Review: Shrill – Lindy West

shrillComing of age in a culture that demands women be as small, quiet, and compliant as possible–like a porcelain dove that will also have sex with you–writer and humorist Lindy West quickly discovered that she was anything but.

From a painfully shy childhood in which she tried, unsuccessfully, to hide her big body and even bigger opinions; to her public war with stand-up comedians over rape jokes; to her struggle to convince herself, and then the world, that fat people have value; to her accidental activism and never-ending battle royale with Internet trolls, Lindy narrates her life with a blend of humor and pathos that manages to make a trip to the abortion clinic funny and wring tears out of a story about diarrhea.

With inimitable good humor, vulnerability, and boundless charm, Lindy boldly shares how to survive in a world where not all stories are created equal and not all bodies are treated with equal respect, and how to weather hatred, loneliness, harassment, and loss–and walk away laughing. Shrill provocatively dissects what it means to become self-aware the hard way, to go from wanting to be silent and invisible to earning a living defending the silenced in all caps.

Rating: 4/5

My first experience with Lindy West’s writing was when I discovered the world of Jezebel, which was an eye-opening encounter to my feminism-starved self. Of course, now I am more aware of the site’s problematic nature, but at the time it was a good introduction for my high school self to the world of feminism.

Shrill covers Lindy’s childhood, coming of age and career as a woman who is classified as ‘big’. It doesn’t go into boring autobiographical detail, but rather includes observations and experiences relating to feminism and our culture’s obsession with weight. The book is also an easy read – not in terms of the content matter, which will probably make you alternately angry, despairing, and ‘RRRRR girrrrrl power’, but rather in terms of the writing style, which is fairly colloquial – Lindy has an approachable, conversational tone – perhaps a little over the top snarky at times.

In a certain light, feminism is just the long, slow realisation that the stuff you love hates you.

I cannot tell you how much the above quote resonates with me. Ever since I’ve become more aware of social justice issues, it is so difficult to consume movies, books and other forms of media without observing the sexist/racist/homophobic elements.

Much of the book is focused body size, and the author’s experience in a world which constantly polices female appearance.

So, what do you do when you’re too big, in a world where bigness is cast not only as aesthetically objectionable, but also as a moral failing? You fold yourself up like origami, you make yourself smaller in other ways, you take up less space with your personality, since you can’t with your body. You diet. You starve, you run till you taste blood in your throat, you count out your almonds, you try to buy back your humanity with pounds of flesh.

I could feel the hurt pouring off the page at some points, and some of her words really resonated for me. While I perhaps don’t qualify as plus-size, the emphasis on making yourself ever-smaller certainly struck home.

People go on and on about boobs and butts and teeny waists, but the clavicle is the true benchmark of female desirability. It is a fetish item.

She also makes a number of salient points, a few of which I have quoted below:

I dislike ‘big’ as a euphemism, maybe because it’s the one chosen most often by people who mean well, who love me and are trying to be gentle with my feelings.  I don’t want the people who love me to avoid the reality of my body. I don’t want them to feel uncomfortable with its size and shape, to tacitly endorse the idea that fact is shameful, to pretend I’m something I’m not out of deference to a system that hates me.

&

Please don’t forget: I am my body. When my body gets smaller, it is still me. When my body gets bigger, it is still me. There is not a thin woman inside me, awaiting excavation.

 &

Privilege means that it’s easy for white women to do each other favours. Privilege means that those of us who need it the least often get the most help.

 &

The fact that abortion is still a taboo subject means that opponents of abortion get to define it however suits them best.

 &

We don’t care about fat people because it is okay not to care about them, and we don’t take care of them because we think they don’t deserve care.

I didn’t even realise until I read this book that West originally started out in comedy – which has been overshadowed by her activism in response to the trolls and prejudice she’s encountered. An honest, unflinching collection of essays with some excellent critique.

May book releases

May seems to be a particularly auspicious month for book releases, so I thought I’d do a round up of some of the ones I’m most looking forward to!

into the waterInto the Water – Paula Hawkins

A single mother turns up dead at the bottom of the river that runs through town. Earlier in the summer, a vulnerable teenage girl met the same fate. They are not the first women lost to these dark waters, but their deaths disturb the river and its history, dredging up secrets long submerged.

Left behind is a lonely fifteen-year-old girl. Parentless and friendless, she now finds herself in the care of her mother’s sister, a fearful stranger who has been dragged back to the place she deliberately ran from—a place to which she vowed she’d never return.

While The Girl on The Train wasn’t the best mystery novel in the entire world, I did enjoy it – particularly the characterisation and the weird twisted sisterhood. I’m also on a mystery/thriller/crime kick at the moment, so this one should be a great mood read.

Beware a calm surface—you never know what lies beneath.

white hotWhite Hot (Hidden Legacy #2) – Ilona Andrews

Nevada Baylor has a unique and secret skill—she knows when people are lying—and she’s used that magic (along with plain, hard work) to keep her colorful and close-knit family’s detective agency afloat. But her new case pits her against the shadowy forces that almost destroyed the city of Houston once before, bringing Nevada back into contact with Connor “Mad” Rogan.

Rogan is a billionaire Prime—the highest rank of magic user—and as unreadable as ever, despite Nevada’s “talent.” But there’s no hiding the sparks between them. Now that the stakes are even higher, both professionally and personally, and their foes are unimaginably powerful, Rogan and Nevada will find that nothing burns like ice …

Hilariously, I have an eARC of the third book, but not this one – so I will be anxiously awaiting its release. It’s not secret that I, like many others, really enjoy the urban fantasy output from the power duo Ilona Andrews, and they certainly whet my appetite with a two year wait for the next instalments.

(KILL THE COVER. KILL IT WITH FIRE.)

the love interestThe Love Interest – Cale Dietrich

There is a secret organization that cultivates teenage spies. The agents are called Love Interests because getting close to people destined for great power means getting valuable secrets.

Caden is a Nice: The boy next door, sculpted to physical perfection. Dylan is a Bad: The brooding, dark-souled guy, and dangerously handsome. The girl they are competing for is important to the organization, and each boy will pursue her. Will she choose a Nice or the Bad?

Both Caden and Dylan are living in the outside world for the first time. They are well-trained and at the top of their games. They have to be – whoever the girl doesn’t choose will die.

What the boys don’t expect are feelings that are outside of their training. Feelings that could kill them both. 

One my most anticipated books of the year – and one which delightfully subverts the standard love triangle trope. I can only hope it lives up to expectations!

the names they gave usThe Names They Gave Us – Emery Lord

Lucy Hansson was ready for a perfect summer with her boyfriend, working at her childhood Bible camp on the lake. But when her mom’s cancer reappears, Lucy falters—in faith, in love, and in her ability to cope. When her boyfriend “pauses” their relationship and her summer job switches to a different camp—one for troubled kids—Lucy isn’t sure how much more she can handle. Attempting to accept a new normal, Lucy slowly regains footing among her vibrant, diverse coworkers, Sundays with her mom, and a crush on a fellow counselor. But when long-hidden family secrets emerge, can Lucy set aside her problems and discover what grace really means?

Because it’s Emery Lord. ‘Nuff said.

the boy on the bridgeThe Boy on the Bridge – M.R. Carey

Once upon a time, in a land blighted by terror, there was a very clever boy.

The people thought the boy could save them, so they opened their gates and sent him out into the world.

To where the monsters lived.

A sequel to the creepy, horrifying, and devastating The Girl With All The Gifts. The synopsis doesn’t give much away, but I trust the author to take me on another incredible journey.

releaseRelease – Patrick Ness

Inspired by Mrs Dalloway and Judy Blume’s Forever, Release is one day in the life of Adam Thorn, 17. It’s a big day. Things go wrong. It’s intense, and all the while, weirdness approaches…

Adam Thorn is having what will turn out to be the most unsettling, difficult day of his life, with relationships fracturing, a harrowing incident at work, and a showdown between this gay teen and his preacher father that changes everything. It’s a day of confrontation, running, sex, love, heartbreak, and maybe, just maybe, hope. He won’t come out of it unchanged. And all the while, lurking at the edges of the story, something extraordinary and unsettling is on a collision course.

Another author who I instinctively trust – I will be shattered, but come out on the other side better for it.

in a perfect worldIn a Perfect World – Trish Doller

Caroline Kelly is excited to be spending her summer vacation working at the local amusement park with her best friend, exploring weird Ohio with her boyfriend, and attending soccer camp with the hope she’ll be her team’s captain in the fall.

But when Caroline’s mother is hired to open an eye clinic in Cairo, Egypt, Caroline’s plans are upended. Caroline is now expected to spend her summer and her senior year in a foreign country, away from her friends, her home, and everything she’s ever known.

With this move, Caroline predicts she’ll spend her time navigating crowded streets, eating unfamiliar food, and having terrible bouts of homesickness. But when she finds instead is a culture that surprises her, a city that astounds her, and a charming, unpredictable boy who challenges everything she thought she knew about life, love, and privilege.

I have generally enjoyed the author’s contemporaries – they always have a kind of edginess that I appreciate. From the synopsis, I’m hoping that author has done her research re: authentic depictions of other people’s culture.

one of us is lyingOne of Us is Lying – Karen M. McManus

One of Us Is Lying is the story of what happens when five strangers walk into detention and only four walk out alive. Everyone is a suspect, and everyone has something to hide.

Pay close attention and you might solve this.
On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.
Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule.
Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess.
Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.
Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.
And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app.

Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention Simon’s dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn’t an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose?

Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them. 

As mentioned, I’m currently on a mystery kick, and this synopsis has me so intrigued. Preliminary reviews seem to be pretty good as well, so I’m holding out for an entertaining whodunnit.

**

So what about you, my lovelies? Any of these on your TBR? Any I haven’t mentioned that you’re counting down the days for?

Review: Radical Hope: Letters of Love and Dissent in Dangerous Times – Carolina De Robertis

radical hopeRadical Hope is a collection of letters–to ancestors, to children five generations from now, to strangers in grocery lines, to any and all who feel weary and discouraged–written by award-winning novelists, poets, political thinkers, and activists. Provocative and inspiring, Radical Hope offers readers a kaleidoscopic view of the love and courage needed to navigate this time of upheaval, uncertainty, and fear, in view of the recent US presidential election. 

Rating: 4.5/5

I’m not American, but I did follow the electoral goings-on with a mixture of horror and dismay. And dramatic political upheavals are not limited to the US of A – a brief glance at the news will reveal that bigotry and corruption have gotten a stranglehold in countries across the globe.

So when I saw this book up for request on Edelweiss, I didn’t hesitate to click. I think we’re all in need of some mental encouragement, some restorative for the soul in these rather trying times. (I’m not one to bury my head in the sand, but constant political awareness is somewhat exhausting and depressing.)

This is hard work. One could easily become exhausted, or fall prey to despair. This is where this book comes in. There is an antidote to despair to be found in connection, in shared words and thoughts and voices.

While the anthology is obviously US-centric, many of the lessons, observations and encouragements contained in this anthology can be applied across borders. As evidenced by the cover, this collection is made up of a diverse array of voices, some which may resonate with you, and others you will learn from.

And I think, for this review, I’ll allow a selection of quotes from the book to speak for themselves.

Colonial power, patriarchal power, capitalist power must always and everywhere be battled, because they never, ever quit.

On nationality, roots and ancestral history:

The human story is one of continual branching movement, out of Africa to every corner of the globe. When people talk of blood and soil, as if their ancestors sprung fully formed from the earth of a particular place, it involves a kind of forgetting.

On idealism:

I want to believe in prophecies more than policies. I want to listen to poets instead of pollsters. I want prosperity for all rather than profits for some. I want to believe in the people rather than the president.

Being a white women, it is perhaps unsurprising that one of the essays that resonated with me was one entitled “Dear White People”.

Nothing changes if we just feel shitty about being White. And nothing changes if we refuse to talk about it. The opposite of white pride does not have to be white shame. We can’t push it away and pretend it’s not us. We are not color-blind, we are not post-race, we do not get to reject our whiteness because it makes us feel bad…This does not get solved with a Celebration of Diversity Day and a coexist bumper sticker.

&

You are an ally because of your actions, not because you say you are.

On those who hold political power:

Sometimes the office may elevate the man; more often, the man degrades the office.

On despair:

I saw that I had overestimated the goodness of ordinary people. I saw that men who care about nothing but money will always rule the world.

A critique of the ‘better option’ still not being good enough:

Yet we progressives had handed you the very tools with which you would critique what was possible in favour of what was perfect. You couldn’t see Hillary as creating the preferable but imperfect conditions in which you would act. Because you were taught to wait on the sidelines for someone beyond criticism.

And this food for thought, which I don’t think I have the goodness to embrace:

There will come a time and it won’t be long, when the followers of Orange Caesar will realise that they have been lied to. That they have been fooled. That they are objects of cynical derision.  And they will be hurt. We think we ache, we Nasty Women and Bad Hombres. That is when we must act. It will be our task not to gloat or mock. Because they are Us. It will be our job to comfort. We are not, in this midnight, permitted to refuse to shine. We are the light. Grace beats karma.

This thoughtful rumination on the power of words:

But language is malleable, and it is not always on the side of truth. This is something every writer knows. Words make and unmake the world with terrifying rapidity, and they do so without moral distinction…There is a battle going on right now over the words we use, over who has the right to speak and who does not.

A scathing indictment of US policy towards migrants – this passage just gripped me and wouldn’t let me go:

…Obama’s so called Plan Sur, which has literally outsourced immigration enforcement to corrupt Mexican authorities, providing Mexico with millions and millions of dollars to hunt and deport – effectively hunt, rape, rob, extort, murder, and maybe deport – Central American migrants in its southern regions in an attempt to alleviate the embarrassment of having hundreds of thousands of child refugees amassing at our borders, fleeing the violence and poverty of the very same Central America countries we gifted with “democracy” in exchange for helping to turn their countries into mass graves back in the ‘80s.

And a final message for all of us, going forward.

That people you don’t know are worth knowing, that they have something to teach you. That learning about them – that encountering new ideas – doesn’t threaten you, it enriches you.

***

ARC received from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. Quotes taken from uncorrected proof and may differ from final publication.

Review: The Obelisk Gate (The Broken Earth #2) – N.K. Jemisin

the obelisk gateThe season of endings grows darker as civilization fades into the long cold night. Alabaster Tenring – madman, world-crusher, savior – has returned with a mission: to train his successor, Essun, and thus seal the fate of the Stillness forever.

It continues with a lost daughter, found by the enemy.

It continues with the obelisks, and an ancient mystery converging on answers at last.

The Stillness is the wall which stands against the flow of tradition, the spark of hope long buried under the thickening ashfall. And it will not be broken.

Rating: 4/5

Ladies and gentlemen, I am delighted to report that there is no second-book syndrome here. The Obelisk Gate is just as rich and pacy as its predecessor – revealing more of the mysteries of the world building that were introduced in The Fifth Season.

Firstly, on an utterly shallow note, the covers for this series are incredible. This one in particular really caught my eye with its pleasing purple shades. Deceptively beautiful, considering the rather dire situations contained within.

As far as the plot is concerned, we pick up directly where the previous book left off – Essun and Alabaster have been reunited, with Alabaster on his way off this mortal coil. He has much knowledge to impart, although an understanding teacher he is not. However, it is only around halfway through the book that Essun finds out what, exactly, he intends for her to do.

You want me to catch the fucking moon?

Oh, I had to chuckle at Essun’s profanity-filled proclamation.

I was reminded, yet again, of the breathtaking scope of the originality and world building. It’s utterly refreshing to have a fantasy setting that isn’t a poor imitation of medieval Europe. Most of the people populating the novel are varying shades of brown. Women aren’t oppressed, at least not because of their gender. In fact, most of the characters are women who are adept and powerful in their own rights, whether they are leaders, physically strong, magically talented or mechanically skilled – to name but a few examples.

I also found this instalment much easier to follow, in terms of perspectives. We follow Essun as she adjusts to life in her newfound community, with increasing responsibilities to prevent civil war, save her own skin, and master her powers over the floating obelisks in the sky. The second perspective is that of Essun’s daughter, Nassun, detailing her flight from her home with her father and the events that follow. Finally, we have short interjections from a third, mysterious narrator, whose identity you can figure out as the book progresses.

But if you stay, no part of this comm gets to decide that any part of this comm is expendable. No voting on who gets to be people.

One thing that has stood our for me throughout this series is the dark, wry humour. The kind that comes from situations that seem so hopeless that if you don’t temper it with sarcasm you’ll end up crying instead.

You’re the one who has to explain to Tonkee that Hjarka’s decided, through whatever convoluted set of values the big woman holds dear, than an ex-commless geomest with the social skills of a rock represents the pinnacle of desirability.

Finally, I was really drawn to the depiction of platonic relationships that form the heart of the novel – mainly between Essun and Alabaster, but between Essun and the other supporting characters as well. The somewhat begrudging relationships that turn into real care and concern, sometimes despite Essun’s intentions – understandable, considering the staggering losses she has faced in her past. The role she takes on to protect the people of her community, despite how they may treat her, and her attempts to preserve life, despite her abilities to wipe out everyone surrounding her.

Creative, powerful, entertaining and at times philosophical, The Obelisk Gate is a fantastic continuation of this effortlessly blended-genre series.

Books from my childhood

books from my childhood

There are a number of books that I read as a child that have remained with me to this day…mentally, at least. Since some of their physical forms just couldn’t withstand the ravages of time, ha. And these books weren’t necessarily favourites, although some did fall into that category – but rather books that, in one way or another, had a major impact on me. (And I purposefully avoided Harry Potter, because the dear boy appears on every childhood reading list ever written.)

his dark materials

His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman

I read, nay, devoured this trilogy when I was 12. And boy, did it leave me disturbed. Not necessarily in a bad way – it was just so thought-provoking and the ending left me utterly bereft. Coming from a rather religious household, it was also the first time I’d encountered subject matter so decidedly anti-religious-establishment, which also left me with a lot to grapple with. For a ‘children’s book, it dealt with so many complex issues in an accessible way.  Combined with exquisite worldbuilding and memorable characters, this trilogy gave me food for thought for months afterwards. I think it may be time for a reread as an adult – it will be interesting to see my take on it now, some 15 years later.

I stopped believing there was a power of good and a power of evil that were outside us. And I came to believe that good and evil are names for what people do, not for what they are.

walk two moonsWalk Two Moons – Sharon Creech

Sharon Creech is like the Melina Marchetta of middle grade literature. Walk Two Moons was the first book of hers that I read – and I then I promptly sought out everything else she had every written. While I don’t recall the exact plot, I do know it had the perfect balance of family drama and humour, which was what made it such a stand out read.

“How about a story? Spin us a yarn.”
Instantly, Phoebe Winterbottom came to mind. “I could tell you an extensively strange story,” I warned.
“Oh, good!” Gram said. “Delicious!”
And that is how I happened to tell them about Phoebe, her disappearing mother, and the lunatic.

a child called itA Child Called It – Dave Pelzer

SO NOT A CHILDREN’S BOOK. I saw it on my mother’s bookshelf one day and started surreptitiously reading this forbidden subject matter. Gah. I couldn’t stop myself, even though I knew it was very much not appropriate for my age group, and left me highly disturbed due to the rather horrifying descriptions of child abuse. Can’t say it scarred me for life, however, so I guess it’s all good.

 

 

when hitler stole pink rabbitWhen Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit – Judith Kerr

This was my first encounter with WW2 fiction. It was a fantastic combination of historical fact and family drama, told from the eyes of a young girl, which made it easy for me to digest and make sense of the horrors of that particular time. I didn’t realise it was published all the way back in 1971 – which I only discovered now when putting together this post.

 

 

louis sacharHoles – Louis Sachar

I’m beginning to realise that aged 12 was a rather prolific year of reading for me, ha, considering almost all the books on this list I read around then. This is another one of those books I think would be well served by me rereading it as an adult. Again, while I can’t recall specific details, I know it dealt with a lot of social justice issues, and was alternately humorous and heartbreaking.

 

sisterhood of the travelling pantsThe Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants – Ann Brashares

I read this one at the beginning of high school and – don’t laugh – thought it was very profound! (At the time, okay.) I really enjoyed the ruminations on friendship and all its nuances, along with the focus on growing up and approaching adulthood.

Maybe happiness didn’t have to be about the big, sweeping circumstances, about having everything in your life in place. Maybe it was about stringing together a bunch of small pleasures.

Are there any books from your childhood that stand out – either because you loved them, or because they made an impact on you in some way? Would be great to hear about yours!

Review: Caraval – Stephanie Garber

caravalRemember, it’s only a game…

Scarlett Dragna has never left the tiny island where she and her sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval—the faraway, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show—are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt-of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. Nevertheless she becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic. And whether Caraval is real or not, Scarlett must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over or a dangerous domino effect of consequences will be set off, and her beloved sister will disappear forever.

Welcome, welcome to Caraval…beware of getting swept too far away.

Rating: 2/5

Black sheep alert! I say, BLACK SHEEP ALERT. I was so looking forward to this one, but I have to say it’s my biggest disappointment of the year so far.

At first, I thought it was because it’s YA and I’m not the target audience – it did feel really juvenile, which is obviously not the book’s fault, but mine. But then I saw almost every other adult reader of the book raving about it – so that couldn’t be the reason!

The biggest issue for me was the writing. The overly descriptive, purpliest-prose that I have ever read. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for description – but every single object encountered by our protagonist is described. Every. Single. Object.

And described in excrutiatingly flowery detail, but using incredibly simplistic imagery. See the following examples:

“The isle on the horizon looked nothing like her familiar Trisda. Where Trisda was black sand, rocky coves, and sickly looking shrubs, this bit of earth was lush and alive. Glittering mist swirled around vibrant green mountains – all covered in trees – that rose toward the sky as if they were massive emeralds. From the top of the largest peak an iridescent blue waterfall streamed down like melted peacock feathers, disappearing into the ring of sunrise-tinted clouds that pirouetted around the surreal isle.”

“Lush red carpet cushioned her steps, while soft golden lights licked her arms with gentle kisses of warmth. Heat was everywhere, when a blink ago the world had been covered in cold. It tasted like light, bubbly on her tongue and sugary as it went down, making everything from the ends of her toes to the tips of her fingers tingle.”

Now imagine this but for 400 pages. (You don’t want to know how many times ‘emerald’ or ‘silver’ are used to describe something. If I took a shot every time I read a jewel-toned adjective…it would probably have made it a more enjoyable reading experience, to be honest.)

And the figures of speech were also clumsy and cringeworthy. They didn’t even make sense.

“She remembered her first impression of him, tall, roughly handsome, and dangerous, like poison dressed up in an attractive bottle.” 

“And to her horror, rather than feeling distaste, a tingle of periwinkle curiosity prickled her senses.”

Now all of this, of course, would have been slightly redeemed if we’d found out early on that the heroine Scarlett has synesthesia. But the author leaves it until past halfway to enlighten us. So I was left trying to grapple with these bizarre colour combinations and smells and the rest of it.

But let’s have more awful examples of the writing.

This is how the love interest’s eyes are described: “Light brown, the colour of caramel and liquid amber list.”

“She pictured two hungry pools of liquid amber fringed by dark lashes.”

Excuse me while I roll my eyes…sorry, I meant pools of liquid.

“Around her, the people on the street were as thick as a murder of crows.”

and

“Her skirt and blouse were silver this time, with eyes and lips painted to match. Like a teardrop the moon had cried.”

Huh?

But let’s get onto the other things I didn’t like, since I appear to be on a roll!

In terms of the plot, everything is just far too damn convenient. Oh, Scarlett needs to find a clue? Oh look, there it is, conveniently waiting for her. Repeat times 5.

Scarlett as a character is also incredibly slow on the uptake – it’s not great form if the reader keeps guessing before the character figures things out. Her naiviety and prudishness can be excused as product of her upbringing, but she gives absolutely no sense of agency to her sister, who is only younger than her by a year. While it’s admirable that she loves her sister and tries to save her constantly, Tella is not some helpless baby.

Also, some delightful slut-shaming:

“…she was not going to let Julian make eyes at some tart in a bar…”

And the romance didn’t do it for me. There’s a lot of pressing together through layers of flimsy dresses, oh my, and plenty of mentions of Scarlett’s curves. While Scarlett has waxed lyrical about Julian’s eyes (see above quotes), his mouth is also a point of descriptive butchering – sly, sinful, immoral. How a quirk of a mouth can be immoral is beyond me.

To be fair, CLEARLY THIS ENTIRE BOOK WAS BEYOND ME.

Free copy received from Jonathan Ball Publishers in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Windwitch (The Witchlands #2) – Susan Dennard

windwitchAfter an explosion destroys his ship, the world believes Prince Merik, Windwitch, is dead. Scarred yet alive, Merik is determined to prove his sister’s treachery. Upon reaching the royal capital, crowded with refugees, he haunts the streets, fighting for the weak—which leads to whispers of a disfigured demigod, the Fury, who brings justice to the oppressed.

When the Bloodwitch Aeduan discovers a bounty on Iseult, he makes sure to be the first to find her—yet in a surprise twist, Iseult offers him a deal. She will return money stolen from him, if he locates Safi. Now they must work together to cross the Witchlands, while constantly wondering, who will betray whom first?

After a surprise attack and shipwreck, Safi and the Empress of Marstok barely escape with their lives. Alone in a land of pirates, every moment balances on a knife’s edge—especially when the pirates’ next move could unleash war upon the Witchlands.

Rating: 3.5/5

As a result of the events of the previous book, Safi has been captured by the Empress of Marstok, Merik is presumed dead, Iseult is trying to find Safi, and Aeduon is on his own mission.

Unfortunately the momentum of the last book completely stalled in this one. While all our characters were on the move, it seemed like they were on particularly dodgy road trips, rather than having an end-goal in mind.

I suppose I should also have refreshed myself on what happened in the first book before delving into this one, because I was fairly lost on some of the major plot points and it took me a while to remember who was doing what and why.

I really do love the worldbuilding in this series, although we don’t have all the necessary information all the powers and the origin wells – I assume this will be delivered to us as we need it.

The characters and their relationships are what really make this series for me. I enjoyed Safi and Iseult learning how to compensate without the other one there – although I did miss their interactions, now that they are separated. Aeduan and Iseult have the world’s slowest of burns going on. I do wish there’d been more resolution to the Merik/Vivia conflict – it felt very abrupt at the end. And the newer cast members added some welcome flavour to the mix.

Plot-wise was where the book let me down. As I mentioned, it just felt incredibly slow to me, and it took them all a very long time to do the things they needed to do. And since the main characters were separated from each other, some of the quick-witted chemistry was lost. Furthermore, Merik wasn’t the most riveting of characters, and this was technically ‘his’ book.

Despite this, I’m still invested in the series, and I hope that Bloodwitch recovers the pace and excitement that was missing from this installment.