Review: Reinas Malditas by Cristina Morató

Reinas Malditas by Cristina Morató

I read this book along with my friends from Mexico (and technically Canada since two of them are there) over the past three months. This book is about multiple women who were big historical figures from various European monarchies: Empress Elizabeth of Austria, Mary Antoinette, Christina of Sweden, Eugénie de Montijo, Queen Victoria of England, and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna.

I really wish that this book had been better… Morató wrote in a way that reminded me of gossip columns that was mostly drama and very little substance. In the first chapter she talks about Empress Elizabeth (Sisi) from Austria and she describes how her learning about life in court was like learning:

…gossip of the high aristocracy…

Sissi pg.37

Honestly, that’s exactly what this book was, pretty much gossip. Although I did learn about each of the royal women in the book I didn’t always trust the author (possibly because of her writing style) so I always ended up going to Wikipedia to learn more about them. (That’s not a good sign!) It was also very confusing because we kept jumping around in the timeline so you’d be reading about when they had kids and then go back to before they were pregnant or someone close to them died but the next paragraph we’d get a whole two paragraphs about them before they died. Just very hard to follow.

Overall I did not enjoy this book and I couldn’t recommend it on good conscience. I’d be interested in reading a non-fiction book about the life of any of these women, but I’d hope for something with a more linear and serious writing style. If you have any recommendations, let me know!

Review: A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

I was a bit hesitant to read “A Thousand Splendid Suns” by Khaled Hosseini, if only because I knew it would break my heart like “The Kite Runner” did. And I was so right.

Hosseini just knows how to tell a story in a beautiful way, and in this multi-generational novel, filled with friendship, chosen families, all set in Afghanistan during a very turbulent and violent time, he does just that. This book starts out with the story of Mariam, a girl who is born out of wedlock who is hidden away with her mother out of view of society in Herat, Afghanistan.

The book is set in Herat and Kabul, Afghanistan.

We follow Mariam as she grows up with her mother and then as she marries a shoemaker and moves to Kabul. In Kabul we follow Laila, a young girl whose family is very close knit and who emphasize the importance of education for her future. Mariam and Laila are of two different generations but still experience the same events in very similar ways. As women, they have a limited say on what they want to do with their lives and I definitely felt the helplessness as they try to fight but ultimately accept their destiny. Eventually, their lives become interconnected and their relationship becomes an anchor for the both of them in the midst of the violence all around them.

I love stories that encompass a person’s whole life and I especially love those that are multi-generational. There’s the added bonus that these are women’s stories from a part of the world that’s very much outside of my general perspective. There’s also a wonderful diversity within Afghanistan of languages, cultures, and general ways of life. It really opened my eyes to that diversity and the contrast between the two areas in Afghanistan that are featured.

Mariam and Laila are wonderful characters who grow, learn, and really change throughout the book. They are not alone though! Their parents, partners, friends, and children all also have interesting arcs throughout the book. They are forced to react and adapt to the events that are happening around them that are completely out of their control. While Mariam and Laila are both wonderful characters, one of my other favorites was Laila’s dad, Hakim. Hakim is a teacher, lover of books, a romantic, and truly dear to my heart. At one point when they have to leave their house and sell everything, he is faced with the prospect of choosing which books he must leave behind. Him pacing his library making those decisions was a scene that I cherished a lot.

Overall, this is a brilliant book that I will be thinking about for a long time and which I’m very glad was chosen for our book club this month. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes multi-generational stories filled with complex and wonderful characters. I would warn, however, that there is a lot of violence in this book, including physical and mental abuse. If you are interested do check it out, it’s a great book, beautifully written, and full of powerful perspectives.

Review: Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan

The first book I finished in July was Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan. This is the third and final installment in the Crazy Rich Asians trilogy, which I started way back in 2018 right before the movie came out. (Still waiting for that second movie…..) I read the second book in 2019 (I think, I actually didn’t record it on Goodreads but I definitely read it, I swear XD). In the first book we mostly follow Rachel and Nick, a couple who go to Nick’s friend’s wedding in Singapore, where Rachel finds out that Nick belongs to a super rich family. There’s romance, there’s drama, there’s a lot of expensive jewelry, dresses, food, oh the food…. ::drool:: The second book delves deeper into Nick’s family and we learn even more about Astrid and Kitty Pong, Kitty’s story was probably my favorite part in this book, where she tries to go from an actress who is not taken seriously to a more refined version of herself. In the second book Nick and Rachel end up in a life or death situation and it’s probably the most action-driven book of the three.

The third installment has much less about Rachel but Nick is still a big player in the book. Nick’s grandmother, Su Yi, is on her deathbed and the family is coming together to say goodbye but also… figure out what they will be getting in the will. Eddie, one of Nick’s cousins is so so so annoying and as melodramatic as usual. Kitty is back with even more ambition to have more power and respect from everyone. There is a particular chapter where Kitty hires Nigel Barker for a photoshoot and, as someone who used to watch America’s Next Top Model, I was laughing so much imagining him in this world, it was a lot of fun. Astrid is also on a journey of her own as she figures out her identity outside of her rich family’s expectations of perfection.

My favorite part of this book was that we got to see to the past and into Su Yi’s story of how she was a war heroine. As the Japanese invaded Singapore, she played a role in helping others stay safe and, even when her father sent her away to India until the war passed, she went back to Singapore and helped in the war effort. It was really cool to see what Su Yi was like in her youth and then how that contributed to how she was from book one and to the end of her life in book three. Also, looking into the real history of the Japanese invasion of Singapore, the real Tyersall park did serve as headquarters for some of the commanders so it was cool to learn some of the history through this book.

While the whole book is still filled with greedy, selfish people, who don’t seem to learn that money isn’t everything (mostly because they have just been taken it for granted), there are also some characters who start to see how there are more things to life than money and power. Of course, you still get a lot of glamour, name/brand dropping, insane parties and purchases that go beyond any “normal” human. Some of the characters are dealing with mental health issues, and that is much more apparent in this third book.

Perhaps the one thing that wasn’t perfect about this book was the time/pacing. Sometimes the book would jump months/days and it was hard to tell. The end was also wrapped up in a couple of sentences for each person, imagine a montage at the end of a movie where you see what happened with each person, not a bad ending at all since it did tie up everything pretty nicely, I just wanted more hahaha.

This is one of the most consistent series I’ve read (rated all three books with 4 stars on Goodreads) since they all kept me laughing, rolling my eyes, and just overall very entertained. As far as escapism goes, this was a great book to read and just forget about everything going on in real life. I definitely stayed up reading it way past my bedtime so if you’re looking for something like that, I do recommend this series.

Review: Supernova by Marissa Meyer

Supernova by Marissa Meyer

Supernova, by Marissa Meyer, is the third and final installment of the Renegades series. Renegades is a series where certain people are either born or develop powers, some go on to become heroes and others villains. This is the familiar setting for pretty much any superhero story right? Well, this series has the added layer of romance between a villain and a hero. The romance itself isn’t the main plot but it is an important part of the story. Meyer also manages to create a world where first the Anarchists (or villains) tried to rule Gatlon City and they pretty much had chaos, people just vying for power left and right with no structure to follow. Then the Renegades took over after defeating the Anarchists and now you have a world with rules about who can be a Renegade (basically part of a superhero crime force) and the rest of society. The Renegades are trying to control everything but aren’t being super successful at keeping everyone happy.

As both sides struggle for power, an Anarchist has infiltrated the Renegades as a new recruit, that’s one of our main characters, Nova. She’s super smart, observant, resourceful, and very determined to gain the inside scoop to help the Anarchists come back into power. She’s accepted into a Renegade patrol unit where the other main character, Adrian, and his teammates are enforcing the rules and keeping Gatlon City safe. Of course, there are secrets between many of these characters, shifting points of view from Nova to Adrian, and a great variety of superheroes with the same variety of superpowers.

I so loved the aspect of friendship and chosen families, Adrian is adopted and his teammates are more than just his friends, they are family. Same for Nova, with her parents and sister dying when she was little, her fellow Anarchists became her family. In many ways Adrian and Nova are two sides of the same coin and throughout the series they learn that their lives have become intertwined in more ways than they can imagine.

If you’re looking for a different kind of superhero story, definitely check out this series! There are definitely some things that I think could be improved in the second installment but this third one is pretty great.

What’s your favorite superhero story? What superpower would you have if you could choose one?

Review: A Year Without A Name by Cyrus Dunham

A book on a white background. The cover of the book has the title at the top "A Year Without a Name". There is the image of a person with squares superimposed on top of the face, which is also shifted so the top of the head doesn't align with the bottom. Each square has a different image or color, black square, blue square, grey square, a square with "An anti-memoir" -- The Atlantic, squares with lips or eyes. It says Cyrus Dunham at the bottom.
A Year Without A Name by Cyrus Dunham

You have the right to say who you are without setting it in stone. You have the right to ask questions, to live with and in doubt, to try things on for size. Your life is your experiment. You can try to catch mist. When you learn that you can’t catch it, you can go outside and feel it on your skin.

Preface, pg.xx

I received this book in my subscription of the Feminist Book Club (FBC) box for June and I’m so so happy that I got to read it! As part of the FBC membership we also get a Q&A with the author, which happened earlier today. It was so great to hear from the author about their process and their experiences since writing the book.

A Year Without A Name is a snapshot of various moments throughout the time when Cyrus Dunham was exploring their gender and their body identity. These snapshots go from his childhood to the present time in the book and it’s very circular. It’s not a book that’s easy to understand right away because it deals with a lot of dissociation form the moment and also emotional trauma. Dunham takes us back to the time in their childhood when they tried to fit into being a girl and the feeling of failing at that because they did not identify as a girl. Then the feeling of having to choose between being a woman or a man in the present, along with everything that comes with that decision.

For me it was very valuable to learn about the experience of struggling with gender identity through Dunham’s point of view. It is amazing how they managed to translate those feelings and thoughts as they were happening and construct a memoir around those moments in time.

In the Q&A Dunham talked a bit about how they like to write into questions and not necessarily answers. That is exactly what A Year Without a Name is, it is an exploration into questions. Questions about gender, about the role of people in a world built around a gender binary, about the relationship of our selves and our bodies. It made me question my own relationships and not necessarily have answers but simply explore those questions for myself. The quotation at the beginning of this post embodies that idea that each individual should be able to explore and experiment however they like, try certain ideas, beliefs, identities, for themselves and see what fits and what doesn’t. We don’t have to have answers or the expectation of an answer when we explore our bodies and identities.

If you are looking for a memoir about gender identity exploration definitely check out A Year Without A Name, it is an incredible opportunity to see someone’s experience in their exploration of self, one that is not often in the spotlight.

Signature in purple on a lighter purple background. it says "~Paulina~" in a casual cursive font.

Review: The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander

The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander

I finished The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander today and what an amazing work by the author! This book is so well researched and put together that it’s accessible for anyone.

The term mass incarceration refers not only to the criminal justice system but also to the larger web of laws, rules, policies, and customs that control those labeled criminals both in and out of prison.

Introduction p.15

The New Jim Crow details and tells the story of how the current system of mass incarceration came about in the United States, which affects black men most of all. Alexander takes us back to the beginning of slavery, the “end” of slavery, the start of the Jim Crow era, the “end” of the Jim Crow era, and our current criminal justice system at detail. To go through everything would take a long time but I want to highlight some of the things that impacted me the most, and which I hope will resonate with others as well.

Follow the money! I didn’t know that the reason why the War on Drugs is based a lot on politics and money (not a real worry about people’s health). Politicians, starting with Regan (the War on Drugs creator), made incentives for police departments to pursue the arrests of people for drug possession. If it weren’t for these incentives, the police would have no reason to go looking for people who have drugs as much as they do. All of the raids on homes with no-knock warrants, sending SWAT teams to find drugs and shooting first all come from these incentives. It is in the best interest of the police departments to arrest people for drugs because each arrest gives their department money while other arrests don’t have those same incentives.

Each arrest, in theory, would net a given city or county about $153 in state and federal funding. Non-drug-related policing brought no federal dollars, even for violent crime. As a result, when Jackson County, Wisconsin, quadrupled its drug arrests between 1999 and 2000, the county’s federal subsidy quadrupled too.

The Lockdown p.98

Say now that someone is arrested. The sentencing for drug offenses is just illogical and it’s all based on politicians wanting to not be seen as “soft on crime” so they implement “3 strikes and you’re out” laws or minimum mandatory sentencing. For example:

Because [Edward] Clary had been caught with more than fifty grams of crack (less than two ounces), the sentencing judge believed he had no choice but to sentence him — an eighteen-year-old who had no criminal record — to a minimum of ten years in federal prison.

The Color of Justice p.141

The fact is, even after people who are arrested get out of prison, they are still under the really impossible situation that they are now labeled a “criminal”. They have to check that box saying that they have a criminal record and can’t apply for a myriad of things, including government aid for housing, food stamps, some licenses for certain jobs, and even voting is restricted.

One parent barred from voting due to his felony conviction put it this way: “I have no right to vote on the school referendum that … will affect my children. I have no right to vote on how my taxes is going to be spent or used, which I have to pay whether I’m a felon or not, you know? So basically I’ve lost all voice or control over my government … I get bad because I can’t say anything because I don’t have a voice.”

The Cruel Hand pg.201

There are so many heartbreaking stories within the pages of this book, from arrests to sentencing to life in prison, to life after prison, it’s just a lot! I just touched on a few things that Alexander dives deep into throughout the book so I highly recommend that you read it if this is of interest to you. Alexander leaves us with some thoughts on how this system could potentially be changed. The bottom line is that it’s not an easy thing to fix. It can’t be fixed with a law or a presidential signature. It will require a complete change in the thinking of a majority of our society. We can’t keep ignoring and turning off the news when black people are obviously being treated like second-hand citizens. We can all help in different ways for there are many things to do, from small acts of kindness to participating in social justice activism. The least we can do is inform ourselves of what is happening with the criminal justice system so that we can see past the political gestures of being “hard on crime” for what they are, reinforcements of the current system.

I highly recommend this book as well as the documentary 13th, which also talks about the system of mass incarceration and also features Michelle Alexander as one of the experts. I leave you with that full film (available for free on Youtube) and hope you’ll be interested in getting informed about these issues.

Full Feature film “13th” on YouTube.

Review: It Goes Like This by Miel Moreland

It Goes Like This by Miel Moreland

It Goes Like This by Miel Moreland is such a wonderful book. It features four queer characters: Eva, Celeste, Steph, and Gina. They started a band called Moonlight Overthrow in high school that became incredibly successful to the point of having world tours and Grammy wins as well as a large fandom. For various reasons the band breaks up and each of them go their own way. Eva goes off to college while still writing songs for other artists, Celeste is now a big pop star giving world tours, Gina is an actress working on movies for Netflix, and Steph is simply back in their hometown with their family. The four of them were best of friends but now they don’t talk and haven’t seen each other since their breakup. Not only that, Eva and Celeste’s relationship ran much deeper and now they are both heartbroken and trying to move on. When a storm ravages their hometown they all decide to come back together for one concert to raise money for the town and perhaps, in the process, repair their friendships.

In this book we go back and forth between the time when the band was together to the present time when they are organizing and rehearsing for their concert. We also get a look into the fandom via tumblr posts and chats between fans of Moonlight Overthrow. It was a very cool way of seeing the importance of the band to not just the band members but also the rest of the world.

For me my favorite character was Steph, they are non-binary, uses they/them pronouns and is pansexual. They had the hardest time while in the band because it was basically marketed as a “girl” band and Steph wasn’t out about being non-binary so that was very difficult for them to be themself while touring with the band. Seeing the whole situation from their perspective was interesting and I identified with them because of their sense of duty to their family. That feeling that we need to be there for our family first and foremost even if that means putting our own dreams aside sometimes. Additionally, this was the first book I’ve read with a non-binary main character and it really helped me practice using they/them pronouns more. I think for that reason alone I will remember this book for a long time and it will also push me to read more books with non-binary characters since it is important to me to be able to naturally change to/from they/them as I do from he to she and vice versa.

Another cool thing about this book that I loved was the love of music. Eva is a very talented songwriter, since the band’s breakup she has been writing songs for other artists and those songs have been at the top of the charts. The way she talks about music and truly loves creating melodies and writing songs is clearly felt through Moreland’s writing. That being said, I’m so so sad that I can’t listen to Moonlight Overthrow’s songs! I actually imagined a lot of their music like that of BTS + Taylor Swift + Demi Lovato. With catchy melodies, amazing lyrics, and out-of-this-world vocals, simply amazing! (OMG can you imagine that collaboration?!)

All in all, this book is about fandoms, chosen family, friendship, queer love, and the love and magic that music brings to people.

I recommend this book to anyone who is part of a fandom, anyone who loves their friends like family, and anyone interested in reading a book with LGBTQ+ representation.

What is your current favorite band/artist/song? Let me know in the comments!

Review: Disability Visibility Edited by Alice Wong

Disability Visibility Edited by Alice Wong

When I was in middle school in Mexico I went to a private all-girls school and one of my classmates was blind. She was one of the smartest people in the class and as far as I can remember, she participated in just about every activity we had with just some assistance from the teacher. I can’t quite remember how it happened but there was a news story about her and her achievements in school and she tried to make her case to the interviewer that what she really needed to further succeed was a computer for blind people. I remember that she was upset later because when the news came out there was no mention about the computer, just a lot of praise and amazement that she was blind and yet she was doing so well in school. Now I understand that the interviewer and the media only wanted that feel good story but didn’t care to further help her with what she truly needed. I also understand now that she was probably one of the more fortunate blind people in Mexico, able to get an education at a private school with teachers who seemed to be able to help her as best as they could. Otherwise, I would encounter blind people in the subway, singing, playing an accordion while someone led them through the crowded aisles. I now have more of a perspective on how it wasn’t a consequence of their lack of sight that led them to beg in the street but because of society’s lack of support.

In Disability Visibility I was able to learn about many other types of disabilities and the people who live with them. How they live, how they try and thrive in a world that doesn’t seem to care much about them. It’s a book about the realities and not about feel good stories, like the one told about my middle school friend. I loved the diversity of people that we hear from, we hear from men, women, non-binary people, queer, straight, trans people, and more! To try to summarize all of that here would be impossible but trust me that throughout this book you get to meet many amazing people and learn about what they’ve been through and what they hope to accomplish. Alice Wong put together a great array of stories and you can also see more of her work at the Disability Visibility Project website.

As I finished each story I went to see what the author was doing now or to learn more about them and their endeavors. I also stopped a lot to think about what I had just read, to process and let it sink in. These are not easy stories to read, in fact, quite a few of them have content warnings at the beginning of each story so it makes it easier to read carefully.

There were some stories in the book that really did blow my mind in the sense that if disabled people were given all the resources that they needed to thrive, they would be able to contribute so much to society! Specifically I think of the story by Wanda Díaz-Merced, which is actually a TED talk that was transcribed for the book. Wanda Díaz-Merced is an astrophysicist who lost her sight late in her career, but she managed to find a different way to study space and one that ended up giving more information to scientists than by just visual means. As non-disabled people we think that there are only so many ways to do things in our lives, but in fact, there are many ways to do things. If we can be more open minded, there really would be endless possibilities! These aren’t stories of people doing things despite their disability, these are stories of people using all of themselves to live their life as best as they can and fight for what they believe in.

I highly encourage non-disabled people to read this book. There are endless social aspects that affect people with disabilities, from public transportation, architecture, scientific research, legal rights, etc., but where they are not given a thought. I realized for example, my house is not accessible to people who use wheelchairs! My workplace does not have an elevator to the second floor! We can at least start noticing and asking for the people in charge to make things accessible to disabled people around us. And even more importantly, we can empathize with their stories and the obstacles that are put in their lives and help remove those obstacles as best as we can.

Review: Eternals by Neil Gaiman, Illustrated by John Romita Jr.

Eternals by Neil Gaiman,
Illustrated by John Romita Jr.

I finished Eternals by Neil Gaiman today! It was a very different kind of read for me because I don’t normally read comics. This was a compilation of the seven volumes that came out in 2006-2007. However, the original Eternals comics were written by Jack Kirby back in 1976. The reason I picked this particular comic is because the Marvel Cinematic Universe is coming out with an adaptation of the Eternals and since I am a big fan of Neil Gaiman’s works it seemed like the obvious place to start for me.

The Eternals are 100 beings that were created by the Celestials. The Celestials are another type of being that came from outer space and basically started out a kind of experiment on Earth where they examined an ape-like creature (precursor to humans), played around with its genetic material and created what would be the perfect being, one that wouldn’t age, would have special powers, and would live to protect the experiment that they were setting up. On the other hand they created the Deviants, who had an unstable genome, were prone to constant mutations, and which created deformed beings that were not ideal.

In this particular set of comics we find that the Eternals have forgotten that they are immortal and that they have superpowers. They are living like normal human beings as medical students, party organizers, scientists, and even gardeners. One of the Eternals, Ikaris, does remember and is trying to get others to do the same since there’s some trouble brewing. We also get a peek at how the superhero world is doing, there is now mandatory registration for superheroes and even a superhero reality competition!

Another thing that was very interesting to me was the philosophy and theories on the origin of life on Earth. Of course there are multiple theories on how intelligent life came about but the one saying that it came about from outer space is a very popular one. While we can have many theories regarding the origins of life, it is something that we might never really know for sure how it happened. These comics give a possible answer of these Celestials, scientists in their own way, setting up various experiments in what might be many different worlds (can’t imagine they’d only do it once on Earth), and seeing what happens. It was also cool to see the flashbacks to how the Eternals interacted with ancient civilizations, from Egypt to Greece to Mexico and how they were basically the gods in those ancient civilizations. That in itself made me curious to go and read the other installments of these comics.

The characters were interesting but I did feel like there was less character development than I expected and I’m not sure if it is because of the format of the story (comic vs novel) or if it has to do with the fact that I haven’t read all the other comics featuring these characters. That being said, there were some characters that I did like right away, like Thena and Zura. Thena is a scientist in her human life and actually is creating some weapons for the government while Zura is a homeless man who is lost in his mind. After they remember that they are Eternals they awake other characteristics, like confidence, leadership, and determination to figure out what they need to do next.

The artwork was wonderful, I loved all the colors and the intensity that Romita was able to bring to each scene and each character. I also loved the fonts that were used in different panels to show that some characters are probably talking in different languages or are speaking telepathically. It was very intuitive and just a great addition to the experience.

I mentioned previously that I’m changing my rating system and well, there isn’t one! Ha! I realized that rating systems aren’t particularly consistent unless I stick to a specific type of book or genre or even author. And so what I will be doing now is talking more about who I’d recommend read the book. Sort of a “if you like this you might like this” etc.

Overall I really enjoyed this comic, like I said, I’d like to check out the other installments involving the Eternals at some point as well. I would recommend this collection of comics to anyone who wants a background on who the Eternals are in preparation for the Marvel movie. I’d also recommend it to people interested in a very different kind of superhero story since the Eternals are not self-described superheroes. Their priorities are definitely different than the Avengers’ so it’s a really interesting perspective.

Do you read comics regularly? Are you a fan of the MCU?

May 2021 Book Bites

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
  • Favorite Bite:

All her life, she had learned that passion, like fire, was a dangerous thing. It so easily went out of control. It scaled walls and jumped over trenches. Sparks leapt like fleas and spread as rapidly; a breeze could carry embers for miles. Better to control that spark and pass it carefully from one generation to the next, like an Olympic torch. Or, perhaps, to tend it carefully like an eternal flame: a reminder of light and goodness that would never — could never — set anything ablaze. Carefully controlled. Domesticated. Happy in captivity. the key, she thought, was to avoid conflagration.

Mrs. Richardson in Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
  • Perspective Rating: 8/10 I really enjoyed how motherhood is viewed in so many different ways. I think few books that I’ve read have such diversity of points of view.
  • Emotional Rating: 8/10 A lot of moments resonated with me, there were moments when I really felt for the characters and where I could feel how hard the decisions they made truly were.
  • Bites Rating: 6/10 Not a lot of quotable moments in this book, it was easy to read and a lot of it I just read through because I wanted to know more.
  • Overall Rating: 7/10 This book is truly a great book and I think it’s valuable to read for everyone. The lower rating is perhaps indicative of the writing style, which was good but not one I’d consider memorable.
Obsidian Puma by Zoe Saadia
  • Favorite Bite: None here, pretty much everything I annotated was because I was confused.
  • Perspective Rating: 9/10 This is where the book shines because there are very few books that are set in Tenochtitlan or even pre-hispanic conquest. The information about this time period and the culture is really well researched.
  • Emotional Rating: 2/10 I didn’t get to connect to the characters or the story too much. Perhaps it was the writing style or the way that the characters were just not fully developed but nothing really connected for me.
  • Bites Rating: 1/10 I did not like the writing style and I was already confused enough with the story unfortunately.
  • Overall Rating: 4/10 What is best about this book is the perspective. I wish there were more books with this perspective that were better written.
Archenemies by Marissa Meyer
  • Favorite Bite:

Perhaps most troubling was that the Renegades had done little to counter the growing epidemic of drug abuse or the flourishing black market. If anything, they seemed at a loss as to how to fight an enemy that couldn’t be knocked out with punches and laser beams.

Archenemies by Marissa Meyer
  • Perspective Rating: 6/10 There is some diversity in the characters, one of the main characters has two dads and there is also one character who is disabled. However, they are not the main characters and we don’t get much of what is happening from their point of view. They are mostly supportive and secondary characters that I wish got more of a spotlight. I also found that there were some social justice issues (like the drug abuse epidemic mentioned above) where it could have gone much further but it was almost like a passing thing. I wish Meyer would have gone further into these issues explaining how this world was managing (or failing) at doing so than just this. (Or just not include it at all!)
  • Emotional Rating: 8/10 Not going to lie, I am attached to a lot of the characters now, on both sides! I am worried about them and want all of them to succeed but I know that’s not going to happen and oh the feelings!
  • Bites Rating: 5/10 This is another book that was just super fast to read, not much was highlighted and I was honestly just devouring the book and didn’t stop to highlight things too much.
  • Overall Rating: 6.33/10 Super entertaining book that did leave me hanging and wanting to read the next one. I think these books are very entertaining but do lack in substance sometimes. (Or perhaps the attempt at substance is just not enough so it becomes distracting)
Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman
  • Favorite Bite:

“Trolls can smell rainbows, trolls can smell stars,” it whispered sadly. “Trolls can smell the dreams you dreamed before you were ever born. Come close to me and I’ll eat you life”

Troll Bridge in Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman
  • Perspective Rating: 7/10 I don’t think these characters were particularly unique in the sense of perspective. Most of them were white men/boys encountering various types of fantastical creatures and situations. There was a variety of ages, from young kids to elderly characters so that was one place where there was some variety in perspectives, which I enjoyed.
  • Emotional Rating: 7/10 At times it was difficult to connect to the main characters so some stories did flat for me. However, others were just excellent and I empathized with the character’s troubles and was able to dive deep into the story with them.
  • Bites Rating: 7/10 It really depended on the story, some of them did have great phrases that I highlighted and annotated, while others were quick reads that I wanted to just keep reading. Nothing remarkable really.
  • Overall Rating: 7/10 This book spans short works from the 80s and early 90s and were written for various types of magazines or books that were about a very specific type of story (fairy tale re-tellings or Lovecraft-inspired for example) so the stories can be hit or miss for pretty much anyone. I’d recommend it for people interested in a good variety of sci-fi, fantasy, and speculative fiction short stories.
Eric by Terry Pratchett
  • Favorite Bite:

The bees of Death are big and black, they buzz low and somber, they keep their honey in combs of wax as white as altar candles. The honey is black as night, thick as sin and sweet as treacle.

Eric by Terry Pratchett
  • Perspective Rating: 6/10 We are once again following Rincewind in this series and he ends up in some kind of time travel mess along with a young demonologist who thinks he has summoned a demon while he has in fact, gotten a wizard out of some parallel universe. We do get to visit an ancient culture that is a mix between the Inca and the Aztec but it has the Pratchett treatment so it’s a very different satirical take. The most interesting perspective is definitely Death, who we see at the very beginning as a beekeeper in his realm and well, his point of view is always one that gets to me.
  • Emotional Rating: 4/10 Rincewind is not exactly my favorite character of the Discworld, but I did enjoy the parts of the book with Death and the Librarian which, even though they were few, they were so so great.
  • Bites Rating: 8/10 Although this book was not one of my favorites of Discworld it still gave me a lot of laughs and had many great jokes and fun bits as well as parts that made me think about life and escape the current state of things.
  • Overall Rating: 6/10 Discworld is a really fun series to pick up throughout the year. It’s guaranteed laughs and interesting characters that you never know what they’ll be doing next. While this was not my favorite book in the series it does give more of a glimpse into the Discworld so I loved it for that.
Empire of Ivory by Naomi Novik
  • Favorite Bite:

We were inexpressibly stupid; we thought it was only a cold, you see.

Empire of Ivory by Naomi Novik
  • Perspective Rating: 7/10 While this book is mainly told from the white, colonizer perspective, the value that Temeraire (dragon) brings is one that makes Laurence, a white colonizer, think more about his morality. In previous books the rights of dragons as sentient beings are discussed but in this one the very reality that was the slave trade at that time is front and center. This is fantasy but it grapples with historical facts and events and puts them in a different lens. If dragons were real, would slavery have changed? If people thought that dragons deserved rights and to be treated with more respect, why couldn’t black people be given the same treatment? While Novik doesn’t fully expand on all of these ideas, it is something that does bring a lot of value to this installment of the series.
  • Emotional Rating: 8/10 To say that I am attached to the characters would be an understatement. I truly care about Temeraire, that stubborn dragon who only sees things in black and white and who is completely loyal to Laurence. Laurence is also one who has earned a place in my heart because of the growth he has achieved throughout the novels. He started out as a navy guy who didn’t have many attachments and now he’s not just loyal to his British empire but also to Temeraire and his chosen family with the aviation crew. The women in this series are also amazingly strong and I only wish that we had gotten this same story but with one of the women aviators! That would have been incredible.
  • Bites Rating: 6/10 These books don’t have too much to annotate for me. Novik still does an amazing job at describing the fights, all these new terrains both at sea and on land.
  • Overall Rating: 7/10 I am four books out of nine into this series and I’m just still so impressed at how the world building keeps on growing. We’ve now definitely diverged from the factual historical timeline so I can’t wait to see where Novik takes the series next. Also, what a cliffhanger!!! My heart can’t!

So there you have it, I read 6 books in the month of May! I have also been working on three other books throughout the month: The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander, Disability Visibility by Alice Wong, and The Stand by Stephen King.

I’ve been thinking a bit more about how to work with this blog. I’m slowly but surely realizing that this is my own space to work with however I want so I don’t necessarily have to follow any real “rules.” Perhaps you’ll see a bit of a change in the month of June, the ratings I feel are not exactly working for me anymore so those will definitely change. Also the types of posts will likely be different, a bit more of book reviews than I’ve had so far. Apart from the books that I’m already working on, I hope to go through my unread books and see which ones I want to prioritize more during the summer (graphic novels/comics, nonfiction, continuing series, etc).

I hope your reading month went well! Let me know in the comments if you’ve read any of the books mentioned above or the ones I’m still reading.