Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Review / Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

Title: Truthwitch (The Witchlands #1)
Author: Susan Dennard
Publisher: Tor Teen
Publication date: January 5, 2016
Rating: ★★★★

Summary (via Goodreads):

On a continent ruled by three empires, some are born with a “witchery”, a magical skill that sets them apart from others.

In the Witchlands, there are almost as many types of magic as there are ways to get in trouble – as two desperate young women know all too well.

Safiya is a Truthwitch, able to discern truth from lie. It’s a powerful magic that many would kill to have on their side, especially amongst the nobility to which Safi was born. So Safi must keep her gift hidden, lest she be used as a pawn in the struggle between empires.

Iseult, a Threadwitch, can see the invisible ties that bind and entangle the lives around her—but she cannot see the bonds that touch her own heart. Her unlikely friendship with Safi has taken her from life as an outcast into one of reckless adventure, where she is a cool, wary balance to Safi’s hotheaded impulsiveness.

Safi and Iseult just want to be free to live their own lives, but war is coming to the Witchlands. With the help of the cunning Prince Merik (a Windwitch and ship’s captain) and the hindrance of a Bloodwitch bent on revenge, the friends must fight emperors, princes, and mercenaries alike, who will stop at nothing to get their hands on a Truthwitch.

A list of things I loved about Truthwitch:

1: Safi and Iseult's BFFship. Totally heartfelt and inspiring and honestly not forced or cheesy at all. They have their own lives, they hustle, but they depend on each other and they take care of each other and they prioritize each other's needs before their own. It's awesome, and it makes me want to find a like-minded assassin/thief BFF to Netflix and chill with on the weekends.

2: The characters, who are all even better than I could have imagined. Every single one of them.

2a: Uncle Eron, Safi's perpetually drunk uncle. He doesn't feature that heavily in this book, but goddamn if he doesn't make your head spin.

2b: Iseult. She is so easy for me to relate to (I love her "aloofness" and I really understand the struggle between feeling too much and not feeling enough). She's probably the second most compelling character to me, the first being...

2c: Aeduan – what a cranky snarl ball! All throughout her promotional interviews and tours, Susan Dennard kept emphasizing that Aeduan may or may not be a villain, and I kept thinking to myself, "Yeah, yeah, he's bad on the outside but good on the inside (#MorallyComplicatedYA)." I was convinced he'd start off as a terrible person, but turn into a dark Prince Charming halfway through the book. Easy peasy. But no – Susan Dennard has some tricks up her sleeve. Aeduan is such an interesting character – so similar to Iseult in that he's learned to distance himself from his emotions – with an even more interesting background that I'm excited to explore over the course of the next few books.

2d: Kullen! I have a crush on Kullen! I want a novella about him and Ryber!

2e: Merik! I did not think I was going to fall for Merik. I'm not usually a sucker for the handsome prince with washboard abs, but everything changed with these four words: "Your loss, I promise." (!!!) I reread that sentence, like, FIFTY TIMES and blushed for the rest of the day.

3: Being able to jump from one character's perspective to another. Variety is the spice of life, and it's really fun to be able to hop around from location to location and experience so many different things in this huge, wonderful world.

4: The moments when characters start to fall in love. There are so many magical scenes littered throughout the book that really shine. Such a treat to read.

5: The action. Listen – I'm not the biggest fan of action-adventure stories because (a) I'm a crybaby scaredy-cat and (b) I'm more of a sucker for stories with lots of navel-gazing, sadness, and angst. But the action in Truthwitch is fantastic. It's what propels the story forward. It's compelling and exciting, and it's impossible not to turn the page.

With all that being said, there are two things keeping me from liking Truthwitch more. The writing is awkward at times – it feels a little bit too conversational, almost like the author is sitting next to me, telling me the story, rather than me reading and being fully immersed in it. But that's totally a personal preference – I'm sure others will see this and have NO clue what I'm talking about.

The pacing is the other thing that bothered me about this book. The story starts out with a bang – you're thrown into this world that is huge and complicated, and it takes a while before you really understand what's going on. And then the story slows down a lot. In the first half, you're mostly getting grounded in the historical and political context of the Witchlands, while the second half is where the story really gets off the ground. It's a bit of a slog, and I do wish that those details had been explained more efficiently... but hopefully that just means that once Book 2, Windwitch, is published, we'll be familiar with the context already and it will be smooth sailing from there. (Get it? Because he's a sailor/ship captain? Right? *slinks away*)

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Weekend Reads

Some recent reads that have lingered in my mind... These will go perfect with some sunshine, iced coffee, and a lazy weekend. Feel free to share anything you've bookmarked lately – I love reading these interest pieces and spending way too much time pondering over them later.

The Cure for Fear

(click to read)

Kindt's work brings to mind Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. But she prefers to say her treatment "neutralizes" fear memories, instead of erasing them.

What if you could get rid of (or "neutralize") your fears? Would you do it, if you were given the chance? I think this is some of the most fascinating research I've come across in a long, long time.

Forget Mindfulness, Stop Trying to Find Yourself, and Start Faking It

(click to read)

What's wrong with a life plan? When you plan your life, you make decisions for a future self based on the person you are today, not the one you will become.

I'm constantly bouncing back and forth trying to figure out what to do with my life and how I can be better at everything. It's straight up exhausting. More and more I wonder if I'm better off just distancing myself from the conventional wisdom of the modern-day world (and its obsession with cultivating the best version of yourself and optimizing every aspect of life)... and letting myself just be... me. Weaknesses, flaws, inconsistencies included.

Gems from Quora: On Being an Introvert

(click to read)

People think I am weird and avoid me because I am quiet and avoid small talk. I have tried my whole life to change this, but it seems that I am just a born introvert. How can I change, and should I change?

Totally empowering and inspiring and comforting for introverts everywhere! I loved this little bit: "A world without Introverts would be a world with few scientists, musicians, artists, poets, filmmakers, doctors, mathematicians, writers, and philosophers. That being said, there are still plenty of techniques an Extrovert can learn in order to interact with Introverts. (Yes, I reversed these two terms on purpose to show you how biased our society is.)"

The Urban Poor You Haven't Noticed: Millennials Who're Broke, Hungry, But On Trend

(click to read)

In a country where genuine hunger is ubiquitous, this brand of it comes via lifestyle choices. Somehow, we've built a culture that places such immense value in appearances that we'd rather spend a lot to appear full than spend a little bit to buy food.

I like to think that I'd never get to the place where I have to sacrifice my own well-being in order to keep up with the Joneses, but honestly there are probably a hundred other situations where I compromise something in order to fit in. Maybe the impacts aren't as physically apparent, but who knows what emotional or psychological effects they're having on me? Something to think about for sure.