We Are Not Ourselves

We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas
Published by Simon & Schuster on August 19th 2014
Genres: historical fiction
Pages: 620
Goodreads

Born in 1941, Eileen Tumulty is raised by her Irish immigrant parents in Woodside, Queens, in an apartment where the mood swings between heartbreak and hilarity, depending on whether guests are over and how much alcohol has been consumed.

When Eileen meets Ed Leary, a scientist whose bearing is nothing like those of the men she grew up with, she thinks she's found the perfect partner to deliver her to the cosmopolitan world she longs to inhabit. They marry, and Eileen quickly discovers Ed doesn't aspire to the same, ever bigger, stakes in the American Dream.

Eileen encourages her husband to want more: a better job, better friends, a better house, but as years pass it becomes clear that his growing reluctance is part of a deeper psychological shift. An inescapable darkness enters their lives, and Eileen and Ed and their son Connell try desperately to hold together a semblance of the reality they have known, and to preserve, against long odds, an idea they have cherished of the future.

Through the Learys, novelist Matthew Thomas charts the story of the American Century, particularly the promise of domestic bliss and economic prosperity that captured hearts and minds after WWII. The result is a riveting and affecting work of art; one that reminds us that life is more than a tally of victories and defeats, that we live to love and be loved, and that we should tell each other so before the moment slips away.

We Are Not Ourselves was a very hard book to rate. On one hand I love the historical aspects of it, the writing made it come alive and the characters seemed incredibly real. On the other hand I really disliked the characters and the…plot? I’m hesitant to call it a plot because I feel like a plot inspires visions of a rollercoaster of emotions and the storyline was very linear.

When we first meet Eileen as a child, I feel bad for her but she seems like a strong person. She seems resigned to her fate but motivated to change it when she can. I know that they say you grow up to be like your parents, but I feel like she was so hyper aware of how her parents were and how much she didn’t want to be like them, that it was odd that she grew up to be like them. Maybe it was because she was so focused on her financial stability and outward appearances that she didn’t nurture her caring side, or maybe it’s just a sign of those times, but her attitude just didn’t sit right with me. Especially her interactions with her son. A big part of my dislike for this book was because of Eileen, and although that means I likely wouldn’t recommend the book, the fact that Thomas’ writing evoked such strong feelings from me means it was written well.

Like I said before, the plot wasn’t much of a plot. From the outset I kind of guessed what was going to happen. When Ed started to decline and Eileen basically out and out ignored it because she was too focused on everyone judging them on it, so she didn’t get Ed the help he needed, I wanted to reach into the book and shake her. I get that this is in a different time, so appearances mattered a lot more (or I assume they did), but her attitude around the whole situation just frustrated me. She spent the entire book being miserable, judgy, and snarky towards everyone when if she’d put caring for her family above everything else, she could have had a much better time. Which again, the fact that I got so annoyed at her as a character means the book was well written. Not every character has to be loveable.

So all in all, would I reread We Are Not Ourselves? No. Would I recommend it? Probably not. Do I still consider it a decent read? Begrudgingly.

She tried to imagine what it would feel like to have always been alone. She decided that being alone to begin with would be easier than being left alone. Everything would be easier than that.

“Don’t ever love anyone,” her mother said, picking the papers up and sliding them into the bureau drawer she’d kept her ring in. “All you’ll do is break your own heart.”

One StarOne StarOne Star

Feverborn

Feverborn by Karen Marie Moning
Published by Dell on November 29th 2016
Genres: urban fantasy
Pages: 391
Goodreads

In Karen Marie Moning s latest installment of the epic Fever series, Mac, Barrons, Ryodan, and Jada are back and the stakes have never been higher or the chemistry hotter. Hurtling us into a realm of labyrinthine intrigue and consummate seduction, Feverborn is a riveting tale of ancient evil, lust, betrayal, forgiveness, and the redemptive power of love. When the immortal Fae destroyed the ancient wall dividing the worlds of Man and Faery, the very fabric of the universe was damaged, and now Earth is vanishing bit by bit. Only the long-lost Song of Making a haunting, dangerous melody that is the source of life itself can save the planet. But those who seek the mythic song must contend with old wounds and new enemies, passions that burn hot and hunger for vengeance that runs deep.

The challenges are many: the Keltar at war with nine immortals who have secretly ruled Dublin for eons, Mac and Jada hunted by the masses, the Seelie queen nowhere to be found, and the most powerful Unseelie prince in all creation determined to rule both Fae and Man. Now the task of solving the ancient riddle of the Song of Making falls to a band of deadly warriors divided among and within themselves. Once a normal city possessing a touch of ancient magic, Dublin is now a treacherously magical city with only a touch of normal. And on those war-torn streets, Mac will come face-to-face with her most savage enemy yet: herself.

I don’t remember much of Feverborn, and that’s not because it was bad, but because it was such a build up to what was coming that I wanted to get to the end to figure out what it all meant. The fact that I was able to rush through it without getting bored is a testament to how good it was.

I think this was actually the first book in the entire series where I didn’t mind Mac at all. She became a fully realized character to me. Her decisions made sense, her attitude made sense, it all fit for me finally. Only took me until the end of the series. I got a better sense of Jada too, and wasn’t as thrown off by the whole Dani fiasco.

I liked that you were being fed a decent chunk of backstory while also building up some action. It’s definitely a middle book, but it’s a good one. I could feel that the end of the series was coming in this book, but I was excited to see how it played out.

I know this isn’t much, but I didn’t really have much to say about it, honestly. Decent overall!

One StarOne StarOne StarHalf a Star

Bloodfever

Bloodfever by Karen Marie Moning
Published by Dell on August 26th 2008
Genres: urban fantasy
Pages: 368
Goodreads

MacKayla Lane's ordinary life underwent a complete makeover when she landed on Ireland's shores and was plunged into a world of deadly sorcery and ancient secrets.

In her fight to stay alive, Mac must find the Sinsar Dubh- a million-year-old book of the blackest magic imaginable, which holds the key to power over both the worlds of the Fae and of Man. Pursued by Fae assassins, surrounded by mysterious figures she knows she cannot trust, Mac finds herself torn between two deadly and irresistible men: V'lane, the insatiable Fae who can turn sensual arousal into an obsession for any woman, and the ever-inscrutable Jericho Barrons, a man as alluring as he is mysterious.

For centuries the shadowy realm of the Fae has coexisted with that of humans. Now the walls between the two are coming down, and Mac is the only thing that stands between them....

I’m on a Fever series binge right now. I read this one right after Darkfever. And I’ve already bought the third and the fourth, although I’m not in love with the series. I’m still not sure on the characters, but I kind of love the plot and writing. So maybe it’ll be worth it for me to continue reading?

A bit spoilery ahead.

My biggest issue remains to be Mac. She’s just so dense. And I don’t know if it’s because she’s supposed to be this small town, naive girl, but it’s starting to get on my nerves. Like, you just find out that ALLLL these Fae exist, but when you see what you think is the Grim Reaper, you ASSUME you’ve gone bonkers and it’s not real. WHY??? I get that it needs to happen in order for the plot to make sense, but I feel like this is not a realistic reaction to seeing the GR. If I found out vampires existed and saw a troll, I’d for sure be talking to someone about it (especially if you know someone that can also see things) just to make sure. This was the single most irritating part of the book. And since it was happened throughout the book, I wasn’t exactly a happy camper.

Okay, I think you’re good for spoilers.

Jericho has gotten a bit better for me, although I still can’t really picture him in my head. His attitude is somewhat annoying, but I think that’s the point of him. And when he starts to show his feelings, man I melt. I’m super curious to find out more about him.

I’m also super excited to learn more about some characters that were introduced that I think will play a bigger part going forward.

And, as I said, I’m still loving the plot. Even if there isn’t much going on, it’s still moving ahead, which is nice.

Oh, the other thing I had an issue with was repetitiveness. Reading these back to back, there’s a lot of info that is repeated book to book. Saying that, if I was reading the series normally, I think it would be super helpful. Especially when Mac encounters characters for the first time in that book, but not the first time in the series, and she gives you a little recap of who they are and how they play into the story. But for me, it’s like having to watch a “last time on the show” recap while binging a show on Netflix.

Have you read the Fever series? What’d you think?

One StarOne StarOne StarHalf a Star

Dreams of Gods and Monsters

Dreams of Gods & Monsters (Daughter of Smoke & Bone, #3) by Laini Taylor
on April 8th 2014
Genres: fantasy, young adult
Pages: 613
Goodreads

Two worlds are poised on the brink of a vicious war. By way of a staggering deception, Karou has taken control of the chimaera's rebellion and is intent on steering its course away from dead-end vengeance. The future rests on her.

When the brutal angel emperor brings his army to the human world, Karou and Akiva are finally reunited - not in love, but in a tentative alliance against their common enemy. It is a twisted version of their long-ago dream, and they begin to hope that it might forge a way forward for their people. And, perhaps, for themselves.

But with even bigger threats on the horizon, are Karou and Akiva strong enough to stand among the gods and monsters?

The New York Times bestselling Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy comes to a stunning conclusion as - from the streets of Rome to the caves of the Kirin and beyond - humans, chimaera, and seraphim strive, love, and die in an epic theater that transcends good and evil, right and wrong, friend and enemy.

After reading the first two books in this trilogy without being super blown away, I was interested to see how Laini Taylor planned on ending it. I was also a little apprehensive. I was terribly afraid it would quickly turn into a “and everyone lived happily ever after” scenario.

I’m really glad (but also kind of sad) that it didn’t end out that way.

This book was dark. We’ve got smart Karou back, although she’s tired and so done with everything that’s going on. We’ve got her and Akiva on minimal speaking terms, but it’s enough. We’ve got the whole gang of awesome characters ready to fight a war that no one really wants to fight. Let’s gather everyone and kick some butt!

The stand out for me, character wise, in this book was Liraz. I loved her character development, even though it might not have always been straight forward. In the first book, I didn’t like her. By the end of Gods & Monsters, I had a profound understanding for why she is the way she is.

I felt so bad for Ziri throughout this book. Boy got the short end of the stick more often than not. His story line broke my heart the most, I think.

The one main thing I wasn’t a huge fan of was the back story to Akiva and his powers. Maybe it was because we didn’t start learning about it fully until this book (or was it the second?), but I just felt like it wasn’t as flushed out as it could have been. It was like we were told a legend about creation and expected to accept it without any questions. It just bothered me how that entire plot was handled.

I have mixed feelings about the ending, but I’m kind of happy it ended the way it did. I think it was a good compromise. I know that explains nothing, but if you read the books, let me know if you agree.

Really, I’m just happy I finally finished this trilogy. It’s been sitting on my shelf for far too long. And whether or not I like the stories, Laini Taylor has wonderful writing.

One StarOne StarOne StarHalf a Star

Days of Blood and Starlight

Days of Blood & Starlight by Laini Taylor
on November 6th 2012
Genres: fantasy, young adult
Pages: 517
Goodreads

Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love and dared to imagine a world free of bloodshed and war.

This is not that world.

Art student and monster's apprentice Karou finally has the answers she has always sought. She knows who she is—and what she is. But with this knowledge comes another truth she would give anything to undo: She loved the enemy and he betrayed her, and a world suffered for it.

In this stunning sequel to the highly acclaimed Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Karou must decide how far she'll go to avenge her people. Filled with heartbreak and beauty, secrets and impossible choices, Days of Blood & Starlight finds Karou and Akiva on opposing sides as an age-old war stirs back to life.

While Karou and her allies build a monstrous army in a land of dust and starlight, Akiva wages a different sort of battle: a battle for redemption. For hope.

But can any hope be salvaged from the ashes of their broken dream?

As the middle book in a trilogy, Days of Blood and Starlight wasn’t half bad. The plot was a little slow, but that’s because it’s creating a slow build up to the third and final book.

My only real issue with this entire book was Karou.

Oh, uh, spoilers.

I understand that Karou has just basically lost everything and everyone that she loves. I get that. Betrayal is extra devastating. But she gets so…caught up?…in her grief that she stops being Karou. I don’t know if that’s me being uncompassionate, but come on. She’s a smart girl and she closes her eyes to some OBVIOUS shit. Mostly regarding the White Wolf. It aggravated me a lot that I just had to sit by and watch stupid Karou make stupid mistakes while her stupid heart was broken.

I felt intensely sorry for Akiva, even though he’s the one that messed up and got people into this mess. I just..ugh, I don’t know. I feel like he screws things up, tries to apologize, but no one gives a shit that he’s made a mistake. Look, just because the guy’s an angel doesn’t mean he doesn’t mess up.

Days of Blood and Starlight is where I really started to connect with the characters, which was fantastic. Karou I still had issues with, but Zuzana and Mik I absolutely LOVED. I would take Zuze as a best friend any day of the week. I can understand why Karou doesn’t let her in immediately to the Fantastic World of Beasts, but I feel bad that Zuze has to basically fight her to be let in.

Gaining more insight into Akiva and his siblings was fantastic. They become more human (ironic) than in Daughter, where I felt they were just out to kill everyone. Although, this book still has a lot of killing. But it makes you realize how senseless violence is, and how tiring it can be.

On the plus side, there was no insta-love, so that was an improvement for me. We get a darker, grittier, emotional feelz between the characters. Which is an improvement, but still not my favourite. I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again. A lot of relationships in books could be solved with some simple communication. It would save everyone so much heartache.

One StarOne StarOne StarHalf a Star

Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor
on September 27th 2011
Genres: fantasy, young adult
Pages: 422
Goodreads

Around the world, black hand prints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grows dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherworldly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real, she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious "errands", she speaks many languages - not all of them human - and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.

When beautiful, haunted Akiva fixes fiery eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?

A little backstory about this series before I start my review. I’ve owned the entire trilogy since Daughter of Smoke and Bone came out in 2011. That’s 7 years these guys sat on my shelf. I originally bought them 1) for the covers, 2) I love things set in Prague, and 3) the plot seemed really intriguing.

I read Daughter about a year after it came out. I was not a fan. I loved the setting, the characters were fun, the plot was okay, but it didn’t do anything for me. Which is shown by the fact that it took me 5-6 years to continue the series even though they sat on my shelf the entire time.

This could get a bit spoilery from here on out, FYI.

Although Karou was fun, I had issues with her personality. I can understand parts of it, she just comes across as whiny. This didn’t get any better in my opinion.

Akiva was cute but he didn’t really do anything for me. His personality seemed very empty.

The main issue I had was the insta-love. The backstory behind that slowly gets explained, but I just couldn’t get on board with it. It seemed very fake to me. I can’t even explain why.

I loved the atmosphere and the universe Laini Taylor created, though, and I think that is what drew me back to this series. In order to continue with them, I had to go back and read Daughter since I legit could not remember a single thing that happened in it. This time around I understood things a bit better, and although I still wasn’t 100% on board with the insta-love, I made it through all right. The rest of the story mattered more to me this time.

I definitely liked it better this time and I’m glad I did a reread. There’s a lot of things I glossed over the first time, which is likely me being an impatient reader. But Laini Taylor is a fantastic writer, which I appreciated more this read. I liked it enough to finish the series, so stay tuned for those reviews!

One StarOne StarOne Star