It’s time again for another round of recent reads! This time I’ll be talking about a presidential memoir, a lengthy epic fantasy with sapphics and dragons, and a historical fiction set in late 1400s England. If you want to see more, you can find my last “Recent Reads” here.
A Promised Land by Barack Obama
Release Date: November 17, 2020
Genre: Adult autobiography
Trigger warnings include: racism, death, cancer, Islamophobia
A riveting, deeply personal account of history in the making, from the president who inspired us to believe in the power of democracy.
In the stirring, highly anticipated first volume of his presidential memoirs, Barack Obama tells the story of his improbable odyssey from young man searching for his identity to leader of the free world, describing in strikingly personal detail both his political education and the landmark moments of the first term of his historic presidency—a time of dramatic transformation and turmoil.
Obama takes readers on a compelling journey from his earliest political aspirations to the pivotal Iowa caucus victory that demonstrated the power of grassroots activism to the watershed night of November 4, 2008, when he was elected 44th president of the United States, becoming the first African American to hold the nation’s highest office. Click here to continue.
“Perhaps most troubling of all, our democracy seems to be teetering on the brink of crisis—a crisis rooted in a fundamental contest between two opposing visions of what America is and what it should be; a crisis that has left the body politic divided, angry, and mistrustful, and has allowed for an ongoing breach of institutional norms, procedural safeguards, and the adherence to basic facts that both Republicans and Democrats once took for granted.”
I don’t know how to review this so I just want to talk about some thoughts I had while listening to this audiobook. First, I truly believe audio is the way to go. I don’t think I would have finished it without listening to the audio or it would have just taken me a lot longer to get through. Some parts simply were a little dry. That being said, this memoir made me really have to confront some frustrations I have with American politics that I knew but don’t particularly enjoy thinking about. It can all be summed up fairly simply as political strategy vs. doing what you truly believe. The games that are involved in politics in order to maintain or advance someone’s political career really get in the way so much of the time. And yes, I knew this was a thing but listening to hours of concrete examples really can make you frustrated. That’s not to say that this book was just a doom and gloom fest. I think Obama mixes in some stories that are hopeful and heartfelt and sometimes, just really funny in with the more serious aspects and that really helped keep me going. I especially liked hearing him speak about his family and the balance (or lack of) between being a father, son, husband, etc., and being the president during an economic crisis (among other things). This is also just a minor thing I noticed but the way he speaks about people who disagree with him largely with either respect or at least neutrality is a HUGE contrast to what we’ve been seeing the past five years or so and that was interesting to think about, as well.
The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon
Release Date: February 26, 2019
Genre: Adult fantasy
A world divided. A queendom without an heir. An ancient enemy awakens.
The House of Berethnet has ruled Inys for a thousand years. Still unwed, Queen Sabran the Ninth must conceive a daughter to protect her realm from destruction – but assassins are getting closer to her door. Ead Duryan is an outsider at court. Though she has risen to the position of lady-in-waiting, she is loyal to a hidden society of mages. Ead keeps a watchful eye on Sabran, secretly protecting her with forbidden magic.
Across the dark sea, Tane has trained to be a dragonrider since she was a child, but is forced to make a choice that could see her life unravel. Meanwhile, the divided East and West refuse to parley, and forces of chaos are rising from their sleep.
“Piety can turn the power-hungry into monsters,’ Ead said. ‘They can twist any teaching to justify their actions.”
This book is LONG and I’ve been intimidated by it for a while not only because of the length but because I am still learning what I do and don’t enjoy when it comes to fantasy. My foray into this world was definitely successful. First and foremost, I loved the characters. Tane and Truyde were among my favorites. I think they both were so complex and my feelings about them were constantly challenged and changing (especially Truyde). I will warn you, the deaths in this book are heartbreaking and sometimes pretty brutal. There were nights I found myself sitting in bed, jaw dropped, rereading the deaths because I couldn’t believe what happened. While this book is long, I don’t think many words were wasted. There was one obstacle towards the end that I could have done without but overall, I think the length is necessary which isn’t true for every long book I’ve read. That being said, there were some places where I felt the writing was a little dry. I’ve found that a lot of European-based adult fantasy can be that way. This means I have to be in a very specific mood to pick up those types of books and it’s nothing against this one in particular.
As far as my personal journey with fantasy, I am in a place where I know the whole “white men in high/epic fantasy doing things” genre is usually my thing but Priory has shown me that a more female-centered approach can certainly work for me. I also know that I want to start exploring more fantasy by people of color that isn’t set in or inspired by European settings and/or societies. I adored The Broken Earth Trilogy and on the YA side of things, I’m hoping to pick up The Gilded Ones soon.
Princess of Thorns by Saga Hillbom
Release Date: March 1, 2021
Genre: Adult historical fiction
Trigger warnings include: death of loved ones including a child, abuse by a partner, hanging
1483, Westminster. The bells toll for the dead king, Edward IV, while his rivaling nobles grasp for power. His daughter Cecily can only watch as England is plunged into chaos, torn between her loyalties to her headstrong mother, Elizabeth Woodville, and her favourite uncle, Richard of Gloucester. When Elizabeth schemes to secure her own son on the throne that Richard lays claim to, Cecily and her siblings become pawns in a perilous game.
The Yorkist dynasty that Cecily holds so dear soon faces another threat: the last Lancastrian claimant, Henry Tudor. Meanwhile, Cecily battles with envy towards her older sister, who is betrothed to Tudor.
The White Rose of York has turned its thorns inwards, and royal blood proves fatal…
Princess of Thorns is a sweeping tale of loyalty and treason, ambition and family bonds.
“There is a hefty dose of knowledge in her dark eyes, the result of a lifetime spend maneuvering as a woman through a political landscape torn to shreds by men.”
*I was sent an ebook from the author in exchange for an honest review*
I’ve always enjoyed historical fiction but have recently fallen out of it a bit but this story really sucked me back in and now I want more. Princess of Thorns has a phenomenal mix of giving historical context and information while crafting a story that allows me to form a connection with the characters, especially Cecily. I knew vaguely of the events during this time period so I knew some of the major political changes that would happen but, of course, I wasn’t sure exactly where this story was going. I kept going back and forth with my feelings about Cecily but I was desperately rooting for her to form a romance with a friend, Thomas. Their interactions were adorable and I felt so invested in their relationship. This story brings up tons of issues of the time but I was particularly compelled by the issues of class and of seeing how politics impacted women surrounding the inner circle. They knew what was going on but weren’t always able to be involved in the most direct way. That’s a topic I enjoyed exploring in my English degrees and this story renewed my interest. Lastly, I enjoyed the brief way Hillbom explores queerness during this time. It was a small moment but it was exciting to see. This book just came out last week so definitely check it out!
What have you been reading recently? Have you read any of these? Are you interested in any of them? Come chat with me!