Meagan Reads YA Fantasy: The Exiled Queen by Cinda Williams Chima

This is the sequel to The Demon King from the Seven Realms series. Possible spoilers ahead, so if you plan on reading these books, proceed with caution.

from Goodreads

In the continuation of this series, Raisa makes it to Oden’s Ford with her childhood friend and complicated love interest Amon Byrne, after having fled the Fells to avoid an arranged marriage to the wizard Micah Bayar, which would have set off a civil war among the clans and the Vale people. Meanwhile, Han Alister and his childhood best friend Dancer make it to Oden’s Ford after fleeing Marisa Pines after the death of Han’s mom and sister.

Though the two stories diverged at the end of the first book and remained as separate lines throughout most of this one, they eventually meet up again. This time though, Raisa, unable to be with Amon, falls for Han after agreeing to tutor him in the ways of the nobility. In their separate lives, Raisa continues to play the part of a noble lady named Rebecca Morley, while Han juggles various extracurricular training sessions in wizardry from the dean of the magic school and a mysterious tutor who only meets with him in a different dimension.

Needless to say, there is a whole mess of complex stories and characters going on in this book. And yet, the reader never loses track of who’s who and what events have occurred or how they relate. It’s actually really impressive how deftly Chima maps out the people, places, and events in a way that’s rich and layered, and yet never confusing. These books feel like Game of Thrones, but written by Tamora Pierce.

I think what helped the most with this though, is that Chima used the first chapter in the book to essentially act as the recap, like TV shows that use “Previously on…” Personally, I think series like these, especially in the fantasy realm, could use more of that structure. After all, they’re written in such an episodic way it just makes sense to give the reader a refresher on what came before (especially readers like me who read books with so much time in between). Maybe we can just create a website for that kind of thing.

The other element I really appreciate about these books, especially The Exiled Queen, is how the plot points mix with the every day issues, and that those issues act as parallels to our own real-world problems. For example, the dynamic between Cat Tyburn and Dancer shows how even those who come from marginalized communities (Cat is a Southern Isle native from the streets, but raised in the Vale) can still display prejudice and bigotry toward other marginalized communities (Dancer is clanborn).

I’d say one of the bigger flaws of the series is the rampant heteronormativity. There’s only one instance of LGBTQ+ representation, but it isn’t fleshed out and comes off as an afterthought. Two of Raisa’s cadet friends, Talia and Pearlie, are girlfriends. It’s mentioned that “women who prefer other women” are known as moonspinners. While I really like that new terminology for lesbians, this particular story point is brought up momentarily and immediately set aside. Presumably it’s because they aren’t main characters, but in the end, I felt like I could have gotten the same ending story without their inclusion, and that doesn’t make for true diversity and inclusion.

Overall, I really liked this sequel and I’m definitely looking forward to reading the continuation of this story. It’s complex enough to be intriguing, but not so much so as to overwhelm. Has anyone else read these books? What are your thoughts on the series? Let me know in the comments!

And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini: Review — The Misadventures of a Media Journalist

Wrote this piece for my cousin’s blog. Follow the link below to read the full review!

Review of “And the Mountains Echoed” by Khaled Hosseini

via And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini: Review — The Misadventures of a Media Journalist

Meagan Reads Sci-Fi: Feed by Mira Grant

I went on vacation, so I’m getting to this review a bit late. Spoilers are also ahead, so read at your own risk if you plan on picking up this book.

feed_blogAs part of the MadLibs 2018 reading challenge, I chose to read Feed by Mira Grant for the “verb” category. It’s the first in the Newsflesh trilogy, taking place in the U.S. after a zombie apocalypse has occurred. Except it’s not really an apocalypse, because the premise shows a world that essentially operates much in the same way as before, with running electricity, political intrigue, and defined geographical territories. The biggest difference is the undead that have consumer certain areas of the world and a virus that needs to be kept in check with constant blood testing and special medical precautions. Much like we have the TSA to ensure weapons don’t make it through airports, this world includes blood testing machines to ensure visitors to a building aren’t carrying the illness that causes zombies to rise. The whole zombie aspect plays in the background of this world and its story much like the wars and protests and other world news play in the background of our reality and daily lives.

This is what made the book such an interesting concept to me. It’s a revolution of sorts, of the human race, and yet aside from the obvious, nothing’s changed. The other biggest change of course is the source of news and media. Per the novel’s storyline, when the zombie outbreak occurred, big news media didn’t properly warn the citizens of the iminent danger, while bloggers and independent publications did. Thus, in this new world, bloggers and social influencers are the trusted and credible sources of news. To be honest, that sounds pretty familiar to me already, growing up a millennial in this Internet age, where my main source of news comes from my Twitter feed, and I’d sooner trust Buzzfeed to give me the real details before I trust Fox News.

The zombie storyline in this book plays more of a supporting role, adding a supplementary layer to the real story, which is dirty politics and freedom of the press. The story follows brother and sister bloggers Georgia and Shaun Mason, along with their sidekick Buffy Messoinier, as they trail the presidential candidate Senator Peter Ryman on his campaign across the U.S. Sabotage soon follows, with cases of the virus popping up and wreaking havoc at Ryman’s campaign events, killing innocent bystanders. The Masons and Buffy investigate until they find the truth, but it’s a dangerous game and by the end, two of them end up dead.

The most prominent flaw I found in the book was the overspecific use of blogging and social media jargon. I know it’s called feed, which is a play on words based on a news feed and what zombies do to live humans, but there was so  much banter between characters that was hyperfocused on the tech and blogging community, that it felt a bit “insider baseball.” I have a bit of a background in blogging and media, so it wasn’t necessarily hard for me to follow what they said most of the time, but for someone who knows nothing about click through rates, content sharing, and metrics, it can become exhausting.

Overall though, I was rather surprised by how much I enjoyed this book, and how much I cared about the characters in the end. I just might continue with the next one if I find I have time.

Have any of you read this book or others like it? What are your thoughts? Do you have recommendations based on this novel? Let me know in the comments!

Check out more reviews here!

Meagan Reads YA: The Absolute True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

For my workplace book club, a coworker chose The Absolute True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. I had my reservations about reading this book because of the accusations that recently came out about the author in light of the Me Too movement. I also knew that this was a book that’s been lauded and held in high esteem, and even challenged and banned by certain schools due to certain content.

sherman alexie blog postThe story follows Arnold “Junior” Spirit, a member of the Wellpinit community in Washington. It’s a coming-of-age story about growing up Indian in a racist country. It’s about growing up Indian in a dysfunctional family with an alcoholic father. It’s about growing up Indian and poor. There are so many heavy and tragic topics that take place throughout the story, but it’s all told through Junior’s eyes, meaning it’s told with a wry sense of humor to soften the blow.

I really enjoyed the main character’s voice and his sarcasm aimed not only at the white community that mistreated his people, but at his own people too. It creates this complex and layered relationship between wanting to remain loyal, but wanting more than the life allotted by circumstance and the majority in power. It’s something that many marginalized people can relate to.

Here of course is where the conflict for me as a reader occurs. I truly enjoyed this book and think it’s a good piece of work that’s worth reading. But I can’t just forget the accusations about the author from the people he hurt. In fact, I can even see some of that attitude bleed through in the main character Junior. Sure, he’s a straight teenage boy, so he’s bound to talk about masturbation and look at girls with desire. At least, that’s what’s expected, because after all, boys will be boys. The danger in that expectation is that those boys grow up to be “men who’ll be men,” who in turn continue objectifying women and seeing them as things. This leads to men who “misbehave” and end up hurting women.

While the book is an excellent read and covers important topics with a genuinely funny voice, it’s hard not to notice the moments where adult Alexie and fictional Junior crossover into one another. It becomes a question of separating the art from the artist, which is something I’ve always struggled with. To what extent can we do so, and at what point do we stop separating the two? Because it’s obvious that no one is perfect and no art is perfect, but we have to make a stand somewhere.

Alexie’s new reputation is a blow to marginalized communities because he was such a strong voice for his own. Then again, maybe if more publishers championed more marginalized voices, it wouldn’t be such a detrimental hit to those communities in the first place.

Did anybody else read this book after what came to light about the author? Did anyone read it before? What are your thoughts on liking a book but not liking an author? Let me know in the comments!

Review: Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor

Wrote this post for my cousin’s blog. Check out the link below!

Here’s another backlist I recently read as part of a book club with my coworkers. I figured since it’s been slated for production as a television show with HBO though, it might be relevant to some media fans. Readers beware: spoilers are ahead! Also, tw: sexual assault, rape, violence. Here’s a quick rundown of the […]

via Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor: Review — The Misadventures of a Media Journalist

Poetry Review: Past Life Invisible by Daniel Haskin

It took me some time to get through this and finally get around to reviewing it, not because it’s a slog to get through (far from it), but rather just due to my hectic schedule. I would like to summarize my overall thoughts about this collection with the statement that it is a reader friendly compilation. Many people are often uncomfortable with poetry because they feel it might go over their heads or that they won’t be able to glean anything from it, but Haskin’s Past Life Invisible does not take that route. Haskin’s poems still create sensual and beautiful images with deft lyricism that a poetry connesieur can appreciate, but it never feels like it goes over the head of the average reader who enjoys the occasional poetry collection.

 

past life invisible
Image from Goodreads

The poem “Wintersong” is a good example of the lyricism I spoke of. The lines “Hollow and shopworn/Praying to your god of thorns/Lonely pages torn…” have a melodic rhythm that you can easily put a beat to. In the poem “My Dark Age,” the opening stanza of “The things I now see/Inside my dark cruelty/The lines of my palms/Like red rivers running…” holds that same rhythmic quality that makes Haskin’s pieces sound like songs ready for a musician to adopt. While many writers struggle to adequately use a traditional rhyme scheme to create poetry, Haskin uses the tool adeptly in a way that melds tradition with contemporary style.

The images throughout Haskin’s poetry are often simple, yet convey layers that leave the reading open to interpretation. Phrases like “false colors of autumn” from “Cancer Season” create a sense of vague images, and yet the reader knows exactly what the speaker means by that statement. It’s intuitive. In “Mollytide” the speaker uses sensuous diction like “dark and decadent” or “embrace you like smoke” to create a titillating piece with words meant to be spoken between lovers, but which the speaker allows the audience to see behind closed doors.

Haskin appears to have made a conscious decision not to include punctuation (or rather sparingly) throughout all the pieces, without a single poem ending with punctuation. It conveys this sense that while every poem has a beginning, it doesn’t necessarily have an end, and feels like the speaker of each piece has drifted out of their own trailing thoughts. However, because of this stylistic choice, the few times punctuation is used within a poem, it stands out and is jolting, coming off as typos that made it past the final editing process. The rare stray comma in a line can really stop that lyrical flow the writer so deftly created, so the inclusion of such marks should have been more carefully curated.

Overall, I think it was an excellent collection of poetry and I give it 4 out of 5 stars. If you want to delve into poetry, then this might be the place to start.

Annihilation Movie Review

I wrote this post for my cousin’s blog and thought I’d share it here too. Click the link to follow the original post.

The following post will contain spoilers of both the book and movie, so if you haven’t read or seen either one and don’t want to be spoiled, proceed with caution! I had had the book on my TBR for a while, and then when I saw that Gina Rodriguez and Oscar Isaac were going to […]

via Movie Review: Annihilation — The Misadventures of a Media Journalist