Beautiful Boy – David Sheff

“Fortunately I have a son, my beautiful boy. Unfortunately he is a drug addict. 

Fortunately he is in recovery. Unfortunately he relapses. 

Fortunately he is in recovery again. Unfortunately he relapses. 

Fortunately he is in recovery again. Unfortunately he relapses. 

Fortunately he is not dead.”

In Beautiful Boy, David Sheff recounts his son’s struggles with addiction. Nic’s drug of choice is Methamphetamine, well known for being one, if not the hardest drug to stay in recovery for. Sheff talks about his difficulty coping with his son’s addiction, rehab stays, and subsequent relapses. 

Sheff’s story is heartbreaking, and gut wrenching. He is very real about his emotions. From his shame of having an addict for a son to the happiness he feels from thinking about Nic before his addiction changed him. He speaks often about how he wants to feel hope that each trip to rehab will be the one that keeps him clean, but how it would be easier for him if he just gave up and save himself from the heart ache.

I appreciate that Sheff does not hide his emotions, nor does he hide his own drug use when he was younger. While some may leave out this fact he is frank about it, even adding in that at one point Nic asked if he wanted to smoke Marijuana with him and he agreed desperate to have something that he could use to connect with his son. He laments a few times that he wishes that he never did. While Sheff did drugs when he was younger he was blindsided when he found out Nic was also doing them. He says that parents tend to ignore the signs of addiction in their children, hoping that it’s not true and he and his wife are no exception to this.

He wishes that he could do more for his son. Nic is in and out of rehab. He worries constantly about his son’s well being. It is not just Nic who suffers, his family does as well. Sheff struggles with explaining Nics illness with his younger children, unsure of how much to tell them. This is something that I never thought about, how much do you tell small children when their older sibling has an addiction. I don’t know if Sheff handled this correctly but it seemed okay to me to explain that he is ill, but try to keep them away from the effects that the drugs have on him. His choice to lie by omission must have been a difficult choice for him to make.

Sheff’s honestly makes for a heartbreaking story. A great read, especially for those who know someone struggling with addiction. I am grateful for his ability to share his experiences without sounding disconnected and bland. I had fears of this but it did end up reading like the memoir it is.  

“Fortunately there is a beautiful boy. Unfortunately he has a terrible disease. 

Fortunately there is love and joy. Unfortunately there is pain and misery. 

Fortunately the story is not over.”

PTSD – Guillaume Singelin

PTSD by Guillaume Singelin takes place after the main character Jun returns from a war that was unpopular with the population. When she returns she starts taking painkillers trying to cover up her newfound mental and physical issues that arose from war. She must survive in a world where veterans are not treated well by the population and forgotten by the government. Her personality served her well in combat but now she must learn to lower her guard to assimilate back into society.

Singelin does a brilliant job of showing emotion through the character expression and stylization of the comic. It is clear as to what the characters are feeling from happiness to distress and anger. She does a great job with the text showing other parts of their personality, for instance, there is a young child, Bao, his innocence is shown through his speech and facial expression. I feel, especially with small children, that their age gets lost and they end up talking like someone who is much older. Singelin, thankfully, does not have this issue.

PTSD, as the title suggests, explores how Post Traumatic Stress Disorder affects veterans when they come back from war. Jun often has flashbacks from her time as a sniper, some of them are nice and others are not. While the transition between the present and the past. I think this is a good way to show how fast flashbacks can come on, from my understanding of them. It is nice to see this brought up in a different format.

Singelin shows the struggles that Vets face when they come home. At least in the United States there is a growing problem with pain medication abuse among Vets. This comes up many times in the comic not only with Jun but with the other Veterans in the comic. Homelessness is also a prominent problem. Singelin shows all of these problems, the good and bad things. Jun, has a hard time accepting help from people getting angry at anyone who offered her help thinking that she is only getting help because the one offering it wants to feel good about themselves. I love that she is able to show all of these challenges even in a panel format.

I have one minor problem with the actual printing of this comic. The letters of the title are punched out of the cover, it makes it really hard to hold the comic without your fingers going through the holes. While this may not be a problem for some people, it was distracting for me and took away from my overall enjoyment reading it. It’s such a shame that I had a problem with something so small, especially because it does look good artistically.

PTSD is a great comic to read. It showcases so many problems that are faced by Vets. The art is fantastic and a joy too even just flip through and look at. If you like graphic novels/comics this is one that should be on your list to check out.

The Astonishing Color of After -Emily X. R. Pan

“I would have carved out my heart and my brain and given them to her just so she could feel right again.”

The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X. R Pan is a magical realism novel. After Leigh’s mother commits suicide she is convinced that her mother has turned into a bird. She never knew her mother’s parents so she and her father travel to Taiwan to meet them. During her trip Leigh continues to see the same bird over and over, she’s sure that her mother is trying to tell her something and is determined to stay in Taiwan until she figures it out.

This is the first book that I’ve been told was magical realism. It was a little strange to get used too, mostly because it really seemed like I was watching Leigh have some kind of mental break. I know it was just supposed to be magic but I was hard to get used to this aspect. I’m not really sure that I ever did, but that’s okay. It didn’t ruin the story though. Especially because this book is focused around mental health already, it was easy too see it as comment on how it just takes one emotional trauma like losing your mother to suicide to trigger a change in a person’s mental health.

“I hated the word condition, but it was easier than calling it what it really was. A war. Her depression was a big thing we were all battling together.”

Pan did very well showing Leigh’s struggles when watching her mother disease consume her. It’s not said in the novel, but my assumption would that her mother has manic depression due to her extreme highs and lows. Pan’s language using drew me in making me feel like I was part of the story and because of this I want to say that this novel should not be read if you are not in a place to read about depression and suicide. While I didn’t find it deeply triggering it did bring me a sense of sadness for knowing exactly what it’s like to be in a low like Leigh’s mother. While I knew that it affect the people around you Leigh’s viewpoint really brings this to light and that was what I had a hard time with, knowing how my mental health affect those around me and how deep the hurt can become.

Much of the magic in this book is explored in an interesting way upon arriving at her grandparents house in Taiwan she finds essence inside of a drawer. When she lights one she sees her grandparents’ and parents’ pasts. After the first time of doing this she starts burning things with the essence to take her back to specific place in time. When she does this she learns more about why she never met her grandparents. Flashbacks are hard to do right, but Pan manages to pull them off in a way that isn’t completely jarring, which is great because a large chunk of this book involves flashbacks.

Pan tackles mental health in a fantastic way. I’m glad that I finally got around to reading this novel. It’s a great way to show an outside perspective on mental health while still being interesting and non clinical. But, again this is not a good book to read if you find anything about suicide and depression to be triggering.

Wicked Saints – Emily A. Duncan

I was given an e-Advanced Reader Copy of this novel through Netgalley. Many thanks to Netgalley and the Publisher for the opportunity to do so!

Emily A. Duncan’s debut novel Wicked Saints has two types of magic, one given by the Gods and the other given by blood. Nadya’s magic is given to her by the Gods. Gods who through her are going to bring their presence back to where they have been cast aside for blood magic. Malachiasz, a rogue blood mage who, albeit for different reasons, wants to take down the blasphemous king. The two travel to the kingdom full of heretics. Nadya’s is heavily aided by Malachiasz to get her close to the king.  Serefin is the King’s son and the second point of view in the novel. The three of them eventually come together in a fight against the king, each using the other as a means to an end.

Oh geez where do I start… I didn’t not like this book. It was like riding a roller coaster… a bad one. Some parts were interesting and exciting and others were just…there. Parts of this novel added nothing to the novel. The magic system is barely explained. Sure the Gods give you magic, but how are Clerics picked? Is there some kind of system do how the Gods choose? And why do they all talk to Nadya..which is apparently rare? Yes the other kingdom killed off all  of the Clerics that knew about but why didn’t the Gods keep picking new people when their chosen died? I mean, if they’re almighty why don’t they?

Then there’s blood magic. Which I’ve always thought was a really cool magic system, though I’ve never seen it done in a way that was exceptionally well thought out and Wicked Saints is no exception. Malachiasz and Serefin both use blood magic. There is no explanation as to who or why people can use blood magic. They also mention that the King has blood magic but it is weaker than his son’s. What makes some people’s blood magic more powerful than others? Blood is composed of the same thing as everyone else? Eeek. This magic system is a hot mess.

I’d also like to mention that the ‘Villain’ of the novel is only around for like 100 pages tops and he’s barely mentioned. He’s suppose to be this big evil dude, but he’s not build in a way that makes him so. He’s just kind there so the author as something to bring everyone together for a common cause and then use him to divide them. And while were on the topic of characters, Nadya is so dumb. It’s like watching a horror movie where you’re screaming at the main character to not go look to she were the noise is coming from but they do it anyway and then they die. She continuously trusts someone that lies to her constantly and believes that it will be the last time that he will lie to her, which of course comes back to bite her.

The romance in this novel is so unnecessary. We are reminded ever 5 pages by Nadya that she shouldn’t love this man because he’s a blood mage but she does anyway. The gods, despite that she constantly says that they will punish her for kissing him or holding hands don’t. Malachiasz is a manipulative jerk, and their romance as zero growth. Please, YA authors stop putting romance in a book because you feel like it needs to be there.

Duncan’s debut novel is just a mess. I wouldn’t recommend reading it and I won’t be picking up the next one. I feel like there’s something that missed when others seem to enjoy it so much but this novel was just not for me.

Becoming – Michelle Obama

“Your story is what you have, what you will always have. It is something to own.”

Becoming is Michelle Obama’s memoir of her life up too when her husband, Barack, left the presidential office. Obama talks about her life as a child growing up in Chicago, in a neighborhood that suffered from White Flight. Obama manages to bring herself out of this, graduating from Princeton and becoming a successful lawyer. She continues be successful in her endeavors, including her unofficial job as First Lady of the United States. She ends her memoir around the time Donald Trump is sworn in making her memoir end in a very present time period.

Becoming is a book that I was really excited to read, though the $32 price tag was a little steep so I waited for five months to get a copy from my local library. That was a little excruciating. I was a little disappointed at parts but overall it was a good read. For me Becoming was a little weird to read because once she gets to her adulthood it’s a very preset. I’m use to reading memoirs that are either in a different country or are a little older so it feels very distant. This one end in 2017 after Donald Trump’s inauguration.

I got a little frustrated in the middle of the book. I know that Barack Obama is going to be an important part of her life because he is her husband but I did not pick this book up to learn about him. For a fair amount of the middle of the book I felt like I was learning more about Barack than I was of Michelle. This could have been fixed by making the descriptions sound more like they were through her eyes and her experience instead of just spitting out information about Barack running for Senator. It was a better by the time she got to his presidential campaign because she was very involved in the whole process. I only felt this way in the middle of the book, the rest of it was fine, surfacing every once in a while but for the most part if felt more like her memoir.

I loved that Obama added in things about being a First Lady, and having younger kids that you wouldn’t think about. For instance both Malia and Sasha learned how to drive while Barack Obama was in office. She talks about how she wanted them to have the experience of learning to drive like normal teenagers even if it meant that they have to have lessons from the Secret Service. Or how there was always a store of blood of Barack’s blood in the vehicle he was just in case he needed it. Things for her children became more complicated, security sweeps would have to happen before they were allowed to go to parties and they could never go anywhere without an escort. She explains that all of the rules were frustrating even though she knew how important they were.

Michelle Obama is an inspiring woman and her memoir is a reminder of how hard she has worked. She is not just the wife of a President but someone who truly worked hard and could have gotten to where she was without her husbands fame. She clearly states that she doesn’t like politics and would never run for President but man, her ideals would make for a great candidate.

Uncomfortable Labels: My Life as a Gay Autistic Trans Woman – Laura Kate Dale

I was given an e-Advanced Reader Copy of this novel through Netgalley. Many thanks to Netgalley and the Publisher for the opportunity to do so!

Laura Kate Dale’s Uncomfortable Labels: My Life as a Gay Autistic Trans Woman summarizes her life as a child through an adult, covering both her transition, diagnosis of being on the Autism Spectrum and her discovery of being gay. She talks about no only everyday things that are involved that are being part of these groups but also the long term effects on her and others that are involved in these groups.

Dale writes about how there is an overlap between being Autistic and Transgender, unfortunately, she only sources one article. While this is not my area of expertise, one article is not enough to prove that it is common. I was frustrated through the book when she stated things as facts but didn’t give the evidence to prove them to be so. All of the things that are presented as facts are not and that makes a lot of the attempted academical writing in this book to be moot.

I applaud her for talking about how things are when you’re transgender. The most striking thing that she brought up was “passing.” Where you have to pass as “looking female” or “looking male” to be considered the correct gender and avoid being misgendered. Bringing this up here made me realise the need to stopping thinking of people as the gender that they look but as the gender that they wish to be called, regardless of my perceptions. Not everyone is going to look “traditionally” male or female.

Unfortunately, a lot of things in this book were constantly repeated or she started to ramble. She at one point makes a statement about how her autism allowed her to focus and write four chapters in one train ride. Boy does that show. Dale meant to point out a good part of having autism but this statement is not a good one. Honestly, parts of this book remind me of unedited papers were things become muddled and unfocused. Of course there are good things about autism and hyperfocus can be one of them but that doesn’t mean that those 4 chapters should never be revisited. It progressively gets worse as the book goes on.

Dale has good intentions with this book but she falls short on the execution. I hope that before this book is fully published that she is able to add more resources, other than her personal experiences, and and remember that longer does not alway mean better.

Sisters of the Fire – Kim Wilkins


I was given an e-Advanced Reader Copy of this novel through Netgalley. Many thanks to Netgalley and the Publisher for the opportunity to do so!

Sisters of the Fire by Kim Wilkins is the second installment of the Blood and Gold series. Wilkins again delivers a novel with diverse characters, scheming sisters, conspiracy and of course magic. She delves deeper into her world and builds upon it in and even explores new regions.

Wilkins’ again manages to keep the sisters separated from each other, which is important in a book that has five sisters that all reoccur. Bluebell must learn to take her father’s place on the throne. Ash seeks out a dragon in hopes of changing her Becoming, teaming up with Unweder. Ivy must recover from her mistakes to avoid a rebellion against her rule. Rose has been banished from her home after her infidelity is discovered and has to live with her choice giving up her daughter, Rowan, for her lover, Heath. Willow, armed with the Kinslayer gathers an army under Mavaa’s name to kill her heathen sister, Bluebell. The five of them interweave together, making for a story of reconciliation, fear, love and hate.

I appreciate that Wilkins brings Rowan into her novel. She has been taken care of by Snowy for the last four years, with occasional visits from Wengest. She struggles with who she should call father, which is a side effect that I didn’t consider. She lives with Snowy who is her fatherly figure. While she also has Wengest and Heath, one her biological father and the other who believe that he is. This internal conflict is interesting to see, but not only that Rowan has become willful and strong, preferring hunt and explore over learning how to cook and embroider. Rowan reminds me a lot of Bluebell, though she is a lot less focused on violence. So here is another female character that is still differentiated from the other five.

When I finished Daughters of the Storm I was a little nervous about where the series was going to go. Now this isn’t inherently a bad thing because I was still really excited for it. My main concern was keeping the Sisters’ stories all interesting and different from each other. I found more drawn to Ash, Rowan and Bluebell in this book, but I still found the others interesting in their own right. Ivy and Willow both drove me nuts though. Willow is off on her religious escipages and Ivy refuses to take anyone’s advice and it comes back to bite her, hardcore.

I’m so glad that this novel held up to the first one. By the end of this edition everything has come together for a satisfying ending but still leavings you with enough mystery to want continue to read the series. I wish I didn’t have to wait for Queens of the Sea!

Foundryside – Robert Jackson Bennett

In Robert Jackson Bennett’s novel Foundryside, Sancia is given a job to steal a box, she is unconcerned about getting caught due to her unique ability to sense the things around her by touch. Little does she know in this box is an artifact that will change her life forever. You see, in Sancia’s world magic is a written system that allows objects to do things. Sancia’s ability is thus a medical mystery, people themselves don’t have magic they create it. She has now become mixed up in what could be the biggest upset in history, and to survive she has to find allies in the most unconventional of all places: The Merchant Houses. The same Houses that have been the source of her suffering.

Foundryside has a lot of things going for it including political intrigue, plot development and character development. Jackson Bennett interweaves these things together almost flawlessly creating a stunning fantasy novel.

Jackson Bennett creates a world where everything is split into Merchant Houses, and those don’t belong live in Foundyside. This is the rough part of town where the poor barely skate by, often committing crimes just to stay alive. To see this kind of disparity in one place interesting you could walk a foot and suddenly be surrounded by those who are better off in society. But of course the house don’t get along and this is where the political intrigue comes in. These Houses will do anything to get a head of each other, including stealing scrivings from each other. Scrivings are a written magic system that allows for the manipulation of an object. Wood acts like steel. A feather suddenly acts like a cannonball. However, these things need to be discovered and when they are they can put a House from the bottom of the food chain to the top in a matter of days. Of course Sancia gets herself caught up in the Houses’ mess and finds that there’s more than just the Houses at stake but the whole world.

Each character is unique. Sancia is a thief, Orso is an inventor of sorts, Berniece is Orso’s assistant and Gregor is the son of one of the Houses’ leaders and yet they all have to work together for a common cause. The dynamic between the group is fun to watch. They are all suspicious of each other and they slowly warm up to each other out of necessity, but they still bicker about what should be done. Especially when it comes to Sancia. I love that while there is romance in this book you will miss it if you blink. Which is really refreshing to not have a romance be at the center of the plot.

All in all, I really enjoyed Foundryside, it has its flaws but they didn’t take away from my ability to enjoy the book. I’m curious to see where the series is going as I definitely didn’t didn’t see the ending coming. I’ll will be picking up the next book in this series!  

The Missing of Clairdelune by Christelle Dabos

Spoilers for A Winter’s Promise.

I was given a E-Advanced Reader Copy through Netgalley in exchange for a honest review. Many thanks to Netgalley and the Publisher for the opportunity to do so!

Christelle Dabos’ The Missing of Clairdelune is the second installment to her The Mirror Visitor Quartet. Ophelia’s adventure continues in The Pole. Her and Thron are set to be married, so that Thorn can share Ophelia’s ability to read the history of objects. Finally revealed to the court and the politics that come with it, Ophelia requests from the Family Spirit, Farouk, a job. He assigns her to be the Vice-Storyteller, a job that will have her telling stories from Anima to him and other members of the court. Thrust deeper into court politics Ophelia finds that her fiance is the only one that she can truly trust. When people in the court hierarchy begin disappearing each has some kind of connect that leads back to Ophelia. She must find out what is happening to them before it’s too late. Even if it means disobeying Thorn’s orders.

The Missing of Clairdelune is more fast paced than A Winter’s Promise. While it still has the political intrigue of it’s successor, it has so much more action in it. Something is always going on. Mostly because Ophelia is a strong headed character and refuses to listen to anyone when they tell her that something isn’t a good idea. For the most part I like this about her, but sometimes you just want to shake her because you know it’s a terrible idea for her to go off alone or decide to investigate something the Thorn specifically tells her not to stick her nose in. This is just a flaw in her character and who doesn’t like an author that actually gives their characters flaws?

Dabos’ is consistent with her characters. Ophelia is clumsy as ever, but not to the point of being obnoxious. She does have points of being a klutz durning important things but Dabos uses it cleverly and it’s often hilarious because it’s relatable. For instance at one point she trips on the stairs going down off of a stage. Thorn is still telling Ophelia not to get involved in things and not draw attention to herself. He is still socially awkward and withdrawn. I love that she is able to be consistent with her characters. Often times authors will say that someone is clumsy or withdrawn but they lose their characteristics by the end of the book unless it’s convenient to the story progression.

This novel is much better than the first. This may be because there is more action in this one because there isn’t as much world building that has to occur. I have some problems with how the novel ended because I’m not sure where the next two books are going to go, but I will be reading the third book when it is translated. It certainly does make me wish that I could read French so I wouldn’t have to wait!

A Winter’s Promise by Christelle Dabos

A Winter’s Promise by Christelle Dabos, translated by Hildegarde Serle, follows Ophelia as she is given away to be married to Thorn. Thorn is from a different clan in a different part of the world. Ophelia must learn how to navigate a new place, which may as well be a completely different world. Ophelia has the power to see the history of an object by touch, she also has the rare ability to pass through mirrors. Thorn is cold, stand-offish and completely uninterested in Ophelia. The reasoning for their match is unknown to Ophelia and she struggles to come to terms that she is going to be married off. She can’t say no without risking a war between the two clans. Ophelia is forced to stay in hiding instead of entering Court life with Thorn, not only that, she fears that their secrecy bodes poorly for her future.

This novel has a lot of intrigue. The magic in A Winter’s Promise appears to be somewhat clan based. Ophelia’s clan can manipulate what they call Anima. Ophelia can ‘read’ objects and see the history of the object, she can also travel through mirrors. Talon’s Aunts however have the ability to harm people without touching them. It’s not fully explained how the magic came to be so divided but having it split this way is an interesting idea. I would guess that it has something to do with the mysterious Rupture that split the world into floating islands, but I’m not entirely sure.

There’s some strange translation going on here. There are random French phrases and words that are left in the novel. I understand the ones that are names, it makes sense to leave those alone but in conversations and descriptions it can get confusing. I wish they were directly translated so that I wouldn’t have to look up the phrases in the middle of reading. Along this vein there’s a lot of large vocabulary that I think makes this on the very high end of Young Adult books, but I would lean towards it being adult. Funnily enough a lot of those words are French in origin.

I really enjoyed this novel, even though it has some fairly prominent flaws. For one Thorn is a jerk. He doesn’t tell Ophelia about anything he does including his reasoning for marrying her specifically. He lets his Aunts abuse her, mentally and physically and does nothing about it. Even when he finds out about it he is very nonchalant about it. He claims to care about her but he doesn’t do anything to prove it. However, I find myself still liking him because he’s not perfect. The story doesn’t make him the most beautiful person in the world like many other novels do with their male protagonists. He is also socially withdrawn and doesn’t seem to know what he’s done to make Ophelia upset. I appreciate that Dabos doesn’t make him the picture of perfection and thank you for not making her be head over heels for someone who is terrible to her.

I have high hopes for the second book in this series and I can’t wait to read it! I would suggest this novel to people who like fantasy and don’t mind having to get used to the style of a book that is translated, as well as some more complicated vocabulary. This novel has a lot going for it from the characters to the setting and the plot.