Tuesday, December 31, 2019

2019 Reading Goals Review & Yearly Stats

As the year comes to a close, I like to check-in on my reading goals, look at some stats about the books I read, and reflect on my reading throughout the year.

Reading Challenges Review
This year my first challenge was to read 50 books, and I surpassed that by reading 97 books.

My second challenge was to tackle a long series, which I designated as Throne of Glass. I got halfway through that series and decided it wasn't for me. I also wanted to read five completed series from start to finish, and I did fulfill that. The full series I read were these:
1. The Shades of Magic Trilogy by V. E. Schwab
2. The Mistborn Trilogy by Brandon Sanderson
3. The Steelheart Trilogy by Brandon Sanderson
4. The Broken Earth Trilogy by N. K. Jemisin
5. The Lightbringer Series by Brent Weeks

My third challenge was to complete my self-made Read-My-Own-Books Challenge to help me reduce my TBR, and I finished that as well. Here are the challenge prompts and the books I read to fulfill them:
1. Read a book that has been on my TBR the longest.
    I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak
2. Read my most recently acquired book.
    Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson
3. Read an advanced copy (ARC) of a book.
    Wilder Girls by Rory Power
4. Read a book that has a screen adaption.
    And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
5. Read a popular backlist book.
    Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
6. Read a book by an author I've never read before.
    The Black Prism by Brent Weeks
7. Read a book by an author that I love.
    Legion: The Many Lives of Stephen Leeds by Brandon Sanderson
8. Finish or catch up on all series I've started but haven't finished yet.
    Starsight (Skyward, Book 2) by Brandon Sanderson
    The Testaments by Margaret Atwood
9. Start and finish a new series.
    The Shades of Magic trilogy by V. E. Schwab: A Darker Shade of MagicA Gathering of 
    ShadowsA Conjuring of Light
10. Let my husband pick out a book for me to read.
      The Iron Trial by Holly Black & Cassandra Clare

I also had a list of standalone books I wanted to read, and I had the goal to catch up on all of Brandon Sanderson's books. I won't list them all out here, but I read almost everything on that list, plus I read 16 of Sanderson's short stories or novellas and 8 of his books, leaving me with just the Stormlight Archive, the Wheel of Time, Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians, and The Rithmatist to have read all of his works. I knew I wouldn't get to TSA or WoT this year, but I did expect to have time for his others.

To see a list of all the books I read in 2019, check out my Goodreads page. 

Yearly Statistics
Number of books I read in 2019: 97
Number of those books that I listened to on audio: 36
Number of books I read from my TBR: 46
Number of books I read that were published this year: 27
Number of series I started: 12
Number of series I completed: 7
Number of books I DNFed: 3
Number of books I reread: 7
Number of books I acquired in 2019: 162
Number of books I unhauled in 2019: 69
Number of books on my TBR at the beginning of 2019: 297
Number of books on my TBR at the end of 2019: 350

Books I read that were . . .
Middle Grade: 12.4%
Young Adult: 25.7%
Adult: 61.9%
Graphic Novels: 11%
2019 Releases: 28%
On My TBR: 47%

Star Ratings:
1 star: 2 books
2 stars: 14 books
3 stars: 18 books
4 stars: 38 books
5 stars: 25 books

Reading Survey
Favorite book of the year: The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
Least favorite book of the year: The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh
Most surprising book of the year: Elantris by Brandon Sanderson
Most disappointing book of the year: Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson
Longest book of the year: The Burning White by Brent Weeks (992 pages)
Shortest book of the year: Dreamer by Brandon Sanderson (21 pages)
Book that was on my TBR the longest: I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak (8 years)
Biggest accomplishment: The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon
Most read genre: Fantasy (74%)

Reading Reflections
I discovered lots of new authors I want to follow (Brent Weeks, Taylor Jenkins Reid (didn't discover her this year but solidified her as one of my favorite authors), N. K. Jemisin, Victoria Schwab, Katie O'Neill, etc.), I read a lot of great fantasy and solidified that as my favorite genre and really honed in my reading tastes, I read a lot of books from my TBR and also got rid of a lot of TBR books that I'm no longer interested in reading. I managed to read almost all of my unread books by Brandon Sanderson, my favorite author, so hopefully next year I will be able to make more progress on that goal. Even though I read 46 books from my TBR and removed 69 books, I acquired 160 books this year, so my TBR is even bigger now at 348 books. That's the hazard of working at both a bookstore and a library, I suppose, but I wouldn't have it any other way.

It has been a great year of reading and discovering new authors and immersing myself even more in fantasy novels. I can't wait to see what reading adventures next year holds for me.

Monday, December 30, 2019

My Top 5 Books of 2019

It's hard to make a list of top five books of the year because what criteria do I base that on? Top five books I enjoyed? Top five books I thought were the most well-written? Top five books that had my eyes glued to the page? Those would all be different lists for me. I've decided to make this list the top five books I loved that are going to stick with me.

1. The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
This book quickly became my favorite book of the year when I was only halfway finished with it. It's a love story to stories, a book about books. When Zachary was a little boy, he finds a painted door on the wall behind his mother's shop, but he decides not to go through it, and the next day it is gone. Later when he's in college, he finds a book older than he is that contains a story about himself as a child discovering this door. Not sure how this can be possible, he follows the clues of the book and finds himself in an underground library. This book is whimsical and magical, and the writing is absolutely stunning. There are many other stories in this book, and they all weave together in beautiful and intricate ways. I've never read anything like this before and cannot express how much I love it. Full review here.

2. Starsight by Brandon Sanderson
As this is a sequel, I can't say much about it, but I'll tell you about the first book, Skyward. Spensa's only dream is to be a spaceship pilot like her father, but her father abandoned his crew and was branded a coward before he died, and this caused Spensa to not be able to get into pilot school. Determined more than anything to follow her dreams, she sets out to do it anyway, and with the help of a mysterious ancient artifact she finds in a cave, she just may be able to accomplish her dreams. This second book was even better than the first, and I was truly surprised at how much I loved it. It takes off in a direction I did not see coming at all, but it was incredible nonetheless. This story has a lot of action and intense moments that had me flying through it. It's also the first science fiction story I've truly loved. Full review here.

3. The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys
I read this book for a book club and didn't expect to love it, nonetheless have it become one of my favorite books of the year, but it was truly that amazing. This is a historical fiction set in the 1950s in Spain when they were under the Franco's dictatorship. Daniel is an American tourist who visits Spain and meets Ana who works at his hotel. They quickly form a bond but it's dangerous for them to be together because of the politics everything going on. Sepetys paints a vivid and realistic picture of Spain and crafts a story that is rich in culture, contains lots of secrets, and builds intimate relationships with each of the characters. It's the kind of book that reminded me why I fell in love with historical fiction in the first place. It's beautifully written and so much fun to read. Full review here.

4. The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin
In my search to read more fantasy series this year, I picked up this book and was not disappointed at all. I can say with certainty that this is one of the most unique books I've ever read. Although I read and loved the whole series, the first is definitely the best in my opinion. It's a darker science-based fantasy set in a post-apocalyptic setting where the world "ends" every few hundred years during what is called a Fifth Season. Jemisin writes a fresh take on earth magic in this series because the characters practice orogeny, where they can literally manipulate the tectonic plates in the earth to control the ground. It's very cool. We follow three narratives at three different points in time. It's a very character-based story as well, and uses second-person narration very well. Definitely worth checking out. Full review here.

5. The Lightbringer Series by Brent Weeks—It's hard to pick a favorite book as the first four books are tied at five stars, but I'd have to say that the ending of The Broken Eye was the most stand-out moment of the series for me, however I think I liked The Blinding Knife the best overall.
This epic fantasy series is about color magic: drafters are able to create physical substances from different colors of light, but the caveat is that the magic slowly kills you the more you use it. This series follows Gavin, the Prism of the Seven Satrapies, the only person able to draft all colors of light without it hurting him and also the person responsible for keeping all the colors balanced, as he finds out he has a bastard son. We also follow that boy, Kip, as he first learns about drafting and what that means. This series has some of the best character growth across multiple books that I've ever seen. It's funny, crude, action-packed, adventurous, and full of so many unexpected turns in every book. If you love long fantasy books, intricate worlds, exciting magic, and unforgettable characters, you should definitely at least pick up the first book, The Black Prism. Full review for the first book here.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Review: CHILDREN OF THE NAMELESS by Brandon Sanderson

Rating: 2/5 stars

I’ve never played Magic: the Gathering but I wanted to read this story anyway in my quest to read all of Sanderson’s stories. You don’t need to know anything about Magic beforehand as I understood everything just fine, but I’m sure the story would mean more to you if you had that background knowledge.

The prologue hooked me so good. That was one of the most interesting prologues I’ve read in awhile; it completely had me wanting to know what happened next.

However, the story got a bit slower after that. I like Tacenda and Davriel—I especially love Davriel’s personality and humor—but I felt like the plot was going nowhere. Maybe it’s the time I read the novella, over the holidays when I was really busy and constantly tired, or maybe it was the story itself, but I just kept waiting for the story to pick up and something to happen.

Basically there’s been a village massacre and Davriel and Tacenda spend the entire story trying to figure out what happened, and of course there’s a classic Sanderson ending with a big twist that we didn’t see coming. It was a fine story, but I guess I was just hoping for something a bit more engaging and fast-paced. I wish the whole story could have been as good as the prologue was.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Review: STARSIGHT by Brandon Sanderson

Rating: 5/5 stars

Starsight was even better than Skyward, which I did not expect. It went in directions I did not see coming and introduced us to all new characters and also let us revisit our beloved favorite characters from Skyward. *This entire review will be full of spoilers* because early in the book things happen that I cannot discuss without spoiling.

Okay. First of all, I was so shocked when all of a sudden Spensa is hyperjumping off to Starsight. She’s debating whether or not to go and Jorgen tells her to do it, so on a whim she leaves Detritus. I was so taken aback at that turn of events. I don’t know what I thought the plot of this book was going to be, but that sure wasn’t it. Starsight is really cool though. I love the idea of a centralized space station where all the different alien races can come and congregate.

I loved getting to know all the new characters and discovering the differences between the alien races. I think Sanderson did a great job of making them all different enough from each other with different genders, facial expressions, hand gestures, skin colors, etc. It was super cool, also, to see the Superiority cater to the needs of all the alien species with 17 different bathrooms, notes on the food about what is toxic to which species, and other details sprinkled throughout the narrative that make me feel like I could actually be on a space station. So so cool. I don’t read a lot of space-based science fiction so this is pretty much my introduction to novels about aliens, and I loved it way more than I expected to.

Morriumur was so precious and I loved their character arc throughout the story. I really enjoyed reading about the Dione race in general and all their mannerisms.
Cuna turned out to be way better than I expected them to be. I didn’t think they’d be on the good team but I’m pleasantly pleased they turned out to be not bad.
The kitsen race with the furry animal aliens was super cool and I loved how they all piloted one giant ship together. It’s sad that Hesho died in the end but I hope we get to see more of their race in future books with Kauri taking control or something.
And Vapor. I really like the idea of an invisible scent as an alien species. They’re called figments, and at one point it was mentioned that a lot of M-Bot’s technology was figment technology, so is there some connection there? I would really love to know where M-Bot came from and learn more about his origins. I’m also very curious why it was repeatedly mentioned that the delvers hate AI like M-Bot.

I was so sad at the end when M-Bot’s ship was destroyed and he had to save his AI coding on the drone. I hope Spensa can rebuild him into a ship or something! I loved seeing his arc throughout this story too. In Skyward he was constantly on about mushrooms, and in Starsight he was fixated on whether or not he was alive. And even though he’s a robot, he definitely is alive at this point. Able to change his coding, able to self-replicate, able to lie, and able to express feelings! M-Bot is hands-down my favorite character.

I’m so pleased the mushrooms actually were relevant to the story in Starsight and weren’t just some comic relief (although that was so good in the first book). Everything about Doomslug and the fungi—that totally blew my mind. Doomslug is a type of space slug called a taynix, and she’s a hyperdrive. The slugs are often found near fungi. That is why M-Bot is so interested in mushrooms, because he was programmed to look for more hyperdrive slugs. Truly amazing story going on there, and I did not see it coming at all.

I loved at the end Jorgen finding a room full of the slugs, all fluting together. That would be so amazing to see! As soon as that chapter started, I expected that’s what he would find, and I was right. So cool.

The book ended with Spensa on Starsight, Doomslug in one arm and the M-Bot drone in the other arm, jumping through the black portal into an unknown location in outer space to escape Winzik’s Superiority forces chasing her. That’s a HUGE cliffhanger, and this is exactly the reason why I don’t normally read a series until all the books are released; I don’t want to wait two years to find out what’s going to happen! We don’t know the fate of Spensa, where she went, where Cuna is or what they are doing, how much control Winzik has, or why M-Bot could suddenly start thinking and talking normally once Spensa opened the cytonic portal when M-Bot functions on a non-cytonic processor. Could M-Bot maybe actually be evil? So many questions!

This book blew me away with its revelations and with how much I enjoyed it. I love this series and I can’t wait to see where it goes next.

“A hero does not choose her trials. She steps into the darkness. Then she faces what comes next.”

The following are purely my notes about the world that I’ve collected so I can reread them and remember details before the next book comes out because I always forget the details, especially when I have to wait for the next installment.

About the Krell:
—The Krell were a group of aliens tasked with keeping the people confined on the planet Detritus.
—Krell is an acronym in some Superiority language for a phrase about keeping humans contained, not their actual race’s name.
—The Krell report to a larger galactic government called the Superiority.
—The Krell employed remote drones to fight the humans, piloted by aliens far away, controlling the drones via FTL communication.

About Spensa:
—Spensa is a cytonic: she can see into the space where FTL communication takes place. She calls this place the Nowhere.
—When she enters the Nowhere, that is when she uses cytonic hyperdrive to teleport.
—When she uses her ability too much, something looks out of the Nowhere to see her. Thousands of white lights: the eyes. The eyes hate her. The eyes are eyes of delvers.
—She can hear the stars. What this really means is she can hear the sound of FTL communications being sent through the Nowhere.
—Her cytonic ability is genetic. Her ancestors used it to move ancient starfleets around the galaxy.

About Detritus:
—The planet is surrounded by defensive shells of debris. It is made up of living quarters, shipyards, and weapons.
—The people have reclaimed the shells closest to the planet but the outer ones are autonomous and can harm both people and Krell that get too close.
—It is possible there is an unknown portal to the Nowhere somewhere underground on Detritus.
—Somewhere in the underground caverns is a huge slug population.
—There are also carvings and drawings of symbols on the walls of underground caves, but we do not know yet what these mean. These same symbols were seen on Starsight.

Review: THE STARLESS SEA by Erin Morgenstern

Rating: 5/5 stars

“A boy at the beginning of a story has no way of knowing that the story has begun. . . . [Zachary] wonders how, exactly, he is supposed to continue a story he didn’t know he was in.”

Zachary Ezra Rawlins is everything and I love him so much. One day when he was a little boy, he discovered a painted door on the wall behind his mother’s shop, but he didn’t open it. The next day it was gone. Zachary spent many years thinking about this experience until one day he finds a book in his college’s library that has a collection of stories, and one of these stories is about him as a little boy finding a door. Intrigued by this mysterious book that’s older than he is but contains a story about him, Zachary follows clues to find out where this book came from and who wrote it.

The Starless Sea is a love letter to stories and books and all kinds of magical writings. It is a story for story devourers, a book for book lovers. It has so many stories within stories and interweaving threads between those stories, and I cannot express how much I loved every second of it. I knew at less than halfway through this book that it was going to be my favorite book of the year.

One of the best parts about this book is that it takes place in a subterranean library—
Side Note: Erin Morgenstern said in an interview that she doesn’t “want to use the L word for the space that’s in this book” because “it doesn’t really have librarians. So it’s not really a library, because a room with a lot of books in it without librarians is just a room with a lot of books in it.” And I disagree! I think a library IS a room with a lot of books in it. I have a home library: a room with a lot of books in it. One could say that I myself am the librarian of my own personal library, and maybe that’s true, but I still consider it my personal library, not my personal room with books in it. I even just looked up the dictionary definition of library and I more or less got that it’s a “room containing collections of books” etc. but nowhere in any of the definitions I looked up does it say a library has to have a librarian. So I will continue to tell you this book takes place in an underground library. Plus, I also love the L word and I will use it whenever I can.

I don’t even know how to properly review this book because there was just so much going on, so many interconnecting stories and overlapping narratives that I started to lose track of it all. At the beginning, I was really following the story and trying to figure out the clues, but by the end I was just kind of letting the story wash over me and not trying to figure anything out. This is definitely a book I will need to reread to understand everything properly, and I kind of do want to turn around and read it again immediately, but I’m going to save it for next year. I will have forgotten enough by then that some parts will seem new, but I’ll remember enough to put the pieces together from the beginning without waiting for the whole picture to be revealed.

This book is very quotable. I can’t tell you how many sentences I wrote down because I didn’t want to forget them. The prose is truly stunning. Just like The Night Circus, The Starless Sea is also so beautifully written. This is a book I want to read again and again, and it’s the kind of book that will get better and better each time.

I loved both Zachary’s story and the many other stories within this book. I was very pleased that we got to actually read the many stories within the different books mentioned in The Starless Sea, so this was truly a book of many stories. I didn’t expect to love it this much but it was beautiful. The prose was ethereal and magical and breathtaking. I loved the motifs we see throughout the story of the obvious bee, key, and sword, and also of the heart, feather, and crown. I also loved the commentary on and references to video games interspersed throughout the novel. I just loved everything, okay?

“Reading a novel, he supposes, is like playing a game where all the choices have been made for you ahead of time by someone who is much better at this particular game.”

As soon as I finished this book, I immediately read The Night Circus because I needed more of Erin Morgenstern’s beautiful writing. While I loved that book also, I loved The Starless Sea even more. I’m running out of adjectives to use but this book was truly breathtakingly beautiful and atmospheric and perfect for me. If you like stories about stories, folklore, mythology, mysterious doors, key collectors, men with owl heads, masquerade balls, ice sculptures that speak, bees the size of dogs, lakes of honey, and rooms of books, you need to read this book. I know her flowing writing style isn’t going to work for everyone, but everything about it worked for me. This book has become one of my new favorite books ever.

Review: INFINITY BLADE: REDEMPTION by Brandon Sanderson

Rating: 3/5 stars

So this story takes place after the second Infinity Blade game, and it starts at a place that doesn’t make sense if you haven’t played the games, which I haven’t. At the end of the first novella, Infinity Blade: Awakening, Siris is about to go on a journey. At the beginning of Infinity Blade: Redemption, Siris is imprisoned with the God King. How did he get there? There is no prologue to explain that, no information to get you caught up if you didn’t play the games, and that was a problem here. I had no idea what was going on in this story, whereas the first book was actually rather interesting and I was looking forward to seeing where it was going.

Despite being a little confused how we got to the events the beginning, and despite still not knowing what some things are in this world, I actually ended up really enjoying this story. It was actually a more engaging story than the first installment and it left me wanting to know more about this world.

We’re back to following the story of Siris and Raidriar, but we also have another story that takes place in our day of a man named Uriel. At first the stories don’t seem related at all, but in the end we find out how they are connected, and it’s a very Sanderson-style ending.

The story ends at a place that really is the beginning of another story, and I’m left wanting to know what happens next. I just may have to look up spoilers online because the games don’t exist anymore (as far as I know) and there are no more novellas in this world.

I ended up enjoying both Infinity Blade novellas way more than I expected to, especially knowing nothing about the game beforehand. I think if you played the games or you’re a Sanderson fan, you should definitely give these stories a read, although I think a wider audience would enjoy them as well, like if you like classic fantasy stories or want a fun, adventurous action novella.

Review: INFINITY BLADE: AWAKENING by Brandon Sanderson

Rating: 3/5 stars

I’ve never played the Infinity Blade games and I don’t know anything about them, but I’ve been on a mission to read everything that Brandon Sanderson writes, which is why I picked this up.

I actually had a hard time finding access to these books. The ebooks were not available for purchase on iBooks or Kindle or for loan from my library. I eventually found one library on the other side of the state that had a copy of the audiobooks that I hurriedly requested because it was the only way I’d be able to read these novellas as far as I could tell. (I know this book used to be available in iBooks though because it used to be a bestseller when it was released 11 years ago, so I wonder what happened to cause them to no longer be available. Maybe when the game became unavailable to download, so did the books?)

So to the book. I felt like I had no idea what was going on, but also I kind of enjoyed the story?

Basically, Siris sets out to defeat the God King, and afterward he takes possession of the God King’s sword, which is the Infinity Blade, and then he goes on a journey looking for someone called the Worker of Secrets. This story had a classical medieval fantasy feel to it, and I haven’t read something like that in a while. It definitely had a Sanderson feel to it as well, which I appreciated.

I don’t feel like it’s necessary to play the games before reading these novellas, even though Infinity Blade: Awakening takes place between games 1 and 2, and Infinity Blade: Redemption takes place between games 2 and 3. I’m sure the stories would mean more to you if you did play the games first, although I obviously wouldn’t know. I don’t feel like my enjoyment was hindered in any way though by not having played the games.

Overall, I didn’t think I would enjoy this story but I did. It was fun and adventurous and humorous, and I’ll for sure be reading the next one.

Review: THE TESTAMENTS by Margaret Atwood

Rating: 4/5 stars

I really enjoyed The Handmaid’s Tale, so I was very interested to read the sequel. I don’t particularly think the book needed a sequel, but with the release of the show and the way it progressed the story beyond the book, I think a continuation novel was inevitable.

While I did like this book, I didn’t feel like it aligned in tone with the previous book or with the show (which this book clearly takes influence from). I feel like the Gilead in The Handmaid’s Tale and in the Hulu adaption was a lot more brutal and strict. Everyone is too nice in this book. Maybe it’s because we get inside perspectives in this book of an Aunt and of a daughter in a prestigious household instead of that of a handmaid that it just feels different, I don’t know, but the tone is completely different between the stories.

We follow three perspectives: Aunt Lydia; Offred’s first daughter, raised in Gilead; and Offred’s second daughter, Nicole, smuggled from Gilead and raised in free Canada. The story mostly follows Nicole in Canada, and Gilead’s efforts to try to return her to Gilead and the Resistance’s efforts to take down Gilead. First of all, the whole basis of The Testaments seems faulty to me. Nicole is not the first baby or person to leave Gilead, but there is a HUGE media presence in Canada about returning Baby Nicole to Gilead and that Canada stole her, etc. I legitimately do not understand why this is the case and why they don’t just let it go. They didn’t try to get anyone else back, so why Baby Nicole?

Anyway, I want to talk about Aunt Lydia now. Her characterization did not at all match the Aunt Lydia we knew from the first book and the show. I really can’t see her having the thoughts that she did in her parts of this book. I guess everyone had a normal life before Gilead, but to think that she was a judge and that she had an abortion then turns around and so hypocritically tells the handmaids it’s a sin, I just can’t imagine her ever being like that. And in the TV show, Aunt Lydia repeatedly told a girl who was raped that it was her fault. Now we have The Testaments, where Aunt Lydia told a girl who was presumably raped that the man would be punished in time. This is the complete opposite reaction.

I just don’t get how Aunt Lydia could be as ruthless as she was if she truly was against the regime in Gilead. She made a comment early in this book that she was going to get back at them, whatever it would take, yet she seemed to enjoy her role of power as an Aunt, inflicting pain on others and terrifying those whom she spoke to. I wish her characterization would have been more consistent.

Also, I completely don’t understand how or why she was deified in this book. They erected a freaking statue of her? Are you kidding me? In Gilead, that seems highly unlikely. Why not a statue of God since they claim to be so pious? Or of the founder of Gilead at least. But Aunt Lydia? I’m not buying that at all.

Fun fact though: the actress who plays Aunt Lydia on the TV show is the voice actor for Aunt Lydia in the audiobook and I loved that so much. As soon as chapter one started I knew it was her.

It’s interesting to learn how Aunts are chosen and raised. They’re allowed to read. If only they didn’t force young girls to marry old, sterile men and raise them the way they do, then maybe they would actually want to marry and have children, which I should remind everyone is the whole reason Gilead was set up—to grow the population.

There are so many hypocritical things in this society. In the first book, I was angry because of the injustices in Gilead, but I thought the book was a great critical look into society and what could become. Now with this book, I’m angry because of the hypocrisy and the inconsistencies between the books’ details. Before, it felt like a cult. Now it just feels unrealistic. I can’t clearly explain my thoughts but ultimately I don’t think this book was necessary. There is an allure to the ending of The Handmaid’s Tale, the ambiguous cliffhanger of what will happen next. That book was so real and controversial, whereas this book feels like a forced follow-up (because it is) with holes and consistency errors that do not align with the original story.

I like the way the TV series has expanded on the story, but TV has the right to take creative liberties. But the author coming back thirty-five years later with a sequel, that feels cheap. What I don’t like is that it feels like you need to watch the show to understand this book. Because that’s how I knew who the characters were. Baby Nicole was named in the show, but not in the first book; in the first book, Offred didn’t have a second baby. I haven’t seen all of the show’s episodes yet though, so I don’t know how they fully compare.

On its own, The Testaments is nearly a five-star book, but when I compare it to The Handmaid’s Tale in terms of quality and also as a follow-up to the story, where characters already existed with predetermined personalities, this is a four-star book. Maybe even three because of how many issues I had, but I love Atwood’s writing style so much that I’m giving it four stars.

The main question I had while reading The Handmaid’s Tale and while watching the show didn’t even get answered though! I wanted to know why Gilead is so intent on killing people who don’t follow their laws when the whole purpose of setting up Gilead and its laws in the first place was to force procreation to keep the population growing. It can’t grow if you kill off everyone. Margaret Atwood said that the idea for The Testaments came from all the questions she got from readers over the decades about her original story, and this sequel is supposed to be answers to those questions. I think the most important question though is why the government kills so many people when they’re trying to expand the population, and I really think that should have been addressed. I guess it’s just because their society has become so manic and power-hungry at this point that they’ve lost focus on the original reason of creating Gilead and are more focused on being in control.

I liked this book, don’t get me wrong. I liked all three perspectives, although Daisy’s was my favorite. But I can’t help but compare this book to the original story of The Handmaid’s Tale, which is where I find faults. It didn’t feel like a genuine sequel because the characterization of Aunt Lydia and the society of Gilead were not how they were portrayed to be in the first book. There were a lot of inconsistencies, which was my biggest issue. Atwood still has given us a well-written book though—I do enjoy her prose—and that’s what really worked for me in this book. Of course with a dystopian society like Gilead, we always want to know more, we want to know what happens after the end. But sometimes it’s better not to know, and sometimes the story is stronger with a vague ending. This story is one of those times.

There’s something about the open-endedness of The Handmaid’s Tale that leaves the reader questioning what happened to Offred and Gilead that has a certain mystifying quality. But to know what happened later, and what happened behind the scenes, it takes away some of that ethereal quality. The Testaments is still an excellent book, and while I’m grateful for it as I’m the kind of reader who wants a wrapped-up ending with all my questions answered, I don’t think it was quite necessary. Something about the allure of The Handmaid’s Tale is that it was written thirty-five years ago but is still relevant today in its egregiousness, whereas The Testaments was written in today’s age and there’s just a different feel to it.

I think if you’re highly interested in The Handmaid’s Tale and are dying to know more about the continuation of Gilead or you’re a huge Atwood fan, pick this up. But if you were satisfied with the ending of The Handmaid’s Tale and are on the fence about whether or not to read the sequel, I think it’s a safe pass. Enjoy the mystique that the first book left you and move on.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Review: I HATE DRAGONS by Brandon Sanderson

Rating: 3/5 stars

This story was actually amazing, and I think this concept needs to be turned into a full-length novel for all the word lovers out there like me.

Skip’s knack, or special ability, is that he smells good to dragons. But he’s tired of being dragon bait for all the hunters. What he really wants to be is a lexicographer because his other knacks are the ability to hear spelling and the ability to hear punctuation when people talk. He wants to compile all the words in the world into a book so everyone knows how to spell them right. A dictionary! He wants to make a dictionary!

I love the idea of a fantasy world like this that has magic in it but also has a protagonist who’s focused on words and grammar. I love words myself and the making of dictionaries is a really fascinating concept to me. I need to see this story played out in a longer novel because I know it would be perfection.

I enjoyed this short little story, although of course I wish it were longer. It’s hard for me to rate short stories very high because of the lack of world building, characterization, plot, etc. present in the story, but what we were given with this one was good; although, I’m not a fan that the dragons talk here, but that’s a minor detail. I do hope someday Sanderson or someone else takes the idea behind this story and expands on it to create a rich fantasy world where the main character is creating that world’s first dictionary. I can’t tell you how much I love that idea. Plus, we need more of this story anyway because I need to know what happens after that cliffhanger!

“Did you know that fourteen thousand people died last year because of a misspelling? It was in a peace treaty. The scribe wrote the word ‘peace’ as ‘piece.’ ‘We will continue to dwell in freedom, and you will continue in piece.’ It started a war. They thought he meant ‘continue in pieces.’ Fourteen thousand died before they found the problem.”