May Wrap-Up: When Mental Health Gets You Down

I had set a big reading goal for May, to read all 10 of the Star Wars: X-Wing Series books. But with work and life wreaking havoc on my mental health, that didn’t happen.

I read one book this month and that was the first X-Wing book, Rogue Squadron.

June for me is set to be an even rougher month (for reasons that can be explained in this post from last year) but I’m going to do my best to get through a reasonable list of books of all genres to keep myself from getting sucked into an even bigger reading slump.

The number of books I read is so directly connected to my mental health it’s probably strange, but I do want to make up for being something of a vegetable this month. My goal is four books to actually finish even if the list is longer than that.

June TBR List:

  • Killing Floor (Jack Reacher #1) by Lee Child
  • The Assassin’s Blade (Throne of Glass #0.5) by Sarah J. Maas
  • Red Rising (Red Rising #1) by Pierce Brown
  • The Beautiful by Renée Ahdieh
  • The Curse of the Werepenguin by Allan Woodrow
  • The Power of the Dog by Don Winslow (audiobook)

I’m also doing a two-man bookclub with a good friend of mine and we’ll be reading through A Song of Ice and Fire together so even if I don’t finish it this month, I’ll be reading Game of Thrones this month as well.

Tell me what you’re reading this month!

February Wrap-Up

February has been a bit of a rough month, but I’ve made it through and did a decent amount of reading at the same time!

While I didn’t meet my reading goal in terms of books I hoped to finish, and I also lowered my GoodReads goal from 100 down to 80, I’m proud of what I was able to read despite the things in my personal life I’m dealing with. Not to mention I did end up reading two out of three of my goal books (Six of Crows and Throne of Glass).

So far this puts me at 16/80 books read this year and I’d say that’s not too shabby!

How did you do this February?


Finished Books

  1. Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
  2. Rogue Protocol (Murderbot Diaries #3) by Martha Wells
  3. A Victorian Flower Dictionary by Mandy Kirkby
  4. Spectacle by Jodie Lynn Zdrok
  5. the mermaid’s voice returns in this one by Amanda Lovelace
  6. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
  7. The Strange Case of Moderate Extremists by Alexander McCall Smith

In-Progress

  1. Black Leopard Red Wolf by Marlon James
  2. The Beauty of the Moment by Tanaz Bhathena
  3. Kill the Queen by Jennifer Estep

Did Not Finish

  1. Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club by Megan Coles
  2. Some Girls Bind by Rory James
  3. Limetown by Cote Smith

Do I Have To? A reluctant reader’s guide to The Grisha Trilogy

With the excitement surrounding next week’s release of King of Scars, I’ve seen a number of people asking “Do I need to read The Grisha Trilogy first?” As a huge fan of Nikolai, my answer is yes, but the series is definitely not for everyone. So here’s an abridged guide to the books.

Shadow & Bone

Book one starts with soldiers Alina and Mal, best friends from their childhood in an orphanage, as they head towards a nightmare in the land of Ravka called “The Fold”. The Fold is a dark, dead sea of sand that’s populated by monsters called the Volcra literally made of shadow. When the army is attacked, Alina discovers she is actually one of the beings in Ravka known as The Grisha, people who have control over very specific elements of the world, but her power is the only of it’s kind. Alina can control light.

With her power being so incredible, it attracts the attention of The Darkling, head of the Grisha army. Their powers are the polar opposites, light and darkness, but Alina quickly becomes smitten with life as one of the Grisha and with The Darkling. The fantasy is broken, however, when Alina becomes aware that The Darkling’s only wish is to use her power to take over the world. She flees the castle and only narrowly avoids being caught when she re-crosses paths with Mal and he saves her.

This is where a fairytale comes to Alina and she decides to track Morozova’s beasts – rare creatures all over Ravka said to be amplifiers of unimaginable power to those of the Grisha. It takes forever, but Mal and Alina finally find Morozova’s Stag…only to have Alina decide against killing such a beautiful creature. Her mercy does not last long, however, as Mal and Alina are ambushed by The Darkling and his men. The Darkling kills the beast and makes Alina an unremovable collar, therefore putting her powers under his control.

Forced to follow The Darkling, Alina is brought back sound and into the Fold where her power is used to protect the ship from the Volcra. While inside, The Darkling uses his own powers to destroy the towns on the other side by expanding the Fold as well as pushing Mal off the ship to his death. In Alina’s pain, she realizes that by sparing the Stag, it has granted her the strength to break free from The Darkling’s hold and rushes to save Mal, destroying the ship as she does so.

Narrowly escaping The Fold, Mal and Alina seek to escape for good, using golden pins in Alina’s hair to buy their way across the True Sea to freedom.

Siege & Storm

Siege & Storm is Alina’s fight to really be-rid of The Darkling as she continues to hunt for the rest of the Morozova beasts. It is within this book that Alina learns The Darkling’s powers have changed since he was left at the mercy of the Volcra and he can now create Volcra-like creatures that can only be killed if Alina uses her power is a very specific form called The Cut. She and Mal are found and kidnapped by The Darkling and taken aboard a ship owned by the infamous pirate, Sturmhond, and his crew. The pirates have been hired and instructed by The Darkling to go into the icy northern seas to hunt for Rusalye, a dragon like sea serpent said to be the next amplifier.

After the dragon is caught, The Darkling is overthrown by Sturmhond and they are able to escape his grasp. Sturmhond then has one of his Fabrikators make a cuff out of the scales for Alina. The group then make their way back across the Fold and into Ravka, crashing near where the First Army has made camp. It is here that Sturmhond reveals himself to actually be Prince Nikolai Lantsov, the rumored bastard of the throne. Having achieved Saint status, it is a long journey back home to the castle for Alina, Mal, and Nikolai – who keeps saying that a marriage alliance between himself and Alina would be a wonderful thing and unite the First and Second (Grisha) armies. Clearly this is where Mal does not approve of Nikolai.

Returning to the capital ends up being not as easy as Nikolai planned, his elder brother being more determined to hold the throne than expected. Vasily’s true intentions come out during Nikolai’s birthday as he has made a deal to relax security posts around the nation of Fjerda and therefore giving The Darkling – who has been hiding there – the perfect moment to attack. Even as the two princes fight, The Darkling attacks, ruining any chance they had at fighting him off.

Nikolai escapes with the few people he can, while Alina stays behind to fight The Darkling and protect the remaining Grisha, things come to an explosive face-off that results in Alina using a power called merzost. While saving far more people than she could otherwise, merzost drains her of the majority of her power and turns her white. The loss of power weakens her body greatly and she is brought, along with other Grisha, underground to the White Cathedral where a cult-like leader known as the Apparat also holds his followers.

Ruin & Rising

The final book, we follow Alina on her hunt for the firebird as she seeks out revenge on the Darkling and hopes to restore the world alongside Nikolai, Mal, and a handful of other Grisha who escaped the attack. The hunt is a lot of walking around aimlessly on Alina’s part once she finally escapes the overbearing Apparat. At one point in their journey, The Darkling attacks the group and, as revenge for rescuing Alina, he uses merzost to infect Nikolai from the inside out, turning him into a Volcra-like creature himself.

In the aftermath, Nikolai is rushed back into uniform and brought to the remnants of Ravka’s First Army. He is able to take control and finally return to Os Alta to claim the throne, while a story spreads that he had been kidnapped and tortured by the Darkling. This is used to explain the dark scars on each of his fingers – actually marks left from where his talons had grown. After the rest escape, they make a plan to destroy The Darkling.

Alina and her group travel to the Fold to face The Darkling, but Alina knows she can’t defeat him without all three amplifiers. To be blunt here, I honestly can’t remember when, but at one point Alina realizes that the firebird is actually Mal and he would need to die for her to have the third amplifier. He convinces her to kill him and Alina’s power leaves her to manifest in any normal person surrounding her (think like how Buffy made a bunch of other Slayers at the end of the the show). While The Darkling is pissed that he no longer has his Sun Summoner, Alina uses the same knife she killed Mal with to kill The Darkling.

The new Sun Summoners destroy the Fold and Nikolai returns to normal at the death of The Darkling. Mal is brought back to life by two Heartrenders and Alina denies Nikolai’s final alliance proposal before “faking her death” and running away with Mal to live happily ever after while Nikolai – who everyone believes to have been tourtured and scarred by The Darkling – assumes the throne of Ravka.


So there you have it. You can also find more in depth information on Tor.com as they did a Grisha reread not too long ago.

The most important information about Nikolai can also be found on the Grishaverse Wiki page but I think I got most of the important details in there.


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REVIEW: Moon of Crusted Snow

Ever since I was a kid I have loved learning about the different cultures of Indigenous people across Canada and as I’ve grown up, I’ve become more and more heartbroken by the hardships those who live on the rez have had to deal with. A few weeks ago I stumbled upon an interview with author Waubgeshig Rice about his new release, Moon of Crusted Snow. In the article, Rice describes how he “wanted to offer up the perspective of people who had experienced apocalypse already” and pay “an homage to the everyday people on reserves across Canada”.

Right from the get-go this book had me hooked. The Anishinaabe community of the novel is full of a wide range of characters, both likeable and not, prepping for the coming winter when all of their utilities go out. No electricity, no satellite, no cell service. Having never had reliable services from the get go, no one thinks twice… until two of their own return from the city and tell them what’s really going on.

On it’s own, the story is a terrifying concept alone, but the stakes are truly raised when an intimidating, survivalist, white man manages to make his way to the community and kicks them all when they’re down.

What I enjoyed most about this story is that not only is it an incredibly atmospheric end-of-the-world story, but it is a great framing of how hard life is for those in Native reserves as well as the racism First Nations peoples still face. The character, Justin Scott, even goes as far to say “the white man saves the day” as he is clearly taking advantage of the hospitality of the community.

Mixed into the everyday narrative are dream sequences and stories from the elders of the community that bring in warnings and foreshadowing from the tribe’s folklore adding an extra layer of intensity and knowledge.

This is definitely an incredible story with so many layers behind each sentence that I truly hope people pick it up and learn something from it. I look forward to the movie deal that Rice should definitely be offered for this novel.

REVIEW: Pillow Thoughts II

Thank you to NetGalley and Andrews McMeel Publishing for providing me with a free copy of this book.


I have said it before and I will say it again, I have a difficult relationship with poetry. I was never really fond of it in school and often have a difficult time relating the words to what I feel of what I have experienced. That being said, I had absolutely no trouble relating to Courtney Peppernell’s words with her latest collection: Pillow Thoughts II.

We have all experienced loss. Whether it’s a friend you lost touch with, an ex-partner, or the very physical loss that comes with the death of someone close. But this isn’t a collection about loss. It’s a collection about healing.

I honestly don’t know enough about poetry to accurately discuss the structure of Peppernell’s poems but what I can say is you can find comfort in her words and they give the feeling of understanding and compassion. The feeling that you’re not alone in your pain. A truly wonderful collection.


 

Author: Courtney Peppernell
Published: August 7, 2018
Pages: 224
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing
ISBN: 9781449495084

Synopsis: Following the smash success of her best-selling book, Pillow Thoughts, Courtney Peppernell now returns with the follow-up sequel Pillow Thoughts II: Healing the Heart.

Peppernell understands that healing is a process, and Pillow Thoughts II eloquently captures the time and experience that one goes through on their journey to peace through restoration.

A collection of inspirational and comforting poems for anyone who is mending from a broken heart.

REVIEW: When Katie Met Cassidy

Yet another Book of the Month Club suggestion, I got Camille Perri’s When Katie Met Cassidy on my Kobo as some light-hearted reading that I felt I needed. Plus, when I read this towards the end of June, it was a great way to send off Pride Month.

The story focuses on Katie as her social life is crumbling around her. Her fiance has left her, having had an affair with her best friend, and taken everyone in their friend group with him. Her apartment is a depressive episode brought to life, and she is still struggling to keep her head up in her firm as a lawyer. But then Cassidy, a no-fucks-given, proudly gay lawyer with an opposing firm.

Quickly Katie’s life in back on track, if only a very different one, as she learns to things about herself and what her life in New York can mean.

I really enjoyed this story despite it’s flaws and it was honestly just a fun, queer story about fun, queer people. As someone who is a part of the LBGT+ community, I found my experiences relate a lot to Cassidy’s. I have also known people who are very much like Katie in which they have never before questioned their sexuality until that one person comes into their lives. It’s those things that really stood out to me in this book is that the main characters felt like real people I know and love.

For the most part, I enjoyed Cassidy’s friends and appreciated how Katie’s struggle with such a new part of her life was handled. But all of that being said, I found some moments to be more than a little bi-phobic or even gatekeeping against bisexuals who have only recently discovered that part of themselves. It made me uncomfortable but I did keep reading as that section of the story didn’t really come into play until more towards the end of the book.

Was it my favourite read of the year? Not quite. But it was a lot of fun to read and I would still recommend it to my friends looking for some wlw stories that don’t end in someone dying. I’ll certainly be checking out Perri’s other books in the future.


Author: Camille Perri
Published: June 19, 2018
Pages: 272
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
ISBN: 9780735212817

Synopsis: Katie Daniels is a perfection-seeking 28-year-old lawyer living the New York dream. She’s engaged to charming art curator Paul Michael, has successfully made her way up the ladder at a multinational law firm and has a hold on apartments in Soho and the West Village. Suffice it to say, she has come a long way from her Kentucky upbringing.

But the rug is swept from under Katie when she is suddenly dumped by her fiance, Paul Michael, leaving her devastated and completely lost. On a whim, she agrees to have a drink with Cassidy Price-a self-assured, sexually promiscuous woman she meets at work. The two form a newfound friendship, which soon brings into question everything Katie thought she knew about sex—and love.

REVIEW: Chatterbox

I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review


I going to start off this review like I usually do when it comes to collections like this: I’m honestly the worst person when it comes to analyzing poetry and that’s why I don’t often read it. However, I still enjoyed this collection from fellow Canadian author, Sandy Day.

Chatterbox is a collection of poems written during a terrible time, the end of a marriage. The poems the book contains are vivid with metaphors and imagery that expresses the harsh reality of coming to know someone you once loved is no longer that person. That they no longer love you back. The feeling of loss and loneliness comes through with a vengeance.

Although I have no actual negative thoughts with the collection, I did find Chatterbox has an older vibe to it. This isn’t a bad thing, more an observation as I am more used to younger voices like Michael Faudet, Lang Leav, and Amanda Lovelace. For older readers fond of the topic covered by said authors, I would certainly recommend Chatterbox as Sandy is able to combine a more “classic” style of poetry with a kind of youthfulness that keeps her words from being stuffy.

A solid three out of five from me.


38209664 Author: Sandy Day
Published: 
January 18th 2018
Pages:
132
Publisher:
CreateSpace
ISBN:
9781981942503

Summary: Chatterbox is a collection of one hundred and ten poems, tiny tellings written during a year of marriage disintegration. The poems explore a world of bewildering emotions ranging from sadness and terror to anger and enlightenment. The reader enters a world conjured from fairytales and dolls, the Garden of Eden, and the Wizard of Oz; the pages abound with moths and mice, dogs and horses, roosters and crows, oranges and apples, the moon and the sun.

A creative force, exploding after decades of silence, inspires the Chatterbox poems. The poet struggles to attend to a Muse that wakes her each morning, urging her to capture a spirit igniting inside her. The poet observes her own life as it falls apart and fragments then miraculously turns her outward toward others.

Whose heart hasn’t cracked open and broken? Do any of us withstand the pain and transcend to the other side? Can we leave betrayal and abandonment behind without bitterness and resentment? Can we move on and find our true soaring spirits? Chatterbox answers these questions with a resounding, yes!