Claire’s Reviews: Empire of Storms by Sarah J Maas

Four stars.

Since this is the fifth book in the series, I’m not going to talk much about the plot. Instead, I’ll just focus on what I liked/didn’t like about this book in comparison to the others in the series.

First, what I though could have been done better. A disclaimer: I am a proponent of showing healthy sexual relationships in YA. I don’t think it’s done often enough or realistically enough, which was part of the reason I absolutely adored A Court of Mist and Fury. In that book, Sarah J Maas depicts both healthy and unhealthy romantic relationships, but when it comes to sex she makes the focus on the woman’s pleasure. That just doesn’t happen enough in YA! The thing is though, in that series the first book contains sexually explicit scenes. If you read the first and were uncomfortable with the level of sexual content, you could opt out of reading the second.

The first four books of the Throne of Glass series show sex in a way that is more common to the YA genre, with hints and ambiguities. To then all of a sudden include graphic sex scenes in the fifth book was jarring and just didn’t fit in with the tone of the previous books. It felt like SJMaas was trying to make Empire of Storms more like the ACOTAR series and I wasn’t a fan.

Going along with this, I wish SJMaas didn’t feel like it was necessary to pair all of the characters together. I think there were moments (with Elide especially) where SJMaas had perfect opportunities to make the main cast less heteronormative but then decided to go with the same alpha-male-wrapped-around-the-finger-of-a-small-but-feisty-female narrative. I have nothing against that sort of relationship, but to have it repeated with just about every character? I would have appreciated more diversity.

Now for the good: I absolutely loved how everything from the previous four books and the novella came together in this book. I thought the plot was so wonderfully crafted and had me literally cheering at parts. Also, crying. Damn, SJMaas knows how to twist a knife in your heart. And then stab four more knives into it. (In the best way, of course.)

With this book ending as it did, I am in absolute agony waiting for the next installment. BOOK, COME TO ME.

Claire’s Reviews: A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

Four stars.

So often after reading a book I particularly enjoy, I immediately turn to fanfiction. For many couples I ship, if you gave me a five-volume series that was nothing but stories of just their everyday domestic life I would marathon read it within days. I think there is a lot to be said about having a slower plot in favor of character exploration.

In a way, A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers reminds me of those kinds of stories. Unlike most sci-fi I’ve read, this book doesn’t rely on dramatic intrigue or epic battles (although there is a bit of both). The overarching plot of the novel is rather simple: a eclectic crew aboard a spaceship that builds wormholes must first venture to the far reaches of the galaxy before they can begin their latest assignment. Because their destination is so far away–lots of traveling through empty space–the book spends the majority of the time exploring the lives and cultures of the different aliens on the ship.

One of the strengths of this book is its diversity. Among the humans, there are nonwhite and nonheterosexual main characters. Among the other aliens, there are species that completely forgo anything resembling the gender binary. There are cultures where promiscuity and open affection is considered the norm and cultures were interspecies relations are taboo.

The one issue I had with this book was that the dialogue often sounded too expository. Part of that is understandable, since us readers must be introduced to all the different aliens, but at times the stilted dialogue just became distracting. This was especially the case when characters were talking about their feelings.

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet is the first of a series, and I look forward to where these characters go next.

On my (Claire’s) prolonged absence.

Hello, anyone who might be patronizing this blog after a month+ of radio silence. Things have been kind of hectic lately.

First, I went to New York for Labor Day weekend. Then I spent all week packing up my summer apartment, and then the next weekend moving back home and unpacking, organizing, and repacking the things I would be taking with my to my school apartment. Then came unpacking and setting up that apartment while also trying to spend as much time as possible with my family before school started. And then came school and homework and catching up with friends with the occasional return home on the weekends for a relative’s birthday. One of those weekends was also dedicated solely to marathoning all of Netflix’s Luke Cage.

So, I’ve been a little busy lately. Still, I haven’t been so busy that I couldn’t have found the time to make a blog post here and there. Honestly, it’s just sort of slipped my mind. But I don’t want it to! I want to be working on reviewing books and being more active on the community. Hence, this public post. I figure the thought of me publishing this and then weeks later seeing that I STILL haven’t posted anything new will produce a sufficient amount of shame-in-advance that I won’t actually let that happen. My plan is to get at least one post per week out, but I hope to do even better than that.

Future Claire, good luck!

Claire’s Reviews: Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh

5 stars

Most people can motivate themselves to do things simply by knowing that those things need to be done. But not me. For me, motivation is this horrible, scary game where I try to make myself do something while I actively avoid doing it. If I win, I have to do something I don’t want to. If I lose, I’m one step closer to ruining my entire life. And I never know whether I’m going to win or lose until the last second.

I’m always surprised when I lose.

Oof, this book was like a brutally honest (yet also validating) reflection at times. Brosh’s writing is hilariously self-aware and self-deprecating as she tells anecdotes about her struggles with depression, growing up, and being a functioning adult. Punctuating her reminiscences are simply stylized illustrations that depict Brosh as a pink-dressed somewhat amorphous blob with a yellow triangle ponytail. These comics both add to the hilarity of already funny stories and inject humor to deeper moments.

Also, if you are a dog person you will LOVE this book. I was doubled over in tears gasping for breath during Brosh’s descriptions of the Simple Dog and Helper Dog, dysfunctional and infinitely lovable.

dog

Claire’s #WWCW: Kiersten White

Do you know what day it is? Woman Writer Crush Wednesday! Today’s featured female author is Kiersten White.

KierstenWhite

I have only read one of White’s books, And I Darken, but I was completely blown away. If it wasn’t for the age of the characters, I would not classify this book as YA. The amount of detail relating to everything from clothing to weapons to geography to government structures of the Ottoman Empire included in this story really showcases just how much research White put into writing this book. Her characters are believably flawed and she manages to make you want to root for them even when they’re at their worst. And, their worst can be pretty bad.

For those of you that don’t know, the basic premise of this book is “What if Vlad the Impaler was a girl?”. The answer to that question is one unapologetically vicious heroine who will fight tooth and nail and knives to make sure her person is her own, and that no one else controls the threads of her fate. White isn’t afraid to make Lada a gritty, brutal protagonist, and I can’t wait to see how her character further develops in the next book.