Monstress 5: Warchild by Marjorie M. Liu

“The only plan that truly matters is the one you have for yourself.”

4/5 stars.
ebook, 174 pages.
Read September 20, 2021.

An 8 sentence review:

I won’t pretend that I always know everything that’s going on within each of the Montress volumes but with every single one I read, my body of knowledge of the world that Maika Halfwolf inhabits expands and I’m drawn further in. Further, with each one I read, I continue to be blown away by the artwork of Sana Takeda. Breathtaking beautiful, elegant, and vicious.

In this volume, the second war between the Federation and the Arcanics is in full swing and some messy sacrifices have to be made as Maika begins to show and embrace her darker side. The violence and seriousness of the plot are playfully balanced by the cuteness and resilience of Kippa, where even she too, has had to find her fierceness in the face of war.

This volume is a solid piece of work in Maika’s story and while there is little resolution by the end of this volume, it just means that the Liu and Takeda duo have more for their readers in-store, which I happily look forward to. While the collection of lore that is presented to the reader is overwhelming at times it is also one of the many reasons readers return to this world. Monstress is an acclaimed series of graphic novels for a reason and is not to be missed.

Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld

“My heart clutched – it was one of those moments when you feel time is a rug that’s been yanked out from under you; everything around you has changed so gradually that it is only all at one you look up and realize how different your life has become.”

5/5 stars.
ebook, 432 pages.
Read from September 13, 2021 to September 17, 2021.

Okay crew, I am officially 20 books behind on my reviews and have some serious catching up to do. It’s been a shit show over here in Hong Kong the last two months and my schedule has been turned upside, yet again, for what feels like the millionth time. I’ve got some time so I am going to try my best to get through my backlog even if it means writing shorter reviews.

If someone had told me I would read a fictional story about Hilary Clinton and love it I would have called them bluff. Enter Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld…

What if Hilary Rodham didn’t marry Bill Clinton? How would the world of politics fare? What would have changed and would it have been for the better? These are the questions that author Curtis Sittenfeld answers in writing this book as she reimagines Hilary’s life and career after opting not to marry Bill. This isn’t Sittenfeld’s first time writing a political-alternative narrative as in 2008 she wrote a book called American Wife that echos the life of the First Lady that is reminiscent of Laura Bush’s time in the Whitehouse.

Sittenfeld clearly did her homework when writing this book in order to get the wider picture of both Hilary and Bill. The first part of the book encompasses Hilary and her family and how she meets Bill while at Yale. The ensuing sex scenes feel awkward at first since you know that these people aren’t just merely characters in a book but actual people with a real romantic history. There is a sexy naked saxophone scene that I will forever remember, for better or for worse. While the sex scenes themselves lose their awkwardness you become enthralled with the inner workings of Hilary and her ambitions. The writing is concise, exciting, and introduces you to this intricate world of politics and the scandals behind them.

Sittenfeld carefully shaped this story around real quotes and real historical situations and made Hilary’s alternative life seem so real. The book is meant to dismantle the misogyny that the real Hilary has faced her whole life and attempts to show reasons why Hilary may have stayed with Bill after his infidelities.

Some of my favourite parts of the book include cameos from Donald Trump and how he would have fit into this alternative narrative. The way Sittenfeld wrote Trump and his dialogue felt so comically accurate. The ending of the novel was also immensely satisfying and moving.

Sittenfeld has clearly found her niche as I could not put this book down. If someone can make me read a book about political figures and love it, they must have some serious talent. A highly recommended read for anyone looking for something different and thought-provoking.

Birthday Letters by Ted Hughes

“The dreamer in her
Had fallen in love with me and she did not know it.
That moment the dreamer in me
Fell in love with her and I knew it.”

3/5 stars.
Paperback, 198 pages.
Read from August 31, 2021 to September 12, 2021.

If you’re not aware of the Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath saga please read a quick rundown before embarking on this book as it’s extremely important in understanding this selection of poetry.

Birthday Letters was published 35 years after Plath’s suicide and was written over a 25 year period. It was published in March 1998 which was only a few months before Hughes would pass away. Hughes had previously published nothing about their relationship. Hughes and Plath’s marriage was a difficult one with Hughes being unfaithful and eventually moving in with his mistress. While Plath’s works were hailed as masterpieces of modern feminism, Hughes was vilified for his part in Plath’s suicide as she spiralled further into a depression after he left. Hughes also destroyed some of Plath’s works after she died, presumably because it cast him in a bad light since Plath’s poetry often referred to her relationships, including Hughes and her father. This furthered public resentment from Plath fans. This collection was Hughes’ response to Plath’s poetry and possible redemption from her untimely death. Ted Hughes was the United Kingdom’s Poet Laureate from December 1984 until his death.

The world is still very much fascinated with these two poetic geniuses and their lives. It’s part of the reason why they’re still read today. Birthday Letters is Hughes intimate and autobiographical account of his relationship with Plath, his side of their story and his reaction to her passing. Almost every poem in this collection references one of Plath’s poems, like a direct reply to her work, with his own words, impressions and feelings. Birthday Letters is one of the most intimate collections of poetry I’ve ever read as it reveals a haunted and hurt man, a side not seen by Hughes previously. While the poems in this collection are phenomenally written if you’re not familiar with Plath’s poetry it can make them hard to decipher. I think my biggest regret with this book is that I should have read it slower and taken the time to read Plath in tandem with it. The prose in this book is not meant to be taken in too quickly as the words themselves took Hughes many years to write. While I didn’t always connect with the poems in this collection its prose is very clearly one of the best pieces of poetry to come out of the 20th century.

If you have read this book, please read the previously unpublished poem “Last Letter“. This poem is Hughes most vulnerable poem on Plath’s death but why it wasn’t included in this collection is a mystery. Last Letters provides a sense of closure on Hughes feelings on their relationship and tragic outcome that clearly haunted him his whole life.

This books is a must-read for any poetry lover or if you’re at all interested in the dynamic and tragic relationship of Hughes and Plath.

%d bloggers like this: