BR: Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

 

 

I have been very lucky with books lately, so excuse the barrage of reviews on the blog. Exciting to have more stories to discuss, to be honest. Today, I am going to be talking about Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake.

Premise

A matriarchy exists, where a queen gives birth to triplets. These three girls are then separated and tasked with killing each other. The survivor becomes queen.

Characters

Okay. Let me try to get this right. Mirabella is an elemental queen, living in a convent-type of place. Then, there is Arsinoe. She is a naturalist, who can control animals and plants. Finally, Katharine is our poisoner queen, who can consume high levels of poison.

Along the way, there are also characters who support each one of the queens.

Thoughts

(Run. Spoilers ahead)

Overall, I liked this book quite a bit. It is slow moving, mainly because there is so much political intrigue going on. Blake introduces each royal queen. In doing so, she also has to include side characters who belong in each individual court.

Now, the big thing in this story is about sisterhood. I know it doesn’t sound like it from the premise, but Mirabella, the most powerful of them, has dreams of the sisters changing tradition. She reaches out to Arsinoe (accidentally or on purpose. Debatable semantics here).

The other twist you don’t quite see coming is how much this novel truly reflects on young adult literature. In essence, the tale revolves around the theme of self discovery which manifests itself in the idea of supernatural powers.  Quite impressively, the author is dealing with characters who have not found their strength just yet, and they are tasked with an epic battle (to the death!).

In addition, this struggle to find power also appears in the queens’ attempts to voice their own opinions within their courts. Fear plays a huge part in their narratives, because they are not as strong as their courts try to convey to the other courts. It’s quite a Slytherin-y thing and it makes me so happy.

However, the story also has kind of a Skrillex kind of vibe. As in, the bass doesn’t quite drop in a dramatic way. Instead, it is a lot of build up and no intense conclusion. The next book will hopefully include an actual battle.

The beauty of the book’s ending lies in the emotional weight it carries. It truly feels like a sucker punch when the sisters do meet each other and have to announce their powers. The amount of deceit and fear are tangible yet completely overwhelming. Readers spend so much time in these girls’ heads that they become fully invested in their survival. I don’t know if I can handle any of them dying.

Hence why the book ends on such a cliffhanger.

“I want revenge.”

what about you?

Have you read this book or anything like it? Who are your favorite regal figures in fiction? And, to what extent do you feel like their ascent into the throne was admirable? Also: who do you think will win the battle in the next book?

See you in the comments.
Okay.
Dinasoaur out!

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        **Before I continue, I have to credit the following brilliant photographers:
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BR: Star Cursed by Jessica Spotswood Book Review

 

Warning: Here be spoilers. If you are interested in reading this book, and you dislike spoilers, RUN. As Star Crossed by Jessica Spotswood is the middle of a trilogy, I cannot help but spoil the first book at least.

premise

The Cahill sisters, living in an oppressive regime of patriarchy, are forced to keep their magic secret. Older sister Cate is torn between her choice to announce her intention (a tradition within their society). Should she marry and have children? In this case, who does she marry? Does she marry for love or for status? Or, should she join the Sisterhood, a convent for women?

spoilers start now. run.

conflict

Ultimately, this is the middle of a trilogy. Naturally, there is a lot of tension between the characters. In particular, the crux of this book lies in the conflicts among the Cahill sisters, the convent sisters, and within the society as a whole.

It’s a hard thing to balance as part of this experience, dealing with so much pressure with the characters at every turn. Within each family, there is some sort of fight for power. For instance, the most notable ongoing problem is between Maura and Cate (plus occasionally Tess is thrown in there). Given what happened with Maura’s love life in book 1, it is understandable that things were messy for her. So, in true Slytherin style, Maura is ambitiously trying to be the best witch of her time. This may sound fine, until you hear Cate being called into power by Sister Cora (leader of the sisterhood).

Incidentally, this tension also rises beyond Cate and Maura. They are both mentored by two opposing leaders within the sisterhood. Cora, diplomatic and somewhat hesitant, is the current figure at the helm of the Sisterhood. Inez, aggressive and urgent, is leading Maura to get women up against the men. Cora and Cate don’t connect that much, but when they do interact, it is powerful stuff.

On an even larger scale, there is the obvious tension between the Sisterhood and the Brotherhood. Beyond that, it is just women and men, at odds with the double standards set by the patriarchy. Sachi and her illegitimate sister are prime examples of men unwilling to acknowledge their mistakes while also acting as overbearing figures towards women.

nuance

Being the second book, there are hints that some men don’t believe in the oppression of women. Finn is an example of them. I like that not all women are presented as morally good as opposed to men being evil. Instead, there are all these shades of grey. It is really unclear what will happen in the next book.

The scene with Sachi’s sister (whose name escapes me) and their father was truly heartbreaking and kind of terrifying. I don’t like seeing women running for their lives just for disagreeing. Physical intimidation is something I had encountered a lot within discourse, and I think surely one can communicate without it. Sure, the character is presented as a hypocrite. But, I am really hoping for some nice closure for Sachi’s sister…even if I can’t remember her name. It starts with an R.

 

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Illuminae Files Spotify Playlist Project Entry

Hi. This is my first Spotify Playlist Project entry of 2018! As a series, this collection of songs are tied to the essence of a given book. In this case, I am talking about the first book in the Illuminae Files series. Ready? Here we go.  SPOILERS AHEAD.

“Bart, he is establishing mood!”

(Obscure The Simpsons reference)
The Adventure by Angels and Airwaves

Kind of song that plays while the credits roll, because this is the kind of story that needs to come with an introduction sequences.

“Sign of the Times” by Harry Styles
This song’s sound prickled through the narrative to me. I just felt like it was Kady and Ezra’s song while they were trying to survive while their planet is under attack. In fact, the song continues to be reflected through the story as Kady takes charge of their destiny.

separating

“Gravity” by Embrace sounds like the aftermath of a space war. Also: it reminds me of Ezra quite a bit, as he misses Kady. Obviously, a joke is at hand here, because space, gravity, get it? Get it?

“When I was Your Man” by Bruno Mars. More heartbreak, and I want this song to echo the relationships of the adult characters, too.

computer whiz

Kady surfing and cracking codes reminds me of “Feel Good Inc,” by Gorillaz.

AIDAN

“Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen is like the best depiction of what AIDAN’s meltdowns sound like to me. An unraveling of a whole sweater.

fight!!

“Watercolours” by Pendulum is the essence of the fight scenes in Illuminae, particularly when Kady has to fight people on Ezra’s ship. This song can also double up as a manifestation of AIDAN’s breakdown and subsequent attacks toward ships.

aidan and kady

“More than You Know” by Axwel /\Ingrosso embodies this moment when AIDAN is fascinated by Kady. And, in a bizarre way, I was intrigued by these glimpses of AIDAN admiring the continuing persistence of this young person.

ezra and kady: THE END (ROUND 1)

“One Way Ticket” by ONE OK ROCK could easily play in the background of this book’s final scenes.

One final note: mothers

“I Miss You” by blink 182 and “Mama I’m Coming Home” by Ozzy Osbourne are the tunes I would like to end this Spotify Playlist Project entry. Because, you know, moms are kind of central to this book.

 

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BR: The Upside of Unrequited Book Review

 

 

I devoured Becky Albertalli’s second novel over the course of two days. Many thoughts bounding around my head as I write this review at 2 AM. Hope you are ready for some serious fangirl action…and stuff.

premise

Molly Peskin-Susu is an awkward chubby girl who has had twenty-six crushes. All of them were unrequited. As her sister falls in love with her dream girl, she is confronted with her own journey to find herself (not in a cheesy way, I promise). Her sister sets her up with hipster Will. Enter Reid, her coworker, who likes all things Ren Faire and Middle-Earth. And chocolate eggs.

review

If you follow me on Goodreads, you will see that I fangirl over this novel. I loved it even more than Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens’ Agenda. This one had more complexity to it, and more nuance going on in terms of sexuality, body shapes, and relationship with siblings/family. I gave it four stars.

Here’s why.

PS: SPOILERS AHEAD.

siblings conflict

The conflict between Cassie and Molly in this novel parallels some of the tension between Nadine and Karen. While it is not exactly a mirror image of the cause of conflict, the idea is the same. Two siblings lose touch and then they’re unable to connect as much, or even see eye to eye.

In some ways, Cassie is hit with this wave of love while Molly grapples with her own place as a person without a twin. To me, this is the crux of this story truly.

body image

I also like the mirroring of Grandma’s body image issues with Molly’s own feelings towards her appearance. And, as a chubby person myself, I liked that Albertalli handles this generational disconnect in a  sensitive way. To me, I often get criticized for my body image and it felt kind of nice to see this critique as a genuine issue on the person’s part, not my own. It’s hard to divorce this shaming from fat bodies, unfortunately, and it’s quite lovely to see a novel tackle that issue in a tasteful manner.

Her body image plays into her assumptions about her self worth often. I found the whole Will thing to be a compound of two issues. First, I think Molly was unsure of whether she can be with Reid. Two, to an extent, she tries to tap into what Cassie is seeing here. Twins and best friends together? Sounds nice and neat.

You know what I really like? That she didn’t end up with Will. Seriously. Best choice ever.

romance

Overall, I like the romances here. The one between Cassie and Mina could have used some more focus, but I understand that she’s not the center of this story. Reid and Molly’s connection was charming and sweet.

The assumption that someone as nerdy as Reid can’t be a good boyfriend was challenged pretty well. Although I will say that I don’t think that being physical is what makes someone good as a partner. But, hey. I don’t know about relationships all that much. This is all guess work for me.

Okay. bye.

 

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BR: The Ocean at the End of the Lane Book Review

I finished reading The Ocean at the End of the Lane on the last day of 2017. My brain has been struggling to contain the excitement of having read my first Gaiman novel. Seriously. In some ways, The Ocean in the End of the Lane will always be special to me, because of its content. Uh, let me dive into this review, though, because I can gush all day.

premise

An unnamed middle aged man returns to his family home, and recalls the adventure of a summer he spent with childhood friend, Lettie Hempstock.

theme–childhood and imagination

My favorite aspect of this story has to be the magical realism feel to it. Throughout the novel, it is unclear if the story is literal or figurative. This blurring of reality with imagination is very much rooted in childhood (from what I experienced).

But, also, the charming factor in this story has to be the way the characters behave. Sure, we go on a supernatural kind of surreal adventure with monsters and a worm that turns into an awful creature. However, the children (unnamed main character and Lettie) behave like children. They talk like children, and they cry, throw tantrums, and argue with their sister (well, this is mainly our dude character, but hey).

Gaiman creates such a rosy view of life at first, but then, it is warped and scary in parts (nothing disturbing, but it will linger for a bit).

Speaking of which…

darkness in the so-called “pure”

The story begins with a quote about children remembering or knowing things that adults assume they wouldn’t. It’s about the way we undermine children and their maturity. Truly, our unnamed hero and Lettie see some really dark stuff, stuff we wouldn’t expect children to comprehend, and they fight valiantly.

As I have said earlier, I am in awe of this teetering balance Gaiman strikes between child characters, surreal story lines, and darkness. I am intrigued by Ursula Montakin, her connection to our main character’s family, and what that really means in regards to children’s understanding of infidelity, gender roles, and family dynamics in relation to all of these things.

There is a scene in particular that stunned me: the bath scene with our main character’s father. In some ways, it highlighted the idea of embarrassment and shame contrasting with social expectations from parents. Like, maybe it’s just me, but I don’t see parents negatively when they can’t “control” their children. But Ursula signifies the pressure on parents to be authority figures, even if it means they get to act aggressive.

 friendship and family

Most importantly, this is a story about found-family vs. blood family. I think our main character would have loved to see Lettie and her strangely beautiful ocean at the end of the lane. Her family, equally invested in child-like wonder and superstition, lead a safe home to the main hero. It is a home he goes back to, over and over, with and without Lettie.

It is such a telling sign that Lettie’s legacy, consciously or not, drives the main character to return for refuge throughout his life. If this isn’t what the best friendships are about, I don’t know what is.

 

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On Developing a Gratitude Practice

 

Sometimes, when I talk to certain people, I see it clearly. Negativity. Like a lot of it. Granted, my own knack for slipping into a nice bath of complaints has been around for ages. Still, I am not one to give into the default settings of my programming. I’d been toying with the idea of a gratitude practice, but it wasn’t until Inge mentioned it that I saw it as a possibility. Here is my gratitude practice thus far.

3 in-progress learning experiences

I have looked into templates on Pinterest when I started this practice way back in November. The reason behind templates is twofold. First, it is to facilitate discussion when I am not feeling my best. Often, my moods settle on an epic low note for days or weeks, so I struggle to come up with coherent thoughts as it is. A template creates a routine to this journal. It also acts as a guiding hand, because I am out of practice when it comes to positivity and gratitude–and I admit this not as a point of pride. Not at all. I want to manage my mental health better.

Victim-mentality drives my narrative and I have a rather cruel lens filtering my daily ups and downs. Reframing the experiences as a learning opportunity is like earth-shattering information to me. I do a lot of panicking when conflict arises, and this template reminds me to try and stay calm.

Plus, I think when I look back and see lessons repeating, it neutralizes the dooms-day threat a little bit. It gives me concrete examples of this conflict repeating. Besides, it could act as a good jumping off point for meditation, journaling, and therapy discussions. Hey, maybe I’ll be more self aware and conscious of how I interact with the world (that is the dream, to be quite frank).

a list of things i am grateful for

I try to list some stuff that makes me happy that day. Moreover, I try not to repeat too much. Now, obviously, sometimes duplicates will appear on my lists, but I do make it a point to not check what I wrote the day before until I am done.

but…testing more prompts

But, I noticed that my journal can be a bit cyclical by doing just two things every day. SO. I am incorporating more prompts. I want to reflect more on different things, and then derive my own gratitude nuggets from whatever it is I have reflected on.

The point is for it to be fairly brief and always consistent. So far, I had been journaling every couple of days, which is not that good. I am going to try it tonight, and keep it

 

    Hi there. While watching Ely's introduction of her cat Percy, I thought of