this book hits you first. The chapters are really (really) short. There are photos, documents, and other “visuals” that help tell the story. The narrator is unreliable and his friend is unreliable. Because of all of these things, it’s sometimes hard to figure out what is going on or what a character is actually thinking or feeling, rather than what they appear to be thinking or feeling. The prologue starts in media res, and the narrator occasionally has memories or flashbacks of memories throughout the book, so the story isn’t very linear, either. But August (the narrator) clearly notes when that is happening, rewarding your close attention. Your mileage may vary just based on the structure and format, but I loved it.

The narrator’s best friend, we learn, is suffering from hallucinations, so part of the plot is the narrator trying to figure out what to do about the hallucinations in terms of a mental illness, and part of the plot is the narrator trying to figure out what to do about the hallucinations in terms of actual real things that are happening in another world.

So yes, this is a tricky book to read, but well-worth it. It explores mental illness, toxic friendships, healthy friendships, child neglect (degrees of), child abuse (degrees of), and what real emotional and mental support is. I loved the two main characters, as well as their “staff” of supporting characters: the twins Peter and Roger, who care too much and are Angry About It; Rina, the lonely graduate trying to make it; and the rest. I liked that even though August and Jack were trapped in some ways, and felt 100% alone and trapped, the book was subtly showing all of the helpers that they had around them, who ultimately keep them from a Real Bad Ending.

I do have some problems with the book, mostly in how the third act plays out. It seems too neat, considering the GIANT MESS OF PROBLEMS that the characters have to deal with. Mental health is important and difficult, and I didn’t feel like either of the MCs had properly dealt with the co-dependency, everything else aside. I worry about Jack and August in the future, whether they’ll learn to lean on their support system, whether they’ll learn to not lean on each other so much; whether they will let go of the hallucinations or if those will still play out in their lives somehow (that last page implied that they’ve still got some serious kinks to work out, pun intended).