June Wrap-up

I haven’t done a wrap-up in a while, and therefore I am very behind on sharing what books I have recently read. Here’s just a list of what I read in June to give you an idea. I won’t be sharing a video with my thoughts and the star ratings of what I read in June, however, I will be sharing a July wrap-up soon with thoughts and star ratings.

June:

A book stack of The Lightning Thief, Radio Silence, Crown of Feathers, and Red, White & Royal Blue.
A book stack of The Lightning Thief, Radio Silence, Crown of Feathers, and Red, White & Royal Blue.

Radio Silence

Crown of Feathers

The Lightning Thief

The Lightning Thief Graphic Novel

Haytham, une jeunesse syrienne / A Childhood in Syria (Haytham)

Red, White, & Royal Blue

Check, Please! by Ngozi Ukazu

The paperback of Check Please! by Ngozi Ukazu lies against a fuzzy blanket, surrounded by string lights.
The paperback of Check Please! by Ngozi Ukazu lies against a fuzzy blanket, surrounded by string lights. // Soleil de Zwart

★★★★★

I love these boys so much, it’s difficult to put into words. But since I have been nonstop messaging my reading friends about this comic series, I’m going to move it to my blog (so that I can still have reading friends).

I thought this graphic novel looked cute so I got a hold of it from Libby (the app that lets you borrow e-books from your state library system). I didn’t have very high expectations. First off, I know nothing about hockey — correction I knew nothing about hockey. Second, I hadn’t heard very much about this book so I wasn’t sure how to feel about it going in.

When I opened those first pages on my tablet, oh was I in for a journey. This first collection covers Bitty’s first two years in college and first two years on the hockey team. Bitty’s real name is actually Eric Bittle, but hockey nicknames function in a way that his name is Bitty for the entirety of the series.

THIS SERIES! As I said earlier, I love these boys so much, with everything in my heart and soul. Ngozi Ukazu just makes them come alive on the page and the art style just matches them all so well. I wish I had my own squad of hockey bros. The story is so simple but dynamic, these characters feel real, there are minute mundane things going on and bigger picture events and it’s just so good.

The webcomic is available online: https://checkpleasecomic.com

I recently bought the book because I want to support the author/illustrator and I immediately re-read it, in physical form. The panels are much larger on the physical page and it’s so satisfying to read it physically.

Now I’m going to go disappear to read it for a third time!

Romanov by Nadine Brandes

★ ★ ★

I’ve been reading this book on and off for a few months, and it has taken me just about as long to figure out how I feel about it.

First off, I would like to praise Nadine for all of the research she put into this book, because it definitely has a lot of historical accuracy. Aside from that, it’s good to remember that this is a historical fiction retelling with a fantasy twist of the Romanov story.

I have been studying Russian for the past year and have had a fascination with Russian culture, the Russian language, and the family of the Romanovs. But that fascination does not make me an expert in any of these topics, my review of this book is based off my own knowledge and opinions, none of which are concrete facts.

***** SPOILERS *****

I really enjoyed the beginning of the book, up until the halfway point, where the fantasy elements weren’t too prevalent in the story and it was all based on the historical events. But after Nastya used the “ajnin” spell it began to unravel a bit. While I do believe this book managed to combine the history with the fantasy of spellmasters and spellink, I would have enjoyed the story without magic. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the concept of spellmasters and the ink and how that all combined with the already existing storylines and characters. However, I think the energy spent on making the magic believable could have been better spent on character development and plot. How Nastya and Alexei managed to escape the firing squad and certain death, with a simple spell… That is reaching a little far for me. Clearly, if Nastya had used the spell sooner she might have been able to save her whole family, but she didn’t know any better — which is understandable. But the spells in this story don’t seem to have a clear set of rules in their own magic system.

While Dochkin later says that he cannot create a spell to go back in time to save their whole family, there are spells that will pause death and make them into ethereal ghosts?

I just think that the story would have been better off without the magic elements thrown into the middle of it.

Meanwhile the relationship between Zash and Nastya is a whole sticky situation. Something I will go into further depth with in my Booktube review coming soon.

On a last note, I really did appreciate the attention to Russian history and the inclusion of Russian phrases and words into this book. I did not appreciate the lack of warning to the eye trauma towards the end of the book. That would have sent me into an anxiety spiral, if I hadn’t seen it coming.

Fence Vol. #1 by C. S. Pacat and Johanna the Mad

★★★★

Something you should know about me is, I absolutely love fencing. LOVE fencing! One of the reasons I chose my university is because they have a fencing team. And although I wasn’t able to dedicate to being on the team full-time, at the beginning of the year I enjoy spending time on the team.
So naturally, I loved this graphic novel! I’ve been wanting to read it for months and the other day I was in the bookstore and just thought, today is the day! I read it in one sitting, because it’s so gosh darn short!
I can’t go into depth about the characterizations or much of the plot because the story is so short and there are three more installments in the series. I really look forward to reading more about the characters and getting to know the story.
So far I’m really enjoying the art style and the way the story is being set up, but I just really wish the chapters and volumes were longer. I believe that the third volume is the last in the series, which really disappoints me because I feel like there is so much that can be told in a fencing story.
I’ll have to wait until the next installment to see!

Mooncakes by Wendy Xu and Suzanne Walker

★★★★★

This was a magical story, for so many fantastic reasons. I’ve been wanting to read this since my friends brought it to my attention and I’m so glad I got early access to it through NetGalley. 
The representation in this book is amazing and it adds so much depth to the story. I’m so glad we’re moving more rapidly into a time where representation is more present in our literature, we still have a long way to go, but this is start. The art and illustration is so cute and makes my heart warm, it’s a perfectly contained story but I would love to see more in this world. I love all the different characters present, the grandmas are loving and kind and parental relationships are complicated but there’s growth throughout the story. The relationships and friendships in here are a beautiful example for youth to look at, healthy relationships that may inspire them. 
I truly loved this book!

The Cabinet of Linguistic Curiosities by Paul Anthony Jones

★★★★

I’m a linguistics minor so this work is particularly interesting to me. It’s not the type of book I would personally read cover-to-cover although I know fellow classmates who certainly would, but I really enjoyed flipping through it to certain sections and pages and learning more about some linguistics curiosities. I can’t wait to give it a more in-depth look over with colleagues, classmates, and professors. Definitely one I would recommend to others. The excerpts were neat and unique and perfect for a slow rainy day with a cup of tea by the window. I think the best way to enjoy this book is by reading it as it advices on the first page, one story a day for a year, slowly sipping the enjoyment. Another interesting thing about this book is how much I feel like I have learned for my own writing, these little unique words are what can truly elevate and make a story.

I received an advanced reader’s copy from NetGalley for an honest review.

Her

Directed by Spike Jonze

    What makes the movie Her timeless is it’s deeper message about life and connections. It’s true it’s a movie about artificial intelligence and the emergence of AI’s in modern society, and following the social implications. However, it transcends time. There are constant moments of old fusing with new, making it difficult to distinguish the exact moment in time this might be happening. Based off of setting and surroundings, the tall buildings, curved line of the modern era, and thick screened technology, retro colors, and old fashioned furniture of the 70’s it’s hard to tell.

    Her is like a Rorschach test, more commonly known as an inkblot test. Everyone sees the same set of inkblot imagery, but what they perceive and what they get out of it is entirely up to the individual, what they experienced in their lives that leads them to see different images. Although many problems have been found with the Rorschach test, the metaphor still stands. There are many angles of interpretation for Her, every person will latch on to a different aspect and theme for the film. It’s about the complexities of life, relationships, love, technology, and connection. Although the tech in the movie is new, a high performance processing system equipped with a female (or male) voice to organize your life, the thinking is still relatively the same to what we have today. Theodore ends up in a kind of long distance relationship, spending long periods of time on his phone, talking to his lover’s voice.

    This kind of embodiment of a character through purely voice adds to the connection Theodore feels toward Samantha. She’s always in his pocket, never absent, able to be called upon at any moment. Feminists will look at this idea as vaguely sexist, the idea of the perfect woman ready at a moment’s notice to do the man’s bidding. Samantha is there to organize Theodore’s files and get his life together. But she also functions as more. By connecting with Samantha, Theodore is able to move past the difficulties of his divorce from his now ex-wife Catherine. She acts as the stable person in his life who helps him realize where he went wrong with his past relationship, his molding of his partners to be something they aren’t.

    Even though Samantha is truly a mold made from him, learning from his speech patterns and his topics of conversation, she eventually evolves into someone/something else. Later in the film she speaks to other AI’s and interacts with thousands of other humans. Through this she learns to be more than what Theodore originally planned her to be, and his original mold of her. She gains insight that eventually aids Theodore, by pointing out why his relationships always fail. His high expectations and fantasies of his partners always fall in his way.

    This film offers a snapshot into the human psyche, embodying what we do wrong as humans, our flaws, in the eyes of an AI. In the picnic scene with the other couple, Samantha has a moment of clarity. She says she used to be resentful of not having a body, but then she realized she doesn’t need one. She is so much more by not having a physical form, she can be in many places at once, she never ages, she isn’t fragile like humanity. The camera angles in this scene add to her words by emphasizing the empty space beside Theodore, while the other couple sits side by side. There’s a void where Samantha should be, overlayed by diegetic non synchronous sound. The source of Samantha’s voice is not shown. In this scene Samantha uncovers what humans fear about AI’s, the sheer power they would have over us as flawed humans, how they would control us and our lives, while we’re stuck in our meat sac human forms. Through this moment of self actualization Samantha manages to separate herself from the picnic scene and from her human connection. Before her small speech the scene felt almost natural, a double date in the countryside. But after, her connection to humanity feels severed, the characters realize the difference between them. The human experience cannot be fathomed by an AI.

    By the end of the movie it’s not the connection with Samantha that’s left. Along his journey to knowing Samantha and living his life with the presence of an AI, Theodore has found the connection he lost. He’s parted from the idea of his ex-wife, signed his divorce papers and departed on stable terms. He’s realized what had brought about the destruction of his marriage. Himself. And he formed a true human connection. Him and his long time friend Amy bound over their relationships with AIs, and find each other over their mutual loss of connection with them. They feel abandoned, together, by their AI’s who left the human servers to go on to bigger and better things. This scenario is a new and futuristic idea, while still holding true to an age old struggle of abandonment. Amy and Theodore have both lost what was at the time very near and dear to them, without realizing that what they learned from these relationships is the benefits of humanity.

    Even though they aren’t immortal or able to transcend their physical space, they hold the flaws of humanity in their hands. Their mortality makes their relationships worth so much more, their connections so much more valuable because of the singular physical space they can occupy at any one moment.

    The movie Her is able to portray such a timeless message of connection and the human experience by using the carefully interwoven old and new. Through seeing this story of AI technology in an ambiguous setting of future and retro, the viewer gets a glimpse of modern society. What will and won’t change. Different connections, but humans will always be connecting, through whatever means they find. As stated in Film Theory An Introduction Through the Senses by Thomas Elsaesser and Malte Hagener, “Screens are in effect something that stands between us and the world, something that simultaneously protects and opens up access” (43). The screens through which the humans in Her interacted with their AI’s acted as a screen that protected them from the rejection of real human connection, but also blocked them from true experiences with others of their own. Both negatively and positively changing their life’s experiences. The AI’s are coming for us.

The China-United States Scrimmage

June 4, 2019

Rising powers often feel as though they are entitled to a greater respect from other nations and thus command a greater influence in the region. This phenomenon is known as “Thucydides Trap,” in which the Greek historian Thucydides spoke on the rise of Athens and inevitable war from the fear that thus instilled in Sparta (Allison). This concept relates to the scrimmage of China and the United States, thus China’s rise in power threatens the established power of the United States. The established power feels insecure and is quick to jump to the defensive to protect itself and its image on the international stage (Allison). 

China and the United States reside in opposite spheres of the world, they follow differing political ideologies and maintain opposing economies. In domestic life, the citizens of the two countries have contrasting views of the position of the self in the familial sphere. In China the word for “individualism” or “gerenzhuyi” suggests the pursuit of selfish endeavors in one’s community, while in America “individualism” has the connotation of self-empowerment (Allison). China’s familial sphere concentrates its energy on the collective and organizes in a hierarchical pyramid, the group, rather than the individual. This translates into some of its foreign policy decisions — such as seeing China at the top of the pyramid, with other states beneath it (Allison). The Chinese nation has been around for more than 5,000 years, while the United States has yet to turn 250 years old. The relative ages and experiences of the countries is showcased in their differing concepts of time and how each country prioritizes its national interests (Allison). In the United States, lawmakers are quick to propose fast solutions to problems that often need more time for change to take place. While in China, the Chinese have a different understanding of time and patience. For example, with China’s perspective of Taiwan — which they consider to be ruled by Chinese nationalists — they have sought after a long-term strategy in which they tighten Taiwan’s economic ties to China and slowly bring the island back into Chinese influence. With time and patience, China will bring Taiwan back into their group. For the United States and China, their two opposing views and experiences with patience — or impatience — bring China and the United States to their own scrimmage. 

In the United States, lawmakers are quick to propose fast solutions to problems that often need more time for change to take place.

In the past, there have been instances of close calls between the United States and China, one of those being China’s first test of an atomic bomb in October of 1964. This test took place while United States-China tensions were high over the conflict in Vietnam and while China has troops near its border with Vietnam (Council on Foreign Relations). Other near conflicts mainly surround the disagreements between China and the United States on the status of Taiwan or the disputed islands of the South China Sea, or a 1999 NATO-run bombing of a Chinese embassy in Belgrade based off of United States intelligence mistakes. Then with the United States-China Relations Act of 2000, the two countries increased trade from $5 billion to $231 billion between 1980 and 2004 and China surpassing Mexico as the United States’ second largest trading partner (Council on Foreign Relations). Since Donald Trump’s United States Presidency, relations have declined from trade tariffs and the 2018 to present day trade war. Needless to say tensions have risen and fallen between the two major powers. Furthermore, estimates show that China will overtake the United States as the world’s largest economy by 2030, maybe even as soon as 2027 (Council on Foreign Relations). Considering the past, lays the ground for policy adjustments for the future.

With imposed tariffs on $34 billion worth of Chinese goods in 2018 and Vice-President Mike Pence saying the United States will from now on “prioritize competition over cooperation” with China, prospects for civil relations have declined. In May of 2019 tariffs of anywhere between 10 and 25 percent hit $200 billion worth of Chinese goods, and China retaliated with its own tariffs on United States goods. China is known to be one of the top manufacturers in the world, breaking off trade relations with China would affect American jobs and impact domestic and international business revenue. 

In recent bilateral trade negotiations the Trump administration has been pushing for major changes to China’s current trade policy, these would include addressing the questions of intellectual property theft, currency manipulation, industrial subsidies, and forced technology transfers, all implicitly in the United States national interest. One of the greatest issues with the current bilateral trade negotiations is, President Trump is pushing for policies that would alter China’s domestic policies, specifically in economics and trade policies that the United States regards as “unfair,” suggesting changes that would benefit the United States economy (Lawder). By May 1, 2019 China’s President Mr. Xi Jinping demanded substantial revisions to the agreement, after hearing feedback from his Communist party leaders. The party leaders told Mr. Xi that the agremeent currently on the table made China and Mr. Xi appear weak, like he was bowing to Western influences and pressure (Rudd). With the formation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the agreement was originally conceived for the United States to combat China’s influence in the East Asian and Asian Pacific region and therein gaining influence over a region that has been primarily dominated by China. Now without the United States in the final deal and an invitation from current signatories for China to join, the United States isn’t receiving the same relative gains (Londoño). A relative gain would have been, the comparative gain in Global Domestic Product (GDP) or imports/exports that the United States would have had comparable to China. A bilateral trade war affects the economies of China and the United States, if a resolution isn’t found United States GDP will be impacted.

Having two of the largest world economies in a trade war — a conflict of any kind really — could be the foundation to future conflicts. The inability to resolve other recent conflicts of East Asian security, Taiwan, or China’s military modernization, brings the more logical option to the forefront, not resolving their conflicts but managing them (Pei). A route of deeper engagement, rather than containment and pursuing a more liberal focused route of foreign policy with China, would be more inline with United States national interests, prioritizing national security. The United States and China don’t share overlapping security interests or political values. While the United States is looking to preserve the liberal order and establish the fundamentals of the American constitution in other countries, China strives for a world order without the United States and other Western powers ruling the international system (Pei). If the United States and China were to find a compromise in the middle, following the Chinese ideology of patience and paving the road to future resolution, rather than aiming to resolution all of the United States’ problems with China’s domestic policies in one treaty, the two nations may be able to settle on a deal.

A bilateral trade war affects the economies of China and the United States, if a resolution isn’t found United States GDP will be impacted.

Since the United States and China don’t have overlapping spheres of influence, they aren’t direct security threats to each other — without provocation. That is, until nuclear weapons and a tense relationship are considered. In Dennis C. Blair’s article, “Would China Go Nuclear?” in Foreign Affairs, Blair argues that a nuclear conflict between the United States and China would be highly unlikely with odds “somewhere between nil and zero” (Blair). Blair states a maritime campaign resulting from the disputed islands in the South China Sea would be the most likely conflict, if one were to arise. And before the onset of nuclear were to happen, the United States would take every other route, and China wouldn’t first-strike unless there was a sustained nuclear strike against them (Blair). 

In the case of United States security policy, Republicans and Democrats tend to agree on “the United States should dominate the world militarily, economically, and politically,” even when they are polarized on most policy issues (Posen). The United States has had a recent history of trying to contain “rogue states” that they have viewed as a threat to United States security, such as Iran or North Korea. Along those lines, the United States has also pushed for the non-use of nuclear weapons. However, being the international watch-dog has cost the United States lives, of American citizens and allies. Posen argues for the abandonment of the hegemonic strategy and to pull back from conflicts that are not our wars to fight, not unless it affects our national interest and therein our security. These continued efforts of containment have made more enemies than it have resolved conflicts. Keeping this in mind, the United States-China relationship should be pushed further towards an expansive policy.

Some scholars argue that the United States should lose some of its unnecessary security agreements — seeing as the United States is the largest military force and doesn’t need the power of other nations — while they rely on the United States — and would benefit from loosening its efforts of leading the liberal world order (Brooks, et al). In the past and recent years, China has regularly pushed against the United States for its liberal world order, attempting to combat Western powers and the preset of Western ideas saturating the international order. However, if the United States loosens its hold on its position as leader of the free world, it would give more room to Chinese expansion of power. In that there is also the possibility of China attempting to — and succeeding — in becoming the Eurasian hegemon (Posen). Although the likelihood in its success would be small, with uncertainty in the Chinese economy and the combined and individual power of surrounding East Asian states would impede that possibility, especially with the proximity of world powers such as India and Russia — both of which have nuclear capabilities (Posen). 

The United States has maintained the position of the global security force and leader of the free world for more than six decades, in which it has — rather successfully — promoted the liberal economic order and managed the security of the world (Brooks). For a future policy decision, if the United States were to take a more realist stance on relations with China and construct a more narrow policy, it would prioritize a strategy of containment, in which the United States would actively attempt to prevent Chinese influence from expanding. This kind of restriction on Chinese power would not play out well on the international stage, especially with enemies — or non-allies — of the United States and other Western powers. 

When considering whether to move forward in a more expansive direction with future United States-China relations, or a more narrow direction, it’s important to briefly acknowledge the growing relations between China and Russia. China-Russia relations have improved notably since 2014, following Russian President Vladimir Putin’s declaration of Russia pivoting its focus to Asia, after Western nations imposed economic sanctions (MacFarquhar). Trade between China and Russia has gone up by almost 25 percent in this last year alone, totally at about $108 billion. The two countries also support each other foreign policies issues such as: the Iran nuclear deal, North Korea’s nuclear program, and the Venezuela crisis (MacFarquhar). China and Russia have also been expanding their cooperation in a variety of fields including aviation, agriculture, transportation, energy, and space (MacFarquhar). Keeping all this in mind, it’s in the United States national interest to stay involved with China as these two international powers — China and Russia — grow their alliance and while they have such similar interests.

It would serve the United States national interest to pursue a strategy of deeper engagement, working to cooperate with China rather than attempting to compete and allowing domestic policy to suffer for it. It’s time for the United States to settle and build relationships, influencing Chinese foreign policy as a neutral state rather than competing for hegemony in a nonpolar world. The effects of the United States-China trade war is leaving other countries as the “winners” of the scrimmage, instead of the United States gaining relative advantage. Trade policy is affecting jobs and American markets now, making this is most crucial policy to address in relation to China-United States foreign affairs. A more expansive policy would be more realistic towards a major power such as China, this would be aligning closer with a liberal practice. As the United States and China are quite possibly the most powerful and influential states to date, it’s more beneficial for national security to grow side-by-side rather than combatting the risks of attempting to contain China’s sphere of influence.

Bibliography

Allison, Graham. “China vs. America: Managing the Next Clash of Civilizations.” Foreign Affairs, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/united-states/2017-08-15/china-vs-america

Blair, Dennis C. and Talmadge, Caitlin. “Would China Go Nuclear?” Foreign Affairs, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/2018-12-11/would-china-go-nuclear

Brooks, Stephen G., et al. “Lean Forward: In Defense of American Engagement.” Foreign Affairs, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/united-states/2012-11-30/lean-forward

Council on Foreign Relations. “Timeline: U.S. Relations with China.” Council on Foreign Relations, https://www.cfr.org/timeline/us-relations-china

Kissinger, Henry A. “The Future of U.S.-Chinese Relations: Conflict Is a Choice, Not a Necessity.” Foreign Affairs, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/china/2012-03-01/future-us-chinese-relations

Lawder, David. “Trump Push for China Trade Reform Draws Wide Support at Home, Abroad.” Reuters, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trade-china-trump-analysis/trump-push-for-china-trade-reform-draws-wide-support-at-home-abroad-idUSKCN1R60D5

Londoño, Ernesto and Rich, Motoko. “U.S. Allies Sign Sweeping Trade Deal in Challenge to Trump.” The New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/08/world/asia/us-trump-tpp-signed

MacFarquhar, Neil. “Xi Jinping’s Visit to Russia Accents Ties in Face of Tensions with U.S.” The New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/05/world/europe/xi-jinping-china-russia.html

Pei, Minxin. “How China and America See Each Other: And Why They Are on a Collision Course.” Foreign Affairs, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/reviews/review-essay/how-china-and-america-see-each-other

Posen, Barry R. “Pull Back: The Case for a Less Activist Foreign Policy.” Foreign Affairs, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/united-states/2013-01-01/pull-back

Rudd, Kevin. “Trump Hands China an Easy Win in the Trade War.” The New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/29/opinion/trump-china-trade-war

Trump, Donald. “Presidential Memorandum Regarding Withdrawal of the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership Negotiations and Agreement.” The White House. https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/presidential-memorandum-regarding-withdrawal-united-states-trans-pacific-partnership-negotiations-agreement/

World Bank. “GDP Ranking, PPP Based.” The World Bank, https://datacatalog.worldbank.org/dataset/gdp-ranking-ppp-based

Passenger by Alexandra Bracken

[Summary from Alexandra Bracken’s website: This time travel duology focuses on the journey of Etta Spencer, a modern Manhattan teen, and Nicholas Carter, of 18th century Manhattan, as they race against time itself to find an object of untold value and save Etta’s future.]

I just finished reading Passenger by Alexandra Bracken, and now I’d like to share my thoughts. The funny thing is I got this book last year from Christmas and now it’s August. It took me a while to start reading it because of school, but when I did it still started off pretty slow. I knew that this book was right up my alley, but I had to get into the alley first before it really started going. I would give this book an all over 8/10 because when it picked up towards the middle, it really picked up. The whole concept of traveling and travelers in the story was well thought out and there were rules and conditions set in place for the travelers. For me it’s really important for a time travel story to also consider the consequences related to time travel, like what would happen if you went back in time and changed something, or if you saw your past/future self. I’m very glad that Alexandra Bracken thought about these questions and addressed them in the book with some probable theories of traveling through time. That’s what really made the book for me. 

The twists and turns of the plot added in the development of the story, and none of it felt entirely out of left field. There were surprises and moments of awe, but nothing that felt unnatural and didn’t fit in with the story. It remained interesting enough with the different places and times they jumped to. 

————————————–SPOILERS————————————–

Looking at character development, Etta felt like she definitely became more flushed out throughout the book. The further I read, the more real she felt. At the beginning it seemed she only had the violin on her mind and Alice, very understandable of course. She had just seen her mentor die before her when she was thrown back in time, became very sick and was in a foreign environment. But it felt like that was all there was to her character. As the story progressed, more backstory of her and her mom was given and her feelings about traveling, her mom, Nicholas, and herself became a lot more jumbled. It felt much more realistic than the one track mind she had began the story with. 

Nicholas. He just seemed too perfect for me, it felt like he didn’t have any real flaws. His greatest flaw, which was just him trying to take care of himself in an era that did the opposite, by lying to Etta so he could be paid by Cyrus and make a good life for himself. Entirely understandable. Although, Etta should have been far more hurt and pissed that he had lied to her and was going to sell her and her mom out to Cyrus and screw up all of time. I feel like that should have been a far bigger deal than it was. She just accepted it and then they made out. 

The ending.

Of course something had to catastrophically go wrong, and we’re dealing with time travel here, so it had to be drastic. I think Alexandra Bracken definitely hit the mark on that. Especially when we thought that Etta had died. When it’s well written and purposeful I’m totally fine with authors killing off their characters. For many readers it comes off as unexpected and even more thrilling. And if it has a true purpose I think it’s a smart and bold move to make. So I was just a tiny bit disappointed that Etta had just been tossed into a different timeline.

Which brings me to my big ending question, are Nicholas and Rose and everyone else now in the alternate timeline and Etta is in the original timeline? Or did Etta get thrown into an alternate timeline and has to deal with the consequences and Nicholas, Rose & Co. are now in the original timeline? And when we say “original timeline” is that to say the one before the Cyrus and the others in the family mess everything up, or is it the true original timeline before anyone messed with it? So many options! So I can’t wait to start reading Wayfarer, the sequel in the series and see which of my possible hypotheses might be correct.