Lila, reviews

Queens And Cultural Appropriation | The Hundredth Queen by Emily R. King Review

Title: The Hundredth Queen
Author: Emily R. King
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Lauren Ezzo
Running Time: 10 hours, 6 minutes
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Goodreads Summary: As an orphan ward of the Sisterhood, eighteen-year-old Kalinda is destined for nothing more than a life of seclusion and prayer. Plagued by fevers, she’s an unlikely candidate for even a servant’s position, let alone a courtesan or wife. Her sole dream is to continue living in peace in the Sisterhood’s mountain temple.

But a visit from the tyrant Rajah Tarek disrupts Kalinda’s life. Within hours, she is ripped from the comfort of her home, set on a desert trek, and ordered to fight for her place among the rajah’s ninety-nine wives and numerous courtesans. Her only solace comes in the company of her guard, the stoic but kind Captain Deven Naik.

Faced with the danger of a tournament to the death—and her growing affection for Deven—Kalinda has only one hope for escape, and it lies in an arcane, forbidden power buried within her.

In Emily R. King’s thrilling fantasy debut, an orphan girl blossoms into a warrior, summoning courage and confidence in her fearless quest to upend tradition, overthrow an empire, and reclaim her life as her own.

As fun and (surface level) entertaining as The Hundredth Queen was and as much as I wanted to love it, it had some serious flaws that I honestly just can’t overlook. If you’re looking for something quick and fairly entertaining and you can overlook the possible problematic representation of Eastern cultures, then I’d say have at it. Otherwise…This may not be the book for you.

I’ll start out with what I enjoyed. The plot was fast paced and there was action and romance galore! For this reason, The Hundredth Queen was an incredibly easy read, without being too simplistic.  The trials allowed for plenty of action filled fight sequences and the court setting gives readers tons of intrigue. And, though I had issues with its pacing, there is no doubt that the romance was pretty swoon-worthy.

I also loved the focus on sisterhood and friendship. Kali’s best friend is like a sister to her and is always one of the people whose wellbeing is at the forefront of Kali’s mind. It was nice to see such a strong female friendship play such a pivotal role in a YA book.

I wish I could leave it at that and say I thoroughly enjoyed The Hundredth Queen but alas, twas not meant to be!

I’ll start with the more minor issue I had which was the pacing of the romance. Friends. This was one of the worst cases of insta-love I’ve ever witnessed. Kali literally falls in love with the first guy she’s ever seen. That’s not an exaggeration! Kali has never seen or met a man before Deven and the instant she sees him she’s all *swoons*. But Deven’s reaction time is just as bad! They’ve only had about three minor interactions before they’re falling all over each other and kissing and professing their love and are all “I would die for you!” And what’s worse is that Kali has every reason to be wary and scared of men because before she’d ever met a man, all she’d heard was horror stories fro her best friend. Yet she throws all past knowledge aside for literally the first hot guy she sees?! Spare me, please.

But the issue of inst-love pales in comparison to how problematic this book is, in regards to representation of Eastern and Indian cultures.

Now there are three very important things I need to say before I launch into my final complaint.

  1. I am fully aware that this books is a fantasy. That being said, The Hundredth Queen is so based on Indian culture that King (the author) felt it necessary to include an author’s note at the beginning saying that all apparent similarities to real historic figures is coincidental and not intended to offend.
  2. I am NOT Indian. I have NO right to really speak on what is good representation of Indian culture.
  3. You must understand that, as a person of color myself, I am not one to cry “cultural appropriation!” anytime a White person even gets near another culture. I fully support White people exploring and appreciating and sharing in the richness of other cultures. THAT BEING SAID! This book? It honestly reeks of poorly veiled cultural appropriation and exoticism.

So. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way. This book made me really uneasy, representation wise. I understand that this is not a direct representation of India. But it is merely a step sideways, a thin and tattered veil over Indian culture. And I’m not quite sold on the fact that King did a good job handling it.

Why? It just felt like King had chosen Indian culture not because she appreciated and respected it, but rather because she felt it was “exotic.” I can’t fully describe what exact passages made me feel this way, it was just a general…feeling

But it was also the old, tired tropes that King chose to use in portraying an Eastern culture. They were tropes we’ve seen a lot of and not only could you claim they were lazy tropes, but they were also slightly offensive. In The Hundredth Queen we get more than our fill of the Tyranical Sultan/King/Leader™ trope, in addition to the Sultan With A Harem Of Literally Hundreds Of Women™ trope and the Patriarchal Eastern Society™ trope. *Cue infinite eye rolls and head-desks from me* Must we really with these tropes about Easterners? Especially in 2017 America where those of us who are Middle Eastern and/or South Central Asian continue to be stereotyped so negatively?!

So…yeah. This book gets a 2.75 stars (rounded up to 3 stars) from me. It was fun, yes, but it also had me shaking my head at many points. I’ll probably read the second book, just for fun, but i’m not fully committed to it yet…

Lila, reviews

One Hell of a Ride! | Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 by Kate Leth, Brittney Williams, Megan Wilson, Joe Sabino, and Clayton Cowles Combo Mini Review

27415870Title: Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat! Volume 1: Hooked On A Feline

Author: Kate Leth

Artists: Brittney Williams, Megan Wilson, Joe Sabino, and Clayton Cowles

Publisher: Marvel

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Goodreads Summary: Patsy Walker has managed to escape her past, her enemies and Hell itself (literally) – but nothing compares to job hunting in New York City! Between trying to make rent and dodging bullets, Patsy barely has time to deal with her mother’s exploitative romance comics about Patsy’s past resurfacing, much less how they start to interfere with her work and dating life. As she goes from living a double life to a triple, what the hell is Patsy Walker supposed to do? There’ll be friendship and burgers, monsters and rent checks and a ghost from the past with questionable motives! Comics’ most flexible heroine has been a provisional Avenger, a Defender, Satan’s daughter-in-law and a dead woman–but she’s never been anything like this!

Collecting: Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat! 1-6

30621636Title: Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat! Volume 2: Don’t Stop Me–Ow

Author: Kate Leth

Artists: Brittney Williams, Megan Wilson, Joe Sabino, and Clayton Cowles

Publisher: Marvel

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Goodreads Summary: In another world they might be gal pals who help each other through hard times. But when Patsy Walker and Jessica Jones meet at last in the Marvel Universe, could it be they’ll end up as…best frenemies?! Not everyone can get along all the time, which is why the world’s heroes are about to be rocked by a second Civil War! But when the fallout from the battlefield hits close to home, Patsy is forced to take stock of her life and face what it really costs to be A.K.A. Hellcat! Plus, fallouts with former friends don’t get any worse than Patsy and Hedy. Now Ms. Wolfe is about to torment her rival more than ever, with a little help from Patsy’s evil exboyfriends! Will Hellcat get burned by her old flames?

Collecting: Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat! 7-12

Are you looking for a cute, superhero, Marvel comic to fill you with those good ol’ feels? Look no further, friends! Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat’s got ya covered! I’ve been interested in Hellcat since I ran across it back in December, but it wasn’t until recently that it was offered in the Comixology Unlimited selection—so naturally I jumped on the “one month free trial” thing ASAP! I thought Hellcat would be alright. Boy was I wrong! Because Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat isn’t just alright—it’s great!

If you’re a total Marvel newb then I’d say that Hellcat is an okay place to begin. What I mean by that is that reading Hellcat requires a smidgeon of basic knowledge of the Marvel Comics universe. But, it’s still not the worst place to start! However, if you’ve already read one or two Marvel series, then I’d say you’re probably set when it comes to Hellcat!

One of the things that I think Marvel fans (even newer ones, such as Yours Truly) will appreciate about Hellcat is the guest appearances made by other Marvel superheroes such as America Chavez (a.k.a. Miss America), Doreen Green (a.k.a. Squirrel Girl), Jennifer Walters (a.k.a. She-Hulk), and Doctor Strange, among others. It was nice to see old friends walk onto the page and work together!

Another thing that I adored about Hellcat was the focus on friendship! Patsy and Jennifer have an incredibly close friendship and we see Patsy form many new friends, such as Ian Soo and Tom (although, technically I think Tom counts as an old friend?). Many of the stories focus on teamwork and it was awesome to see the gang get together and kick some villainous butt!

Even though there is a great focus on teamwork and friendship, Patsy, the title character, really is the true heart and soul of Hellcat. An adorable redhead with a big heart, a big personality, and a bit of a short fuse, Patsy walks (heheh) onto the page and you can’t help but fall in love with her. The thing I love about Patsy is that no good deed is too small for her—she realizes that they all count. So while other superheroes are off fighting aliens and robots and supervillains, Patsy takes on some of the smaller baddies. Not that she doesn’t face off with some bigger bad guys, it’s just for the most part she sticks to the smaller ones. I feel like this sent a really positive message that it doesn’t matter how relatively “small” your good deed is, it can still change someone’s life.

All in all, I think I can safely say that I’ve fallen in love with Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat! I honestly can’t wait to pick up volume three. Equal parts adorable and triumphant, Hellcat’s definitely not one to miss!

Lila, reviews

Diabolically Delightful | Five Reasons To Read…The Diabolic by S.J. Kincaid

26836910Title: The Diabolic

Author: S.J. Kincaid

Narrator: Candace Thaxton

Running Time: 12 hours, 30 minutes

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Goodreads Summary: Nemesis is a Diabolic. Created to protect a galactic Senator’s daughter, Sidonia. There’s no one Nemesis wouldn’t kill to keep her safe. But when the power-mad Emperor summons Sidonia to the galactic court as a hostage, there is only one way for Nemesis to protect Sidonia.

She must become her.

Now one of the galaxy’s most dangerous weapons is masquerading in a world of corruption and Nemesis has to hide her true abilities or risk everything. As the Empire begins to fracture and rebellion looms closer, Nemesis learns that there is something stronger than her deadly force: the one thing she’s been told she doesn’t have – humanity. And, amidst all the danger, action and intrigue, her humanity might be the only thing that can save her, Sidonia and the entire Empire…

Hey, y’all! It’s Lila and today I’m here to share my thoughts on The Diabolic by S.J. Kincaid with you! Despite the fact that it took me a eternity to finish this book due to my book slump, I really did love it! The Diabolic is one heck of a wild ride, filled with twists and turns, suspense, intrigue, and romance! So without any further ado, here are five things I loved about The Diabolic by S.J. Kincaid…

1. Et tu, Brute?

The Diabolic‘s the name, backstabbing’s the game! The Diabolic is all about politics and deceit and betrayal and it’s absolutely fascinating to watch these elements unfold! Everyone is playing a power game and you realize pretty quickly that there’s no character you can trust. If you love the intricacies of politics, this is the book for you!

2. Love Or Lies?

I loved how, to the very last word of the book, Kincaid has you questioning almost all of the relationships that the characters form. You never know if characters are allies or enemies. The only character you can be certain of is Nemesis, because you are inside her head. But when it comes to the relationships Nemesis forms, you really don’t know how the other person truly feels. Plus, the relationships change at the whims of characters’ schemes, adding an additional layer of complexity. The intricacy of all of the relationships between characters and how the characters manipulate the threads connecting them to each other is so interesting.

3. Catching Feelings

I adored the characters! In particular, I loved Nemesis and Tyrus! Nemesis was so strong and I loved how we saw that while the world thought she was just some emotionless creature, she really had such depth of emotion and love. One of the things I like about Nemesis is that she’s a dynamic character. We watch her constantly growing, changing, and evolving on the page. She begins the book one way and ends the book a different person.

And Tyrus! *Swoon*! I loved him! He was so intelligent and cunning and calculating. I love how he was a well-rounded love interest, with his own motives (some of which we know and some of which we may not know). I also liked how we saw that Tyrus wanted change and wanted to do right by his people, but he was also willing to be ruthless in order to get just that. It brought up the great, old moral question: how much bad are you willing to do for the greater good and do the ends justify the means? Further, I liked how Kincaid made us question Tyrus right up to the last word! We’re lead to always feel some unease about his character and I like that we never know whether or not he’s truly on Nemesis’s side.

4. A Galaxy Far Away

The world was absolutely fascinatingThe Diabolic is set far in the distant future, presumably in a different galaxy. But Kincaid doesn’t just build an interesting setting–she also has created a fascinating society, one in which gods are worshipped and knowledge is banned. In many ways, though the society of The Diabolic has progressed technologically, they have regressed in culture and attitude, creating a fascinating dynamic. I could study this world all day long and never get bored and that’s what shows me that Kincaid has done not just a mere good job in world building, but a great one!

5. Choose Your Own Adventure

The Diabolic was originally intended to be a standalone and can be read as such. It’s not like other “standalone” books where there’s an open ending. Instead, the end of The Diabolic wraps up all of the threads of the story! Or you can read The Diabolic as the first installment in a series, as the publisher bought two more books following the same characters! It’s completely up to you!

Juuuust In Case, Some Things That Might Make You Say “No Way!”…

  • There is a short scene of attempted sexual assault.
  • There is a lot of graphic violence in this book. A lot.
  • There is a single diverse character, a lesbian side character.  There are two problems that I found with the representation in The Diabolic, although please note that I am a heterosexual, cisgender female and therefore am not the best person to speak on this. That being said, I feel like if the representation was poor enough that even I, a heterosexual, cisgender reviewer, notice it, then it’s probably really problematic. Okay, so I’ll move on to telling you the two issues I had. First of all, the lesbian character’s identity is used as a plot point and glossed over as simply “unrequited love” that Nemesis, the heterosexual, cisgender main character,  now awkwardly “has to deal with.” That’s my first problem, which leads into my second problem which is that at the end, Kincaid kills off the lesbian character as a way of catalyzing the actions of Nemesis, the cisgender, heterosexual protagonist. To me, it felt cheap to first use the lesbian character’s identity as a plot twist and then to (pretty promptly) just kill them off. That’s just me, though.

So all in all, I really enjoyed The Diabolic and I can’t wait to see what’s on the horizon for our cast of characters!

Thoughts In A Gif

suspense (1)

 

reviews

Reasons To Read…The Valiant by Lesley Livingston

30375703Title: The Valiant

Author: Lesley Livingston

Narrator: Fiona Hardigham

Publisher: Listening Library

Running Time: 10 hours, 21 minutes

Goodreads Summary: Princess. Captive. Gladiator.

Fallon is the daughter of a proud Celtic king, the sister of the legendary warrior Sorcha, and the sworn enemy of Julius Caesar.

When Fallon was a child, Caesar’s armies invaded her homeland, and her beloved sister was killed in battle.

Now, on the eve of her seventeenth birthday, Fallon is eager to follow in her sister’s footsteps and earn her place in the fearsome Cantii war band. She never gets the chance.

Fallon is captured and sold to an elite training school for female gladiators—owned by none other than Julius Caesar. In a cruel twist of fate, the man who destroyed Fallon’s family might be her only hope of survival.

Now Fallon must overcome vicious rivalries and deadly fights—in and out of the arena. And perhaps the most dangerous threat of all: her forbidden yet irresistible feelings for Cai, a young Roman soldier.

Ya know that giddy feeling you feel when you step off a rollercoaster and you’re like “Let’s do it again! Let’s do it again! Let’s do it again!”? That’s pretty darn close to how I felt after finishing Lesley Livingston’s The ValiantThe Valiant is one heck of a non-stop, whirlwind, action-packed thrill ride that’ll leave you begging for more! If you’re looking for action, adventure, romance, and friendship all tied up in a light historical fiction novel (that honestly reads more like fantasy), then this is the book for you! Here are five reasons why you (yes, you!) might love The Valiant

1. Female Gladiators For The Win!!!

So it was discovered fairly recently that there’s a decent chance there may have actually been female Roman gladiators. It was from this discovery that Livingston says she drew most of her inspiration, noting that she wanted to imagine what that life could’ve been like. And, in Livingston’s capable hands,  th idea totally works! I loved how Livingston chose to make being a female gladiator not only about strength and capability, but also about sisterhood and solidarity (which I’ll get to in a bit). Through the lens of Fallon’s journey, Livingston vividly imagines not only what life as a female gladiator may have been like, but also how a woman might end up living that life and why she may have chosen to continue to live that life. This blends together to form a tale that is full of action, adventure, and fun, while still being compelling.

2. Strength In Sisterhood

One of my favorite aspects of The Valiant was the strong female friendships in the book. We have Elka and Fallon, who have a hate to best friends relationship that was both lovely and hilarious to watch unfold. We have the bonds of friendship and sisterhood that are forged between the girls at the academy and which the academy really is built on. And we have one last example of strong female relationships that I won’t divulge because I don’t want to spoil you, but it’s really touching. It would’ve been easy  for Livingston to turn Fallon’s situation into a catty competition full of girl hate, and for a moment there at the beginning, you think she might, but then she totally subverts that expectation! Throughout the novel, most of the girls cheer each other on and build each other up. It was such a nice change from the norm in YA and such a lovely aspect of the book.

3. Falling For Fallible Fallon

I think the thing that really sold me on The Valiant was the characters. I loved all of them so much! I especially loved the main character, Fallon! The thing about Fallon is that she’s a strong heroine, but she’s DEFINITELY NOT an example of the Strong Female Protagonist™ who we see so often. Fallon is…fallible. We see her grow and train and learn new things, we see her make mistakes–sometimes whoppers! Livingston gives Fallon time to realize her own mistakes and to consider them and learn and grow from them. But no matter what, the thing that remains consistent is Fallon’s fierce heart. It is Fallon’s heart that allows her to be both strong and compassionate. Livingston recognized that those qualities aren’t mutually exclusive, rather that they in fact feed off of each other and build each other up. And Fallon recognizes that too and it keeps her from becoming bitter and jaded. I found as I was reading that there was no other companion I’d want on the journey through the story other than Fallon.

4. Perilous Politics

Ancient Rome in the time of Julius Caesar was full of intrigue, mind games, and literal backstabbing. So, ya know, the norm for an ancient (or modern) empire. Anyhow, Livingston doesn’t shy away from playing around with the materials provided by her chosen historical setting. Fallon is taken from her fairly free minded Celtic society and forcefully brought into a new society which is centered on the principle that not everything is as it seems on the surface. How well Fallon navigates these treacherously tricky and deceptive new waters will determine whether or not she’ll be able to get out with her honor, her freedom, and her life!  Livingston wonderfully explored Ancient Roman culture through the eyes of Fallon, who was experiencing Ancient Rome for the first time along with us readers! Livingston not only took every historical and cultural detail in stride, she made learning the facts fun–and she never once info-dumped!

5. Is This The Real World? Is This Just Fantasy?

I don’t know about y’all, but I love YA fantasy. It’s the bread and butter of my reading life. Historical fiction?…Not so much…And yet, I fell in love with The Valiant! Why? Because it felt like a fantasy! There’s no magic, but there’s a world vastly different from our own, whispers of gods and goddesses, mystery and court intrigue, action, and adventure–all classic elements of fantasy. Everything about the way that the world of The Valiant was written felt like magic and mystery were in the air and just a snap away. In a way, it makes you think about how magical real life can be. So, fantasy fans, put this on your TBR!

Juuuust In Case, Some Things That Might Make You Say “No Way!”…

  • Seeing as this is a story about female gladiators, there is a fair amount of gore, which might make you a bit squeamish…

Other than that, though, this book was golden!

Thoughts In A Gif:

the valiant.gif

 

Lila, reviews

Melodic And Monstrous Musings | Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones Audiobook Review

24763621Title: Wintersong

Author: S. Jae-Jones

Narrator: Eva Kaminsky

Publisher: Recorded Books

Running Time: 14 hours, 17 minutes

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Goodreads Synopsis: The Instant New York Times Bestseller!

Bustle – 2017 YA Must Reads
Paste Magazine – Most Anticipated YA Books of 2017

Dark, romantic, and unforgettable, Wintersong is an enchanting coming-of-age story for fans of Labyrinth and The Beauty and the Beast.

The last night of the year. Now the days of winter begin and the Goblin King rides abroad, searching for his bride…

All her life, Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, dangerous Goblin King. They’ve enraptured her mind, her spirit, and inspired her musical compositions. Now eighteen and helping to run her family’s inn, Liesl can’t help but feel that her musical dreams and childhood fantasies are slipping away.

But when her own sister is taken by the Goblin King, Liesl has no choice but to journey to the Underground to save her. Drawn to the strange, captivating world she finds—and the mysterious man who rules it—she soon faces an impossible decision. And with time and the old laws working against her, Liesl must discover who she truly is before her fate is sealed.

Rich with music and magic, S. Jae-Jones’s Wintersong will sweep you away into a world you won’t soon forget.

“Wintersong is a maze of beauty and darkness, of music and magic and glittering things, all tied together with exquisite writing. This is a world you will want to stay lost in.” —Marie Lu, #1 New York Times bestselling author

“This was Labyrinth by way of Angela Carter. Deliciously romantic, with a nuanced Goblin King and a strong heroine, this story was rife with fairy tales, music, and enchantment.” —Roshani Chokshi, New York Times bestselling author of The Star-Touched Queen

Buckle up, y’all, cause this is gonna be a long one!

Ah, conflicting emotions, how you torture me! This book was so, so, soooooo good but also so, so, soooooo problematic….

Let’s start with the good. The good thing is that I loved Wintersong so much that it’s a new all-time fave of mine! Rich, dark, and seductively magical, Wintersong dazzles. Everything about the book pulls the reader in and immerses them in a darkly enchanting tale. Wintersong reads like a modern fairytale.

First off, Jae-Jones’s writing is absolutely luscious. She manages to write in a style that is beautiful and enchanting, yet succinct. In this way, she allows readers to experience the magic of her world without swallowing them in description and losing the storyline. And, my gosh, is this world immersive. Jae-Jones’s writing and world just completely surrounds you, flowing from the page to make you feel as if you’re right there with the characters!

Jae-Jones’s gorgeous writing works hand in hand with the world building to create a full experience for the reader. Wintersong takes place in Bavaria in about the 18th century. But this is not quite the Bavaria you might know. Jae-Jones’s Bavaria is ripe with magic and enchantment. Magical creatures mingle with humans, playing tricks and capriciously “granting” wishes. And beneath the human world lies the dark goblin underworld, where nothing is quite as it seems. I loved how Jae-Jones wove in whispers of folklore to create the feeling that this world was ancient. She slowly, succinctly sets up the history via Liesl’s superstitious grandmother and then weaves in new elements of the world through Liesl, who is experiencing magic for the first…er, well, actually the second time. Everything about the world leaps from the page, painting pictures before your eyes and wrapping you in its arms.

The story isn’t just immersive in its world alone but in its plot as well, which is absolutely enthralling. Wintersong almost hummed with the vibrations of the story, whirling in a slow, yet enchanting waltz. I lost myself in the viscous melody of Liesl’s story. I always wanted to know what was going to happen next, what new secret Liesl was going to discover. I found myself looking for clues even in the ordinary moments and frantically turning the pages to find out more!

So now that I’ve gushed enough, I’m gonna move on to the elements of Wintersong that I disliked. I’m gonna start with a relatively tiny issue that I’ve heard about from other readers/reviewers that I didn’t experience too much myself. So, as I mentioned, music plays an integral role in Wnitersong. Unfortunately, in weaving music into the story, Jae-Jones used a lot of complex musical terminology. I generally was able to follow along because I’ve studied music all of my life, but I’ve heard from others who aren’t musicians that it was very confusing because they couldn’t understand the jargon. So that’s just something to be aware of.

Okay, so let’s get to what I think is a more pressing problem which is: Liesl. I couldn’t relate to Liesl at all. She was so gosh dang selfish. Everything–everything–she did was purely out of self interest. Not only that, but she was also so judgmental and envious and self-pitying and, honestly, whinyAll the freaking time! She can’t go a chapter without somehow mentioning how every other woman is so beautiful, but (in her opinion) their beauty makes them shallow and how she’s so plain, but has depth that beautiful women don’t, so people should pity her because no one will ever be interested in her because she’s plain and on and on and on and on…That narrative got tiring real fast and left me feeling like, “Girl, the reason no one likes you isn’t because you’re plain, it’s because you’re bitter af.”

Which brings me to to the downright problematic elements of Wintersong. Liesl’s bad attitude plays straight into the first problematic element of Wintersong, which was the demonization of beautiful women. I’m not about girl hate. And I don’t think anyone else should be about it either. I get that the author wanted to hammer in that Liesl is plain and insecure, but she could’ve easily done so without tearing down other women.

But the “girl hate” isn’t where the problematic content ended. Oh no. That was only the beginning, my friends. Liesl goes on to have a troubling romance with The Goblin King. My issue with the romance lies in that Liesl enters it almost entirely out of her deep desire to be desired. Not because she’s falling in love. Because she is desperate to feel wanted and she feels The Goblin King can satisfy that desire. Now, I’m not a psychologist or a relationship counselor or anything, but that to me seems like a really unhealthy reason to enter into a relationship. In America, we have a saying that goes something like, “you gotta love yourself before you can love someone else.” I wish Liesl could have learned that lesson.

And if you thought the issues would stop there, you’d be wrong. The romance becomes even more problematic due to the fact that Liesl wants to have sex because she wants to “find herself” and in this narrative, her wish comes true–only after Liesl and The Goblin King have sex does Liesl “find” herself and her music and begin to love herself. Ummm??? I’m sorry, but what kind of message do you think that sends young women??? Because it seems to say to me something like, “your value and worth comes only from having sex with a man,” as well as “you need a man to help you discover your value.”

To top it all off, the anti-feminism doesn’t limit itself to females, but also extends itself into the realm of perpetuating masculinity stereotypes. After Liesl and The Goblin King have sex for the first time, The Goblin King cries and the next morning Liesl’s all “I felt shame at having seen him during this embarrassing moment of vulnerability and emotional nakedness.” She gives off the vibe that it’s shameful and embarrassing for men to cry or be vulnerable.

So, I know I’ve listed a lot of things that I found problematic, but I really did love Wintersong. If you’re willing to look past the…less positive…elements of the book, I think you’ll find a darkly magical and intriguing read. Bottom line for me, personally, is that I really loved it and I’m desperate to get my hands on the sequel–especially after that dreadfully heartrending end! I’m so happy to hear that the sequel is a direct sequel and not a companion and I honestly can’t wait to get my greedy little hands on it!

Lila, reviews

The Kinda Good Retelling I’ve Been Hunting For | Hunted by Meagan Spooner Audiobook Review

24485589Title: Hunted

Author: Meagan Spooner

Narrator: Saskia Maarleveld, Will Damron

Publisher: HarperAudio

Running Time: 9 hours, 19 minutes

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

Goodreads Summary: Beauty knows the Beast’s forest in her bones—and in her blood. Though she grew up with the city’s highest aristocrats, far from her father’s old lodge, she knows that the forest holds secrets and that her father is the only hunter who’s ever come close to discovering them.

So when her father loses his fortune and moves Yeva and her sisters back to the outskirts of town, Yeva is secretly relieved. Out in the wilderness, there’s no pressure to make idle chatter with vapid baronessas…or to submit to marrying a wealthy gentleman. But Yeva’s father’s misfortune may have cost him his mind, and when he goes missing in the woods, Yeva sets her sights on one prey: the creature he’d been obsessively tracking just before his disappearance.

Deaf to her sisters’ protests, Yeva hunts this strange Beast back into his own territory—a cursed valley, a ruined castle, and a world of creatures that Yeva’s only heard about in fairy tales. A world that can bring her ruin or salvation. Who will survive: the Beauty, or the Beast?

Ah, love. The feeling you experience when you read a good book. A good book such as Meagan Spooner’s Hunted! (*wink wink, nudge nudge*) I certainly found many things to love in Hunted, the latest Beauty and the Beast  YA retelling on the market. And that’s saying a lot because, in all honesty, a) Beauty and the Beast isn’t my favorite fairytale and b) the market is kinda saturated with YA Beauty and the Beast retellings, in my opinion. Nevertheless, I really, really enjoyed Hunted and sped through it in 2.5 to 3 days!

First off, I loved the characters. They were each unique and distinguishable. Even the secondary characters, like Galina, Solomir, and Yeva’s sisters had depth! I loved that Spooner didn’t just name attributes to the characters, but actually showed those attributes in action. We saw Yeva’s bravery and skill as a huntress and Beast’s dual nature, and Asenka’s compassion and so on.

I’ve gotta talk about my fave, Yeva, the main character! I adored Yeva. She’s a skilled huntress who’s always felt a deep longing for more. It was Yeva’s desire to experience more that I really identified with, because that’s something that I’ve always felt. Yeva was strong and brave, but she was also kind and loving. I was really happy to see that Spooner didn’t fall into the trap of making Yeva the typical Strong Female Lead™–ya know, the one’s who’s sassy and good at everything and beautiful and brave and blah, blah, blah. Yeva was strong, yet also soft. And she was deeply flawed, as we learned in the end. She was human and that made her easy to connect with.

The relationships portrayed were also amazing! I particularly loved Yeva’s relationship with her sisters. The girls were incredibly close and never once did their loyalty to and love for each other waver, even when they could have easily fallen into jealousy and competition. It was so nice to see a positive and close portrayal of family!

And the romance! SwoonHunted is the prime example of a slow burn romance done right! I appreciated how it was only after coming to really know each other that Yeva and her love interest really begin to fall for each other. You can see their progression from enemies to wary acquaintances to friends to good friends to feeling something more for each other. The unfolding of the pair’s love was really beautiful and touching to witness.

Another element I enjoyed was the world. Spooner’s world building is clear, yet lyrical and gracefully executed, without getting info dump-y. Hunted is set in an ancient, mythical version of Russia, where fairytales mingle with real life. The magic was just enough, but not overpowering and in this way, Spooner made the magic seem all the more real as it intertwined with the plausible. The snowy, harsh landscape was also a nice setting for the story because it added an extra obstacle to the tale. Everything about the world was so easy to lose yourself in and it really added an extra dimension to the story.

Okay, so while I loved 95% of Hunted, there was that teensy-weensy 5% that I thought could’ve been done better. In particular: the story dragged slightly in the middle and I also felt the story could’ve been a tad more original.

Let’s address the first of my complaints: the middle. There is this section where the story kinda gets stuck in a rut, with Yeva hunting, returning to the castle, rinse, wash, repeat. It gets repetitive and that starts to slow the story a bit. I just wish we’d spent that time doing something more, perhaps exploring Beast’s past or learning more about th world. Spooner resolves the issue eventually, but just barely after I started fading.

Now onto my second issue. While Hunted was quite honestly compulsively readable, it didn’t stray much from the original tale. In fact, it’s almost an exact retelling. It differed in the world and setting, yes, but the plot stuck pretty darn close to the original Beauty and the Beast tale. I just feel like, in this new and magical world, and with the writing talent that Spooner clearly displays, there definitely was room to elaborate and embellish. It just seems to me like Spooner played it safe when it came to plot and I think that she’s talented enough that taking a risk would’ve really paid off.

So all in all, I really enjoyed Hunted. I’d recommend it to fans of Beauty and the Beast and Russian-inspired fantasy such as The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo or The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye. Definitely a great read!

 

reviews

Quick Comics! | Ms. Marvel Vol. 2 Generation Why + Silk Vol. 0 The Life And Times of Cindy Moon Mini Reviews

Hello, ducklings! Whew! I am quite out of practice when it comes to reviewing! But you know what they say–you can’t get back in the game unless you get back in the game!…Actually, no one says that–but they do now! I figured I’d ease back in with some quick comic bindup mini reviews! So today I’ll be reviewing Silk Vol. 0: The Life And Times of Cindy Moon by Robbie Thompson, Stacey Lee, Annapaolo Martello, Tana Ford, Ian Herring, Travis Lanham, and Dave Johnson and Ms. Marvel Vol.2: Generation Why by G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona, and Jacob Wyatt!

Ms. Marvel Vol. 2: Generation Why by G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona, and Jacob Wyatt

23017947Who is the Inventor, and what does he want with the all-new Ms. Marvel and all her friends? Maybe Wolverine can help! If Kamala can stop fan-girling out about meeting her favorite super hero, that is. Then, Kamala crosses paths with Inhumanity — by meeting the royal dog, Lockjaw! But why is Lockjaw really with Kamala? As Ms. Marvel discovers more about her past, the Inventor continues to threaten her future. Kamala bands together with some unlikely heroes to stop the maniacal villain before he does real damage, but has she taken on more than she can handle? And how much longer can Ms. Marvel’s life take over Kamala Khan’s? Kamala Khan continues to prove why she’s the best (and most adorable) new super hero there is!

Collecting Ms. Marvel(2014) #6-11. (goodreads.com)

Generation Why sees Kamala struggling to come into her own as a superhero. With the return of The Inventor and the help of some familiar new friends (many of whom even a Marvel newb such as myself could recognize), Kamala must realize that being a superhero is a full time job, not just a fun side hobby and that even superheroes need a little bit of help sometimes.

I was a little iffy with Ms. Marvel Vol. 1: No Normal, but Generation Why had me sold! Again, it had a youthful, fresh art style, but more than that, the story really had heart! There were so many important themes in Generation Why, yet the series wasn’t at all preachy. Instead, Kamala learns like every teen–heck! like every human being–does: through trial and error. It’s so lovely to see a hero who’s so young and full of passion, optimism, hope, and heart who’s just like you and me! In the end, Kamala always comes back stronger and wiser and all the more lovable for it!

So I’d say in conclusion that Generation Why was a definitely win for me!

Silk Vol. 0: The Life And Times of Cindy Moon by Robbie Thompson, Stacey Lee, Annapaolo Martello, Tana Ford, Ian Herring, Travis Lanham, and Dave Johnson

25066773Cindy Moon exploded out of her bunker and into the Marvel Universe when we first learned that she had been bitten by the same radioactive spider from the Spider-Verse arc of Amazing Spider-Man!
She then went on to save Peter Parker’s life (more than once!) and traverse the Spider-Verse alongside Spider-Woman. Now, as Silk, Cindy is on her own in New York City, searching for her past, defining her own future, and webbing up wrong-doers along the way! Robbie Thompson (writer from TV’s Supernatural) fills this new story with his unique blend of antics and feels. Featuring interiors by future superstar Stacey Lee.

Collecting: Silk 1-7 (goodreads.com)

Silk Vol. 0: The Life And Times of Cindy Moon gives readers a bit of backstory on Cindy Moon (a.k.a. “Silk”). We see that Cindy has just been released by Spider-Man (Peter Parker) from a bunker where she was trapped for 10 years after being bitten by a radioactive spider. Now Cindy is a newsroom intern who doubles as superhero “Silk.” While Cindy was held captive, her family disappeared without a trace and so now Cindy is on the hunt for them. To complicate matters, Black Cat has been running around town with her minions, causing all sorts of trouble!

The minute I began reading The Life And Times of Cindy Moon, I knew I was gonna love Silk! First of all, I loved Cindy! She’s the self deprecating kind of sassy and is determined but also knows when to be kind. I also love the element of mystery that The Life And Times of Cindy Moon had–it added an edge to the story, while also making it more personal. It also helped that the art had an accessible, youthful, modern feel to it!

All in all, I have to say I really enjoyed Silk Vol. 1: The Life And Times of Cindy Moon and I can’t wait to pick up the next volume!

That’s all for now! Have you read Generation Why or The Life And Times of Cindy Moon? If so, what did you think? If not, do you think you’d pick both or one of these bindups up?