monthly wrap-ups

September 2018 Wrap-Up

In the month of September, I finished 4 books and DNF’d one book.

DoT

1) Dance of Thieves – Mary E. Pearson | Video Review | Goodreads Review | Blog Review

*Sighs*. I want to believe that Mary E. Pearson writes the first books in her series as slow-starters. I found myself infinitely frustrated with how she handled the romance between the leads, Jase and Kazi, in DoT, along with how flat and despicable the Rahtan are. I’m especially let-down as a returning fan of the Remnant Chronicles. I don’t suggest DoT as an introduction to the world of the Remnant Chronicles. It’s better to start off with Kiss of Deception. I will note that there’s a failure to draw on the same appeal of the Remnant Chronicles in this continuation as of now. I know MEP can do better than this and I hope she brings her A-game in the future installments or else I’m bowing out. – 3/5 stars

2) Beyond a Darkened Shore – Jessica Leake | Goodreads Review

What can I say? I’m a sucker for Norse mythology and viking-esque settings. Unfortunately, the basic formula most authors of these recent viking-YA releases employ falls flat for me. I’m just not into the white girl + gruff enemy romantic interest fall in love with a background story of their warring peoples threatening to kill each other juice. Like with Sy in the Deep by Adrienne Young, the culture doesn’t ring true to me if there’s always a white girl who’s captured/does capturing because it feels very obvious that the whole world is a backdrop for the romance to develop with the gruff captor (Sky in the Deep) or captive (Beyond a Darkened Shore). Beyond a Darkened Shore has more redeeming features over Sky in the Deep; it is more refreshing in that the main character’s actions in capturing the enemy love interest (rather than being captured) make sense given her history. Ciara actually seems to have a character backstory that doesn’t revolve around men – it revolves around her place or lack of place in her own community. She’s an outcast, and I can see the draw of this type of character. I just thought she seemed to be lacking in the brans department because she knew she was an outcast, why didn’t she just accept it and work with it? She also refuses to listen to Leif when he warns her there are bad men around and to stay away from them for her safety! Sighs.

The prose is not bad. This just didn’t capture my interest because I knew most of the mythology the author threw at us and it felt like she was just giving us a platter of mythology and seeing which ones would stick. This DNF is more of a personal preference than a quality issue.  – DNF with 3/5 stars

3) The Girl in the Spider’s Web – David Lagercrantz

This is the 4th book in Stieg Larsson’s Millenium Series and David Lagercrantz was chosen to write the continuation after Larsson’s death. I listened to this book via audiobook from my local library. It’s an okay story, it just doesn’t have the same charm as Stieg Larsson’s storytelling. When I finished, I was like oh, it’s over? That’s it? It felt like the story should have begun where it ended. I will say, I found myself hating Lisbeth’s sister and it takes a lot to get me to outright hate a character. So I’ll give Lagercrantz credit that the way he wrote Camilla incited rage from me I didn’t know I could have for anyone. – 3/5 stars

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4) Seafire – Natalie C. Parker | Goodreads Review | Blog Review | Video Review

Ah, I still have more thoughts about Seafire! These are things I didn’t specifically cover in my reviews.

I anticipated this book to be a solid 3 stars, and I was right. The main draw of this book was supposed to be the tagline, Sisterhood is Survival. However, the fact that the main character, Caledonia Styx aka Cala, spends the majority of the book doubting her crew of girls and women, hogging screen time, and screwing them over with her bad decision making, I get the sense people did not survive because she was eschewing that sisterhood. I originally found myself very impressed with the prologue because it showed so much promise in Caledonia’s character as someone who showed mercy to her enemy and got screwed over while still making the *right* decision. She refused to feed into the cycle of violence that Bullets, soldiers of a pirate warlord, are forced to adhere to. The rest of the book fast-forwards 4 years into the future after Cala is betrayed by someone she spared, and she’s been tormented by that ever since. Her character arc spans the entire book where she has trouble trusting others to do what needs to be done, that it paralyzes her into doing what needs to be done too, whether she likes it or not.

This is by no means a bad character concept (negative character development can be very interesting!), but it doesn’t help that Cala is the least interesting character in this story. Her character arc of having to learn how to trust her sisters moves at a snail’s pace. I would much rather have the massive amount of pages dedicated to Cala being contemplative about her mistakes be allocated more evenly to the other girls on her crew, especially Amina and Hime. Their characters feel more anchored into the world where Althair’s rule is law. Cala was shielded from a majority of Althair’s BS because her mother’s ship fought against his regime, so she is not *personally* or directly affected by Althair until her family is murdered. Many of the girls on the crew have felt Althair’s influence for all of their lives. Cala’s personal growth feels so detached from the setting because she has the privilege of never being ruled over by Althair. This problem wouldn’t be so noticeable with the introduction of more POVs from Amina, Hime, Oran, and others.

There’s room for growth in that area, of course, since this book is sold as the first in a trilogy. I wouldn’t call Seafire Mad Max Fury Road meets Wonderwoman. It’s Fury Road meets Oceans 8. The diversity among the cast is welcome and doesn’t feel stereotypical, however it’s very obvious the main focus is the white female lead and the WOC aren’t given nearly as much material as they deserve where they can shine.

I wish the merciful Cala emerged again somewhere along the line, because the fact that Cala is so eager to kill Bullets while her brother very might well be one as well makes no sense. It takes no stretch of the imagination that Donnally and Ares were taken by the evil warlord and turned into drug-addicted soldiers.

This book uses feminism as a marketing tool, and that feels wrong when Seafire didn’t go the extra mile in its subtext except for in the prologue. There was certainly an attempt to say *something,* but the message wasn’t strong enough. It just felt like the marketing was like “oh? Girls fight boys and win? Girls can kill too?! Slap that feminism sticker on even though that’s not what feminism means. It prints money!!” – 3/5 stars

5) As She Ascends – Jodi Meadows | Review

I have yet to write my review for this right now! Here are some thoughts:

This was one of my most anticipated releases of the fall. Mind you, this is not an own-voices book as the author does not share the same ethnicity as her characters, but the world of the Fallen Isles and Algotti Empire are completely fictional (to my knowledge) and pretty much everyone in the books are brown or black.

Although this book is not by an author of color, I still feel there is a lot of merit in the Fallen Isles series that can go unnoticed upon a casual read in terms of acknowledging that the societies we grow up in will inevitably inform how we see and engage with the world, other people and their cultures. Jodi definitely knew what was up when she wrote this series and developed the different cultures and histories of the Fallen Isles. There is an awareness in As She Ascends and Before She Ignites that I don’t see too often in fantasy YAs  that asks the reader to examine how much cultural upbringing can influence how characters behave and what they believe in. And sometimes a country’s government will use that and lead its citizens to believe in something that is not entirely the truth. Over the course of the book, the characters in As She Ascends have to face the facts that what they were told to believe in by their cultures and governments are not all true. This requires to re-examine everything they know, as it shakes the foundation of their identities. Realizing THIS and synthesizing it is no small feat, as it requires awareness in yourself and others to pull off. I have to applaud Jodi Meadows and her beta- and sensitivity-readers for crafting such brilliant subtext. – 5/5 stars

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