Anti-heroine & Action in the Cas Russell Series by S. L. Huang

The series so far (2020) consists of Zero Sum Game #1, Null Set #2, Critical Point #3

Pages: 336, 312 and 368

Genre: thriller/mystery type of book with some science fiction aspects, mostly in people with ‘superpowers’ (used for more bad than good)

It’s truly going into the pile (in my head) of favourite books.

Synopsis

For the first book as to not spoil anything;

Cas Russell is good at math. Scary good. The vector calculus blazing through her head lets her smash through armed men twice her size and dodge every bullet in a gunfight, and she’ll take any job for the right price.

As far as Cas knows, she’s the only person around with a superpower…until she discovers someone with a power even more dangerous than her own. Someone who can reach directly into people’s minds and twist their brains into Moebius strips. Someone intent on becoming the world’s puppet master.

Cas should run, like she usually does, but for once she’s involved. There’s only one problem…
She doesn’t know which of her thoughts are her own anymore.

My thoughts

Rating out of five: five stars, four stars, four stars

I was looking for a character like Cas when I started this series, which I think is the clue to liking it. What you’re dealing with is mob/cartel level of action and bloodbath, where the side characters are everything from cops turned ‘personal investigators’ to trained assassins and sharpshooters. Not to mention the whole ‘evil organization’ thing going on, which turns out to actually have a whole epic scheme going on. The bad reviews I’ve seen has made me angry in that they’re mostly people who hate the cold calculated voice that Cas brings to this, but surely they’re warned that this isn’t some young adult book and that she’s grown up with this level of violence, even as the lack of knowledge of her background becomes a bigger and bigger plot point.

Cas is deadly, supernaturally so, with some question-marks at the end of that remark. The more science fiction and supervillains with powers parts comes through in the second and third book more, but I liked it. The math parts I expected to be bad from the synopsis, but they were an interesting part of her abilities, and plays a good role in the books. As the math lover I am, I would’ve wanted even more of it, but it’s like drizzled in there so that it can be ignored by those who would want to. It adds a bit of magic, almost.

The level of action, the mystery of Cas’ past, the level of gray area of morality (turning completely black at some points), the bad guys with a conscience – it all really made me love this series. The ‘superpowers’ are original, the writing funny in a dry way. It has everything I was looking for in a fast-paced, but exciting read. But then I do love the character of Rio as well, the emotionless being he seems to be. I mean who can’t be interested after a sentence like this –

“Ms. Russell,” said Dawna delicately, “I am not sure you are fully aware of Mr. Sonrio’s skills. His ability to be effective—it borders on the unrealistic. He has destroyed entire governments. Leveled armies. Found and obliterated terrorist cells the intelligence agencies of several continents were chasing their tails trying to pursue. He has altered the course of nations. A lone man.” Her voice was calm, factual, and very serious. Huh. So that was what Rio did in his spare time. I’d had no idea he was that impressive. I’m not going to lie: I was jealous.

Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuinston | Book Review

It’s the cutest enemies to lovers story ever!! With royals! Or gay royal and bisexual son of president! American & british culture intertwined at its very best.

Genre: contemporary, lgbt: m/m romance

Pages: 420 pages

Synopsis

What happens when America’s First Son falls in love with the Prince of Wales?

When his mother became President of the United States, Alex Claremont-Diaz was promptly cast as the American equivalent of a young royal. Handsome, charismatic, genius—his image is pure millennial-marketing gold for the White House. There’s only one problem: Alex has a beef with an actual prince, Henry, across the pond. And when the tabloids get hold of a photo involving an Alex/Henry altercation, U.S./British relations take a turn for the worse.

Heads of the family and state and other handlers devise a plan for damage control: Stage a truce between the two rivals. What at first begins as a fake, Instagrammable friendship grows deeper, and more dangerous, than either Alex or Henry could have imagined. Soon Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret romance with a surprisingly unstuffy Henry that could derail the presidential campaign and upend two nations. It raises the question: Can love save the world after all? Where do we find the courage, and the power, to be the people we are meant to ben? And how can we learn to let our true colors shine through? , how will history remember you?

My thoughts

Rating out of five: five stars!

I’m just going to gush about how much I liked this book, tbh. I read it so fast and felt like I overdosed on cuteness.

The characters really bring this story, with its political intrigue, making out in the white house and private security trying to catch up with these stupid college-age and not very discreet adults. The sneaking around, the enemies to lovers trope forced on by pretending to be friends after making quite the scandal by their feud, it’s just all great. There’s romantic correspondence in the form of emails, talking about everything from popculture (so well-done as well) to the prince talking about his probably gay princes and king relatives of the past and how they didn’t have cameras following them around.

I didn’t think the main character being bisexual instead of gay would mean this much to me, but it really showed me how it isn’t a thing in most queer books I read, or at least not done in such a good way. There is something different to the questioning of someone who is bisexual, and how Alex briefly has to consider whether he could fall in love with a girl and not have this thing hanging over his very promising political career that he’s worked so hard for. It showcases how his and Henry’s experiences is similar, but also so very different. And then we also get such good and too relatable quotes like (I’ve definitely come to this conclusion more than once myself): “Straight people, he thinks, probably don’t spend this much time convincing themselves that they’re straight”.

My only problem with this book was how I really wanted them to go deeper on the politics game, but I realize that’s not what this book was and would’ve made it less mainstream. So *shrug*.

Feelings while reading this book: i might’ve cried a bit, but i felt all the feelings, and love it so so much. the writing was so satisfying. such a feel-good queer novel while also having so much conflict.

I need more cute enemies to lovers books right now, with all the political intrigue I can get, preferably queer ones. Please send all your recommendations.

Platonic Love & “I Think I Am In Friend-Love With You” by Yumi Sakugawa

Before reading this book I have a confession to make.

I’ve been really missing two friends that I’m having to stop myself talking about way too much in front of my family now. I’m more attached to them than they’re to me, not that I would ever admit it to them. Only that I did to one of them, the last day before I left the city because of corona, saying that sometimes I made dinner just because he was cooking. (okay we might also be flatmates, let’s be sure no one from real life ever finds this blog, shall we?) Only one of us had been drinking and it was not me, so I wonder where that courage came from. I’ve been actually searching for what my fucking problem is. Dodie Clark (a singer/youtuber) recently made a post with a caption about how she’d been obsessed with Shannon Barry as this better version of her, before they met and actually became friends. Like a friend-crush, but also jealous of. It reminded me of my situation, but both the friends are guys, so it’s not like I’m jealous and comparing myself. Well, only a little. They’re so damn smart. Anyway, enough of my troubles and let’s read this book and hopefully get some clarity or relatability.

After reading this book.

It’s like an adult kids book! This book is filled with interesting and cute, simplistic illustrations, the writing is so precise and everything just describes and/or states for future generations how friendships and friend-crushes are these days, where half or more of the relationship happens online. It also describes my situation nearly perfectly. How many times has I been so excited that the other person also struggles to fall asleep and is willing to discuss cults or strange books we read way too young.

It’s just the perfect little graphic novel. I’m shrugging in real life right now, because I don’t know what more to say. Here’s an example;

I really liked the open end, and hope from the bottom of my heart that these cuties will be best friends forever. I might also have had a online movie night with the two friends, and one of them (the one that seems most detached and independent normally) drunkenly said that this was the best moment of his week. So I’m taking that as a sign that even if we are bad at communicating all three of us, like the nerds we are, I’m not solely imagining this friendship to be bigger and stronger than it is. I might not go in for hugs anytime soon though, because last time I tried two of us was leaving for France and the last friend looked like I’d hit him, he was so confused. Totally worth being the dumb, attached one sometimes for seeing a glimse of the genuine shock on his face.

In summary, read this book if you can get your hands on it, absolutely worth it. It’s short and something I would totally buy in actual book form just to have around as a thing that warms my heart.

Also, a thing that I’ve been doing way more recently is texting friends (or telling them face to face when that was a thing) if I’m thinking about them or think they’re particularly cute that day. Like actually showing affection. I’m reserving that for everyone but these two friends though. They get scared easily, and there’s always a risk they’ll tear up if you bake cake for their birthdays. Fuck, I miss them.

A Woman in the Polar Night by Christiane Ritter | Book Review

A new book on the list of all-time favourites.

Genre: nonfiction, memoir, travel to the Arctic

Pages: 224

Synopsis

In 1934, the painter Christiane Ritter leaves her comfortable life in Austria and travels to the remote Arctic island of Spitsbergen, to spend a year there with her husband. She thinks it will be a relaxing trip, a chance to “read thick books in the remote quiet and, not least, sleep to my heart’s content”, but when Christiane arrives she is shocked to realize that they are to live in a tiny ramshackle hut on the shores of a lonely fjord, hundreds of miles from the nearest settlement, battling the elements every day, just to survive.

At first, Christiane is horrified by the freezing cold, the bleak landscape the lack of equipment and supplies… But as time passes, after encounters with bears and seals, long treks over the ice and months on end of perpetual night, she finds herself falling in love with the Arctic’s harsh, otherworldly beauty, gaining a great sense of inner peace and a new appreciation for the sanctity of life.

This rediscovered classic memoir tells the incredible tale of a woman defying society’s expectations to find freedom and peace in the adventure of a lifetime. 

My thoughts

Rating out of five: five stars

Reading this book was an experience, one that made me actually want to take a trip further north than Norway, to experience the Arctic for myself. Which sounds both dumb and unrealistic, but truly read this book if you want to understand why.

This book is special because of many reasons. It’s a memoir from 1934 by a german woman, the painter Christiane Ritter. Her husband has already fallen in love with the Arctic, and she decided to uproot her comfortable and rich life and see what it’s all about herself. He warns her about how isolated it really is, but it’s almost as if he’s forgotten the big change from normal city life already, becoming used to having to fend for himself, to have no one to turn to when the hut gets covered in snow, and travelling great distances to search for a better stove to cook on.

It’s obvious that it’s written in another time from Christiane Ritter’s position in life, but the emotion she conveys through very sparce wording was really breathtaking. I know enough about the cold emptiness of certain landscapes that I felt I could recognize it, and the feelings the vastness brings after you get over its overwhelming fear of isolation.

Everyone should give this book a chance, it won’t be for everyone’s taste, but it earns its place among my favourite books of all time because of its uniqueness. Why did I feel like this contains lessons in writing as well. I really wanted to add some quotes, but I left the beautiful book filled with markings at home by the university, and as its closed for now, this will have to do.

My feelings reading this book: fear on Christiane’s behalf, then impressed & mindblown. I really loved the third person with them most of the time, the Norwegian, who Christiane talks about the strange customs of. He represented my norwegian heart too well.

Rereading All For The Game Series by Nora Sakavic

The Foxhole Court – The Raven King – The King’s Men

What do you do when you’ve got five exams looming over you? Reread 1225 pages, divided over three books and two days. Yeah, I’m not a person to have many regrets, but that doesn’t mean it was a good idea.

I love this book series so much! And not everyone does. It’s a book series that people seemingly more often either love or hate.

There’s a few things you have to suspend your belief over to enjoy these books (which are clearer to me now that I’ve read it more than three times); one of the guys, Andrew, is on medicines that doesn’t make sense. Also the sport – exy – is made up. Which is great because you don’t need to know anything about it! It’s self-published and a bit rough around the edges as a book, but also that’s part of what makes it so great.

TW for rape. I’ve seen this book compared to the Captive Prince trilogy by C. S. Pacat, but I’ve read both and think that comparison is complete bullshit. Captive Prince was violent if a whole different way and full of excuses for that violence. The only thing similiar is how actions in the first book of both series are looked at differently after finishing the third book. Which is a good reason to reread it!

The characters are what I love most about this series. It’s a group of misfits being forced to cooperate and in the process forming a family, a type of book I’m a sucker for. I like the second and third book better than the first one, just because Neil is developing into putting his trust in a few people and you also see how close they’ve become. I’m also posting my first review of the foxhole court; written in 2016, but it still portrays my feelings rereading it.

Neil Josten

I still relate too much to this main character. I mean, Andrew is interesting in a way that I’ve found all characters like him. After this book I read Call Down the Hawk by Maggie Stiefvater, where Ronan Lynch is another character with tendency to be scary that I love. But Neil hits me still in a different way, where he has this urge to run away all the time and have created unhealthy coping mechanisms out of necessity. This book is just about how fucked up abuse can make you. His circumstances is soo very unlikely and special, like out of a hollywood movie, but if you take it down a few levels it’s themes that I’ve not found as central in other books I read. Especially not in this YA-ish format (it’s not young adult though).

The Foxhole Court by Nora Sakavic | Review

I wrote a review after reading this book series for the first time in 2016, and found it on goodreads after rereading this series again. So enjoy my unfiltered thoughts from seventeen-year-old me about this book series I truly still love;

Pages: 237

Genre: Young Adult – lgbt characters (gay and demisexual character(s)).

Synopsis

Neil Josten is the newest addition to the Palmetto State University Exy team. He’s short, he’s fast, he’s got a ton of potential—and he’s the runaway son of the murderous crime lord known as The Butcher.

Signing a contract with the PSU Foxes is the last thing a guy like Neil should do. The team is high profile and he doesn’t need sports crews broadcasting pictures of his face around the nation. His lies will hold up only so long under this kind of scrutiny and the truth will get him killed.

But Neil’s not the only one with secrets on the team. One of Neil’s new teammates is a friend from his old life, and Neil can’t walk away from him a second time. Neil has survived the last eight years by running. Maybe he’s finally found someone and something worth fighting for.

My thoughts

Rating out of five stars: four

I couldn’t put this book down. Sports! Friends forming a family! Dramatic misfits! Such cute (with that I mean hardcore) characters!

First, let us get this out of the way: this book sucks the first pages. Probably the first two chapters, or even longer. But do not give up on it, because the rest of the book is completely worth it. So is the rest of the series, which I read in less than twenty-four hours.

This is a book about family, but not only the biological one. It is about the importance of support and friends, how they can change your life and you change theirs. “The foxhole court” family is not perfect; they are a bunch of misfits thrown together with only one common goal: to be champions & make people stop laughing at their Exy team. That is: except for Andrew, because he is an uncaring, high (and protective) jerk.

“The Palmetto State University Foxes were a team of talented rejects and junkies because Wymack only recruited athletes from broken homes. His decision to turn the Foxhole Court into a halfway house of sorts was nice in theory, but it meant his players were fractured isolationists who couldn’t get along long enough to get through a game.”

And yes… this is a sports book about a sport that does not exists outside of “The foxhole court”s cover. Exy is completely fictional, but seems like a mix between lacrosse and… Rugby, perhaps? A more violent twist to the sport anyway. It seems like making up a sport was preferable in how certain rules and the whole sports culture had to be different from what we know, for this book to be what it is. We already have Quidditch, so why not Exy. Easier name to spell too. Fictional sport or not, this book has an authentic i-will-do-anything-to-be-the-best feel and passion, which I like. Nothing better than jealousy and threats to motivate you.

There is no romance in this book, for reasons you will realize if reading the rest of the series. I found this really refreshing? There is a lot going on with backstories, trying to get these fucked up teens on a straight path and be sort of friends/teammates. There is definitely enough drama to go around anyway. A lot like the raven cycle, this book has the notion of a coming romance, but is too busy that it is of importance.

“Hope was a dangerous, disquieting thing, but he [Neil] thought perhaps he liked it.”

I will be the first to admit that this book got some problems, much like the characters in it. I love “The Foxhole Court” and its characters anyway, with flaws and all. Uncommonly, the series only gets better from here, and at the end of the first book, it was pretty exciting already. It was an easy read, but with dept as well. And with a squad you will love.

Favourite Fantasy Books | Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl to bring bookish friends together. A new topic is posted each week.

Reviews are linked (as always)!

I didn’t do the Top Ten Tuesday last week, so I’m switching out this week’s topic for that one. They’re not in any order, because that’s too much of a burden.

THE YA FANTASY

Graceling by Kristin Cashore is a book I read I was a kid and fell in love with. It really shows nuances and someone being strong, but also doubting themselves. The main character Katsa goes through a lot of shit, she’s abused by her king uncle and made into a killer, but she has such a conscience and urge to protect people. Also the world, with it being visible through discolored eyes who has magical abilities, made for a really interesting setting.

The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black, where Black is the ultimate author on fairy/fae fantasy and incorporating different creatures with modern people and culture.

FOR EVERYONE

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo is a underdog story with thrilling heists by a diverse & amazing team that become like family to each other. The kick-ass deadly Inej and the ruthless team-leader Kaz gives this story its own feeling, along with a great plot.

The Golden Compass and His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman is becoming a classic with its great coming-of-age story with a kickass girl named Lyra in a world where humans have an animal attached to them.

The Mistborn Trilogy by Brandon Sanderson is the gateway drug into Brandon Sanderson’s books, with plotline and characters that will blow you away, but also approchable, easy writing to follow and a young adult vibe. Sanderson is the fantasy authors I’m not afraid to overhype.

Moon Called and the Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs is the best urban fantasy I’ve read. Awesome female characters is apparently my type here.

His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik is filled with dragons from around the world and dragon-trainers. Novik had another bestseller “Uprooted”, but this was the first book I read from her and it’s just everything you expect fantasy to have and does it soo well. DRAGONS FIGHTS HUMAN’S WARS!!!

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman because I can’t really put the edda on this list, can i? I love Gaiman’s style of writing, but I don’t always match with his stories, or rather plots. I do love (and know pretty well) norse mythology and this retelling was really magical.

FOR THE EPIC FANTASY-LOVERS

The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss is my favourite books ever. It just is. I feel like people love or hate these books based on how much they like the main character especially, but there’s just so great writing that really speaks to me and I can reread it so many times and still discover new tidbits with foreshadowing and secrets.

Words of radiance and the rest of the Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson is yet my favourite book and series by Sanderson, it just blew all my expectations away and every expectation of what epic fantasy is in general.

Favorite Books From the Last 10 Years | Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl to bring bookish friends together. A new topic is posted each week.

Reviews are linked (as always)!

Let’s start at the beginning! I take my time and read books many years after they’re published instead of a lot of newly released ones, thinking that books that continue to be discussed are often the really good ones and that longevity is one of the best sides of books. Also here’s the obligatory comment that I can’t believe 2009 was ten years ago.

2010 & 2011

The Grand Design by Stephen Hawking

The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicle #2) by Patrick Rothfuss

  • It’s just the best two book ever (which is a highly divisive opinion, as it seems to be a book readers either love or hate)
  • I really need to reread these books for the 5/6/7 time and write a review, haha

2012 & 2013

A Thousand Mornings by Mary Oliver

  • The collection that made me discover Mary Oliver, my all time favourite poet, and honestly also got me into poetry

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

  • Along with The Secret History by Tartt, it’s just so strange and great, with so many different type of stories in one

2014 & 2015

Words of Radiance (The Stormlight Archive #2) by Brandon Sanderson

  • Possibly best ever overall epic fantasy author, I’ve never actually seen someone hate Sanderson’s writing or books

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

  • I loved this darker YA fantasy with a friendgroup creating their own family, heists and the darker main character that is Kaz Brekker

2016 & 2017

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

La Belle Sauvage: The Book of Dust by Philip Pullman

  • The new book placed prior to The Golden Compass and His Dark Materials series, released so many years later. It wasn’t quite the same style, but also really didn’t disappoint!

2018 & 2019

I haven’t been reading too many 2019 releases yet, as I just haven’t been reading as much as I use to this year (hopefully, I’ll have time to catch up during the summer)

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green

The Truth About Keeping Secrets by Savannah Brown

My New Favourite Book: Women in Science

It’s Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World
by Rachel Ignotofsky
and it’s so gorgeous and well-done, I was smiling wide while reading the whole thing.

I LOVE THIS BOOK. I realized that the moment I laid my eyes on it because the illustrations are EVERYWHERE and adorable. I love it so much. I found this book by listening to a podcast called “Talk Nerdy” where Rachel Ignotofsky was on talking about the books and other things. She’s also created books with Women in Sports and The Wondrous Workings of Planet Earth. This book is written with kids in mind, because the writing is elegantly simple and accessible. I’m going to gift this to every kid I know, I would recommend it to everyone else as well.

Why I think encouraging girls to study science is very needed

I’m going to study science at university, but as I was growing up I’ve seen nearly just male scientists and had only male science teachers (until now). Not only that – growing up I had no female friends interested in science! What you choose as a career isn’t just based on your own interests and views, but things like who you can imagine yourself as in the future, in ways it’s difficult to control or pinpoint. I grew up in a place where people were very encouraged to follow what they were good at and make a living out of it, while where I’ve spent the last five years is more focused at getting the right degree or experience to work in one of the existing jobs. I’ve seen those different mindsets, along with economical situations of course, really make an impact on people’s choices.

I’ve never tried to shape my life after role models, but then I’ve also never had anyone I wanted to be like. This book gives so many examples of women who followed their passions and made their own path. And that’s really needed, because you want science (especially maths and physics, which is still stigma around) to be introduced as viable alternatives.

Here’s the thing that sucks: people don’t understand at even smaller levels what makes it harder to be a girl in science. It’s 2019 and I’ve heard a lot of jokes from my own physics class, every one of them individually harmless, but together they further a division. The fact is that I’m not trying to prove myself every time I step into a classroom, but that’s a choice I had to make to be able to be curious and ask questions, and something I see others are struggling with. I think it’s important to not divide scientists into “scientists and female scientists”, but mostly at a higher level, because as long as it’s not as many male and female choosing the fields, it is needed to encourage girls in different ways to cancel out those different social views that has gotten us here. One of the guys in my class was disagreeing with one of many invitations to visit a university being only for women, and I get the immediate reaction. But it shows how hard it is to make someone understand how it can affect a person growing up seeing girls staying dumb on purpose because doing well on math tests isn’t cool or likeable, or encouraged by parents really, and how it’s so hard to find other girls with shared interests.

But also look at the norwegian scientist featured! I was really excited, even though it’s one of the few I already know more about in this book. To round this off- I’ve seen more initiatives to get girls/women into science fields, some of them natural, others very cringe-inducing, and really think and hope it’s getting better than it was just ten to five years ago.

I really adore how this book shows scientists in different styles, ages and personalities.

The Grand Design by Stephen Hawking | Review

Pages: 200

Genre: science – physics

Synopsis

A beautifully written book about our universe and how and why it was designed. It’s written for people of many different levels of knowledge of physics already, from short and clear explanations of atoms to mentioning a few things I personally need and want to look more into like string theory, bosons, where plancks constant comes from and Feynmans sum over histories. This is a book trying to give philisophical answers based on scientific history and theories. As the book says itself:

Why is there something rather than nothing?

Why do we exist?

Why this particular set of laws and not some other?”

My thoughts

Rating out of five: five

I’ve honestly never read a full Stephen Hawking book, even though I take physics classes and am very interested in it. I was personally really surprised at how much I understood, that I’ve gone through in classes before and this book looked more at the “why” behind it, the connection that I so much love. This is the book you need to read if you’re interested in the how and why’s of the universe, no matter what level of understanding you’re at now! 

This book absolutely made me reflect on the nature of the universe, even though I already have some experience there. It also made me so very excited about learning more, and what we could find out in the future, with newer technology. Multi-verse and possibly no objective reality existing are examples of rabbit-holes of information and theories I love to fall into, so this book was ideal.

Favourite quotes

“While concending that human behaviour is indeed determined by the laws of nature, it also seems reasonable to conclude that the outcome is determined in such a complicated way and with so many variables as to make impossible in practice to predict.”

“[…] philosopher David Hume who wrote that although we have no rational grounds for believing in an objective reality, we also have no choice but to act as if it is true.”

“Such calculations show that a change of as little as 0.5 percent in the strength of the strong nuclear force, or 4 percent in the electric force, would destroy either nearly all carbon or all oxygen in every star, and hence the possibility of life as we know it. Change those rules of our universe just a bit, and the conditions for our existence disappear!”

“If the [M-] theory is confirmed by observation, it will be the successful conclusion of a search going back more than 3.000 years. We will have found the grand design.”