BOOK REVIEW: The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, by V.E. Schwab

BOOK REVIEW: The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, by V.E. SchwabTitle: The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab
Published by Tor Books
Published: October 6th 2020
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 442
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
Buy: Bookshop(afflilate link)
Goodreads

A Life No One Will Remember. A Story You Will Never Forget.
France, 1714: in a moment of desperation, a young woman makes a Faustian bargain to live forever and is cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets.
Thus begins the extraordinary life of Addie LaRue, and a dazzling adventure that will play out across centuries and continents, across history and art, as a young woman learns how far she will go to leave her mark on the world.
But everything changes when, after nearly 300 years, Addie stumbles across a young man in a hidden bookstore and he remembers her name.

Schwab is one of my favorite writers. I love the way she uses language to create worlds, and I love the connections between characters she develops. The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is one of my favorite reads of 2020, and even though it’s been a few weeks since I’ve finished reading it, I can’t stop thinking about it in both good and not so good ways. I understand some of Schwab’s reasoning about choosing not to include very overt and specific historical things due to a fear of not writing it correctly, but they were still choices. I’ll try not to spoil it too much, but be forewarned that there might be spoilers below!

Addie LaRue made a deal with the devil to escape a life she doesn’t want, and an aftereffect of the deal is that no one remembers her. Throughout her life, throughout hundreds of years, she travels the world but the parts Schwab wrote about are so obviously eurocentric and white. There is no mention of the slave trade, not even in passing, and no mention of the civil rights movements occurring throughout the last hundred and fifty years. Is it because Schwab didn’t find it comfortable to write about or include, or is Addie so self-centered that she is only concerned about her day-to-day life and influencing artists rather than seeing what she could do, however small and incremental (as she does with the artists’ lives with whom she engages), to the grander scope of society? I feel like it’s a little of both, and I just wish there was something. Addie can’t be photographed, make any kind of physical written mark or brush stroke, but she can influence people in their art?? This is the main frustration I had with the book because it paints such a soft, sanitary version of the world. I know that’s not the point of the book, but I do wish history in its terrible reality had been included more.

But to me, Addie’s plight, her desire to be herself and live as she wished resonates a lot with me on so many levels. I often feel invisible, wanting to be recognized but finding myself stopped short by some invisible force.

“I do not want to belong to someone else,” she says with sudden vehemence. The words are a door flung wide, and now the rest pour out of her. “I do not want to belong to anyone but myself. I want to be free. Free to live, and to find my own way, to love, or to be alone, but at least it is my choice, and I am so tired of not having choices, so scared of the years rushing past beneath my feet. I do not want to die as I’ve lived, which is no life at all.”

Addie lives each day being forgotten by other people until Henry, the boy from the bookshop, remembers her. Everything she has known up until that point is thrown into a topsyturvy mess, and she spends a lot of time figuring out what that means while also falling in love with Henry. Knowing Schwab’s style from books in the past, I had an inkling about where the story would go, and it lived up to all of my expectations. I loved the ending because it felt like the right choice for her. All she wanted was to be known for who she is, not for who she could be; and for Henry, there were a lot of could bes involved.

Even with my frustrations about the history included in this book, I still enjoyed it a lot. Schwab’s style has grown and evolved since I first started reading her work, and I’m looking forward to what comes next. This is a novel that is best read without knowing too much about it (and I know I probably spoiled it a lot in this review), but the day-to-day explorations and trials Addie faces as someone who can’t be remembered resonated with me a lot, and a reread of this book is likely in my near future.

BOOK REVIEW: Culture Warlords, by Talia Lavin

BOOK REVIEW: Culture Warlords, by Talia LavinTitle: Culture Warlords: My Journey Into the Dark Web of White Supremacy by Talia Lavin
Published by Hachette Books
Published: October 13th 2020
Genres: Cultural Studies, Non-Fiction
Pages: 288
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
Buy: Bookshop(afflilate link)
Goodreads

A HARROWING JOURNEY INTO THE HEART OF WHITE SUPREMACY

Talia Lavin is every skinhead’s worst nightmare: a loud and unapologetic Jewish woman, acerbic, smart, and profoundly antiracist, with the investigative chops to expose the tactics and ideologies of online hatemongers. Culture Warlords is the story of how Lavin, a frequent target of extremist trolls (including those at Fox News), dove into a byzantine online culture of hate and learned the intricacies of how white supremacy proliferates online.

Within these pages, she reveals the extremists hiding in plain sight online: Incels. White nationalists. White supremacists. National Socialists. Proud Boys. Christian extremists. In order to showcase them in their natural habitat, Talia assumes a range of identities, going undercover as a blonde Nazi babe, a forlorn incel, and a violent Aryan femme fatale. Along the way, she discovers a whites-only dating site geared toward racists looking for love, a disturbing extremist YouTube channel run by a fourteen-year-old girl with over 800,000 followers, the everyday heroes of the antifascist movement, and much more.

By combining compelling stories chock-full of catfishing and gate-crashing with her own in-depth, gut-wrenching research, she also turns the lens of anti-Semitism, racism, and white power back on itself in an attempt to dismantle and decimate the online hate movement from within. Shocking, humorous, and merciless in equal measure, Culture Warlords explores some of the vilest subcultures on the Web-and shows us how we can fight back.

Talia Lavin’s Culture Warlords is a compelling, terrifying glimpse into white supremacy. This is by no means a complete examination of the many facets white supremacy reveals itself online and in our culture, but this is a good starting point and a good place to open up the conversation and personal research regarding why it feels like white supremacy has run rampantly unchecked lately.

I started reading this on the Friday after the attempted coup on January 6 because it felt like the right time to read it. I’ve always known white supremacy is deeply entwined in American history, but watching the events that unfolded last week brought it to the clearest forefront.

Lavin’s research and deep dives into white supremacist communities online and off are harrowing, brave, and gutsy. I know I don’t have the wherewithal to catfish on any level, so to me the levels she took this to are incredible. She risked so much going undercover to expose these internet communities, and I can’t even begin to imagine the emotional toll this endeavor has had on her.

One of the things I found most interesting about this is her exploration of the internet being a strikingly new tool at radicalization. It’s only in the last thirty or forty years that we as a planet have had the capabilities to share thoughts and information like this, and the more our society moves online to communicate, the more opportunities there are for unchecked, unmoderated spaces for white supremacist groups to connect.

I couldn’t put Culture Warlords down, and I finished it within a few hours of starting it. This is a necessary read, and it’s a necessary conversation opener.

Many thanks to Hachette Books for sending a complimentary review copy my way!

BOOKENDS: 2020

I have realized since creating the feature “Bookends” that I do not have the mental capacity or energy to do a post every weekend, so my monthly/yearly wrap ups have been renamed to Bookends! I’m not going to change/adjust any of my previous posts, but from here on out, my end of the month/year posts will be filed under this!


CURRENTLY READING

I knew I wasn’t going to finish The Big Book of Science Fiction, but I was hoping to finish A People’s History of the United States and The Penguin Book of the Prose Poem. I am making an effort in January to finish both of those (as well as The Rush’s Edge) so that I at least finish out this month with finishing up the books I read in 2020. It’s a new year, so I need a new start! But the SF one is HUGE and it is kind of fun to pick through and read stories from it every now and then. I do want to read the fantasy ones, so I need to finish this! At this point, I’m not really reading anything new as I just finished my first two books of 2021, so I think I’ll leave this as is until the January post!

📚 bookshelf pick  |  📓 physical review copy  |  📱 digital review copy | ⌛️ library/borrowed | 💾 ebook  |  💞 reread

📚 A People’s History of the United States – Howard Zinn (29%)
📚 The Big Book of Science Fiction – edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer (15%)
📚 The Penguin Book of the Prose Poem: From Baudelaire to Anne Carson – edited by Jeremy Noel-Tod (8%)
📓 The Rush’s Edge – Ginger Smith (17%)


FINISHED READING

I read twelve books in December! I really enjoyed the books I read this month, and I think that’s because I leaned into my whims and read what I wanted to read. I did manage two arcs and one published review copy, so I’m pleased with that! I’m trying to use my library more, and three of these were library titles too. I am pleased to be completely caught up (until February) with the ACOTAR series as I’ve had A Court of Wings and Ruin and A Court of Frost and Starlight unread on my shelves for far too long. TBH I think I was just tired of Rhys and Feyre by the middle of book three that I didn’t particularly care (or see a true need) for the novella. I am very excited about Nesta’s continuation, though! 2021 is going to be bringing changes with me, and I am ready for my own ‘tidying festival’ and letting go of a lot of things in my life, including so many of my possessions.

📚 bookshelf pick  |  📓 physical review copy  |  📱 digital review copy | ⌛️ library/borrowed | 💾 ebook  |  💞 reread

📚 Slow Days, Fast Company: The World, the Flesh, and LA – Eve Babitz (4.5/5 stars)
⌛️ Buy Yourself the F*cking Lilies – Tara Schuster (4/5 stars)
📓 One Writer’s Beginnings – Eudora Welty (4.5/5 stars; thank you, Scribner!)
⌛️ Mortal Arts – Anna Lee Huber (4/5 stars)
📱 Ruinsong – Julia Ember (4/5 stars; thank you, Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR))
📚 The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue – V.E. Schwab (5/5 stars)
📓 A Princess for Christmas – Jenny Holiday (4/5 stars)
📚 The Little Bookshop on the Seine – Rebecca Raisin (3/5 stars)
📚 The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying-Up – Marie Kondo (4.5/5 stars)
⌛️ Spark Joy – Marie Kondo (4.5/5 stars)
📚 A Court of Frost and Starlight – Sarah J. Maas (3/5 stars)
📚 Ex-Libris: 100+ Books to Read and Reread – Michiko Kakutani (4/5 stars)

 


ON THE HORIZON

All of these are physical copies because I ended up buying Persephone Station with a gift card I had! I had an e-arc, but the more I read about the book, the more I wanted a physical copy for my shelves. Last year, I enjoyed Mike Chen’s A Beginning at the End, so I’m curious to see how this new one stacks up! Doors of Sleep was sent to me by Angry Robot, and I’ve been enjoying their newest titles! Laziness Does Not Exist appealed to me on several different levels, and one of my unofficial 2021 goals is to read more nonfiction of all different sorts. Everyone and their mothers is reading and rereading the Bridgerton series, and I ended up buying the whole series on Thriftbooks before the series was released on Netflix. I’m glad I did now, because it’s impossible to find! The Heiress: The Revelations of Anne de Bourgh sounds like something right up my alley because I always love some further explorations of Pride & Prejudice, especially some of the background characters.

📚 bookshelf pick  |  📓 physical review copy  |  📱 digital review copy | ⌛️ library/borrowed | 💾 ebook  |  💞 reread

📚 Persephone Station – Stina Leicht
📓 We Could Be Heroes – Mike Chen (Thank you, Mira!)
📓 Doors of Sleep – Tim Pratt (Thank you, Angry Robot!)
📓 Laziness Does Not Exist – Devon Price, Ph.D. (Thank you, Atria!)
📚 The Duke and I – Julia Quinn
📓 The Heiress: The Revelations of Anne de Bourgh – Molly Greeley (Thank you William Morrow!)


WHAT I ACQUIRED

Me, trying to be on a book buying ban: LOL

I bought too many second-hand romance and fantasy at thrift stores because romance basically got me through some tough times in 2020, but I also need to read the many books I bought last year before I really start doing this thing again… but there’s that meme floating around that book buying and book reading are two completely different hobbies… In addition to the books above in the On the Horizon section, I also bought/received the following. Some were on sale 50% at work, some (like Mrs. Dalloway and The Great Gatsby) were released in editions I collect, some were monthly picks for the store, etc, etc. I really enjoyed the e-arc I read of The Guinevere Deception, so I had to order it in hardcover to match The Camelot Betrayal!

📚 bookshelf pick  |  📓 physical review copy  |  📱 digital review copy | ⌛️ library/borrowed | 💾 ebook  |  💞 reread

📚 Becoming Duchess Goldblatt – Anonymous
📓 Craft in the Real World – Matthew Salesses (Thank you, Catapult!)
📚 Eva Evergreen: Semi-Magical Witch – Julia Abe
📚 Mrs. Dalloway – Virginia Woolf
📚 Pretty as a Picture – Elizabeth Little
📓 Single and Forced to Mingle – Melissa Croce (Thank you, Atria!)
📚 Star Wars The High Republic: Light of the Jedi – Charles Soule
📚 The Guinevere Deception – Kiersten White
📚 The Camelot Betrayal – Kiersten White
📚 The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
📓 The Mission – David W. Brown (Thank you, Custom House!)
📚 Winterborne Home for Vengeance and Valor – Ally Carter


ON SCREEN

GAMING: I played Animal Crossing for a bit, but I haven’t had the mental space for a lot of video games this past month. I’ve even been sporadically logging into World of Warcraft, so I don’t have many updates there except for I think I burnt myself out leading up to Shadowlands.

TV: I still have two episodes of The Mandalorian to watch, and then I’m going to finish out Dark and start Bridgerton.

MOVIES: WW84 was disappointing, but I’m seeing it next week in theaters now that they’re open again and maybe that will change it for me..


PERSONAL

I read 118 books in 2020, didn’t finish or even nearly complete any of my challenges, so I decided to go easier on myself in 2021. I’ll have a post coming soon with some goals I want to try to do by the end of the year, but I’m still working on figuring out what those are!

What did you think of your 2020 reading year?

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Favorite Books of 2020

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly discussion hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl (and formerly hosted by The Broke and the Bookish), and this week’s topic is “Favorite Books of 2020.” I thought it would be difficult to pick ten, but once I went through my Goodreads, the final choices weren’t too difficult. I did choose books released in 2020 and earlier as I read two due out in 2021 that I loved but I didn’t feel like they fit this list. I will list them at the end as bonuses! These are in no particular order!

  • The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow – I was so engrossed in this world, and it made me want to read more portal/historical fantasies.
  • Sin Eater by Megan Campisi – This alternate Tudor history captivated me from the get go and almost a year later, I’m still thinking about this.
  • Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson – Magical libraries? Yes, please. This also reminds me of like… Robin McKinley’s world building and style a little bit, and I think that’s one of the things that has kept me coming back to Rogerson’s work. I can’t wait for her next one!
  • Middlegame by Seanan McGuire – This was something unlike anything else I’ve really read before, and I’m intrigued by the concept of twins and their connections.
  • Little Weirds by Jenny Slate – I don’t know why this made me sob so much, but I related to a lot of things about Slate’s personal life that she’s revealed in this essays, and I eventually want to add a copy of this to my shelves since this was a library read!
  • The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab – I knew this would be a favorite before I even read it, and it lived up to all of my expectations!
  • Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia – I keep recommending this to people because it appeals to so many different readers. I’d been intrigued by the concept since it’s announcement, and when I got around to reading it, it just surpassed every hope I had for it. If I truly had to choose, Mexican Gothic is my second favorite read of the year.
  • Fable by Adrienne Young – I love YA pirate fantasy, and this was a delight for me to read. I don’t usually immediately run to request the sequel after reading, but I did for this one and I’m glad the release dates between the duology are not far apart!
  • Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse – My favorite book of the year, hands down.
  • Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey –  I’ve enjoyed every book by Gailey, and this was no exception! A post-apocalyptic wild west in which librarians are spies and transport contraband on the fringes of society??? YES.

BONUS!

  • Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir – This was so much fun and really evoked the fun, campy, science vibes of The Martian (which I thought was lacking in Artemis). I don’t want to spoil it too much, but the characters in this are hilarious and great.
  • The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey – I read this a few months ago and literally think about it once a week because this domestic sci-fi thriller is just that good. Gailey can do anything and I’ll read anything they write.

What are your favorite books of the year?

 

BOOK REVIEW: Ruinsong, by Julia Ember

BOOK REVIEW: Ruinsong, by Julia EmberTitle: Ruinsong by Julia Ember
Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Published: November 24th, 2020
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Pages: 368
Format: ARC
Source: Netgalley
Buy: Bookshop(afflilate link)
Goodreads

In Julia Ember's dark and lush LGBTQ+ romantic fantasy Ruinsong, two young women from rival factions must work together to reunite their country, as they wrestle with their feelings for each other.

Her voice was her prison…Now it’s her weapon.

In a world where magic is sung, a powerful mage named Cadence has been forced to torture her country's disgraced nobility at her ruthless queen's bidding.

But when she is reunited with her childhood friend, a noblewoman with ties to the underground rebellion, she must finally make a choice: Take a stand to free their country from oppression, or follow in the queen’s footsteps and become a monster herself.

Ruinsong is a YA fantasy in which the voice is a central part of the magic system. I’m not familiar at all with The Phantom of the Opera, but apparently this is being marketed as a queer The Phantom of the Opera retelling. However, I wanted to read it because it’s sapphic fantasy and that cover is amazing.

Cadence is a mage who has been forced to use her voice to torture her country’s nobility at the queen’s bidding to make them compliant. When she and her family are discovered to be part of the rebellion, Remi is imprisoned and discovers that her childhood friend, Cadence, is no longer the person she remembers. Remi’s return helps Cadence find her voice (literally and figuratively) underneath the ruthless, power-hungry queen’s gaze, and they both navigate the more conservative nobility’s society compared to the more open outlook of the rebellion.

I enjoyed reading this! I don’t think the concepts of the novel were anything new or revolutionary, but it was well done for what it was and I loved the main characters a lot. The magic system is the most developed part of the world-building, but with the power of the voice being such a central theme to the story, I didn’t mind that I didn’t know much about the world in which they inhabited outside of the palace because I think I would have felt that knowing much more would have been too much. All I know is that I would have devoured this even more fifteen years ago, and I’m so glad that readers younger than me have the opportunity to read a fantasy book like this, with wlw, fancy dresses, high stakes, and learning how to harness one’s voice for the right thing, no matter how difficult it seems to be.

Many thanks to Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) for a review copy! All opinions are my own.