Tag: 2017

Review: A Court of Mist and Fury

This is the second book in the Sarah J. Maas trilogy that began with A Court of Thorns and Roses. (Click HERE to read my review.) If you haven’t read the first one and plan to, stop reading now! There will be a few little spoilers in this review.

Feyre, having survived Amarantha and Under the Mountain, has paid a huge price to save Tamlin’s life, as well as the lives of the entire Fae realm. Although she is now High Fae herself and has some strong faerie powers (although she has no idea how strong yet), she cannot forget what she had to do to save her new people. She also has her bargain with Rhysand, High Lord of the Night Court, to contend with. By the end of the novel, Feyre must decide what, and who, she wants, and if she is willing to harness her new powers to save the world again.

Even though I had been told that this book was even better than the first, I was hesitant, because sequels are just never as good. (Unless you’re Harry Potter.) I’m so glad I was wrong. Like A Court of Thorns and Roses, A Court of Mist and Fury is slow to start, but after 100 pages or so (a drop in the bucket of an almost 700-page book) I couldn’t put it down. Just like the first book, I think this one is incorrectly categorized as YA, and if you like fantasy novels you’ll love this one. There are some formulaic plots going on here, but it doesn’t bother me. (We know we’re supposed to be rooting for Rhysand over Tamlin, we kind of know where it’s going end up, we just don’t know why. This novel really explores the why.) Formulas are fine if they’re done well, and Maas does a great job once again.

We get a lot more character development with Feyre, and a lot more with Rhysand. However, what’s different here from most other novels like this is that while we do have character development for both the female and male leads, their development is not dependent on each other. Whatever Feyre chooses to do with her powers and her future, you know she’s going to be making that decision by herself and for herself. Feyre is definitely not a princess in need of saving, and this book shows exactly why and how she can save herself, and not in an implausible way. This is what Disney princesses should be. (Without all the sexy bits.)

If you haven’t read this one, start now! The third book in the trilogy, A Court of Wings and Ruin, comes out May 2!

Parenting Review: 1-2-3 Magic

I know, this isn’t exactly the type of non-fiction book review you’d expect to see on a book review blog. But I really enjoyed reading it, and it has changed my parenting game, so I wanted to leave a brief review here. Our pediatrician recommended this book a few years ago, and I filed it away one my mental to-be-read shelf. A few months ago, another pediatrician friend raved about it, and that sealed the deal. (When she said this book was required reading for her entire residency class, I knew I had to read it too.) “1-2-3 Magic” is simple and effecting, and really reduces stress for parents and kids.

The premise of the method is simple. So simple you might think you’re already doing it. Count stop behaviors.

That’s it.

I mean, there’s more. But the basic idea is to only count stop behaviors. (Things you want your child to stop doing.)

If you have kids, I’m almost positive you’ve used the, “If you don’t do XYZ by the time I get to three . . . one . . . two . . . two and a half . . . three!” And then . . . nothing happens most of the time. The kid doesn’t do what you want or stop what you want them to stop, and most of us don’t really have a great follow through. I’ve had several friends without kids catch me doing that, and when they ask if counting to three really works, I always had to say, “No, not really.” “1-2-3 Magic” plays on that counting theme, and it actually works.

When your child is doing something you want them to STOP, say, “That’s one.” If they continue, you say, “That’s two.” If they stop, great! Move on! If they don’t, it’s, “That’s three, go take five,” and they go take a five-minute break in their room or wherever you choose, or they give up whatever it is they’ve been misusing. And that’s it. Really.

There are no long explanations of why what they’re doing is wrong, why you don’t appreciate it, the history of all children everywhere, etc. That’s my downfall; I always want to over explain things to my kids, and all they hear is, “blah, blah, blah.” The most you really have to say is, “We don’t do that, that’s three, go take five.”

The first couple of weeks were a little rough as my kids got used to the new counting method, but now I rarely get past two before they stop. They know what to expect, I have a follow-through plan, and we are all way less stressed out. I don’t get frustrated when they’re misbehaving, because a simple plan is already in place, and if they actually make it to the third count, their anger at getting a time out (and it’s not really a time out) is short-lived because they know at the end of the five or ten minutes, the whole thing is finished and they’re not going to get a long speech from me about the golden rule.

It. Is. Magic.

There are a ton of great ideas in this book, including some about using positive reinforcement for start behavior (things you DO want your child to do, such as getting ready for school in a timely fashion), but the modified counting method is the main event.

You can definitely read this book in a few days, even just one day if you have the time. I read the e-book and then bought the paperback version, and I would recommend just buying or borrowing the paperback. The e-book version seemed to leave out quite a bit, and it’s nice to be able to flip back and forth in the real version.

Do you have any parenting books you love? Let me know!


Review: A Court of Thorns and Roses

If you enjoy fantasy novels, have I got a series for you!

A Court of Thorns and Roses is the first in a trilogy by Sarah J. Maas that is loosely based on the tales of Beauty and the Beast and Tam Lin. Feyre is 19-years-old and in charge of keeping her family (two sisters and father) fed and alive. While Feyre is out hunting, she kills a wolf in the woods who ends up being a faerie. Tamlin, a beastly creature, shows up and not so graciously gives her the option of being killed immediately for her actions or leaving her family forever to live with him. She chooses life. Things are not as they seem when Feyre arrives in the Fae world. The faeries aren’t all the monsters she grew up hearing about, and Tamlin might not be as beastly as she thinks. There is also a curse on the entire Fae realm that affects Tamlin, and will begin to affect Feyre as they realize she may be the only person to break the curse.

This is not usually the type of fantasy novel I go for. I do love fantasy, but more along the lines of Harry Potter and The Once and Future King. That being said, I really loved A Court of Thorns and Roses! The beginning is a little slow and heavy, but once the story gets going it is unputdownable, and I ignored my family for a good chunk of a weekend to finish it. The story is great and Maas really paints a clear, beautiful picture of everywhere Feyre goes: the bleak, cold village where she lives, the lush, extravagance of Tamlin’s lands, and a few other places I’ll leave out due to spoilers. The best part, though, is how Maas writes the characters. Often when a book is plot-heavy and action-packed, the characters are an afterthought. We read those books to find out what happens next, and the characters are simply vehicles for the author-chosen action. I don’t feel that way here. I was turning the pages to read more about the characters, as well as to find out what happens next, and I think that’s rare in this category. Feyre is a strong female leader and hero, and as you’ll find out, she doesn’t let anyone tell her what to do. She isn’t the simpering, meek female lead usually presenting in fantasy and romance novels. She can hold her own, and I genuinely like her. Maas really rounded out everyone, even the supporting characters, and I cared about what happened to all of them. Not every author can do that, but Maas can, and she does it well.

There is some cheesy writing, especially in the romantic scenes, but don’t let that put you off. Those bits are quick and don’t really detract from the rest of the story.

My one disclaimer here is about the novel’s categorization. The series is categorized as YA, but I really don’t think it is true YA, or was intended to be. Maas’s books seem to be categorized this way simply because they are fantasy novels, and as a way to increase readership. (And while I am in no way supportive of banning books or not letting kids read certain books, the sex scenes in this novel and its sequel are explicit enough that I would hesitate to hand them over to a kid.) I think this is kind of a shame, because there are plenty of adults who enjoy reading fantasy! (Raises both hands.)

The second book in the series is A Court of Misty and Fury, and the third and final, which will be released on May 2, 2017, is A Court of Wings and Ruin. I honestly can’t wait to find out how the story ends!


Review: Dispatches from Pluto


The Basics:

Richard Grant, a British journalist who moved from New York City to Pluto, Mississippi, a small community deep in the Delta, chronicles his new life there, with each chapter serving as a short story. Even if you don’t usually read non-fiction, I would highly recommend this book. The characters are interesting, the story itself is fascinating, and it is a far cry from some of the dry, non-fiction travel books out there. Grant really highlights the race issues in the Delta (and if you think you understand race issues in America, just read this book; everything is magnified, and the Delta almost feels like another country) in a way that makes me want to read more about that area. I can’t wait to pick up his other books after reading this one!


The Long of It:

I first heard about Richard Grant on Rick Steves’ podcast, Travel with Rick Steves. (If you’re not subscribed to his podcast, you really should be.) He was on the show to talk about Dispatches from Pluto, a non-fiction book chronicling his move from New York City to the Mississippi Delta, specifically an area known as Pluto. As you can imagine, a British journalist living in NYC, uprooting himself and his girlfriend to live in an old plantation house in one of the poorest, most racially segregated areas of the country, is like a fish out of water tale on steroids.

The few stories he told on Travel with Rick Steves were enough to peak my interest. (The charming British accent didn’t hurt, either.) Being from a small, Texas border town, I have a slight obsession with other small towns and the way people live, survive, and cultivate culture in their own little corners of the country.

The book has plenty of lighthearted moments, like dealing with killer mosquitos, the quirky characters, and discovering that winters in the south can be more difficult than winters in the north, but it is the spotlight on race issues that really makes this book stand out. This is not a heavy-handed, knock you in the head study on race, but the issues are so matter of fact in the Delta, in a way that they just aren’t in most other areas of the country, that you can’t help but want to dig deeper into that world.

I couldn’t help but think of John Berendt’s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, one of my very favorite books, while reading about Grant’s adventures. There’s not a scandalous murder at the heart of the story, but the characters are similarly quirky and unforgettable, and it is written in such an engaging way that it could be fiction. (And in the hands of the right people, it would make an amazing screen adaptation. Just saying.) If you are a fiction lover who feels like you need to add some non-fiction into your reading life, but have trouble getting into those books, give Dispatches from Pluto a try. I think you’ll love it!