Review: Raising Royalty by Carolyn Harris

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Published: 8 April 2017

Publisher: Dundurn

Category: History/Nonfiction/Biography

How royal parents raised their children over the past thousand years, from keeping the Vikings at bay to fending off paparazzi.

William and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, are setting trends for millions of parents around the world. The upbringing of their two children, Prince George and Princess Charlotte, is the focus of intense popular scrutiny. Royalty have always raised their children in the public eye and attracted praise or criticism according to parenting standards of their day.

Royal parents have always faced unique privileges and challenges. In medieval times, raising an heir often meant raising a rival, and monarchs sometimes faced their grown children on the battlefield. Kings and queens who lost their thrones through wars or popular revolutions found solace in time spent with their children. In modern times, royal duties and overseas tours have often separated young princes and princesses from their parents, a circumstance that is slowly changing with the current generation of British royalty.

Rating: 4 Stars

Raising Royalty offers a fascinating look into the parenting methods in an accessible way to those of us that will, in all likelihood, never have to experience the same events as the subjects of this work.

I picked up this work primarily because I was interested in reading about William and Catherine, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, because their parenting methods have been the source of much media speculation ever since the two of them got together. With such contrasting backgrounds, it was no wonder that there was speculation as to how they would merge their upbringings into one unit for their children, currently Prince George and Princess Charlotte. This book goes even further back and examines not only William and Catherine, as well as William’s parents, Prince Charles and Lady Diana, but centuries of royal couples whose various methods were the results, not of class, but of cultures clashing.

The first story, that of Edgar the Peaceable and Elfrida of Northampton, was the one that intrigued me the most. It was a bit confusing at first, my not being a practiced historian giving me a bit of trouble keeping track of several names that sounded similar and corresponding dates, but overall gave insight into the contributions these two rulers made that still affect the royal class today. They introduced a distinct and public royal family, rather than the somewhat hidden ones of the past, and established the expectation of royal mothers doing all that was necessary for their children, which in Elfrida’s case was potentially a bit sinister and gave her the mantle of wicked stepmother.

Once I began to take in more than the first story, things got a little confusing because there were some generations skipped (i.e. we went from grandfather to grandson or grandnephew, etc.). Something that might have been helpful would have been a miniature family tree at the beginning of each chapter, linking the current personages back to their royal parents and their siblings, as those were often mentioned, particularly in the early formation of the royalty when siblings fought each other and their fathers for the right to rule.

Carolyn Harris certainly put a lot of effort into this book. You could feel the amount of passion she had for the subject through all of the research she did, the sheer amount of reading and organizing she must have done to bring this work together. While I feel that there might have been some extraneous information concerning military battles, overall the inner working of how the families worked, from the marriages to the raising of the product of those marriages, was a fascinating look at what was expected of these parents and their children. Not only was it vastly different from what was expected of a commoner, but it also differed quite a bit from what’s expected of the current royal family as they progress in the modern world.

If you’ve ever wondered what kind of expectations the royal family has, from their earliest days to the current day, I’d encourage you to take a look at this book. It has a wealth of information that will be, I believe, invaluable as a historical text.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

All pictures, quotes, and videos belong to their respective owners. I use them here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

The Fantastic Flying Book Club Tour Review: Post-High School Reality Quest by Meg Eden, w/ Bonus Favorite Quotes!

Post-High School Reality Quest

byMeg Eden
Publisher: Rare Bird Books
Release Date: June 13, 2017
Genre: Young Adult

 

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Synopsis:
Buffy is playing a game. However, the game is her life, and there are no instructions or cheat codes on how to win.

After graduating high school, a voice called “ the text parser” emerges in Buffy’s head, narrating her life as a classic text adventure game. Buffy figures this is just a manifestation of her shy, awkward, nerdy nature—until the voice doesn’t go away, and instead begins to dominate her thoughts, telling her how to life her life. Though Buffy tries to beat the game, crash it, and even restart it, it becomes clear that this game is not something she can simply “ shut off” or beat without the text parser’s help.

While the text parser tries to give Buffy advice on how “ to win the game,” Buffy decides to pursue her own game-plan: start over, make new friends, and win her long-time crush Tristan’s heart. But even when Buffy gets the guy of her dreams, the game doesn’t stop. In fact, it gets worse than she could’ve ever imagined: her crumbling group of friends fall apart, her roommate turns against her, and Buffy finds herself trying to survive in a game built off her greatest nightmares.


One of the best things I’ve discovered on Twitter this year is Meg Eden (@ConfusedNarwhal) and her book Post-High School Reality Quest. Being a big fan of video games, I was intrigued when I saw the premise of this book: At her high school graduation, Buffy finds that her life has started being narrated/controlled by a text parser in the style of an old school text based video game. This leads to some weird experiences. She dies, comes back to life, makes extreme choices, and more over and over again while trying to figure out not only what this voice in her head is, but what is life now that she’s supposed to be growing up and going to college?

Meg Eden has a way with dark humor and that certainly shows throughout the book. Buffy is having a hard time of it because not only does she have all these experiences going on, she’s got the text parser bringing her back to life after major episodes, which sounds traumatic. While reading it’s such an adventure, trying to tell what’s real and what might not be real.

Mixed in with the days that are dated for us as being in Buffy’s college semester are episodes from the future in which she’s in a doctor’s office (her words, because the text parser says psychiatrist, which she thinks is judgmental). This method of storytelling, going back and forth, was a little confusing at first, but after a couple of chapters I got into it and was really just trying to figure the characters out. What did they mean to Buffy, were they part of this “text game”, just what was going on? Real life, it seemed, was intangible at times and at others all too real. That feeling made the reading so strange and so tragic at the same time with certain passages and, particularly, when trying to decide how I felt about the ending.

The formatting of the book was pretty cool too, as it wasn’t set up like a normal book with the words of the text parser relegated to italics or something. I haven’t played a text game or RPG in awhile, but this book brought back the feeling of one and that made me quite happy. It’s an intriguing setup and definitely an effective one in relaying Buffy’s story to the reader.

Favorite Quotes

One of the best things about this book, other than the neat format, is the fact that the author managed to write so many lines that I wanted to quote back to someone as I was reading. I even got out some sticky note tabs so that I could share my favorites in my review, so see below for which lines made my list.

I’m sorry. I don’t understand “I don’t like this story.” You think we get to choose our stories?

 

  1. In middle school, you nicknamed your backpack “inventory”. You thought it sounded clever.

 

You are now dead. Thank you for playing POST-HIGH SCHOOL REALITY QUEST! Would you like to load a saved game?

 

I will win something, eventually.

 

I’m sorry, I don’t understand “restart game.” You think it’s that easy, to get a fresh start?

 

“They’re not something you grow out of,” you say. “You think people grow out of books.”

 

“If it’s not about ‘undoing’ or ‘redoing’, then what’s the point of save slots? What was the point of any of this?

“…they give this false hope that you can go back and retry something. And sometimes, I did get to retry stuff..

…In the end, it’s just like normal life, that I can’t control anything.”

Meg Eden’s work has been published in various magazines, including Rattle, Drunken Boat, Poet Lore, and Gargoyle. She teaches at the University of Maryland. She has four poetry chap-books, and her novel “Post-High School Reality Quest” is forthcoming from California Cold-blood, an imprint of Rare Bird Lit. Check out her work at: www.megedenbooks.com.
  • 1 copy of POST-HIGH SCHOOL REALITY QUEST by Meg Eden
  • Book Swag (see picture)
  • U.S. Only
  • Ends June 20th
 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Fantastic Flying Book Club Tour Page

June 13

June 14

June 15

Deal Sharing Aunt– Q&A
The Hermit Librarian– Review & Favorite Quotes

June 16

A Lovelorn Virgo– Review

June 17

YA and Wine– Review
Ink of Blood– Review

 

 

 

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

All pictures, quotes, and videos belong to their respective owners. I use them here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

Why I Loathe Sterling Lane by Ingrid Paulson Blog Tour

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Last week I was able to bring you the Release Day Blitz post for Ingrid Paulson’s new book, Why I Loath Sterling Lane. This week marks the launch of the official blog tour and I’m happy to share with you the links to all the good things that go along with that. There are ordering links, a giveaway, and the links to reviews and other stops on the blog tour! Be sure to check them out and pick up a copy of this title yourself.

Tour Date

 June 12-30, 2017

Tour Schedule

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Goodreads

Google Play | BAM | Chapters | Indies | Amazon | B&N | Kobo | TBD | iBooks

Publication Date: June 6, 2017

Publisher: Entangled Teen 

Per her 537 rules, Harper Campbell keeps her life tidy—academically and socially. But the moment Sterling Lane transfers into her tiny boarding school, her twin brother gets swept up in Sterling’s pranks and schemes and nearly gets expelled. Harper knows it’s Sterling’s fault, and to protect her brother, she vows to take him down. As she exposes his endless school violations, he keeps striking back, framing her for his own infractions. Worst of all, he’s charmed the administration into thinking he’s harmless, and only Harper sees him for the troublemaker he absolutely is.

As she breaks rule after precious rule in her battle of wits against Sterling and tension between them hits a boiling point, she’s horrified to discover that perhaps the two of them aren’t so different. And maybe she doesn’t entirely hate him after all. Teaming up with Sterling to save her brother might be the only way to keep from breaking the most important rule—protecting Cole.

Giveaway Details:

Why I Loathe Sterling Lane Prize Pack, including:

A tote bag

A mug

Some stickers

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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About the Author

Ingrid Paulson does not, in fact, loathe anyone. Although the snarky sense of humor and verbal barbs in Why I Loathe Sterling Lane might suggest otherwise (and shock those who think they know her best).

Ingrid lives in San Francisco with her husband and children and enjoys long-distance running, eavesdropping, and watching science documentaries. She has always loved books and writing short stories, but was surprised one day to discover the story she was working on wasn’t so short any more. Valkyrie Rising, a paranormal girl power story was Ingrid’s first novel. Expect another humorous contemporary romance to join the list soon.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Pinterest

 

 

 

All pictures, quotes, and videos belong to their respective owners. I use them here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

Review: Gilded Cage by Vic James

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Published: 14 February 2017

Publisher: Del Ray Books

Category: Fantasy/Young Adult/Science Fiction

Not all are free. Not all are equal. Not all will be saved.

Our world belongs to the Equals — aristocrats with magical gifts — and all commoners must serve them for ten years. But behind the gates of England’s grandest estate lies a power that could break the world.

A girl thirsts for love and knowledge.

Abi is a servant to England’s most powerful family, but her spirit is free. So when she falls for one of the noble-born sons, Abi faces a terrible choice. Uncovering the family’s secrets might win her liberty, but will her heart pay the price?

A boy dreams of revolution.

Abi’s brother, Luke, is enslaved in a brutal factory town. Far from his family and cruelly oppressed, he makes friends whose ideals could cost him everything. Now Luke has discovered there may be a power even greater than magic: revolution.

And an aristocrat will remake the world with his dark gifts.

He is a shadow in the glittering world of the Equals, with mysterious powers no one else understands. But will he liberate—or destroy?

Rating: 4 Stars

Going into this novel, I wasn’t wholly certain what direction it would take. Would there be fantastic displays of Skill, the name for the magical talents of the Equals? Would it be a rescue mission action sort of book?

The story begins with the brief introduction of Leah, the mother of a child who is half Equal, half Common. While she is not made a primary character throughout the story, this child (Libby) is a thread touching almost everyone and will come to mean a great deal, I think. Her story can’t be over, given that nothing is really answered about what she can or cannot do once she’s grown with 100% certainty. Will she be an answer? A downfall? Who knows?

Abi, the girl said to thirst for  love and knowledge, has her situation made light of by the summary when it calls  her a servsnt. Make no mistake, for as “easy” an assignment as she is able to finagle for herself and some of her family, they are slaves. It might have been easy to forget this at times because Abi, her mother, father, and younger sister Daisy are not in the same circumstance as their son and brother, Luke, who is taken to a slave town. They are the ones in the titular gilded cage.

I like the political aspects of the novel. While there were multiple points of view, they were relatively easy to keep track of. Luckily none were told in first person, which helped a great deal. Everyone had a different motives, or several motives in some cases. Watching them unfold, thinking I was seeing them clearly, was fascinating. There were a couple of twists, one of which I guessed and one I did not see coming.

With regards to the one I guessed, and I won’t spoil it outright here, I will comment on the author’s characterization. She built this person in such a way that I didn’t realize at first that their eventual meaning to the overall plot was even a possibility. Once I got the thought in my head, though, I started to notice little clues and saw what a web was woven for this character to use to get around, enacting their ideas and plots.

As to the twist I did not guess, it came about so quickly at the end I had almost no time to decide whether I could believe it or not. The full meaning and impact may not yet be revealed, as this is only book one in series of indeterminate length, but I think there is potential yet, far reaching maybe, for the individual whom this twist concerns.

The author did an interesting thing with perspective. Prior to the end of Abi’s first chapter, I was prepared to like Silyen, the youngest son of the family to which she is enslaved, because a) he was the youngest brother and showed a kindness towards Leah (a somewhat minor though quite important character) and b) he wants to end the Slavedays.

Then, there’s a scene when his great-aunt Hypatia comes to the estate and brings her pet. I assumed it was a dog because of how it was described: scratching as though it had fleas, long nails scrapping the floor, etc. Plus, when he left the room, he stepped right over it and ignored it.

When Abi and her family see great-aunt Hypatia leaving a garden with her pet, though, it is revealed that her “pet” is a naked human slave. Silyen, for his talk of ending the Slavedays, only wants to do it to further the power of the Equals. He doesn’t see the Commons as anything but chattel and pets, as evidenced by his​ complete disregard for this man. I don’t know why he was kind to Leah, but it felt selfish and disingenuous afterwards.

I also had to go back and re-read the description of Hypatia’s pet and I realized, it never once mentioned it being a dog or any kind of animal. That’s terrifying, that our introduction to this person was colored by Silyen’s perception of him as less than human.

The last thing I want to mention is the “romance” that occurred between Abi and Jenner, the middle brother of the family to whom she is enslaved. I mentioned earlier that she and her family were the ones in a gilded cage, not at ll like the situation Like finds himself in. This let her forget, I think, her situation as she began to fall in love with Jenner and he with her. This relationship felt, in alternating turns, wrong and lacking.

The fact that the relationship was a possibility at all felt strange and awkward, considering Jenner was in a position of power over her. Abi was set up as a highly intelligent woman who ought to have known better and Jenner, from what little we know of his character and relationship to his family, should have known better. By the end of the book, with their kissing g and embracing, I was left confused as to how they had such a seemingly deep relationship.

Which leads me to the other part of this situation. Setting aside for a moment the wrongness of the relationship, and assuming it did have to happen, it was incredibly lacking because there was never any evidence of feeling developing between Abi and Jenner. There was, perhaps, a moment or two before they were separated following an incident, but no time so long as to indicate affection of the sort the conclusion of the book left the reader with.

Would I buy this book?

As the problems with it were so few, and hopefully may be left behind in subsequent books, I think this book had a good story and left off at an interesting point. I would buy this book and it’s sequel, because I am curious to find out what happens to these people.

 

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.



 

All pictures, quotes, and videos belong to their respective owners. I use them here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

Top 10 Tuesday: Best Father Figures in Manga & Anime

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Top 10 Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. You can find the prompts here.

This week’s Top 10 Tuesday is all about dad related themes because this coming Sunday is Father’s Day in the U.S. I’m on a big manga/anime kick at the moment so I thought I would use that as the inspiration for my take on this week’s topic. I’m going to share with you my picks for the Top 10 Best Father Figures in Manga & Anime.

Ryoji “Ranka” Fujioka, Ouran High School Host Club

In Ouran High School Host Club, the main character Haruhi Fujioka is raised by her father, Ranka, who is a cross-dresser. He loves his daughter more than anything, which we see in flashbacks when he tries to deny himself for her sake (which she convinces him to stop because she loves him no matter what he wears) and in the present time when he defends her from what he thinks is Tamaki making a move (a BIG misunderstanding…poor Tamaki). Since Haruhi’s mother died when she was very young, Ranka had to take on both roles and while he struggled at some points in the process, he did manage to raise a strong, independent daughter who is smart and determined.

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Maes Hughes, Fullmetal Alchemist

Maes is the epitome of the proud father. He will always talk about his darling little girl Elicia. Always ready to talk about her, he also carries around her picture, ready to show it off at a moment’s notice. His fate, and Elicia’s reaction to it, are particularly hard to take in the manga and the anime, but it doesn’t stop him from being one of my top favorite fathers in anime or manga.

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Mifune, Soul Eater

Mifune is the first character on this list that is a father figure rather than a biological, step, or adopted father to the child in question. Mifune acts as the bodyguard to Angela, a witch who is little more than a child in the series, but who many would seek to harm. He fights off a host of enemies, including some of the main characters, and even compromises his personal integrity by working with the villains at one point because they promise to protect Angela. He’d die for her and that kind of self sacrifice earns him a spot on my list.

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Sojiro Izumi, Lucky Star

Sojiro is a bit eccentric and, admittedly, a little perverted, but he is nothing if not a devoted father. He’s also an otaku and he shares this passion with his daughter (though maybe he did so a bit earlier in her life than was…wise?). He never thinks she’s weird because of the things she loves and encourages her to be herself. I think there are times when he feels like he might have missed out on giving her something because she doesn’t have a mother in the picture (her mother died while Konata was very young), but she reassures him, usually by joking or messing around, displaying that she truly is his daughter.

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Fujitaka Kinomoto, Cardcaptor Sakura

This devoted father, while busy, makes sure that his daughter Sakura and son Toya never lack for anything and never forget their mother, Nadeshiko. His character is a bit different between the manga and the anime, certain features and character traits, etc., but his love for his family is never in doubt. He’s a busy archaeology professor who has a basement full of books and is a papa that is always ready with a story about Sakura’s mother, including how they met (Nadeshiko, after returning a baby bird to its nest, fell out of the tree and onto his head). I wish his anime character was more in line with the manga (spoilers there, so I won’t go into details), but I think he’s one of the most realistic working fathers on this list.

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Gozaburo Seto, My Bride Is A Mermaid

Gozaburo is another papa that is a bit eccentric. Okay, he’s a lot eccentric, because he’s Sun Seto’s father first and foremost, but he’s also the head of the mermaid version of the yakuza. He wants to protect his daughter from everything, including the human he thinks tricked her into marriage (he didn’t). In order to do so, he leaves the ocean with a contingent of bodyguards and, with them and his wife, becomes teachers at the school his daughter and her “husband” have transferred to. Overprotective, yes, but he does love Sun and he did instill a brilliant sense of honor in her.

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Kirigaya Kazuto/Kirito, Sword Art Online

The second father figure on this list. Kirito is the “father” to Yui, a little girl who started out as a program in the game Sword Art Online that was meant to monitor the psychological health of the characters. However, once the creator started the Death Game and she was no longer able to do her job properly, things changed. Without going into too many plot points and details, Yui observed Kirito and Asuna as a couple and became a part of their family, becoming their “daughter” and as far as I can remember, never once did Kirito treat her as anything other than a real child.

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Kazuma Sohma/Shishou, Fruits Basket

Kazuma, or as his student/”son” Kyo calls him “Shishou”, is a member of the family in Fruits Basket that is cursed to turn into animals from the Chinese zodiac when hugged by a member of the opposite sex, though he himself is not cursed. He starts to train the other members of the family, partially as atonement for his treatment of his grandfather who was the previous cat. He becomes particularly fond of Kyo, the current cat, and does what he can to prevent Kyo from suffering a similar fate as his grandfather, something Shishou still feels guilty about. Kyo’s family, superstitious as most of the other Sohmas, disliked their son and were not very good parents, so Shishou is the closest thing that Kyo ever had to a father. He helped him gain a sense of self worth over the years, a sense of purpose, and when Kyo refuses to face the truth about himself and would rather give in to self pity, Shishou is one of the only ones to confront him and force him out of it. He might not be Kyo’s biological father, but he was that boy’s papa in every other sense of the word.

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Tatsuo Kusakabe, My Neighbor Totoro

Tatsuo is a dad that’s doing the best he can. His wife is in the hospital suffering from a long illness, which I don’t think we ever figure out. That doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things, though, simply that the mother, while still alive, isn’t able to be around and Tatsuo is caring for his daughters as best as he can. He takes charge of moving them from their previous home to a house in the country that is nearer the hospital where their mother is. Fixing it up, continuing his job, visiting his wife, it’s a lot of work, but he does this and is still a supportive father. His daughters tell him stories about soot sprites and forest spirits and he never tells them off for it. He joins in on their stories and plays with them, calling out to the spirits  as well. I admire Tatsuo because he has so much on his plate, but he never lets on to his children.

No-ah, One Fine Day

No-ah is a bit of an odd choice, I’ll grant you, because in One Fine Day at first I wasn’t sure if the three main characters were children dressed as animals or if they were animals that became humanoid (I think they’re the second these days). Whether he’s a papa to kids or to animals, No-ah is a magical daddy (seriously, he’s a wizard or something like that) that loves these creatures and takes them into his home, providing all that he can for his unconventional family.

 

Can you think of any father figures in anime or manga that I might have missed? Let me know in the comments below what you think of these choices, or which you might have selected instead.

 

 

 

All pictures, quotes, and videos belong to their respective owners. I use them here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

Review: Class by Lucinda Rosenfeld

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Amazon  –  Barnes & Noble  –  Goodreads

Published: 10 January 2017

Publisher: Little Brown and Company

Category: Fiction/Contemporary

A satirical novel about a mother whose life spirals out of control when she’s forced to rethink her bleeding heart liberal ideals

For idealistic forty-something Karen Kessler, it isn’t enough that she works full-time in the non-profit sector, aiding an organization that helps hungry children from disadvantaged homes. She’s also determined to live her personal life in accordance with her ideals. This means sending her daughter, Ruby, to an integrated public school in their Brooklyn neighborhood.

But when a troubled student from a nearby housing project begins bullying children in Ruby’s class, the distant social and economic issues Karen has always claimed to care about so passionately feel uncomfortably close to home. As the situation at school escalates, Karen can’t help but wonder whether her do-gooder husband takes himself and his causes more seriously than her work and Ruby’s wellbeing.

A daring, discussable satire about gentrification and liberal hypocrisy, and a candid take on rich and poor, white and black, CLASS is also a smartly written story that reveals how life as we live it–not as we like to imagine it–often unfolds in gray areas.

Rating: 3 Stars

I requested this novel back in November 2016, when the world felt like it was falling in on my head. The issues brought up by this novel neither started nor ended around this time period, but the awareness about such issues seems to have increased ever since certain people moved into certain historical homes in Washington D.C.

This novel, a satire of social politics, really seems to grasp the liberal view. Karen, the main character, is what I consider a typical PTA mom: one who is so wrapped up in her ideals that she’s become them. She is the picture of these ideals, living them to the letter every day without fail.

Karen is an over-exaggerated version of a liberal woman: sending her daughter to a poorly ranked school so that Ruby (her daughter) can integrate with children of various ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds; buys overpriced organic locally sourced food; worries about climate change. Not that these are things that one can do if they like, but take them done at a reasonable level and crank that up a notch.

Class has been widely recommended as a book club book and I certainly see why. In addition to characters that are certain to elicit quite a few emotions, the issues that are brought up will be sure to provoke discussion. There are the matters of Karen’s privilege, her views of diversity and what that means to her family, etc. I’d expect things to get heated, not only due to talking about Karen and her actions when Ruby, her daughter, starts to encounter trouble at school, when Karen herself finds her views at odds with the actual world around her, but because it might encourage people to consider their own views.

The writing was good. It was tough to read at times, but I put that down to it being a good characterization of insufferable people than bad writing.

I’d recommend picking this book up for a book club night, bring a good drink, and lots of popcorn. The comments are sure to fly.

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I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

All pictures, quotes, and videos belong to their respective owners. I use them here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

Review: But Then I Came Back by Estelle Laure

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Amazon  –  Barnes & Noble  –  Goodreads

Published: 4 April 2017

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers

Category: Young Adult/Contemporary/Romance

Gayle Forman meets Francesca Lia Block in this dazzling story about two coma girls and the boy who connects their lives. From the author of This Raging Light, a debut that New York Times bestselling author Morgan Matson calls “remarkable.”

“Something does exist. I saw. It’s a place. Like this but different.”
“Okay, so let’s say we do reach her, that something like that is even possible. Then what?”
“Then we ask her to come back.”

Eden: As far as coma patients go, Eden’s lucky. She woke up. But still, she can’t shake the feeling that she might have dragged something back from the near-afterlife.

Joe: Joe visits the hospital every day, hoping that Jaz, his lifelong friend, will wake up. More than anything, he wants to hear her voice again. But he’s not sure anyone can reach her.

Eden & Joe: Even though she knows it sounds crazy, Eden tells Joe that they might be able to talk to Jaz. Opening themselves up to the great unknown—and each other—Eden and Joe experience life: mysterious and scary, beautiful and bright.

Rating: 4 Stars

Having read Estelle Laure’s debut novel last year, I was anticipating her next foray into young adult fiction. When I saw that it (But Then I Came Back) available on NetGalley I was very happy, but I didn’t realize that it was a sequel of sorts. The summary mentions nothing about this book being connected to the author’s debut, This Raging Light, which I would recommend reading first. It isn’t necessary exactly, but I felt like I benefited from a brief refresher.

Eden, the main character in But Then I Came Back, was the best friend of the main character from Estelle Laure’s debut, This Raging Light. When I consulted my review for that novel, I realized that this book was actually going to be really good because I hadn’t been satisfied with the way Eden’s story had ended in the previous book. Now she is the main character and we get to see her story, different as it is because she is recovering from the coma she’s been in for a month.

The voice of the characters continues to be authentic in the work and with the difficulties that they faced, I’m glad for that because if it had been over-exaggerated, I think the book would have taken a downturn and been a stinker.

The atmosphere was a bit different than This Raging Light; the comparison in the summary to Francesca Lia Block, my introduction into magical realism, is accurate. There are moments where it feels a bit strange, going through Eden’s recovery with her and trying to reconcile coming back to this life and dealing with the feeling that something’s not quite right, not quite in the now. It reminded me of the books I used to love when I was Eden’s age, which I realize now probably had some narrative issues, but are still mellow, enjoyable reads.

Estelle Laure delivered a fluid, realistic book that had elements of the fantastic in it, the afterlife reaching inexorably toward Eden as she recovers from her coma and tries to find her footing in our world, a world she doesn’t feel familiar with anymore. What has she left behind and where is she going? These questions are wrapped around characters both familiar to Estelle Laure’s readers and new to them, providing updates and new obstacles and relationships for them to develop in their own book.

This sophomore novel was a very good read; not quick, but slow in an agreeable way. This author will be one to return to again after having shown her writing chops off with This Raging Light and finessing them with But Then I Came Back.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

All pictures, quotes, and videos belong to their respective owners. I use them here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

Romance Fails in Fiction Choice Tag (Webtoons) (Original)

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Let me explain the tag to clarify the confusing title. Basically, I saw a comment on the Webtoon A Budgie’s Life about…romance fails in Webtoons. They cracked me up, even the serious ones! I may not be a romantic, but I found it funny and decided to do this tag. And that’s how this tag came to be.
Who knows? I may make a more serious Webtoon list about this later.

The Rules:

  • Please PINGBACK to me atKate @ Melting Pots and Other Calamities. Or just Kate. And PINGBACK TO A SPECIFIC POST OF MINE. I won’t see the post otherwise, and I’d like to see it.
  • You can choose ten romance fails from ANY media you like: books, movies, anime, manga, T.V shows, or Webtoons. You can even mix them up if you want.
  • You can choose funny fails or serious ones; for the serious ones…

View original post 688 more words

Studio Ghibli TAG

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I knew there’d be a good reason to share my favorite Ghibli movies with Kate awhile back. She’s since created her own fantastic Ghibli tag centered around their body of animated films that deserve just as much attention as their contemporaries (i.e. Disney/Pixar). Thank you so much for tagging me, Kate! I’m happy to participate in this tag.

THE RULES:

  • Please pingback, rather than link to me as Heather @ The Hermit Librarian. I will only know if you’ve done this tag if you pingback.
  • Tag as many people as you want. Ghibli movies aren’t as popular as Disney or Pixar, so be careful that those you tag are at least somewhat familiar with Ghibli.
  • You can use examples from books, movies, TV shows, anime/manga, and webcomics.
  • As this tag celebrates heroines, please name either a piece of fiction or a female character, if you’re able.
  • Have fun!

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Nausicaa, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind: (Even though this isn’t technically Ghibli, it’s still marketed that way). Nausicaa is a princess in a post-disaster world. She is compassionate and brave, a daring explorer who is capable and selfless.  Name a strong female leader. 

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Note: I always consider Nausicaa a Ghibli movie, but if I remember correctly it came out shortly before the actual formation of the company.

Lada Dragwyla is a strong female leader in a number of ways. Not only does she have to survive in a world in which women are little more than property, but she has to contend with the fact that her father has abandoned her and her brother to a rival court as part of a political bargain. Ruthlessness is the only thing that will save her and she uses the courage she’s had all her life to not only survive, but to gain the power to conquer.

Based on the legend of Vlad Dracul, Lada can be vicious at times, but above all, strong.

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Sheeta, Castle in the SkyAlthough Sheeta may have a quieter demeanor than other Ghibli heroines, she is not a damsel in distress. She’s royalty, but doesn’t stay on the sidelines; she is involved, kind, and despite a sad past, hopeful. Name an inspiring member of royalty. 

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Alanna, whom I’m pretty sure is a princess or something of the like, is inspiring because she fights for her destiny to become a knight. As a girl in a medieval setting, she’s expected to learn magic in a convent, respectable work for a girl. However, she craves the adventure of being a knight and so, colluding with her twin brother, she switches places and seizes her future in her own hands.

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Satsuki and Mei, My Neighbor Totoro- Before Anna and Elsa, before Lilo and Nani, there was Satsuki and Mei. Satsuki  was incredibly young when their mother was hospitalized, and with their father at work, she has to take care of Mei. And Mei is only four, with a big imagination. Name a pair of siblings (or two friends who act like siblings).

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While the Weasleys are a large and loving family, the twins Fred and George are by far the closest. There were only two or three times in the entire series when they were apart, none of them happy but let’s focus on the good. They were the jokers of the family and actually made quite a good living off this talent later in life. Never ones to shy away from a challenge, they fought against the establishment at school and out of it once the Second Wizarding War began.

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Kiki, Kiki’s Delivery ServiceKiki has to go off on her own to live alone, as is the custom among witches. She goes through many things that newly independent young adults face, like money problems, finding a place to stay, job searching, and loneliness, before finding her way thanks to her special abilities. Name a female character who has supernatural gifts.

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Nell, the primary main character of this novel, starts out as a character who doesn’t think she has any power. She’s escaped from an abusive relationship by faking her death and crossing the country. However, through the personal interactions she has on the island, she comes to terms with the inner strength she has as well as the supernatural gifts and destiny that drew her to this new home in the first place.

 

Gina and Fio, Porco Rosso- Gina and Fio are both heroines in this film, and they couldn’t be less alike. Gina is a young woman who is very feminine, a singer and a restaurant owner. However, she is very resourceful and capable. Fio is a teenage mechanic who is independent, goes against the flow, and isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty. She may be one of the best mechanics  of her time. Name two inspiring heroines; one who is  unabashedly feminine, and another who is more of a tomboy. 

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Tina and Queenie Goldstein are both heroines from the film Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. While Tina gets more screen time because she is the American counterpart to British wizard New Scamander, Queenie is just as important because she is Tina’s sisterly support and saves her & Newt from a wizarding execution squad at MACUSA. Tina’s clothes tend to lean more towards trousers and jackets that have a tomboyish look to them, while Queenie wears more traditionally feminine dresses made from light, airy fabrics in fair colors.

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Angel, On Your Mark- On Your  Mark is a music video that Ghibli helped a music group with. It may not have much of a story, but it’s beautiful and interesting, and not may people are aware of its existence. Name an underrated heroine. 

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There are two characters in this book that I think fit this prompt: the main heroine Margie and her best friend, or secondary heroine, Reenie. The story opens in the 1920’s and Margie is making the best of her life, trying to be better than her parents, which is hard for a woman of her class in those days. She keeps an optimistic attitude for much of the novel and I admire that.

Reenie is in a similar circumstance/class to Margie, but she’s different in that she doesn’t care what others think, which comes in useful as she falls in love with Sal, the son of Italian immigrants, which her mother disapproves of. When she becomes pregnant out of wedlock, she makes the best of things and marries Sal, who luckily loves her and is a decent person. Reenie converts and is welcomed by her new family, though her mother disowns her because of the conversion.

Both of these women bear a lot because of their times and situations and neither get recognized as worthy heroines, unlike Betty Smith’s most well known heroine, Francie Nolan, from her book A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

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Shizuku, Whisper of the HeartShizuku is an eighth grade student who can’t quite focus on school as much as on her favorite books. However, through encounters with an ambitious boy who seems to have a likely chance at meeting his goals, a cat who rides trains, an antique shop owner, and a cat statue called The Baron, Shizuku is determined to meet her own goal and become a writer. Name your most relatable character. 

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Cath from Fangirl is very relatable to me. She’s a huge fangirl, obviously, and she finds quite a lot of comfort in her chosen fandom when life gets to be too much for her. I get that and I’ve got my fandoms, the ones that I turn to when I’m feeling overwhelmed or depressed. I felt like I understood Cath’s struggle with mental illness, hers as well as her father’s, as well.

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San, Princess Mononoke- San has been raised by wolves her whole life. When  humans begin to invade her home forest to make towns and use the resources for themselves while killing the spirits and animals within, San refuses to let it be. She takes a stand and becomes the village’s  greatest obstacle. She is such a force to be reckoned with that they even give her a name: The Princess Mononoke. Name a female character who is physically strong.

Michelle, Maggie, and Anita, aka the Paper Sisters from R.O.D. Read or Dream, are physically strong because the two eldest (bookworms is too light a term for them) lug enormous book hauls around all the time, strengthening their muscles, and all three of them are adept at fighting. While, yes, they use their paper powers for most of their fighting, they have to be able to run and jump and all kinds of physical activity. Anita, if I remember correctly, is even trained in kung fu.

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Chihiro, Spirited AwayAt the beginning of Spirited Away, Chihiro starts off as a whiny, spoiled ten year old girl. However, during her time working at the spirit’s Bath House, she discovers parts of herself she didn’t know she had. The story is about her finding the strength she already had but was unaware of. Name a character who has an amazing character journey.

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David, caught up in a terrible sadness over the loss of his mother and the formation of a new family, is sent to a new world that has some familiar elements in the form of fairy tales. However, while navigating them, David comes to realize that there’s more danger than he ever realized, because while there may be elements of the familiar, the journey proves that these fairy tales are twisted and are darker than he remembers.

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Haru, The Cat ReturnsHaru is a typical high school girl; kind, clumsy, and a little forgetful. But she soon finds herself involved in events that are out of her control. In a way, it is because of her normalcy that she can find her way out of her situation and become stronger because of it. Name a female character who may not have any supernatural abilities herself, but is memorable anyway.

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Tohru encounters the supernatural in her series, Fruits Basket, but has no supernatural abilities herself. This doesn’t stop her from being the heroine of the series, bringing a much needed breath of fresh air to the Sohma family and the first chance of hope they’ve had in a long time at breaking their curse. Her joy for life, her stubbornness against the hardness of life, makes her a sweet and memorable character in spite of the characters around her that change into animals when hugged by members of the opposite sex.

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Sophie, Howl’s Moving CastleSophie doesn’t think much of herself for a lot of the story. She doesn’t think she’s pretty or memorable, especially when compared to her younger sister, Lettie. It gets even worse when she’s cursed to look like an old woman. When she finds a new life that involves the mysterious wizard Howl, a fire demon, Howl’s apprentice, and many others, she is shown to be resilient and intuitive. Name an emotionally strong character.

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This might seem like an odd choice, but my pick is Samantha from Every Last Word. She has Purely-Obsessional OCD and while it makes her life a struggle, I think she’s stronger emotionally that quite a lot of heroines because despite the struggle, combined with the toxicity of a high school clique she’s in, she continues to live. That is a huge to me.

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Ponyo, Ponyo- Ponyo is  one of the youngest Ghibli heroines at only five years old. But she still  gets a lot done, including becoming human, discovering things, finding a best friend, and saving the world. Name a hero who happens to be a child.

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Farah has to go on a journey into the steampunk board game, not unlike Jumanji, to safe her younger brother with her wits and her two friends to assist her along the way. It’s a lot to ask of children, but their adventure was a lot of fun to read and I think the audience for this book will only get bigger the longer it’s out.

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Arrietty, The Secret World of Arrietty- Arrietty is a Borrower; she is tiny and survives by stealing small things that humans  won’t miss. Yet she’s curious about the human world, and does braver things than most humans would be incapable of doing, despite her tiny size. Name an unlikely hero.

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Despereaux, a mouse who loves music, book, and the princess. He’s the latest of his mother’s children and often forgotten or pushed around. What he becomes in spite of this is nothing sort of admirable.

I mean, c’mon, his sword is a needle. ❤

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Nahoko, The Wind Rises- Nahoko has tuberculosis during World War 2. However, she doesn’t allow this to cripple her, and enjoys life to the fullest anyway, which includes painting and falling in love. Even being placed in a sanitarium doesn’t break her. Name an inspiring  character with some sort of obstacle. 

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Andrew may not at first seem on the same level as Nahoko, but I think that by the end of his story, he deserves to be. Andrew’s obstacle is internal: it’s his own guilt, really, over the fact that he survived a tragic accident that killed his father, mother, and sister. An accident that there is more to learn about before the end of the book.

His guilt has him retreating into himself, hiding out in the hospital where his family was brought, working in the cafeteria and sleeping in a forgotten supply closet. The antagonist of the book, Death, haunts him at every turn as the hospital’s counselor (I believe that’s her job, but it’s something like that if not exactly).

He slowly starts to think of a future, of a life outside, when Rusty, a boy supposedly attacked and burned for being gay, is brought into the hospital. Becoming friends and something more starts to turn the darkness into hope, bringing out a side of Andrew long thought gone.

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Kaguya, The Tale of the Princess Kaguya- in a time where women were expected to follow social norms such as blackening teeth, shaving eyebrows, and being forced into arranged marriages, Kaguya refuses to play along. She would much rather be outside, dance, and play with friends. Name a female character who challenges social norms.

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Mariko, the main character of Renee Ahdieh’s Flame in the Mist, is expected to conform to her Japanese family’s traditional values, which for her means marrying someone that will further their standing in society, regardless of whether she loves him or not. While she was willing to do this, when her convoy to her future husband’s home is attacked, rather than conform and seek out the help of a man or return to her family, Mariko summons her courage and the mind she has cultivated to discover the truth behind the attack.

Her taking up a male identity in order to do so is evidence of her bucking the norm in the course of the book, but there’s also evidence of her doing so before the main story even starts. As a girl, her education would have been centered around certain topics, but she made sure to find ways to educate herself in the same topics her twin brother was privy to. She wanted more, even if she thought that her future lay along a somewhat more traditional path. Hopefully, in book two, we’ll see her future come to pass in all its beautiful glory.

I Tag:

Anyone who’d like to do this that loves Ghibli as much as I do! 😀

 

 

 

All pictures, quotes, and videos belong to their respective owners. I use them here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

Definitions of Indefinable Things by Whitney Taylor

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Amazon  –  Barnes & Noble  –  Goodreads

Published: 4 April 2017

Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers

Category: Young Adult/Contemporary/Romance/Health (Mental Health)

This heartbreaking, humorous novel is about three teens whose lives intersect in ways they never expected.

Reggie Mason is all too familiar with “the Three Stages of Depression.” She believes she’s unlocked the secret to keeping herself safe: Nobody can hurt you if you never let them in.

Reggie encounters an unexpected challenge to her misanthropy: a Twizzler-chomping, indie film-making narcissist named Snake. Snake’s presence, while reassuring, is not exactly stable—especially since his ex-girlfriend is seven months pregnant. As Reggie falls for Snake, she must decide whether it’s time to rewrite the rules that have defined her.

Rating: 3 Stars

I only have my own experience with mental illness to go on and so cannot speak to how other people will interpret this novel’s handling of that subject matter, but for my part Definitions of Indefinable Things was an interesting read that had some pitfalls, but overall managed to succeed in being a book that I would a) recommend and b) likely pick up again in the future.

I started out liking Reggie and Snake, our two main characters. Sure they weren’t the nicest of people for one reason or another, but I felt like I understood their characters. However, despite this initial interest, I felt myself getting annoyed by what seemed to be a lack of progress during some parts of the novel. Lags in pacing, if you will, and that annoyed me because it seemed like they were “doing well”, in a manner of speaking. They’ve both got a lot of challenges, not least of which is their mental illness and Snake’s impending fatherhood, which might explain why it took a lot of time to get anywhere.

The writing overall, with the brief exceptions I mentioned above that cropped up, was actually quite good. This is my first Whitney Taylor novel, her debut I believe, and I would’t be adverse to picking up another of her books in the future. She has a knack for being funny at the right moments 9 times out of 10 while also being able to write the hard stuff, i.e. Reggie’s depression. As the book only gives us one perspective, that was the important facet for me to see done well.

Having seen what Whitney Taylor can do with this subject, I’m curious to see what kind of book she’ll write next. Will we see more on a similar subject and writing the continues to get better, or perhaps a risk that showcases another part of her talent? Time will tell, but in the meantime, I would offer up Definitions of Indefinable Things as evidence of a good book by a talented author.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

All pictures, quotes, and videos belong to their respective owners. I use them here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.