Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

28374007Let’s start with the last book I finished, Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake. I read Blake’s YA horror duology way back when and enjoyed it (wait, let me go back and read those reviews to make sure this is an accurate representation of my former self). I lied! Memory is a bitch. I thought the first book was ‘meh’ but truly loved the second. Thank gods for my former self who felt compelled to immortalize things on the internet. Anyway, I like that Blake brings the horror. I love the horror. All the horror, por favor.

Crowns leans more towards your typical YA fantasy with girls who have magic. There are boys and politics and BIG REVEALS. But Blake still manages to wrangle in a horror element or two throughout her story. And those bits were the best bits (find a better written sentence, I dare you.)

Let’s talk plot. Fennbirn is an island the mainland barely remembers. And on this island, the Queen gives birth to a new set of triplets (always girls?) each generation. These triplets will have magic. Elemental magic, natural magic, and poison magic. Perhaps even war magic or the gift of sight. But only one can be Queen so it’s a fight to the death upon coming of age. Literally. They have to kill each other. Last one standing wins the right to continue breathing! Meet Katharine, Arsinoe, and Mirabelle. They are this generation’s chosen triplets and our main protagonists. You will like all three and wish for them a better outcome than is promised. Each girl has a unique upbringing (they are raised separately by adoptive families) and a strong individual personality. It helps that the story isn’t told in first person. There is far too much first person in YA.

Look, this is a slow burn. Not much happens through the first two-thirds and then the ending is bonkers. Like actual batshit banana pants bonkers. Slow meandering plots work for me. Especially as an antidote to more typical plot driven YA fantasy. I liked spending excessive amounts of time just hanging out with each teenager. All those pages makes the ending matter. But extra time also gives me more opportunities to figure out the big twists. And I did figure out those big twists. Thankfully, my discovery felt less like OMG PREDICTABLE more like THIS IS WHAT I NEEDED TO HAPPEN. So I was satisfied.

Blake gets dark at times. Remember those horror elements I was referring to above? Well, the entire Katharine story line felt Gothic and black-hearted. These poisoners are no joke. She wears a coral snake around her wrist and lives in what I imagined as a cold, stone-heavy castle. Crowds gather to watch Katharine eat airy arsenic pancakes for breakfast. (I paraphrased a scene. Sadly, there are no arsenic pancakes. But I think Kendare Blake should make a note for her next book.) Other locations see girls get their hands chopped off or their innards turned outtards. (Someone stop me.) How delightedly wicked to read, honestly. I felt refreshed and alive. YMMV.

Women rule the day and each girl has a strong female friendship she cherishes. LOVED. But badly done romance also creeps its way into the book reminding me of my least favorite YA romance nonsense. WHO THE HELL HAS EVER BEEN IN A LOVE TRIANGLE? I guess you could blame magic in this case. But I’m just so tired of contrived angst. There are romantic and platonic relationships done interestingly here, though. I tried to focus on those instead.

Should you read this book? I mean, I don’t know. But I read it and had a lovely Sunday afternoon waiting for teenage girls to kill each other. There’s a metaphor around here somewhere about womanhood, murder, and society, if you care enough to find it. For now, I’m off to my next literary journey. I hope there’s more murder.
FINAL VERDICT: A YA Fantasy that’s not reinventing the genre but still lured me in with its Gothic atmosphere and many female characters. A slow and meandering story with a punch to the gut at the end. Popcorn fiction with a side of murder and savage bears. Tres estrellas.

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Currently Reading: March Madness

I’ve gotten into the rotten habit of reading multiple books at one time. On one hand, it helps me keep reading on a daily basis because I can better choose a book to fit my particular mood. On the other hand, I never feel like I’m making any kind of adequate progress and then I get into a funk because it takes me too long to finish an entire book. And yet, I can’t stop.

I started Pachinko by Min Jin Lee roughly two weeks ago. Everyone has heard of this multi generational family drama following a Korean family in Japan during the 20th Century. Deep down I know that I’m not in the right head space for a chunkster. About a week ago I tried to set it aside but couldn’t leave the characters behind. They called to me from my bookshelf desperate to return to my reading life. Sunja threatened to knife me in my sleep. So one chapter a day it is.

On the nonfiction front, I’m dipping in and out of Boy Erased by Garrard Conley. Again, I don’t know if it’s the right time for this book despite how much I’m liking it. Conley is recounting his time in a infamous gay conversion therapy organization that he voluntarily joined in 2004 at 19 years old. I randomly pulled this off my unread nonfiction shelf instead of choosing what I was specifically in the mood for. Never do that, future self. You know better.

Another problematic selection is Ship of Magic by Robin Hobb which I started a month ago on audio. I’m a rotten audio listener. It takes me forever AND EVER AND EVER to finish listening to a book. Because podcasts call to me more so than books on tape. But 4.5 hours in I’m enjoying the hell out of this story which makes me so happy because I wasn’t the biggest fan of The Farseer Trilogy. THERE ARE PIRATES.

Speaking of pirates, why am I also reading Cinnamon and Gunpowder by Eli Brown? Another book about pirates which is going to get confused with Ship of Magic at some point. I’ve broken the cardinal rule of multiple book reading. DON’T READ BOOKS THAT ARE TOO SIMILAR. But here I am in read-a-like hell. Mad Hannah Abbott will not let me go, though. So I’m stuck. Rad BAMF lady pirates who kill people with customized duel jade handled pistols is a perfectly acceptable place to be stuck so I’m okay with this development. Plus, FOOD PORN.

Do y’all do this? Does it drive you batty like it does me? Do you feel guilty and shameful? Do you decide to ignore this guilt and shame and persevere into this literary madness? Please tell me I am not alone.

Next up: I discuss my Three Dark Crowns feelings.

Remember Me?

Haha, I wrote this years ago and never even posted it. But I’m posting it today, goddammit. I’m going to blog again. As a writing exercise. 

Once upon a time I wrote almost every day. Whether it was decent fanfiction or marginally interesting book reviews, the creative part of me that liked putting words into sentences was able to climax. Semi-decent orgasms all around. Occasionally something satisfied me enough to warrant a cigarette. You get the picture.

I haven’t written more than some random Tumblr microblogging in a long while. I’ve had ideas about comic scripts, novels, and many, many half-finished short stories starring odd children who talk to fake plastic turtles. I even started a tiny letter that was meant to be a space where I could write something – anything – even if it was the literal worst. So far, it’s been a bunch of crickets chirping. Someone needs to kill those damn crickets already. But not me. Because they hop – at random – like in my face. No thanks.

And to be honest, I’m lost. I feel like a merry-go-round that has slowed down to a crawl but is too damned stubborn to just stop already. Today I got a lot of my day job spreadsheeting done and it depressed me. Because the thing I spend hours (that might be a stretch, sue me) doing every day is just not fulfilling the part of me that craves the creative orgasm. Accounting pays the bills, but it also basically blackens my already cold, dead-ish heart and chips away at whatever little bits of soul I have left. That’s not dramatic at all.

Right now, I’m listening to Amy Poehler’s audiobook recording of her memoir, Yes Please, and she’s talking about bitches getting shit done. But is getting shit done enough? I got a lot of shit done today and I’m still lacking whatever productive important feeling of euphoria I’m supposed to feel. Sure, there were small moments where I figured something out and was briefly happy. But something tells me that on my death bed I won’t be looking back at my life thinking – God, getting that Section H testing workpaper done was just so goddamn meaningful. So what now Amy Poehler? What would Leslie Knope do?

Likely, they’d each figure out a way to do both – make money and make creative orgasms. I imagine we’d have a little laugh over some particularly witty joke about creative orgasms being a lot like making love to yourself because masturbation jokes are always hilarious. That’s life hack #89. And so here I am taking a small part of my afternoons this week to write whatever this is. It might be horrible to read (I’m being generous with the ‘might be’ there), but I’m okay with that because I’m a bitch getting shit done even if I’m not quite where I want to be yet. The most pivotal part of writing is to – this is really shocking, ya’ll – WRITE. You should be paying me for this advice, honestly.

Moral of the story? I’m back. And yes, this will still mostly be a book-ish blog, albeit a casual one.