Review: Wintersong by S. Jae Jones

Why I Chose this Book:

If any of you truly know me, you know my undying love for poetry—particularly Victorian poetry. So when I heard about this book being a retelling of Goblin Market by Christina Rossetti, I was already all over it. I have always struggled with retellings, because most of the time they feel contrived or one-dimensional, but I was so ready to love this book! I really was.

Synopsis:   

Beware the goblin men and the wares they sell.

All her life, nineteen-year-old Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, mysterious Goblin King. He is the Lord of Mischief, the Ruler Underground, and the muse around which her music is composed. Yet, as Liesl helps shoulder the burden of running her family’s inn, her dreams of composition and childish fancies about the Goblin King must be set aside in favor of more practical concerns.

But when her sister Käthe is taken by the goblins, Liesl journeys to their realm to rescue her sister and return her to the world above. The Goblin King agrees to let Käthe go—for a price. The life of a maiden must be given to the land, in accordance with the old laws. A life for a life, he says. Without sacrifice, nothing good can grow. Without death, there can be no rebirth. In exchange for her sister’s freedom, Liesl offers her hand in marriage to the Goblin King. He accepts.

Down in the Underground, Liesl discovers that the Goblin King still inspires her—musically, physically, emotionally. Yet even as her talent blossoms, Liesl’s life is slowly fading away, the price she paid for becoming the Goblin King’s bride. As the two of them grow closer, they must learn just what it is they are each willing to sacrifice: her life, her music, or the end of the world. (Goodreads)

My Bookish Thoughts:

Because my thoughts tend to be a jumbled mess, I will start at the beginning, and tell you that it had the longest exposition I’ve ever read in a YA book. Nothing happened, she established the character within the first chapter and did not need to continue on for the 20%, and finally the goblin king was creepy and super problematic, but sure, by all means, fall in love.

Also, the book was super heavy in sexual metaphor—again, I completely understand why, because Goblin Market was as well; however, without knowing that poem, the reader wouldn’t have understood why there was so much phallic imagery or over sexualization of characters and actions. All of this made the narrative seemed bogged down and too layered, so much so that it affected the clarity of the story.

Jones had a lyrical aspect to her writing that at times I enjoyed, but more often than not, I felt as if it detracted from the clarity of the already muddled and confusing plot. Keep in mind, I’m a slow reader, but even still my comprehension and retention is extremely high, so I don’t think this was a problem for me.

Now let’s go back to the Goblin King… like I said before, he is an extremely problematic character. He is simultaneously the love interest and partially the villain. I’m all for the byronic heroes and antiheroes, but the Goblin King fell into a more sinister category than classical heroes. He was downright a villain—she was wasting away in his home, she was mistreated in various ways, etc. I’m honestly confused as to why he would even be considered the love interest at this point. 

All of this might have been overlooked (well, maybe not the problematic issue that is the GOblin King, but I digress) if the character arcs were detailed, well thought out, and cohesive. But they weren’t. Her character arcs were confusing, as were their reactions to situations. They were hot and cold and made very little sense. One minute a character was angry and hurt, and the next they were experiencing euphoric joy. As a reader, I did not understand how the characters got from point A to point B. 

Final Thoughts:

I could go on and on about this book and how much I really disliked it, but then this would turn into a rant. So in my humble opinion, I would refrain from buying this book. If you want to check it out, go for it, but go into it with your eyes wide open

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Review: The Geek Feminist Revolution by Kameron Hurley

Why I Chose This Book:

All right, I’m about to do something I rarely do here on the blog… I’m going to review a nonfiction book. Yeah, you heard me, a nonfiction book. I read a lot of nonfiction for class and for fun. They mostly revolve around political books like Raven Rock by Garrett Graff or books that concern social politics like Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay or theory books, but this one is a tad different, but oh so worth reading if you like nonfiction essays.

Synopsis:

A powerful collection of essays on feminism, geek culture, and a writer’s journey, from one of the most important new voices in genre.

The Geek Feminist Revolution is a collection of essays by double Hugo Award-winning essayist and science fiction and fantasy novelist Kameron Hurley. The book collects dozens of Hurley’s essays on feminism, geek culture, and her experiences and insights as a genre writer, including “We Have Always Fought,” which won the 2014 Hugo for Best Related Work. The Geek Feminist Revolution will also feature several entirely new essays written specifically for this volume.

Unapologetically outspoken, Hurley has contributed essays to The Atlantic, Locus, Tor.com, and elsewhere on the rise of women in genre, her passion for SF/F, and the diversification of publishing. (Goodreads)

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Review: Bright Smoke, Cold Fire by Rosamund Hodge

Why I chose this book:
I love Rosamund Hodge. I generally love everything about her. Cruel Beauty was wonderful and Crimson Bound was something that shredded my heart in my chest and had me begging for more, so I expected nothing less from Bright Smoke, Cold Fire.

Synopsis:
When the mysterious fog of the Ruining crept over the world, the living died and the dead rose. Only the walled city of Viyara was left untouched.

The heirs of the city’s most powerful—and warring—families, Mahyanai Romeo and Juliet Catresou share a love deeper than duty, honor, even life itself. But the magic laid on Juliet at birth compels her to punish the enemies of her clan—and Romeo has just killed her cousin Tybalt. Which means he must die.

Paris Catresou has always wanted to serve his family by guarding Juliet. But when his ward tries to escape her fate, magic goes terribly wrong—killing her and leaving Paris bound to Romeo. If he wants to discover the truth of what happened, Paris must delve deep into the city, ally with his worst enemy . . . and perhaps turn against his own clan.

Mahyanai Runajo just wants to protect her city—but she’s the only one who believes it’s in peril. In her desperate hunt for information, she accidentally pulls Juliet from the mouth of death—and finds herself bound to the bitter, angry girl. Runajo quickly discovers Juliet might be the one person who can help her recover the secret to saving Viyara. Both pairs will find friendship where they least expect it.

Both will find that Viyara holds more secrets and dangers than anyone ever expected. And outside the walls, death is waiting. . . (Goodreads)

My Bookish Thoughts:
I am currently taking a Teaching Shakespeare class in graduate school, and I immediately thought what a great book to read while working in this class. I had just finished Romeo & Juliet, and was ready to pick out all the Shakespearean lines and have fun with Hodge’s work.

I was so ready, guys! SO READY!

But then, nothing. I couldn’t do it. I made it through 43% of the book, hoping, wishing, and praying desperately that I would be able to make it through this book. I love Hodge. I loved her other two books and devoured them as if I were starving. But this book was grinding away at me.

I’m used to her being overly descriptive and her overly complex world building. Honestly, I was ready for that, but what I wasn’t prepared for was how much I just didn’t give a shit. None of her characters were all that attractive to me. They weren’t MCs that I could get behind and identify with and it just too the tale of Romeo & Juliet and stretched it as far as it would go without meeting the goal of originality.

Unfortunately, this one is a DNF for me. I hope you all have a tone more luck than I did.

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