Truthwitch: A Book Review

Because ‘just me’ isn’t who we are,” Iseult hollered back. “I’ll always follow you, Safi, and you’ll always follow me. Threadsisters to the end.”

Book: Truthwitch (The Witchlands #1)

Author: Susan Dennard

Truthwitch (The Witchlands, #1)

Blurb:

On a continent ruled by three empires, some are born with a “witchery”, a magical skill that sets them apart from others.

In the Witchlands, there are almost as many types of magic as there are ways to get in trouble—as two desperate young women know all too well.

Safiya is a Truthwitch, able to discern truth from lie. It’s a powerful magic that many would kill to have on their side, especially amongst the nobility to which Safi was born. So Safi must keep her gift hidden, lest she be used as a pawn in the struggle between empires.

Iseult, a Threadwitch, can see the invisible ties that bind and entangle the lives around her—but she cannot see the bonds that touch her own heart. Her unlikely friendship with Safi has taken her from life as an outcast into one of reckless adventure, where she is a cool, wary balance to Safi’s hotheaded impulsiveness.

Safi and Iseult just want to be free to live their own lives, but war is coming to the Witchlands. With the help of the cunning Prince Merik (a Windwitch and ship’s captain) and the hindrance of a Bloodwitch bent on revenge, the friends must fight emperors, princes, and mercenaries alike, who will stop at nothing to get their hands on a Truthwitch.

My thoughts:

I won’t lie- I picked this book up for the cover, but I ended up comparing it to the Six of Crows.
…It did not compare favorably.

Like Six of Crows, Truthwitch uses multiple point of views to tell a tale of witchery and wonder, corruption and lies. However, I did not find the characters anywhere near as compelling. Initially, I keep getting mixed up between the heroines. I promise, it wasn’t my fault. Their mental “voice” sounded very similar and their thoughts were almost indistinguishable. it was easier after I learned about their respective backstories and skills, but I still never got into the flow of reading it.

“Allow me to serve you, Safiya. We have spent too many years apart.” “And I have spent too many hours between meals.” A glare. “Give it to me now, Polly, or I shall castrate you with a fork.”

If this was real life, Safiya would be diagnosed as a poor little rich girl. She has the obligatory skill with knives that YA fiction demands of its fantasy heroines, but somehow, she ends up disarmed multiple times throughout the course of the story. She’s demanding. She’s bratty. She yells a lot. (As if that’ll help her get her way). She feels entitled to respect, to have people feel grateful to her. For me, it was a major turn-off.

Iseult was mildly more interesting- but only because she has a powerful backstory in the form of being a part of a minority race that is literally reviled. Also, it’s strongly hinted that she has a very dark nature. But it’s not enough; I’m still not invested in her.

The world-building was pretty confusing in this book too. I was continuously bombarded by names of places and characters. Inevitably, they all sounded similar. Reading this book was an exercise in frustration. I had to go back and refer to the blurbs to remember the MC’s names. I don’t remember the names of any of the countries. I couldn’t possibly tell you what the villains motive was; although I do know it was highly patriotic.

“Oh, the Bloodwitch named Aeduan was no longer bored. No longer bored at all. And now he had work to do.”

The romance in this book was a mess. Very hot and cold love interests with dubious motives. Also, they’re borderline abusive. Trust me, nothing to swoon about.

This book was pretty disappointing. I’m puzzled by it’s pretty high rating on Goodreads. My advice: Stay away, unless you have practice reading confusing fantasy in which the characters seem to blend into each other.

My rating: 2/5

Instead, read: Six of Crows, Throne of Glass

 

Passenger: A Book Review

Society is always the same, regardless of the era. There are rules and standards, with seemingly no purpose. It’s a hateful, elaborate charade, equal parts flirtation and perceived naïveté. To men we have the minds of children.

Book: Passenger (Passenger #1)

Author: Alexandra Bracken

Passenger (Passenger, #1)Blurb:

passage, n.
i. A brief section of music composed of a series of notes and flourishes.
ii. A journey by water; a voyage.
iii. The transition from one place to another, across space and time.

In one devastating night, violin prodigy Etta Spencer loses everything she knows and loves. Thrust into an unfamiliar world by a stranger with a dangerous agenda, Etta is certain of only one thing: she has traveled not just miles but years from home. And she’s inherited a legacy she knows nothing about from a family whose existence she’s never heard of. Until now.

Nicholas Carter is content with his life at sea, free from the Ironwoods—a powerful family in the colonies—and the servitude he’s known at their hands. But with the arrival of an unusual passenger on his ship comes the insistent pull of the past that he can’t escape and the family that won’t let him go so easily. Now the Ironwoods are searching for a stolen object of untold value, one they believe only Etta, Nicholas’ passenger, can find. In order to protect her, he must ensure she brings it back to them— whether she wants to or not.

Together, Etta and Nicholas embark on a perilous journey across centuries and continents, piecing together clues left behind by the traveler who will do anything to keep the object out of the Ironwoods’ grasp. But as they get closer to the truth of their search, and the deadly game the Ironwoods are play­ing, treacherous forces threaten to sep­arate Etta not only from Nicholas but from her path home . . . forever

My thoughts:

I love Alexandra Bracken’s books (The Darkest Minds, Brightly Woven) and so this automatically went on my TBR list. I had some trouble acquiring it, but I persevered because you know- Alexandra Bracken!

This book combines 2 of my favorite themes: Time travel and strong female characters. Etta is not traditionally strong- she’s a pale, thin muscled musician- but she has an inner strength that’s probably more fun to write about. She’s determined to protect the people that she cares for, she’s willing to constantly learn and she sticks to her guns.

What a privilege it was to never feel like you had to take stock of your surroundings, or gauge everyone’s reactions to the color of your skin.

After a while, it got somewhat annoying to listen to her judge people from the past with her modern set of ethics and principles, but you have to admire a girl who stands up for women’s rights and equality at all times (I mean that very literally).

How do you fight against a mountain? How do you move it when you don’t even have a shovel?
Maybe you don’t have to move it. Maybe you have to climb it.

Let’s talk about time travel. One of the worst things that can happen to a time-travel book is having it over-explained and super-analyzed until the average reader has no idea what is going on. It’s even worse when the world-building acts as a noose around the plots neck, strangling it slowly by way of flaws and plotholes which are immediately obvious to anyone with a basic understanding of physics.  This book does not fall prey to these major tropes. Ms. Bracken keeps it simple (and mysterious). I hope she keeps it that way for the rest of the series.

Never. Never again would he allow any other man to define him, set his course.

Moving on to Nicholas Carter. I’m sorry to use this phrase- but he is adorable! (see, I used an exclamation point). First and foremost, he is a sailor who aspires to captaincy. However, he’s born at a cruel time when slavery is still an acceptable practice and African-Americans are considered sub-human. These are very real obstacles that keep him from recognizing his talents. It also leads to a very flawed self-image and idea of sel-worth. Nicholas Carter is the guy you would feel for because he is sometimes heartbreakingly uncertain. However, he doesn’t let you feel pity for long because (be warned- I will use the exclamation point again), he is awesome!

Things that I want to complain about: This book has a very anti-adult feel to it. The adults all seem to be hiding secrets and ulterior motives. <spoiler alert> Yes, all of them. <spoiler over>. It;s a theme that was in the Darkest Minds, but there it made sense. Here, it really doesn’t.

You cannot fathom the distance I would travel for you.

I’d wholeheartedly recommend this book if you want something light about time travel or if you want a book with powerful characters. Alexandra Bracken is an amazing writer, and this book was not a disappointment.

Overall Rating: 3.5/5

Books you might want to read: Parallel, Darkest Minds

Weird Stalkery Subject Lines

So PSAT results came out about a week ago and I think I made a mistake checking the box that allows College Board to release my information. My inbox is flooded with messages from colleges who think I would be a good match for them (on what basis, I don’t even know- considering CollegeBoard doesn’t share PSAT scores). Some messages are spammy, some are downright stalkery. Here are some gems:

  1. <my name>, I’m interested in you. 
  2. You have the motivation we’re looking for.
  3. Study Biology in Washington D.C.
  4. We’re different- with purpose. 
  5. See your future, <my name>
  6. <my name>, you caught my attention.
  7. You’ve been chosen ….(This was particularly creepy since I just watched The Island) 
  8. You’ll love it here, we promise
  9. You’ve been selected <my name>
  10. We’ll give you a lifetime experience, in just 4 years. 

I’ve been unsubscribing and ignoring e-mails left and right (although I was seriously tempted by U Miss’s free gift). Colleges want to give me guides on how to choose colleges, but all I can think of is people asking their barber if they need a haircut.

I’d rather not have the spam. For the first 5-10 messages, it was flattering. Then it got annoying. Now I’m wondering if I’m going to have to live with this for the next year.

I just feel that these mass e-mails are very unpersonal especially since colleges are trying to appeal to you on an emotional level. From what I’ve heard, if I sent such an impersonal essay for the ‘Why College X’ prompt, I’d be promptly removed from consideration.
I don’t know- it just feels hypocritical.

To Sleep: A Poem

 

It’s the hour after midnight

And the rain tumbles down-

Just sounds in absence of light

Making sharp taps on the ground.

 

Somewhere in my achy knee

There’s a crick, an ugly bend.

That winces and protest painfully

that it’s just half alive, almost dead.

 

The only light that’s on is the dim

whitish-blue of the artificial screen.

I watch it with aching limbs

And straining eyes that need to see.

 

It’s the hour after midnight

And I should long be asleep

For the hours of the night

Have passed furiously, I grieve.

 

And yet, I can’t part my blood-shot

eyes rimmed red with exhaustation

from the flicker-dazzle lights that rot

my brain away with gleeful ministration,

 

I should close my eyes, let them rest.

Tip my neck back, stretch my knee.

Get out of this hellish crisscross nest,

soft blankets and screens smothering me.

 

…I know I should….So why haven’t I?

Together Hands: A Poem

We slipped out

Of each other’s grasp.

And the hands

that used to fast clasp

slid out in gradual

movements inch by inch

of skin slipping from skin.

 

First, it was the occasional

handshake with cool eyes,

As if those eyes never

learned how to telepath

secrets one iris to another.

Frigid smiles on frosted lips

As if these lips have never

laughed, joked, cried together.

 

Slipping. Slipping.

We kept slipping.

Away from each other and

the warm, warm hands

of forever friendship.

Now, we don’t touch.

 

I don’t know your palm

as well as I know mine.

I can’t trace your fortune,

in the lines carved into

your open, caring heart.

 

But the thing about hands

that have grown together

blistered with patterns of

matching callouses…

 

The thing about hands that

held each other with love

and with girlhood secrets…

 

The thing about such hands

is that they always find their

way back to one another.

 

And if I took your hand in

my own now withered one,

I’m willing to bet

we would still match.

Finding Audrey: A Book Review

“Most people underestimate eyes. They’re infinite. You look someone straight in the eye and your whole soul can be sucked out in a nanosecond. Other people’s eyes are limitless and that’s what scares me.”

Book: Finding Audrey

Author: Sophie Kinsella

Finding Audrey

Blurb:

An anxiety disorder disrupts fourteen-year-old Audrey’s daily life. She has been making slow but steady progress with Dr. Sarah, but when Audrey meets Linus, her brother’s gaming teammate, she is energized. She connects with him. Audrey can talk through her fears with Linus in a way she’s never been able to do with anyone before. As their friendship deepens and her recovery gains momentum, a sweet romantic connection develops, one that helps not just Audrey but also her entire family.

My thoughts:

I know Sophie Kinsella for her Confessions of a Shopoholic series. For the most part, I find those books shallow and dragged out. I was so glad Finding Audrey was different.

Finding Audrey feels like a very realistic depiction of an anxiety disorder. Audrey is terrified of going out.  Even the thought of taking off her glasses or going to buy a coffee is traumatizing. She can’t even think about going to school and having to talk to people.

“They talk about “body language,” as if we all speak it the same. But everyone has their own dialect. For me right now, for example, swiveling my body right away and staring rigidly at the corner means, “I like you.” Because I didn’t run away and shut myself in the bathroom.

But, throughout the book we realize that though the disease is a major aspect of her life, it is not the whole sum of it. Despite her anxiety disorder, she’s able to form close bonds with her family. She thinks her family is crazy, but the depth of her affection and love for them really comes through.

About her parents:

The parents are in charge of all the stuff like technology in the house and time on screens and hours on social media, but then their computer goes wrong and they’re like a baby, going, “What happened to my document?” “I can’t get Facebook.” “How do I load a picture? Double-click what? What does that mean?” And we have to sort it out for them.”

About her younger brother:

I’ve come to think of my lizard brain as basically a version of Felix. It’s totally random and makes no sense and you can’t let it run your life. If we let Felix run our lives, we’d all wear superhero costumes all day long and eat nothing but ice-cream. But if you try to fight Felix, all you get is wails and screams and tantrums, and it all gets more and more stressy.

Audrey is a 14 year old girl so this book comes with its fair share of romance. However, it remains light and sweet and I think it’s perfect. Linus, the love interest, is cute, funny and a little bit geeky. He’s not a perfect character- he can sometimes be impatient Initially, I was worried that he would ‘fix’ Audrey of her anxiety disorder. (I hate books and movies where they don’t take mental disorders seriously and it’s considered a weakness on the character’s part if they have issues.)  He does try because he doesn’t completely understand it, but as Audrey starts moving out of her comfort zone- it is the combined effort of her psychiatrist, her family (Mum, Dad and two brothers), Linus. Really, she deserves the most credit for her recovery.

“What’s the point of you? Try this, for starters.”And underneath there’s a long list. He’s written a long, long list, that fills the page. I’m so flustered, I can’t even read it properly, but as I scan down I catch beautiful smile and great taste in music (I sneaked a look at your iPod) and awesome Starbucks name. I give a sudden snort of laughter that almost turns to a sob and then turns to a smile, and then suddenly I’m wiping my eyes. I’m all over the place.”

This book deals with mental illness sensitively. At the same time, it’s meant to be a light/cute piece. Audrey is relatable and funny. The book is  about family and first loves. It’s about pushing yourself towards your goals. Finding Audrey is adorable; I am so glad I picked it up.

My rating: 4/5

If you like this: Made You Up

Quotables:

“Where there is shouting, there is no true knowledge.”

“We don’t have to reveal everything to each other. It’s OK to be private. It’s OK to say no. It’s OK to say, ‘I’m not going to share that.”

“Life is all about climbing up, slipping down, and picking yourself up again. And it doesn’t matter if you slip down. As long as you’re kind of heading more or less upwards. That’s all you can hope for. More or less upwards.”

 

Animal Sounds: A Poem

File:Arches National Park Night.jpg

The moon bird squawks
Its long haunting cry
and the sound travels
Across silver-painted
valleys and fields,
pools filigreed with metal.

It’s a long, lonesome howl
Not unlike the coyote’s
Who crawls in an elephant graveyard
of sodden stones and broken bones.
Ears pricking, fur bristling
As like calls to like.

He sends out a sharp bark of his own.
The sound of a dog laughing as it dies.
Bitterly amused by the irony of life,
The humor in the hypocrisy of death.
The dog at the hearth chuckles.
It is the last breath he has to give.

The human he gives it to sleeps on,
Face turned towards a pillow
Made from the wool of sheep
Who would kill to murder him.
He snores like a chainsaw,
Oblivious to the sounds he can’t hear.