Red Rising – Review

“I would have lived in peace. But my enemies brought me war.”

Anyone who has known me at all, for any time, during the last two years, has probably had me try and push this book on them. I mean, it’s pretty bloodydamn amazing. As I’ve pushed it and raved about it and wanted to get ready for the new release of Iron Gold, a quiet part of me wondered, would my love of this series survive a reread?

Yes, my goodmen, it gorywell can!

For those of you who may not know the story of Darrow, Red Rising is the first in a trilogy. And be warned, this series will not be for everyone. It is violent, brutally so. This book is a fascinating and in-depth look at the complexity of power in society.

Darrow is a Red. Born in the mines underground on Mars, mining an element that will make terraforming planets possible. They are told they will be heroes when they mine enough. Saviors of mankind. They work on the promise of a better life for their children.

But that promise is a lie. Built by the Golds.

Darrow soon learns of this betrayal and his rage drives him to do the impossible. Become his enemy.

Through Darrow’s eyes, we learn of the enormity of the lies he had been raised on. We learn of the vast caste of Colors, all playing a role in maintaining a society that thrives. Golds at the top, and everyone else serving beneath them.

But we also learn that there is a reason the Golds rule. They are cold and cruel. Willing to inflict pain for the greater good. Willing to do what is necessary to retain their power.

“Gods don’t come down in life to mete out justice. The powerful do it. That’s what they are teaching us, not only the pain in gaining power, but the desperation that comes with not having it, the desperation that comes when you are not a Gold.”

There is so much to rave about in this series! SO MUCH!

The examination of power within a society is fascinating in this book. Not just in the caste system and the way it’s laid out. But even the level of power an individual has within each caste. Not every Red is created equal. Not every Gold is created equal. Each Color has it’s own positioning, with appropriate benefits or punishments to be doled out as the leaders see fit. This book really does an excellent job of showing how precarious power can be, and how ruthless people have to be to secure it.

“Security and justice aren’t given. They are made by the strong.”

If Game of Thrones upset you over an author willing to kill his darlings, be prepared, because Pierce Brown drinks the tears of his readers for breakfast and laughs. Except it isn’t just the fact that he willingly kills off characters. It’s that he writes such amazing side characters, with such depth, and gives them such vibrancy, that it doesn’t take very long before you’ve become attached. It’s actually quite a skill to create these personalities in his characters that manage to find their way into your hearts so quickly.

Brown’s ability to write this diverse and vivid cast of characters is impressive. If your favorites manage to stay alive, and that’s a big if, you’ll find that even though this book is told in the first person entirely through Darrow’s perspective, Darrow isn’t the only character you root for. I dare you not to fall for our favorite little goblin or the giant teddy bear of a warrior! I DARE YOU!

“If violence is the Gold sport, manipulation is their art form.”

The level of manipulation and betrayal in the Gold caste is breathtaking. Characters you root for, you find yourself cursing. Alliances change lightening fast. Power a tricky and slippery thing. Again, this look at how power works is stunning. How it is elusive, and even individuals in a group considered Gods among men can still fall. Or be powerless.

Brown doesn’t write drastic black and white characters, with allegiances firmly in the good or bad camps. Instead we get something closer to reality, both present day and historically. We see political machinations working underneath processes thought free of them. We get to pull back the curtain to see how leadership is often taken, rarely actually earned. This harsh reality can make for uncomfortable reading because these characters don’t follow normal tropes or formulas. Like Darrow, Brown sees the game and rips it apart.

“An empire cannot be destroyed from without till it is destroyed from within.”

I happen to like books where you might like the villain as much as the hero. Where the hero makes mistakes and isn’t perfect. Where the villain may be evil, but also holds grains of good. People are rarely all good, or all bad. They are generally made up of a million shades of both and everything in between. Brown writes his entire universe in that spectrum and it makes for an intense, bloody, and breathtaking ride.

The first time I read this, I inhaled the words. This book felt like a campaign of shock and awe. It was stunning in scope and awesome in detail. I wasn’t sure what the ride would be like a second time. Turns out, it was just as intense, but somehow, knowing what was to come made the book even more heartbreaking. I was able to really understand how fast these characters are introduced and how strongly they make an impact.

I am a huge book pusher when it comes to this series. It is unlike anything you’ve ever read. It is about power. Love. Loss. Revolution. Rebellion. Rising up and falling down. It is bloody, violent, harsh and cruel. It will show you the best of humanity and the worst. Sometimes in the same breath. And it all happens in bleeding space!

Bring it on Golden Son, because here I come!

Army Wife – Review

“There’s nothing better than welcoming your husband home from war — nothing except welcoming your sons.”

Army Wife is the perfect name for this memoir describing how being married to a soldier really is. Her voice really shines through in this telling memoir, and she strikes me a very fun and sassy woman. That spark made reading the book fly by.

Cody doesn’t hold back or glamorize her life as a military spouse, and later as a military mom. She fully admits to her doubt and frustration over moving and living alone during deployments. Fear as her husband and then her sons deploy into combat zones. Life in the military isn’t easy, and life as a military spouse isn’t any easier.

“Life is full of surprises, but I don’t think we fully understand and appreciate that until we are pushed out of comfort zone, backed into a corner, and tested in ways we don’t expect or anticipate.”

We are taken through the story of her life, from the moment she met Dick Cody forward. Cody writes with a fast paced cadence, sprinkled with a sharp sense of humor, a trait that I’m sure held her together numerous times. Strength is one thing. Being able to laugh at your trials is quite another. Perhaps she wasn’t laughing at the time, but her humor shines through in hindsight.

I was continually amazed at her emotional maturity and just how self-aware she comes across. She is very blunt and honest with her entire spectrum of feelings, talking openly about the honeymoon period that welcoming her husband often triggered to the struggle of readjusting to him in her daily life always triggered. And what shines through the brightest, is her knowledge of herself as an individual outside of being a mom or a wife. I think that awareness is what made living her (sometimes) tumultuous life possible. She never lost herself in the craziness and so she could weather any storm.

“But I never lost sight of who I was, as a woman and as a person. When they boys let home, I just had to shift gears and find my inner self again. (I think it was always there — I was just busy being a mom.)”

There are some heavy issues happening within these pages, and she doesn’t come across as flippant or superficial, but she doesn’t dwell on them either. If anything, Cody comes across as a woman that probably is a solid shoulder to cry on, is handy to have in a tight situation, and would give excellent advice. While her husband led an illustrious career, she doesn’t dismiss or forget that others were not as lucky. Her humility opens us up to a graciousness and gratefulness that is admirable.

One touch I really liked is her PS notes at the end of some chapters. She makes reference to the fact that often when her husband was deployed overseas, they couldn’t manage the time zones along with expensive phone bills, so letter writing became their primary method of communication. Letters that she still has to this day, that can bring her back to those moments in time just by looking at his handwriting. Those little PS notes felt like she was writing little letters to us in each chapter. They summarized and offered a more personal touch. They really made those notes feel like she was reaching across a table and grasping your hand.

But this book isn’t just about life as an Army Wife. It is also about life as an Army Mom.

“It was an important life lesson for all of us: we don’t always get what we want, and sometimes we have to change course.”

Reading the chapter on September 11, and how her boys were transitioning from their college lives into life as an active military member is emotional. It’s one thing to be a mom to soldiers during times of peace. It’s another during times of war. This time, she felt the sorrow of knowing people lost at the Pentagon, and the terror of her husband and both sons possibly deploying.

The reality of the her oldest’ deployment is once again told to us without restraint. It’s understandable that she feels angry at her husband for not going with him, combined with fear over what might happen and the lack of control. But it is a tender thing to read that for the first time her husband actually experienced what she felt every time he deployed. Every mother can understand that while watching her husband deploy was difficult; watching her sons deploy was excruciating.

“When you marry a soldier, you pretty much marry the Army and everything it stands for.”

Vicki Cody married a soldier. She married the Army and then she mothered it, both literally and figuratively. This book is her experience of that life. I’ve never been an Army wife, or an Army mother, but I expect that this is an honest and in-depth look at the reality of it.

While her life was filled with emotional ups and downs, it’s hard to deny it is an incredible one. Meeting First Lady’s and Presidents, living in historical houses, watching your husband on TV while he is a half a world away, meeting Wynona Judd and other celebrities; are all incredible moments for anyone to experience. Her life is her own, but is also intertwined with major historical milestones made very personal for her. But she didn’t simply sit and bask in her husband’s success. She worked hard to contribute to the support of not just his solders, but their families as well. It’s a fascinating journey.

One thing that struck me is not just how the Army is a massive network comprised of soldiers. We don’t really see that side of the Army in this book. Rather we see the network of civilians who support one another in amazing ways. Support groups, and newsletters, and monthly meetings. The human touch that makes living with all that fear and worry a little more bearable. You marry the Army, but that means you get a spouse in return.

Sometimes it’s easy to think of the Army as a nameless faceless entity. It’s easy to get lost in the political commentary surrounding that entity. Army Wife brings back the point that the Army, the Navy, the Air Force; they are all filled with people. Men and women, husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, daughters and sons. These are people, who worry, who love, who are willing to face unknown threats anywhere in the world. This was the perfect book to read this weekend.

“I had come to realize that being a soldier is more than a job, more than a career; it’s an affair of the heart, a way of life.”

Thank you to all the soldiers and their families for your service. We wouldn’t be the country we are without you.

Thank you as well to Booksparks and She Writes Press for sending me this book to read and review!