Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha Series

grishaseries

I read Shadow and Bone way back in 2012, but as the next book wasn’t out yet, I sort of forgot about it as my reading time was overwhelmed by my kids. Then, at a used book store, I saw Siege and Storm and Ruin and Rising on the shelves, and got all, re-excited. I re-read Shadow and Bone and then read the other two installments within five days of each other. Total. World. Immersion.

Yay!

The Grisha series is set in Ravka, a country divided by a huge expanse of darkness wherein lie carnivorous beasts of terrible origin. The Fold, as it is called, is the result of a magical ‘accident’ perpetuated long-ago by a Grisha. Our protagonist in this world is Alina Starkov, an orphan of limited appeal or abilities who primarily follows around and half-moons after best friend Mal who is a skilled tracker and quite popular with, like, everyone. Everything changes when Alina displays extraordinary power, shedding light on the Fold, powers unlocked in an effort to save Mal and other members of her Army regiment. Her ability to summon light, to summon the sun, may be the key to destroying the Fold and bringing peace to Ravka.

The series revolves around Alina’s progression from a shy, unknown cartographer to one of the most powerful people in Ravka, worshipped as a Saint by some. Along her journey, she engages in numerous, interesting interpersonal relationships, and readers are privy to some of the most fascinating characters, both minor and major, of any series I’ve read. The story is fast-paced without losing world-building or character development, and I will, honestly, miss this world.

And it is written well. Bardugo has a way with language, her writing the perfect combination of clean and rich, and she maintains it throughout all three installments. I’ve read a few series lately where the writing fell off a bit in exchange, I’m guessing, for speed and excitement.

Of course, this genre is not complete without a love triangle, (I hate superficial love triangles if you don’t know that yet), but damn did I like this one. The Darkling-Alina-Mal struggle is nothing like the majority of triangles out there. And of course, the series then throws in a third possibility, Nikolai, who complicates things not because Alina loves him too but because he may just be the right choice for, you know, the world.

All in all, very well done.

Ashes Trilogy

I began this series by reading the first book, Ashes of Twilight, last summer. I enjoyed it and even ordered the next two books….but then they languished on the shelves for a year. Since it’s been so long, I don’t have any remarkably insightful comments on the first book, just a few vague remembrances.

The story revolves around Wren, a teen working the coal mines of a glass dome constructed 200 years earlier to protect English royalty as a comet plummeted to Earth. The dome functions, unsurprisingly, on a caste system which horribly subjugates the many for the betterment of the few. The dome itself is opaque so the majority of the inhabitants have no clue what’s happening outside, simply taking their leader’s word that the world outside is on fire, uninhabitable. Then, dumdumdum, Wren, and others, start a revolution to escape the dome.

Ashes of Twilight covers that revolution and an eventual escape, at least by a few of the lower caste. Shadows of Glass picks up exactly where Ashes left off and moves the story from initial revolution to a more organized revolutionary approach as those who escaped grapple with life outside the dome as well as what to do about those who are still trapped inside. While I appreciated Tayler’s ability to write a second installment that is at once an entirely new story with an entirely new world while maintaining consistency within the environment she created in book 1, I did get rather annoyed at the insistent and persistent focus on Wren’s emotional and psychological obsession with the lives lost in the revolution she believes she is responsible for. She definitely has reason to be upset, to feel guilt, but oh-my-god does the novel harp on and on about it. And on. And on.

Still, I enjoyed the story itself and appreciated the introduction of new characters and the fleshing out of the world outside the dome. Those characters and ideas are furthered in the final installment, Remnants of Tomorrow, which quite satisfactorily wraps up the series.

Now, there is obviously a love triangle…because is there ever not a love triangle. I found this one to relatively realistic and engaging. Wren meets Pace and works with him towards revolution in book one, falling in love quickly. Once outside, Wren’s guilt and fear….perhaps….drive her away from Pace and into the waiting arms of Levi, an American who never lived inside the dome. In this particular love story, I was quite taken with the appeal of the you-know-he’s-not-going-to-end-up-with-her boy. Usually, it’s so obvious and so obviously right who the girl should choose that it’s almost pitiful. In this case, not so much. Both of Wren’s love interests had their strengths and their faults.

Anyone else read this one?

 

50/50 Friday: Summertime

50/50 Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Carrie from The Butterfly Reader and Laura from Blue Eye Books.

Their Prompt: “Now what is 50/50 Friday?

Everyone has a favorite and then we also have something we dislike. Like a coin, there are two sides to every question. Example: best sequel you’ve read/worst sequel you’ve read. So that’s what 50/50 Friday is all about. We will have a new topic every Friday (something bookish of course!). If you have ideas for this meme don’t be scared to let us know!”
This Week’s Question: Favorite/Least Favorite Summery Book
My Answer: I don’t read many summery books if ‘summery’ is defined as light and airy and romancy. All of those books with white women in big hats lounging in the sand or in a pool or playing tennis or gardening…just not my cup of tea. So I thought of summery as quite simply being set in the summer.
The Favorite:
rebecca
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
Monte Carlo holidays, roses and hydrangeas, boats, the ocean, definitely a summery read if a bit darker than the typical
The Least Favorite:
atonement
Atonement by Ian McEwan
oppressive heat, summer vacay from college, all goes to hell, another dark summer read but one that I did not even finish. I actually never got past the summer portion.

The Wicked + The Divine: The Faust Act

thefaustactThe first volume of the graphic series The Wicked + The Divine, The Faust Act feels very much like a book I would enjoy. And yet I just didn’t.

The premise of the series is that the gods (or at least 12 of them) are reincarnated every 90 years by taking over the bodies of everyday people. Currently they are manifesting themselves as pop stars, worshipped and despised by the masses as they sing their way through two years of stardom before death…for their host anyway; it’s just a break for them. Readers are led through an unfortunate public event in the pantheon’s lives by Laura, a mortal girl fascinated with the gods who finds herself embroiled in their politics as she tries to convince mortals and gods alike that Lucifer did not commit the crime she is accused of. She makes for a very ridiculous investigator to me as her obsessive fangirl self is a bit…silly to me.

While Laura is obviously readers’ in to the world of the gods, offering a character for everything to be explained to, I just felt not much was explained. While there is a plot, it isn’t remarkably deep or detailed, and at the end of the volume, I still wasn’t sure why I should care….about any of them. Everything felt underdeveloped…except the artwork which I absolutely loved:

Now most people seem to really love this one, so I am telling you to check it out for yourself instead of steering clear of it. Also, I have the next two volumes which I plan on reading to see if the story ups its game to match the brilliant artwork.

Maybe my problem is my absolute lack of caring about popstars….

The Glittering Court by Richelle Mead

glitteringcourtRichelle Mead’s The Glittering Court was…meh for me. I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I know. But I can’t help it. Let’s back up a bit…

The Glittering Court is a sort of Pygmalionish, Gold Digging slash mail-order-bride concept. The Court, run by the Thornes, takes attractive, poor girls and trains them up to mimic the behaviors of the aristocracy. Once the girls are re-acculturated, trussed up, and judged ready, they are shipped off to Adoria, a frontierland of a New World where faux aristocracy is better than no aristocracy.

Adelaide, our protagonist, is a pampered Osfridian countess determined to thwart her arranged marriage. When the opportunity arises, she pretends to be her servant and joins the Glittering Court – where she will be submitted to a freaking arranged marriage. A wealth of oohs and awwws over dresses, money, men, and fancitudes ensues.

I am, quite clearly, not the audience for this book. I am a mid-30s, not-at-all girly, academic who didn’t even care about dresses when she was in high school. The book reads like a very young girl’s fantasy, lacking the flaws one acquainted with love understands and the badassery a strong woman expects.

I will not be reading the rest of the series.

Sunday Post: One Day Left

The Sunday Post hosted by the Caffeinated Reader is an opportunity to share with the blogging community what bookish things are happening in our world. So what have I been doing?

darkershadeofmagic.jpgReading | I am so amazingly in love with A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab. Despite my promise to myself that I would dedicate all my downtime to preparing for the new semester, I have been, instead, devouring this wonderful novel. And as it’s the first in a series, I see myself spending a great deal of the next month or so in this world while mildly ignoring the real one.

I did find Quiet finally!!!! It was, oddly, under the couch. I’m blaming the kids. I promise to get back to it as soon as possible, and I really need to get started on White Fragility.

Blogging |Last week, I posted reviews of Curious, a book about the need to keep students engaged and the Shade Trilogy by Jeri Smith-Ready. I also participated in 50/50 Friday which in essence was like a wrap-up of July. This week I have reviews going up for The Glittering Court by Richelle Mead and The Wicked + The Divine: The Faust Act.

Thinking | The husband and I have decided to send Carter, our three-year-old, to preschool this year for three days a week, and I’m freaking out a bit even though it was my idea. He’s my baby. Will he be sad? Will he cry? Is he going to absolutely and completely hate it and feel like he’s been abandoned by everyone who loves him? He’s never attended daycare. Hell, he’s never been babysat by anyone not a grandma, so the idea of leaving him with people he doesn’t know is heart-wrenching. Still, I know he’ll benefit from meeting and playing with other kids his age, and he’s certainly intellectually ready for school. I had kids approximately a decade after the typical small town girl, so while mine are still tiny little kiddos, most of my contemporaries are sending their kids off to freaking college now.

2018-07-30 18.04.54Doing |Shopping for school supplies. Holy heck. Now that I have two going, the pain is even worse. They really do look cute though with all those crayons and markers and folders and on and on….

Anticipating |Tomorrow begins my 15 day family vacation, and I am very excited. And a small bit terrified as I face down 15 days with absolutely no alone time. None.

Loving | Carter has finally learned how to ride a bike. Seriously, peddling was a problem for the boy. I still haven’t figured out if his legs weren’t strong enough, his coordination wasn’t good enough, or if he was just being lazy and preferred I push him. But now….look out world.

2018-07-29-16-12-07.jpg

Working | Work begins August 15 – in-service – and then classes start August 20. I am still not prepared people. Ah, well, procrastination is an old friend.

Loving | Round 2 of loving is this picture of my girl:

2018-07-29 10.34.33I wish I could get my hair to look like that. 🙂

 

50/50 Friday: What Happened in July

50/50 Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Carrie from The Butterfly Reader and Laura from Blue Eye Books.

Their Prompt: “Now what is 50/50 Friday?

Everyone has a favorite and then we also have something we dislike. Like a coin, there are two sides to every question. Example: best sequel you’ve read/worst sequel you’ve read. So that’s what 50/50 Friday is all about. We will have a new topic every Friday (something bookish of course!). If you have ideas for this meme don’t be scared to let us know!”
This Week’s Question: Favorite/Least Favorite Read in July
My Answer: I finished 8 books in July-
  1. Shadows of Glass by Kassy Tayler
  2. Remnants of Tomorrow by Kassy Tayler
  3. Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
  4. Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo
  5. Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo
  6. Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
  7. Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman
  8. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon

Clearly it was the month of series as I only read one standalone book this month. I’ve never been great at picking best reads, but this month, I have to go with:

curiousincident

The story is told from such a unique perspective and is just such a different read. For my least favorite read of the month:

shadowsofglassIt’s not that I hated it, but the main character spends an inordinate and annoying amount of time harping over her guilt – and practically using the same words to do so chapter after chapter.

So how about you guys? What were your favorite and leas favorite reads from July?

Shade Trilogy by Jeri Smith-Ready

shadeseriesThe first in this series, Shade, has been sitting on my shelves since BookExpo 2010, signed by the author nonetheless. For some reason – my huge collection of unread books perhaps – Shade sat untended on the shelves for all these years. One good thing about the wait, I was able to read all three books in one month rather than having to wait and wait for the next installment to come out. It is so satisfying to me to start an already finished series.

The foundational premise of the series is that a shift occurred approximately 16 years ago. All people born after the shift can see and talk to ghosts, pre-shifters cannot. Aura is a post-shifter, having lived her whole life able to communicate with the dead who have not yet transitioned on to the next world (heaven, Valhalla, a black hole, reincarnation, whatever, we don’t know). Her boyfriend, Logan, a pre-shifter, an aspiring rock star, dies suddenly on his birthday, leaving Aura devastated but….well, he’s still sort of there. Dead but not gone.

As Aura tries to cope with Logan’s death while still seeing Logan, she is also trying to uncover the secrets of the Shift, to determine why it happened and whether or not it can be undone. And her partner in all this, Zachary, is very much alive. And hot. Obviously.

The books move from the very specific instance of Logan’s death and Aura’s conflicting feelings over the whole Logan-Zachary saga to a more broad-reaching story arc featuring government agents, foreign government agents, history and Druids and magic. While the story still stays personal, the love triangle – which felt more real than most as Aura’s feelings for both boys were genuine – is not the central idea for the entirety of the series.

I was very satisfied with the story beginning to end; it was an easy, well-paced, and well-written read. I recently discovered there are two short tales which can be interspersed with the full-length novels, but I didn’t bother. If anyone out there has read this and thinks I should too, let me know!

Curious: The Desire to Know and Why Your Future Depends on It

CuriousCurious: The Desire to Know and Why Your Future Depends on It by Ian Leslie was part of a faculty book club at my college, and ultimately I loved it, in part because the book spends a great deal of time arguing the necessity of a liberal arts education. As a professor teaching literature, humanities, film, and creative writing courses alongside the more “practical” composition courses, I am obviously a huge fan of liberal arts and a well-rounded education.

The book makes many excellent points – which I primarily agree with – but it was definitely a shallow dive rather than a deep academic exploration of curiosity. That being said, I fully enjoyed the book and found some practical takeaways. For example, I always have my students write research questions. Leslie argues that when doing so, I should ensure the questions lead to mysteries rather than puzzles; puzzles can be solved, mysteries not necessarily.

Another point made in the first section of the book is one I know but tend to ignore for ease. I know, I know, bad Trisha. Specifically, Leslie argues that students need to be in the zone of proximal learning in order to spark curiosity: you need to be right at that intersection of knowledge and lack of knowledge. In other words, they need  some background knowledge, some place to start from, in order to learn the new information. Sometimes, according to Leslie, a lack of curiosity is explained by a lack of knowledge.

The second section of the book moves into the ages of curiosity through to curiosity as subversive, and there is a special section on the importance of literature which – clearly – excited me. One quote in particular stood out to me: “Only fiction has the power to cross the mental barricades, to make strangers intelligible to each other, because it moves people’s hearts as well as minds” (Leslie 67). While I believe non-fiction does have the ability to do this as well, I still take Leslie’s point to heart. And I plan on using this quote in my syllabus this Fall for Intro to Lit.

In the third section, Leslie focused on ways to stay curious, providing 7 specific steps people can take in order to maintain a high level of curiosity. My favorite of these is to stay foolish. The book tackles this problem in section 2, but one of the reasons students don’t display curiosity in class – as evidenced by questioning – is their fear of looking stupid and/or their fear of looking smart. Ridiculous right? I think the advice to stay foolish needs to move to the idea of allowing yourself to be foolish when it comes to students.

I have really just scratched the surface of the book here, so I recommend reading it on your own sometime whether you are a teacher yourself or just interested in curiosity.

Sunday Post: Let the Prepping Begin

The Sunday Post hosted by the Caffeinated Reader is an opportunity to share with the blogging community what bookish things are happening in our world. So what have I been doing?

curiousincidentReading | I powered through Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time in one day this past week. It felt awesome. It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to binge read like that. I randomly decided to use that book in my Intro to Lit class this Fall because I suddenly remembered enjoying it way back in 2009 when I read it the first time. Yes, I know, I really take great pains to determine what to read in my classes. After my re-read, I do not regret my impulsive choice.

We will also be reading Ender’s Game and American Born Chinese this semester, along with some short stories I have yet to pick out.

Watching | I’m still stuck on Shameless, and I’ve made it all the way to season 5 now.

Blogging |Last week, I posted a review of How Full is Your Bucket? and a look at Personality Quizzes in general. This week I have reviews going up for Curious: The Desire to Know and Why Your Future Depends on It and Jeri Smith-Ready’s Shade Trilogy.

Hating | I can’t sleep. I’ve never been what you might call “good” at it, and over the past 20 odd years, I have had multiple diagnoses (fibromyalgia, alpha-delta sleep anomaly, blame it on the back) and multiple medications and practices (no food, more food, no liquid, more liquid, no exercise, more exercise, etc.) regarding my sleep problem. For the past two and a half years, it’s been brutal. This past year, I have tried melatonin, every OTC sleep aid possible, essential oils, hemp oil, Belsomra, Trazodone, Ativan, and Ambien. And alcohol. And alcohol in combination with those other drugs. I’m not proud. Just saying. A combination of hemp oil and Ambien comes closest to helping. Ambien alone doesn’t put me to sleep, and I end up laying in bed for three-ish hours, depressed. If I take them both, I seem to be asleep within an hour and only wake up once or twice…which is much better than the absolutely 0 minutes of sleep I get when I take nothing. No exaggeration; I can lay in bed all night long and not fall asleep once. So that’s where I’m at there….

Thinking | It’s probably time to start doing some actual planning for the upcoming semester. Meh, classes don’t start until August 20…

Loving | Time with the kids. We are down to the last month of summer. Bahhumbug. But, we’ve been having a lot of fun, including a hot, sweaty, fun trip to a Jump Zone.