Damsel by Elana K. Arnold Review

Damsel by Elana K. Arnold is a fairly shot novel. I was stunned at how I quickly I found myself absolutely invested in the story and the main character, Ama.

Damsel is a slow read though and much of what you read has to do with what the character is thinking and feeling. The book is a slow unravelling of threads as Ama tries to find out who she is. When we first meet her, she knows nothing about herself, not even her own name. Everyone around her, but especially the prince, is trying to shape her into something that’s convenient and palatable. And yet, the one thing no one counted on was Ama’s spirit, the fact that she refuses to back down, even when she’s terrified and knows that she has no allies.

I also liked that Arnold let the readers slowly learn more about the supporting characters. You slowly start seeing the casual cruelty and the controlling/abusive streak. The Queen, the prince’s mother, was an enigmatic character. You could tell that she wasn’t satisfied about the role she was reduced to playing in the court but she was also did precious little to change it. In her, Ama could see what she would turn into. In her own way, the old queen tries to help Ama but it had to do with how she could best adapt to the life at court, she has more knowledge but refuses to share that with Ama.

I suppose what I liked best about the book, was its end. The climax could not have been more fitting and satisfying. There were already signs that clued me into what the reveal could be but it didn’t affect my enjoyment of the climax at all.

Damsel is a slow book but, definitely, a must-read. I have come across few books that grabbed my attention so completely and then stayed with me after I’d finished reading them. It is a deeply satisfying read.

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Game of Throne Season 8 Teaser – Jon and Sansa

Like most shippers online, I too was thrilled to see the tease of the Jon and Sansa reunion. And I can say, without a doubt that I was thrilled to see it. Now onto analysis!! (Apologies, I can’t GIF)

We have a longer look at Jon, he crosses over from where he’s standing to Sansa. His expressions when he looks at Sansa kill me every time!! He doesn’t look anywhere else, his eyes are fixed on her face and it’s almost as if the rest of the world fades out of existence. And his expression, there is a vulnerability yes, but there is a huge dose of relief on his face. Like he’s finally home, among his family and no longer has put on a face or a facade. I mean, look at him! Does that look platonic to you? He spent a majority of last season with D@ny and not once looked at her like this.

Also, I didn’t screencap this, but he literally walks into her arms!

Now, onto Sansa

When they initially embrace, you can tell from Sansa’s profile that she’s smiling and she had her arms open for him, like can the makers get any more shippy than that! It’s like they want us to think that they’re gonna get together!

We can’t see much of her face, since it’s buried in Jon’s fur, but she’s clearly looking at Jon’s new found allies. And being the lady of Winterfell, she, no doubt, is thinking of the implications. First, that a Targ is in Winterfell with Dragons, and her Inner Circle, comprised of Tyrion and Varys. We know from last season that Sansa’s priorities are all about the remaining Starks safe and protecting Winterfell, all of that is compounded with so many unfamiliar variables thrown into the mix. Her expression to me, looks like it’s sizing up these new allies and she’s wary of them. The full weight of Jon’s actions are likely settling in with these people right behind him and what that means for Winterfell, the Starks and the North, not to mention their limited food supply.

Of course, this is smart of HBO because, ending with that expression on her face, a lot of the General Audiences will still believe that, once again, she’s going to try and steal Jon’s power 🙄. So they can try and push the Dark Sansa narrative and a majority of the GA will fall for it again, hook line and sinker.

Lifel1k3 (Lifelike #01) by Jay Kristoff Review

Things I did immediately after finishing Lifel1k3:

Stared at the page in shock
Walked around the house a few times
Went back and reread the last few pages again
Went online to check release date for Lifel1k3 book 2 (you’ll be thrilled to know there is ZERO information about the 2nd book)

I’ve read other books by Kristoff, books that he’s co-authored, even finished an entire trilogy. What I mean is that I should have been prepared, mentally and emotionally for what this book was going to put me through. And he still managed to blind-side me.

Lifel1k3 takes place in a post-apocalyptic future where, after another World War, the world has been reduced to a nuclear wasteland. The planet is dying, the USA no longer exists (we don’t know how the rest of the world fared) and the existing pockets of human civilisation are either corporate run establishments or detritus that’s been strung together and become so much more than anyone could have imagined. Androids, droids and robots are as common as people and it is fairly common to see one. The people in this wasteland are cut-throat and hardened after years of living on the brink of extinction, they’ve had to become ruthless or they would have died like those who came before them.

Enter Evie Carpenter, our protagonist. A seventeen year old girl with blonde hair and a fauxhawk. She isn’t too concerned about the state of the world, save for making sure that she can get the drugs her grandfather needs to survive and staying out of the way or rival scavenging gangs. We soon learn that she has a superpower and far from protecting her, these powers make her the target of a puritanical religious gang and a relentless bounty hunter. She’s not having a great week. She’s joined by her trusted gang of misfits, there’s Lemon Fresh, Cricket (a cyborg), Kaiser (her dog, also a cyborg). They are joined by Ezekiel, an android, who claims to know Eve and wants to help her.

You have to hand it to Kristoff, the world-building is excellent. It is a bleak world with glass storms, vast swathes of desert, an entire city built from ships/boats that washed ashore after a tsunami and areas that are so highly irradiated that even a few hours there would be a death sentence. My only complaint is that we don’t know how the rest of the world is doing. I would have liked a little more information in that regard. The world/setting is very much a part of the action and feels tangible especially once you consider that this world isn’t so far removed from the future we’re headed towards.

In the long line of Kristoff heroines, Eve is a worthy addition. She’s spunky, she’s brave and while she can be impulsive, she’s also capable to weighing her options and then going with the most sensible alternative (this is all relative of course) Eve learns more about herself as their travels continue and must to come to terms with her blood-soaked past. Truly though, this girl deserves a long vacation, preferable some place cool.

My favourite character though is Lemon Fresh. She is the side-kick though it’s best not to say it to her face. She’s the sassy one and I loved her friendship with Eve, they always have each others’ backs even when it means putting their own lives in jeopardy. I loved Lemon’s one liners and her banter was often funny. Under all that though, she was tough as nails and did not let anyone intimidate her. Easily the stand-out character in the book.

What can I say about Cricket and Kaiser except that I loved them. Cricket was always hilarious and was reminiscent of Gemini Cricket, but one with a foul mouth and not a very happy disposition. Kaiser may not have been a real dog but he won me over immediately. He was adorable. A very good boy indeed.

Silas Carpenter, Eve’s grandfather and her only surviving relative, he also becomes a grandfather to Lemon Fresh. We don’t see much of him but we find out pretty quickly, that he would do anything to keep the girls safe. He risks everything to keep Eve safe and make sure that she can take care of herself.

Next up Ezekiel. He’s an android, he looks like a real human, albeit a very handsome one but physically, he’s much stronger than a regular human, has faster healing abilities and can even regrow entire body parts, in other words, he’s very hard to kill. Those like him are called Lifelike, they were created by Nicholas Monrova, modelled upon his biological children meant to be companions but that plan goes so horribly wrong.

The one thing that bothered me throughout Lifel1k3 was the relationship between Ezekiel and Eve. Zeke has been alive a little over 2 years and yet his love for Eve is so intense that I can’t help but wonder if it’s actually real or if he just imprinted on her. That absolute love just rings false.

Lifel1k3 did explore some interesting themes like that of giving sentience/intelligence to a machine but still binding it to human will, sentencing it to a life of servitude. Giving them the ability to fall in love, to make their choices but never the freedom to fully explore either. Treating them like family but turning on them for the smallest misdemeanour. Never allowing them to make mistakes, a crucial part of growing up.

Of all the Lifelikes, Hope and Raphael touched me. Hope, because she made a massive mistake but then spent her life after that, trying to make amends, by helping people who had no one else to turn to. And then staying back to and trying to save people at the cost of her own personal safety. And Raphael because he saw his own limited existence, a Pinocchio who could never turn into a real boy. My heart broke for them.

 

Okay Spoiler time:

I’m confused by the end of the book. Has Eve become an antagonist now? She brought Gabriel back and called him brother and also sent Lemon, Cricket and Zeke away. I don’t know how I feel about that. Good people died to make sure she was safe and I’m not sure making her an antagonist is a good pay-off for all that angst. I think she needs to come to peace with what she is but honestly, I don’t know what her future arc is. Also, at this stage, apart from Zeke, the only other two lifelikes alive are Gabriel and Faith and I’m curious what Eve means to do with them. Also the real Ana is brain dead, so she is essentially dead and can’t be brought back, so what does it mean that her body is still (on machines) being kept alive somewhere?

End Spoiler.

 

Like Nevernight, the world of Lifel1k3 might take you some time to fully get into it but once you do, it will be tough to put the book aside. It’s fast-paced chock-a-block full of action, add to that it has some really bad-ass characters (human and otherwise) and a plot that will keep you hooked from beginning to end. Very highly recommended! Do not sleep on this people!

Wonder Woman: Warbringer Review

I loved loved loved Warbringer!!! I’ve been going through a super reading slump and if this book had been anything less than exceptional, I probably would have set it aside. I love Wonder Woman (my spirit animal) I love the character, the comics, you name it so this book had its work cut out for it. Doing another take on a very well established character is hard, fortunately Leigh Bardugo was more than up to the task.

Warbringer is basically Wonder Woman in a YA setting with elements of Greek mythology and elements that we are familiar with from Diana’s own origin and her comics. During a race, Diana sees a ship go down and rescues the only survivor, a girl, Alia, and brings her to the island. However, she soon realises why it’s forbidden to bring anyone from the World of Man onto the island. Let’s just say that the Island reacted poorly. The Oracle tells Diana that the girl she rescued is a Warbringer, a descendant of Helen of Troy and she is destined to bring about another age of war. Worried about her sisters and on a quest to end this age before it begins, Diana takes Alia off the island and enters the World of Man.

Most of the setting of Warbringer is the modern world, cities we’re familiar with. I loved Bardugo’s take on Themyscira, that the island is ever changing and accommodates the needs and desires of the occupants. I also liked her take on the Amazons, that they’re warrior women who died on the battlefield with the name of a goddess on their lips. It reminded me of the Valkyries. The Amazons were also very diverse bunch, with varied ethnicities and religious beliefs and sexual preferences. Another interesting aspect that the inhabitants aren’t cut off from the World of Man in that, they know what’s happening, they’re aware of the technological advancements and so on.

Bardugo always writes compelling characters and Warbringer was no exception. I liked pretty much all the characters, they were all complex and layered. I wish we had seen more of the Amazons. I loved that there was at least one clear romantic couple.

Alia Keralis is the Warbringer, descendant of Helen and destined to drive the modern world into another age of War. I loved her initial reactions to Diana, they were hilarious. Alia was relatable, always wanting to do the right thing while also protecting those she loved. But she was brave when it really counted and was willing to make tough choices so that they could break the cycle of the Warbringers.

Poornima Chaudhary, who preferred to be called Nim and is Alia’s best friend was a lot of fun. She was funny and did not let other’s perception of her colour her decisions. She was also openly gay and I loved it when Alia ribbed her about flirting with Diana. I loved Alia’s banter with Nim. She’s resilient, she sticks by Alia when it would have been safer for her to have left her. Also, she’s canonically fat and it’s never treated as something that defines her. No one, not the boys nor Alia and Diana treat her any differently. I love that she’s the second fat character that Bardugo has given us (I will always love Nina!) and like Nina she’s queer. Bardugo is the gift that keeps on giving.

Theo is the resident clown of the group. He’s funny and very technologically savvy. He brings some much needed levity to the group. He has the same resilience as Nim and is willing to stand by his friends even if it means putting his own life in jeopardy.

Jason Keralis is the group’s grump and worrier and also Alia’s brother. Unfortunately I never took to him. He seemed fine but beyond that he never really made that much of an impression.

The Diana we meet here is a much younger avatar of the character we know and love. She’s not sure of her place in the world. As the only Amazon who was born, she is treated differently by the other Amazons who resent that she isn’t battle tested. As a princess, she is constantly under the pressure of never making a wrong step and being constantly judged. She hungers to prove herself and to be seen as an equal by her sisters. But she is very much the Diana we know, with her innate goodness and courage, the willingness to do the right thing even if it means never seeing her home or her family. I loved her reactions to the modern world and it’s occupants. It made for some very funny situations.

Even though the group hadn’t known each other long, they grew close and became like a family, protecting each other.

I want to read a sequel to Warbringer, I want to come back to this world. If you’re a Wonder Woman fan, you’ll enjoy this as well. Even if you’ve never heard of the character, you’ll still enjoy it. Like all Bardugo books, this book is exceedingly well written and she weaves elements of myth and modernity so well that it seems natural. She makes Diana someone we can relate to and she gives a wonderful mix of characters that we root for and fall in love with.

Also, special shout-out to Jen Bartel for her awesome artwork and character illustrations. I loved those!

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Agents of Shield Season 5 Reactions

Okay, first off, someone please give Daisy a hug!!! How did we not have a single instance of someone showing affection and concern for Daisy after what she went through at Fitz’ hands? Honestly, the one person who constantly checked up on her was Deke and how messed up is that? The guy who sold her into slavery is a also the only person who is concerned about her. Now I know, he had ulterior motives, he liked her romantically but still.

This season is a little hard figure out in terms of whether I liked or not. I’m still not sure. There were some problematic elements like that fact that Deke sold Daisy into slavery and we never really explored that. Or that Fitz took out her inhibitor, never asked Daisy and essentially chose the most sadistic way to go about it and we never explored that either.

Also, I hate that Simmons just completely shut out what Daisy suffered. I get it, she loves Fitz but Daisy is also her friend, right?! Who was just ripped open and was betrayed by someone she deeply trusted. Yet, she never seems to consider that. Instead, getting really hopped up on the theory that she, Fitz and Yo-Yo are somehow invincible and that nothing could hurt them. Collectively, the three of them deserved to get smacked on their heads. I actually found Simmons even more frustrating that Yo-yo. Fitz attacking Daisy and forcibly restoring her powers, no problem. But using Jiaying’s DNA, from her corpse, that has moral implications?! Wow, double standards much!

That entire scene where Fitz abducted Daisy and then tore into her was pretty hard to watch. Kudos to both Chloe Bennet and Iain De Caestecker on their respective performances, they were both excellent. But what really bothered me after that was that no one else really addressed that. Like we were just expected to move on.

I liked that May and Daisy, at least, were a united front. For both of them, Coulson was more than a team-mate/leader. He was family. We’ve known for a while that both Coulson and May have deeper feelings for each other and it surprises absolutely no one that Daisy and Coulson were like father and daughter. May lost Andrew and Daisy lost everyone, so it’s understandable that they would fight tooth and nail to save him. Someone who never gave up on them and was always there, who never left them behind.

I initially really disliked Deke earlier in the season but he kind of grew on me as the season progressed. Also, he and Fitz have more in common as far as their more grey decisions are concerned. Another thing that I was really grateful for that the show didn’t force Daisy and Deke into a romantic relationship. And that ALL the characters knew exactly how Daisy felt about him and never encouraged him (except for laughs)

I also liked the way Daisy handed over the reins over to Mack. She recognised that she wasn’t objective enough to make the tough calls but Mack, being more experienced than her, does have that. I liked that we had a few moments of Mack and Daisy being there for each other, I wish we had more of those moments.

One of my biggest complaints of the season is the fact that a ship seems to have gotten bigger than the rest of show and that the show-runners are running with that. That I feel is detrimental to the over-all plot. The writers know how big the Fitz-Simmons ship is and they constantly play to that corner. And they’re doing it at the expense of other characters.

Going forward, Season 6 has a shortened number of episodes. This is a good thing, fewer episodes means that the plot will be tighter and the no filler episodes. I know that Fitz will be found, even when he died, there was no tension because I knew that there is no way that he would let him die. I knew that the team will be getting him back. I don’t know how I feel about the possibility of no Coulson. And does that mean that May is done as well or did she take that break to be with Coulson during his last days? I’m confused.

Season 5 is a mix of things that worked really well and others that didn’t, I’m hoping that season 6 is more balanced in that regard. And that they treat Daisy better. She’s a badass but more importantly she’s a multi-faceted character and deserves to be treated as such. I’d like her to have agency going forward and for the other characters not steam-rolling all over it. I hope the writing, plot and character development are more balanced.

The Tiger’s Daughter (Their Bright Ascendency #1) by K. Arsenault Rivera Review

DNF

There really needs to be a negative ratings system because if there were I would have used it for this book.. I could not even bring myself to finish it. It was so damn tedious!! The pseudo-Japanese names coupled with some of the dullest text I’ve come across in a while did the book no favours.

Sorry, I have better things to do than trying to muddle through this mess.

The Hundredth Queen (The Hundredth Queen #1) by Emily R. King Review

This book made me want to beat my head against the wall. It reads as a mish-mash of various cultures including but not limited to ancient Sumerian and Indian.

The thing that really ticks me off are the names. I can only speak for names that are Indian but there’s almost always a cringe-worthy element. For example, Deven’s mother’s name is Mathura. Mathura is the name of a town in India. As an author who’s neither Indian origin nor familiar with Indian names, please do the least minimum and at least google the names you plan to give your characters. This kind of writing reeks of laziness and immediately pulls me out of the story.

The main plot was also mediocre at best. Kalinda and Deven almost immediately fall in love and seem to have no self-control and have the survival instinct of a dodo. Their characters were inconsistent and seemed to sway back and forth with no real convictions.

Of the secondary characters, Yatin, Jaya, Mathura were okay. The rest didn’t really make an impression. The king, our chief antagonist was also written so poorly that it was difficult to take him seriously. King wanted him to exude menace but failed.

I did originally plan to read books 2 and 3, now, I’d much rather focus on something that better written and has characters that I care about. I am also going back to my original weeding process and avoiding debuts.