Book Review: A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas

acowar_usI’ve been antsy with anticipation over this book for weeks and, oh my, what a payoff.  While A Court of Wings and Ruin (ACOWAR) wasn’t a perfect novel, it was a satisfying conclusion to a series that I have come to dearly, dearly love.


Title
: A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

My Rating: 4 / 5 Stars

 

Summary: 

Feyre has returned to the Spring Court, determined to gather information on Tamlin’s maneuverings and the invading king threatening to bring Prythian to its knees. But to do so she must play a deadly game of deceit-and one slip may spell doom not only for Feyre, but for her world as well.

As war bears down upon them all, Feyre must decide who to trust amongst the dazzling and lethal High Lords-and hunt for allies in unexpected places.

In this thrilling third book in the #1 New York Times bestselling series from Sarah J. Maas, the earth will be painted red as mighty armies grapple for power over the one thing that could destroy them all.

My Thoughts (Without Spoilers):

I took my time with the book, treating it like a delicate feast I didn’t want to end.  I read it slowly–carefully tasting each paragraph, savoring the pulse of the plot, not wanting it to end.  At night, the characters wove in and out of my dreams, calling me to keep reading.

For the most part, this was my state of being while reading this book:

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Without going into details, one of my favorite parts of the book was seeing more of Prythian and the people who live there.  We see several new courts and an array of wonderful new side characters.  There is an epic library, was a huge highlight.  I also loved that some of the more minor characters from the previous books take larger roles.

In the discussion ahead, I address some of my criticisms with the ACOWAR.  After I had written them out, I realized that it may sound like I didn’t like the book or am overly picky.  I’d like to note that you can be critical of a text and still love it to pieces.

SPOILERS AHEAD: Continue reading

Goodbye, 2015!

Another year has come and gone.

Looking back, 2015 was a year of waiting.  First, I was waiting to graduate.  Then, I was waiting for whatever came next. There were days when I would have given anything for time to move faster.  There were periods of loneliness and periods of frustration.

In other ways, though, it was a wonderful year.  I was able to spend nine months living at home, which, in a way, has been like a return to childhood.  I’ve loved spending time with my family.  I loved working at our strawberry patch and apple orchard.

I’ve learned a lot this year.  I finished my degree.  I spent my summer pulling weeds followed by a fall hauling around apples.  I experienced my first professional job.  I attended the Urbana missions conference.

I’m not sad to see 2015 go.  It’s been good, but better years lie ahead.

Check out some photo highlights from my year:

On the Shelf: Fantasy Trilogies Galore

I’ve been reading a lot lately, but have totally shirked my book reviews.  Oops.  The stresses of my new job have me spending evenings rolling around on the couch in a sweater and leggings, avoiding anything that requires thinking.

So, until I’m able to write any focused reviews, here’s a bit of what I’ve been digging into over the past few weeks!

His Fair Assassin trilogy by Robin LaFevers:

I’ve been seeing things about this trilogy for quite a while, but never engaged until now.  I downloaded an ebook version of the first novel, Grave Mercy, from my local library and was off to the races.  I completed the trilogy in five days and loved them so much I ran online to order physical copies.

These books aren’t the most well-written in the world, but they’re incredibly fresh and original.  The premise is a convent in medieval France where they are dedicated to serving Mortain, the patron saint of Death.  Novices are trained as assassins and sent into the world to do Death’s bidding.  Each book is very different in flavor, although all have their share of romance.  Grave Mercy is, in many ways, a political thriller.  Dark Triumph is very dark and personal.  Mortal Heart is a coming-of-age tale.

If you like historical fiction, fantasy, and romance, these books are a must-read.

The Symphony of Ages trilogy by Elizabeth Haydon

I read the first three books of this now-longer series in high school and have been hankering to revisit them ever since.  That being said, I picked up Rhapsody on a Friday and had all 2,000+ pages of the series read ten days later.  You’d think that a series this long would have dull points, but I couldn’t put these down.  (And this is my second time through!)  Haydon has created a story that suck you in and doesn’t let go until the ride is done.

The books tell the story of Rhapsody, a young singer who finds herself swept into an adventure across Time to learn of a prophecy that foretells her destiny to be a key force in destroying evil.  Through her journey, she encounters a vast array of characters that are diverse, complex, and wonderful.  Haydon’s universe is vast, with deeply structured, believable cultures and religions.  Her world-building is top-notch.  The scope of the story is epic, leading up to a satisfying, memorable conclusion.

If you’re a fantasy fan, add these to your list.

Right now, I’m also re-reading Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell.  I’m loving it even more this time around.  Maybe I’ll make a focused On the Shelf discussing it in a couple of weeks.

In the meantime, when I finish that, I’m going to dig into Winter by Marissa Meyer.

Here’s to more books!  Keep an eye out for more On the Shelf posts in the coming weeks.

On the Shelf: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling

A few weeks ago, I had scheduled a meet-up with a friend in a nearby town.  I left early to make time for shopping (because Target is a beautiful, beautiful place) only to receive a text pushing back our meeting time.  Of course, when I get stuck with half an hour of extra time is the ONE TIME I FORGET TO BRING A BOOK.

I remedied this by spending a long time shopping and picked up a book that’s been waiting patiently on my “To-Read” list for quite a while.  That, friends, is how I ended up with Mindy Kaling’s first memoir on my shelf.

My Rating: 3 / 5 stars

Summary from GoodreadsMindy Kaling has lived many lives: the obedient child of immigrant professionals, a timid chubster afraid of her own bike, a Ben Affleck–impersonating Off-Broadway performer and playwright, and, finally, a comedy writer and actress prone to starting fights with her friends and coworkers with the sentence “Can I just say one last thing about this, and then I swear I’ll shut up about it?”   Perhaps you want to know what Mindy thinks makes a great best friend (someone who will fill your prescription in the middle of the night), or what makes a great guy (one who is aware of all elderly people in any room at any time and acts accordingly), or what is the perfect amount of fame (so famous you can never get convicted of murder in a court of law), or how to maintain a trim figure (you will not find that information in these pages). If so, you’ve come to the right book, mostly!  In Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, Mindy invites readers on a tour of her life and her unscientific observations on romance, friendship, and Hollywood, with several conveniently placed stopping points for you to run errands and make phone calls. Mindy Kaling really is just a Girl Next Door—not so much literally anywhere in the continental United States, but definitely if you live in India or Sri Lanka.

My Thoughts:

This book has zero substance, but is absolutely delightful.  I found myself unable to put it down.  During the three days it took to finish, I felt like Mindy Kaling was my best friend.  Which is a bit odd because we have next to nothing in common and I’m not really a comedy fan.

I suppose I enjoyed this book for the same reasons people like magazines and celebrity gossip: It gives me insight into a world completely removed from everything I know.  I’m not obsessed with fashion trends and the Hollywood lifestyle, but reading this was just interesting!  My favorite part is that Kaling’s stories lack the glitz and glamor of tabloids.  They’re honest, imperfect tales of how to make a name for yourself in a highly competitive career.

Most of these chapters are stories and Kaling is good at telling them.   She talks about her childhood, her body image, her college life, early career, and her big break writing for The Office.  Some chapters are just lists, like “Types of Women in Romantic Comedies That Are Not Real”, “Non-Traumatic Things That Have Made Me Cry”, and “Revenge Fantasies While Jogging”.  There’s even a whole chapter of narcissistic photos from her phone, which made me laugh.

Kaling is relatable.  We’re completely different in background, trade, and personality, but I still felt connected.  She isn’t afraid to point out her flaws or make fun of herself.  I feel like most girls, including myself, struggle occasionally (sometimes more than that) with body image and reading Kaling’s tales of being an average-sized women in Hollywood were really encouraging.

She’s also got some great words on high school popularity:

“Teenage girls, please don’t worry about being super popular in high school, or being the best actress in high school, or the best athlete. Not only do people not care about any of that the second you graduate, but when you get older, if you reference your successes in high school too much, it actually makes you look kind of pitiful, like some babbling old Tennessee Williams character with nothing else going on in her current life. What I’ve noticed is that almost no one who was a big star in high school is also big star later in life. For us overlooked kids, it’s so wonderfully fair.”

What a wonderful pat-on-the-back for nerdy kids like me.

This is a fun read.  It doesn’t make you think very hard, but made me laugh and gave me a glimpse into a life very different than my own.

Check out my On the Shelf page for more reviews!

On the Shelf: Elantris by Brandon Sanderson

Apparently, I’m on a Brandon Sanderson streak.

My Rating: 3 / 5 stars

Summary from GoodreadsElantris was the capital of Arelon: gigantic, beautiful, literally radiant, filled with benevolent beings who used their powerful magical abilities for the benefit of all. Yet each of these demigods was once an ordinary person until touched by the mysterious transforming power of the Shaod. Ten years ago, without warning, the magic failed. Elantrians became wizened, leper-like, powerless creatures, and Elantris itself dark, filthy, and crumbling.
Arelon’s new capital, Kae, crouches in the shadow of Elantris. Princess Sarene of Teod arrives for a marriage of state with Crown Prince Raoden, hoping — based on their correspondence — to also find love. She finds instead that Raoden has died and she is considered his widow. Both Teod and Arelon are under threat as the last remaining holdouts against the imperial ambitions of the ruthless religious fanatics of Fjordell. So Sarene decides to use her new status to counter the machinations of Hrathen, a Fjordell high priest who has come to Kae to convert Arelon and claim it for his emperor and his god.
But neither Sarene nor Hrathen suspect the truth about Prince Raoden. Stricken by the same curse that ruined Elantris, Raoden was secretly exiled by his father to the dark city. His struggle to help the wretches trapped there begins a series of events that will bring hope to Arelon, and perhaps reveal the secret of Elantris itself.
A rare epic fantasy that doesn’t recycle the classics and that is a complete and satisfying story in one volume, Elantris is fleet and fun, full of surprises and characters to care about. It’s also the wonderful debut of a welcome new star in the constellation of fantasy.

My Thoughts:

This was a quick read.  I started on a Thursday and finished it by Sunday.  Most of what I had to say in my discussion of Sanderson’s Mistborn Trilogy rings true here.

Sanderson is massively talented when it comes to world building.  His characters tend to be politically minded and the atmosphere he creates is diverse and realistic.  I can tell that this is his first published work, though, because although the world is a good one, it could use more depth.  I got the sense that all the countries and cultures had differences, but I didn’t quite know what those were.  The biggest strength was the allure of the fallen city of Elantris and I enjoyed watching Raoden discover its secrets.

As far as pacing goes, this book could be a lot tighter.  At one point, the focus was on rebuilding society within Elantris.  At another, it was on overthrowing the king of Arelon.  A few chapters later, the massive problem were fighting off the invading religion.  Then, suddenly, the characters rebuilding Elantris were doing completely different things.  The focus kept changing, which I found distracting.  There were also pages upon pages where it felt like nothing was happening.

Although I liked the characters for the most part, they felt a bit too perfect.  I’ve noticed Sanderson favors political idealists who have an intrinsic ability to lead and lead well.  Raoden and Sarene were like this.  They were so good at politicing that they didn’t feel real.  They also lacked major flaws.  Raoden was more interesting, as an Elantarin, his body couldn’t heal, but couldn’t die.  Any scratches or injuries were permanent, leaving him in constant and growing pain.  Sarene, though, was really cool, but also boring.  She had all the makings of a “good” heroine–outspoken, strong, intelligent, good ad fencing, etc.  But she was too stereotypical and really had no weaknesses, unless you count being crap at painting and embroidery.  Her struggles mainly came in the form of loneliness–because being so strong and independent isolates you from others.  I felt bad for her because she had pinned all her romantic hopes on her marriage with Raoden only to have them shattered.  But, besides that, she was difficult to relate with.

Elantris was an enjoyable read, but I didn’t fall in love.

Check out my On the Shelf page for more reviews and stop by my post on Sanderson’s Mistborn Trilogy as well!

On the Shelf: Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

This book was a lucky find and Goodwill.  Normally when I buy books secondhand, they sit on my shelf for years waiting to be read.  I picked this one up right away and am very glad I did!

Rating: 4 / 5 stars

Summary from Goodreads: In these funny and insightful essays, Roxane Gay takes us through the journey of her evolution as a woman of color while also taking readers on a ride through culture of the last few years and commenting on the state of feminism today. The portrait that emerges is not only one of an incredibly insightful woman continually growing to understand herself and our society, but also one of our culture.

Bad Feminist is a sharp, funny, and spot-on look at the ways in which the culture we consume becomes who we are, and an inspiring call-to-arms of all the ways we still need to do better.

My Thoughts:

This is not a perfect book.  The cover says it’s a collection of essays and, in a way, it is.  Each chapter gives Gay’s thoughts on different subjects.  If you’re looking defining essays by formal, academic standards however… this book falls short.  But falling short of academia does not mean that it has no value.

I loved this book.  My time within its pages felt less like reading a book and more like having a conversation with Gay over a cup of tea.  Her voice is informal and engaging.  She covers a wide variety of topics in this book, some relating to feminism and others not relating to it at all.

“I embrace the label of bad feminist because I am human. I am messy. I’m not trying to be an example. I am not trying to be perfect. I am not trying to say I have all the answers. I am not trying to say I’m right. I am just trying—trying to support what I believe in, trying to do some good in this world, trying to make some noise with my writing while also being myself.” Roxane Gay

I love the honesty of this book.  Gay openly acknowledges her contradictions because that’s part of being human.   She’s not consistent at many points, loving aspects of pop culture that directly oppose everything feminists stand for.  But she doesn’t shy away from her contradictions.  She embraces them.

I didn’t always agree with everything Gay said.  At times, she even had me squirming in my seat with discomfort.  But this isn’t a bad thing.  I’ve learned to see challenges to my opinion as extremely valuable.  They teach me to see things from a perspective may not be my own, but is still valid.

Many of the chapters in this book are dedicated to culturally relevant topics like race and privilege.  As a protestant white woman, I’m privy to all kinds of cultural privileges that, most of the time, I’m completely blind to.  Reading Gay’s words about her life, her various experiences, and her responses to certain pop-cultural icons, it hit me for the first time just how deeply the issues of race go.  Which is ridiculous because I’m not uninformed about the shootings in Ferguson, the Black Lives Matter movement, the Charleston shooting, or the Confederate flag debates.  I gave my senior seminar presentation about racial issues regarding the figure of the artist in Barbara Chaise-Riboud’s Sally Hemmings.  But what I’ve got is all head knowledge.  Gay’s words pushed through whatever barrier exists within my consciousness between what’s in my head and what I feel.  I know that I will never truly understand these issues because of my privilege, but this book brought me closer.  Gay writes:

“You don’t necessarily have to do anything once you acknowledge your privilege. You don’t have to apologize for it. You need to understand the extent of your privilege, the consequences of your privilege, and remain aware that people who are different from you move through and experience the world in ways you might never know anything about.”

This is what this book did for me.

This book was, at points, incredibly serious.  But, at other points, it was fun.  I appreciated the chapter about Gay’s time playing competitive Scrabble.  I also liked her discussion of The Hunger Games, even if it was relatively shallow.

All in all, I really enjoyed Bad Feminist.  It took several weeks to read, but was well worth the time.  This book challenged and pushed me to see the world from an individual who is very different from myself.  But it also had me nodding, agreeing, and even laughing at points.

You Will Like If You Enjoy: cultural discussions, racial issues, feminism, women’s rights, gender equality, GLBT rights

In Review: September, 2015

Another month has come and gone and it’s time to look back.  Welcome to another…

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Part I. Blogging

It’s been a FANTASTIC month on Keep Your Feet!  At the beginning of September, I made the following goals:

  • Stick to my revamped posting schedule
  • Participate in Blogging University’s Writing 101 challenge
  • Follow at least five new blogs
  • Comment on at least three new blogs

For the most part, I more than met these goals.  Participating in Writing 101 made it easy.  I couldn’t help scrolling through my classmates’ posts, seeing all the interesting ways they interpreted the daily assignments.  Following and commenting came naturally and I’ve really enjoyed getting to know more of my fellow bloggers.

I’m incredibly proud of the work I’ve been doing in Writing 101.  Some of the posts over the past month have meant more to me than anything I’ve written in a long time. Here’s a list of my favorites, in case you missed them.  I’d really appreciate if you checked them out and would love to hear your responses!

I freely admit that I’ve fudged my posting schedule… AGAIN.  But coming up with features on top of daily assignments is a tall order.  I don’t feel bad for not meeting it.  Last weekend, though, I pulled together several new On the Shelf reviews of books I’ve been reading lately.  Those will be posted over the next few weeks.

As for my attempts to blog about life on an apple orchard… I’m pretty sure that feature is never going to happen.  I work 50+ hours a week at the orchard and, when I’m off duty, don’t want to write about it.

Part II. Books

September was an unusually slow reading month.  I attribute this to the fact that I spent most of my time in non-fiction, which is a bit uncharacteristic.  This was supplemented by listening to the Harry Potter books on audiobook for the second time in three months.  No regrets there!

The main books I have read include:

  • Live, Love, Lead by Brian Houston
  • Love Does by Bob Geoff
  • Bad Feminist by Roxanne Gay
  • Elantris by Brandon Sanderson

I plan doing informal reviews on Gay, Sanderson, and Geoff’s books in the upcoming weeks.  Keep an eye out for those!

Part III. Life

This month was BUSY, to say the least!  My family’s apple orchard opened on September 3 and, ever since, we’ve all become workaholics.  I’m at the orchard six days a week.  Some days, I only have to be over there for a few hours.  Others, especially when we’re gearing up for a busy weekend, I pull multiple 10-hour-days in a row.  On Saturday night, after working in the store handling an endless stream of customers and transactions, my parents and I go to a local bar for burgers, beer (or, in my case, hard cider), and a rest from toil.

Nevertheless, I have been doing fun things!  With friends in my area, I’ve had a steady stream of movie marathons, bonfires, and girls nights.  I’ve been to my local Applebee’s more times in the past month than I have in my entire life.  A few weeks ago, I met up with one of my study abroad friends who recently moved to Minneapolis.  We went to see Ivan & Alyosha and Noah Gundersen.  My older brother and I also went to a Twins baseball game, which was a blast.  I also went to the Renaissance Festival with an old roommate.  I haven’t been since high school and loved it!  It was so fun exploring the different vendors and watching the jousting.

On the job front, I have a possible job opportunity when orchard season ends!  Nothing is official, but once my resume is approved, I’ll have a part-time job from mid-October through early January.  I’ll tell you all about what the job is once it’s official.  It’s perfect because it’s a job I’m very much interested in, but am hesitant to make a full 2-year commitment.  I love my home community, but don’t really want to put down roots and stay here.  If things work out, I’ll gain professional experience, have a source of income for the next few months, and still have wiggle-room to figure out where the next big adventure lies.

October Blogging Goals:

  • Comment on 3 blogs per week
  • Post at least 3 times per week
  • Clean up and revamp menus and pages
  • Continue using Writing 101 assignments as inspiration for non-feature posts

Photos From This Month:

Fall Posting Schedule

Seasons are changing once more and, as always, we must change with them.  At the beginning of summer, I crafted a blogging schedule and my follow-through was pretty dismal.  However, the beautiful thing about failure is that it provides opportunities to learn and grow.  I’m all about learning and growing.

Here we are at the beginning of another season and it’s time for another attempt.

Without further ado, I present to you my Fall Posting Schedule!  (With new banners!)

Orchard Moments: This is a revamped version of my attempted summer feature, Pleasant Valley Thursday.  My original intent for these posts were to give insight into what it’s like to live at an apple orchard while simultaneously complaining about my field labor job.  The problem is that the formatting just didn’t work.  When it came down to it, I just didn’t want to make big long posts explaining the details of farming.

In the new feature, I’ll post brief glimpses into orchard life–photos, blurbs, funny things that happen, etc.  This way, I can still share a significant part of my life with you all without getting bogged down.  These posts will come out on Tuesdays.

OrchardMoments banner

On the Shelf: These posts became regular over the summer and quickly became one of my favorite parts of blogging.  Each week, I pick a book that I’ve recently read and do an informal review.  I provide a brief summary of the text, rate it on a five-star scale, and discuss my thoughts/experience.  If the book has been adapted into movies, I sometimes share trailers or favorite clips.  Occasionally, I share fan art.  Sometimes, I’m juggling multiple books and am not in the position to write in detail about any of them.  When this happens, I like to make a big post where I briefly touch on everything.  During the summer I published these on Tuesdays, but have decided to move them to Thursdays.  This way, I have time during the week to draft quality posts throughout the week instead of scrambling to pull them together the night before.

On the Shelf Banner

#WeekendCoffeeShare: I know several other bloggers who do these and I’ve recently joined in.  The idea is to draft a post where you discuss your week as if you’re meeting up with your readers for coffee.  It’s a great way to casually talk about things I normally wouldn’t blog about–random happenstances, complaints, and all the in-betweens that make life fun.  It’s hosted by Part Time Monster.

Month in Review: At the end of each month, I’ve decided to pause and look back, focusing on three areas: Blogging, Books, and Life.  I feel like this is a good step towards regularity–it’s a way to look back on my blogging habits and find ways of improving.  It’s also a good way to help position myself in life.  By reflecting on where I’ve been, I can figure out where I’m going–a theme at the heart of what Keep Your Feet is all about.

Month in Review blog heading

Sketchbook Corner: One of the ways I de-stress is by creating art.  I’m not amazing, but when enough art piles up, I like to post it.  This feature is infrequent, but fun.

I’ve also decided to participate in the WordPress Blogging University Writing 101 course.  This means four weeks of daily assignments that will help me find inspiration to write every day.  I attempted to take the course last month, but never received any of the emails, so I am trying again! I’m looking forward to the challenge.  It will definitely be a time commitment and I know that I might not be able to keep up perfectly.  But I’m going to try!  I really love that WordPress offers these classes.  I love polishing my site and exploring new styles of posts.  As always, I hope this opens opportunities to get to know other bloggers and find new sites to follow.

I’ll also be working on updating my features tab found at the top of the page to match the new schedule. Such things take time.

It should be a great fall!  Feel free to join with me as I embark on a season of apple orchards, books, and fun! I’m excited to see what the next few months holds for Keep Your Feet.

In Review: August 2015

In order to help me reflect as a blogger, I’ve been thinking a lot about adopting monthly reviews.  I’ve seen other bloggers pull off the feature effectively.  I feel like it’s a good step towards regularity–it’s a way to look back on my blogging habits and find ways of improving.  It’s also a good way to help me position myself in life.  By reflecting on where I’ve been, I can figure out where I’m going.  Which is one of my primary reasons for blogging.

Each month, I plan on discussing three primary subjects: Blogging, Books, and Life.  At the end of each post, I hope to make some kind of goal for the next month.  So, here we go…

Month in Review blog heading

I. Blogging

Regarding posting, August was a decent month.  My registration for Writing 101 must not have processed, because I never recieved any emails.  Instead of making inquiries, I shrugged it off and went on with life.  I’ve registered for the class this next month instead.  Hopefully, September will bring a new wave of inspiration.

One thing I’m still terrible at is engaging with other bloggers.  I follow many sites that I really enjoy, but only comment on a few of them.  I’ve always been a fairly reserved person in the company of strangers and acquaintances–if I don’t have something to say that contributes something substantial, I usually opt for silence.  This inclination doesn’t do me many favors regarding getting to know the WordPress community.  Hopefully, this month’s Blogging University class will help push me in a more chatty direction.

Something I’m incredibly proud of is that I managed to publish regular On the Shelf reviews!  Over the past few weeks, I covered Fairest by Marissa Meyer, The Silmarillion by Tolkien, and Wildlife by Fiona Wood.  I worked hard to pour thought and substance into these posts–something I hope to continue into next month.

I also started participating in the weekly #WeekedCoffeeShare feature sponsored by Part Time Monster.  These are fun ways to chat about life and generate conversation.  I posted one yesterday about my trip to the Minnesota State Fair and a wedding I attended this past weekend, so definitely check that out.

Slowly, I’m becoming a more organized blogger.  Instead of relying purely on inspired, spur-of-the-moment posts, I’ve been planning ahead, drafting, and keeping a notebook.  I’m reworking my posting schedule for the next few months, which will help me produce the content I want at a pace that will work well with my schedule.  But more on that tomorrow!

II. Books

Some things never change… like my reading habits.  Here are some of the titles I’ve delved into over the past month:

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Sense & Sensibility, Emma, and Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen, The Silmarilion by J.R.R. Tolkien, Fairest by Marissa Meyer, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling, and the Mistborn Trilogy by Brandon Sanderson.  Several of these, such as the Austen novels, were consumed via audiobook.  The rest I read in physical copies.

III. Life

A lot of good things happened this month.  I attended the Global Leadership Summit, a two day conference where some of the world’s best leaders share their wisdom, with my family.  Unexpectedly, I got to see my Austrian friends again before they flew back to Europe.  My older brother and I saw Brandi Carlile live in Minneapolis, which I posted about.  My mom and I took a short vacation on the North Shore of Lake Superior.  We spent some relaxing days wandering the town of Grand Marais and hiking to waterfalls.

I also started attending a Bible study for twenty-somethings in my community.  It’s been a challenging summer for my faith.  For the first time in years, I’m not surrounded by a group of Christians to grow and learn with.  It’s still a bit awkward attending The Calling (that’s the name of the Bible study) since I don’t know anyone well, but with time, I hope to forge friendships.

For the first time in sixteen years, I didn’t go back to school.  I thought this was going to be weird.  I thought I’d get sad and miss it.  My heart still flutters when I pass the school supply section at Target, but I think that’s just because I have a deep love of office products.  I know that in time, I’ll miss classroom learning, assigned reading, and paper writing because I’m a nerd like that.  I’ll definitely miss the thrill of academia and being surrounded by intelligent people who think critically about the world.  Right now, though, I’m still glorying in the freedom of reading whatever I want.  I really enjoy working during the day and not having to deal with assignments and deadlines.

September blogging goals:

  • Stick to my revamped posting schedule
  • Participate in Blogging University’s Writing 101 challenge
  • Follow at least five new blogs
  • Comment on at least three new blogs

How was your August?

On the Shelf: Fairest (Levana’s Story)

I read the first three Lunar Chronicles novels last Spring and, although they certainly weren’t perfect, I fell in love with them.  I’ve been putting off reading the novella telling Levana’s story simply because I didn’t want to buy it on my Kindle.  When I saw it on the shelf at the library last week, I picked it up without hesitation.

Fairest by Marissa Meyer

My Rating: 1.5 / 5 stars

Summary from GoodreadsFans of the Lunar Chronicles know Queen Levana as a ruler who uses her “glamour” to gain power. But long before she crossed paths with Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress, Levana lived a very different story – a story that has never been told . . . until now. Marissa Meyer spins yet another unforgettable tale about love and war, deceit and death. This extraordinary book includes full-color art and an excerpt from Winter, the next book in the Lunar Chronicles series.

My Thoughts:

The Lunar Chronicles books leave you with serious questions regarding Levana.  Why does she wear the veil?  Why is she so evil?  Was she born a tyrant or made into one?  This novella answers those questions.  Because I liked the series so much, I hoped to enjoy this.

As you can tell by my rating, I was disappointed.

The focus is completely on Levana–her life, her story, her problems.  After cracking open the book, it doesn’t take long to see that she has reason to be unhappy.  Disfigured by the cruelty of her elder sister, Levana is a lonely, insecure girl who just wants someone to value her existence.  At first, this is sad.  Pitiable, even.

But it becomes quickly apparent that the protagonist is also extremely immature, trying to fill her lonliness by forcing a palace guard to marry her, despite the fact that he is in the midst of mourning his beloved wife.  This sets Levana on a lifelong course of manipulation, self-importance, and desire for domination.

What disgusts me about Levana is that her childhood mistreatment, though horrifying, makes her feel that she deserves love, no matter what the cost.  It leads to the ruin of multiple lives.  In order to cling to the thin fabrication of love she’s worked so hard to possess, she turns to violence.

At one point, she has everything she has ever wanted: a husband, step-daughter, and even the throne.  But it’s not enough.  She becomes increasingly power-hungry and paranoid.  In attempt to become all-powerful, she destroys the very thing that she first loved.

Levana is not an admirable character, nor a likable one.  At the start, she’s pitiable.  At the end, she’s disgusting.  I don’t know why Meyer felt her story needed to be told.  It doesn’t redeem Levana in the slightest.  It just makes me hate her more.  I sure do hope that Cinder succeeds in taking her down in the final novel, which comes out in November.

You Will Like If: You enjoy fairy tales, The Lunar Chronicles, villain backstories