Book Reviews: July 2018

I made it through five books in July, then I spent all of August procrastinating on writing reviews for said books. Oh well, I still technically posted this in August. 

  • The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby
  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
  • Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • Tower of Dawn by Sarah J. Maas
  • The Girls by Emma Cline

Minor spoilers are in the reviews for The Hate U Give and The Girls. The Tower of Dawn review has lots of spoilers, and I've marked when those start. 

 

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby

Jean-Dominique Bauby suffered a severe stroke that caused paralysis of his entire body, except for his left eyelid. Using only blinks, he wrote this short memoir. 

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While reading I often found myself trying to figure out how Bauby planned out the chapters. He couldn't write an outline or restructure paragraphs, he just had to tell it in one go. I was amazed the transcribing process - I mean, truly, genuinely amazed, I don't think I could accomplish the same in his situation. I'd probably be able to blink out a few short letters to my closest loved ones and peace out.

That said, I wasn't overly impressed with Bauby as a person. I know, I know, this is harsh considering the context, but he seemed kind of full of himself. He barely mentioned his kids and I got the "women think I'm the greatest thing ever" vibe. Several passages were poignant and beautifully told and he certainly had an interesting life to talk about, I just wasn't too drawn to him.

If you check this one out, I'd recommend setting aside time to read it all in one go. I read it in bits and pieces and I think it's probably more enjoyable and motivating in one sitting.

Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars


 

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

The Hate U Give (THUG) is a fictional story heavily inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement. Starr, a high school student, witnesses her friend Khalil dying at the hands of a police officer. 

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The Hate U Give was on my TBR for ages and I finally got around to it when it was chosen for my book club. For full transparency, I read THUG as someone who leans heavily left politically, especially on social issues. I read many passages and found I already agreed with the author's message, so my mind wasn't really changed by anything I read. But there were certainly sections where I read new perspectives or a defense of something where I thought "Ah! I can use that" or "That's a good way to put it." Obviously, I am white, and much of this book contained things I cannot personally relate to. But I really, truly try to understand things from other perspectives and this book helped me do that. 

The story itself was pretty much what you'd expect; it more or less acts as a fictional vehicle for Thomas to explain her views and the plot echoes several of the real police shooting cases. And I think that's perfectly fine, and it's why this book succeeds - the subject is real. Thomas didn't dance around hard discussions either, take a look at some of her character choices: Starr's black uncle was a cop, Khalil sold drugs, and Starr was dating a white classmate. 

I think this book could benefit a lot of people, but it seems to me that most people reading this already have no problem with the phrase "black lives matter." I have yet to see a review from someone who says "all (or blue) lives matter," which is an ironic reflection on the whole problem.

This was a powerful quote from the book I thought was worth sharing:

“Drugs come from somewhere, and they’re destroying our community... You got folks like Brenda, who think they need them to survive, and then you got the Khalils, who think they need to sell them to survive. The Brendas can’t get jobs unless they’re clean, and they can’t pay for rehab unless they got jobs. When the Khalils get arrested for selling drugs, they either spend most of their life in prison, another billion-dollar industry, or they have a hard time getting a real job and probably start selling drugs again. That’s the hate they’re giving us, baby, a system designed against us. That’s Thug Life.”

I didn't give it a full five stars because there was a long stretch in the middle of the book where not much happened; the action was heavily focused on the beginning and end. As that's my only criticism, I highly recommend this. 

Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

 

 

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Between the World and Me is written as letters (more like essays) from Coates to his son. Coates muses on what it means to be a black man in America, specifically focusing on how black bodies have been treated throughout history. 

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I saw this one available on Kindle and I recognized the title, so I downloaded it. I wasn't looking for non-fiction but the non-fic found me.

This is a hard review for me to write because, as a white woman, my life experiences have been extremely different from Coates'. That doesn't mean it wasn't a great read; I don't recall another book that forced me into someone else's shoes the way this one did. I recommend it for the perspective alone, whether you agree with what he's saying or not.

Coates is a popular writer but I confess this is the first thing of his that I've written, so I don't know many of his political stances. I found his thought process easy to follow even though I'm 99% sure Coates is way smarter than me. He also had lots of historical references; the fairly recent story of Prince Jones stuck out to me. It was heartbreaking.

I think this quote summarized the book pretty well:

“As for now, it must be said that the process of washing the disparate tribes white, the elevation of the belief in being white, was not achieved through wine tastings and ice cream socials, but rather through the pillaging of life, liberty, labor, and land; through the flaying of backs; the chaining of limbs; the strangling of dissidents; the destruction of families; the rape of mothers; the sale of children; and various other acts meant, first and foremost, to deny you and me the right to secure and govern our own bodies.” And a few sentences after this statement: “America believes itself exceptional, the greatest and noblest nation ever to exist, a lone champion standing between the white city of democracy and the terrorists, despots, barbarians, and other enemies of civilization. One cannot, at once, claim to be superhuman and then plead mortal error.”

In summary, this is a great read for perspective but keep in mind it's often heavy. 

Rating: 4 of 5 stars

 


Tower of Dawn by Sarah J. Maas

Tower of Dawn is the sixth installment in Sarah J. Maas' Throne of Glass series; it parallels the timeline of book five and follows Chaol as he tries to recruit allies for his queen. 

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I bought Tower of Dawn (ToD) when it first came out but it took me almost a year to get around to reading it. After I read Heir of Fire, I decided I'd be finishing the series solely for Manon. Manon. Is. LIFE. All the other characters grate on my nerves, but here I am, reading a book that doesn't even feature Manon for the sole purpose of knowing how Manon's arc ends. *sigh*

You might be saying, "WHY DO YOU READ THIS IF YOU HATE IT?" Well, I don't HATE it. It's a guilty pleasure series for me. Obviously I'm team Manon, but the books are mindless entertainment and while they may not be found in the deepest ocean of literary content, the surface is still really shiny. They're fun, so I read.

*Note: If you still haven't read The Assassin's Blade novellas by this point, do so first.

SPOILERS FOR TOWER OF DAWN ARE AFTER THIS POINT!

If you've read the ToG series, you are probably aware that fans were not happy with SJM's sixth Aelin-less book. SJM made Chaol painfully unlikable after book two, but thankfully he gets better here. I read a few other reviews explaining SJM's research into Chaol's disability, and while I haven't personally experienced being paralyzed or know anyone who has, I thought she did a good job portraying it. Also this book has lots of diversity, which was needed after the first couple books. If you still don't want to read a book about Chaol, all I really can tell you is that Tower of Dawn does indeed progress the story and you'll miss out on a few key things if you skip.

Now, for my usual SJM book rants:

  1. It was way too long. 750+ pages that should have been capped at 500, max.
  2. The only scene I wanted to see in this book, when Yrene found out that Aelin was the one who helped her, was off screen!!! What!?!!!?!! That's literally all I cared about going into this.
  3. As always, annoying relationship things happen. Chaol and Nesryn faded away, Yrene took her place, and Sartaq and Nesryn came out from behind to be The Most Interesting part of this book. Seriously, Nesryn's chapters were page turners. My mental Sartaq was a hottie.
  4. I don't think SJM writes politics very well. The new king dude ignored his political guests for WEEKS. WEEKS! It reminded me of Aelin working alone in  book 4; it's just not how leaders operate. Aelin's selfish so that could explain her, but the new guy was supposed to be leading the world's most progressive, united, and strong country. There was simply no reason for him to refuse a meeting to ambassadors for so long, especially when he ATE DINNER WITH THEM EVERY NIGHT. Death in the family wasn't really a valid excuse, he wasn't ignoring all his other business.

Read this if you plan to finish the ToG series.

Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

 

 

The Girls by Emma Cline

It's the 60's and Evie Boyd is searching for love and attention. When some carefree girls walk by, Evie finds what she's looking for in their confidence - and in their cult. 

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I didn't know what this book was about before I borrowed it from my library. Sometimes I just scroll through the available ebooks and download based on cover or name recognition, and that's what happened here. Once I was a few chapters in I went to read the Goodreads summary and had an "ah" moment. I know some people love serial killer/Manson-esque stories but it's not really my cup of tea. I chose to keep reading though, because the appeal is not the real-life story that it was based on. It's the unnerving look into what young girls will do for acceptance and love.

Adult Evie got on my nerves, but I did sympathize with her younger self. Her parents were awful, especially her mother. Her fourteen-year-old daughter was literally JOINING A CULT, and she had no idea. No wonder the kid had such self esteem issues!

My favorite scene was when Evie got a ride to the farm from a normal guy and he was horrified at the things around him. The rose-colored scales slipped from her eyes a bit, and she was uncomfortable. How many women have had that moment, albeit in less criminal circumstances? Haven't the majority of us woken up one day and said to ourselves, "Woah, how did I fall for this? Why am I letting him/her treat me like this? How could I be so blind?" I know I have. In Evie I recognized something women give control to.

Read if you like stories inspired by real events. 

Rating: 3 of 5 stars

Review: Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West (BMHAWK) by Dee Brown is a detailed and honest portrayal of the United States government’s efforts to claim the Wild West and how they destroyed Indians in the process. 

For this review I will use the term "Indians" because that's what the book used, although I was personally taught in school to say "Native American" and that's what I always say in real life. Interestingly, the Smithsonian museum in DC uses "American Indian." Is that the new correct terminology?

"They made us many promises, more than I can remember, but they never kept but one; they promised to take our land, and they took it."

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I'm reviewing BMHAWK outside of my monthly posts because this actually took me about six months to finish. I found the content enlightening, but incredibly heart breaking so it was hard for me to read more than a few pages at a time. I'd get so depressed I'd take a break for a week. The writing itself was the reason I deducted a star; it was pretty dry and redundant. Each chapter followed the same arc: Indians were promised something; white men lied; Indians either moved, tried to compromise, or fought back; then eventually they lost everything anyway. As I said - redundant. In the most depressing way possible.  

As a kid, I learned that Thanksgiving was when the Indians and white pilgrims became best friends. I sang along with Disney’s sexualized and historically inaccurate Pocahontas. I remember later reading a middle grade book about the Cherokee Trail of Tears that first introduced me to the fact that Indians were not fairly treated. The older I got (as is true with people in general) I learned more about the USA’s violent history. 

So adult me knew better, but I picked up BMHAWK because adult me didn't know many facts about what really happened. BMHAWK pretty blatantly pointed out that the white men of the 1800’s were liars, thieves, and perpetrators of an ethnic cleansing. Is it biased? Sure, if by biased you mean that this was one of the first books written (1970's) to share the victim's point of view. Brown intended to make his readers think like the victim - "looking eastward." Some have criticized his lack of sources within the text, which I understand, but the back of the book had pages of references for those curious. 

I'd have no objection to BMHAWK being required reading for Americans.  

Rating: 4 of 5 stars

 

QUOTES

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Below are tidbits and quotes from BMHAWK that stood out to me. I know it’s long, but I actually cut it down to about half of what I marked while reading. 

Sprinkled (lightly, because it was rare) throughout BMHAWK are the names of white men who tried to do the right thing:

1) Lieutenant Royal E. Whiteman: Attempted to warn Indians near Camp Grant of a potential attack and cared for their dead after the fact. His own military career suffered because of it. (Chapter 9)

2) Tom Jeffords, a mail carrier: Jeffords and his riders were often ambushed by Apache warriors on their routes, so he finally went to Cochise himself to see what could be done.
"After a proper interval of silence, Taglito Jeffords told Cochise he wanted a personal treaty with him so that he could earn his living carrying the mails. Cochise was baffled. He had never known such a white man. There was nothing he could do but honor Taglito's courage by promising to let him ride his mail route unmolested." They continued having a respectful relationship; all Chiricahuas trusted Jeffords. (Chapter 9)

3) William P. Clark, "White Hat": He "genuinely liked Indians, was interested in their way of life," and the Cheyennes requested he accompany them when they were being forced out. (Chapter 14)

4) Henry W. Lawton, "Tall White Man": Was assigned to the Cheyennes instead of Clark above, made sure the Indians received enough food. Also attempted to get more food for them from Washington. (Chapter 14)

And now, quotes:

Intro

"It was an incredible era [1860-1890] ...an almost reverential attitude toward the ideal of personal freedom for those who already had it."

"And if the readers of this book should ever chance to see the poverty, the hopelessness, and the squalor of a modern Indian reservation, they may find it possible to truly understand the reasons why."

Ch. 8 - The Rise and Fall of the Donehogawa

When Spotted Tail tried strawberries and ice cream in Washington, DC: "Surely the white men have many more good things to eat than they send to the Indians."

Ch. 10 - The Ordeal of Captain Jack

"Captain Jack was hanged on October 3. On the night following the execution, his body was secretly disinterred, carried off to Yreka, and embalmed. A short time later it appeared in eastern cities as a carnival attraction, admission price ten cents."

Ch. 11 - The War to Save the Buffalo

"Of the 3,700,000 buffalo destroyed from 1872 through 1874, only 150,000 of them were killed by Indians. When a group of concerned Texans asked General Sheridan if something should not be done to stop the white hunters' wholesale slaughter, he replied: 'Let them kill, skin, and sell until the buffalo is exterminated, as it is the only way to bring lasting peace and allow civilization to advance.'"

Ch. 12 - The War for the Black Hills

"'It is only six years since we came to live on this stream where we are living now,' Red Dog said, 'and nothing that has been promised us has been done.' Another chief remembered that since the Great Father (President) promised them that they would never be moved they had been moved five times. 'I think you had better put the Indians on wheels,' he said sardonically, 'and you can run them about whenever you wish.'"

"'What have we done that the white people want us to stop?' Sitting Bull asked. 'We have been running up and down this country, but they follow us from one place to another.'"

"With them went the father and mother of Crazy Horse, carrying the heart and bones of their son. At a place known only to them they buried Crazy Horse somewhere near Chankpe Opi Wakpala, the creek called Wounded Knee."

Ch. 13 - The Flight of the Nez Perces

"The whites told only one side. Told it to please themselves. Told much that is not true. Only his own best deeds, only the worst deeds of the Indians, has the white man told."
-Yellow Wolf of the Nez Perce

"Leaving the soldiers floundering in their rear, the Indians crossed Targhee Pass into Yellowstone Park on August 22. Only five years earlier the Great Council in Washington had made the Yellowstone area into the country's first national park, and in that summer of 1877 the first adventuresome American tourists were admiring its natural wonders." 

"I have asked some of the great white chiefs where they get their authority to say to the Indian that he shall stay in one place, while he sees white men going where they please. They cannot tell me."
-Chief Joseph

Ch. 16 - "The Utes Must Go!"

"It was Nathan Meeker's fancy to have the Utes address him as Father Meeker (in their savage state he looked upon them as children) but most of them called him "Nick," much to his displeasure." (I have so much love for the fact that they wouldn't call this ass "Father" ha!)

Ch. 17 - The Last of the Apache Chiefs

"He found plenty of evidence that white men were trying to arouse the Apaches to violent action so that they could be driven from the reservation, leaving it open for land-grabbing."

Ch. 18 - Dance of the Ghosts

"On September 8 Sitting Bull and the young Bluecoat [and translator] arrived at Bismarck for the big celebration. They rode at the head of a parade and then sat on the speakers' platform. When Sitting Bull was introduced, he arose and began delivering his speech in Sioux. The young officer listened in dismay. Sitting Bull had changed the flowery text of welcome. 'I hate all the white people,' he was saying. 'You are thieves and liars. You have taken away our land and made us outcasts.' Knowing that only the Army officer could understand what he was saying, Sitting Bull paused occasionally for applause; he bowed, smiled, and then uttered a few more insults. At last he sat down, and the bewildered interpreter took his place. The officer had only a short translation written out, a few friendly phrases, but by adding several well-worn Indian metaphors, he brought the audience to its feet with a standing ovation for Sitting Bull." (Sitting Bull was my favorite person by the end of the book. I had a lot of respect for him.)

"'The white man knows how to make everything,' he said, 'but he does not know how to distribute it.'"
-Sitting Bull to Annie Oakley when discussing how white people treat their own poor.

Book Reviews: June 2018

I read six things in June: three books and three plays! I had fun getting back into Shakespeare but the books were kinda meh. As usual, the reviews below contain some (very) mild spoilers. 

  • All's Well That Ends Well by William Shakespeare
  • As You Like It by William Shakespeare
  • The Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare
  • Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper
  • A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
  • Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan


 

Shakespeare Plays

I know this sounds pretentious, but I love Shakespeare. There’s nothing like a good Shakespearean insult to make me appreciate the English language. Reading each of his plays has always been a reading goal of mine since I only read seven or eight in college. (Maybe one in high school? I don’t really remember.) So I’ve decided to go back through his work (alphabetically because that’s easiest) and read them all.

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My ratings for Shakespeare are a little different. When I rate them “3 of 5,” I’m not trying to say Shakespeare could’ve made it better. Think of it more as a ranking of my personal favorite plays by the Bard. Of the three below, As You Like It was my favorite, although Parolles from All’s Well That Ends Well was by far the best character.

All’s Well That Ends Well: 3 of 5 stars

As You Like It: 3 of 5 stars

The Comedy of Errors: 3 of 5 stars


 

Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper

Melody, a young girl with cerebral palsy, is extremely intelligent and has begun to attend new classes at school. Using technology to speak with her family and peers, she aims to show everyone that she is more than a disability. 

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This was a book club read for me and I didn’t realize it was middle grade before I started it. As an adult reader, I saw pretty much every plot point coming a mile away. The ending did get a rise out of me though - if I was Melody's mom, I'd have reported that teacher at least eight times. What a jerk. Draper, who has a daughter with cerebral palsy, did a great job of describing Melody's physical reactions. She would often get excited and make a lot of noise; it was portrayed very realistically. 

I don't really recommend this for adults to read on their own, but for parents and teachers of kids in the target age range (4th through 8th-ish grades) this would be a great discussion starter. Use it to talk about empathy, how disabilities affect people, and the different forms that bullying can take. 

Rating: 3 of 5 stars


 

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

Kell is an Antari, a magician, serving the King and Queen in Red London. Kell acts as the ambassador between all four Londons and often smuggles artifacts to entertain himself. When he accidentally smuggles a dark object, Kell must hurry to destroy it. 

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Listen. I am always DTF (Down To Fangirl). I have a soft spot for YA Fantasy and I love when something makes me ship all the ships. I expected A Darker Shade of Magic to be good because I see this book posted everywhere, but it was SO BORING. Soooo. BORING. The entire plot is just "Kell gets an evil rock and has to take it back to the place it came from." Somehow Schwab managed to fill 400 pages with...nothing.

The concept of "four parallel dimension Londons interconnected by magic" sounded good as I read the cover, but there was exactly zero worldbuilding done beyond that. There were super fancy magicians called Antari, people who wanted to be magicians, and people who had no idea magicians existed. And at no point did I ever get a solid grasp of how magic worked for any of these people. Somehow elements and blood were involved? (If you compare this to the amazing Brandon Sanderson, just know I want to punch you in the face.)

Kell was boring (how many times have I used that word?) but Lila's character irritated me the most. Look at our heroine! So tough! She's independent and feisty! She sometimes uses a knife! *gags* How many times do we have to see this same female character in YA Fantasy? I was intrigued by that other Antari for a few pages, but then he turned boring too and now I can't even remember his name.

One-dimensional characters, nothing to define the Londons beyond "evil" or "red" or "no magic," and average writing all mean I cannot recommend this to anyone. The most interesting aspect is Kell's coat.

I rounded this up to 2 stars because the cover is pretty. *shrugs* Come at me, teenage fangirls.

Rating: 1.5 of 5 stars (2 on Goodreads)


 

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

Rachel's boyfriend, Nick, has invited her to Singapore for the summer to go to a wedding and meet his family. When Rachel arrives, she is shocked to find out her boyfriend is part of the Singaporean 1% and is crazy, filthy rich.

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I wanted to read this one because Constance Wu will be playing Rachel in the movie. I love Wu; she's pretty much the main reason I would go see the movie. (Plus an all Asian cast, yay!) So I figured I'd read this one as some light chick lit and fun escapism about rich people. Makes sense, right? But reading this reminded me of why I generally avoid chick lit and contemporary romance.

I might have enjoyed this more if Nick wasn't such a total ass and the writing was better. The first three hundred and fifty pages were basically just descriptions of rich people things. Food, houses, clothes, airplanes, cars, blah blah blah. You can't hide lack of a plot or characterization behind a fancy stuffed tiger in the corner. Obviously I expected some of this, but it came to the point of me skimming paragraphs because I was tired of words like "lush." The last fifty or so pages finally had some action, but by then it just felt rushed.

Back to Nick being an ass. He was also an idiot. "This isn't a palace. It's just a big house." Then the first time poor Rachel ever met the owner of that palace, his grandmother, he left her alone. Right after he started getting lectured about becoming too Westernized, he got uncomfortable and left her there!!!! To "meet the family" alone!!!! He gave her ZERO warning about his family and failed to recognize when everyone was treating her like shit. Astrid and Oliver were nice to her at least, and they were my favorite characters by far. Nick's mother was the type of mother-in-law that sends couples into therapy. Run away, Rachel! (Their romantic dialogue was super cliche, too.)

Final rant point - it is unbelievable that the Young family lived in secret. How exactly could a girl recognize Nick in New York and start a rumor about Rachel that got all the way back to Nick’s mother in Singapore, while the other fairly rich families in Singapore who constantly gossip had never heard of this huge, extended family right down the road???!!?!?!? It's just not possible. 

To be fair, I did enjoy the cultural tidbits about life in Singapore and it was entertaining enough that I got through it quickly. I'll probably still go see the movie, the trailers make it look like the fun escapism I was looking for when I picked up the book.

Rating: 2.5 of 5 stars (3 on Goodreads)

Book Reviews: May 2018

I only read two books in May, but I’m fine with it because Outlander was a long one. I was on vacation at the end of the month, and even though I always tell myself I’ll read a ton on vacation, I never do. *shrugs*

  • A Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J. Maas
  • Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

Warning: both reviews contain vague spoilers.

 

 

A Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J. Maas

After the war for Prythian, Feyre and the rest of her Night Court focus on rebuilding their city and relationships. Winter Solstice is nearing, and Feyre has to learn how to lead the event as High Lady.

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A lot of SJM fans seemed to be really disappointed by this, but I had zero expectations so I neither loved or hated it. I do agree with the general consensus that nothing really happens. All the main points could have easily been condensed into a few chapters at the beginning of the next book. To be honest, I was more interested in the sneak peek in the back of the novella than the actual novella.

One thing I did appreciate was Elain standing up for herself regarding Lucien. I’ve loved Lucien since the first book, but I hate hate hate how SJM pairs every single character up, and Elain essentially saying “Why am I obligated to be with him just because he says we’re mates?” was empowering for her.

Rhysand and Feyre kinda sucked in ACOFAS. This is SJM’s big problem as a writer - she’s so great at building up the tension and making you desperate to see characters get together, but once they’re actually a couple she drops the ball. They become bland and don’t grow closer, but instead stay eternally in this “we are soulmates and madly in love” immature phase. (I’m not hating on Rhysand himself though, ACOMAF is SJM’s best book.)

Overall it was nice to be back with the Night Court for a couple hours, and I liked the descriptions of Winter Solstice. If you plan to continue with SJM’s books in this world, I’d recommend reading this just to remain caught up but don’t expect too much out of it.

Rating: 3 of 5 stars


 

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

Claire Randall is on a second honeymoon with her husband Frank when she is whisked back through the past - to the year 1743 in Scotland. Claire finds herself falling for Jamie Fraser even as she tries to find her way back home.

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Outlander is the first in a series of eight books by the same name. According to Goodreads, they range from 750 to 1,400 pages, and the first one is 850. Plus there’s a TV show, novellas, and a spinoff book series - basically, a lot of Outlander stuff. And I liked the first book fine, but I won’t be reading the rest of them. There are way too many books I need to read first before I can justify about 8,000 more pages on Claire. I have been watching the show, though, and it does a good job of portraying the story so I’ll probably keep watching it. (Plus, pretty scenery.)

First things first - there was a lot of rape discussion in this book. Lots of near rapes, actual rapes, rape as a plot device. I don’t blame Gabaldon for including it, because it was realistic for the time period. But too often the plot moved because someone was raped. By the time I got to the ending I was over it and the rape scene at the end was over the top. It was truly horrible to read but also kinda felt like Gabaldon was just going for shock value.

For the first third or so of the book, I was all about Jamie. I enjoyed his friendship with Claire and the gradual buildup of their sexual tension. But then, that one scene involving punishment happened and I couldn’t look at their relationship the same way. Not necessarily because of Jamie; I think his character acted accurately from a historical perspective. Claire’s reaction bothered me. Maybe she’s not from 2018 and the #metoo movement, but she was still 200 years ahead of Jaime. She justified his actions in the same way abuse victims do. For someone as independent as Claire was, it seemed forced for the sake of the romance. 

Parts of the book were rewarding. Claire's relationship with Geillis, the descriptions of Scottish Highlander life, and the time travel/mystical elements all kept me reading. (And most of the Jaime moments were great.) Historical fiction is one of my favorites and Outlander delivered there, so if the premise intrigues you and length doesn't scare you then check it out. 

Rating: 3 of 5 stars