So, for the record, this is what my star ratings mean:
5 stars = FREAKING EPIC, gigantic story, everything works well, my mind is blown that a human being thought this up.
4 stars = love this book, it's just not as humongous in scope as a 5. But it's totally awesome and everyone should read it, it's a keeper.
3 stars = mixed feelings (this is where the "I think others might like it, it's just not for me" reviews are likely to go). Not that bad, but has some issues, or it's an okay story but nothing really stands out to me as being memorable. It was a pleasant enough read for a few days, but I'll probably just end up giving the book away rather than rereading it again.
2 stars = generally pretty terrible, but not 100% so. There was at least one thing in this book that made it not totally horrible. This book isn't really recommended to all and sundry, but you might get some value out of the one thing if you try.
1 star (rarely seen here): It's a wallbanger. Nothing is redeemable about this book, it's utter crap, and I probably only finished reading it so I could do an awesome bitchrant about it and I can't justify doing that to books I didn't finish.
“For the sake of dragons, there was very little I would not do.”
Six years after the last book, Isabella’s son Jake is finally old enough to accompany her, along with a nanny and Isabella’s partner in dragons Tom Wilker, on a two year trip around the world to study dragons on the ship Basilisk. While on this trip, some folks fall in love or at least deep like: Jake with sailing (sadly, the kid doesn't seem inclined to go naturalist) and Isabella with Suhail, an adventurous archaeologist on the trail of the Draconeans.* Suhail's an Akhnian (Africa/Muslim, I think?) who's estranged from his dad and has a very distinctive Establishing Character Moment when the first time Isabella sees him, he's diving off a cliff. Even though they have different fields of study, they have the same intellectual curiosity and super adventurous spirit to get up to things like oh, riding a sea serpent for funsies.
* I do keep wondering why Isabella's not MORE interested in the Draconeans before this seeing as she's got at least some interest in everything that seems at least somewhat dragon related--but in this book, it does start to pay off as to how the two species may have come together. Yay.
Isabella invites Suhail to join their expedition, and then the entire party is stranded on an island indefinitely when their ship shipwrecks. While the islanders are reasonably friendly, they are (of course) weirded out by Isabella, who's running around in pants and with short hair after hers got cut for dengue fever. She meets someone named Heali'i, who considers herself "ke'anaka'i," or "dragon spirited," or someone who's beyond the usual constraints of gender. In the islanders' culture, they think she has an inhuman spirit and comes from their forbidden island and doesn't fit the usual standards of behavior. Heali'i informs Isabella that in order to fit in there, she needs to get married--to a woman. Isabella is taken aback, but Heali'i manages to arrange things so that Isabella can platonically marry a young girl waiting for her sweetheart to return from a voyage and needs to not get married off to another guy in the meantime. Tom is all, “I needled you in Eriga about attracting marital interest wherever you go, but I admit, I never expected this.”
Isabella promises in this memoir to reveal some secrets she never was able to tell about in her previous writings about this trip. And hoo boy, eh?
“I have never attempted to hide that I have had two husbands in my life. I have, however, neglected to mention that in between them, I had a wife.”
But besides that fun secret, there's the time when she and Suhail rode a sea serpent, washed up on the forbidden island, and found out about (a) foreign soldiers invading the area, (b) Draconeans and how they had a stash of dragon eggs, (c) the lost Scirling princess who's been stashed on a nearby island.... which of course leads to more crazy adventures for Isabella to leap into, more international incidents that are only being revealed just now, and a damehood for Isabella.
As for her and Suhail....they end this volume apart for now, but one suspects they'll reunite sometime later, and it will be scandalous and spectacular. I look forward to that, because Suhail is one fun dude and a great equal for Isabella, even if he's totally different socially. Maybe now that she's reached the social level of "eccentric," she can get away with it?
Anyway, four stars for good fun times and dragons and adventures and budding romance.
Quote Corner (all quotes from Isabella unless said otherwise)
Isabella on their captain, “the mad Dione Aekinitos.” “He certainly had that reputation before we came aboard, and did nothing to persuade me it was undeserved during my time there.”
On seeing Suhail dive off a cliff: “He is mad.” “So says the woman who once threw herself off a cliff.” “I had a glider.” -Isabella and Tom
“It is difficult to be formal with someone you first saw half-naked and hurling himself from a cliff.”
“Suhail’s tone was one I recognized in my marrow: the passionate intensity of someone who has found his intellectual calling and will pursue it to the ends of the earth.”
"You dress like a man of your people; you do a man’s work. You stand between land and sea. Just as I do.” -Heali'i
“The path before me was peculiar beyond my ability to even imagine, and would drag up any number of memories I was not eager to face…but dragons lay at the end of it.”
“And that, dear reader, is why the tales of my life in Keonga are even more absurd than the normal run of story about me. Under no circumstances was I going to report the truth to the Winfield Courier, let alone to my family. In the end I chose to embrace Jake’s tactic, inventing outrageous variations when speaking of the matter in person, but glossing over it entirely in print. The result has been a breathtaking mélange of untruths, and as I have already decided that this shall be a volume in which I reveal one secret, I may as well reveal another. (After all, it has been so very long since there was any satisfying scandal about me. I find that respectability grows wearisome after a time, when one is accustomed to being a disgrace.)”
“….then yes, perhaps I am dragon-spirited.”
“I have been made for dragons ever since I was a child, and this, they say, is a sign that marks one as ke’anaka’i. Such people also transgress against the norms of society, particularly those which constrain behavior on the basis of sex; this, too, describes me quite well. And—“ I hesitated. “This will sound peculiar, I know. But this love I have for dragons, my compulsion to understand them…I have thought of it before as if there were a dragon within me. A part of my spirit. I do not believe it is true in any mystical sense, of course; I am as human as you are. But in the metaphorical sense, yes. ‘Dragon-spirited’ is as good a term for me as any.”
Heali’i asks her why does she care about dragons. “Once again, it was the fundamental question of my life. In one sense, my answer has changed again and again, from year to year and person to person; in another sense, it has not changed at all. Only my fumbling attempts to put it into words have altered. This time I said, “It is a mystery. And I suppose I cannot look at a mystery without wanting to solve it.” It was a dangerous answer to give, in a land where tapu rendered certain things entirely off-limits. Heali’i’s expression sharpened. “Take care you do not offend the gods. Some things are intended to be mysteries.” “I will do my best,” I said—which was not the same as saying I would stop." "You might think my two recent brushes with death—three, if you count the dengue fever—would be enough to dissuade me from foolish action for a time. Then again, if you have been reading this series from the first volume, you might not. In my defense, my next piece of recklessness did not originate with me. The thought had crossed my mind some time before, but I had dismissed it; Suhail was the one who returned to the idea, investigated it, fixed his will upon it…and then persuaded me to join him.”
“Let it never be said that I court my own death without proper planning.”
While riding a serpent is not very comfortable.... “and yet for all of that, it was one of the grandest experiences of my life... “I was riding a dragon. In that moment, I felt invincible.”
“I cannot tell if this is courage or foolhardiness.” “They are not so very far apart,” I said dryly. “It is both, I imagine, and experience as well. I have found myself between an invading army and its target before. This time, at least, I am not a prisoner.” -Suhail and Isabella
“You are a spy!” I exclaimed—which is yet another demonstration of why I have refused all offers of a diplomatic post, no matter where it is the Crown offers to send me.”
“I hate above all else to do nothing. People have accused me of lying on this point, but I truly do not remember making a decision. I remember thinking only that I must do something. Then I was over the railing and plummeting toward the sea, with Suhail shouting after me.”
“I was too ignorant to know how unwise it was to try and take a serpent by the nose. In my recklessness, I had succeeded in removing the caeliger from the sky.
I saw quite a few engravings of that moment in subsequent months and years; some of them are still to be found today. All of them depict me standing proudly atop the serpent, feet planted firm on its scales, hair blowing majestically in the wind (conveniently ignoring that it was less than ten centimeters long at the time), and often in a dress. (Skirts, I suppose, blow more majestically than trousers.) None of them show me dangling for dear life from the serpent’s nostril. However prosaic the reality of my act, though, it made for very good storytelling later on, and I am not surprised it became so widely known. The crew of the Scirling ships had seen it; the Yelangese had seen it; the islanders had seen it. My son had not, and I thank heaven for that, as it was bad enough once he heard the tale of what his mother had done. But I made myself well and truly famous with that act, which many say ended the Battle of Keonga.”
“It is often said that the poor are insane, while the rich are merely eccentric. So it is with knighthood, I discovered: as Mrs. Camherst I was disreputable, but as Dame Isabella Camherst, I was just scandalous enough to be worth inviting places.”
Previous book here. I'll put the review below the spoiler cut. I think I'm giving this three and a half stars--it's a little less fun to read than the other two books (for good reason), but still, it's pretty good.
I saw both movies made from this book awhile back, so I was excited to pick up the original book when it was on sale. The author (note: he's using the pseudonym of his narrating character) is telling the story of young Patrick Dennis, who becomes orphaned at age 10 and goes to live with his one remaining relative, the spunky, dramatic, perpetually having a good time Auntie Mame. As Patrick reads some story in Reader's Digest about an "Unforgettable Character" who took in an orphan, he compares that one to his aunt, who is really much more unforgettable!
Before I begin, I am going to have to point out to the people of 2016 that this story was written in 1955 and lord knows the racial politics are…iffy in places.
Mame has a tendency to imitate people she admires or wants to get in with, including dress and accent. So you’ll see her trying to be a Southern belle, or a Scotsman, or a snooty New Englander, or…as she enters in the book, apparently Japanese.
She has an employee named Ito that giggles constantly. I’m sure living with Mame is probably a laugh riot, but not THAT much of a laugh riot that he needs to seem like he's huffing laughing gas.
Then there’s the plot with the Uptons, in which they turn out to be huge racists and drop words like the n-bomb and words against Jewish people. Though that’s a plot point in that Mame is disgusted with their racism (and dogging on some Jewish friends of hers who want to move into the neighborhood).
Some readers in this day and age won't be able to cope with such things, so I'm mentioning them ahead of time. But if you can deal with that, this is a pretty entertaining read. The forward written by Paul Rudnick describes Mame in some fun ways:
“Mame believes that life must be art, and that the planet is her audience.” “Auntie Mame is a drunken fairy tale, and Mame is a Cinderella with many princes and an independent income.”
The book is made up of various short stories that skip through Patrick's childhood through adulthood.
Auntie Mame and the Orphan: Patrick’s dad dies when he’s ten, and his mom is already dead. He shows up on Auntie Mame’s door while she’s throwing a party and pretending to be Japanese. They hit it off immediately. Auntie Mame had given up being Spanish and started being Japanese. Patrick’s dad said “to be left in your hands was a fate he wouldn’t wish a dog but beggars can’t be choosers and you’re my only living relative.” She says “that bastard” and then has Patrick write it down on his vocabulary pad, how it’s spelled “and it means your late father!” While Auntie Mame and Patrick hit it off, she has issues with him having a trustee.
Auntie Mame and the Children's Hour: Patrick's father's will requires him to go to some conservative school or other. Auntie Mame thinks she can get around this by enrolling him at one and then sneaking him off to the world's worst hippie school ever. Seriously crazy. For that, she loses her Patrick-live-in privileges, as Patrick is booted off to boarding school forthwith.
Auntie Mame in the Temple of Mammon: After the Depression happens, Auntie Mame loses her money, has to get jobs, is terrible at all jobs, and finally meets a rich husband. Thank GAWD.
Auntie Mame and the Southern Belle: Mame follows her new husband Beau down south and meets not only his awful mother, but the fiancée her husband threw over to marry her. You'd think this would be awkward. Well, ex-fiancée Sally Cato is clearly a woman after Mame's heart and hits it off with her to her face, while scheming behind her back. Sally's awful little brother tells Patrick all about this, but there isn't much Patrick can do to fend off the social disasters Sally's engineering.
Auntie Mame, Lady of Letters: Auntie Mame is sadly a rich widow soonafter, but is persuaded to write her memoirs. Sadly, Auntie Mame's writing needs some work, so her publisher hires a so-called Scottish poet, Brian O'Bannion. Brian is a good looking dude and totally makes both Mame and Mame's sad assistant Agnes Gootch weak in the knees over him. Patrick, however, sees a less pleasant side to the dude and can't get Auntie Mame to listen to him about it. Luckily for Mame, a conveniently timed illness, a makeover, and one drunken New Year's Eve decides the question of which woman Brian will bone once and for all.
Auntie Mame on a Mission of Mercy: Patrick is only a few short months away from finally graduating from his awful boarding school in Apathy, Massachusetts. Then Mame shows up with a pregnant and abandoned Agnes in tow, forcing Patrick to secretly participate in Agnes's support and rescue. Much to Patrick's dismay, Mame tells her to claim she's "Mrs. Patrick Dennis." While the lone nice teacher at the school is willing to help, eventually things end in trainwreck fashion--at least for Patrick.
Auntie Mame in the Ivy League: Well, who knows if Patrick ever graduated, but he certainly did make it into college, where he has a good time partying like Fred Astaire and bringing his friends around Mame. Patrick makes the mistake of dating a trashy gold digger who keeps insisting that she wants to go to the prom. Meanwhile, Mame also wants to go to prom with one of Patrick's friends....Awkwardness!
Auntie Mame and My Punctured Romance: Patrick gets engaged to Gloria Upton, who turns out to come from a family of bigots. Mame does her best to get herself on their good side at Patrick's request, but when they turn out to be bigots who hate her Jewish friends, forget it. And hoo boy, are these people ever cartoon racists, down to supporting Hitler's "pretty sound ideas." O RLY? Gloria dumps Patrick, saying he'll never be one of them, and Mame thinks that's the best compliment he'll ever get in his life. As they leave, she tells him she wants to outbid her friends on the property and set up a home for Jewish war refugees. Patrick approves.
Auntie Mame and the Call to Arms: For the war effort, Auntie Mame adopts six British war orphans. Who are awful. Everyone who meets them just wishes them dead. Then they all get scarlet fever.
Auntie Mame's Golden Summer: After the broken engagement, Auntie Mame tries to fix Patrick up a lot, but he doesn't like any of the women provided (and for good reason). Then Mame gets the idea to practice an extended campaign, intriguing him into meeting a family of beautiful intellectuals with their own island. Then they turn out to be secretly awful, and Patrick ends up marrying Pegeen, the intellectual barmaid who's fed up with all of them.
Auntie Mame Revisited: After being away for seven years in India, Mame returns and she wants to take Patrick and Pegeen's son Mike on an adventure....
There's an afterword to this book, written by the author's son Michael. Which says, “To those of you who didn’t read the book, no hard feelings.” He describes the book as "a love story about two people who initially fail to recognize one another,” whatever that means. He tells us that his father's Aunt Marion was “roughly 25 percent of the inspiration for the character” and that his father dictated the book to two women while he paced up and down with a drink in his hand, constantly asking, "Do you think it's any good?" If you're interested in reading more about any of these interesting people, I found afewlinks.
Anyway, like I said: there's a few things about the world of the 50's that will grate on a good chunk of folks in 2016, but if you bear with them, it's a pretty funny and entertaining read, with a huuuuuge Quote Corner below, of course. So, I give it four stars.
“Actually, Auntie Mame and I learned to love one another in as brief and painless a period as possible. That her amazing personality would attract me, just as it had seduced thousands of others, was a foregone conclusion. Her helter-skelter charm was, after all, notorious, and she was also the first real Family I ever knew. But that she could care at all for an insignificant, uninteresting boy of ten was a constant source of surprise and delight and mystification to me.”
“According to her lifetime habit, Auntie Mame put on a little half-hour show of histrionics and then settled back and decided to face the situation.”
“One morning in September Auntie Mame, after a lot of lying, was a switchboard operator for an insurance company. She nearly electrocuted herself and was home in time for lunch.”
"Mr. Woollcott once wrote, “Vera Charles is the world’s only living actress with more changes of costume than of facial expression.”
Here's a description of Beau Burnside's mother: “She was a grim, taciturn woman, but when she put her mind to it, she could converse on several subjects: (a) her exalted ancestors, 9b) how uppity the nigrahs were gettin’, (c) the Yankees, (d) how unworthy everyone but Mrs. Burnside was, and (e ) the lamentable condition of her bowels.”
And another: “Her digestive tract voiced an eloquent protest with each new face.”
“By one o’clock there were more than a hundred and twenty relatives milling around Peckerwood, all talking, and all talking loud. Mrs. Burnside indicated her disapproval of all this with a fanfaronade of flatulence.” I don't know about you, but I have certainly never heard of a fanfaronade before...
“Sally Cato had gone North to school and learned how to speak English.” HUH?
“Auntie Mame had been engaged a lot of times herself, and she understood that such things Just Happened. She’d never even known of Sally Cato’s existence until the day of the big barbeque, so she hardly felt that she’d connived to steal the prize.”
“Although he was only six months my elder, Emory Oglethorpe was a century ahead of me when it came to a firsthand knowledge of evil.”
“Miss Gootch was one of those women who could be anywhere between fifteen and fifty and nobody would care.” (She's 19.)
“But of course you can drive. I taught you myself. And if you drive carefully—as I certainly hope you would—nobody will even ask to see your license. I’ve never had one myself, and look at me.” -Mame
“Not many of the kids in my class had had the same two parents all the way through, and one guy had had five different fathers and was expecting a sixth in time for commencement.”
“When any crises came into our young lives, we asked ourselves what Fred Astaire would do and we did likewise.”
"But, honey, I gotta have a chubby!" --Bubbles wants a fur coat or something?
“She was a cheap, gold-digging little whore who called herself a waitress because she was too dishonest to call herself a whore; and I was a cheap, snobbish little parasite who called myself a student because I was too dishonest to call myself a parasite and too honest to call a whore a mistress." Oh, hindsight for Patrick.
“I swear to you before God that I’ve never laid eyes on her before in my life.” --Patrick upon seeing Mame at the prom.
“Rudeness will get you nowhere, young man. I can be twice as unpleasant as you, and you know it.” -Mame
“…poor dear Mrs. Armbruster had just dropped dead. Isn’t that marvelous?” “It’s just great,” I said. “What did you have against her?"
“I’m just doing a silly little monologue on Kafka, but it’s hard because I’m writing it in French and in villanelles.” -Margot Maddox
“Which one of the big-game hunters got you? Miranda?” “No, Margot.” “That’s odd. They usually save her for the older gentlemen.” -Pegeen and Patrick
“I love you in spite of your intellectual pretensions, in spite of your acting like a dowager duchess in public and a convent girl in the bosom of your family.” Suddenly I was confronted with the lugubrious fact that I didn’t actually love her at all—didn’t even like her.” --Patrick on his new fiancée Margot.
The time has come for you to be cracked from your crustacean lethargy into the free-swimming sea of manhood, to quote a brilliant middle-aged editor of my acquaintance.” -Mame to Patrick on why she keeps trying to fix him up.
“I knew it was too good to last. The last seven or eight years have been so peaceful.” –Pegeen
“She could charm the birds off the trees. That’s the trouble with her. I like her, I really do like her, but…My God!” –Pegeen.
“My God, she’s the Pied Piper.” –Pegeen
“I said I wanted him back before Labor Day!” –Patrick
This is a collection of stories taking place in the Lunar Chronicles world. Most of them take place before the books or in between times during them, but there is one story that makes a fitting epilogue for it all.
"The Keeper:" Michelle Benoit's experience of hiding Princess Selene and how she got together with her Lunar babydaddy in the first place. Michelle is cool.
"Glitches:" Cinder goes to the Linh family, figures out how to fix a droid, and then loses the stepfather she barely knew. Sad.
"The Queen's Army:" about how Wolf and his brother were forcibly recruited into the Queen's hybrid soldier brigade, and how Wolf learned how to survive. This was a sad one, but did give some insight on how Wolf is good at observation. On the other hand, his brother is a jerk.
"Carswell's Guide to Being Lucky:" This was one of my top favorites in this collection, and features not only my favorite guy, but also features the Kate Fallow story mentioned in the books. Even at thirteen, Carswell is a master manipulator and Ferris Bueller.
"Sunshine Passes By:" how Cress ended up alone on a satellite. A sad one.
"The Princess and the Guard:" this story tells why Winter gave up using glamour, the story of the suicidal servant, and how Levana made her slash her own face and why Jacin gave up his potential career to watch Winter as she comes down with lunar sickness. But Winter is pretty dang brave in it, and it's interesting how she notes how people like her better for not using glamour.
"The Little Android:" Cinder has a brief cameo in this one, but mostly it's a sad novella featuring the original painful (literally) Little Mermaid story. A mech droid saves a cute guy from death and ends up with his expensive locket in the process. When her superiors decide she's not worth saving and she's about to die, she manages to find her way to Cinder and get her personality chip put into a damaged escort-droid Cinder had on hand, which has no voice and damaged legs. The droid goes to work at the same company she worked at before and makes friend with her crush and his girlfriend--and ends up helping out the girlfriend. Sad but well done (words that sum up most of this book, really).
"The Mechanic:" This is the beginning of Cinder except told from Kai's point of view. There's nothing really new to this, but yeah, Kai's still a good guy.
"Something Old, Something New:" This will be the one exciting thing in the collection because it takes place after the end of the series as everyone gathers for a secret wedding. It updates you as to what everyone's up to and is very sweet and well done.
Overall I'd give this three and a half stars--it's not exactly blowing my mind, and overall is focusing on the sadder backstories of the characters and that's not my favorite thing ever, but it's still pretty good and I enjoyed hearing what everyone was up to at the end.
Previous book here. I should probably also recommend reading Fairest (the prequel) at this point in time since it does foreshadow things in this one and explain where Levana's stepdaughter came from.
“My point is that I am going to figure this out, like I always do. First, we’re going to find a way to get into Artemisia. We’re going to find Cress and rescue Cinder and Wolf. We’re going to overthrow Levana, and by the stars above, we are going to make Cinder a queen so she can pay us a lot of money from her royal coffers and we can all retire very rich and very alive, got it?” –Thorne “Brilliant speech. Such gumption and bravado.” –Winter “And yet strangely lacking in any sort of actual strategy.” –Scarlet
In this book, the action moves to the dreaded Luna, where Cinder's new idea for revolution and wedding-interrupting is going to take place. Prince Kai manages to negotiate the change in venue, which leads to a lot of action, rebellion, and drama.
We also check up on how Scarlet's doing--not great--and how Wolf is super anxious to get to her. However, Scarlet's in the tender loving care of Princess Winter, Levana's stepdaughter who swore off of using glamour at age twelve...and has been having lunar sickness ever since. The poor girl hallucinates blood or other terrible things frequently, and her childhood pal/queen's guard/current crush Jacin spends a lot of time watching out for her. After his return to Luna, he manages to get back into his job without too much horror by Lunar standards. However, once Levana's sanity starts going even more Snow White Evil Queen than usual, Jacin needs to get Winter the heck out of there and hide her along with the rebels.
The Rampion crew ends up hiding out with Wolf's mom and rousing the crowds. This also clarified for me why everyone on Lunar isn't manipulating the heck out of each other like you'd think they all would--I guess only the top people are allowed when "unlawful use of manipulation" is cited.
I do appreciate how this series eventually has almost all of the various pairings mix and match and hang out. Cress may not be super thrilled to hang with Wolf, but they manage it. Carswell and Kai are a delight together (see Quote Corner). And this book has some standout moments between Winter and Scarlet--Scarlet is driven crazy by Winter's crazy, but at the same time she grew up with a grandma everyone else thought was crazy, so she's a little more tolerant than usual.
“I guess I’m just hoping that despite all the absurd things you say, you might also be a little bit brilliant. That said, if you’re going to tell me how stupid this idea was to begin with and we should run like hell, then I’m right behind you.” “And I believe you’re not as crazy as you want everyone to think you are.” –Scarlet to Winter
The one pairing I wish this book did more of would be Cinder and Winter, given their past history/being sorta-related. But they don't get much time together, unfortunately. I was kind of curious about Iko (now residing in the escort-droid) and Kenney the guard, if that was going to go anywhere. Beats me.
Anyway, things get pretty hardcore in this one. I'll leave some discussion of that below the spoiler cut. I do think it all resolves very well and reasonably for the characters, even if the carnage gets a bit much at times.
Overall, I thought this was a very well done book and finale (ish) to the series, and I'd recommend it to all. Four stars!
“This must be weird for you. Your cyborg girlfriend being a wanted outlaw and your fiancee’s niece and all that.” “Honestly, I try not to think about the details. Does she really call herself my girlfriend?” “Oh, I wouldn’t know. We haven’t spent an evening gossiping and painting each other’s toenails since the kidnapping.” –Thorne and Kai
(After Kai reveals he’s read up on Thorne’s record and gives him some crap about his foolhardy flying skills) “I didn’t realize I had a royal stalker. I’m flattered, Your Majesty.” -Thorne
“And from what I can tell, being raised on Luna really messes people up. She wouldn’t be the cuddly cyborg we’ve all come to adore.” –Thorne on Cinder
“I can’t believe nothing went wrong.” “I would wait until you’re sitting on a throne before making statements like that.” –Cinder and Wolf
Thorne gets his vision back and then finds out Cinder repainted the ship. “Do you know how long it took me to paint that girl in the first place?” “Judging from how precise and detailed it was, I’m going to guess…ten minutes? Fifteen?”
“Princess, you have got to stop collecting these rebels.” –Jacin to Winter
“Nothing like an execution on your wedding day.” –Thorne
“If I don’t take care of myself, nobody will. That’s something I learned early on, thanks to you.” –Cinder to the Linhs.
“Leave it to Winter to make a bunch of sadistic, hot-headed predators get all swoony over her….or maybe it was just Winter, who could make a rock fall in love with her if she smiled at it the right way.”
“Careful is my middle name. Right after Suave and Daring.” –Thorne
“I am a criminal mastermind, and I’m here to take down this regime.” “That’s my line.” “I know, I stole it.” –Cress and Thorne
Cinder wonders why Levana didn’t just agree to an alliance instead of causing diseases and attacks. “Did you honestly believe that was the way to get them to love you?” -Cinder
“Love is a conquest. Love is a war. That is all it is.” -Levana
“She would be brave. She would be heroic. She would make her own destiny.” –Cress, self-narrating.
“You deserve better than some thief who’s going to end up in jail again. Everyone knows it. Even I know it. But you seem determined to believe I’m actually a decent guy who’s halfway worthy of you. So, what scares me most is that someday even you will realize that you can do better.” -Thorne
“You know, when I was a kid, I was tricked into thinking that princesses wore tiaras and hosted tea parties. Now that I’ve met a real princess, I must say, I’m kind of disappointed.” –Carswell Thorne
In the continuing story of the Lunar Chronicles, we're reintroduced to Cress, the imprisoned Lunar shell hacker Cinder talked to back in the first book. She's been trapped on a satellite since the age of nine--with no scissors--and she's been doing things like blocking Lunar ships from Earthen sensors--including the ship that Cinder is on, because Cress (short for Crescent Moon, a common Lunar name) likes her, and she's also a huuuuge fangirl of Carswell Thorne. Naturally, as a girl who's had little to no socialization for the last few years, he's her dream dude.
“He was exactly the kind of hero Cress had been dreaming about her entire life….Because if there was one thing Cress knew about heroes, it was that they could not resist a damsel in distress. And she was nothing if not in distress.”
Cress appeals to the crew of the Rampion to rescue her, and they want to. However, the appearance of her jailer, Thaumaturge Sybil Mira, right before the rescue screws everything up and splits the party. Cress and Carswell end up plummeting to earth in her satellite, and Carswell takes a blow to the head that blinds him. They land in Africa and despite not being able to see, Carswell does a bang-up job of supporting Cress and helping her survive when she doesn't even have shoes and hasn't been on real land. Their hanging out together is a good dose of reality, but also enjoyable since Carswell is good at what he does and Cress plugs right along.
C&C end up finding the village that Dr. Erland is currently working out of, still trying to find a cure for leutmosis. Instead, all he's found out is that the disease is now catchable by Lunars now. When Cress is found out as a Lunar, she's kidnapped and brought to him--but little does she know that Dr. Erland is actually her father, and he thought his daughter had been killed years ago. (This, sadly, doesn't lead to as cool of a reunion as you might think it does.)
Meanwhile back on the Rampion, the remaining crew fall into Mira's trap and Mira brainwashes Scarlet into a getaway with her, trapping Scarlet on Luna. Where terrible things happen to her. Sigh. Though she does get one very weird friend on her side...
The remaining crew end up with a bit of a personnel swap, as Mira's personal guard Jacin isn't too thrilled with her and seems amenable to switching sides, since he's loyal to "the true princess." Cinder assumes he means her, but it turns out he's referring to his childhood pal, the queen's stepdaughter Winter (also known as Scarlet's new pal). They also make their way to Dr. Erland for a reunion and medical assistance, and find out that the village Erland is in is filled with secret Lunar refugees who are delighted to help her out...especially when the cops come.
After that, it's time to bust up a wedding and kidnap the groom!
This was also a very good book--it's very solid on action and adventure and escalating stakes and surprises. I also enjoyed the heck out of Carswell and Cress, who are probably my favorites in the series. Carswell's charming and loyal and not the bad guy he thinks he is, and you root for him and Cress to get together. Also, he has just the best lines of everyone for snark. The balance of reality vs. fantasy in their relationship is done really well, too. (I was slightly unthrilled by the Big Mis moment when Carswell gets an escort-droid for Iko and Cress assumes he wanted a robot girlfriend, but I guess that's kinda inevitable under the circumstances.) I had a lot of fun reading this and then ran on to the next book. So, four stars.
Cress staring into Carswell's eyes on screen for the first time: “Though they were separated by two screens and vast amounts of empty space, she could feel the link being forged between them in that look. A bond that couldn’t be broken. Their eyes had met for the first time, and by the look of pure amazement on his face, she knew he felt it too….. “Is that all hair?”
Kai’s wedding vows suggestion: “Delete anything that has to do with love, respect, or joy, and I’ll sign on the dotted line."
“You can begin by learning some manners, or no one will ever believe you could be royalty.” –Dr. Erland “I’m sure that poor etiquette is the number one reason for most failed revolutions.” –Cinder
“Oh, please. It’d take a lot more than a satellite plummeting to Earth to kill me.” –Thorne
“I used to believe that you and I were destined to be together, someday, and that we would have this great, epic romance.” “Wow. No pressure or anything.” “I know. I’m sorry. I think you might be right, though. Maybe there isn’t such a thing as fate. Maybe it’s just the opportunities we’re given, and what we do with them. I’m beginning to think that maybe great, epic romances don’t just happen. We have to make them ourselves.” –Cress and Thorne
“We’re pretending that I cut off her hair and glued it to my head because I wanted to be a candlestick, and she didn’t like that.” –Winter, who’s going mad because she hasn’t used glamour since age 12.
“Oh yeah, she’s great. I mean, half the people in the world want to kill her and the other half want to chain her to a throne on the moon, which is just what she’s always wanted. So she’s fantastic.” –Cinder on Selene
“People sometimes ask me why I volunteered to write a biography of William Henry Harrison. Actually, it comes up quite a lot. Harrison’s one-month term in office was really nothing more than a list of nonachievements (only president never to appoint a federal judge; his wife the only first lady since the construction of the White House who never saw it) and a cautionary tale about the importance of not making long speeches in the rain. My answer is that I felt I owed him."
This sounds more dramatic than it is: as a kid, she won a contest and her reward was to read her essay aloud at Harrison’s tomb (she is from Cincinnati, where he settled down) and she got interviewed on TV. Later she was telling her family about how Harrison was marketed and her dad said he was one of the people who tore down Harrison’s house because nobody could raise money to restore it. “So this book began as an act of familial penance.” In the author's note at the end of the book, she also says:
“A while back I got a letter from a woman who said she was a great fan of the Times Books series on the American presidents and that she had just completed the life of Martin Van Buren. “So what I want to know,” she continued—“is—where is William Henry Harrison?” I would like to thank that correspondent, whose name I’ve forgotten, for giving me the incentive to finish this book. Also, all my family in Cincinnati, who were extremely supportive when I kept bringing up William Henry during holiday celebrations.” “I also want to acknowledge the late Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., who was overseeing the project when I began, and who sent me a very encouraging letter in which he said that writing a biography of a president because your father tore down his house was one of the better reasons he’d ever heard for getting into this kind of undertaking.”
I'll bet. Anyway, for completion's sake, let's dive into the short presidency and long political campaign of Harrison! Harrison is famous for things he didn’t actually do.
“He didn’t win a big military campaign at Tippecanoe—it was a minor fight against an outnumbered village of Indians, and because Harrison screwed up the defense of his camp the white Americans suffered most of the casualties.” He did better during the War of 1812. His real impact on history was acquiring several states’ worth of territory from the Indians in deals that cost the federal government only pennies per acre. “Politically, Harrison’s greatest achievement was to star in what is still celebrated as one of the most ridiculous presidential campaigns in history. But even then, other men came up with the story line about Harrison the humble soldier and pushed it into the national memory forever with months of singing from The Log Cabin Songbook and dancing “The Log Cabin Two-Step.” William Henry’s own contribution was to become the first presidential candidate to personally campaign for the job, and he willingly plowed into crowds to shake endless hands and at least pretend to remember all the veterans who wanted to reminisce about serving under him. Then he won and then he died.” “He was living in a bad time for presidents, that long gray period between Andrew Jackson and Abraham Lincoln when the great cloud of slavery and approaching civil war would make everybody—even an effective president like James Polk—seem like a historic asterisk.”
Hah. Once again, I'm reminded of the Wait But Why's "Bad President Circus" discussion. And I have ... how many left to go here? Most of them? Whee!
“There was nothing in Harrison’s history that suggests transformational leader. If he had lived, the country would still have made its long march toward the Civil War. Perhaps the Whig Party would have made a bigger, longer impact if he had spent four years in the White House instead of John Tyler. But it is my experience that there are not many Americans, or even many American historians, who are particularly interested in speculating on what it would have meant if things had worked out better for the Whigs."
So I guess that wouldn't be an awesome alternate history novel by Harry Turtledove, then? Anyhoo... the author says that "The William Henry Harrison story is less about issues than about the accidents of fate and silly campaigns.” The 1850 campaign seemed so modern to us, probably because it was the first huge political campaign circus going on. It relied on voters being gullible and believing anything they heard about heroic battles and log cabins and cider--Harrison wasn't really a cabin and cider dude, but his campaign sure made people believe he was. Likewise, Van Buren wasn't the rich effete they portrayed him as--he was a tavern keeper's son--but they pulled off that story in public. The author has some great snark about this: “The Whigs were describing him as a simple product of a log cabin in one breath and bragging about his father signing the Declaration of Independence in the next. Didn’t they think the people were listening?”* Well, they were listening to see if anyone had solutions to their problems. And if nobody had solutions, they'd look for the guy who might think like they do when he had to make decisions. And Harrison answered the bill, sort of. He was supposedly a very paternal guy (had a ton of kids), was nice to his men and everyone he met. His passions in life besides fighting and boning were getting aid for disabled vets and their families and trying to get jobs that would support him and ten kids and various adopted orphan wards. Plus of course some of them were broke or alcoholics or blew their money. I think at this point pretty much every president with sons or stepsons has at least one, two, or three kids like this except Andrew Jackson and his pack of adoptees.
*The author has great snark in this book. I think I love her.
Harrison was the seventh kid and third son in a family where the oldest sons inherited and the parents just hoped the spare sons would marry well and stay out of trouble. Oldest sons were named Benjamin (such as a future president in this gene pool, Benjamin VIII, and Benjamin V was the one who signed the Declaration of Independence.), the second sons had to go into politics and law. “When it came to educate the third son, the Harrisons mainly seemed to be looking for a career that did not require expensive schooling.”* William Henry was going to go to medical school, but by the time he arrived, he found out his father had died and thus the family could no longer pay for his education. So he joined the military instead, and when the father of his future wife asked how he'd support her, he said, “My sword is my means of support, sir!” I don't know how well that went because Harrison spent a lot of time either trying to run various businesses (not his strong suit in life) or shamelessly pursuing lucrative jobs by name dropping or claiming he was ill or something. He may not have looked super impressive, but he was generally a well loved guy when you got to know him.
* So you picked....medical school?!?
As for his political career, he made it into Congress and was first governor of the territory of Indiana, where he kept getting land away from the Indians because he was good at bargaining with them. He wasn't a fan of drinking (something that's incredibly ironic later)* because he didn't think it was fair to get them drunk during negotiations like a lot of other people would do.** While Harrison wasn't necessarily acting in the Indians' best interest, he was at least sympathetic enough to them that he'd try to treat them fairly for a change. He attempted to stop white traders from getting Indians drunk and banned the sale of liquor to Indians in one region (he tried to get it banned completely, but that didn't happen). He'd also work hard to get their cooperation, give them gifts***, and he'd give out financial advances.
*Harrison wasn’t a teetotaler, for the record, but virtually everyone drank in those days since water was suspect. **& Thomas Jefferson, a pen pal of Harrison's, would tell him it was a good thing for Indians to rack up debt & for all the alcohol they bought so they'd have to sell. Oh, Jefferson, you never do stop being classy, do you? Anyway, Harrison didn't do that. *** Though one of these gifts was a slave at one point...ugh.
Harrison didn't own a lot of slaves, though how many isn't mentioned in this book, but he was sensitive to the feelings of slave owners and aligned with the Virginia aristocrats even though he'd moved out of the state. He did petition the government to allow slaves in Indiana Territory, but Congress said no. He wasn't against the idea of expanding slavery, but said he'd be sorry if it happened. I sort of wonder about this because Harrison seemed fine with having slaves being transported through areas where slavery was banned and he'd let indentured servants in, and he helped pass laws saying that African Americans weren't considered equal citizens.
On the other hand, he tended to purchase slaves and then make them into indentured servants instead. “I have been the means of liberating many slaves but never placed one in bondage.” He notably intervened in trying to save two slaves from being sold outside of the territory and banned the kidnapping of colored indentured servants. He intervened in the case of two slaves, making sure that one of them was freed. The other had his legal case drag on for so long that he ended up selling his indenture to Harrison for eleven years to get himself out of the problem.
I'm just gonna quote this for my own amusement: “One of Harrison’s longtime opponents, John Badollet, wrote to the secretary of the treasury asking that when the next governor was appointed there be “no more Virginians.” HEAR HEAR. God, I'm sick of Virginia and Virginians while reading about presidents.
Anyway, let's go on to Harrison's military career! He started a state militia and loved doing that. His greatest claim to fame was his battle against Tecumseh of the Shawnee. Harrison had great respect for the dude, and called him an uncommon genius. Tecumseh also had a brother who was...less impressive. The brother was originally named "He Who Makes A Loud Noise" for his incessant crying, and then he grew up to be an alcoholic. Of course. But he had a vision while in a drunken stupor, and the vision was God telling him to save his people from their evil ways. So he became a medicine mane, changed his name to Shawnee Prophet, and teamed up with his brother.
Both brothers believed land belonged to all Indians and could not be sold, and they moved into a settlement called Prophetstown by the Tippecanoe River, where multiple tribes lived together without alcohol. Tecumseh said he had peaceful intentions, but he also said that God would send some kind of apocalypse to get rid of usurpers, which I'm sure didn't threaten any nearby white people or scare them to death at all. Or as the author puts it, "That couldn't have left the white people feeling comforted." So the white people wanted Someone to do Something, and Harrison gave it his best shot at some peace talks. He never got anywhere with that due to their "you can't sell land" idea, and finally he tried arguing that if the Indians were all one nation, why did the Great Spirit give them all different languages? Tecumseh stomped out in response.
Anyway, peace talks didn't work and Harrison's dudes marched on Prophetstown in what later got called the Battle of Tippecanoe. The white people totally destroyed the village and were considered heroes, despite losing more people than the Indians did in that battle. Also, “Harrison would become known as the hero of a battle with Tecumseh in which Tecumseh was not actually present.” Oh, history. For the record, Harrison definitely never killed Tecumseh, because he wasn't even around at the time when the guy died. Apparently whatever they thought was Tecumseh's corpse was mutilated and skinned for souvenirs, which Harrison was mortified and grossed out at. But anyway, Harrison got celebrated for winning (or "winning"). Eventually he got fed up and quit the army.
Meanwhile, future vice president Richard M. Johnson sorta-kinda got the credit for killing Tecumseh, even though nobody seems to know for sure on that one. As I previously mentioned, he had a slave girlfriend he had daughters with. He also had the nickname of (no, I don't know where that came from), "Old Rumpsey Dumpsey." This led to a terrible campaign slogan that I've read in later books, but sadly was missing in this one so I won't mention it here. Darn it.
After his military career ended again, Harrison held some more state political offices and tried to get military training established for young men, but nobody would go for it. He kept trying to get higher offices and didn't get them, but eventually did make it as a US Senator for three years. John Quincy Adams said about him, "This person's thirst for lucrative office is absolutely rabid." (As it had to be, I say.) “Vice president, major-general of the Army, Minister to Colombia—for each of these places he has been this very session as hot in pursuit as a hound on the scent of a hare.” JQA deemed him a “political adventurer” and having a “lively and active, but shallow mind.” Harrison eventually landed the aforementioned Columbia job, but “raising vegetables was the biggest achievement Harrison would have time to accomplish.” Andrew Jackson won the next election and booted him out of the job four days later! His next job of sorts was clerk of the county courts, which had no salary, but the fees amounted to 10k/year.
“Harrison seemed to have come to the end of his public life. He had lost a bid for the U.S. Senate in 1831 and had discovered that there was not enough enthusiasm among his friends to mount another run for Congress. His county clerkship kept the financial wolves at bay, but he was in perpetual money difficulties. He was also unwell, suffering from ague. Always cheerful, he soldiered on. But he must have felt that his career had ended on a rather low note. Yet he was about to become a candidate for president of the United States, an office he would win four years later.”
Go figure, eh? So how'd that happen? Well, the Whigs were a pretty new party that were into a strong federal government, but they weren't very unified personally and had a lot of factions and were split on slavery. They wanted someone who appealed to everyone (the National Intelligencer newspaper said "and we desire what is impossible"), and Harrison did. He was a war hero, he was obscure on his positions so he didn't offend anybody, and he seemed acceptable to all. His response to his friends floating his name around for job was that "some folks are silly enough to have formed a plan to make a President of the United States out of this Clerk and Clod Hopper!”
At the nomination convention, big shot big Whig Henry Clay isn't a fan of Harrison and is totally overconfident about his own chances. “Clay believed with all his heart that he was the best man for the presidency. He had been working to achieve it for years, and the news that the old general, his ex-beneficiary, was calmly waiting to see if Fate would dump the prize in his lap must have been one of the most irritating letters he received in his life.” Clay was a great leader in Congress and built up the Whig party around his own convictions. But those advantages were his biggest problem because he was such old news that everyone know what he was for. Many Whigs just found it easier to go for the military hero. Abraham Lincoln thought if men like Harrison were not rewarded for their efforts, they might not be interested in becoming soldiers. Also, it’s polite to reward the elderly (seriously, that's the logic stated) to encourage the young. Clay eventually decided he was going to be able to work Harrison like a puppet and be the power behind the scenes instead. (Good luck with that.)
Nobody really bothered to think about the vice presidential candidate, and Tyler kept his positions silent at the time. “Tyler was finally taken because we could get nobody else to accept,” said Thurlow Weed. The ticket had “rhyme but no reason to it,” said Philip Hone, and he meant that literally. The Whigs had no platform, the party was all over the map--but by god, did they ever campaign this time!
“The story of how the Democrats sneered at Harrison as a pensioned-off nobody and how the Whigs, in response, created the Log Cabin candidate is one of the most famous sagas in the history of ridiculous presidential campaigns.” The Whigs made everyone think that Van Buren was rich and refined and Harrison was a frontier man. “Of course, in the real world, Harrison was the one brought up on a Virginia plantation with tutors to see to his education, while Van Buren was the son of a not- terribly-successful tavern owner and grew up speaking Dutch, with no schooling except whatever he procured for himself.” But the Whigs were great at spin, and since life on the frontier was so boring, people got psyched at the idea of going out and singing or joining in a parade for a presidential candidate, or just shoving giant balls around in the street because that was a thing then. The Whigs invented a political songbook, “The Log Cabin Songbook, as well as the Log Cabin Anecdotes and a Tippecanoe Text Book, the Tippecanoe Quick-Step, which you could dance at a Harrison Hoe-Down, plus merchandise such as soap, tobacco and neckties. Log cabins were raised. There were also Log Cabin campaign newspaper and other periodicals. The Whigs also really pimped booze and created a signature election whiskey for the occasion. “It was also ironic that Harrison, who had spent so much of his life trying to reduce drinking in the military, among Indians, and later by one of his own sons, was in the midst of a campaign that was based to a great degree on alcohol consumption.” Supposedly women were also pulling a Lysistrata and refusing to marry men who wouldn't vote for Harrison, "although no actual woman making such a pledge was ever identified."
While all of this circus was going on, Harrison was the first presidential candidate to get a public report issued on his health by a doctor, something that eventually became routine in our era. He was deemed healthy. He ran around giving speeches for hours at a time. Meanwhile, Tyler mostly stayed at home and claimed to be in favor of whatever Harrison and Clay were for. Uh-HUH. Harrison was such a popular guy that the Democrats had a hard time making anything bad stick to him, despite trying stuff like rumors like he had children by Indian women.
“One thing the wild, carnival-like election demonstrated was that people really enjoyed voting when they were encouraged to identify with one party and regard the other as villain, when they got to take direct physical part in the campaigns through parades and pole raisings and cider-filled parties.” There was a huge voter turnout, at 80.2 percent from a previous 56 percent.
As for Harrison's death: he gave a long and vague speech at his inauguration-- “However, the speech has gone down in history solely because of its length, and its role in killing the speaker.” The author thinks there were several contenders for whatever finally killed him, such as Harrison's hiking around by himself all the time in bad weather, being tired from the campaign, and getting harassed all the time by people who wanted jobs. He was also getting harassed by Clay, and Harrison soon told him to basically bugger off. For the record, the Presidential podcast also covers the topic of how Harrison died, if you want to check that out--and listen to the "Tippecanoe and Tyler Too" song. A doctor deduced that Harrison got typhoid fever from the White House's contaminated water system--which probably also contributed to the deaths of James K. Polk and Zachary Taylor later on.
Well, there you go, then. I give this author credit for keeping things lively and making a lot to say out of a guy you wouldn't have thought there was a lot to say about. He and his campaign sound pretty fun. So, four stars.
“Oh, something tells me these next two years, until I reach twenty-one, will be worth writing down.”
For those of you who wondered why the hell I'm so obsessed with reading about the Hemings family, this book is why. I read it as a kid and became totally fascinated, and when I stumbled across it again recently, I thought what the heck, I'll add it to the review pile. It's still the favorite work I've ever read on that family.
The author's note at the start says she was inspired by reading Fawn Brodie. “I could not bear to think, as Brodie had written, that these children, who might have been the unacknowledged offspring of so great a man, had to wait to be freed by him, or, as in the case of Tom Hemings and his brother Beverly, had to run away. And then there was Harriet, who was reportedly given her freedom at age twenty-one and with Thomas Jefferson’s blessing, provided with money and transportation in order to make her own way in the world.”
Anyway, this is the diary of Harriet Hemings from ages 19-21, trying to figure out the dilemma of whether or not to go free and if she does that, whether or not to pass for white when she does it. At the beginning of the story, she doesn't want to have to leave her family and her home--plus her older brother Tom already ran off in the night and people seem to be forgetting about him and only speaking about him in whispers, and she doesn't want people to do the same about her. She doesn't want to be forgotten. But her mother Sally is insistent that she leave, and she enlists the help of Jefferson's "mad" son-in-law, Thomas Mann Randolph, for this.
I can't say I've gotten any sense of Thomas Mann Randolph in any of the books I've read, other than everything saying he was "crazy" but not specifying why, except for the times he got into brawls with his abusive son-in-law Charles Bankhead. (And frankly, I cannot blame him one bit and would egg him on in that.) But in this book, he's probably "mad" for being antislavery, would be my guess. He mentions attempting to get slavery banned in the state even though he knows it's not going to happen. Anyway, in this world he's a super sweet, decent fellow who really goes above and beyond to help Harriet. When Sally sends Harriet in to serve him a meal, he points out that even though she's treated well here and now (as a "pet"), what would happen to her children and her when the master dies? If she doesn't leave when she can, she may never be able to leave. This certainly gives Harriet something to think about.
“Look at my father-in-law. He can’t make his mind up about slavery. Hates it, yes. Says it’s a wolf America has by the ears. And that we can no longer hold onto it. But neither can we let it go.”
The Hemingses don't *quite* know if Jefferson is their dad or not, but they're aware that it's pretty likely even if neither parent will admit it publicly. It's something Harriet debates with her older remaining brother Beverly. Beverly is also a concern in this book because he's 23 and still hasn't left yet. He wants to go to university and prove himself by setting a balloon off--in hopes he proves that he's smart enough to go. Harriet overhears the conversation he has with Jefferson about it. Basically, Jefferson wishes he could, but says he can't because he always thinks about his friend George Wythe, who made much of his only illegitimate black son and left him some things in his will--and then Wythe's only white heir poisoned the entire family and got away with it. (This is the best link I can find on that.)
“I know right and wrong. And I dream dreams. Just like you. But every time I dream those dreams I remember my old friend George Wythe. And I am brought back to the way things are.” --Jefferson
Even worse, after Harriet comes out of hiding to watch the balloon go off, Beverly brags to her that Jefferson said he could go to university. Ouch, ouch, ouch!
After this, the perils of staying are pointed out to Harriet more brutally--first by a guy friend of hers saying that if she stays, she'll be married off whether she wants to be or not, and then by getting attacked by Charles Bankhead to boot. Once she realizes it's not safe for her to stay--and it's not safe for her to be free and black either--she agrees to leave and pass, and TMR agrees to help her out. He even agrees to have her get "engaged" to ward off guys until she's legal, and gets his estranged wife Martha to train Harriet in the domestic arts, whether she wants to or not.
“They all say he is crazy. His wife refuses to live with him…But do they ever consider how good and dear he is?”
Later he writes Harriet: “My father-in-law has cooperated in every respect with me in my plans. But then he always did excel in the art of silent complicity. I truly believe he is relieved that your happiness is ensured. He has not enquired further into details about your future. He trusts that I have chosen the best of all paths for you. And I think that he is happy that someone took this responsibility away from him.” He signs it “Your enduring, if somewhat mad, friend.” Awww.
As for this version of Martha (who generally comes off as pretty sour in most books, but then again I can't blame her), this one is actually somewhat less awful, which is nice. She even points out that she’s not fond of her son in law and “I hope this does not show a lack of charity, but I have suggested that a keeper be hired to keep him from mischief and that he be permitted to drink himself to death.” Hah. Though she does later tell Harriet that her father is Peter Carr, which basically makes Beverly roll his eyes and be all, she told me that bullcrap and I looked it up and it's not true.
“We’re better off if we go out into the world not knowing he’s our father, Harriet. Then we won’t expect so much.”
“No,” I said, “If I knew he was my father, it would keep me strong.” –Beverly and Harriet.
Harriet and Beverly wonder what happened with their uncle James, who was freed and died before Harriet's time. Not having the suppositions that came with the Barbara Chase-Riboud books, Harriet wonders if being free and black is what made him crazy. “…one thing I’ve figured out for sure. And that is that it must be a terrible thing being a free nigra out there. Free, but only able to do what white folks say you can do. But it must be worse being a free nigra with the education of a white person. Like James had. And like we have. Why else would James have killed himself?”
And then there's Thad, the fellow that Thomas Mann Randolph sets her up with. Thad's a visiting architect who thought Harriet was cute but having unfair things to deal with in life when he randomly saw her around on an earlier visit, and man, is he ever a one scene wonder. He blows both the reader and Harriet away. He's charismatic, charming, super kind, super blunt, honest, reasonable, sane, willing to give her time to think about things, and he sounds cute. Heck, the reason why I read The President’s Daughter was that on some level I wished I could read about Harriet marrying this guy. She’s quite besotted and so was I. He'll let her get a chance to know him before they decide if they're going to actually get married or not, he can set her up with a fake identity and place to stay, and he's got it covered.
They have a fascinating conversation, in which she actually gets to take tea with him instead of for him. They talk about the differences in the white world vs. hers. He points out there’s a difference between being a slave and a free white woman, and she points out that all women have a master. Yup. However, her relatives couldn’t make their world, they took what they were given and made the best of it. And he has one request of her: can you call the master Mister Jefferson before you go?
Eventually Beverly comes to the same conclusion as Harriet and decides to go on his own, confirming to Harriet for sure who their father isn't before they go, at her request. He also points out that in their so-called father's sanctuary, there's not a single scrap of paper identifying the Hemingses as anyone special to Jefferson. “A hundred years from now that’s all people will see of us, all they’ll know.” So remember that before you leave--we're not special.
A few months after Beverly leaves, Harriet finally does as well. Unlike her older brothers, she gets to say goodbye to everyone formally, and get some last minute advice from her mother.
“Times get bad. Sooner or later, for everybody. Those times all you can do is just go on lighting the fire and keeping the family fed and keeping everybody around you from killing each other. There’s more of those days than I like to tell you about. Seems like you’re always losing. But you’re not. You keep lighting the fire and feeding the children and stopping everybody around you from killing each other and you’re winning.” –Sally.
And yes, she does get to say goodbye to the master and she calls him Mr. Jefferson, to his shock. He cries for her when she leaves, and she appreciates that.
This story is just plain beautiful. There's tension on every page (as my favorite books on writing would say, that's what you want), the situation is heartrending, you feel for everyone in the situation they're in, and it's awesome. Four stars.
Previous book here. This one features the adventures of Garrett’s roommate John Logan and his dating a freshman, Grace Ivers.
I wasn’t as into this book as I was the previous one, by a long shot. I’ve come to the conclusion that the reason why I’ve been hooked on these various New Adult/college kid/hockeybooks is that what they boil down to is, “hero with some serious emotional problems/life trauma going on meets heroine with some serious emotional problems/life trauma going on and they bond and help each other and support each other through those particular dramas.” And this book straight up doesn’t have that equality going on.
Logan has a secret problem reminiscent of Bridger in The Year We Hid Away--his father is a handicapped alcoholic and his older brother Jeff has been running the family business and mopping up Dad's vomit every night for years so Logan can go to college. However, literally the second Logan graduates, Jeff is outta there, leaving the country right after the ceremony, and it's going to be Logan's turn to mop up after his dad for at least the next few years. Which means Logan canNOT join any hockey teams that might want him--the deal with Jeff was that he picked college or hockey, he can't do both. So he doesn't join the draft and claims he did but wasn't picked, and has to hedge about to others as to why because he doesn't want to tell the whole ugly truth. Which is compelling and sad and you wonder how that's going to resolve.
By comparison, Grace is...perfectly fine, thank you. The biggest dramas she's had are that her mom moved to Paris (no big deal) and that she and her best friend Ramona break up in this book because after Grace and Logan have a fight, Ramona texts Logan with a sexual proposition for reasons even she can't explain. And then they kind of reconnect again later, most notably when Ramona is imprisoned by a visiting hockey team and needs a rescue. But other than that, Grace is just a nice, normal girl with nothing super stand out about her. She briefly dates someone else, she gets a French makeover, she makes Logan go to dramatic lengths to make it up to her, there you go. Heck, there's not even a scene where Logan tells her what's going on with his dad straight up, we just find out she found out offscreen. This just missed a big opportunity for depth and drama, right there.
Also, Logan's problem ends up wrapping up way too easily and quickly under the circumstances. Nice for him, but it made me go, "Oh really? That simple, eh?"
Honestly, this was just...I dunno, not nearly as satisfying as other books of this ilk or its predecessor. Others will probably be more into it than I was. They're nice kids and I felt for Logan's plight because caregiving is a nightmare (I'm biased on that), but I wasn't super into their burgeoning romance or either person in general. I just feel like this book had enough mistakes in it that could have been fixed to make it a better novel. But other than feeling like it wasn't deep enough, it wasn't bad, so....three stars.
“A novel is a legitimate illumination of the ambiguities of historical reality. Written history is always interpreted through a writer’s sensibility and therefore inevitably fictionalized.” --Barbara Chase-Riboud, in the afterword of this novel.
Previous book here. This book takes on the story of Harriet Hemings, who left Monticello with tacit permission by Jefferson (if not being officially freed publicly) when she turned 21 years old. Unlike the first book in the series having historical basis, this one posits more of what could have happened to Harriet, since nobody really knows IRL.
In this story, Adrien Petit-- the majordomo of the Hotel de Langeac in Paris where the Jefferson party stayed and a character in the previous book that I never ended up mentioning in the review--escorts Harriet to her new residence in Philadelphia, basically operates as her guardian, and even gives her his last name to use. He tells her stories about her mother in Paris and pays for her to attend a music conservatory. He also straight up tells Harriet that he thinks James was the one that squealed to Callender as a plot to break up Sally and Jefferson, and provides her with letters James wrote to Petit that seemed to imply as much. James was always scheming to try to get Sally to return to Paris with him and felt like he couldn't really be free without her. After the scheme failed,
"Either your father’s political friends caught up with him and he didn’t put up a fight, or he, in fact, took his own life before they could do it for him. Callender was found drowned in the Potomac in three feet of water, and that was no suicide. Both deaths were blamed on drunkenness. But no one has ever figured out how James could have hung himself from the rafters with no chair, or how a grown man could drown himself in a puddle.” Yikes.
Harriet decides--of course--that she wants to work towards freeing slaves. She acquires a best friend, Charlotte, who she also has a lesbian relationship with off and on throughout their lives (hubba hubba!) and falls in love with an apothecary who's called Thance. The names in that family are kinda strange--they go by weird nicknames. His twin is called Thor.
Passing as white is a very weird experience for Harriet. She has to tell the stories of her white relatives growing up as her own, she has to listen to white people saying all kinds of things about black people*, and while nobody can really "tell" in this day and age (though she freaks the heck out when she finds out about how fingerprints work and is later relieved when she accidentally burns them off) and she isn't found out for being black she's terrified about what happens if she does, since she was forced to steal herself. What if she gets caught? What if she gets married and has kids and is caught, because her husband could do jail time and her kids will be slaves too? The scene where Harriet dresses up as a boy and reads the law on this really gets to you.
* I really love how periodically Harriet is all, "WHITE PEOPLE." As you would, too.
“We think of white people as human beings, as we all are, but they think of us as somehow different…humanly different from them. If we pass someone who is suffering, or worse off than ourselves, or in jail, we say to ourselves, ‘There but for the grace of God go I.’ White people,” I said slowly, wanting to make myself understood, “say, ‘There, but for the grace of God, never go I—because I’m white.’ They truly believe there is a superior race and an inferior race. And even the poorest, meanest, most ignorant white man considers himself blessed because he belongs to the superior race. Because we are there on the bottom to prove his superiority…..They think that being black is a fate worse than death.” … “They would rather be dead than considered like us—not human.”
When Thance proposes, Harriet accepts, but can't reconcile herself to the legal risks they'd be taking--in his case, without even knowing. She eventually breaks off the engagement to travel to Europe with a fellow abolitionist woman because according to the law, once she's set foot in another country, she's technically free. "Setting my foot on British soil makes me legally free. Just as it did my mother, forty years ago.” (For the record, she tells this to her mother--yes, this is a world where Harriet can sneak back for a visit later and not get caught out somehow--and her mother is all, "Yeah, RIGHT, in Virginia you're still going to be a slave and they're not going to care about that.") So Harriet does that, tries telling another suitor the truth about herself (he doesn't take it well, but more because she's a bastard) and kind of gives up on the idea of ever telling anyone else. She does go visit Maria Cosway in the convent she's living in and they have a fascinating conversation in which Harriet can be honest about herself, for a change. Harriet says afterwards she gave me the courage to invent herself as her mother had not done. Later Maria writes to Jefferson of the experience, but he never gets to read the letter before he dies. She was urging him to set her free.
Harriet goes home to see her father one last time as he's dying--I found it hard to believe Harriet could do that and not get busted or turned in or someone outside of the estate hearing it or something, but what do I know on the likelihood of that, really. (In this book she does write letters to Monticello and talk to her brothers off and on, including "Thomas Woodson," supposedly the first Hemings to bolt, the one who changed his name and denied his parentage to boot.) She hopes Jefferson will free her on his deathbed, but of course he doesn't do that because it's against his principles. Hoo boy, does she ever tell him off for that--and then she gets told off by Martha Jefferson Randolph for being an offense to southern white womanhood who doesn't belong in this country, is hated, he'll never love you and we, his real family, won't let him anyway. OY.
“He’s made me a thief of myself!”
Harriet eventually returns to Philadelphia and marries Thance, never telling him her secret, and they have a bunch of kids. Her mother recommended that she only tell one of her grandchildren, which she eventually does even though the granddaughter doesn't believe her. After Jefferson dies and all the slaves that weren't freed are sold off, Harriet attends the auction and can afford to rescue her niece Thenia, and keeps her with her always.
As for the rest of Harriet's nearest family, in this book we find out Sally dropped dead after the end of it and Nathan Langdon found her. “You would have thought it was his mother, the way he carried on.” Of course he did. Madison and Eston decide to go west and split up, with Madison remaining publicly black and Eston passing for white. Before he leaves, he tells Harriet, “You were right, Harriet. It’s easy to reinvent yourself once you’ve made up your mind. And what does it change, really? You’re still you.” Harriet’s response that she doesn’t say aloud is, “I wasn’t all that sure about still being myself.”
“Once you cross the color line, you are an invention. How could you not be? The color line itself is an invention! You are not perceived as the same person—not because inside you aren’t, but because people see you differently.” –Eston
Harriet's nearest and dearest do either figure out that she used to be black (however the heck you define this) or find out right before death, whatever that means. She ends up remarrying, her kids go fight on the side of the Union in the Civil War, and she ends up watching the results of that.
I mentioned in the last review that the author likes to do some head hopping. That certainly does continue on in this book. I'm not at all sure why she also makes characters (EVEN THE DEAD ONE) "sign" these with some kind of, "I, the undersigned, name, do hereby swear that such and such happened" after their chapters. It's very strange.
At one point we slip into the head of Abraham Lincoln! Who loves Jefferson because he promised us all with the Declaration. He wants the Union to continue in accordance with that original idea. He’ll destroy the South for it because he is the progenitor of our natural ideal. Lincoln wanted to transport Africans back to Africa where he felt they would be happier. The folks he tells this to (it’s a secret meeting of black people) disagree that they don’t want to go somewhere else they’re not native to, and Lincoln admits he doesn't have the ships or guns to force them anyway. “If I could save the Union without freeing any slaves, I would do it; and if I could save the Union by freeing all the slaves, I would do that; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would do that also. But first I needed a victory. Any victory. I made a covenant with God. I would emancipate every God damned slaves in the United States of America for victory in Maryland.”
At one point, for whatever insane reason, the author has James Hemings narrating from beyond the grave, watching Gettysburg. Whaaaat? (Watching Harriet, supposedly?) “Yes, this is James Hemings you’re listening to...I’ve followed my niece’s adventures for fifty years, hopping, skipping, jumping the color line, mistrusting her father, despising her mother, lovingly deceiving her husbands; not adultery or even incest, but—woe is me—a question of color.” This was just plain weird and got weirder.
“And you’re thinking, Well, really, what really happened to him? Are we ever going to find out? I mean, was he murdered or did he commit suicide that day Thomas Mann Randolph found him, or claims to have done so? Do you really think everything should be historically redeemed from oblivion, reader? I mean, couldn’t my fate just stay in the somnolent shadows? As those boys over there know, dead is dead. “I’ve long ago forgiven my murderer. And Callender as well. Forgiven my father. Forgiven my brother-in-law. Forgiven the world. It was only politics as usual. How can I speak of assassination with fifty-nine thousand assassinated boys staring up at me.”
Um....okay then? I think the end of the book is where the author's starting to get a little strange about it, honesty. But thanks for clearing all of that up, ghost James! It super helped!
In both books the author muses that some things she put into the books she thought were fiction turned out to be real life—like she though she made up “Thenia” and then later found out there was a dead baby named Thenia. “If she hadn’t existed, I would have had to invent her, or, conversely, if she hadn’t been invented, she would have had to exist.”
Overall, I liked this thought experiment of a book as to how Harriet's life turned out. The execution is a bit weird here and there (seriously, bringing James back from the dead to witness was a giant whaaaat? moment), but it did give you a lot to think about and you're glad that Harriet survived on and sounded like she lived a pretty good life, more or less. I hope that happened IRL, not that we'll ever know. So...three and a half stars, I guess.
This book is a far future retelling of The Wild Swans, which I previously knew nothing about.
Liddi Jantzen lives in a galaxy where there's seven worlds linked by conduits so you can (as far as I can tell) teleport between them. She's the youngest member (and only girl) of a family known for their technological genius. She has 8 older brothers, but was the one left in charge of the family business when she comes of age because her brothers wouldn't fight over who's in charge if it's her. However, so far she's kind of the black sheep of the family--not for personality or gender, but because so far she doesn't seem to be the tech genius her brothers are. They have a Tech Reveal event on her home planet that she has yet to come up with anything for even though she's sixteen, so she feels kind of bad about herself for that. She also doesn't have any friends or significant others because her family gets followed around by paparazzi video camera bugs all the time and her brothers are the only people she can trust not to use her. Which is sad.
Anyway, one night Liddi goes home and finds intruders in the place sounding like they want to kidnap her, and she manages to get away. Then she finds out that ALL of her brothers have disappeared and haven't been heard from for days. She deduces that her brothers may have somehow ended up trapped in the conduit system and she's right--but when she mentions that to a family employee, it turns out that said employee was the one that trapped them there in the first place. Minali Blake can't kill or use Liddi--Liddi's got some kind of tech in her that will notify others if she dies--but Blake is convinced that sacrificing Liddi's brothers to the conduits will stabilize them, because the conduits seem to be eroding somehow. However, this will take some time. So she puts some kind of device in Liddi's throat--and if Liddi speaks, her brothers will be killed.
This is even worse than you think it sounds, because Liddi's world gave up on using writing a long time ago, everything runs off of voice recognition, and she literally can't communicate with ANYONE. (Damn, I say, damn.) However, her brothers can somehow manage to pop in and out of her vision from time to time, and they arrange for her to be transported to....Ferri (known as Ferrine to the natives), the supposed lost point of their network that they think of as an afterlife. Except it turns out that Ferrine is quite a different planet from the other seven, and the varying natives cut themselves off from the others temporarily for some reason, even though they kept up with speaking the same language just in case they decided to come back. I'm still not sure why they cut themselves off, really.
Ferrine is a weird place, and not just because as far as Liddi knew "Ferri" was some kind of heaven equivalent. Ferrine has various alien species living there, and they say that the conduits are sentient people that they call the Khua and pretty much worship. Liddi is taken in and taken care of by a nice young fellow named Tiav, who is an aelo.* Ferrine still has written language, so Tiav does his best to teach Liddi something that she has a very hard time understanding. She can't explain what's going on and why, but Tiav does get that it's dangerous. But explaining this to the adminstrators of Ferrine is straight up difficult, especially when Liddi tries to access the conduits to get to her brothers and that's pretty much religious blasphemy there. Oops. Anyway, she and Tiav manage to communicate a bit, though she can't really explain her situation too well or let anyone take the device out of her neck, just in case. They also fall in love, which makes sense in Liddi's case since this is the first guy who's known her as herself rather than the famous Liddi Jantzen. (I don't know in Tiav's case, but I guess she's cute. He's pretty much a neutrally friendly person but doesn't really stand out as a personality beyond being a friendly foreigner.)
* I don't think this was ever defined in the book. The word "dignitary" is used on the book cover. Seems to be some kind of ambassador/politician-ish role? His mother is the head of the aelos.
Anyway...Good points in the book are that the situation is compelling, and Liddi makes some good unusual allies (particularly towards the end--I won't spoil it, but she ends up getting a super awesome necklace) and ends up figuring out she's smarter than she knew she was. I was creeped out at the early reveal that Liddi had been made genetically "checked" by her parents so that she'd have to rely on her brothers, but things weren't quite like that. So yay. I'll talk a bit about the other thing I thought was cool below the spoiler cut.
Bad points are....well, I think literally every book review I saw for this said they were confused as to what was going on, and I concur with that. This setup is very hard to comprehend, picture, and understand. What's going on with the khua is very hard to comprehend. What's going on with the state of Liddi's brothers is hard to understand. I don't know who is up to following exactly what's going on here, but I fear I ended up coming up with the most comprehensive explanation and I don't think I quite get it all either. You also won't really be able to keep track of all of Liddi's brothers, but I'm not sure if that was something the author was super concerned about given the setup anyway. Suffice it to say, the reader isn't feeling their situation like the narrator is.
So...I'm going to give it three stars. Would be great if I just got what the heck was going on better.
This story is a fictional take on the life of Sally Hemings, and it's more about recapping the (presumed) past. It switches back and forth between Sally’s first person and various other third persons. The author has a weird tendency to dip into a person’s head in a one off sort of way without captioning that now we’re talking from James’s or Abigail Adams’s POV, making you figure that out for yourself. It's...kind of an odd writing style, and I'm not sure why you'd do that.
The book starts out with a framing story of sorts--with a "stupid boy for a lawyer" named Nathan Langdon who's currently working as a census taker in Albermarle County, Virginia after Sally and her sons Madison and Eston were freed after Thomas Jefferson's death. (maybe link to other books here?) Langdon is pretty fascinated by Sally and Jefferson and they briefly become friends and chat a lot--until Langdon tells Sally he put all of them down as free white people on the census so that they won't be kicked out of the state. However, Sally takes a lot of offense to this. She thought he was playing god and doing this to make Jefferson not guilty of having a slave wife. She kicks him out, never wanting to see him again.
Nathan periodically peeks in on the rest of the book, still looking for information about her, trying to get a portrait done of her, etc. At one point he talks to John Quincy Adams ( who he goes to work for), who says, “The enigma of Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson will never be completely solved.” JQA's thoughts on the matter are: “That Jefferson had loved Sally Hemings he had no doubt. Whether Sally Hemings had loved Jefferson was less clear, since she had had no choice. That was the tragedy. That such an unnatural love may have changed the course of history, undoubtedly preventing Jefferson from using his power and genius to turn the tide against slavery instead of being an accomplice to all its darkest and most passionate aspects, was tragic indeed…Why had Jefferson reversed his stand against slavery when he returned from Paris?” I'll take a wild guess that he wanted to hold on to his loved ones he couldn't be with honestly?
Anyway, the Langdon kinda-crush thing is mostly gone from the plot after awhile until the end, which is good because (a) it's weird, and (b) then we can move on to Sally's experiences as a teenager moving to Paris for the first time. Left alone with Jefferson...the inevitable happened, though the author is pretty tactful and vague about what went on there and doesn't really try to recap say, their conversations about freedom and Sally's future kids. (I kinda wish she had tried. It would have been nice to get more of a sense of their relationship because if you're making stuff up, why not give it a go, I say.) But she does try to do that a bit more later in the timeline.
Sally and her brother James discuss trying to go free, but both of them are...emotionally attached/suckered(?) into staying. James can get his freedom after he trains a replacement, but Sally only arranges with Jefferson to get freedom for their future children. James actually insists on being celibate until he's free, and he does NOT approve of his sister's relationship or bringing more kids into slavery. He spends the rest of his life being super bothered by his sister's relationship, and off and on tries to break them up.
“I will never steal myself! He thought. He has no right to force me to do so…to make a criminal and an outlaw out of me who has served him for so long and with such loyalty. He must free me legally and openly.” --James. I'm quoting this because it's definitely a question that comes up in the sequel to this one.
I did appreciate that the author apparently did her own deductions as to why James (in real life) supposedly killed himself around the time that Callender's revelations about Sally Hemings came out in the press-- she heavily implies that James chose to collaborate with Callender as an attempt to get Sally free from Jefferson and that probably led to both of their deaths. I wasn't quite sure what to make of Sally's reaction to this in the story, though. Supposedly at that point Sally is pissed and plans to “kill him" [Jefferson] "with love.” If she can’t hate him or kill him, she’ll make sure he can’t walk away from or deny her, so he will free his kids. Okay, I guess?
It was overall an interesting read. Kind of awkward and weird in spots (it also ends ... very ambiguously, which got clarified in the sequel), but it did make me think a bit, so that's something. I guess I'll give it three stars.
For the record, I'd like to mention what the author has in the afterword:
“I had wanted to illuminate our overweening and irrational obsession with race and color in this country. I would do it through the man who almost single-handedly invented our national identity—and through the woman who was the emblematic incarnation of the forbidden, the outcast; who was the rejection of that identity. I would use the form of the nineteenth-century American Gothic novel, whose very essence is embedded in the American psyche.”
She also mentioned that she began this book as an epic poem, discarded it, at one point begged Toni Morrison to write it (hah) and everyone else she could ask, and finally Morrison said to write a historical novel. so she did. It's also dedicated to the memory of Fawn Brodie.
Previous book here. I read the Mediator series years ago, but the the author's finally brought back the same world but in a more new/young adult format. This review and the one after that will spoil the end of the original Mediator series big time, so if that's a concern to you, stop reading and the rest of this is going under the spoiler cut. I couldn't find any super awesome rundowns of the series to refer you to anyway, but you can check a few wiki links here and here for a refresher. Anyway, I'm giving it four stars.
Previous book here. I definitely have to say that I liked this one better than Cinder--there's a lot more action going on.
This book is divided between following the continuing drama of Cinder's life and introducing a new character, Scarlet.
Cinder is able to combine her cyborg mechanic skills and her new Lunar mind-manipulation abilities to break herself out of prison, along with Carswell Thorne, a charmingly rogueish fellow who happens to have a stolen spaceship. (Thorne is quite flirty, but hoo boy, does Cinder not have time for that.) The two make their way to his ship and then have to worry about hiding it, repairing it, and flying it--which is where the personality chip of her droid Iko comes in handy. The two of them eventually decide to go to France and try to track down Michelle Benoit, a former pilot who presumably hid young Princess Selene at some point, and see if she has more information on Cinder's past.
We're also introduced to Scarlet, Michelle's granddaughter, who's frantically looking for her grandmother who disappeared two weeks ago. She suspects something horrible's happened since her grandmother's ID chip has been cut out of her, and she's not wrong. Also, her useless father shows up, having been tortured, and he's looking for something or other that the bad guys who kidnapped them both want. Scarlet really doesn't know anything about her grandmother's secret past, though. She's assisted--somewhat--by a strange fellow calling himself "Wolf" who showed up in the neighborhood in a few weeks ago, has been participating in the local fight club, and is apparently in some kind of wolf-themed gang or other. He and Scarlet get friendly (and sometimes more than friendly), but things get ugly when Scarlet finally comes face to face with his gang and finds out the real truth. Suffice it to say that not only was her grandmother involved with the Lunar plot to save Princess Selene, the wolf gang has even more nefarious purposes in mind.
Then as Queen Levana sends her super special soldiers to start slaughtering people in all the big cities of Earth, poor Prince Kai is of course forced to give in and propose marriage to the universe's worst conqueror. Of course that had to happen.
I found this book to be very gripping, it's one of those "I'm reading this late at night/in class/while I'm supposed to be doing something else" sorts of books. Lots of action, lots of compelling drama and mysteries everywhere. I'm not quite sure how I feel about Scarlet and Wolf's relationship exactly--but then again, I don't quite think they know under the circumstances either. But I really liked reading this and can't wait to move onto the next in the series. Four stars!