Book Review | Notorious RBG

Title: Notorious RBG: The Life & Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Authors: Irin Carmon & Shana Knizhnik

Publisher: Dey Street Books

Published: 27 October 2015

Pages: 240

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

I sometimes will peruse other reviews of a book that I’m reviewing because of the subject matter or to see how to appropriately review a book. For this review, I’m torn due to the subject hence why I looked at reviews. I’m reiterating what some wrote in theirs: 5 stars for the woman, 3.5 stars for the book.

I’ve known about RBG before she had this cult-following. (This is not meant to be a flex by any means. I’m just interested in politics. I’m not superior to anyone for this knowledge). I absolutely loved seeing how many more women, especially young adults, teens, and children have found their voices and spoke up for themselves due to RBG’s role in their lives.

This book is co-written by two women, Carmon (journalist) & Knizhnik (lawyer) that delves into the life, relationships, career of only our 2nd woman on the Supreme Court Bench, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. I was a little confused when I started reading, as I was trying to figure out how the authors were presenting their information. It wasn’t until around chapter 3 (“I Got a Story to Tell”) that I began to understand that this was not a typical biography. As someone who has a masters in English (again this does not make me superior, all it means is I did a shit-ton of reading), when reading biographies I’m expecting a chronological flow to the book. This usually entails a brief history of the person’s parents, then on to birth, early years, teens, university, career, legacy. Maybe a few more things sprinkled in, but overall this is the common structure. The way Carmon & Knizhnik set up their book was through subjects instead, so a chapter on RBG’s marriage, one on her relationships with other justices, and so on. There wasn’t anything particularly wrong about this, but it just read weird to me.

I do appreciate the authors’ attempts to make law more interesting through annotating RBG’s dissents or opinions of the court. There was also historical context provided that made it easier to place where we were in history. I really loved the inclusion of the timeline, that was helpful to see where we were in history and in RBG’s life. The pictures and images of letters throughout just felt more personal and real while reading.

RBG dedicated her life to serving those who didn’t have a voice and she did so with grace and passion. I want that on the table first before I say what I’m going to say next. I’m still a little perturbed by RBG not retiring from the court. I understand that appointments to the court are for life (and should be) and justices shouldn’t be forced or compelled to leave for any reason. Yet, I did cry the night that RBG died, not just for the amazing life this woman led but for all the people who may lose their own rights in the following years due to newer appointments to the court. After reading this book, some of my anger and frustration has dissipated after reading about RBG’s life and values and why she wouldn’t step down. I’m still a little miffed but not as much as I was.

Final thought, this was definitely a book more geared towards high school or college aged students rather than myself, but no matter what age it is still enjoyable.

Happy Reading Darlings!

Book Review | I Hope This Finds You Well

Title: I Hope This Finds You Well: Poems

Author: Kate Baer

Publisher: Harper Perennial

Published Date: 9 November 2021

Pages: 80

TW: misogyny, sexism

Rating: 3 out of 5.

This review might be all over the place but please stay with me. Okay, so the book of poems starts with a little introduction about how Baer came to the idea of writing this collection of poems. She talks about her first blog 13 years ago and receiving a misogynistic comment from some boy who thought this was a great way to spend his time (it wasn’t). These comments never went over over Baer’s writing career. Last year, (I’m assuming as she was writing this in 2021, she means 2020 as last year) she decided to look a little closely at these comments/messages/spam letters. Specifically, she took a comment from a woman who disagreed with Baer politically, blotted out some words, and posted her original comment and the blotted out one to Instagram. Since then Baer has seen poems in all her exchanges, not just on the internet. In I Hope This Finds You Well, she takes the comments/messages/email spam from her corner of the interest and juxtaposes those with her erasure poem next to it.

First off, and this may be me reading too much into this, but this isn’t a new way to do poetry. I’m not trying to take shots or make any negative digs at her but the phrasing of the author’s note at the beginning makes it seem like this is something new or at least new-ish. We’ve been doing this for years and you can read an interesting history of blackout poetry here. (I know Baer calls what she does erasure poems but its the same thing as blackout poetry just flipped, so I’m calling a duck a duck).

For the actual poems, I really have no problem with them. That ends up being my issue. Even now, I cannot tell you a memorable poem, one that I loved or hated or had huge emotions with. There is nothing there. I know I enjoyed it while reading them, but I found that they were statements that I could overall agree with and get behind. There wasn’t anything that needed any deep thoughts or struggles. (Side note, I do not mean struggle as in hard to understand or being frustrated. When I use struggle in conjunction with poetry, I mean that the author just threw a curve ball at me and now I have to rethink something about myself, what I believe, or the world. I hope this makes sense). I have read many reviews and comments from Amazon and Goodreads on Baer’s book of poetry, both this one and her first, and I totally understand why people like her poems. They are thoughts that a lot of us agree with and can get behind given to us in an easily digestible way. I also have to say that blackout or erasure poetry can be more difficult than creating your own poems because you only have the words in front of you to use, so major props there.

I want to end by saying that none of this is attacking her specifically, or her poetry. It’s just not my cup of tea nor the kind of poetry I want to read. If you enjoy her poems, go forth and read. We all should read more poetry!

Happy Reading Darlings!

Book Review | The Whispering House

Title: The Whispering House

Author: Elizabeth Brooks

Publisher: Doubleday

Date: 6 August 2020

Pages: 352

Content Warnings: emotional abuse, suicide, chronic illness, self-harm, and physical abuse

Rating: 2 out of 5.

If I can do one good thing for people it would be telling them to not read this book. It is a waste of time, and I want those hours back. The story starts off with Freya (and her dad) at a cousin’s wedding. Freya is still reeling from her sister’s death (suicide) and is pretty drunk when she goes into the house: Byrne Hall. The house is forbidden from being entered by the guests but Freya just ignores that. Once in she sees a portrait that evokes her late sister, Stella. Several weeks later Freya as this inexplicable longing to go back to Byrne Hall. Once there she meets Cory, a young artist (the summary on most sites say he’s handsome and enigmatic but I think he’s just weird and creepy). Freya plans to stay for a few days but this leads to a longer and longer stay, driven to remain not just by Byrne Hall itself, but this strange mother-and-son who inhabit it. Freya’s decision to stay at Byrne Hall sets off an “unexpected” chain of events.

The part that frustrates me the most about the book is the fact that Freya is still reeling from her sister’s death five years later. I understand and am not in any way saying that there is a timeline on grief but I also think there does need to be healthy coping mechanisms which are not in place for Freya or her dad. Most of the time I had to remind myself that Freya was in her late 20s, and not late teens or early 20s because many of her decisions felt like from a woman who is much younger.

The other characters in the book are just not really developed, more like caricatures. For instance, Freya’s dad is an art critic and that’s basically his entire personality even when he’s not critiquing art. Cory is not an enigmatic person, he’s a rich (I know him and his mom are not rich anymore but he still has the air of someone who is titled gentry), entitled, white boy who can’t figure out what he wants to do with his life, so he ran back home to mommy. The most we ever know of Cory’s mom is that she’s ill, as she really is just a plot device for the book, the old (and maybe mad) woman in the attic of a gothic novel.

The plot really fell flat for me. Again, many of the decisions from Freya felt way to immature for her age and even for someone in grief. The whole gothic/haunted house plot was pretty thin and didn’t really go anywhere as you find out that it was just Cory’s mom the whole time. Then the ending is pretty blasé, the readers find out what happened to Stella but there is never any indication that Freya finds out. Freya goes back home and it seems forms a romantic relationship with her long-term friend, Tom (the only decent character in the book), but it’s never clear. I’m not someone who hates murky books, but I like my books to make sense and be interesting and this did not his the mark.

Happy (Not) Reading Darlings!

Book Review | Everything Under

Title: Everything Under

Author: Daisy Johnson

Publisher: Jonathan Cape

Published Date: 12 July 2018

Pages: 264

Content Warnings: incest, suicide, and death (explicit); dementia and animal death (moderate); addiction, adult/child relationship, and rape (minor)

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I go back and forth on if this is a 4 star or 5 star book. On one hand, I absolutely loved it. I thought it was gripping and intriguing, and I had to keep turning the page. On the other hand, there were moments were I was wondering if what Johnson was doing narratively (because she’s doing something interesting that is an uncommon narrative style) missed the mark.

I’m going to try to summarize the book, but I may miss the mark because this book is complicated. Also, throughout this review, I will be spoiling the book, which I think is okay with this book because you can figure out close to the beginning the frame of the story; spoiling this book doesn’t take away from the story, discussion, ideas that are presented here either. The book is mainly told through the point of view of Gretel, a young woman who works as a lexicographer updating dictionary entries for words. She spends her days alone and to herself, to the point where she actually states “No one but the postman knew I was here. I was protective of my solitude. I gave it space the way others gave space to their religion or politics” (10). This is due to the fact that Gretel grew up in a canal boat with her mom, Sarah, in the Oxford river areas. They had created their own language, community, and even monster: the bonak. The Bonak represents what they are afraid of, and the bonak could be small fears or even a big one.

The novel goes back and forth between the present and the past, as Gretel is trying to find her mom who left her alone at 16. It also goes to the past of a boy, Marcus, who stayed with Gretel and Sarah for a month in the winter and Gretel’s memories keep coming back to this moment and a creature who was stalking them.

To get one thing out of the way, this is a retelling of Oedipus Rex the Greek tragedy of Oedipus killing his dad and having sex with his mom. The chapters for Everything Under are divided into 3 time periods/sections: “The Cottage,” which is present day adult Gretel who is living with her mom who has dementia/Alzheimer’s; “The Hunt” is the section of Gretel looking back at her past as she is trying to find her mom; “The River” is Margot/Marcus experience of their life before they left home and after. There is another section titled “Sarah,” again Gretel’s mom, but there are only 2 (maybe 3) chapters labelled that.

So, you may be wondering why did I write Margot/Marcus that way. Well, because you find out pretty soon in the book (and it’s also kind of obvious when you start reading Margot’s section) that Marcus, the runaway teenager that Gretel and Sarah took in, is Margot. (Sidenote: I’m going to go back and forth between using he/she/they pronouns for Marcus, as there are no clear indications of how Marcus themselves identify). She was adopted by her parents, Roger and Laura, who decide not to tell her that she was adopted. Margot doesn’t have the easiest childhood as she pretty much spends her time alone, the limp they have doesn’t help this, but soon a next door neighbor, Fiona, becomes an important person to Margot and her parents. Fiona is a transgender woman and also a psychic. She tells Margot that Margot will grow up to kill her dad and have sex with her mom, just like the seers told Oedipus’ parents. Margot decides to leave in the middle of the night at 16.

From here, Marcus wanders the canal and finds a community before having to leave again, then finding Gretel and Margot. It’s funny because even though I said I’m going to spoil the book and the fact that you can probably figure out that Margot/Marcus is the Oedipus character, I’m still tiptoeing around the fact that Marcus kills his dad (another canal boat person) and has sex with his mom (Sarah).

As stated previously, the way Gretel grew up was very different from most people. There are many statements made throughout the book about how river people are different: “They have their own communities down there, their own rules. They don’t call the police or child services when something goes wrong. They have their own authority. It’s a different world” (85). Also this one: “We don’t call the fire engines or the ambulances. It’s always been that way. They don’t know anything about us and we know all we need to about them. But what happens when something goes wrong? We look after it, she replied” (194). I’ve heard similar things said in the real world about those who decide to live on boats (whether canal or another kind) as well. Gretel grew up with a community of her and her mom, but now looking back as an adult she sees that this did not set her up well, as she is a stranger to those around her, an alien. This quote from Gretel sums it up well and it’s probably my favorite from the book: “If – in any sense -language determined how we thought then I could never have been any other way than the way I am. And the language I grew up speaking was one no one else spoke. So I was always going to be isolated, lonely, uncomfortable in the presence of others. It was in my language. It was in the language you gave me” (136).

There are many ideas that Johnson brings up in this book. The obvious ones are the debate between fate and free will, gender fluidity, and fractured family relationships. There are also the ideas of monsters and what constitutes the monsters or something monstrous, along with the idea of language and communication (which is being tied to the debate between free will and fate). But something Gretel brings up quite a lot during her present day and past self is this idea of memory and how are memories are formed: “I’ve been thinking about the trace of our memories, whether the trace stays the same or changes as we rewrite them over time. If they are stable as houses and cliffs or decay fast and are replaced, overlaid. Everything we remember is passed down, thought over, is never the way that it was in reality” (8). This is stated in the first chapter and then we are brought into the story and I think at the end this is the point, is trying to figure out what was true and what isn’t true and what is past and what is present.

I know this review was rambling and kind of all over the place but so was this book. I definitely, definitely recommend it because one, it is a great story with lush and gorgeous language, and two because I still need to talk about this book with someone.

Happy Reading Darlings

Book Review | Dearly

Title: Dearly

Author: Margaret Atwood

Publisher: Ecco

Date: 10 November 2020

Pages: 124

Content Warnings: death, violence, rape, sexual assault, misogyny

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I’m going to be upfront and state my bias right away. I have a difficult time with Margaret Atwood. Much of her feminism is grounded in white feminism (intersectionality is not a consideration) and is stuck in the 90s and early 2000s time of feminism movements. There have been bad moments in recent years with Atwood in regards to sexual assault victims and the #metoo movement. But lately, I’ve been annoyed with the past couple of months of white women in Texas (and other states) using the red robes from The Handmaid’s Tale to protest against Texas abortion laws. Do I support the 6-week abortion law Texas has implemented? No, of course I do not! But, the part that annoys me is that white women are not recognizing or admitting that this is something that has been happening to our Black and Indigenous shes, theys, and galaxy of stars people. Basically, I’d just liker her to have a bit more nuance.

With that out of the way, I do want to say that this collection of poems was interesting. It’s still the typical feminism that you’d expect from Atwood (one poem is about an older woman teaching a group of girl students about menstruations). There is also this idea of age and the identity of older women that is threaded throughout the collection that is quite interesting.

The collection had some hits and misses for me, but I do recognize that I’m probably not her target audience as I’m still in my 20s and not yet an “older” person (nor a woman). I do like the themes of memory, aging, death (I’ll always be fascinated by death), climate change, and others that I cannot remember right now that she infused in her poetry. But again I think my issue goes back to what I said in my bias about Atwood herself. There is still not a lot of discussion, or even acknowledgement, about the difference between white women and black or indigenous women. Again, I want to make clear, I don’t think it is her place to talk about black identity or black women identity. But an acknowledgement that there is a difference wouldn’t be hard or out of line.

The verdict for me is that I didn’t hate it but it’s not something I’d really recommend to anyone. Unless they were specifically an older white woman looking for poetry, then I’d say go get this.

If you want to know more about what I was referencing about her past actions with sexual assault victims and the #metoo movement, here is an article that talks about it.

Happy Reading Darlings!

Book Review | Good Girl, Bad Blood

Title: Good Girl, Bad Blood

Author: Holly Jackson

Publisher: Electric Monkey

Date: 20 April 2020

Pages: 417

Content Warnings: murder, gun violence, death, sexual assault, kidnapping

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

I was so excited when this book came out because I absolutely loved, loved, loved, the first book in the series, A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder and couldn’t wait to see what Pip and Ravi would get up to next.

After everything comes out in the first book about what really happened to Andie Bell and Sal Singh, Pip decides not to be a detective anymore. She does create a podcast (that goes viral) about everything that went on in the first book, along with providing updates as the trial proceeds, but her investigating days are over.

But Pip is soon approached by Connor who is wanting Pip’s help to find his brother, Jamie. The police aren’t doing anything because Jamie has run away before, and they think it’s the same thing this time. But Connor is still worried. Pip says she doesn’t investigate anymore, but that she’ll talk with the police; shockingly, the police still won’t look into the case. Pip is back with another case to figure out what happened to Jamie.

We do find out that Max Hastings, the man on trial for drugging and assaulting girls at the calamity parties, is found not guilty. I mean this is so typical of real life that I was not surprised but still saddened and annoyed. Pip does not let this lie thought and vandalizes Max’s house and uploads the audio file of him admitting his guilt.

Jamie’s case was fascinating and just as hard hitting as the Andie Bell and Sal Singh from the first book. The way Jackson writes her story and the pacing she employs is so well done. For this case, it involves a case from the past of a man, Scott Brunswick, who made his son lure out child victims in Margate, Kent. Child Brunswick was placed in witness protection and the court documents only ever listed him as Child Brunswick. It all comes to a head in the end and someone ends up dead (it’s not Pip, Ravi, or any of her friends, so don’t worry).

This one had not only a compelling case but also pretty interesting ideas about the justice system and who is guilty and who isn’t. During Pip’s investigation, she found the subreddit talking about Child Brunswick, many who think it isn’t fair that he never got punished. But there’s also that thin line of while he did lure the children out, he never had a real chance of a life as this was his dad. There is a reminder in this that he was a child as well. Then there is the fact that Max Hastings was found not guilty when we all know he is, which just goes back to the recent events of needing to reform the justice system.

This is such a great book with great characters! I’m definitely behind as the 3rd is already out, and I don’t yet have it.

Happy Reading Darlings!

Book Review | Daisy Jones and the Six

Title: Daisy Jones & the Six

Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid

Publisher: Ballantine Books

Date: 5 March 2019

Pages: 355

Content Warnings: drug abuse, drug use, addiction, abortion, alcoholism, toxic relationship

An interesting novel about the rise of a iconic 1970s (imaginary) rock band and their beautiful lead singer, revealing the mystery behind their infamous breakup. Daisy is a girl coming of age in L.A., in the late sixties, sneaking into clubs on the Sunset Strip, sleeping with rock stars, and dreaming of singing at the Whisky a Go-Go. By the time she’s twenty, she’s being noticed for her voice, and she has that kind of heedless beauty that makes people do crazy things.

At the same time, a band called The Six is getting noticed, led by the brooding Billy Dunne. Billy and Daisy cross paths when a producer realizes the key to supercharged success is to put the two together, but in the end it all kind of goes up in flames.

To start off with, the narrative of the book is such a great set up, as it’s being written in interview style for an upcoming book in their world. Spoiler alert: the readers find out at the end that the interviewer is one of the daughters of Billy and his wife, Camila, who is wanting to know more about this time period of her parents lives.

The characters were fully developed but at the same time, they were typical characters of the 1970s rock and roll type people. The one character that really stood out for me was Karen, I especially resonated with her stance on not having children as I’m of the same mindset! I absolutely loved that Reid had her stick with it even in the face of opposition, as many authors renege on their childfree characters. I personally don’t think any of the relationships in this book are healthy, not even Billy and Camila’s. I know people will disagree with me, but I still see it as toxic and staying out of nostalgia than actual love (again this is just my opinion).

The main plot of the book is figuring out why Daisy & The Six broke up, which oh my goodness I never saw coming. This is sarcasm; it’s totally apparent that they were going to break the way they did and everything that happened afterwards was pretty on par for what I thought would happen.

My verdict is that it’s an enjoyable weekend or summer type read.

Happy Reading Darlings!

Book Review | The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

Title: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid

Publisher: Atria Books

Date: 13 June 2017

Pages: 389

Content Warnings: domestic abuse, homophobia, death, biphobia, alcoholism, suicide

I feel like I’m alone in that most of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s books I’m not a fan of. I think the author was trying to make a diverse book with a diverse cast of characters and it fell flat.

The main character of the story is of course in the title, Evelyn Hugo. A story of her rags to riches life and how she became Hollywood’s It Girl actress. It’s about her husbands in the sense that people find it crazy she’s been married 7 times, but the reveal is about Evelyn and her own psyche.

The set-up for the book is about a young, up-and-coming journalist, Monique, being offered to interview Evelyn Hugo for the magazine she works at. We find out by the end of the book, and yes I’m saying it now because this book as been out for a while and the reveal is underwhelming, that Monique’s dad was killed in an accident that was caused by Harry. Harry and Monique’s dad had been having an affair but Monique’s dad had decided to stay with Monique and her mom. That night was the night he was killed. Evelyn hid it all to save Harry, which yes I get you know him and not the other man, but you make up for it by inviting her to interview you, like….what?

The book is divided into sections based off of which husband Evelyn is telling Monique about. Here are the list of husbands, what I think about them, and Evelyn’s relationship with them :

  1. Poor Ernie Diaz: I feel really bad for Ernie. He gets married and then the woman leaves him once she finds something better. I’m not saying Ernie was perfect but using someone like that is gross. Evelyn does admit at the beginning to Monique that she is the most selfish and self-absorbed so what can we expect.
  2. Goddamn Don Adler: I mean abusive jackass, do I need to say anymore? Obviously, Evelyn (nor anyone) deserves this in their life.
  3. Gullible Mick Riva: This time period was not the easiest time for people who were gay or lesbian (let alone transgender) so the fact that she used Mick to keep her and Celia’s relationship a secret. And of course, Mick uses Evelyn to continually run away from his problems, wife, and children.
  4. Clever Rex North: I mean this seems on par for much of Hollywood and life of people marrying for stunts or because it’s a good career move. I didn’t feel much for Evelyn or Rex in these chapters (truthfully, I barely remember these chapters).
  5. Brilliant, Kind-Hearted, Tortured Harry Cameron: I love Harry! I think he’s probably my favorite character. The relationship between him and Evelyn is so precious and adorable that it makes my heart happy. I still don’t understand the need/want for people to have children but whatever.
  6. Disappointing Max Girard: I was a little surprised that Evelyn expected something different with Max to happen. Like of course, he wants her to be the perfect Evelyn Hugo, he didn’t care about the real Evelyn when they first met why would he now?
  7. Agreeable Robert Jamison: I have nothing good or bad to say, he’s you know, meh. He’s there to provide Evelyn safety and so her and Celia can be together.

Celia St. James, the love of Evelyn’s life, the only question I have is why? Celia is not a nice person. There’s a feeling I had when reading where Celia could do no wrong while Evelyn was always messing up. Even though yes Evelyn did make mistakes, she always owned up to them. Celia feels the opposite where she never acknowledges her own issues in their relationship. I’m especially pissed about the bierasure and biphobia that we don’t see Celia deal with and understand.

The ending of the book was majorly disappointing! The hype around why Evelyn had Monique write this all comes down to a car accident, like it felt like there was supposed to be a greater set up that didn’t happen.

The last points I want to make are the ways the diversity is presented in the book. There are few POC characters in the book and each time they’re introduced their skin color or ethnicity is one of the first, if not the first, thing mentioned about them, which was odd (and definitely showed that a white person wrote it). I’m also super uncomfortable with a scene where Monique is noticing herself after she’s ready to go meet with Evelyn. She is thinking about how she’s lost a bit of weight since David left and that she’s a bit slimmer. Okay, that’s fine to notice, but then she says “looking at myself now pulled together and slimmer, I feel a rush of confidence. I look good. I feel good.” And this made me super uncomfortable because why can’t a fat person be confident? It feels like the author is saying that fat people aren’t allowed to feel confident, which is crazy! There were moments with how the author described POC people, to the subtle fat-shaming instances, and even the slight caricatures of the LGBTQ+ characters that left a bad taste in my mouth by the end.

Overall, it was an okay book. I personally don’t understand the obsession with this (or most of her books). And I know some people will probably say at least she’s trying by having POC & LGBTQ+ characters in her book, but I’ll counterpoint that argument now by saying if they aren’t represented well/accurately then what’s the point?

Happy Reading Darlings!

Book Review | The Rise of Kyoshi

Title: The Rise of Kyoshi

Author: F.C. Yee

Publisher: Amulet Books

Published: 16 July 2019

Pages: 442

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Gah! I absolutely LOVE Kyoshi! And Rangi! And I will hold back as much as my gushing as possible…actually, that’s a lie, I probably won’t!

Okay, so on to the actual story, I guess. After Avatar Kuruk died, there was a power vacuum left open and many places devolved into chaos. The people closest to Kuruk, Jianzhu and Kelsang, went around the world to try to find the next Avatar, which took quite a few years. On their travels, they did find Kyoshi, as a young girl barely surviving on the island.

Nine years after that initial meeting, Jianzhu and Kelsang, along with another companion of Kuruk’s Hei-Ran, are training the new Avatar Yun. Kyoshi was taken in by Kelsang and she soon became friends with both Yun and Rangi (Hei-Ran’s daughter).

But then Jianzhu finds out that Yun is not actually the next Avatar but Kyoshi is, obviously for those who’ve watched Avatar: The Last Airbender, we already knew this. Kyoshi decides the best course of action is to run away as she can no longer trust Jianzhu after he kills Yun and Kelsang (this happens pretty close to the beginning, so it’s not really a spoiler).

Rangi joins Kyoshi on this escape trip and soon they fall in with her parents’ old criminal gang to help her eventually face down Jianzhu.

Again, I absolutely love Kyoshi, but probably my favorite parts were with Rangi and Kyoshi. This f/f romance is definitely in my top ships from now on, it’s especially awesome with the fact that Kyoshi is bisexual (she used to have feelings for Yun). Bisexuals for the win!! Anyway, to let you know how amazing the relationship between Rangi and Kyoshi, here are some quotes for your enjoyment (and mine):

  • “You don’t think you deserve peace and happiness and good things, but you do!” Rangi yelled. “You, Kyoshi! Not the Avatar, but you!?
  • “Where you go, I go.” (Which I absolutely love because it’s a callback to the bible verse from Ruth “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay.” Apparently, this is one of the most quoted bible verses after 1 Corinthians 13).
  • “Kyoshi realized that comforting [Rangi] throughout the night was both an honor and a torture she wouldn’t have traded for anything in the world.
  • “With their eyes on each other, it was easy to be brave. Maybe that’s the only way we get through this, Kyoshi thought. Just never look away.”
  • Also, there’s a scene where Rangi is training Kyoshi and Rangi makes her hold the horse stance for 10 minutes. To test Kyoshi’s strength and focus, Rangi drapes herself over Kyoshi and kisses her throughout the 10 minutes.

I just, I just can’t with these two adorable humans!!

Kyoshi is such an amazing character on her own as well though. Not only an amazing character but her development throughout the book was beautiful to watch and read. I can definitely see where her desire for justice was born in this book. Kyoshi was a young girl who was never viewed with any respect or importance in her life, aside from Kelsang, Yun, and Rangi. Her background from an abandoned, impoverished background, along with her being identified as the Avatar so late in life means she had to fight for everything in her life. Seeing her grow from that little girl who had to fight for every scrap to the Avatar, knowing how her story ends and knowing that the Kyoshi warriors are formed in her name, was an absolutely lovely. I would definitely like to see more about why her parents abandoned her and maybe see a short story from their point of view. But other than that, gosh I just cannot wait to read the next book and to see more of Kyoshi and Rangi.

Some more quotes to show how much I love this woman:

  • “They’re all the same, Kyoshi thought. Every single one. Whether they clothe themselves in business or brotherhood or a higher calling only they can see, it doesn’t matter. They’re one and the same. They look at themselves like forces of nature, as inevitable ends, but they’re not. Their depth is as false as the shoals at low tide. They twist the meaning of justice to absolve themselves of conscience. They’re humans like us, made of skin and guts and pain. They need to be reminded of that fact.”
  • “Kyoshi gently nudged Rangi’s chin upward. She could no more prevent herself from doing this than she could keep from breathing, living, fearing. “I do feel loved,” she declared. Rangi’s beautiful face shone in reflection. Kyoshi leaned in and kissed her. A warm glow mapped Kyoshi’s veins. Eternity distilled in a single brush of skin. She thought she would never be more alive than now.”
  • “It was said that each Avatar was born in fitting times, to an era that needed them. Judging by its start, the era of Kyoshi would be marred by uncertainty, fear, and death, the only gifts she seemed capable of producing for the world. The people would never revere her like they did Yangchen or smile at her like they did Kuruk. Then let it be so, she thought. She would fight her ill fortune, her bad stars, and protect those who might despise her to the very end of her days.”
  • To Kyoshi that had been the easiest lesson to take in. She was nothing special. She had never been anything special. That was a mantra she believed in.”

This book did a fantastic job of exploring ethics, justice, and corruption, as well as the usual destiny and responsibility mantle that the Avatar takes up. At the beginning, Kyoshi has to decided whether to stay with Jianzhu, who was actually been pretty beneficial to the stability of the Earth Kingdom, but who did murder two people Kyoshi cared deeply for in cold blood. Or she can join up with the daofei, the criminal group her parents started in order to seek revenge against Jianzhu. It’ll definitely be interesting to see who Kyoshi will become in the next book? What she will be known for? And what she is willing to fight for?

Of course, for anyone who loves Avatar: the Last Airbender, this is definitely something you’ll want to check out. Especially, if you are a fan of the Kyoshi Warriors like I am or a fan of strong, independent women. With The Rise of Kyoshi, it expands the ATLA universe while also introducing the readers to new customs, cultures, and politics in the universe as well.

So, a request? When can I get a sky bison of my own? Pretty please, I’ve been very good!

Happy Reading Darlings

Book Review | The Shadow of Kyoshi

Title: The Shadow of Kyoshi

Author: F.C. Yee

Publisher: Amulet Books

Published: 21 July 2020

Rating: 5 out of 5.

How does Yee make me fall more in love with both Kyoshi and Rangi? It’s a mystery but these two characters have my heart forever. Also, if I could ask the gods, spirits, the Avatar themselves to find someone to love me like Rangi loves Kyoshi, that would be great. Thanks!

The second book in Avatar Kyoshi’s series and I’m surprised that I enjoyed it just as much (if not more) as the first book. We first see Kyoshi in the Earth kingdom trying to handle the gangs that have infiltrated the lower ring of Ba Sing Se. There is also an introduction to a new character Jinpa, a monk from the Southern Air Temple, who has become Kyoshi’s secretary since she visited there.

Kyoshi receives a letter from the Fire Lord asking for the Avatar’s assistance with a national matter. She aquieces, mostly because she wants to reunite with Rangi (refresher: Rangi went to the North Pole with her mom, Hei-Ran, who needed to be healed from Jianzhu). Seeing them reunite was so stickin’ adorable, but it was also great to see the first interaction between Rangi and Jinpa play out like they were old friends. They both ganged up on Kyoshi for not taking care of herself.

Yet, the Fire Nation is not the pantheon of peace that most people think. There is a coming civil war in the land and Fire Lord Zoryu needs all the help he can get to keep his country intact. Not only that but it appears that Yun is not as dead as we thought.

The content of this book really begins to highlight Kyoshi coming into her own power and having to make those difficult decisions. We see her grow and mature, just like all the other characters in the book. And of course, we have some prime Kyoshi and Rangi romance moments that I can’t help but highlight:

  • Kyoshi had gone so long without her center she almost forgot what it felt like. Rangi made her human again, balanced and whole (pg. 74)
  • Rangi tells Kyoshi before the party with the Fire Lord that Kyoshi can’t touch or kiss anywhere above Rangi’s neck because it’s a sign of disrespect. To which we have this great line of narration: “But those were Kyoshi’s favorite parts.” And I definitely like to imagine Kyoshi’s face as someone who has kicked her puppy.
  • On a whim, she picked Rangi up by the waist and whirled her around. No one was there to schold them for inappropriate touching. Rangi laughed despite herself and tried to swat at her but couldn’t reach as far. “Stop it! You’re embarrassing me!” “That’s the point!” (pgs. 156-157)
  • The word echoed with bitterness and dread in Rangi’s throat, and through it Kyoshi saw deeper into the fire of her glowing girl than she ever had before. (They then go on to discuss Rangi taking Kyoshi to visit her home). (pg. 160)
  • I can’t tell you anything for certain about the future. Only that I’ll be there with you. (Rangi to Kyoshi, pg. 328

I cannot get enough of these two! But there was more to the story. This one had political intrigue and clans vying for power that developed more of the history of the Avatar world, specifically the Fire Nation. In the end, there is the hints of the clan system soon ending and the Fire Nation being only loyal to the Fire Lord (the seeds of the power-hungry Sozin and Ozai being planted).

This book was mostly a focus on not just power and the lengths we would go to achieve power, but also a focus on revenge and how corrupt we can become when we decide our self-regard is more important than the entire world. I’m super upset that this is the last book in this series, but I’m hoping that there are more books in the future that have more spin-offs of other characters or Avatars.

Happy Reading Darlings!