Not Books, Personal

Boskone 56: Day 1

Last year I attended Boskone, a sci-fi/fantasy convention right here in Boston, for the first time. Not only did I get to meet one of my life-long favorite authors, but I also attended loads of wonderful panels and discussions. I had intended to write a post detailing each day but alas, only made the one. A lot of the events I attended had a strong focus on diversity of all kinds, which is part of what made me love the convention so much. Needless to say, I was so excited to attend this year’s convention as well!

This year I planned things a little better, figuring out which events I wanted to make it to ahead of time and what time I needed to get to the convention on Day 1. I arrived with plenty of time to check in and read a bit of my current read before my first panel. I’ve written summaries of all the panels I attended, but some are a bit lengthy. Each has their own header so you can skip around to read only what sounds interesting to you!

The Hopeful Future in Science Fiction

This panel contained James Patrick Kelly as the moderator with Muriel Stockdale, Gene Doucette, Fonda Lee, and Steve Miller as the participants. The discussion started with introductions as each panelist shared whether they had a hopeful view of the future or not. They then set into discussing optimism and pessimism and its place in the science fiction genre.

Fonda Lee noted that she felt “science fiction is an inherently optimistic genre” in that it implies that we will be here, even when things go sideways. She expanded on this by commenting that dystopian fiction is less of a genre, and more of a point of view. Lee argued that she could write a story set in the Capitol of Panem (from The Hunger Games) that was utopian; it all comes down to perspective. Gene Doucette agreed with her sentiment, adding that even in post-apocalyptic books the narrator (or reader) is assumed to be a survivor: “the future is going to be the end of everything, but not for you.”

The topic then shifted more towards optimism in the genre, with Fonda bringing up the sub-genre of “hopepunk” which James Patrick Kelly then compared to “solarpunk.” Both of these genres focus more towards cultural shifts as the solution rather than technology. Because of this, “climate fiction” and related stories are written more by authors who tend not to write sci-fi. Kelly also points out that whereas sci-fi as a whole glorifies the power of the individual, these sub-genres focus more on solutions that are the responsibility of an entire society. They are telling us that one person is not capable of making the changes necessary to fix this.

During the Q&A portion, an audience member brought up the question of whether more pessimism in sci-fi may be the result of discordant realities and a shift in the demographics that the genre is being marketed towards. Lee agreed with this idea, hammering home the fact that sci-fi that may have been considered optimistic 50 years ago no longer comes across that way to some; when the spaceships are full of cishet white men, the stories are only optimistic for a certain subset of people.

Overall, I found it great food for thought and definitely plan to explore the hopepunk genre a bit more deeply. Kelly offered the collection Hieroglyph as well as the Better Worlds project from The Verge as recommended reading for these topics.

Medical Ethics in the 21st Century

This panel had Robert B. Finegold, MD as the moderator with Paul Jeter, Julie C. Day, Frank Wu, and Justin Key as the participants. Prior to the panel, Dr. Finegold asked some audience members why they chose to attend this specific panel. As someone who works in clinical research — medical ethics are essentially my whole job. Questions like these (perhaps not always to this degree of intensity) arise on a daily basis in my office, so I’m always interested in learning more.

The panel began with a discussion on the ethics surrounding genetic testing. Frank Wu spoke first about the difficulty surrounding whether to undergo testing for Huntington’s disease, a devastating condition that is passed down genetically. Simply knowing whether or not you have the disease can impact the course of your life. Justin Key brought up the potential impact genetic testing can have if the results fall into the hands of insurance companies, who could potentially discriminate against their clients.

Dr. Finegold then moved onto the topic of genetic editing. A lot of nuances were brought up here: editing the genes of people who can choose (consenting adults) versus those who cannot (fetuses), editing genes to prevent or cure fatal diseases versus editing genes based purely on preference. Underlined here is the fact that genetic editing can and likely will have unintentional consequences that we may not even be aware of for years to come. Key weighed the pros and cons aloud, emphasizing that he was unable to pick a side: we could have the ability to treat chronic and debilitating diseases, but at what cost? He was also sure to add that even now we use medicine to change bodies to fit our own preferences: dieting and plastic surgery are two common examples he gave, commenting that we don’t even know the possible long-term consequences of these.

The last topic under discussion was organ transplantation, specifically how the demand far exceeds the supply and the dilemmas this causes. Key spoke first about how psychiatrists are responsible for evaluating potential transplant recipients for risk factors. While they themselves don’t choose whether someone receives an organ or not, this evaluation is taken into consideration. He noted that it will be interesting to see how machine learning and AI play into this process, essentially whether we will end up inputting all the available data and allowing a computer to decide who receives a transplant. Jeter took this in another direction, bringing up how we must account for animals, ethically, in our medicine.

A few other threads were followed including the concept of opting out of organ donation rather than opting in; populations that may distrust medicine for good reason; mandatory immunizations; and how short appointments and long waiting times both lead to injustice in medicine. I found a lot of these discussions absolutely fascinating and am hoping to seek out some resources to read about them.

Telling Tarot Tales

I took fewer notes in this one, since it was a workshop and not a panel. The workshop leader, Trisha Woodridge, was just great! She emphasized the importance of tuning into your intuition when reading tarot rather than trying to memorize what the cards are “supposed” to mean. We did an exercise where we each spent a minute looking at a randomly drawn card, then flipped it over and wrote what we remembered of it. We went around and described what had stood out to us while she helped us draw out our interpretations.

She then went over some general associations with the cards (minor vs major arcana, court cards, each of the suits) and finished the workshop by setting up a celtic cross spread and using it to tell a story. While the workshop focused less on the storytelling aspect than I thought it would, that’s mainly because 50 minutes is a pretty limited amount of time. I’m really glad I made it to this one and will definitely be using some of what she shared in the future.

Agency and Free Will in Speculative Fiction

This panel was a bit less structured than the earlier ones, with Juliana Spink Mills as the moderator and Gillian Daniels, Rebecca Roanhorse, Greer Gilman, and M.C. DeMarco as the participants. This discussion was mostly about prophecies and the “Chosen One” trope. Mills did a good job of asking some thought-provoking questions, which the panelists took and ran with.

Gillian Daniels cautioned that while this can give the reader a reason to care about the character, the author needs to make it interesting in order to make it compelling. She shared that double meanings and misinterpretations of prophecies are one way to accomplish this. Rebecca Roanhorse added that it helps to confound your readers’ expectations and that you should use what they bring to the story against them.

They went down a few other paths, but a lot of it circled around to the question of how you know whether a character has free will or not. Do the secondary characters surrounding a Chosen One have free will? Do we have free will if confined by the circumstances of our lives? Does your free will cut into someone else’s agency? How do addiction and behaviors stemming from it play into free will? It’s a lot of food for thought and I’m interested in exploring the concept more at some point.


So, that was Day 1 of Boskone! I am finishing this post at 10pm the night of, and am excited to see what the next couple days have in store. You’ll get recaps of those in the next week or two as well. I can say that it was already well worth getting ticket’s to this year’s con.

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Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Page [review]

Page (Protector of the Small #2) by Tamora Pierce
Published by Ember on January 2, 2018 (originally 2000)
my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Goodreads avg:
4.24 (as of 2019-02-12)
cw: past abuse, attempted assault

My review of the first book can be found here!

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

As the only female page in history to pass the first year of training to become a knight, Keladry of Mindelan is a force to be reckoned with. But even with her loyal circle of friends at her side, Kel’s battle to prove herself isn’t over yet. She is still trying to master her paralyzing fear of heights and keep up with Lord Wyldon’s grueling training schedule. When a group of pages is trapped by bandits, the boys depend on Kel to lead them to safety. The kingdom’s nobles are beginning to wonder if she can succeed far beyond what they imagined. And those who hate the idea of a female knight are getting desperate—they will do anything to thwart her progress.


For the first time she could understand how someone in a rage might do murder. “How dare you touch an unwilling woman?” she asked.

This book follows Kel through her second, third, and fourth years as a page. I was surprised that this was all to be packed into one book, but it made sense that there was only so much to be covered once the probationary period was out of the way. We get to see the return of all Kel’s friends along with meeting some new ones, including her new maid Lalasa.

Lalasa is a great character in her own right, a young woman who has suffered from great abuse at the hands of men. She is timid when she first enrolls in Kel’s service, but quickly comes into her own with the page’s encouragement. We get to see Lalasa develop alongside Kel in a mirror image of sorts. It’s really nice to see this friendship between women blossom in such a male-centric environment.

Kel also has to deal with the beginnings of puberty while undergoing her trials as a page. One thing I love about Tamora Pierce is that she’s not afraid to write the real stuff. She’s blunt and honest without being crude. Kel begins to grow breasts, experiences several jumps in height, and gets her first period. If only we also lived in a world where a magical talisman was the solution, but I guess we have birth control!

It’s also really great to see Kel further dealing with her phobia. As revealed in the first book, her terror of heights came out of previous emotional abuse she experienced from her brother. While resistant at first she knows that overcoming, or at least confronting, these fears are key to her becoming a knight. As someone who has dealt with severe anxiety, I think it’s really important to see strong characters who struggle with it as well.

Overall, I continue to adore Kel as a character and find her story fun to follow. I usually don’t tend to like lawful good characters as I find them a bit boring, but Tammy is a master of developing people you love to read about. I mean, how can you not love a girl knight-to-be taking down abusers? I’d definitely recommend this book, and the series, to any lovers of Tamora Pierce as well as readers of YA fantasy.


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Book Tags, Bookworm Blogging

T10T: Books I May Have DNFed too Quickly

ttt-new

Top Ten Tuesday was originally put together by The Broke and the Bookish and has been taken over by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s theme is favorite couples in books, but I wasn’t feeling that SO I chose an older theme that I hadn’t done yet! I am a chronic DNFer and although that has made reading much more enjoyable for me, I’ve probably also missed out on reading some books I may have ended up enjoying. Here are a few:

Wildcard (Warcross #2)

This was a bummer because I really loved Warcross, but I just felt like I couldn’t connect to the characters in this one. I also completely lost interest in the plot. I did give it about 200 pages, but I’m wondering if it would be worth another shot someday.

Devils Unto Dust

I made it about 60 pages into this one, which only ends up being 11%. I was really struggling to get through it, but know Destiny ended up liking it a lot and we have similar tastes. So I may give it a try again someday!

Freshwater

I am very much in the minority on this and I DNFed after only one sitting (it is a short book, so I made it 13% in). I really think that if I was able to try again with few distractions around me while in a more focused mindset, I would enjoy it more. This is definitely the book I’ve thought about coming back to the most.

The Chalk Man

I’m not sure why I didn’t end up feeling invested in this one, but now that I’ve been taking in more crime fiction I feel like I might enjoy it more.

Sleeping Beauties

I made it about halfway through, but this tome is ~700 pages so I still had a very long way to go. I do love Stephen King and the premise was very interesting, but I was having trouble with the execution. It was a library book that I needed to return, but I have considered giving it another shot since I invested so much time in it.


Have you gone back to any books you’ve DNFed?

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Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

It Devours! [review]

It Devours! (Welcome to Night Vale #2) by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor
Published by Harper Collins on October 17, 2017
my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Goodreads avg:
4.08 (as of 2019-02-09)

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

From the authors of the New York Times bestselling novel Welcome to Night Vale and the creators of the #1 international podcast of the same name, comes a mystery exploring the intersections of faith and science, the growing relationship between two young people who want desperately to trust each other, and the terrifying, toothy power of the Smiling God.

Nilanjana Sikdar is an outsider to the town of Night Vale. Working for Carlos, the town’s top scientist, she relies on fact and logic as her guiding principles. But all of that is put into question when Carlos gives her a special assignment investigating a mysterious rumbling in the desert wasteland outside of town. This investigation leads her to the Joyous Congregation of the Smiling God, and to Darryl, one of its most committed members. Caught between her beliefs in the ultimate power of science and her growing attraction to Darryl, she begins to suspect the Congregation is planning a ritual that could threaten the lives of everyone in town. Nilanjana and Darryl must search for common ground between their very different world views as they are faced with the Congregation’s darkest and most terrible secret. 


I’ve had this on my shelf for close to year, and finally got around to reading it! I used to be a huge fan of the Welcome to Night Vale podcast, but stopped listening a couple years ago because I personally found that the content felt a bit repetitive. I also read the first book and didn’t find it really held my interest, but thought it was still worth it to give the second one a shot. I’m glad I did! It was an interesting, compelling read. While not plot-dependent on the podcast or the first book, if you take in the content out-of-order you probably will spoil yourself, just as a heads up.

Sometimes it’s okay to find something beautiful without correctly understanding it.

The book itself ran me through a lot more emotions than I expected it to. Honestly, I was almost in tears at the end of the first chapter. No joke. There’s just enough of a mystery that you’re not quite sure what’s going on without encroaching too far into nonsense, which could have been easy to do with a world filled with such fantastical elements. There were a few places where I didn’t feel quite as invested in the story as I could have, but it really held my attention for the most part.

Sometimes where you live is just a place, no matter how long you live there.

I really adored the main characters. Nilanjana was great and I liked getting to see her struggles as an outsider in Night Vale. I found Darryl really interesting as well, especially with his background and how it tied in to some events towards the end of the book. Unfortunately, the rest of the characters didn’t have much characterization. Carlos was given some depth, but I felt like the rest of the scientists and Darryl’s friends all seemed like caricatures and were quite one-dimensional.

When considering our place in the universe, we must recognize that by having this one position we are negating every other possible position we could have.

So, overall it was a fun read and I would definitely recommend it to fans of Welcome to Night Vale or to anyone else who finds themselves interested in it. I don’t see myself picking it up again in the future, but I definitely don’t regret reading it!


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Book Tags, Bookworm Blogging

Two Truths & a Lie [tag]

Destiny tagged me in this a few weeks ago and I thought it looked really fun, so I’m giving it a shot! (Also you should go follow her if you don’t, she’s pretty cool.) It was created by Kaleena @ Reader Voracious (who also created the image below!).

Two Truths and a Lie

How to Participate

  • Create a post with your two bookish truths and one bookish lie – but be sure to keep it a secret so your readers can guess!
  • Reveal the lie in a spoiler at the bottom of your post.
  • Tag 8 friends to play along.
  • Link back to the original post so I can see all your secrets!

Two Truths & a Lie!

  1. I once hated the end of a book so much that I threw it away.
  2. I will never annotate books (aka write in the margins).
  3. I will always dog-ear pages.

Check below to see if you’ve guessed right! Let me know in the comments if you got it — but please don’t spoil it for anyone else. 🙂

THE REVEAL:The lie is #2, I annotate my own books incessantly!

Finally, I tag Meeghan @ Meeghan reads and bakes, Becky @ Strikeouts + Sprinkles, Rachel @ pace, amore, libri, Callum @ Callum McLaughlin, and anyone else who would like to participate!

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Bookworm Blogging, Monthly Wrap-Ups

January 2019 Wrap-Up

Books Read:

Books read: 8
Average rating: 4.5 stars

Notable Posts by Others:

Other Media:

  • Happy Death Day [Film; 2017]: God I just love this movie so much.
  • Wrong Turn 2: Dead End [Film; 2007]: Typical Bad horror movie, not for those with sensitive stomachs.
  • Fyre Fraud [Film; 2019]: Pretty interesting, but needlessly condescending toward and about millennials, as if no other generation has ever been fooled in any way. Can’t say I don’t luv that #drama tho. 
  • FYRE [Film; 2019]: This paints a much more stark view of the situation than Fyre Fraud does. It seems Fyre Fraud aimed more for shock and comedy and focused more on Billy himself. FYRE focuses more closely on the festival itself as well as its financial ramifications. Much more informative.
  • Sorry to Bother You [Film; 2018]: Really intriguing. Not sure what I was expecting, but this definitely wasn’t it. I’ll be interested to see if this gets any Oscar noms (they come out after I write this but before this post will be published).
  • Thoroughbreds [Film; 2017]: Wasn’t quite in the right mindset for this, but still appreciated it a lot. Slow build to an incredible climax. Will definitely be re-watching it in the future.
  • Isle of Dogs [Film; 2018]: I enjoyed this overall, but the White Savior trope wasn’t great.
  • Eighth Grade [Film; 2018]: This unfortunately didn’t do much for me. I can appreciate Elsie Fisher’s acting, but I really just didn’t Get anything out of it.

My Month in Photos:

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Movie Reviews, Not Books, Personal

Movies I Want to Watch in 2019

With the Oscars coming up, I’ve been thinking a lot about the movies I intended to see in 2018 and didn’t. I rarely make it out to the theaters, so I mostly end up watching whatever is included with Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime. I also usually end up watching movies with my sister, so most of the time we choose horror movies or comedies (a weird combo, but oh well). So, I figured I’d take some time to share with you all a few movies I’m hoping to watch this year. A lot are from 2018, but there are some older ones in here as well!

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse [2018] is everything everyone’s been talking about for the last month or so. This is one I’ll probably try to get to while it’s still in theaters, since I think it’ll be worth it to see it on the big screen!

My sister and I watched the original Halloween in preparation for Halloween [2018] and then… never saw it in theaters. Hopefully we’re able to find it streaming somewhere soonish.

I’ve been meaning to see the original Suspiria [1977] for quite some time now, but the remake definitely makes it feel a little more time-sensitive. So I’m hoping I manage to get to this one sometime in 2019!

I really don’t know how I haven’t seen The Shape of Water [2017] yet. I meant to see it in theaters, and then missed it, and then just… never saw it. Part of it is definitely that my sister has absolutely no interest in seeing it. So hopefully I’ll get to it sometime when she isn’t around, ha.

Gimme that gay shit!!! I’ve been wanting to watch The Miseducation of Cameron Post [2018] since I heard it was getting made into a movie, but just haven’t known where to find it. BUT! It looks like it may finally be on Amazon Prime, so I’ll have to check it out.


How many of these are on your watchlist?
Feel free to add me on letterboxd, as I am always looking for new friends and have been in quite the movie-watching mood lately.

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Book Tags, Bookworm Blogging

T10T: New to my TBR

ttt-new

Top Ten Tuesday was originally put together by The Broke and the Bookish and has been taken over by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s theme is books recently added to my TBR.

A Field Guide for Science Writers

I added this because I’m thinking about getting into science writing and apparently this is an extremely helpful book.

More Than Two

I will read pretty much any nonfiction books about polyamory.

I Should Be Writing

This is supposed to be a really nice compilation of writing advice.

The Wise and the Wicked

I added this right after finishing The Mystery of Hollow Places because I need to read more Rebecca Podos ASAP.

Something Like Gravity

I saw this pop up on my Goodreads feed recently and it looks sad but good!


How many of these are on your TBR?

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Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

The Mystery of Hollow Places [review]

The Mystery of Hollow Places by Rebecca Podos
Published by Balzer & Bray on January 26, 2016
my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Goodreads avg:
3.48 (as of 2019-01-20)
cw: portrayals and discussion of bipolar disorder and severe depression

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

All Imogene Scott knows of her mother is the bedtime story her father told her as a child. It’s the story of how her parents met: he, a forensic pathologist, she, a mysterious woman who came to identify a body. A woman who left Imogene and her father when Imogene was a baby, a woman who was always possessed by a powerful loneliness, a woman who many referred to as “troubled waters.”

Now Imogene is seventeen, and her father, a famous author of medical mysteries, has struck out in the middle of the night and hasn’t come back. Neither Imogene’s stepmother nor the police know where he could’ve gone, but Imogene is convinced he’s looking for her mother. And she decides it’s up to her to put to use the skills she’s gleaned from a lifetime of reading her father’s books to track down a woman she’s only known in stories in order to find him and, perhaps, the answer to the question she’s carried with her for her entire life. 


…with enough time and the right conditions, precious stones could grow in hollow places.

This was my second Rebecca Podos book (my first being her 2017 release Like Water) and it was just as great as I had hoped it would be. I was honestly shocked when I got to the end and realized that this was her debut novel. This was one of those books that sucked me right in and filled me with emotion. Following Imogene on her journey felt both meaningful and real. It was easy to see where her thoughts, feelings, and coping mechanisms (or lack thereof) came from. The story follows Imogene as she attempts to find her long-lost mother and, in turn, her newly missing father. While she has little in the way of clues, between her wits and the assistance of her best friend Jessa she starts out on a path that will impact her life forever.

I thought Imogene was a sympathetic, believable main character and enjoyed being inside her head. While her constant Sherlock references wore on me a bit, I understood the point being made. Her relationship with Jessa was appropriately complicated, I liked the reference to symbiosis as I think we all have friendships that rely on shared exchanges like these. There were some romantic undertones between Imogene and Jessa’s brother, Chad, but I think this was well-balanced and certainly wasn’t anything close to the main focus of the story.

I really enjoyed the portrayal of Imogene’s non-traditional family structure. She spent most of her life living alone with her father, who struggled with bouts of severe depression where his daughter had to fend largely for herself. Her mother left before she could remember and exists only in the peripheries of scattered photographs. Lindy, her stepmother, is a family therapist and recent addition to the family. To be honest, I never grew to like Lindy very much. While I could absolutely see where she was coming from and didn’t actively disliked her, I just didn’t think I was given enough to really develop much in the way of positive feelings toward her — but that could definitely have just been me.

But if there’s one thing Dad’s bad times have taught me, it’s this: I never, ever want to have something I can’t survive without.

The only downside was that I didn’t love the end. There was a climax that I enjoyed, but after that I felt like I was just skimming the last bit to finish out the book. It was sort of like in movies where they have the on-screen text to explain what happened to each of the characters in the aftermath of the main plot. I personally didn’t feel that it added much, although I’m not sure what I would have suggested as an alternative.

Overall, though, this was an excellent read that I would highly recommend to lovers of contemporary YA, as well as those who like a bit of mystery in their books. I’m really excited to see what Rebecca Podos comes out with next, as she’s proven herself to be quite a strong writer! I think this is one that I’ll definitely be thinking back to in the future.


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Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

First Test [review]

First Test by Tamora Pierce
Published by Random House Children’s Books on May 23, 2000 (originally 1999)
my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Goodreads avg:
4.25 (as of 2019-01-19)

Goodreads | IndieBound | Author’s Website

In the medieval and fantastic realm of Tortall, Keladry of Mindelan is the first girl to take advantage of the decree that permits females to train for knighthood. Up against the traditional hazing of pages and a grueling schedule, Kel faces only one real roadblock: Lord Wyldon, the training master of pages and squires. He is absolutely against girls becoming knights. So while he is forced to train her, Wyldon puts her on probation for one year. It is a trial period that no male page has ever had to endure and one that separates the good natured Kel even more from her fellow trainees during the tough first year. But Kel Is not a girl to underestimate, as everyone is about to find out…


I read this quite some time ago, but only owned the first book and never continued with the series. For Christmas, I received books 2-4 and decided to re-read this so that I could jump into the rest. I had forgotten most of the plot, although all of it felt familiar to me. While I couldn’t have predicted anything that happened, once it happened I thought to myself “oh yeah, I remember that.” Luckily, I enjoyed it just as much as Tammy’s other books and am very excited to finally finish the series!

One of the things I love about Tammy’s writing is that she’s able to create such distinct characters. While most of her books focus on “strong” women, they’re not all the same. Where the Lioness is hot-tempered and loud, Daine is timid yet stubborn, Aly is quiet and calculating, and Kel is even and impenetrable. Each of her characters have different strengths and weaknesses, and I think that makes it possible for girls to find representation they are able to relate to.

This book follows Kel in her initial (probationary) year as a page, the first female page to enter the program since girls were allowed to join. There are plenty of obstacles along the way: a lot of the boys think that a girl doesn’t belong there alongside them. Kel’s advantage is that she and her family had lived with the Yamanis as an ambassador for most of her early life. The Yamani culture is much different from the one Kel has transitioned back into and one of the biggest things she has learned is to “be as stone” and hide all of her emotions behind a smooth mask.

Overall, I found the pacing to be great and the story fun to follow. I worked through the book fairly quickly and am looking forward to what comes next, although I plan to wait until Fantastic February to continue reading since this series is obviously perfect to put on my TBR for it. I recommend this to all Tamora Pierce fans, as well as anyone looking for some YA fantasy with a strong female character.


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