On Re-reads Part 2: The Mists of Avalon

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about why and what I tend to re-read. There is one book that I have been re-reading for the last 20 years.

That is a very strange thing to be typing.


The book picture above is the one that has always stuck with me: Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Mists of Avalon. This epic retelling of the King Arthur legend through the point of view of his mother, his sister, and his aunt was recommended to me by a friend when I was in seventh grade.  The mini-series had just come out and the book had magic, strong women, and  sex in it.  Needless to say, I was in. 

If I ever have to pick a favorite book, I usually say this one. Is it perfect? No. Is it controversial? Oh yeah. But, I pick it not for what others would rate it, but because it is the one that I cannot stop thinking about. It is the one that reflected some of my adolescent thinking and my adolescent struggles.

Even at the time, I realized the profound effect that book had on me.  I saw strong and smart women struggling for their independence against an emerging patriarchal society. Something I was noticing women in the world around me doing in the early 2000s.  I saw women at the center of a religion, healing, and caring and eventually overcome by war and foreign men during a time when I was questioning the religious tenants that I was being raised by.  I saw one of my favorite legends through the eyes of a misunderstood, young woman trying to find her place in her family and society, something I thought I was.  And of course, in my emerging awareness of sex and hormones, I was addicted to the love stories.  I realized all of this at the time.  Although, I’m not sure I would have used these words. 

Because of this book, I felt like I had the power to conquer anything.  I became more interested in world religions and women’s history.  Even though the book is fiction, I felt like I was learning that women had a role in history.  And I was very into the kissing.  Needless to say, I read it again the next year and my friend group passed it around. Mostly because of the kissing. Unfortunately, my mother had seen the mini-series, and told me not to read the book any more because it was “not appropriate.” 

I did stop reading it, but neglected to mention that I had already read it. I bought a copy for myself like two years later and she resigned herself to the fact that I was reading it and going to continue reading it. She must have been horrified at the thought that a book with sex, strong women, and paganism was in my hands and that I was empowered by this book to be more vocal about who I was and what I believed. I was relieved. That book came to me at the exact right time.


From that point on, I have re-read the book every few years and my reactions have reflected my own experience at the time.  In my teens and early twenties, I identified with the same strong, upstart characters and was still very interested in the kissing. Mostly the kissing. In my mid-late twenties, I hated those characters and was ambivalent towards much of the kissing.  All the drama. No one was following any rules.  The older characters were too controlling.  The younger ones were too whiny.  All the men were the worst, except for one, very liberal thinking one. 

In my thirties, I have read it once and I find myself with much less anger and frustration towards the characters.  I am more in-tune with where all the character’s emotions are coming from.  I understand the tough choices the older generations must make.  I understand the frustrations of the younger generations, who just want to change.  I’m little over the magic and the fantastical elements, although I think they are beautifully written.  I still like some of the kissing, although it seems a little uncomfortable to be doing it while lying in the grass or the hay. 


This is a book that I know I will read forever.  I will carry my memories of the reading experience forever.  My reading experience will change and grow forever.  This is a book that grows with me and I with it…even though I am not super into fantasy anymore.

Review: The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James

Before I start, I acknowledge again that I am hard to please with mysteries and thrillers. I still read them, because even if I am not wowed, I usually find something enjoyable in the reading experience.

The Sun Down Motel was billed as an exciting and frightening ghost story. What I read was a little different.

The POVs of the book alternated between Viv in 1982 and her niece Carly in 2017. Viv disappeared in 1982 after a shift at a creepy motel and Carly arrives 35 years later to find out where she went. Listen, that mystery was interesting. Big fan over here. And I liked the mysterious Nick Harkness. I wanted more of him…just like Carly.

However, the ghost story that surrounded it didn’t seem necessary to my enjoyment or understanding of the mystery. I felt like I was looking for an explanation for the ghost appearances beyond what I was given. That one is on me. I am willing to admit it.

Again, I am hard to please. I enjoyed it, but wasn’t wowed, you may be!

Review: The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

From what I can tell on Goodreads, people loved this book. Any moderately exciting thriller ends up with rave reviews because people have never read anything like it. And if people are going to read, I love it! Even if I don’t necessarily get as excited about the same book.

But, listen, mystery/thriller books do not always shock or surprise me. I have read all of them. I’m almost not kidding, I have been reading mysteries and thrillers since I was six years old and I think I have encountered almost every possible incarnation of this genre.

This book started off as a very middling and unmemorable thriller. Therapist tries to reach mute, accused murderess/artist. You do not know who is telling the truth and you are always questioning character motivations. I felt like I had seen it all before. That means, for much of the book, I was saying to myself “Why do people even like this? It’s okay, but I am not even kind of shocked by any of this.”

Boy, was I wrong.

Until the end, I felt like the book moved slowly and was not the most engaging, but by the end, I changed my mind. I was finally suprised and I call that a win for me and the author.

Definitely worth the read.

Book Review: What If It’s Us by Adam Silvera and Becky Albertalli

A few years after its publication, I finally got around to reading What If It’s Us by Adam Silvera and Becky Albertalli. After reading it, I realized why it took me so long to get to it.

What If It’s Us tells, in alternating POVs, the story of the ultimate meet-cute. Ben and Arthur run into each other at a post office in New York. Ben is mailing things back to his ex-boyfriend and Arthur followed him into the post office, because he thought Ben was cute…duh. Sparks fly. A flash mob starts. They lose track of each other and spend the rest of the book trying to find each other. Cute right?

Ehh.

I love me some teen drama, but this was almost too much drama. I felt like no one in the book had any fun ever. But that is just me! I appreciated all of the Broadway allusions and the meet-cute was super cute, but I just wasn’t a huge fan of the book in general.

Also, I wish that the book alternated fonts with POVs. Sometimes, I lost track of whose POV it was supposed to be.

Maybe I am not the target audience for it and that is okay. Check it out because it might be for you!

Review: The Hypnotist By Lars Kepler

I found The Hypnotist on a list…as I do….of thrillers that kept readers on the edge of their seats. While I have been reading a lot and writing a lot about “guilty pleasure” reads and YA books, I have not been reading too many mysteries. And, I love a mystery. The first chapter books I remember reading were Nancy Drews. My mother and grandmother were always reading mysteries. It’s a family thing.

Any ways, this book is un-put-down-able. In my opinion. Seldom do I find a book that can surprise me and capture my attention. I don’t want to say too much, but, the book follows Detective Joona Linna as he tries to solve the murder of a family; a murder that was witnessed by one child, who lies in a coma. He turns to a disgraced hypno-therapist to help him question the surviving boy. What results is a fast-paced and, at times, anxiety producing story.


I devoured this rather lengthy mystery/thriller in record time. It was fascinating, horrifying, and never predictable. I kept trying to solve one layer and then, another layer of another case was exposed. What a ride.

I will say….Don’t read this one alone, at night.

“Guilty Pleasure” Review- Bringing Down the Duke by Evie Dunmore

Apparently, I am doing a lot of “guilty pleasure” reading this summer. Well…in between my YA reads and my anti-racist reading. Here is one that I liked. Didn’t love.

Am I hard to please? Well, no, but I have read over 3000 books in my 32 years and it is hard to really surprise me with a plot. I almost feel like I have read it all before. That means I hardly ever really “love” a book, but I usually still “like” it.

Please read my previous and future reviews with that in mind.

Bringing Down the Duke

Bringing Down the Duke, to frequent readers of historical romance, has a familiar plot. Beautiful, but too intelligent to land a husband, Annabelle Archer (love an alliterative name) crosses paths with handsome but cold and aloof Sebastian Devereux, Duke of Montgomery while she is handing out fliers in support of women’s suffrage. After that, you. know what happens.

This one was fun and steamy. I loved the build up of tension and the back drop of the British women’s suffrage movement. That was a new one. It is great when a main heroine asserts her intelligence, but loved to see her using it to affect change for a larger group of people, rather than just her own place in society.

What kept me from loving it was this: I’m not a huge fan of the “woman getting a fever from being out in the cold so they have to stay at the aloof, heartless, handsome aristocrat’s manor” trope. But it’s always a pretty convenient way to advance a romantic plot. Come on. I get it, but I would have loved something more.

With that being said, I did enjoy my experience reading it last night and I will absolutely pick up Evie Dunmore’s next one.

“Guilty Pleasure” Review: Not That Kind of Guy by Andie J. Christopher

A review with no shame. Get ready.

Not that Kind of Guy

If Peter and Lara Jean or Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds made you swoon, this might be the book for you.

Not That Kind of Guy follows hard working attorney Bridget. Fresh off a break-up with the only serious boyfriend she ever had, she is saddled with handsome and wealthy intern Matt.

I found it to be hot and kind of cute.

The premise, intern/boss forbidden lust to drunken Vegas mistake to fake relationship had, had all of the fun romance tropes. I liked both characters and loved her family.

I just kind of wish there was a little more build up of tension between the two of them. They work together for three months and we learn this because the book flashes forward and we are told that three months of meaningful looks and tension have happened.

I, for one, would have enjoyed being frustrated about that with them.

That all being said, I did not love it, but I liked it. Pick it up and make your own judgement.

“Guilty Pleasure” Book Project

Last week, I engaged in a Twitter discourse with followers of Epic Reads about the term “guilty pleasure” and how it applies to reading. Many fellow Tweeters expressed a similar sentiment to mine.

As I have mentioned before, almost ad nauseam, I find the term to be outdated and sexist. It mostly applies to female readers and books where the plot focuses on romance. Sometimes the book is humorous. Sometimes the book has a murder. Sometimes the book is vaguely historical. No matter the actual plot or setting, a “guilty pleasure” read usually has a steamy romance and a happy ending. Sign me up!

Readers have to hide their delight in these often predictable books. The couple meets, has some tension, has some smutty moments around page 150, has some sort of conflict, and then gets together in the end. So what if the text that brought them together would not be taught in an upperclassmen literature seminar? The idea that only highbrow novels are worthy of reading and worthy of discussing is elitist and foolish.

“Guilty pleasure” reads often provide socio-emotional and empathy training for readers without them even realizing it. These books give us an escape. These novels make us want to actually pick up and finish a book, instead of scrolling mindlessly on our phone. These books have value, even if they cost six dollars at the grocery store instead of twenty dollars at a book store.

So here it is. The newest addition to my blog: The “Guilty Pleasures” Book Project. As I review and think about books, I am going to update a new page on my blog that brings all of these reads together. Please recommend and comment so that we can start to reclaim the term and read things we enjoy without shame.

Because a love of reading is a love of reading, no matter what you choose to read.

“Guilty Pleasure” Review: The Dare by Elle Kennedy

Yes, I am still using the term.

But, am I learning that it is not a mark of shame for its reader? Also yes.

Two nights ago, I binge read The Dare by Elle Kennedy. I do not care what you think of her books or her writing style. Well, I do, but I refuse to be shamed because I enjoy them. Her books make me laugh. Her books make me swoon (a little and a lot…mostly a lot.). And, most importantly, they are something that I read because of my best friend. She shares new ones with me. She shares her favorite lines with me. We share our lol-worthy or swoon-worthy moments. As she would say: “Real friends share smutty books with each other.”

I think that is a beautiful sentiment.

This latest smutty-book-share follows elementary education major, sorority sister, curvier than she would like, college student Taylor. Very early on in the book, Taylor is dared by her arch-nemesis to seduce the hot new hockey player Conor, a tall order considering the lack of confidence that Taylor has in her body. Of course, high-jinx and smut ensue.

Not going to lie, this one is heavier on the smut, with a little bit of fun and feelings. It has the always great “fake dating” trope and fairly realistic heroine (who wants to be a teacher!)

My only gripe is that I wish Taylor had a bit more to her personality than her body image issues. As someone with a lot of hang-ups of her own, I like to think that I am more than that and I don’t need some handsome hockey player to convince me otherwise. So I found her relatable, but I thought we could have seen a little bit more of what she could be.

But complex characterization is not why you pick up an Elle Kennedy.

And I always do.

And I always enjoy it.

Review: Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

Last week, I made my way through the National Book Award Finalist book Pachinko by Min Jin Lee.

This book gave me a lot to think about and a lot to Google as I read.

Pachinko follows four generations of a Korean family. It shows their love, their poverty, their ambition, and their family dynamics. Some of the family employment centers around yakuza owned Pachinko parlors. I knew nothing about these and gladly jumped into the internet rabbit hole to learn about them.

This book was beautiful and heartbreaking, giving the reader insight into the plight of Koreans in Japan. The narrative style was not my favorite. Chapters were long and the big life moments like falling in love, birth, and death were glossed over in time jumps.

Maybe that makes sense. Maybe the author was making a point that the characters could not take the time to dwell on any emotion. I would have loved to dwell on so many of them. When I read, I usually am swept up in the character’s emotions. They become my own. They urge me to finish a book, so that I can resolve the emotions. With this book, it was not the point, leaving me with my own unresolved emotions. Again, perhaps that is the point.

Pick it up and see for yourself!