Everless

This a book that, though it took me a while to actually pick up, I preordered and was gracefully reminded of its existence when Amazon sent it to me.

Snapseed

Everless by Sara Holland
Published by HarperTeen on January 2nd, 2018
Genres: Fantasy, Family, Identity,  Romance, Power
Pages: 368
Source: Amazon // Goodreads // Barnes and Noble

Final Review:  4 out of 5 ★★★★☆


I am on the fence with Everless. Much like when I read The Cruel Prince by Holly Black, every new YA fantasy novel to come into my possession is going to be compared to Sara J Maas’ A Court of Thorns and Roses series because I am utterly mystified by her stories. This is definitely not a good trait to have, but we love what we love when it comes to books, don’t we? Of course, I understand that Everless is both everything and nothing like A Court of Thorns and Roses or The Cruel Prince or Six of Crows or A Darker Shade of Magic–all of these books, while in the same genre, are special and exciting in their own way and Everless is no exception. To begin, I can confidently say that I enjoyed it more than The Cruel Prince so I don’t think there is going to be as scathing of a review here as there was there.

The most amazing part of this story, and it seems so simple, is the storyEverless is incredibly original and I can’t get over that. With the sheer amount of “medieval fantasy” (i.e. not common day, villages, tariffs, serfdom, etc.) hitting the shelves each season, it is wonderful to see a book that is completely original in its making. Jules (which is the name of my cat, funny enough) is a young adult, struggling to make ends meet for her and her aging father. Aging perhaps isn’t the right word because instead of aging naturally, this world deals in time, which is taken from one’s blood. Jules’ father owes many debts and they simply do not make enough, so he has to pay the monthly taxes to Everless, the kingdom and royal family overseeing their village, via his blood/time. Jules actually grew up at Everless since her father used to be employed by the family, but as events unfold in the story, you see why Jules and her father had to quickly remove themselves from the castle and assume a life of poverty. And this is what I find so fascinating; there are certainly stories that discuss one’s life expectancy, but generally, those are cyber-punk, dystopian stories, not medieval fantasy.

So if I loved the story so much, why didn’t I rate Everless a full 5 stars? Well, a few reasons. The first is that the story is a little hard to grasp. Now this sounds ridiculous because it’s a fantasy novel that has people wagering their time via their blood–nothing about this is real. And yet, to me, there has to be something that can be grasped and that shows similarities between the book’s world and the real world in order to make the connection with the reader. If it’s not easily connected, then I feel like I’m having to work really hard to make the story understandable. Without disclosing too much information, when Jules learns of her true identity, which includes a convoluted–but interesting nonetheless–story, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of description for what is really going on. She has the normal scene where she struggles to accept it, but then she does and we move forward. Perhaps there will be more explanation and set up for her true identity in the sequel, which I am most likely going to read.

Another thought hits me with brute force: maybe I am a mystery–a secret–that needs unraveling, too. (215)

I also found not having a love interest as a risky move; I both appreciated it and shrugged at it. Jules is not at Everless to marry one of the princes–yes, the relationships they had as children are mentioned and important, but throughout the majority of the book there are no stolen kisses, longing sighs, or broken hearts. Jules is there for her father and her father alone. He is ill from lending too much of his time and she’s worried he doesn’t have much left, so she gets a job at Everless which will pay handsomely to be a servant. Sure, once she’s discovered as the Jules from Prince Roan and Prince Liam’s childhood, things get complicated, but a romantic relationship is not what drives this book. And this is refreshing! I’m pretty sure having a love interest is the cornerstone of a YA novel! Don’t get me wrong, there is tension between Roan and Jules and slightly between Liam and Jules, but it is about a chapter? Maybe? Even though I think this is a good thing, I also think this is a…”meh” thing. Let’s be real for a moment: the swirling, intoxicating, whirlwind of fantasy love is addicting and I am here for it. So while I loved that Holland chose to not include this, I was also looking for this in a story. I crave a relationship that will make me blush and sigh along with the protagonist so I did feel as if that was missing from this story.

Overall? I enjoyed it. Am I in love with it? No. Will I be reading the sequel? Most likely. If you’re interested in a medieval fantasy novel that’s a little different from everything else on the market, I would definitely recommend. If you’re looking for another Rhysand and Feyre, look elsewhere. I am left wanting to know more about Liam though…

Through the Eyes of a Non-Mosher

*This is an essay I wrote while studying abroad for a sociology class titled: Religion, Witchcraft, and Magic.*

Screaming Serenade: Punk Concerts as Religious Rituals

When thinking of an everyday religious experience, something that most people who deem themselves as “religious” participate in regularly, would be the notion of attending church or some form of mass or ceremony. We see this all the time, the streets lined up with cars around a church on Sunday mornings or Saturday evenings, people stereotypically dressed in their “Sunday best” because one has to be clean and proper while presenting themselves to God. Even though this is the first idea that arises when discussing religious experiences, in this essay I aim to discuss whether the theories of Marx, Weber, and Durkheim are prevalent in the more off-beat religious gatherings of today.

Imagine a dark and overly crowded room with low ceilings and sloped floors from constant pressure and movement. There is a small set of stairs leading down to a more open space, directly in front of a platform. Raised up around that open area is more standing room with a balcony to hold the mass of people up against. Everyone in the room is eagerly waiting, almost impatiently. Sweat is being absorbed into the air, mixing with other people’s sweat and excitement as it pulses through the room. Soon the lights will dim completely, allowing the colored light show to begin as the squeal of guitars and the loud beating of drums echo against the walls. The concert-goers scream with joy, their savior has come, has taken the stage and is going to preach to them in a way that they actually understand. I am recanting the scene that took place before me at the Underworld, a venue in Camden Town, London for a Chelsea Grin concert; a band notorious for their deep, guttural “screaming” sounds alongside their melodic vocals.

This concert, unlike any I had been to before, was a religious experience for everyone in the crowd. When it comes to the younger generation, especially with the people I was surrounded myself with that night, church every Sunday might not necessarily be a priority. Everyone has their reasons for either attending or not attending, conforming or not conforming, to a certain religious doctrine, and I believe that the people jumping up and down while violently pushing each other to the beat had found their own religious doctrine outside of a church and it was quite beautiful to witness, and I will allow for some religious theorists to reinforce this claim.

The first theorist is Karl Marx, born in 1818 and died in 1883, and he would probably disagree with the notion that rock concerts are like a religion, specifically because he dislikes religion so much. He believes that religion is unnecessary and he simply detested everything religious. He explains that religion is basically a painkiller; that it is a drug that takes our minds off of the real suffering that is occurring. The concert-goers, who belt out the lyrics almost before the lead singer can even get them out of his mouth, are using this concert as a distraction, as a drug from the real world that awaits them when the lights come on and the music rings in their ears. They come here to feel the beat echo through their hearts, to be a part of this collective feeling, which is the same reason that devoutly religious people attend mass or other forms of a congregation.

Marx says that religion is for the poorer people because they are the ones suffering and therefore need something to take their minds off of this terrible pain and that it becomes a way to solve their problems; this is one of the reasons that Marx dislikes religion to his extent. The concerts, therefore, are a place for anyone and everyone to join in on something that is a distraction for the real world. Perhaps Marx would actually equate a concert like this as a religious experience; however, he would dislike it as well if people were treating it like a religious ritual. He would want the people to see it simply as a concert and nothing divine, but that is not what the people see or feel when they attend these shows.

The next theorist is Max Weber who believes that religion, power, and domination are all interconnected. He lists out three different types of authority: traditional authority, legal rational authority, and charismatic authority. Focusing on the third form, charismatic authority can fit into my example of religious experience. Weber says that charismatic authority involves an individual who has extraordinary power to control and inspire devotion in other individuals, fully knowing that people will follow. It is almost as if these few individuals have a gift of grace. The list we came up with in class included prophets, leaders, and warriors, but I am going to add to that list lead singers. While at concerts like these, one main aspect that everyone tries to participate in is called a “mosh pit” which is where the people in the crowd open up a circle pit and simply run around pushing each other violently, dance as if entranced, and it usually ends with someone getting slightly hurt or even worse: trampled. Why would normal people participate in something that they know is going to hurt them? However, the minute the lead singer shouts into the crowd that he wants to see a pit open up, everyone instantly abides to his commands. They willingly enter themselves into situations that they can possibly get injured just because their “savior” told them too. No one seemed to question it and everyone in the pit was enjoying it so much, it was hard to retain my self control and not join them.

Anthony Kronman compiled Weber’s works into one place and he discusses all of Weber’s famous theories. In the chapter titled “Authority,” Kronman goes through Weber’s different versions of authority, giving adequate time to each type. For charismatic authority, Kronman says that Weber believes that: “Charisma is truly a revolutionary force…since it breaks up existing authority structures by introducing novel claims of legitimacy” (50). Generally, “screamo,” metalcore, hard-alternative-rock music is frowned upon in normal society, and they do a very good job of discussing this in their hard lyrics. Since it is not widely accepted, like some religions, the followers are only driven harder to prove their faith and loyalty to their leaders. These bands break apart the other forms of society that typically disregard them and they ultimately create a place for their fans to feel at home and feel a part of a collective experience. By doing this, these bands and lead singers legitimize their authority.

Finally, there is Emile Durkheim, who came after Marx and Weber, but still pulled from some of their ideals. In regards to the lead singer being a God-like figure to the fans in the venue below them, and the whole concert being a religious experience, I believe that out of all theorist discussed, Durkheim would agree the most with this. Durkheim’s theory explains that religion is important to the sense of social purpose and that it ultimately builds the morals of society that everyone follows. In relation to this, God is an abstraction through which we cement our identities and roles in society. These roles, and society in general are worshipped by the people when they are allowed to worship collectively. The screaming, sweating, fist-pounding participants in the crowd are collectively “worshipping” their “god” on stage before them and they are given a sense of purpose by being here. As an outsider, someone who is unfamiliar with the music blasting through the speakers and the artists on stage, I did feel like anyone and everyone was welcome to join this group of people. There was not just one set of people in the room; the crowd varied in age, gender, race, etc. signifying that their group is a diverse one and it was very easy to join in because it was such a collective experience. There are the different roles, from those that stand ground right at the foot of the stage, to those creating the most pit, and ending with those that stand in the background who simply nod along with the music. Everyone may have their different roles, but as mentioned before, it is still very collective.

So how is a rock concert like a religion? Tobias Werler and Christoph Wulf address this idea in their book Hidden Dimensions of Education: Rhetoric, Rituals, and Anthropology, which is a collection of articles and essays by different authors. The chapter “Pop Concerts as Modern Religious Rituals” by Ruprecht Mattig found in this collection firmly discusses this topic. Mattig takes a performance by pop artist Robbie Williams and points his attention “towards [how] pop concerts…show, the anthropological function of religious rituals for modern societies” (149). Mattig questions why the “thousands of people [come to] sing a song about angels together in ecstasy” and firmly states that his belief is that these people are “performing a modern religious ritual” (151). Obviously, there are those who hold a disbelief in this type of music and also truly believe that a rock concert cannot be a religious experience, it is, in fact, a substitute religious act, and Mattig goes on to use Durkheimian theory to back up his ideas. He, too, points out Durkheim’s theory of the collective experience which allows for “courage and ardour” in those that participate in these rituals. However, the courage does not last forever, says Mattig, so therefore the people have to come and perform these certain types of rituals again in order to feel the same transcendence, or as Durkheim says that these religious rituals give the participants: “impressions of joy, of interior peace, of serenity, of enthusiasm which are, for the believer, an experimental proof of his beliefs” (152). And this is why pop concerts, rock concerts, all types of concerts are still selling out stadiums and performing every day and night.

Nothing proves these ideas more than from the concertgoers themselves. Alternative Press remains a very reputable magazine for all things alternative music, from new bands and concerts to interviews with artists and fans and anything that could be affecting the alternative world. Their online site contains many great articles written by fans and other lesser-known journalists for the magazines. For example, the article “The 9 Phases Of Post-Concert Depression” written by Cassie Whitt, provides an excellent example of what fans feel when the lights come on and the stage clears. Whitt examines how when the fans leave the venue they believe that their lives have been either touched or changed or both, by the artist. Starting with “Euphoria” and going through “Reflection, Realization, Reality, Feeling Outcasted, Stalking, Lake of Impulse Control, Acceptance, and Living” which all fully support Mattig and Durkheim’s notion of having to continue performing this ritual in order to maintain the euphoria that comes from it. Obviously, Mattig and Alternative Press are not scholarly articles or sources, but perhaps that fits the subject completely. These fans and concert-goers are finding alternative means to fulfill their need for a collective experience and also to perform the religious rituals that give them such transcendence and euphoric feelings.

Marx would agree with the notion that the people see these concerts as a religious ritual that they can participate in, but he would severely dislike it. To him, religion is a facade that is there to disguise the pain that the poorer people are feeling, which is exactly what a good portion of the fans are there to feel: something that distracts them from the pain of their daily lives. Weber would probably agree with this theory as well because he can see the impact that the band, lead singer, artist, and their charismatic authority have on the people that attend the concert. He can see that the fans and band together have created their own “world” that they can all feel at home in. Durkheim, overall, could agree the most with this essays purpose in proving that a screaming, hardcore concert is an alternative to a religious experience. At this concert, the lead singer is the God, the lyrics are the doctrine and the teachings, and the fans that fill the stadiums and venues are the practitioners and believers that come to feel something within them, just like those that attend church every week.

Works Cited

Kronman, Anthony T. Max Weber. Stanford, CA: Stanford UP, 1983. Print.

Mattig, Ruprecht. “Pop Concerts as Modern Religious Rituals.” Hidden Dimensions of Education: Rhetoric, Rituals, and Anthropology. By Tobias Werler and Christoph Wulf. Münster: Waxmann, 2006. 149-64. Print.

Whitt, Cassie. “The 9 Phases of Post-Concert Depression.” Alternative Press. Alternative Press, 24 Sept. 2013. Web. 09 Mar. 2015.

Call Me By Your Name

I‘m going to preface this by stating that I did the worst thing any avid, professional reader–like myself–could do: I saw the movie first. Honestly, what’s probably worse is that I didn’t even know it was a book. I just thought it was a super romantic and transgressive movie. While I’m not wrong in thinking that, the book truly adds to the feelings I experienced when watching the film adaptation.

asset.jpg

Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman
Published by Picador; Media Tie In edition on October 3rd, 2017
Genres: Coming of Age, Romance, LGBTQ, Identity, Heartbreak
Pages: 256
Source: Amazon // Goodreads // Barnes and Noble

Final Review: 5 out of 5 ★★★★★


I almost don’t even know where to begin writing this review; it was simply soul crushing (just like the movie was, but even more so). I needed a palate cleanser after reading a few YA books one right after another–don’t get me wrong, it’s still my favorite genre to read, but I needed something deeper. After seeing the movie, and discovering that it is, in fact, a book, I knew I was going to read it. So why not choose the present? And this book seriously took my breath away.

But I think I’ll begin by stating the obvious: this book is hot. It’s definitely hot in the way a trashy erotic novel has a clutching, slow build that sets the reader up with pure arousal before finally allowing the release when the two main characters meet together, but also in the way that Aciman creates the most romantic relationship I have ever read. Ever. And I’ve read plenty of books that contain relationships forming, breaking apart, re-creating, dying, flourishing, etc. And nothing has compared–to this day–to the beauty and rawness that Elio shows to us as the narrator.

What never crossed my mind was that someone else…in my immediate world might like what I liked, want what I wanted, be who I was (25).

The book is told by Elio years after his life with Oliver in the small Italian town, which is not how the movie portrays their meetings–it showcases it as it’s happening, not told years later. But this doesn’t lessen the romanticism of it all as fifty or so year old Elio reminisces, albeit painfully, on his seventeenth year at his home when Oliver, a twenty-four-year-old graduate student, came to work with Elio’s professor father and their relationship blossoms. That’s, of course, the horribly watered down version of this tale, so I apologize for my poor summarizing skills. But what’s important is that Elio is seventeen, living in a wistful little beach town where the heat is tremendous and he doesn’t know who or what he is yet. He’s seventeen and we’ve all been there–unsure of ourselves, unsure of others, unsure of almost everything, but more importantly his sexuality. And what he finds in Oliver is what he didn’t even know he was looking for.

“Do you like being alone?” he asked.

“No. No one likes being alone. But I’ve learned how to live with it.” (76).

Like my previous reviews, I always want to include some critical analysis and literary tools to my thoughts on the book. In order to successfully show his readers the conflicting relationship between Elio and Oliver, Aciman’s writing style is extremely important–he couldn’t just throw together their dialogue and scenes, and he triumphs in showing us so much with so little. If you’ve ever read some of Hemingway’s short stories (particularly Hills Like White Elephants), then you might be familiar with his diction and dialogue choices. Specifically, the lack of flashy word choices and obvious sentences–Hemingway does away with those and makes his readers think about what he’s really trying to say. This is, whether consciously or not, what Aciman implores with his writing. Obviously, we know that this story is about a steamy romance, full of sex and heartbreak, between two men, but this is never explicitly stated (of course, regardless of the sexual scenes). The 21st-century terminology for LGBTQ love is endless, but Aciman doesn’t implore any of these. There is a special subtly to Aciman’s writing that allows for anybody to fill Elio and Oliver’s relationship. Since this story is about Elio finding his own path, coming to accept himself and what he desires in life, and needing to acknowledge and move on from the changes he cannot control, but this story could really be applied to anyone’s romantic life, which is definitely why the story is so deeply moving to anyone who reads or watches.

Another stylistic choice Aciman implores is that, in the movie, we don’t see Elio’s slight stream of consciousness that showcases his seventeen-year-old rambling brain, full of emotions and thoughts and desires and hatred towards himself, his family, Oliver. Being seventeen and unsure of your own identity isn’t a clean process; by having Elio go back and forth in the same sentence (that could be eight or more lines long) Aciman forces the reader into the messy brain of a young, confused man.

This book is a must for anyone who a) saw the movie (and if you did, then seriously, you need to read this because you are missing out on so much more background and future between the two) or b) anyone who wants to feel the heartbreaking whirlwind of a romance between Oliver and Elio because Aciman doesn’t just tell you about their flourishing love, but makes you feel it in your own soul, you feel the crushingness of Oliver leaving to return to the states that summer and then you feel their aging as the years pass for Elio without seeing Oliver, but never forgetting. We all have our own Oliver–that person who will haunt and materialize throughout our lives, both in good and bad shapes. He or she is the person we can never forget, nor want to because they made us who we are. We couldn’t be in our current or future relationships without having their love at the beginning of our life; without learning who we are through them. And Aciman gives us this story to reminisce through so thank you, Mr. Aciman.

I’m going to leave you with the most beautiful part of the whole book:

“You are the only person I’d like to say goodbye to when I die, because only then will this thing I call my life make any sense. And if I should hear that you died, my life as I know it, the me who is speaking with you now, will cease to exist. Sometimes I have this awful picture of waking up in our house in B. and, looking out othe sea, hearing the news from the waves themselves, He died last night. We missed out on so much. It was a coma. Tomorrow I go back to my coma, and you to yours.” (240-41).

asset.jpg

A Darker Shade of Magic

When I picked up V.E. Schwab’s, A Darker Shade of Magic, I had also picked up the beginning of her other series, This Savage Song and when I began reading ADSOM, I knew I would love it so much that I actually put it down in favor of trying to read This Savage Song first. Not that I didn’t enjoy This Savage Song, because as you can see from my previous review, I actually loved it quite much, but something about ADSOM that just captivated me. Perhaps because it is so well talked about, and I owned both the regular and collector’s edition before even opening either cover, but I knew I would fall in love, and fall in love I did.

A Darker Shade of Magic by VE Schwab
Published by Tor Books on February 24th, 2015
Genres: Epic, Fantasy, Magic, Family, Friendship, Sacrifice, Power, Royalty
Pages: 400
Source: Amazon // Goodreads // Barnes and Noble

Final Review: 5 out of 5 ★★★★★


I pretty sure I fell in love with ADSOM more so than This Savage Song because it fits in to what I believe is an uptick in “adult” fantastical epics, and I’m obsessed. I use the word “adult,” in quotes of course, because technically–legally–I am an adult a few years over. I am not a “young adult” any more and teens these days, thirteen, fourteen year olds, are more “young adult” than I ever was at their age. To me, there is a rise in actual adult fantasy books–those that yes, include romance, but isn’t cheesy (and I hate to use that word because not only am I a big fan of really any dairy by-product, I also adore cheesy books); the romance generally includes more adult overtones, i.e. sex and adult relationship problems. The characters are not in high school, or if they are of that age technically, they are far more advanced due to circumstances. Smaller so, but still important, there are more swear words and the diction itself is mature, as if each writer sat with a thesaurus attached to their keyboard. Some examples that, not only do I love also, but would include in this strange hybrid category are Sarah J. Maas’ series’ (particularly A Court of Thorns and Roses series simply because I enjoyed it better than A Throne of Glass) as well as Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows and A Crooked Kingdom. These novels, and including Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic, are modern-day fantasy epics–encroaching on the classics of Game of Thrones or The Lord of the Rings where the worlds are vast, the characters are multifaceted and there are tougher subjects being covered.

Though I was trying to meet my deadline of finishing ADSOM before the 14th (which I did!), I only put it down because I had to (family dinners, going through security, sleeping, etc.). Schwab truly has something special in her writing and I got a taste of it with This Savage Song and then a whole mouthful with this.

What I’m trying to do in my reviews, something I haven’t done in the past but I believe is extremely important now, is to connect the novel / book to any modern-day events or problems or happenings that I see manifest themselves through the author’s writing. As we continue the use of the hashtag #TimesUp, it only seems fitting that I begin my discussion of Schwab’s book with the woman in black, Lila.

Lila, Lila, Lila–what can I say about you? Honestly, dear reader, I hated her when I was first introduced. She just seemed so…stubborn and stupid and was probably going to get Kell killed (spoiler, it almost happens more than once no thanks to her) and she just all around annoyed me. It felt like Schwab was trying to make her too aggressive, to fit into that typecast of “I don’t need no man” womanhood, but little did I forget that I am reading a modern adult fantasy, where the characters grow and evolve much more subtly than that of regular YA novels and, at the end, Lila grew and evolved on me.

Not that Lila wanted to be pretty. Pretty wouldn’t serve her well… Why anyone would ever pretend to be weak as beyond her (66).

As someone writing my own strong, lead female character, I grapple with my creation. How strong do I want to make her? Even though I’m a millennial feminist in my own ways, I also do love a good trashy romance beach read where the female lead gets swept off her feet and falls in love–and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. Why can’t us women, in the 21st century, have both? Once again, I’m drawn to Sarah J. Maas’ A Court of Thorns and Roses series lead, Feyre. She gets both–a life-altering romance that sweeps her not only off her feet, but changes her whole mindset, as well as has the strength to sacrifice herself for her kingdom. And though we don’t see any blatant romantic scenes between Kell and Lila, I believe that perhaps, if she graces the second or third books with her presence, perhaps there can be something between them and I would love it.

asset.jpg

Another connection I make between our modern world and the four Londons is the use of language. If you own the exclusive collector’s edition, then you know that there is an appendix consisting of a dictionary of words used by the Antari and Arnesian, but even without the appendix, the reader knows that language is important to the story. Kell needs his Antari tongue in order to travel between Londons, where he brings correspondences to and fro between the kings and royals–the only way the royals have access to each other is through Kell and Holland and these scarce formality letters. Furthermore, there are two different versions of speech: English and Arnesian. In Gray London, where Lila is from, everyone speaks English, but in Red London, where Kell is from, only the royals and wealthy speak English and even then, the accents are heavy.

The queen spoke in English. Kell knew that she hadn’t studied the language, that she–like Athos–relied on spellwork instead. So where under her close-fitting clothes, a translation rune was scarred into her skin. Unlike the desperate tattoos made by the power hungry, the language rune was a soldier’s response to a politician’s problem. Red London treated English as a mark of high society, but White London found little use for it (94).

What I want to focus on here is how Schwab notes that Red London treats the English language as a mark of high society–how true is this? Red London is the most decadent, but also the most pleasant London of the four. There are, naturally, unhappy people, as in any kingdom, but for the most part, the people are happy and they love their king and queen, and yet they have two different languages spoken: the common tongue, and English. There is a stigma, I believe, hovering around people like myself, who continue our eduction in a dying field: English. I have my Bachelor’s in English Literature, am currently getting my Master’s in it as well, and will hopefully add a PhD soon. I have a high vocabulary and read voraciously (if I didn’t then this blog wouldn’t make much sense would it?). I do remember during my undergrad, when I was still a dual major student in both literature and the art of teaching (as in I was going to be trained to become a high school or lower English teacher) and terms like code-switching and Ebonics came into my vernacular. I have studied the English language very, very little, but I do feel like I know some about it! I love reading about the creation of the Oxford Dictionary and just how language changes. Starting not even with the beginning, we have Old English that barely looks or sounds like English, then we move onto the Early Modern era (aka Shakespeare’s time) where “thee” and “thou” was prevalent, and we can fast forward even more so to somewhat modern, where words like “groovy” and “dude” come and go and the word “like” and “literally” and “can’t even” make an appearance. So while our language is constantly evolving, there are people who still believe English is the “true” and “right” tongue. Yes, perhaps English is technically the universal language, but that’s only according to some stuffy men at the UN. Even within the United States, where English is the native language, there are dialects: words that are said and used regularly on the east coast rarely pop off the tongues of those on the west, and don’t even get me started on the grammatical errors in the south. Will there be a time when my own country finds little use for English? Probably not, but will it continue changing? Of course.

I would recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of Maas or Bardugo, to anyone who enjoys fantastical epics loaded with adventure, and to anyone who was impressed with This Savage Song and wants to see Schwab take it to the next level. To wrap up, I want to leave you all with a quote from Lila that some of us, including myself, need to think more about in today’s world:

“You have a house if not a home,” she spat. “You have people who care for you if not about you. You may not have everything you want, but I’d wager you have everything you could ever need, and you have the audacity to claim it all forfeit because it is not love… Love doesn’t keep us from freezing to death, Kell,” she continued, “or starving, or being knifed for the coins in our pocket. Love doesn’t buy us anything, so be glad for what you have and who you have because you may want for things but you need for nothing” (235).

This Savage Song

Of course, I had heard of Schwab’s other series, beginning with A Darker Shade of Magic, and had been interested in quite some time (don’t worry, I am currently reading that one now!) but I hadn’t really heard much about her earlier duo. To be honest, I didn’t even realize it was the same author at first since she uses only her initials on the Shades of Magic series.

Fotor_151500159346729.jpg

This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab
Published by Greenwillow Books on July 5th, 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Demons, Family, Friendship, Romance, High School, Fear
Pages: 464
Source: Amazon // Goodreads // Barnes and Noble

Final Review: 4.5 out of 5 ★★★★☆


To begin, I just want to say that I don’t think I’ve ever given a book here 4.5 stars out of five. I don’t even have a half star image to use.

As we pass the first-week mark of 2018, it doesn’t seem like much has changed in terms of our environment. The North East where I live is still frozen, but Chicago is thawing out on this balmy, 34 degree Monday. San Francisco was just hit by a moderate sized earthquake a few days ago and I’m assuming parts of southern California are still on fire, but since the news only reports on things for about two days and forgets about them, how am I ever to know? Things certainly haven’t changed immediately in the political sphere of the US and even though it’s a new year, new you, I highly doubt that they will. While the women of the Golden Globes made their voices loud, people are still laughing about it on Twitter and such. And what was I doing during all of it? Finishing Victoria Schwab’s This Savage Song. I had originally picked up her A Darker Shade of Magic to read first and after reading a few pages I knew I would like it too much that I didn’t want to get sucked in right away–I wanted something lighter, I suppose. And that clearly didn’t happen. This Savage Song is breathtaking–and, more importantly, relevant.

“What do you want?” chided Leo. “To be ordinary? To be human?” He said the word as if it stained his tongue.

“Better human than a monster” (81).

Schwab tackles the question: What makes someone a monster? And while not not successful, can this question ever really be answered? Based in a world where monsters, like the ones from our childhood nightmares, exist, This Savage Song directs the readers’ attention to how a label or an identity can be changed. August Flynn is one of our two main characters and he is, more or less, a monster. As one of only three known Sunai–the deadliest and most unknown monsters out there–the reader would like to assume that he’s creepy crawly like how the other monsters (Malchai and Corsai) are, but he isn’t. August is a timid boy, cute but probably not sexy, too young for me no doubt, but all around sweet. He doesn’t want to be a monster; he doesn’t want to be what this society has already labeled and created him as.

On the other hand, our other main character, Kate Harker, is a human but does this make her any better than August? She might not kill people and feed on their souls, but she’s still…a bitch through and through. Her father runs the north end of their city, Verity, and forces people to pay for his protection from the things that go bump in the night. Kate really only wants to please her father and make him see that she is capable of running a corrupt empire like he does.

She was her father’s daughter. A Harker. And she would do whatever she had to do to prove it (119).

August lives in the southern part of Verity, the war-torn half that offers as much protection as possible–but still isn’t enough–and doesn’t force the residents to pay for it. North and south sides are obviously opposing, the north and Harker’s domain want control of the entire city to build a greedy corporation that “protects” people from the monsters Harker himself controls. The Flynn family in the south, though far less wealthy and resource heavy, are honest and good people. They don’t want a war, but they realize that they cannot let Harker take over Verity for his horrid reasons. In a way, Schwab’s tale takes from Romeo and Juliet. To warring families with children of the same age that team up together to fight the battle their families created for them.

Of course, there’s bad guys and fight scenes ensuing all over the place as the reader inches closer and closer to the climax, but something that never really happens, while I, as a fangirl, was certainly craving it, was August and Kate never had a romantic moment. Sure there were times when I could feel the tension crackling off the pages myself, but even in the end, there was never an embrace or a kiss or anything. And I left both shocked and pleased. Sure, Schwab could have finally let the fangirl’s dreams come true and let Kate and August be together–perhaps this happens in the next book, I wouldn’t know since I haven’t read it yet–but she didn’t. Schwab chose to exclude that crucial part of any good YA romance-type book because, at least what I’d like to believe, is that this book isn’t about Kate or August really. They are just the examples, the vessels used to further discuss her main, overarching question of who is the real monster?

“And you?” asked Kate…

When August answered, the word was small, almost too quiet to hear. “Lost.” He exhaled, and it seemed to take more than air out of him. “I’m what happens when a kid is so afriad of the world he lives in that he escapes the only way he knows how. Violently” (308).

I could pick up the first five YA books on my shelfie and find at least one kiss scene in each of them–and don’t get me wrong, I love the kiss scenes, when my heart fills and flutters and happiness pools inside me cause two people that aren’t even real are happy–but by omitting that scene from This Savage Song, Schwab forces the reader to think closer about who is the true monster in this story. Is it the actual monsters? Sure, they do horrible things and are creepy, and are rightfully labeled “monsters” because they kill and eat people. But then there are people who think they’re doing good, but end up doing bad–like Kate’s father for example, or August’s older brother Leo. These characters might not look like monsters in the traditional sense, but their beings are monstrous.

There are too many people in power right now who aren’t technically a Malchai or Corsai or Sunai, but they still are monsters. Women are still mistreated left and right, and have to work in solidarity to at least be heard (hinting at the Golden Globes again) and even when we do speak out, we’re mocked or cringed at for not letting Guillermo del Toro be happy for winning his (rightful cause he is a great director) best director. Our president doesn’t care about us citizens unless we’re in the one percent and a white male. He could care less about anyone else; he only himself like Kate’s father. He might as well have branded his minions with T’s under their eyes, like Harker does his.

So while people hashtag New Year New Me, maybe we should really be looking at our own actions and those of the people around us. Just because we are human, doesn’t mean we are not monsters.

He was a Sunai–nothing was going to change that–but he wasn’t evil, wasn’t cruel, wasn’t monstrous. He was just someone who wanted to be something else, something he wasnt (351).

 

The Afterlife of Holly Chase

Naturally, I had to pick this up and read it over Christmas and the same friend who recommended This is Not the End had also read this, so I made sure to not ask her anything about it before reading!

share_temporary.jpg

The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand
Published by HarperTeen on October 24th, 2017
Genres: Coming of Age, Family, Friendship, Romance, Humor, Holiday
Pages: 400
Source: Amazon // Goodreads // Barnes and Noble

Final Review: 4 out of 5 ★★★★☆


Whenever someone asked me what I was reading, which undoubtedly happened every time I opened the book around family, I promptly told them “It’s a modern retelling of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.” Now, this isn’t incorrect, but it’s not really the whole story. Even though it’s January, Cynthia Hand’s, The Afterlife of Holly Chase, is only more relevant. If you’ve noticed the other most recent post I’ve made, it discusses some bookish New Year’s resolutions. These are goals I’ve set for myself to desperately try to keep in order to stay mind happy and healthy. And even though Hand’s tale is a Christmas one, it’s really about changing one’s self into our best version.

But I didn’t know I was a Scrooge (12).

Holly Chase is two things: a bitch, and dead. At seventeen, Holly died a humiliating death and wound up working for  Project Scrooge as a “zombie”–she’s technically still alive? But isn’t aging and constantly resets at midnight every night to stay as the seventeen-year-old girl she died as. At Project Scrooge, an appropriately located in New York City–the Scroogiest cities in the world probably–the crew pick a “Scrooge” each year and using the characters Dickens set forth over 150 years ago, try to save the Scrooge from their own horrible ways. Holly is what’s considered a “failed Scrooge” seeing as she was greeted with three ghosts of Christmas–Past, Present, and Future–and laughed it off, denying their existence, and ended up dying anyway.

Being the classic, rich bitch, Holly is stuck up, annoying, materialistic, and self-centered–all the good qualities of the cliched high school prom queen, but she is surprisingly in a position of power at Project Scrooge. She’s the Ghost of Christmas Past! The first Christmas ghost any Scrooge sees! She definitely plays an important role, so it’s interesting that she’s so annoying, but really that makes her almost more real. She’s not perfect and strangely, after death, Holly has accepted it.

Of course, there are more twists and turns I was only a little bit expecting, but Hand plays it all off brilliantly. And perhaps it was because of the timing–I did begin reading it on December 23rd and finished on the 26th–I definitely give Hand’s story a four out of five. I was actually surprised I liked it more than This is Not the End. While I was waiting for the sappiness, and sure it was there, The Afterlife of Holly Chase was refreshingly upbeat. I probably would not pick this book up in the middle of July and I’m generally not the person who only reads certain books during certain seasons, but this one really is a good, winter tale–especially right now with the year changing.

If you’re looking for something sweet and refreshing, a snuggly cold day read that also makes you want to take up every hobby you ever let pass and call your mother, then The Afterlife of Holly Chase is a perfect book for you.

share_temporary.jpg

Refocus: 2018 Book List

From the wise words of Lily and Val (a crafting, calligraphy, all things pretty website and store; which is where this awesome “refocus” design is from!), 2018 is the time to refocus. At the perfect existential age of 23, a current Master’s seeking grad student, a kinda-sorta New York resident, it might appear that I have things together–but we all know me, and I don’t. For starters, why do I let things I love (i.e. reading and reviewing) fall by the wayside? Let’s stop that, future Shelby. Some goals for this new year include some of the cliche things (like eat better! Note, Z and I got Dominos delivered yesterday–what a great way to start the new year, eh?), but more importantly, they include book-related things.

 

 

 

This year, I want to read one book a week (total 52 books in 2018) that are non-academic, meaning they are not required reading for classes. I also want to post to my bookstagram three or so times a week, as well as posting one review (at least!) a week here.

I want to include my list of 52 books here so you guys can see what I’m up to and give me more suggestions on what to read. Currently, my list is at 40 something. I’m planning on leaving the last 10 or so open instead of planning those away this early in the year.

*A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab
Pendragon #9 by DJ McHale
Pendragon #10 by DJ McHale
Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
Empire of Storms by Sarah J Maas
Assassins Blade by Sarah J Maas
Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley
WinterSong by S. Jae-Jones
Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance by Ruth Emmie Lang
Before She Ignites by  Jodi Meadows
Without Merit by Colleen Hoover
The Breathless by Tara Goedjen 
Select by Marit Weisenberg
The Witches of New York by Ami McKay
Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst
Tiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaipotra
The Last Magician by Lisa Maxwell 
*The Wrath and the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh
*Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman
*Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
Starborn by Lucy Hounsom
*Everless by Sara Holland
The Disappearances by Emily Bain Murphy
A Million Junes by Emily Henry
*Women of Will by Tina Packer
Private Lives of the Tudors by Tracy Borman
Elizabeth by John Guy
Furyborn by Claire Legrand
*A Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J Maas
Wicked like Wildfire by Lana Popovic
School for Unusual Girls by Kathleen Baldwin
The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan
Starflight by Melissa Landers
It Ends with Us by Colleen Hoover
Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld
Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta
Hunting Prince Dracula by Kerri Maniscalco
The Dollhouse by Fiona Davis
*Dangerous Lies by Becca Fitzpatrick
Not If I See You First by Eric Lindstrom
One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Hot Cop by Laurelin Paige
RoomHate by Penelope Ward

If you made it this far down, congrats! The books marked with an asterisk are the ones I’m most excited about and will probably be reading first–this list isn’t in any particular order and as you can see, there’s a healthy mixing of genres and authors. Naturally, there are many YA (my favorite) but there is a sprinkling of non-fiction as well as classics and, of course, some erotica at the end (which will probably be read in the summertime).

Some other book things I’m looking forward to sticking to are: the MLA 2018 New York Convention happening this weekend; BookCon in NY in the summer; finishing my novel by December 31st (fingers crossed, people); reading for my upcoming six Master’s courses this year–as well as picking a mentor and applying to PhD programs come summertime.

So let’s all pray to the book gods that I am capable of keeping up with this resolution–it is, after all, time to refocus.