I Live in Many Worlds

I'm not one to talk about myself. I will say that I love to read and study languages. I have strong opinions about the things I read. Stick around if you'd like to hear them. :)

Many Waters (Time Quintet, #4) by Madeleine L'Engle

Many Waters - Madeleine L'Engle

Oh dear... these books are not going to get any better, are they? I continue to read this series because I liked the first book. I thought the ideas were intriguing enough that I wanted to see more and more of this world. But it would seem the more I read, the more disappointed I become. Many Waters is no exception. 

 

This installment follows the twins, Sandy and Dennys, two of my least favorite characters in the entire series. They have been in the previous books, as well, but more like side characters. I always thought they were bland and Many Waters confirm that they are. They don't even have personalities. In fact, they act as if they are one person. Nothing they do distinguishes them as individual people. They also have a snotty attitude and can be rude for no apparent reason. Especially to the people around them. Saying things like the "small, brown people don't bathe." I don't even have to point out how that's a very harmful stereotype.

 

Let me back track a bit so you can understand what I'm talking about. The twins, after having messed around with their father's experiment, travel back in time to Noah's (from the bible) time where he must build the ark to escape from the flood. So the twins are in this time period, stuck in the desert, where everyone is small (because evolution hasn't kicked in yet, I guess) and brown and only wear loincloths (in the desert...). And the twins make it a point to say these small, brown people don't bathe. I have had a problem with racism in these books in the past and it seems that it's a theme that's just going to continue throughout. And, just like in the previous book, sexism is prevalent throughout as well.

 

But, and here's the confusing part, there's also talk about how a lot of things said within the bible is chauvinistic and unfair towards women since Noah is only to build the ark for all the animals and himself, his wife, his sons, and all their wives, but not for his daughters. Now, I don't really mind all the religious aspects these books contain. We all have our own beliefs and religions we follow (or don't follow). What bothers me are the contradictions contain within them. The women in these books are either cooking or taking care of the men or having babies (there's a scene where a birth and it is described in graphic detail) and that's all they amount to. The main female character in this book, Yalith, is there to created conflict between the two twins because they both develop feelings for her. So, you see, the women are mere plot devices to further the story for the men. But then the book goes on to say how women are not treated fairly in the bible and that Noah and the seraphim (the good angels) should go against what was written in the bible. Really? It's like L'Engle wanted to point out certain flaws within the bible without realizing she was perpetuating those exact same flaws.

 

Back to the sexism. There is also another female character in the book named Tiglah. Her sole purpose: to seduce the twins so the nephilim (the bad angels) can find out why the twins have traveled back in time. That's it. She is someone who is depicted as being "terrible" because she is with the nephilim, does what her father and brother says, and is comfortable with her sexuality. Throughout the entire story, she is mistreated by the twins, saying she is an "easy lay" and even going as far as calling her a "slut." It's been a while since I've read a book that slut-shamed a character so hard that, even though you're not supposed to sympathize with her as the reader, I couldn't help doing so. I know that she stood by the sidelines whilst her father and brother kidnapped Sandy, but she said so herself: if she interfered, they would have killed her. And I'm incline to believe her, considering how common it is to mistreat women in this world. Tiglah did not deserve to be treated so harshly by the twins and I hate that it is treated as natural to slut-shame her within the narrative. 

 

Speaking of sex, there sure is a lot of it for a book that's aimed for kids. As I said before, this is a society living in the desert and in this desert, the people only wear loincloths (I know, makes no sense but we're suppose to roll with in). Meaning that people's top-halves are uncovered which means that women's breasts are very prominently featured within the text. Nudity in books do not bother me, I just thought it was misplaced since this is supposed to be a book for kids. Not to mention there are quite a few sex scenes as well. It doesn't go into too much graphic detail, but it's still there. It just seemed odd to have it in the story since the previous three books did not contain such topics. But because the main characters were "normal teenage boys" I guess sex was inevitable. (I'm being sarcastic, by the way.)

 

Anyway, I've rambled long enough. This book is just not for me. I keep reading hoping these books will get better but no. I only have one more book in this series left to read so I am going to finish it. Hopefully, the last one contains all the good things that the first book had and none of the things these last two books had. If you've read the previous three books and want to read this one, go ahead. Just keep in mind that this one is not as kid-friendly as the previous three. And, hopefully, you end up liking it more than I did.

A Swiftly Tilting Planet (Time Quintet, #3) by Madeleine L'Engle

A Swiftly Tilting Planet  - Madeleine L'Engle

The further I progress into this series, the further downhill it goes. I had so many issues with this book. Not a single thing I read made it redeemable in the least. I know this is a beloved series for many people and if you really like this book, that's great. I'm authentically happy you enjoy this book. However, I found so many problems with it that I just can't overlook them.

 

Let's start off with Meg. Her only purpose in this book was to be "Calvin's wife" and "pregnant." That's it. Whilst her parents were off being cool scientists, her father being the president's new best friend, her brothers off to medical school and law school, all she was doing was... well, she kythe with Charles Wallace whilst he was off trying to save the planet from nuclear devastation... and that's pretty much it. Meg did absolutely nothing throughout the whole book except complain that she missed her husband and ask her brothers for help because she can't be bothered to open a book.

 

In fact, that was one of the biggest problems I had with this book. The women were only there to be plot devices for the men. The women were only there to be beautiful, to be desired after, to "take care" of the men, to fall for abusive men, to marry abusive men, to get pregnant by the abusive men. Even when it was shown that these men were clearly abusive, one of these abusive men even killed a puppy, these women found them "alluring." Are you bloody kidding me? Who sees a puppy killer and then go "mmm, yeah, I want that in my bed"? No one in their right mind, that's who! Oh, and don't get me started on Mortmain! He was truly the lowest of the low! He beat on his partner, then sexually harassed his partner's daughter, then went to strike that young girl's grandmother only to hit her brother instead to where he fell down the stairs and ended up with brain damage... only for the mother of these kids to marry and get pregnant from this man because it made their lives easier to have a man in the house!!! What!? After all that, you're going to still stay with this man!? He should be in jail!

 

Also, let's add that once this boy is out of the hospital, they call him stupid and put him in an insane asylum because "no one" wants him to hurt this brand new baby. This other guy, named Paddy, wanted to lock him up because he just didn't like dealing with someone with brain damage. I know... these people are horrible. The issue of mental health is handle so poorly. This boy, Chuck, had a sister, Beezie, and she kept telling him to stop acting and pretending about his condition... Hello!!! He fell down a flight of stairs! He fractured his skull! He is suffering from brain damage! He can't control that! How are you going to tell him to stop pretending!? Moron. Oh, and that guy, Paddy? Yeah, after he helps put her brother away in the insane asylum, she goes and marries the guy, have a bunch of kids with him... but it's okay because she doesn't fall in love with him or the kids she gives birth to... WHERE'S THE LOGIC IN THAT!? 

 

The women in this book only serve to further the plot for the men. And it's so infuriating.

 

And you think the bullshit ends there. Oh no. As if the sexism and ableism isn't enough, let's add racism, too! The depiction of Native Americans is troubling. They are called the People of the Wind and it is said within the text that they are peace-loving people. But the moment two white guys enter the picture, these "peace-loving people" want to fight "like savages." (And, yes, the white guys call the Native Americans "savages." I cringed, too.) It was the white guy with blond hair and blue eyes (because anyone with blue eyes is a pure, loving soul) who brought peace among the "peace-loving" nation. Not only are there moments that play into the "white savior" trope, there's "white worshiping" too. How their "legend" talks of someone with white skin and blue eyes will come to save the Native Americans in their time of need. I just... I can't. 

 

And the last thing I want to mention was how dull everything in this book is. We follow Charles Wallace and his role is to go Within the many white dudes in this story to try and influence them to change the threat of nuclear war in the present. Aside from the first guy we go into, everything else just kinda happens... without Charles Wallace doing anything. In fact, he does pretty much nothing throughout the story besides travelling with the unicorn, Gaudior (which is still more than what Meg is doing but I digress). Charles Wallace was mostly there to let things happen to him. Not to mention he never put a stop to the abusive talk that went on (Charles, how are you going to hear someone say "he kept him from dying, and that may not have been a kindness" only because he now has to live with brain damage, and not question it in the slightest?) but did question it when it came to his own intelligence. Because, remember, all the men are intelligent in this book. Only the women are stupid.

 

Ugh, I hate this book. There's nothing that happened in this book that I find the least enjoyable. Where the other two books had some interesting concepts when it comes to the sci-fi elements, this one reuses the one good thing that was made in book two. Kything. Everything else? Boring. We were travelling through time on a unicorn, and I was bored and infuriated throughout the entire journey. It's such a shame.

 

I only have two more books in the series left to read. I really hope they improve with its storytelling and themes. Otherwise, I'm going to find this quite a struggle to get through.

A Wind in the Door (Time Quintet, #2) by Madeleine L'Engle

A Wind in the Door  - Madeleine L'Engle

After reading A Wrinkle in Time and discovering the interesting concepts of that world, I've decided to continue reading Madeleine L'Engle's Time Quintet series. I picked up A Wind in the Door shortly after finishing the first book and basically got more of the same. Great story concepts; poorly written characters and bad morals. But the morals in this book were a bit too horrible to ignore this time. 

 

A Wind in the Door continues to follow Meg and Charles Wallace in this world with time and space bending and obscuring our current world. I love L'Engle's ideas of how there are many things in this universe that doesn't make sense and it doesn't have to when you have to focus on the bigger picture. In this case, helping cure Charles Wallace of an unknown disease. I really love that this book explored the mitochondria we have within us. I have a fascination with learning about it since I've read and played Parasite Eve a few years back now. So reading this book brought me a lot of nostalgia. Reading these books are fun for me because, as I've said before, I love L'Engle's ideas when it comes to sci-fi and fantasy. What I don't love about her writing is how basic it is and her characters just rub me the wrong way.

 

Meg is still so bloody insufferable. She's a high schooler but she acts like a toddler in many situations. For example, at the beginning of the book, when they are all discovering Charles Wallace was ill, she kept asking her mother what was his condition. The mother would answer she didn't know... only to have Meg ask the same question immediately having been told her mother didn't know only to ask the same question AGAIN only to be told AGAIN her mother didn't know. And that would continue constantly throughout the whole book. It's like, Meg, please, grow up. Just because you ask the same question a billion times doesn't mean the answer is going to change at any point. I really don't like Meg as a character. She has not shown growth at all throughout these two books. In fact, a lot of L'Engle's characters are just one note. They each have a gimmick and they stick to that without growing or changing a bit. Meg is the annoying worry wort. Charles Wallace is the calm, all-knowing "Jesus" character. Mr. Jenkins is the mean, old teacher. And Calvin is the stud/jock. Reading about these characters can get boring after a while.

 

Another thing I do not like about this book was the overall "message." L'Engle seems to be teaching children that it's okay to be themselves... as long as you can fit into society. Throughout the entire book, she kept making her characters say to Charles Wallace that he needs to "conform" so that way he won't have a hard time in school. Let me back track a little, Charles Wallace is being bullied at school for being "different." He's beaten everyday and comes home from school with blackeyes and a bloody nose everyday. And everyone (except Meg) just tells him it's basically his fault for being so different. He needs to learn to "conform" and "be normal" like everyone else. That way, he won't be picked on. Well, I'm sorry, but I think that's a bunch of bullshit. How is it okay to know that a small, six-year-old boy is being beaten at school, and your response is "Well, if you weren't so different, you wouldn't get punched in the face"? Even his parents didn't do anything to help their child! Are you kidding me? Then by the end of the book, L'Engle drives it home even harder that children need to learn to "adapt" so they can succeed in the world. Yeah, no, how about being better adults, teaching kids to get along with others who are "different" so that way crap like bullying doesn't happen every bloody time? It makes me angry when adults see this kind of behavior happening and they do nothing about it. NOTHING! Ugh. I'm frustrated.

 

And don't even get me started on the contradictions when it comes to Mr. Jenkins. How everyone needed to protect his ego when he felt he wasn't unique anymore. You can do that for a grown man but not Charles Wallace? You tell him that there's no one else like him in the world, but you tell a six-year-old he needs to be like everyone else if he wants to be happy and not picked on? Really? No. I just. I can't. I just can't support the hypocrisy. There is nothing in this world that makes it okay for you to tell another person they can't be themselves. Or rather, they could, as long as they fit in with everyone else. That's messed up on so many levels.

 

Anyway, I'm going to end it here. Once again, I'm left with the feeling that Madeleine L'Engle has some great concepts when it comes to sci-fi and fantasy. I just wish she would focus on them more than trying to teach "life lessons" to children. I feel like these books would be a lot more enjoyable if that were the case.

A Wrinkle in Time (Time Quintet, #1) by Madeleine L'Engle

A Wrinkle in Time (The Time Quintet #1) - Anna Quindlen, Madeleine L'Engle

Last weekend, the movie adaptation for A Wrinkle in Time was released in theaters here in America. And after hearing about the great representation it contained, I wanted to go see it and support the film on opening weekend. However, I am a person who loves to read the book first before watching the film. So I woke up early on the morning of Friday March 9, 2018 and read the first book in Madeleine L'Engle's Time Quintet before I left to watch the movie later that day. It was quite the experience, let me tell you that.

 

The book follows the main character, Meg, who clearly has a lot of self-esteem issues. She sees herself as plain and boring and stupid. She also tends to have a real bad attitude problem. As the story progresses, she learns that her missing father is lost through various dimensions and it's up to her, her younger brother Charles Wallace, and a school friend named Calvin to go along with three "heavenly" beings to rescue him. 

 

The story itself is interesting enough. I really like the imagination L'Engle created throughout her books. She made it scientific, whimsical, and bizarre. I was fascinated with the explanations about how the "wrinkles" work and what it means when it does. The plot was exciting and the true identity of "IT" was horrifying to say the least. I really enjoyed reading about how the science works in this world.

 

What I didn't enjoy as much was her characters. Let's start with Meg. I understand she is going through her adolescent years and having her father missing really messed with her self-esteem issues, but she was infuriating! She complained left and right, she was mean for no real reason other than because she had a short temper, and she was so immature when she finally found her father that she blamed HIM for all the "bad" things that happened to her and her brother. I know she's young but that's no excuse to be a complete jerk to the people who are trying to help you. That care about you. I'm so glad "movie" Meg is a lot more tolerable. (More on this later.)

 

Calvin is another character that I couldn't stand in the book. He shows up out of no where, insults Meg, and can be a snob at times. And we're supposed to believe that Meg finds him attractive so it's okay he treats her like crap? Really? Oh, not to mention it was because a boy paid attention to her so she started to feel better about herself. Give me a break. He was a jerk and I didn't like him one bit. Once again, so glad "movie" Calvin is not like that. (More on this later.)

 

Last character I want to talk about is Charles Wallace. He's basically one of the few characters from the book I actually liked. He has this "other worldly" presence about him. He knows more than is being told and I found him so fascinating. I love the intelligence he contained. I wanted to learn more about him! I guess I have to keep reading the series in order to get that information. X3 His movie version was good, but he came off more as a child than some "other being." It's not a bad rendition of the character. Just a different one.

 

Basically, this is one of those cases where the movie, in my opinion, is better than the book. I know! Blasphemy! But that's just how I feel. The book leaves a lot to be desired. I just wasn't attached to any of them by the end of it. Whereas the movie, I love how the characters were portrayed in the movie. Meg is so complex. She has self-doubt and doesn't think highly of herself, but she's not mean for no reason, she's not a hateful person like she is in the book. She is compassionate and understanding and she learns and grows throughout her adventures. I loved her relationship with her brother and how far she was willing to go for him. I love that she is a mix child in the movie (in the book, she's white) and how normal it is to have a family like this. I love that.

 

I also much more prefer Calvin in the movie than the book. In the movie, he's kind and charming. He treats Meg with respect. He never talks down to her and he never insults her. He's there to support her and be her friend. AND he's not the "cure-all" for all of Meg's problems. She still needs to deal with her own demons. It's just nice that she has a friend to support her whilst she does so.

 

Oh! And the "heavenly" beings of Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which were so much more enjoyable in the movie than the book. Especially Mrs. Which. Mrs. Which in the book kinda shows up, tells the kids what to do, then leaves again. In the movie, she's a sort of support to Meg. She helps her, or tries to, see the beauty of who she is and I thought that was a great message to show to kids. 

 

I am in love with the beauty of this film on multiple levels.

 

The one thing I did not really like about the film was the lack of plot. My favorite thing about the book was how eerie Camazotz was and what went on there. Not to mention how horrifying IT was. But the movie didn't focus on it. It focus on the message of having confidence in yourself, about the love of a family, and doing the right thing no matter what. All those are great messages and I don't dislike the movie for that, I just wanted to see a little more of what made the book interesting for me.

 

All-in-all, I think you should read the book. It's pretty interesting when it comes to the science portion and when they get to Camazotz. However, the book can get a bit... preachy so keep that in mind when reading it. But once you do read it, definitely go see the movie. It's a beautifully stunning, well-told story about family and love. Kids NEED to see this movie. It's absolutely wonderful.

Lost in the Solar System (The Magic School Bus, #4) by Joanna Cole

The Magic School Bus Lost in the Solar System - Joanna Cole, Bruce Degen

If you grew up in the 90s, more likely than not, you grew up with a certain eccentric red-haired school teacher gracing your television set. Everyday after school, I would rush home to catch The Frizz on afternoon TV, teaching me a wide variety of subjects the world has to offer. I loved how educational and entertaining The Magic School Bus was for my young mind. And this book is no different!

 

This book focuses on the solar system and the planets. This story is one of my favorites for a couple of reasons. One being that it was one of my favorite episodes from the television series, the other being that I used to play the computer game of the same name almost every single weekend! I loved exploring the different planets and learning the ins and outs of each nine (now eight) planets! It was so much fun for me so, naturally, when I saw this book at the used bookstore, I had to buy it!

 

Of course, this being a book published during the 90s, some of the facts and science are a bit out-dated now. However, there is still merit in reading this book. You can teach your kids what scientists used to think to be true. You can use it more as a history lesson than a science one. Then you could continue by following up with a book about the solar system that is accurate to today. There's still plenty to learn from this charming book series. 

 

And if you end up loving this book, then I highly recommend the cartoon show. It's just as educational and entertaining. For you. For kids you know. For anybody. 

 

Reading this book was such a nostalgia trip for me. If I stumble upon any other book in this series, I will definitely be reading them!

Burning Girls by Veronica Schanoes

Burning Girls - Veronica Schanoes

*Enters room filled with cobwebs and dust* 

 

Uh... hello? Is anyone still here? *Coughs from ball of dust* 

 

Phew! It's been a while since I've been able to sit down and read anything. Life has not been kind to me. The beginning of 2018 was so peaceful and productive... for about two weeks. Then Hell came and slapped me in the face and I've been trying to get back on my feet ever since. And let me tell you, it has not been easy. However, I am back and I am ready to tackle my TBR head-on! With that said, I was able to read a short story which I enjoyed quite a bit.

 

Now, seeing as how it's been a while since I've read anything, I decided starting off with a short story to ease me back into reading was a good move to make. And I was right. I read Burning Girls from Tor.com and it was such a harrowing read. It follows a Jewish girl's life living in Poland where she faces discrimination from the Cossacks and how magic can be a double-edge sword for the young witch. This short story covers so many topics. From Jewish tradition to history to even mythology. I was intrigued by the story from the very start.

 

Schanoes's writing style is very crisp. Since her main character is rather blunt and cold-hearted, her writing showed that very same bluntness without ever becoming bland. She has an incredibly flowing writing style and I really am interested in reading more of her works in the future.

 

As for her characters, I felt that a lot of them didn't have enough time to develop into fully fledged beings. I suppose that's what happens sometimes with short stories. Her main character, Deborah, was the only one that actually showed any type of growth. Although she is someone I consider to be highly unlikeable, she does learn to empathize a little with those around her and learns not to judge as harshly as she did at the beginning of the story. Shayna, Deborah's sister, throughout most of the story acted like a petulant child, which annoyed me greatly. I did, however, enjoyed her transformation towards the end of it. Still, I wish I got to know these characters a bit more before reading the end of the story.

 

Speaking of the ending, wow. That was well done and fit well with the rest of the story. I liked how it grabs you and reminds you of the harshness of reality. Life is rough and you don't always get what you hoped for no matter how hard you try... and that sucks. Man, this story made me feel so many emotions!

 

In short, read this story. It's really good. I did have my problems with some of the characters but I did enjoy the magical and fairy tale elements. If you love learning about Jewish culture, fairy tales, and a bit of history, read this story. It's quite the harrowing, dark read, but a good one nonetheless. 

Girl Mans Up by M-E Girard

Girl Mans Up -  M-E Girard

Ohhhhh, this book. I have so many complicated feelings when it comes to this book. I love it for some aspects and utterly detest it for others. My partner wanted me to read it because it's very similar to my own experiences when it comes to the family aspects of the book and, boy, was she right. Every time I read the bits having to do with the main character's family, I had to suppress a scream for how eerily similar it was to my own family. *Shudders* But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let me tell you a little about this book.

 

The story follows Pen, a girl trying to figure out who she is and dealing with everyone else's bigoted way of thinking. The story itself sounds simple enough but the experiences she and her friends go through are a lot more complex and harrowing than that. She is in the middle of questioning her identity whilst also having to deal with family issues and a "friend" with a habit of manipulating those around him. We see Pen grow from someone who allowed everyone push her around to actually defending who she is. I enjoyed seeing her transformation throughout the book.

 

I really like that M-E Girard did an excellent job writing about queer teenagers and the many problems they must face especially with society being the way it is. I really like how she described what it's like having gender dysphoria though the term is never used within the narrative. It's something very personal to the individual experiencing it and it's something difficult to describe to those who "don't get it." I adore these parts and a part of me wish that the topic of gender was the only thing that was discussed within the book. Because when it ventures into talking about sexuality, it does a horrendous job.

 

I really hate the way sexuality is described in this book. The f-word is used multiple times throughout the narrative as if it's totally normal to look down on someone who is attracted to the same gender. Pen herself says it multiple times with disgust. I know she has a different view when it comes to her own gender but thinking it's "disgusting" being attracted to the same gender bothers me more so since it's never questioned within the book. This is why I can't really recommend this book 100% because it's great representation when it comes to gender, but it's horrible when it comes to sexuality. There's some self-homophobic hatred when it comes to Pen and it's never resolved in the book. It's a shame.

 

Another thing I feel the book got right was how Girard described what it's like being from a Portuguese family. I, myself, come from a Hispanic family and the two are similar when it comes to culture and beliefs. Both believe that "respect" matters more than "self-preservation" and it's not a healthy way to live which is why I kept having flashbacks to conversations I had with my own family whenever I read passages containing Pen's family. My parents are all about the "repeito" also. The amount of times I wanted to slam my head against the wall listening to them contradict themselves because respect only applies to them and no one else. Ugh! I can't! These parts were infuriating but they were also good for Pen to grow as a person. Because before this, she was a weak pushover.

 

Which brings me to her friendship with Colby. He is a douchebag. He uses people as he sees fit then throws them away when they are no longer "useful" to him. And Pen knows how much of a jerk he is... but she does absolutely nothing to confront him. She allows him to treat her, her girlfriend, her friends, like shit because "that's what it means to have loyalty." I feel it took Pen a really long time to finally stand up for herself, but I also think it was necessary for her to take as long as she did. There are a lot of people out there who are trapped in toxic relationships and, to them, they can't see a way out until it's too late. Pen's progression with Colby is realistic if a bit infuriating. However, I'll be honest, it was difficult to get through this book because of a lot of the decisions Pen took just because Colby told her to do so.

 

In short, this book was definitely a challenge to get through. I really liked some aspects but the majority of this book really made me upset. So all I can say is if you want to read good representation about gender identity, then this is a pretty good read. However, if you're looking for good book talking about sexual orientation, this is a poor example of one. If you do decide to pick it up, remember this book contains slur words, homophobia, drug use, and abusive relationships. If you can read about those topics, then I really hope you end up enjoying this book far more than I did. 

Pet (Captive Prince Short Stories, #4) by C.S. Pacat

Pet: A Captive Prince Short Story (Captive Prince Short Stories Book 4) - C.S. Pacat

I am sad to see the ending to this amazing series. I had so much fun reading through each and every single novel, every single short story, and every single adventure these characters went on. So it is with a heavy heart I say goodbye to one of my favorite series to exist in this world. Well, that is, until I decide to have myself a re-read. And I definitely will have myself a re-read... maybe later on this year. X3

 

C.S. Pacat did an amazing job writing this series. PET is no exception. In this short story, she expands Ancel's story that took place during the first book. In Captive Prince, Ancel comes across as someone who is very shallow and wants all eyes on him. However, this short story explains why he is the way he is and grants the reader a deeper understanding to not only Ancel as a character, but the environment he was brought up in and what he had to do in order to survive. It's a brilliant insight to Ancel and his relationship to a lord named Berenger. We see them grow together and learn a person is more complex than they may portray on the outside. 

 

This story had me all over the place. I went into it expecting one thing and I got a whole slew of things instead. Not that that's a bad thing. Ancel and Berenger are just such beautiful souls that when they were hurting, I was hurting. Pacat did an amazing job conveying their emotions in an authentic light. My heart couldn't take it! But I am so glad I put myself through such emotional turmoil. Otherwise, I wouldn't have been able to become acquainted with these fantastic characters! 

 

You already know that I highly recommend this series. If you've read everything else published in this series, then you should definitely read this final short story as well. However, it bears repeating now that we are at the end of this series that the entirety of Captive Prince contains highly mature content. It contains violence, rape, swears, and graphic imagery. Please only read this series if you are okay with reading about topics mentioned above. If you are, then I hope you enjoy because I think it's an amazing series filled with political intrigue, great characters, and multiple well-done romances!

 

I love this series and will continue to support C.S. Pacat as she works on her new projects. I'm already in love with her new comic series Fence and cannot wait to read more of her works in the future!

The Adventures of Charls, the Veretian Cloth Merchant (Captive Prince Short Stories, #3) by C.S. Pacat

The Adventures of Charls, the Veretian Cloth Merchant: A Captive Prince Short Story (Captive Prince Short Stories Book 3) - C.S. Pacat

I'm a little late getting to the third short story installment of the Captive Prince series. Last year was not the best for me so my reading suffered because of it. Hence, why I am getting to this short story so late. But with the release of PET, the final short story in the series, I felt it was about time I caught up with the series and finish this amazing series C.S. Pacat created for all of her readers to enjoy.

 

I want to start off by saying that as an author, C.S. Pacat can do no wrong. I love her stories so much. They manage to capture my imagination from the very first line to the very last page. Her writing is intricate and flows so well from one scene to the next. She can create vasts worlds with a rich lore and characters to help bring that world to life. I am in awe of her writing abilities.

 

In this story, we follow the merchant Charls on a trade route where he discovers, from the help of Laurent and Damen, that someone is discrediting his name all throughout the land. It's such a light-hearted romp with these character, a nice change of pace seeing as how they majority of their experiences is covered in pain. I had so much fun reading about Charls still not realizing that "Lamen" is Damen in disguise and how he worried for his relationship with Laurent. It was such a cute and endearing short story where we get to see more of Laurent and Damen's relationship blossom even more and I loved every single minute of it.

 

If you've read every single story placed in the Captive Prince world so far then, of course, read this one. It's an incredible addition to the world and we get to see more of Charls hilarity which, to me, is just a bonus. Plus, you get to see more of Laurent being sassy and flirty with Damen, and who doesn't love that? Highly recommend you read this short story!

Fence (Issue #2) by C.S. Pacat; Illustrated by Johanna the Mad

Fence #2 - C.S. Pacat, Johanna Lindsey, Joana Lafuente

It has arrived! The next installment to Fence and let me just say it's an amazing continuation to this wonderful story! I am enjoying this comic series so much! It's fun, light-hearted, quirky, and filled with many diverse characters!

 

I love the classic sports anime vibe you get from reading this series. This one continues with the introduction to the rest of the fencing team and how they must work together to win the championship. All the characters are drawn beautifully and have their own distinct personalities. Johanna the Mad did a fantastic job in making each character look different and her style is absolutely beautiful. I want to buy a print of this series so bad! I should look into that.

 

I've always loved C.S. Pacat's storytelling, and I see here that with each new issue, I am going to fall in love with this story more and more. I love that she is putting all her love into a story about a sport she herself is passionate about. She is introducing a whole new generation to fencing and that it's okay to be yourself and I think that's such a charming mission she set upon herself. I wish her all the best with future issues!

 

If you want to be introduced to what fencing is, if you want to read about young boys trying their hardest at something they love, if you want to read a comic with many characters from diverse background, then I highly recommend you give this a read! I am really excited to read the next installment when it comes out! 

The Mussel Eater by Octavia Cade

The Mussel Eater - Octavia Cade

The next short story I read for Jólabókaflóð is called The Mussel Eater by Octavia Cade. I liked this one but it took a while for me to really get into the story. It had a very slow beginning and the writing was nothing too spectacular. It starts off with a man named Karitoki trying to court a sea creature known as a Pania. Everyday he tried luring this creature to his town and his actions felt very repetitive to the reader. I found myself growing bored the more I read.

 

However, two-thirds into the story, as we reached the climax, I was very intrigued. Obviously, I cannot say what happened at this point for spoilers, but I will say that it picked up and I thought that it became a true monster/horror story. I probably would have loved this story more if its entirety contained the same momentum as the ending did.

 

Would I recommend this short story? Yes. You might have to push through the beginning portions to get to the exciting bits, but I think those bits are well worth it. If you are looking for something short to read this Christmas Eve, then I do think you should give this a shot. It's quite entertaining once you push through the slow parts.

Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers by Alyssa Wong

Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers - Alyssa Wong

Merry Christmas Eve! As the Icelandic tradition of Jólabókaflóð dictates, I shall be reading all of Christmas Eve as a way to celebrate! This is my first year participating and so far, it has been wonderful.

 

The first story I've read today is called Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers by the talented Alyssa Wong, who has won many awards for this particular short story and, in my opinion, it is well deserved. This is a short story about survival. About what it's like to live in a world that is much different than one would expect. Wong does an amazing job in showcasing how a person must do certain actions in order to survive in a world that is not made for everyone. She then makes commentary about families and how they are not always as loving and kind as they are made out to be. Her writing ability is rich and engrossing. I was captured from the very beginning by her character of Jen and what she must do in order to live.

 

I don't want to talk too much about the actual story since it's a short one. But I will say if you love beautiful writing, horror, stories about survival, and a different way of life then I highly suggest you read this short story. It's incredible. Also, there are some LGBTQIAP+ elements that I simply adored. Warnings for graphic violence and swear words. But if that does not bother you, give this a read. Wong did a fantastic job in creating a horror story with love interwoven throughout. It's amazing!

Six-Gun Snow White by Catherynne M. Valente

Six-Gun Snow White - Catherynne M. Valente

I love Catherynne M. Valente. I fell in love with her writing and worlds when I first read her Fairyland series. Ever since reading those books, I have set out to buy and collect all of her works. I'm well on my way and now I am the proud owner of more than half her novels. Just three more and I will own all of her novels. Then I shall move on to her poetry and short stories! But for now, I shall tell you how I love Six-Gun Snow White because this review is just going to be more praise for the ever talented Valente.

 

I picked up this book because I just wanted to try one of Valente's adult works that's similar to her Fairyland series and I was not disappointed. Her writing is just as rich and whimsical as always. I adore how she took the tale of Snow White, as well as other fairy tales, and wove a Western story within to it. It seems so seamless and magical; I felt enraptured by her story. The artwork, done by Charlie Bowater, is incredibly detailed and fits into Valente's prose perfectly. I adored everything about this book.

 

The characters are all based on figures from fairy tale. There's Snow White, obviously, but there's also Cinderella, Rose Red (which just so happens to be Snow White's gun), and Charming (who just so happens to be her horse). I loved reading and figuring out from which fairy tale Valente took inspiration from and how she was able to form it into her own narrative. Snow White is brave, curious, intelligent, and strong for being able to endure all the abuse her step-mother, and later other characters, displayed toward her. She's not without flaws and she does fall to depression at some point, but it's her comeback that felt so real, so authentic, because we don't always come out of our struggles all the better. Valente did a fantastic job in showcasing what it's like to live a difficult life yet, somehow, finding a way to persevere.

 

If you love fairy tales, if you love Westerns, if you love reading about characters fighting for their right to live, then I highly recommend this book. If you also love beautiful writing, books set in a whimsical world, then read this book! Valente is a master with her craft and she definitely deserves praise for what she does. Be warn, there is child abuse, attempted sexual assault, and swear words within this novel and if that might bother you, perhaps you might want to skip this one. But I do think it's an amazing read. One you will enjoy greatly if fantasy and fairy tales are your thing~

The Secret of Platform 13 by Eva Ibbotson

The Secret Of Platform 13 (Turtleback School & Library Binding Edition) - Sue Porter, Eva Ibbotson

For the last couple of days, I've been in a bit of a slump so I wanted to mix things up by reading a classic children's story. For years now, I've heard about The Secret of Platform 13 being a great children's classic so I went to my library and checked it out. This book is a great, fun read and I enjoyed myself quite a bit. However, I did have my issues with it.

 

Eva Ibbotson did an excellent job in writing an adventurously fun children's book. It has magic, it's fast-paced, the characters are entertaining, and it's a romp of a good time. Her writing style is easy to follow and she writes in a way that keeps the reader engaged. My issues with her writing has to do with her female characters, however. Most of them were just over the top, dramatic, whiny, and pathetic. And if they were strong, they were seen as ugly and monstrous. There were only three female characters I can think of that were decent. Those were Melisande, the nurse in the hospital, and the nun who runs the hospital. Unfortunately, all three of those characters are minor to only appear in a few pages out of the entire book. 

 

I was highly disappointed with our main female lead, Odge. At first, I thought she was great. She was tough and took no-nonsense from anyone. She was brave and can be kind... if she stopped to think a little. But then, towards the end, she decided to mistreat herself in order to "show" a boy, the male lead named Ben, who "forgotten" about her that he was wrong. What? Why? Mutilating yourself is no way to "get revenge" on those who have harmed you. And the thing is, she is not the first character to do that. There are three nurses who have done that to themselves throughout the entire book because they "deserve punishment" for losing the prince. They did this to themselves for nine years and no one thought to stop them! The queen is no better! All she did was wail about the palace, nearly throwing herself out the windows because of how she was mourning her son. Meanwhile, her husband tried to console her because he's a "man" and can control his feelings properly. Give me a break.

 

Another problem I had with this book was a bit more subtle. For instance, I don't like the fat shaming throughout the book. Ibbotson described, during multiple occasions, how fat people were "disgusting" and "lazy." This perpetuates a harmful stereotype that anyone heavy is like that because they want to be and they should be ashamed for it. This is not something you should be teaching to kids. Some people are just bigger because of their genes. Sometimes it's health related. We do not know and to assume anything else is wrong and callous.

 

Also, there might be a bit of racism in this book. I say might because it's not overtly obvious. I shall explain. There's this one scene where the characters are in a restaurant and their little animal friend escaped from his box. The waiter tried to "catch" the animal by spraying a fire extinguisher at it, but he ended up foaming two Arabian men in fine clothing. Now, that doesn't seem to be too bad, right? But why did he have to get the only two people of color in the room and no one else? I don't know... that scene just didn't sit right with me.

 

All of this makes it sound like I didn't enjoy the book. I did. Like I said, it was a fast and fun read. I think if you're looking for something to escape into for a couple of hours, this might be a book for you. But I just couldn't say I like this book without explaining its flaws first. If you like classic children's fantasy, if you like portal fantasy, if you like fast and fun reads, then give this a try. Just keep in mind everything I said about the book if you tend to not like reading about those topics. There's also quite a bit of violence and talk of blood so bear that in mind as well when recommending this book. Otherwise, I hope you have fun reading this book despite its flaws.

Through the Woods by Emily Carroll

Through the Woods - Emily Carroll

I think I found a new favorite book. No, really! I meant to read this graphic novel during Halloween since I heard from many people that it's quite the spooky read. Unfortunately, Life happened and I didn't get around to reading it until now. And I am so glad I did! It's everything I love in a horror graphic novel and more! I stood up till five in the morning reading this and I was quite spooked, especially with that last story!

 

Through the Woods is a collection of five horror stories accompanied by grotesque art to add to the scary elements, and it works great together. Emily Carroll did a fantastic job of keeping each story straight to the point and the reader always on the edge of their seat. Each story takes some inspiration from fairy tales and the true horrors each one contains. I will not tell you anything about the stories themselves because it's supposed to be scary. If I tell you anything about them then that gives away the suspense factor. Horror is a genre best going in blind so trust me when I say that there's something spooky in here for everyone to enjoy. The last story really made my skin crawl. *BA DUM TSSS*

 

The art is fantastic! I've already touched on this a little bit, but if you are someone who likes their horror more visual, then read this book. Carroll's artwork is beautiful but when it comes to creeping out the reader, she is not afraid to enter into the world of the macabre. There's blood and murder and grotesqueness all over this book so if you are squeamish,  you might want to skip this one. But if the violence doesn't bother you, then I highly recommend you read this book!

 

It's fast, action-packed, beautiful, and horrifying. If you love reading horror, then I think you should pick up this graphic novel. It's perfect for the dark and colder nights this time of year! I hope you enjoy this story collection as much as I did!

Hachiko Waits by Lesléa Newman; Illustrated by Machiyo Kodaira

Hachiko Waits - Lesléa Newman, Machiyo Kodaira

Being a fan of Japanese culture, I've heard about the loyal dog names Hachiko, who waited for his owner everyday for ten years at the Shibuya Station but never was reunited with him, since I was very young. But it's been a long time since I've actually read anything inspired by the story. Until now, that is.

 

I love this story. It breaks my heart every single time I think about how much Hachiko loved his owner, Professor Eizaburo Ueno. Reading this little children's story inspired by Hachiko is no exception. Newman did an amazing job bringing this well-known tale into a new light.  It was such a quick read that I read it all in once sitting. I love the characters and simpleness of it all. The one thing that felt a little off was the ending. It felt a bit forced, as if the author wanted a bit of romance to happen in this story. If the ending was left at building the statue of Hachiko, it would have been a perfect read for me. Be that as it may, it was still a beautiful story about this wonderful dog.

 

The beautiful illustrations Kodaira created to go with such a lovely tale enhances the experience. The fact that she visited Hachiko's statue in Shibuya shows in her art. Her accurate depiction brings life to her work and I adored every moment of it.

 

This is a great book to give to any child who has never heard of Hachiko or is curious to learn more about the little pupper. I highly recommend you give this a read!

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