Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher

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(Caidyn)

4.5/5

Yet again, I feel as if I’ve missed something valuable. I was never a huge Star Wars fan. I never got into Carrie Fisher’s work one bit. She was good as Leia, but I never really saw her in anything else. Earlier this year, I listened to The Princess Diarist by her and I found that she was absolutely hilarious and had great stories. Why didn’t I pay attention? Why didn’t I really care? So, I put a hold on this book to listen to it as well.

Let me tell you, it’s still completely trippy to listen to the voice of a woman who passed away as she tells you about her life. I almost got teary-eyed when she talked about her mother putting dots on items to mark aside as Carrie’s when she died. Sadly, Carrie went first and never got whatever items she wanted.

Not only was Carrie funny with great stories, she also had a very severe form of bipolar disorder. Severe to the point that she became psychotic during a manic phase. And got treated through electroconvulsive therapy. ECT is the last resort. Most psychologists/psychiatrists/therapists/whatever don’t recommend it these days. The medication is so good that once you get the right dosage, bipolar disorder is manageable. Typically side effects are the problem. And that people with bipolar disorder are, as a whole, very against medication and are wary about it. So, hearing she had gone through ECT took me aback. Sure, the APA says it’s all good and safe and yadda yadda yadda, but it still phases me.

While I can’t say that I heard anything new, this book gave me a huge appreciation for her. She’s a brave woman for talking about living with bipolar disorder. It’s one of those disorders that everyone knows about, yet no one wants to talk about. Or acknowledge is a thing. Not only that, but she confronted her problem with drugs and came back from it.

All in all, a hilarious and (pun slightly intended) sobering book. Here’s to you, Carrie. Hope you’re having a blast wherever you are.

A Great Place to Have a War: America in Laos and the Birth of a Military CIA by Joshua Kurlantzick

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(Caidyn)

3/5

This isn’t a book I typically would read or listen to, to be honest. Yes, I love history, but not American. It’s just not my thing. I’ve never enjoyed American history unless it’s told from an outside perspective.

But, this? I listened it because I work with people from Laos. That was my main motivator. I know that they came from there and they did because they were fleeing, otherwise they wouldn’t have left. A few of my coworkers swam across the Mekong river from Laos to Thailand. Not all of the people who swam made it. They went with four people and only three made it. So, that was why I listened to this.

I have no context of the Vietnam war. All I know is what I was taught four years ago in junior year American History. I have no real context of the Cold War in general, especially the things in Asian countries. So, again, this isn’t really my book. All of these names and places went over my head, which is why I gave this book three stars. It earns three stars for at least giving me a chain of events that related to my coworkers. It helped me understand their lives more and, perhaps, the way they act. That’s what made this book enjoyable, just connecting the dots between my coworkers and where they came from.

Dreamcatcher by Stephen King

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(Caidyn)

1/5

I’ve finally found a Stephen King novel that I don’t like. Yes, I said it. I don’t like this one and DNFed it around 70% just because I couldn’t go through with it. I planned on listening to it through my time at work, but I had to stop myself. I went into this with low expectations as well, having read a couple negative reviews. (Here and here for those interested.)

What was wrong with it?

Aliens. I don’t like alien stories much. Could care less about them, but I thought that if someone could do it in a way I liked it, it would be Stephen King. Yet, he laced it with farting and poop and butts, so by the time you get to the philosophical things with Mr. Gray and Jonesy, I checked out completely.

Not only that, but it felt so much like a rehashing of his greatest hits. IT, The Shining, and Carrie particularly. Then, according to the above reviews I read, it was just another The Tommyknockers. Not one I’ve read personally, but it has the same alien themes. And, while I enjoy people going and using the same themes, it just has to be done differently than the last time. But this one was so much like IT that it made me sad, especially seen it done in such a bad way.

Group of friends. Different age group this time around. Not 10-11, but in their early teens. Instead of defeating a clown, they help a boy with Downs Syndrome. Instead of no real sexual tension, there’s a lot of talking about seeing a girl’s vagina and fart jokes galore. It made me sad knowing that. I mean, it was just badly done because I can’t tell you the group’s names, to be honest. There was barely any backstory to them and their relationships, or why they stayed friends. It just was lacking in so many areas. I won’t go into the treatment of an intellectual disability in this book because, in a way, it felt disgraceful to me.

Basically, only read this if you love Stephen King and are committed to reading all of his books. Other than that, stay away. I regret the time I spent on this when I was sure I didn’t like it by 30% in and wasted 40% more on it.

Dreadnought by April Daniels

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(Chantel)

4.5/5 – This is a book about a trans superhero written by a trans author, hell yes. I was absolutely in on this book when I first heard about it. It did not disappoint either. The main character Danny was nothing short of lovable and a few amazing supporting characters were what hooked me most. That combined with this fictional world of a nondescript Pacific Northwest city that seemed like a combination of Portland and Seattle, but was also filled with futuristic technology that doesn’t seem too far off.

Now, I did only rate this 4.5 out of 5 because I personally am not a superhero fan. I don’t watch Marvel or DC movies and I’ve never really been interested*. However, I was very eager to read about a trans superhero who also identified as a lesbian. The only way I’d ever really be interested in superheroes is if I saw something I could relate to.

I will say my only issue with the book were the combat sequences. Not because I thought they were bad, but because they weren’t my favorite parts. I wanted to read about the interpersonal relationships and Danny’s struggle. That being said, I loved the parts where Danny wasn’t perfect in her fighting. For example, in her first big rescue, she had no idea what she was doing. She didn’t automatically know what she was doing and I loved that. She was getting used to her powers, which were incredible, and it took some struggling before she got the hang of it.

Sarah, one of the supporting characters is Latinx and is the funniest character in the book. I enjoyed every moment she was around and I wanted more of her.

On the flip side, there were some disgusting and awful characters that played their parts well. Unfortunately, Dreadnought doesn’t take place in a world where transphobia doesn’t exist. It very much exists and is very prominent in Danny’s life with multiple characters. None of these awful characters is the main villain. They are worse! However, transphobia and really any other form of bigotry exists and aren’t going away anytime soon.

Dreadnought is a superhero who is incredibly powerful, however, those powers don’t automatically make it easy to stand up to those who bring you down. The difference between physical strength and emotional strength is key. This book is ultimately about freely being your true self and I happen to think that’s beautiful. Ultimately, I would absolutely recommend this book and I can’t wait for the second book to come out later this year.

 

* Unless it stars Benedict Cumberbatch.

Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch

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(Caidyn)

5/5

Well, this book fucked me up more than I expected. And here I thought that the first book was sad thanks to Scott Lynch destroying everything right at the end. You have the same thing here. So, I’m sad and I’m wondering how he’s going to get so many more books. But, Scott Lynch also finds a way to weave everything together in the end, so I have faith.

If I had to give a summary of it, I’d just say that it starts with a heart attack and ends with one, but I don’t think that’s specific enough. This book picks up a couple of years after the first book. Another heist, another shit storm that leads you from simply conning the rich — although, like usual, Locke decides to make his con far from simple — to a interwoven web of different cons that all tie into one another. There are pirates, guys. Lots of pirates. And, just so you know, you can’t resolve your beginning heart attack until basically the end of the book, only to be followed by more heart attacks.

And, just so you know, you can’t resolve your beginning heart attack until basically the end of the book. Along the way, there are other smaller ones. Then, the first heart attack is resolved and, after that, you have bigger heart attacks that cause much pain.

Am I not selling the book correctly? Damn. Maybe I’ll try another angle.

Lynch’s writing is as superb as usual. Yet, it has many different ranges. It can go from beautifully perceptive:

“As for history, we are living in its ruins. And as for biographies, we are living with the consequences of all the decisions ever made in them. I tend not to read them for pleasure. It’s not unlike carefully scrutinizing the map when one has already reached the destination.”

“Look for us in history books and you’ll find us in the margins. Look for us in legends, and you might just find us celebrated.”

“Anyone in command feigns ease when death is near. We do it for those around us, and we do it for ourselves. We do it because the sole alternative is to die cringing. The difference between an experienced leader and an untested one is that only the untested one is shocked at how well they can pretend when their hand is forced.”

“ I want to hug you. And I want to tear your gods-damned head off. Both at once.”

“Ah,” said Locke. “Near as I can tell, that’s the definition of ‘family’ right there.”

To, well, vulgar and usually hilarious out of context:

“Any man can fart in a closed room and say that he commands the wind.”

“Maxilan, darling.” Locke raised one eyebrow and smiled. “I knew you were driven, but I had no idea you could smoulder. Come, take me now! Jean won’t mind; he’ll avert his eyes like a gentleman.”

“It was always impossible to put a price on making your enemy shit their breeches.”

“You’d have to take your shoes and breeches off to count to twenty-one!”

Have I not convinced you yet? Okay, let me try again. This time with the characters.

You have basically the same cast of characters as in the first book. Locke and Jean. Some noble person for a con who has someone by their side that will be perceptive of the situation while the noble person isn’t. Someone who throws a wrench Locke and Jean’s plans. It’s the same basic set up as the first book, something I worried about at first, yet it took such a twist that I loved it.

This book is where Lynch introduces a few new characters, namely Zamira and Ezri. Those are the two that stand out the most. Both are pirates, yet both take a very different role in the story.

Zamira is a black, single mother going on 30…. who is also a damned awesome pirate captain. I seriously would love to read more of her adventures, so I sincerely hope that there’s a spin-off series focusing on her. She’s mainly known for Lynch coming back at a fan who tried to say Zamira couldn’t be awesome because she’s black, a single mom, and thirty. But, seriously, she’s an amazing character. Strong and smart. Doesn’t bow under pressure and is harsh, yet extremely loving towards her loyal crew and her children.

Ezri is one of Zamira’s crew, mainly her right hand woman. She’s incredibly loyal towards Zamira throughout the book. My only qualm with her is that she was mainly the love interest for someone. Yes, unlike the first book, there is romance in this, although it didn’t feel awkwardly placed and wasn’t badly done. It was just that I wish Ezri could have been explored fully outside of the romance. She certainly wasn’t one sided, just I would have liked to see more sides of her.

What can I tell you to expect? Heart attacks, lots of feels, hilarious quotes, and great characters.

My (Caidyn’s) Birthday!

Well, today’s my birthday! I’m 21 at long last. So, after a nice and rather relaxing day off, I thought I’d share some of the things that I got.

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The first thing I got is a book about the Hindu goddess Kali, from a friend. They actually got it for me months in advance, got it shipped to my house, and then I had to hold onto it, hiding it slightly so I wouldn’t open it too early. I’m so excited to read it!

The next items are a bit of my own nerdiness. Since the fall, I’ve been teaching myself Welsh. A weird language for an American to decide to pick up, but I find it fascinating. I gave myself a wide berth before actually buying different Welsh books. And I finally decided on these two. A dictionary and a practice book.

Those are just gifts that were planned. During the day, my mom took me to Half-Price Books and let me get some.

So, I’ve read American Gods and No god but God. The former is one of my favorite books — and I’m super pumped for the show!! (even though I don’t have Starz). I have a copy of it on my Kindle, but I couldn’t help myself when I saw this edition since HPB never has it and it’s Gaiman’s preferred text.

Aslan is one of my favorite religious studies authors. He’s hilarious and I highly suggest you watch interviews with him, he has an interesting life, and he’s a great writer. I remember this book as being very informative about Islam. So I mainly want to own this just so I can reread it and mark it up.

Athenais: The Life of Louis XIV’s Mistress, the Real Queen of France; Elizabeth and Mary: Cousins, Rivals, Queens; and Tudor Adventures were impulse buys. I couldn’t help myself because they sounded so interesting. Louis XIV isn’t really my time era, I find the dynamics between Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots fascinating, and some sort of voyage in Tudor times just sounds cool

Besides that, I only got chocolate.

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Okay, but it is pretty awesome chocolate, right??

Prince Charles: The Passions and Paradoxes of an Improbable Life by Sally Bedell Smith

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(Caidyn)

4/5

I received an ARC of this book from Random House and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Prince Charles has never been my favorite royal, if I had to have one. Probably because I’ve read too many tabloid articles about him and I’m quite partial to Will and Kate. (Sorry.) But, this book helped me see him in context. One review I read summed Charles up perfectly: “the man at the center of the book is not its most interesting character.” He’s been constantly overshadowed his whole life. His mother, Princess Diana, the Camilla scandal, his children.

Smith definitely biased, just as she was in Elizabeth the Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch. The way she portrays Charles is as a passionate man who made some mistakes and his true ideas are overshadowed by them and others. When you think of Prince Charles, it’s not typically his opinions on the environment, Jung, or reincarnation that comes up, is it? It’s things about Princess Diana, his decades long affair with Camilla, or his lovely children.

While Smith is biased, I thought she was very even-handed with displaying his life. She talked very often about his passions, as she put it. Environment, Jung, reincarnation, alternative medicine, architecture. Those are the big ones in his life. He enjoyed upsetting people and the old view of things, very unlike his mother. In chapters, Smith bounced back and forth between his personal life with family and friends to his charities.

Overall, this book is good. It’s very long. It’s about 640 pages. 70% of it is actually about Charles’ life. The rest is notes on the text. So, if you can read something that long about a life that’s been very well documented, I’d suggest it. Smith has a goal to highlight the parts of his life that aren’t as well known as Charles (or Smith) would like.