7 Books to Read (to help keep your spirits up)

Let me be clear, I’m a hardcore introvert. But these days I’m madly in love with people. I’m in awe at the good that so many are showing right now, in the big and small ways. I might like being alone, but in this time of chaos, I’m so grateful to be human. I’m also extremely grateful to the storytellers. In odd, scary, or hard times, I’ve always turn to books. Here’s what I’m currently reading (or re-reading) during this time. Hopefully you’ll find something here that catches your fancy and brings you some joy as well.

The Martian (Andy Wier): This is a love letter to human resilience, intelligence, and the way that people come together. It’s also a love letter to any geek, or any curious person out there. Reading about Mark and his potatoes on Mars always puts things into perspective for me.

Twilight (Stephenie Meyer): I won’t apologize for how much I love this book. Sometimes you just need some tragic, romantic, over the top melodrama in your life. Also, I’m totally in love with the writing style. For me, flaws and all, this book is pure escapism.

Clockwork Angel (Cassandra Clare): This is a superb story about Tessa who must come to terms with her life being torn apart. The book feels like a love letter to all of us who are a little odd. What’s even better is that you don’t have to be familiar with Clare’s other works to read this. It’s the perfect introduction to the Shadowhunters world.

Abarat (Clive Barker): Where do I start with this book? The paintings by the author are phenomenal, and Candy’s story is powerful. This book has gone so many places with me (literally!), and has helped me expand myself in so many ways. Adventure, resilience, and conquering fears/overwhelming uncertainty make this book an all time favorite of mine.

Job (The Bible): No matter your beliefs, the book of Job is a powerful one. Job is a man who has it all (literally) and loses it then becomes painfully, chronically ill. In a time where so many of us are struggling with health and doing our best to stay healthy, Job’s struggles still resonate deeply today. The themes of friendship and good and evil are also at the forefront. The book might be much older than any of us, but there’s no denying its power. Whenever I’m ill or feeling afraid, this book always comforts me.

The Lord of the Rings (J. R. R. Tolkien): I’m slowly making my way through this tome (after all, the three books are intended to be read as one), but it’s an absolute delight. The struggles Frodo and company face make mine feel much smaller in comparison. I love the extensive travel and world building. I feel much less confined after reading a chapter. For me this book slows me down, forces me to relax and enjoy the details. I’ve come to find that once I start looking for details in a book, it’s much easier to find small delights outside of them.

In the Wake of the Plague (Norman F. Cantor): This might seem a bit too on the nose, reading about the Black Death when we’re going through an epidemic/plague ourselves, but I can’t say how helpful it’s been for me to read about how humanity has overcome world wide illnesses before. This is hard to read simply because it hurts to read about people suffering, but this book has a lot to teach us. Both about the Black Death, and about the spread of modern viruses. It’s given me an even stronger respect for those who are on the front lines pushing towards a cure and for the health of the world.

Hopefully you’ve found a book or two that piques your interest. Whatever sort of thing suits your fancy, I hope you’re able to put aside the world for a little while and enjoy it. As for me, I’ll continue to read through my many books and of course, write. I’d love to hear what things you’re reading during this time (or anything interesting that you might be up to during all of this). May you and your loved ones stay healthy and safe.

Book Review: A Court of Thorns and Roses

“…I wish I had it in me to feel remorse for the dead thing. But this was the forest, and it was winter.” ~Fyere

I have no words for this book. The beauty, depth, darkness and light within it, all deeply moved me. Even so, I’ll do my best to review A Court of Thorns and Roses. After all, I’m the sort of person that when I fall in love with a book, I must talk about it.

A red and black book with silver text on it. On the left side of the book a young woman in a black dress stands, a black flowering tattoo on her arm. The text reads "A Court of Thorns and Roses" by Sarah J. Maas

Synopsis: Fyere is a 19 year old woman who kills a wolf in the woods to help provide food for her family. Her world is shattered when a powerful beast comes to claim her as retribution. Taken to the half of the world where no human has ventured and come back alive from, Fyere discovers her captor is none other than Tamlin, one of the immortal and exceedingly powerful Fae. But Tamlin and his companions hold secrets, secrets of a power that is slowly destroying the world of the Fae, and Fyere’s human world. As Fyere learns more about Tamlin, she starts to realize just how little she knows about her world, the Fae, and how little power she has to stop the rising evil.

Thoughts: I had a number of hesitations coming into this book. For one, while “Beauty and the Beast” is one of my favorite stories, it’s also one of the more popular retellings. Secondly, while Fae mythology has always interested me, I’m quite worn out from the watered down Fae. I was afraid that despite the hype surrounding the book, it wouldn’t appeal to me. So somehow, I began reading with high expectations, but low hopes. By the end of the first chapter I was enamored, and my love only grew as I read.

The first thing that captured me was the narration. Maas made a wonderful choice by telling the story from Fyere’s point of view. Fyere’s practical, stubborn, hurt, and yet she’s deeply loyal, desperately trying to hold on to what little beauty life has to offer. From the start, Fyere knows herself and her motivations are clear. As the story progresses and her world view is challenged, Fyere starts to question her motives. This is one of the driving forces of the plot. I personally loved this element because it lead to a lot of character interactions and each one of those pushed the plot forward, adding depth to the story.

It’s impossible to talk about Fyere without talking about the other characters. To go into detail about each one would make this post quite long, so I’ll simply summarize. As much as I enjoyed seeing Fyere and Tamlin’s growing relationship, I still felt that Tamlin was too distant overall. He was certainly interesting, but I still couldn’t fully get behind him. I have a feeling this is purposeful on Maas’ part. I do appreciate that the depth of his actions (or lack of actions) is clarified as the book continues. This leads to some lovely conflict and plot twists.

But it was Nesta and Rhysand that became out of the blue insta-faves for me. At the start of the book Nesta, the oldest of Fyere’s sisters, is cold, selfish, and yet she shows a shocking amount of love and loyalty to Elain, the middle sister. She mostly remains so, and yet she still shows a delightful amount of growth throughout the book. Her relationship with Fyere broke and mended my heart. And then there’s Rhysand. I was surprised with how quickly I fell in love with his character. Sassy, smart, always thinking a few steps ahead, Rhysand is shrouded in mystery. And for someone who is so mysterious, he still was an extremely fleshed out character, and a delight to read.

Of course, characters cannot exist in a void. The world building that went into A Court of Thorns and Roses is breath taking. It brings to mind the detailed fantasy worlds of Lord of the Rings, and Harry Potter. Not because this book is anything like them, simply because the magic, the belief system, the politics, and the geography are all so well thought out. Even from the first chapter there is a darkness hovering. I wasn’t expecting a terribly dark book, but this book was darker than I anticipated on a number of levels and I loved it. This book also pulls on a number of fantasy tropes and is a fascinating take on the original “Beauty and the Beast” story. But there are also other faerie tales that are referenced in the book, which I found to be an absolute delight.

For a number of reasons this book broke and mended me. I can’t point to any one thing and say “This is what made me love this book.” All of the elements, the way they were woven together, made me fall in love. The elements all tied into the plot. Nothing was mentioned needlessly, and that will always win me over in a book. A Court of Thorns and Roses hits on everything I want in a fantasy book. It pulls on old troupes and transforms them into something formidable and unique. It has a detailed, character and world based plot, suspenseful plot twists and a plethora of other things. If you haven’t read this series yet and are looking for fantasy with an edge, I highly recommend A Court of Thorns and Roses. It’s a deeply immersive book that holds your heart and keeps you in its world long after the book is finished.