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Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Misrule

It took me a bit, but I finally finished Misrule, book 2 in the Malice duology by Heather Walter. I started it right after finishing Malice, got through only the prologue, then kind of just stopped when it said that 100 years had passed. But I made a point of getting back to it once I was in more of a reading frame of mind (I've really struggled to read so far this year) - I wanted to know how Alyce's story ended!


100 years after the fall of Briar, Alyce (now named Nimara, after the first Vila) has built the Dark Court over the ruins of Briar. All the creatures of Malterre are welcome here, and they have been waging war against the Fae, gradually taking more and more of the Fae courts. But unknown to most of the other denizens of the Dark Court, Princess Aurora slumbers in a hidden wing of the palace. Nimara has spent much of the last century scouring every old book she can find for some hint on how to break this second curse. But when a mortal man washes up on their shore and unexpectedly wakes the sleeping princess, everything Nimara thought she knew is thrown into question.

While the story is in many ways similar between the two books, I overall found Misrule to be a very different book from Malice. There were so many different characters of different races, that I really struggled to keep everyone straight, particularly those of the Dark Court (a list of characters really would have helped!) Nimara was also thrown in so many different directions thanks to the people around her (plus her own wants), that in many ways it felt like she hadn't grown at all in the last 100 years, at least right until the end of the book when she started to take charge of her life. Which I admit was a really weird feel for a character who had overseen the Dark Court for a century.

Some of the events that happened also kind of didn't make sense. Like why, of all the remaining Graces, would Nimara choose to use Rose of all people? Rose should have been the very last person she would have used given their history. 

But I will admit, the end did surprise me! I thought the plot was moving towards a certain outcome, but it ended up doing some stuff that I didn't expect at all, which was rather fun! In particular, the climax with the Faerie King didn't play out at all how I was expecting.

All in all, I did enjoy the Malice duology. I hope Walter will write more books set in this world - I would love to read about other characters and eras (like the first Vila, or how the rest of the world reacts to the events of Misrule).

Thursday, June 9, 2022

The Self-Care Cookbook: Easy Healing Plant-Based Recipes


 I don't normally read cookbooks, at least from cover to cover (well, I admit, I didn't actually read all the details of the recipes in this one, either).  But I made an exception for Gemma Ogston's The Self-Care Cookbook: Easy Healing Plant-Based Recipes because the book is only maybe half recipes.  The rest is all helpful hints and tips to help you feel better.  The book is kind of like a hug written from Ogston to you, helping you prioritize your own needs.  

The Self-Care Cookbook is organized into different sections, depending on what you need.  They cover the whole gamut of self-care topics, from restoring, reflecting, and rebalancing, all the way to TLC for when you just need help getting through the day.  The recipes are put into this same structure, with recipes that are good for say restoring your energy all in one place.  While I liked this organization in terms of the topics, I found it makes the cookbook a lot harder to flip through for recipe purposes, especially if you're just trying to find say an appetizer or a salad, because they're scattered throughout the book. I'm honestly not sure if I'm going to try the recipes, as I don't really remember what is where now.  It does have an index, but I didn't find that particularly helpful either because it covers all the topics of the book, and there really aren't a ton of recipes here.  Perhaps a separate recipe index would have been more helpful?

While I found that to be a shame, the rest of the book is honestly a delight.  Ogston has wonderful tips to help you, no matter how you're feeling.  Her writing style is also very engaging and welcoming, contributing to that feeling of this book being a hug to anyone who needs it.

The Self-Care Cookbook is a cute and helpful read for anyone who is looking for some self-care tips.  But if you're more interested in new recipes, you might want to look elsewhere.

Sunday, June 5, 2022

Magical Boy: Volume 1


 A friend of mine recommended Magical Boy to me the other day.  It's adorable!  It's about a trans man who finds out he is descended from a goddess and is the next incarnation of Magical Girl. Many, many years ago, the goddess sacrificed herself to banish an evil god behind a magical seal.  The god sends his servants through little cracks (leaks) in the seal in an attempt to get free, and it's up to Magical Girl to stop them and seal the leaks. But Max, who had no idea about this, gets thrust into the role right as he is struggling to come out as a trans man!  

I loved Max's friends, especially how with many of them, appearances were often deceiving.  I also loved how supportive his father was right from the get-go.

Overall, I thought this was a really fun story that dealt really well with some difficult topics (like how hard it can be for LGBTQ+ people to come out, and how hard it can be for those closest to you to accept you as you are), as well as showing how wonderful and accepting people can be.  I really enjoyed reading it, and I am looking forward to volume 2!

Monday, May 9, 2022

Malice


 I stumbled on Malice by Healther Walter the other day on my first trip wandering around Chapters since the pandemic started.  It's a Sleeping Beauty retelling told from the villain's perspective.  It sounded fantastic, and though I was a bit leery that it was book 1 of the Malice series, I decided to give it a try.  

Malice follows Alyce, a half-human half-Vila child who has always known she wasn't wanted.  In her world, the Vila were eradicated by an alliance of Fae and humans, reviled as evil creatures.  Submitted to horrible tortures when she was young, the Fae ambassador deemed her safe, and so she was sent to live in a Grace house, mixing elixirs for paying customers using drops of her blood.  While there are many Graces, half-human and half-Fae children whose blood shines gold with Fae magic until it is exhausted, Alyce is the only Dark Grace, able to craft elixirs for jealous nobles wanting to damage their rivals.  Despite being unique, no one lets her forget that Alyce is tainted by Vila blood - a monster, and different, someone to be reviled.

But then she meets the Princess Aurora.  Aurora is the last heir of the Briar Throne, cursed to die by Vila magic unless she finds True Love's Kiss.  And she is the only one to voluntarily seek out Alice's company, despite everyone else in the kingdom being opposed.

Overall, I really enjoyed Malice.  The world it is set in was really interesting, particularly how the Graces functioned within it, but also the history of Briar (it was a Queendom because an ancient Queen was able to succeed at a Fae challenge where many men had failed, but over the years the Queens had given away most of their power to their husbands so they were now largely only figure-heads).  I also liked a lot of the characters, although several of them really disappointed me as the narrative unfolded (I was particularly sad that Alyce embraced the villain role in the end a little too willingly - while I understand why it happened, it was really jarring because she was a good character all the way along to that point).  It started to lose me a little at the end unfortunately thanks to this.

But overall,  as I said, it was a great read.  I finished it off in three days, staying up way too late in the process.  I was really happy to get this into a book too because I've had a fairly dry reading spell as of late.  Thankfully, I'll be able to continue with the story soon: Misrule, the second book, is released tomorrow!  I've preordered it on my Kindle so I'll be able to finish the story soon!  And even more fortunately, they are only a duology, so I'll be getting the end of the tale with Misrule. :)

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Own Your Morning: Reset Your A.M. Routine To Unlock Your Potential


My mom sent me a link with information from Liz Baker Plosser's Own Your Morning: Reset Your A.M. Routine To Unlock Your Potential as a joke.  I've never liked getting up and have never, ever been a morning person.  But after reading through the article, I decided to pick the actual book up on my tablet (yay Google Play Books!) and give it a read.  I ended up choosing my tablet because a lot of the reviews said the book was structured like a magazine, so I thought it would be better to read there than on my Kindle.

Own Your Morning talks about ways to make your morning better for you.  The book is very aware that everyone's morning will be different because we all have different lives and personalities, which I really liked.  One of the early chapters was all about finding your (current) values, and trying to honour at least a few of them in your morning, which will set a better tone for you during the rest of the day.  From there, it examines various aspects you might want to include, such as exercise and meditation, and talks about some of the benefits of each of these.

Unfortunately, as the reviews that suggested Own Your Morning would be better on a tablet kind of suggested, the book is a little light on details.  While this makes it a very fun and easy read (which was great - I've been having trouble lately sitting down and reading stuff, so having a quick read was perfect for me right now), it does not go into depth on any of these topics.  So if you're looking for a fun overview of things, it's good. But if you were hoping for more depth, you might not be happy with Own Your Morning.

The other feature of the book that I really liked was the interviews with different women who talked about their morning routines.  While this really drove home the idea that everyone's morning is different, the interviews also gave some fun different ideas for what your morning can look like.  

All in all, I really enjoyed reading Own Your Morning.  I'm going to have to look at tweaking my own mornings, especially on work days.  Maybe incorporating some of the tips I learned here will really help me own my mornings, too.

Sunday, April 3, 2022

The Deep


 I've been wanting to read The Deep for awhile now, but finally sat down to read it a few nights ago.  It tells the story of a mermaid (Yetu) who, as the historian, holds all the memories of her people, of their trauma and how they came to be. While she is gifted, she is also extremely sensitive, and the memories are literally killing her. So when the time comes, as it does every year, to let her people remember, she decides to run and save herself, rather than take the memories back at the end of the ritual (and so die).  While she slowly regains herself and her sense of self away from the memories, she becomes increasingly aware that the memories are killing the rest of her people, and so needs to decide whether to live or to save them all.

I really enjoyed The Deep.  I loved the worldbuilding around where the merpeople came from (they are descended from pregnant African slaves who were thrown overboard - the idea is that in the womb, babies are not breathing air, so what if they were born of the sea and never needed to breathe air? A very interesting narrative that has roots in songs - this article talks a bit about it, as well as the idea that people would like a memorial along the Atlantic trade routes, which is definitely deserved considering how many people died along them)  And the idea of holding all the trauma from generations of your people (and it wasn't just the trauma, it was their actual memories) was really interesting - as historian, Yetu wasn't really living, she was living the lives and trauma of all the people who came before her.  

Definitely check it out if you have the chance (and are okay with reading fantasy)!

Sunday, February 20, 2022

Starless


Starless is a short fantasy novella by Evan S. Sullivan telling the story of Calan Castillon. It goes back and forth between his youth and ten years later when he is part of an invasion to another land.  The other land, Cavadere, invaded their lands during his youth and Calan's father was killed during the war to repel the invaders.  Now the kingdoms who were invaded have created their own great fleet and strike out to conquer the enemy who invaded them.  Calan was sent to honour his family's alliance with another kingdom, and Calan is incredibly resentful that his family abandoned him like that.

I had a really hard time connecting with Calan.  Some of the things that happened, particularly in his youth, seemed really weird to me (I'm not positive how old he was, but he was able to wander around his city freely without an escort around the age of 8 or 9, and he's the nephew of the king).  He didn't seem to understand how alliances work even though the book said he had political training once he was a bit older.  And he was kind of just generally sullen, unlikable, and not particularly useful in the events of the story (his commanding officer disliked him and I actually found myself agreeing with the commander because through the early parts of the story, Calan was mainly standing around and doing nothing - though I will concede that this part of the story took place on a boat, and Calan says he has had no experience on one before).

Starless is a fairly short read (about 110 pages).  I mention this because it felt like the story actually started around page 70 or so.  Most of the things that happened before that were backstory that wasn't particularly needed; with the story coming from Calan's perspective alone, we could have taken his word on what he was feeling towards everyone else, particularly in his family, without the events needing to be shown.  Even the events that fueled his nightmares weren't particularly needed for the narrative itself.

I did find the ending of the book to be interesting though.  I admit that I clued in on what was most likely going to happen around page 70, but was still curious to see how it all unfolded and why.  Calan reminded me of Arthas from Warcraft III in many regards with what happened in Starless, though their stories are by no means the same.  

I was also intrigued by many of the other characters surrounding Calan.  His cousins seemed particularly interesting (the princess heir to the throne who can apparently best two grown men/knights with a sword, and her younger brother who just wants to be a musician, not a prince) and it was a shame that this story didn't show more of them.  I also wish the differences between the kingdoms had been explored in more detail (why do the women of the South get to use swords when the women of the North don't?), although I do understand there wasn't space for such things within Calan's narrative.  I am hopeful that more of these characters and cultural differences will be explored in Deathless, Sullivan's new novel that I believe is set in the same world as Starless.

I'd also like to mention that the list of characters really came in handy when I started reading Starless, particularly in terms of the Castillon family (the king, his son, and his brother all have names starting with "R," so it took a bit to figure out who was who).  I do wish there had been a map though to show the different kingdoms, particularly while trying to follow the events of the war. I firmly believe that fantasy books should all have maps to help the reader follow along.