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. :)

Mud City (The Breadwinner, #3) by Deborah Ellis

Mud City - Deborah Ellis

After reading Parvana's Journey, I decided to hop right into Mud City to see what will happen next to Parvana and her family. However, once I started to read it, I quickly discovered that this book followed her friend Shauzia, not Parvana. That's didn't deter me from reading the book, of course, because I loved Shauzia in the first book and was looking forward to her journey since last we heard from her. I just had to change my expectations of what the book was going to be about. And is was such a fantastic read! Reading these books have been a wonderful experience. I'm enjoying it tremendously. They have been heartbreaking, especially this installment for very personal reasons which I will explain momentarily. But these book have been a valuable experience throughout.

 

I'm going to start off by talking about Shauzia. This is the first time we get the story through her perspective. In The Breadwinner, we see her through Parvana's eyes. We learn that she wants to escape her life in Afghanistan by going to the sea and traveling to France. At the end of the first book, we learn that Parvana and Shauzia make a promise to meet in twenty years on top of the Eiffel Tower to know that they were able to make it out safely. In Parvana's Journey, the only mention of Shauzia we get is through the letters Parvana writes to her. We don't actually see her. So this is the first time we get to learn more about her. She is a lot more hot-headed than Parvana is. She is someone who fights hard for what she wants, not paying any mind to the consequences. Shauzia is more of a loner and a fighter than Parvana, and I wouldn't have her any other way. She makes some foolish mistakes, but she comes out the better for making them and I'm now looking forward to learning more about her and Parvana in the last book in the series! 

 

Deborah Ellis continues to write about difficult subject matters in an approachable way so that anyone, children and adults alike, can understand and empathize about the wars happening in Afghanistan. I am learning so much about what happened in Afghanistan in the past for it to be the way it is now. Although, I remember some of what happened through personal experience. I lived across the Hudson when the World Trade Center Towers were destroyed. I saw them crumble down. I saw the sky covered in the thick, black smoke. I saw people running around, trying to get their families together. I heard yelling and crying and screaming coming every which way. I was stuck in traffic for five hours in a ride that should have taken ten minutes. All of that is still fresh in my mind. So reading about that in this book, it was so hard for me... but I'm glad to see that this book didn't shy away from mentioning that terrible event. I'm glad it's being talked about and written about and taught to younger kids. That this book shows that there's good and bad everywhere. That even though what happened in New York that day still haunts and hurts a lot of us here in the States, that there are people in Afghanistan who are hurt by those same events and that they, too, want the violence and suffering to stop. Just knowing that this book is out there for kids to read and learn that not everyone is cruel gives me hope.

 

I'm going to stop now. Reading Mud City and then writing this review has made me emotional, I know, but I had to get this out. This is an amazing book. An amazing series! Please, if you have not read the first two, give them a shot. If you have, read this one, too! It's just as good as the first two. Read it to your kids, if you have any, or just read it for yourself. They are such great books and I highly recommend them.

 

And now I'm off to read the final book in The Breadwinner series. I'm a bit worried to see how everything is going to end, but there's no way I'm going to stop now. I want to know the ending and I can't wait to read My Name is Parvana.

Parvana's Journey (The Breadwinner, #2) by Deborah Ellis

Parvana's Journey - Deborah Ellis

After how much I adored the first book in this series, I decided to continue on with Parvana and her journey to find her family. I'm glad I did. This is a beautiful, heartbreaking, painful story about a young girl as she travels throughout Afghanistan under the Taliban rule. I'll put it bluntly, this book is a difficult read. People are dying, children are starving, and there's violence throughout so... it's not for the faint of heart. However, I highly recommend you read this book if you've read the first one and appreciated the story within.

 

Parvana is still an incredible character. In this book, she is very angry and tired and looses patience quite easily with the other children. Can you blame her? Her entire life has been nothing but strife and chaos. She's a young girl who knows war and only war. And it's getting to her. I felt so strongly for her in the first book, but I feel so much more for her in this one. She's been through so much already and you know she's only going to experience so much more pain still. Asif is a new character and I adore him, too. He starts off as a brat and, as the story continues, he's still a brat but he acts more like a brother to Parvana. He's sweet and caring, he just doesn't know how to show it. Another character that's new to the story is Leila. She is a lovely little girl with a vivid imagination who joins Parvana and Asif on their journey to find Parvana's family. She is free-spirited and so sweet; I adore her so much!

 

Ellis did a fantastic job in writing this book and creating these characters. She is bringing awareness to what happened in Afghanistan and is helping young children understand that part of the world a little more. She is urging for us to help in any way we can so that way people in Afghanistan, especially women and children, have a chance to live a life free from war and violence and starvation. I love that she wrote these books with the intention to help those in Afghanistan.

 

I love this book just as much as I love the first book in The Breadwinner series. I will continue to read the rest of this series because I want to know what is going to happen with Parvana. I have to see how her story will end. I hope she is able to find peace and happiness one day. I truly do. And I shall continue to read in order to find out! Please read this series! To learn more about our history, Afghanistan's history, and the history of many women who have lived through the war under the Taliban rule. It's a heavy read, but one well worth the weight. 

The Breadwinner (The Breadwinner, #1) by Deborah Ellis

The Breadwinner - Deborah Ellis

I am so happy I read this book! I know I probably should explain what the book is about before I say how I felt about it. But I'm just really excited to talk about how much I loved this book! I first heard about it on BookTube when the animated movie was coming out. When I heard what the subject matter was about, I knew that this is a book that I had to read, and I am so glad I did.

 

The Breadwinner follows a young girl named Parvana living under the Taliban rule in Afghanistan. She and her family try to make the best out of a terrible situation, until one day her father is arrested by the Taliban and she, along with the rest of her family, are left to fend for themselves. Disguised as a boy, Parvana takes it upon herself to provide for her family, find her missing father, all whilst hiding from the Taliban's cruel regime. Because if they were to find out a girl was passing herself as a boy, it would be death not only for Parvana, but her entire family. 

 

Let's start off with the story itself. First off, this is a very hard-hitting book. I love it, yes, but it's not light-hearted in the least. We are reading about war. War is cold. War is violent. War is bloody. War is death. And this book displays the hard truths of war with each page you read. I love it for being as blunt as it is because we need to read about the truth. We need to know about the horrible acts that innocent men had to endure if they went against the Taliban. We need to know that women weren't allowed outside without a man, covered head to toe, and was beaten even if they looked at another man. We need to know young girls were being married off, usually to much older men, and having children whilst they were still children themselves. It's difficult to digest but it's important to know these events are happening in our world. To educate ourselves and to do something about it.

 

There's violence, abuse, starvation, and sickness that men, women, and children experience throughout the book. The violence towards women and young girls are especially prevalent. Ellis writes a story to give women and girls a voice in Afghanistan who have been abused just because of their gender. She does not shy away from giving the gritty details about what these women had to suffer through. Ellis writes a beautiful story about the heartache many families had to endure during this time period and does it in a way where the reader feels empathy and sympathy for them. It hurts to read about, but it's a necessary hurt. Her descriptions of a decrepit Kabul are vivid and devastating. Ellis did a fantastic job in bringing awareness to such issues happening in Afghanistan. And for that, I am grateful.

 

Ellis's characters are also well-written. Each one is as vivid, complex, and beautiful as the next character. Parvana, herself, is such an extraordinary character. She is only eleven-years-old yet she is willing to risk her life for her family. She wants to just have fun and go to school like any child should, but she recognizes the situation she is in calls for other actions and is more than willing to change, to do what she must in order to save herself and her family. She is strong, brave, and amazing. Everyone in her family is like that in their own way. They are just trying to live in the best way they know how. In a war-torn country, there are many people just trying to live to the best of their abilities.

 

Parvana also has a friend called Shauzia and I feel for her so much. She doesn't have as good a living situation as Parvana, and she wants to move as far away as possible. She, too, is brave and strong, but she struggles with leaving because everyone is expecting her to be there for her family... even though her family is abusive. She must come to term with either staying in Afghanistan with an abusive family or making her escape and living a good life in France. She is one of those characters that just breaks your heart and you hope that somehow, someway, they are able to make it out of their situation. I want to continue reading the series just to see what becomes of these beautiful characters.

 

There's another character that appears in the book that I'm very interested in. She only appears during a few scenes, doesn't have any dialogue, but leaves such a powerful impression and I want to know more about her. She is only known as The Woman in the Window and she occasionally threw presents down to Parvana when she was trying to earn a little bit of money. We don't know anything about her but she really is quite fascinating. I want to know more about her and I hope she appears in the other books as well. 

 

And I'm going to end it here. Honestly, I could go on and on about this book. It's absolutely amazing what Ellis has written here. I encourage everyone to read it. And once you do, go watch the movie because it's just as beautiful. I don't love it as much as the book, but it's still good. I highly recommend both! Just keep in mind that there's violence, blood, gore, and abuse. But it is important to learn this story so that, one day, things like this won't ever happen again. So, please, read this book and watch the movie. They are incredible! 

 

I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the books in this series. I need to know what's going to happen with Parvana and her family!

An Acceptable Time (Time Quintet, #5) by Madeleine L'Engle

An Acceptable Time (The Time Quintet, #5 ) - Madeleine L'Engle

It's been a while, but I am back! I finally finished the Time Quintet. It took me a while but I finally did it! I've had a lot of issues with this series and for that, I did not feel motivated to finish this last book. However, I am here today with my review of An Acceptable Time. Let's get this show on the road!

 

In this book, we follow Meg and Calvin's daughter named Polly. She moved in with her grandparents to get a better education with them when she discovered a time portal to the past. Intrigued, she makes it her personal mission to find out more about her connection to the people living 3000 years in the past and what her friend from the present, a sick boy named Zachary, has to do with it all. 

 

Alright. The actual premise of this book is rather interesting. Much like a lot of L'Engle's books are. I enjoyed learning about the Ogam stones and the language spoken by the People of the Wind. I also really like the culture surrounding them as a group of people living in the past. Now, with that comes the issue of race. L'Engle has a problem with referring to Native Americans as "Indians" or as "savages" and that never sat right with me. She did that as well in previous books. I know some will make the excuse that it "was a different time" and, yes, I understand that. However, I don't have to agree nor like nor excuse that type of language when it comes to addressing a different group of people. It's racist. Plain and simple.

 

Another problem I had with this book is Zachary. Oh... my... word... I do not like his abusive, manipulative, gaslighting, misogynistic tendencies. I do not like him as a person. The way he treated Polly was downright awful. And Polly is actually a great character! A much better improvement over her mother, Meg. The only problem I had with Polly was with how she let Zachary treat her as a lesser person. Why? Because he's sick? That's no excuse! He claimed to love her. He claimed to want to be with her. But the first chance he gets, he's willing to give her up to be sacrificed. He questioned her loyalty to him every chance he got. He tried to make her feel guilty for not wanting to be with him because he was "dying." Look, I know he's sick and that sucks, but Polly doesn't owe him anything. She doesn't have to be in a relationship with him just because he's ill. That's not a good enough reason to be in a relationship. There's also the fact that the moment they went back in time, he saw another girl, and right away was "interested" in her. So much for caring about Polly. He's a coward who abuses women and I think he's trash. Zachary was my main problem with this entire book and because he is one of the central characters in the book, he's there for quite a bit of it. Which is a downer.

 

Another of my main problems was with Polly's grandparents, Alex and Kate Murray. They've been in the previous books. They have been surrounded by weird time loops and portals for years now. They are not strangers when it comes to the bizarre existence of different time periods suddenly popping up. But for some reason they had a hard time believing that going back 3000 years was actually possible! What!? How!? How can someone who created the bloody tesseract not believe that one of his closest friend and his grandchild were able to travel through time! They blamed the Bishop that he was insane and putting stories into their granddaughter's head! How inconsistent to the previous books can you get? It was obnoxious and unbelievable for the history of the characters that was created in the previous books.

 

At this point, you know I have issues with this book series. I started off reading these books because the movie was coming out and I really wanted to read the book before seeing the movie. The first book started off well. It wasn't perfect but I liked it well enough to continue reading the rest of the series... and it just went downhill from there. It really is a "product of its time" and it definitely needs to be read with a very critical eye. It has its interesting ideas, but the way L'Engle handles sensitive issues is very poor. I do think it's worth reading at least once through so that way you know the story. However, this is not a series that I will ever be revisiting. There are plenty of other books out there. Better books for children and adults alike that should be read over this. This series is a favorite for many people and that's great. But, for me, I'm going to have to skip out on the rest of the books L'Engle has written for the series after this fifth one. I read the main quintet and that's good enough for me.

 

Like I said, I think you should read this series at least once. Just for those interesting ideas. Other than that, read it with a critical eye. And if your child is reading it, let your child know that a lot of the language used to describe anyone who is not white, is NOT the proper way to described them. Be involved and I think the reading experience will go well. Hopefully, you end up enjoying the time theories if nothing else. Those, I think, are worth exploring at least.

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!

Currently reading

Brave Story
Miyuki Miyabe, Alexander O. Smith
The Little Friend
Donna Tartt
Silence of the Lambs
Thomas Harris
Japanese Hiragana & Katakana for Beginners: First Steps to Mastering the Japanese Writing System (CD-ROM Included)
Timothy G. Stout