Sunday Stress

Hoooooo boy.

I titled this Sunday Stress because – wow.

So much going on.

stressed2
Stressor #1:
Today is the second day of the first weekend of the Maryland Renaissance Fair. My husband is out working at our friend’s booth today; I’ll be out on Labor Day, and then not again for a few weeks until it cools down some. Though this weekend is gorgeous weather, we didn’t know that ahead of time, so I’m not on the schedule to work. Husband will be working one day of most of the weekends of Fair, though he has a couple weekends entirely off.

Stressor #2: Husband’s other partner (we’re polyamorous, they’ve been together for – five years or so) just got a job here in Baltimore; they’ve been living in Pennsylvania this entire time. So they’ve been visiting this weekend, and will be back in a couple of weeks to start the job, staying with us until they get permanent housing figured out. This is primarily a stressor because they and I are so different; they’re an extrovert and very spontaneous, I’m an introvert that needs things to be planned. So we grate on each other A LOT. And they’ll be living with us for….I’m not sure how long. Hopefully only a couple of weeks.

Stressor #3: Husband’s parents are coming to visit the second week of September. I love my in-laws, they’re great, but the house tends to turn into a bit of a mess during Fair season, and we have a few rooms upstairs, including the guest room, that aren’t completely put together yet (we bought the house in March) so getting everything in order before they get here is weighing on me.

stressed
AND ALL OF THIS IS HAPPENING AT THE SAME TIME. Part of the reason it’s so stressful is that we’ve had no control over any of these dates; Fair is always these times. The in-laws’ visit has been arranged for a while now. Cedar’s job starts when it starts. No control.

I did realize that the Barnes & Noble Young Adult book club is meeting one evening while the in-laws and Cedar are all likely to be here – so I’m going to read that book, and go take an hour or so for myself away from everyone and talk about books with strangers. The book they’re discussing is I’m Not Dying With You Tonight, and I picked it up from my library yesterday.

I’m not entirely sure what all this will mean for the blog. I may be running around like a cat with the zoomies, trying to get everything the way I want it before people arrive, and so not getting my reading done, OR I might be hiding from the stress in books and reading more than normal! I’m hoping to hit a nice middle ground but…well we’ll see, won’t we?nap

 

Book Review: House of Salt and Sorrows

house of salt and sorrowsHouse of Salt and Sorrows
by Erin A. Craig
Young Adult / Fantasy
403 pages
Published August 2019

First off (and I know this is a minor quibble) I think the title should have simply been House of Salt. As is, it falls into the recent trend of “Noun of Noun and Noun.” Children of Blood and Bone, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Queen of Air and Darkness, Girls of Paper and Fire, Ship of Smoke and Steel – it’s a common trope in Young Adult titles, it feels like, and House of Salt would have been a perfectly good title for the book.

Salt plays a heavy role in this tale; Annaleigh and her sisters, along with their father and stepmother, live in a manor house overlooking the sea, on one of several small islands that form her father’s duchy. The world as a whole has a pantheon of gods that are recognized everywhere – and often show up and interact with the people – but the islands mostly revere Pontus, the god of the sea. They call themselves the People of the Salt; from salt they came, and to salt they eventually return. Their religious rites involve ocean creatures and seawater – even to drinking a small swallow of it on First Night to remind themselves what they’re made of.

Past that, there is a lot of mourning in this book, so salt, by way of tears, is important too. The book opens with the funeral of Annaleigh’s older sister, Eulalie. She slipped and fell off a seaside cliff to her death on the rocks below. Her death follows Elizabeth, (dead from a fall off a library ladder), Octavia (drowned in the bath), and Ava (dead of the plague at eighteen). All four of them preceded by their mother, who died in childbirth of the youngest daughter.

The deaths, and the setting, contribute to make this tale a very gothic one, which I loved. Mysterious deaths, questions of sanity, stormy seas, rocky cliffs, foreboding manor full of secrets – this is my JAM, and I was utterly entranced by it. The author does a fantastic job of creating the slow-building horror, the creeping feeling of doom, the questions of what is actually real, ramping up the pressure until the last few chapters come out in a rush of activity and reveals and consequences. It is EXCELLENT.

The book is loosely based on the fairy tale of the dancing princesses, where the princesses wear out their shoes each night, to the befuddlement of their parents, who offer a reward to anyone who can solve the mystery. (They’ve been escaping to the fairy realm each night to dance the night away.) Mix that tale with gothic horror, and you end up with this gem of a book.

This book absolutely belongs on my Best of 2019 list. If you like gothic tales, pick this one up. You won’t regret it!

From the cover of House of Salt and Sorrows:

Annaleigh lives a sheltered life at Highmoor, a manor by the sea, with her sisters and their father and stepmother. Once there were twelve, but loneliness fills the grand halls now that four of the girls’ lives have been cut short. Each death was more tragic than the last – the plague, a plummeting fall, a drowning, a slippery plunge – and there are whispers throughout the surrounding villages that the family is cursed by the gods.

Disturbed by a series of ghostly visions, Annaleigh becomes increasingly suspicious that her sisters’ deaths were no accidents. The girls have been sneaking out every night to attend glittering balls, dancing until dawn in silk gowns and shimmering slippers, and Annaleigh isn’t sure whether to try to stop them or to join their forbidden trysts. Because who – or what – are they really dancing with?

When Annaleigh’s involvement with a mysterious stranger who has secrets of his own intensifies, it’s a race to unravel the darkness that has fallen over her family – before it claims her next.

Friday 56 – House of Salt and Sorrows

house of salt and sorrowsThe Friday 56 is hosted by Freda’s Voice. The rules are simple – turn to page 56 in your current read (or 56% in your e-reader) and post a few non-spoilery sentences.

This week’s quote is from the brand new House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig. It’s based off the fairytale of the dancing princesses – where the girls mysteriously wear out their shoes every night and their family doesn’t know why. It’s a lovely gothic novel and my full review will be up tomorrow!

This quote is a bit of dialogue between two sisters; one around young adult age, the main character and the one whose viewpoint the book is told from, and one much younger. They are discussing two of their older, tragically dead, sisters.

I squeezed her shoulders. “We haven’t forgotten her. We need to move on, but that doesn’t mean they don’t miss and love her.”

“She doesn’t think so.”

I frowned. “What do you mean?”

“She thinks everyone is too busy with their lives to remember her.” She glanced back out into the hall as if worried our conversation was being overheard. “Elizabeth says so too. She says we all look different now. But she doesn’t.”

“You mean when you remember her?”

She shook her head. “When I see her.”

Series Review: The Hundredth Queen

The Fire QueenThe Fire Queen
The Rogue Queen
The Warrior Queen
by Emily R. King
Young Adult Fantasy / Myth Retelling
~300 pages each
Published 2017 / 2017 / 2018

I reviewed The Hundredth Queen a short time ago, and mentioned it was possibly a little culturally appropriative for a book written by a white woman, but I was invested enough in the characters to finish the series. While the culture resembles some time periods in India, the religion is inspired by ancient Sumeria, and much of the fourth book is reminiscent of the Inanna myth. I’ve only included the description of the second book, below, because the descriptions are full of spoilers for the series, as is often the problem for series reviews!

So I can’t really say how much the series is or is not appropriative; I’m not Indian. I don’t get to make that call. Regardless, it is something to be aware of before you read.

The Rogue QueenThat said, I enjoyed this series more than I expected to! Kalinda and Natesa are both awesome female fighters, and both of their love interests, while capable, are definitely cast in the “supporting character” role, to help show how badass the girls are.

One thing I did not like is how much they emphasize “sisterhood” and “sister warriors” yet turn around and fight each other – to the death! – to win a man or a position. Somehow Kalinda is the only woman to see how contradictory this is?

Kalinda’s nickname is also Kali, and, for a series with a disclaimer right up front basically saying “THIS IS NOT INDIA” maybe she should have picked a different name for the main character?

So I have a lot of questions about this series. There are contradictions, and plot holes, and improbable coincidences. I enjoyed the magic system. At its heart, it’s your basic elemental magic – earth, air, water, fire – but what the bhutas (magic wielders) can actually do with their elements is intriguing. In particular, the four directly-damaging uses – winnowing, leeching, grinding, and parching – are unique. Burners – fire-wielders – can parch people – literally burning their soul, basically. Tremblers – earth – can grind peoples’ bones together. Galers – air – can winnow, pulling oxygen out of the blood, tissues, and lungs of an enemy, and Aquifiers – water – can leech, pulling the liquid out of a person. All four magic wielders can control their element to do various tasks, but it’s the directly offensive uses that seem original.

The Warrior QueenOverall the plot is – fine – but it actually goes to the other end of the extreme that I complained about in Queen of Ruin. Obstacle after obstacle after obstacle. Ridiculous speedbumps, stupid mistakes, people acting out of character in order to throw another wrench in the works. I think the story could have been condensed down to three books and been far better for it.

A Spark of White Fire is a far better book with a similar feel to it, written by an Asian author. Read that instead.

From the cover of The Fire Queen:

WITH THE POWER OF FIRE, SHE WILL SPARK A REVOLUTION.

In the second book of the Hundredth Queen series, Emily R. King once again follows a young warrior queen’s rise to meet her destiny in a richly imagined world of sorcery and forbidden powers.

Though the tyrant rajah she was forced to marry is dead, Kalinda’s troubles are far from over. A warlord has invaded the imperial city, and now she’s in exile. But she isn’t alone. Kalinda has the allegiance of Captain Deven Naik, her guard and beloved, imprisoned for treason and stripped of command. With the empire at war, their best hope is to find Prince Ashwin, the rajah’s son, who has promised Deven’s freedom on one condition: that Kalinda will fight and defeat three formidable opponents.

But as Kalinda’s tournament strengths are once again challenged, so too is her relationship with Deven. While Deven fears her powers, Ashwin reveres them – as well as the courageous woman who wields them. Kalinda comes to regard Ashwin as the only man who can repair a warring world and finds herself torn between her allegiance to Deven and a newly found respect for the young prince.

With both the responsibility to protect her people and the fate of those she loves weighing heavily upon her, Kalinda is forced again to compete. She must test the limits of her fire powers and her hard-won wisdom. But will that be enough to unite the empire without sacrificing all she holds dear?

Library Loot Wednesday

I picked up several books this week – the last three books in The Hundredth Queen series came in via Marina, since my library didn’t have them.

In addition, I picked up Hollow Kingdom, a zombie apocalypse tale from the perspective of a pet crow, House of Salt and Sorrows, a fairy tale retelling of the dancing princesses story, and Periodic Tales: A Cultural History of the Elements, from Arsenic to Zinc. It’s supposed to be in the vein of A Short History of Nearly Everything, which I adored.

I’ve actually already raced through the rest of the Hundredth Queen series, so I will post a review of those shortly!

Book Review: Small Town Hearts

small town heartsSmall Town Hearts
by Lillie Vale
Young Adult / Contemporary Romance
324 pages
Published March 2019

This was a perfect summer read. Set in a tourist town on the coast of Maine, this was friend drama and summer romance and summers at the beach, mixed with coffee and baked goods and sand castles. Babe is that rare teen in a small town who has no desire to leave it; she loves her little community, lives in the lighthouse overlooking the town, and dreams of buying the coffee shop she works in and spending the rest of her life right where she’s always been. Her friends, however, are not so content with their lives, and her best friend’s narcissistic drama plays a large part in the plot of this charming little book.

I definitely wanted to shake Babe a couple of times, and tell her that her friend Lucy is SUCH a better friend than Penny, her “best friend” from high school. It’s definitely the boy in their little group of three that is responsible for messing it all up, but Penny blames Babe for it all, which is completely unfair.

But the friend drama is not what I loved about this book. What I loved was the charming romance that blossoms between Babe and Levi, the artist in town for the summer. He is sweet and direct and just perfect.

I also really liked how this book treated Babe’s bisexuality. So many books with bi main characters have the 95/5 version of bisexuality; where they’re basically interested in one gender, except one or two people of another gender. Some of them are a little more open, where the MC has been with many genders but is still primarily interested in one. I feel like it’s rare to see one that’s truly 50/50. Bisexuality does cover that spectrum of attraction, I just enjoyed seeing a book about this particular aspect. Babe falls in love with a boy in this book, but an ex-girlfriend plays a significant role. I really liked this passage:

I had gone on a handful of dates that never led anywhere beyond awkward “See ya arounds” and fended-off kisses at the end of the night. Most of them had been nice, cute and witty. Local boys who were salt of the earth, sunny girls who collected kisses like seashells.

I also really enjoyed the subtle theme of consent. In at least two instances, an action done with consent “Is this okay?” “May I…?” is received with enthusiasm, whereas the same action, done by someone else and without asking, meets with shock and betrayal. That’s a nice thing to see in YA.

I really enjoyed this charming little book, and it’s a great read for summer time. The bisexual main character is done really well, and issues of consent and being closeted are explored. Definitely recommend this one!

From the cover of Small Town Hearts:

Fresh out of high school, Babe Vogel should be thrilled to have the whole summer at her fingertips. She loves living in her lighthouse home in the sleepy Maine beach town of Oar’s Rest and being a barista at the Busy Bean, but she’s totally freaking out about how her life will change when her two best friends go to college in the fall. And when a reckless kiss causes all three of them to break up, she may lose them a lot sooner. On top of that, her ex-girlfriend is back in town, bringing with her a slew of memories, both good and bad.

And then there’s Levi Keller, the cute artist who’s spending all his free time at the coffee shop where she works. Levi’s from out of town, and even though Babe knows better than to fall for a tourist who will leave when summer ends, she can’t stop herself from wanting to know him. Can Babe keep her distance, or will she break the one rule she’s always had – to never fall for a summer boy?