The Good That Men Do (Star Trek Enterprise) – TwoMorePages Book Review

The Good That Men Do (Star Trek Enterprise) – TwoMorePages Book Review

TRIP!

I bought this book because I had read somewhere on /r/StarTrek that *this* is the ending we should have had for Enterprise. This book DELIVERED.

I *loved* how it interwove the details of the actual ending of Enterprise, and gave more plausible reasons for some of the dumber things that happened.

(1) What do you mean that this little shit freighter would be able to catch up to Enterprise, the flagship of the fleet, and board it?

(2) What do you mean that Trip just DIED in the most anti climactic way possible? You’re telling me we got out of the Xindi War and all sorts of conflicts with all sorts of species, but Archer and Trip can’t figure out a way to get out of a kidnapping situation without Trip DYING?!

Oh…it was all a dog and pony show. Okay, I feel vindicated. 😀

Trip and Section 31

I *loved* Trip’s continuing story arc with Section 31. We got to delve a little further into his relationship with T’Pol after the Terra Prime fiasco, AND we got to see some more working of Section 31, namely that they are not all knowing. Just people working with very limited resources trying to figure out what they can.

Having Phuong and Section 31 be totally duped by the rogue Romulan faction was very interesting to read; and even moreso watching them learn that Romulans are just offshoots of Vulcans. This section of the book was very spy-esque, which is very different than most Star Trek novels, and I appreciated it.

Shran!

My favorite character in Enterprise was actually NOT one of the main characters. It was SHRAN. It’s a shame that Enterprise got cancelled right as they were going to bring him on to be a regular.

Why wouldn’t I love Shran? He is everything I want to be – passionate (basically to a fault), smart, aggressive, emotional.

Shran’s arc with Jhamel and with Theras was very interesting to read. He basically treated Theras as an idiot coward for not doing anything to help Jhamel in the kidnapping. And I empathized completely. Here is the dude getting to marry the girl I’m in love with, and he ran to me for protection instead of trying to help Jhamel? Pffft.

I know part of this was to highlight the very different cultures of the Andorians and the Aenar, but I completely empathized with Shran in that spot.

Theras’s character development as the book progressed was heartwarming to see. Seeing him overcome his pacifistic tendencies to help keep the away team alive was great; and watching him grapple with this inner demons for having tricked Romulans into killing each other with his mental capabilities was enlightening.

Shran had never enjoyed apologizing, but he sincerely wished for a chance to do so to Theras. He’d treated Theras abominably; he’d acted like a bully, intimidating a mild, gentle being every chance he’d gotten. He was trained to be a warrior, and was therefore used to putting himself into harm’s way. There was no heroism to much of what he did; it was mostly done out of duty, or a love of the accompanying adrenaline rush, or perhaps just plain orneriness.

It was nice to see Shran recognize his efforts as well at the end. This was a story arc I particularly enjoyed, probably moreso than that of Trip’s, and that had the benefit of reviving my favorite member of Enterprise’s crew.

Plus, he got the girl! Yay for Shran, getting over Talas’s death to be with Jhamel, hooray!

Setting up for the Romulan War

I loved the exposition of the story arc that the next season was probably going to take with the Andorians/Aenar and the Romulans, and Shran’s role in all of that. We got to see a little of that at the end of Enterprise’s final season, but the fleshed out version with the conspiracy in the Romulan government to make more drone ships was *very* interesting to read.

And we got to learn more about the Coridians, who I actually…did not remember anything about. Were they in the show? It’s been so long. I can’t remember…

But we learn that they are supposed to be a founding member of the Federation – they have the most dilithium, and they are the only ones with Warp 7 capable ships. Sweet, they’ll make the Federation as strong as anyone else!

Except wait…shit, their planet gets devastated, and they withdraw from the Federation for…reasons? I didn’t really get that part. They refused help from Enterprise, saw half their world burn, and they leave the Federation? They should want in now MORE THAN EVER while they rebuild?

Conclusion

 

“This new take on Archer-era history holds together for me a lot better than the standard version does – you know, with Captain Archer’s whole command crew not receiving a single promotion, even after having served together aboard the NX-01 for ten years.

Or Archer’s dog somehow not having aged a day during that entire time.

Or Archer’s famous Big Speech at the ‘Stick, which makes a lot more sense now in the context of the post-Coridan disaster era than it does in the post-Earth-Romulan War time-frame where most of the histories place it.

Of the pirate ship that could barely manage warp two somehow catching up to Enterprise, which had to be traveling at nearly warp five when-”

-Nog

“You’re preaching to the choir, Nog”

-Jake Sisko

I laughed out loud when I read that little conversation between Jake and Nog. Bringing them in as a device to give the past viewers of Enterprise a nod / give the writers of that final episode the finger was genius.

This book helped give me closure on Enterprise’s story, whose final season was SO GOOD. It’s a shame it didn’t get *really* good until after news was announced that it was cancelled. If this Romulan War arc was up next, it would have been *really fun to watch*.

 

 

 

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The Carnival of the Night – TwoMorePages Book Review

The Carnival of the Night – TwoMorePages Book Review

Every once in awhile, the internet truly surprises you with something special. I found this book from a link at /r/WritingPrompts , and wow was it great! I finished it in 3 days, and couldn’t put it down.

Not the first book I’ve read from /r/WritingPrompts, but as we know, some of my last experiences weren’t that great.

Nicholas Carey’s writing style was the perfect weave of dialogue, scenery, and bits of mythology thrown in. I loved the introduction of Greek/Roman mythology; I loved the protagonists and the characterization of the antagonists; I loved the description of a corrupted purgatory; and I loved the snippet chapters that read like news reports.

Oftentimes, short writing prompts leave character developments by the wayside, but Nicholas did a great job in this book. The tease with Derek’s character in the beginning was well executed, with the readers not knowing why he was covering his face until we learn about what happened on the boat.

The characterization of Death’s daughter as a sliver of himself, and the reason why he softened was very interesting. And her spunkiness was very endearing.

Tying Greek/Roman mythology in with Bacchus and Zeus and the Gods was also very interesting. If there’s a sequel, I’d like to explore those themes more – I love learning while I’m reading lol.

All in all, by far the best novella from /r/WritingPrompts that I have read yet. I think I actually paid the most possible on Amazon for it, but I don’t regret any of it. Money well spent.

Oathbringer – TwoMorePages Book Review

Oathbringer – TwoMorePages Book Review

Woohoo we’re back in Roshar! 1200 pages worth, and we learn SO MUCH! Brandon Sanderson once again builds a wonderful world to share, and we get to spend some more time with our favorite characters, Kaladin, Shallan, and Dalinar.

Arielle is here to join me this time in co-authoring this review – you’ll see her thoughts in blue. 

YAY! It’s me! Hopefully I don’t spell anything wrong because I listen to the audio version.

Okay, let’s get to the meat of things. Spoilers start now.

Dalinar’s Story

Yours is the power Ishar once held. Before he was Herald of Luck, they called him Binder of Gods. He was the founder of the Oathpact. No radiant is capable of more than you. Yours is the power of Connection, of joining men and worlds, minds and souls. Your surges are the greatest of all, though they will be impotent if you seek to wield them for mere battle.

The Way of Kings was Kaladin’s story; The Words of Radiance, Shallan’s. I thought, between her surprise re-appearance at the end of book 2 and her appearance on the cover of this book, that Oathbringer would be Jasnah’s story. Nope. Dalinar’s. Surprise!

In Oathbringer, we got to learn all about Dalinar’s past as The Blackthorn. Up until now, I had just assumed he was some sort of badass in combat, perhaps a brilliant tactician, and that’s how he earned his name. Sure, some people mentioned he was brutal, but let’s be real – war is brutal. That kind of comes with the territory.

“I want them to suffer for this. Men, women, children. They must know the punishment for broken oaths. Immediately.”

“I promised Tanalan that his widows would weep for what I did here, but that is too merciful for what they’ve done to me. I intend to so thoroughly ruin this place that for ten generations, nobody will dare build here for fear of the spirits who will haunt it. We will make a pyre of this city, and there shall be no weeping for its passing, for none will remain to weep.”

O.o Oh, okay. Well then.

Arielle insert time – THANK GOD Edmund takes notes. I’d just like to point out in the above quote from the book that “none will remain to weep” is such an understatement. Sure, no one is alive to weep, but all the crying comes back to literally HAUNT Dalinar in his mind.

Slight tangent – I’m actually going to post an unpopular opinion here and say that I’m 100% okay with what Dalinar did there, razing the rift. This entire debacle was because he refused to murder a small child earlier. Or did we forget that an act of mercy in sparing a small child is what got us here in the first place?

Only one other person was in the small chamber: a young boy. Six, perhaps seven. Tears streaked the child’s face, and he struggled to lift his father’s Shardblade in two hands.

Dalinar loomed in the doorway.

“You can’t have my daddy,” the boy said, words distorted by his sorrow. Painspren crawled around the floor. “You can’t. You…you…” His voice fell to a whisper. “Daddy said … we fight monsters. And with faith, we will win…”

Last time he granted mercy and clemency, the child grew up to cause a rebellion. And more than that, he used underhanded tactics to try to A) get Dalinar to turn on his allies and B) murder Dalinar in a trap. I’d be pissed too. I’d *also* want to burn the city to the ground.

So, if we’re to learn our lessons from history, we should raze the city, lest its inhabitants grow up just to try and take vengeance on all of us later. If he’d just killed that little boy, none of the other citizens of the Rift would have had to die decades later. To take an example from another series, didn’t Tywin Lannister do something similar in Game of Thrones with the Castameres? And everyone thinks that he’s smart and prudent.

Okay, tangent over.

So apparently Dalinar wasn’t just The Blackthorn because he was really good at killing people, but because he had earned a reputation for being unnecessarily cruel and harsh in doing so, murdering scores of civilians along the way. This was a really harsh contrast to the Dalinar we saw in the previous books, especially the Dalinar that we saw in Book 1.

“What is a man’s life worth?”-Dalinar

“A life is priceless” – Kaladin

“Coincidentally, that is the exact value of a Shardblade. So today, you and your men sacrificed to buy me 2600 priceless lives. And all I had to repay you with was a single priceless sword. I call that a bargain.” -Dalinar

“You really think it was a good trade, don’t you?” Kaladin said, amazed.

Remember that exchange from Book 1? Dalinar was supposed to be the pinnacle of honor! Of all that was good in the world! Welp.

I really liked how Brandon Sanderson had us realize the same way that Dalinar did, in slow, small snippets. As we’re feeling betrayed and lied to about his character, Dalinar has to come to grips with the fact that he isn’t the person he thought he was. That it was all built on a foundation of…not lies perhaps, but omission.

Dalinar’s arc in this story is one of redemption, of him feeling guilty for having killed all the people in the Rift and accidentally killing his wife in doing so (oops). We see him try and hide from his grief, first by drinking, and eventually by going to the Nightcrawler/Cultivation.

“I will give you…a pruning. A careful excision to let you grow. The cost will be high.

In doing this, I provide for him a weapon. Dangerous, very dangerous. Yet, all things must be cultivated. What I take from you will grow back eventually. This is part of the cost.

It will do me well to have a part of you, even if you ultimately become his. You were always bound to come to me. I control all things that can be grown, nurtured.

That includes the thorns.” – Cultivation

Woah! In exploring Dalinar’s backstory, we learn

A) Why he went to the nightcrawler (to try and stop feeling all the guilt)

B) What he got (he stopped feeling guilt about killing Evi, but also forgot Evi entirely, which allowed him to grow as a person)

C) That the Nightcrawler and Cultivation are different entities. I had personally been under the impression for most of the book that they were one and the same, instead of having a relationship similar to the Stormfather and Honor. 100% in the same boat here. I definitely thought they were the same person. It was interesting that Cultivation wanted to take care of Dalinar, instead of letting the Nightcrawler handle it.

D) Cultivation KNEW he was going to get his memories back. You’ll see some hypothesizing below but I wonder if bonding a spren is what makes his memories come back. It began at pretty much the same time. 

E) That Cultivation had a plan in doing this. There’s even foreshadowing when she speaks above about “even if you become his”. Also here, she would’ve known that he was to become a Knight Radiant? The Nightcrawler even specifically calls him “Son of Honor? Son of Odium?”

The Thrill boiled within. And Dalinar knew. He knew he’d always been a fraud. He was the same as Amaram. He had an honest reputation, but was a murderer on the inside. A destroyer. A child killer.

“Let go,” Odium whispered.

Dalinar squeezed his eyes shut, trembling, hands tense as he hunched over and clawed the ground. It hurt so badly. To know that he’d failed them. Navani, Adolin, Elhokar, Gavilar. He couldn’t live with this.

He couldn’t live with her tears!

“Give it to me,” Odium pled.

Dalinar ripped his fingernails off, but the pain of hte body couldn’t distract him. It was nothing beside the agony of his soul.

Of knowing what he truly was.

Dalinar’s struggle with his guilt over his actions at the Rift was the central point around which the story revolved around. I loved how Brandon Sanderson made everything tie together at the end with Odium wanting to make him his Champion (plot twist!!) and offering to absolve Dalinar’s guilt as a way of enticing him.

The most important step a man can take. It’s not the first one, is it?

It’s the next one. Always the next step, Dalinar.

“I will take responsibility for what I have done. If I must fall, I will rise each time a better man.”

He closed his eyes, breathing out, listening to a sudden stillness. And within it a simple, quiet voice. A woman’s voice, so familiar to him.

I forgive you.

Side note – You know sometimes how a book reaches out beyond its confines and affects you in real life? When a quote is so poignant that you just stop reading and say “wow”? That was the “always the next step” line for me.

Sometimes it’s not about who you are or what you’ve done in the past, but who you are or what you’re doing *right now* that defines who you are.

I love that Dalinar’s redemption arc concluded with him accepting that he did certain things, that they’d always be with him, but that those things didn’t prevent him from doing the right things *going forward*, namely, you know, not becoming Odium’s Champion. That was nice.

Side note: I think Odium was also training Amaram to be a champion backup.

Kaladin

“Maybe you don’t have to save anyone, Kaladin. Maybe it’s time for someone to save you.

Speaking of twists and turns, how weird was it that Kaladin took a backseat in the story in book 3? Not only did he have much less screentime (pagetime?) than in books 1 and 2, he also wasn’t the savior at the end of the day.

“I…I will…”

He thought of friends lost. Malop. Jaks. Beld and Pedin.

Say it, storm you!

“I…”

Rod and Mart. Bridgemen he’d failed. And before them, slaves he’d tried to save. Goshel. Nalma, caught in a trap like a beast.

The Words. Say the Words!

He *almost* speaks the 4th ideal, but not quite. I’m curious as to what it is. One of the better theories that I read on the internet was that the fourth ideal would be something like “I will forgive myself for those I cannot save.” Oooh. I like this theory.

That would explain why he thinks of all the friends he lost as he’s trying to speak the 4th ideal. He can’t quite get there to forgive himself.

“What about me?” Kaladin asked.

Dalinar pointed at Amaram, who was climbing to his feet in Shardplate. “He is going to try to kill me for what I do next, and I could use a bodyguard. As I recall, you have a score to settle with the highlord.”

Kaladin DOES however *finally get the showdown he and I have been waiting for since book 1 against AMARAM*! Wooooooh.

I’ve been waiting for this for SO LONG. I got blue balls when it didn’t happen in The Words of Radiance and just kind of assumed it would never happen. So Jonah Hill there pretty much embodied my excitement when I got to this portion of the book haha.

“Didn’t you tell me you’d given up that grief?” -Kaladin

“Yes! I’m beyond guilt!” -Amaram

“Then why do you still hurt? Murderer! You’ve switched sides to find peace, Amaram. But you won’t ever have it.” -Kaladin

I found it interesting that Amaram basically confessed that he went through similar trials to what Dalinar was going through regarding guilt (see note about Amaram maybe being a backup champion above). And that he, unlike Dalinar, accepted Odium’s way out in trying to convince himself that he didn’t need to feel guilt, that it was all Odium’s fault that he did those terrible things, not his.

But Kaladin is able to tilt him during the battle by continuing to pick at that scab. It’s not healed. Amaram doesn’t *actually* think that everything is fine and that he shouldn’t feel guilt.

I made you, Kaladin! I gave you that granite will, that warrior’s poise. This, the person you’ve become, was my gift! “I made you! I forged you!” -Amaram

“Today, what I do, I do for the men you killed. I am the man I’ve become because of them. Ten spears go to battle. And nine shatter. Did that war forge the one that remained? No, Amaram. All the war did was identify the spear that would not break.”

And I loved the further exchanges between the two where Amaram tries to convince Kaladin that everything he did to him was a good thing for Kaladin, forging him into what he was.

“I saw it in your eyes, Amaram,” Kaladin whispered as the husk of a man stumbled up to him. “When you killed Coreb and Hab and my other friends. I saw the guilt you felt. You tried to break my as a slave. But you failed. They rescued me.”

Maybe it’s time for someone to save you, Syl had said in Shadesmar. But someone already had.

Amaram raised the Shardblade high.

“Bridge Four,” Kaladin whispered.

It was so satisfying to see Amaram continue to tilt while Kaladin didn’t, and for Bridge Four (and Rock!) to be the ones who ultimately saved Kaladin. Closing circles feels *so good*!

My little note and something that didn’t quite make sense to me this section of the fight:

“You have great form, spearman! Do you remember when you first came to me? Back in that village, when you begged me to take you? You were a blubbering child who wanted so badly to be a soldier. The glory of the battle! I could see the lust in your eyes, boy!” – Amaran to Kaladin

Amaram makes it sound like fighting was all Kaladin wanted to do, but we, as readers, know that isn’t exactly the truth. Kaladin wanted to protect his brother. Sure, of course, he wanted to be a soldier too but I wouldn’t say that’s why he went running off to war. I feel like this is another piece/lie Amaram tells himself so that he feels “okay” about what he did.

Some other notes about Kaladin is I really enjoyed the part where he became friends with the Parshmen. We get to see things a bit from their side, their confusion, the fact they just want a life, and more spoilers from Edmund below. BUT this friendship directly changed the outcome of the Kholinar battle – WHICH WAS OFF THE CHAIN.

ALSO HE FINALLY REUNITES WITH HIS FAM. LIKE OMG. AND – HE HAS A BROTHER.

Adolin (and Maya!)

“You want to fight it, don’t you?” Adolin asked. “It reminds you of when you were alive.”

Something tickled his mind, very faint, like a sigh. A single word: Mayalaran.

Special shoutout to Adolin, who is at this point my favorite side character. And while Kaladin is obviously my favorite character, I identify most with Adolin. We both grew up relatively privileged, and we both apparently talk to our inanimate objects and treat them as though they had thoughts and feelings, which apparently makes us weird haha.

So it was a pretty cool reveal to see Adolin’s spren in Shadesmar, even if she is a deadeyes. It warmed my heart to see her help protect Adolin right after he got stabbed, especially since deadeyed spren are supposed to basically be no brained passive zombies.

“The world is full of gods and Heralds now, and you’re one of them. I’m practically a nobody. I’m not used to that feeling.”

-Adolin, to Shallan

His battle sequence snippets were great, especially since he went through this entire book without his shardplate, which he’s used to fighting with. His coming to grips with the fact that he’s no longer a member of the most important group of people since he’s not a Radiant is interesting character development. If he’s a central focus of Book 4, I bet that will be his character arc.

I wonder if there’s a way that he can bring her back to life? After all, Syl said in the last book that spren are never truly dead in the way that people are. I was hoping for this too, especially since she is showing “signs of life.” I’d love for that to happen.

Plus, he was able to summon her with only 7 heartbeats once. And he felt sadness from his Blade when he had to lend her to the Theylen shardbearer.

I need more Adolin + Maya in my life like I needed Kaladin + Syl.

So… part of me wants Adolin to be a Radiant, but:

“They say you have to be broke,” Lopen said…

I don’t think he’ll get there. As Edmund mentioned, he’s a little too privileged. I would like to give a shout out to Adolin for confronting Shallan on her “feelings” towards Kaladin. I know that must’ve taken a lot of guts, but I shouldn’t have been too surprised, Adolin is honestly a pretty brave dude. ALSO he’s brave enough to tell his dad he killed Sadeas and it was just like “Oh… okay. Well I guess we will figure it out.”

Lastly, about Adolin is that I LOVE how much Sanderson brought out Adolin’s fashion sense. One, it was hilarious. And two, I think it helps with how in modern day, fashion isn’t really assumed to be a guy’s thing. I liked how unabashedly interested he was in it.

Nale and Szeth!!!

Really? Didn’t you tell me you spent a thousand years following the instructions of a rock?

“More than seven years, sword-nimi. And I didn’t follow the rock, but the words of the one who held it. I…”

…had no choice?

But it had always been nothing more than a rock.

Speaking of side characters, Szeth is back! And…I guess I was wrong in wanting Kaladin to have murdered him in Book 2. Like I *really* wanted that…

The disagreements between the Skybreakers and the Windrunners have grown to tragic levels. I plead with any who hear this to recognize you are not so different as you think. – drawer 27-19

All of his entire interactions with Nale were very interesting. For one, I don’t really get the difference between skybreakers and windrunners. They seem to have almost identical lashing and binding abilities.

The only differences seem to be in their ideals. Compare “I will protect those who cannot protect themselves” (Windrunners) to “I will put the law before all else” (Skybreakers). Whereas skybreakers (and highspren) only seem to care about the law, windrunners (and honorspren) only seem to care about “doing what is right”, which is a much more nebulous concept.

Syl actually touched on this concept in Book 2, specifically stating with derision that she was NOT a highspren.

“You must choose, Szeth-son-Neturo. The skybreakers will swear to the Dawnsingers and their law. And you? Will you join us?”

-Nale

And we see the importance of such a nebulous distinction at the final battle. A HERALD says he’s going to join Odium’s side, WHAAAAT? I suppose Brandon’s entire point regarding the two different orders is that what is lawful is not always what is right.

Nale went around murdering surgebinders for who-knows-how-long, under the pretense of law, making the entire world less prepared for this Desolation. And he’s now done the mental gymnastics to say that yes, he’s still following the law by switching sides. Because he gets to pick which laws are “right.”

Honestly, I fail to see how that’s functionally different than just nebulously following what is “right.” It’ll be interesting if in book 4, there are windrunners vs skybreaker fights, not only physical ones, but mental arguments between them as well regarding what is “right.”

“I serve Dalinar Kolin. I cannot know truth, so I follow one who does.”

Szeth’s decision to follow Dalinar is interesting in two ways.

(1) Nale basically says that he’s going to tell all the other skybreakers to join the parshmen, even stating that “it will be hard” for some of them. But Szeth gets a choice? Why? This is interesting. I’m not sure if Nale specifically meant he’d force them into it, but that he thinks they will follow his will, even if they don’t necessarily want to. But Szeth, during his trials, etc, has shown to think a bit outside the box.

(2) I honestly felt like there wasn’t a ton of buildup to make Szeth’s character innately trust Dalinar, especially not to the point where he would trust Dalinar more than Nale. Super agree. Szeth spends most of Book 2 trying to kill Dalinar, and is spurned only by Kaladin. Is Szeth’s basis for following Dalinar entirely based on the fact that Kaladin is then? And will this change if Kaladin’s feelings change once he learns about Dalinar’s past?

It will be really interesting to see 1. how Kaladin’s feelings do change about Dalinar, for sure, BUT also, how he feels about the assassin in white just nilly-willy joining up with Dalinar. I am going to assume that he’s going to be pretty untrustworthy towards Szeth for a good while.

I’d like to talk about the sword here too. Like WHAT IS UP WITH IT?! 

Wow! I’m impressed. You know, Vivenna never drew me even once? She carried me for a long time too. Maybe a couple of days even?

“And how long have I been carrying you?”

At least an hour; the sword said satisfied. One, or two, or ten thousand. Something like that.

That sword’s mind is definitely in a weird place, and I honestly wonder why that is. Are the other swords like this? 

Kathleen was right! That *IS* Nightblood!

(spoilers – if you haven’t read Warbreaker, just skip to the next section, sorry Arielle – and lol at your question about the sword since you can’t read the next section yet)

You should draw me, the sword said.

“And do what, sword-nimi?” Szeth whispered.

Fight him. I think he might be evil.

When are we actually going to fight someone? You sure do like to talk. Even more than Vasher, and he could go on and on and on…

I read Warbreaker after The Words of Radiance on Kathleen’s recommendation. She thought the sword that Szeth got at the end of Book 2 sounded a lot like the sword in the beginning of Warbreaker – same snarky tone, same snarky personality, same proclivity to DESTROY EVIL!

Well, SHE WAS RIGHT!

One of the things that was touched on in Warbreaker was that while Nightblood is basically a sentient sword, made with the purpose to “destroy evil”, he wasn’t made with the capacity to truly discern *what* evil is. And so passages like the one above where he just kind of guesses at what is evil and what needs to be destroyed are both funny and poignant.

Does he think Nale is evil because he sees that Nale is going to switch sides to the Parshmen? Or does he think he’s evil just because?

“You almost ate him,” Lift said. “You almost starvin’ ate me!”

Oh, I wouldn’t do that, the voice said. She seemed completely baffled, voice growing slow, like she was drowsy. But … maybe I was just really, really hungry…

And his interactions with Lift were very interesting too, if for no other reason that Lift hears Nightblood as a *girl* while in all of Warbreaker, he’s referred to by Vasher as a boy, and even Szeth refers to him as a boy. I think I remember a passage about how Nightblood doesn’t really understand gender, and so he/she’ll appear to different people as different genders as a result.

“I have known royals. Including one woman who left it behind. Throne, family, responsibilities…

I can’t help feeling that this is merely one in a long string of duties abdicated, of burdens set down, perhaps to disastrous results. But of all the things I’ve walked away from, the one I don’t regret is allowing some else to rule. Sometimes, the best way to do your duty is to let someone else – someone more capable – try carrying it.”

-Azure

Bonus, we got Nightblood, AND WE GOT VIVENNA! It took me until after I finished the book to put two and two together, but Azure *has* to be Vivenna!  She talks about needing to be royalty, but then abandoning it, like she did to her home kingdom in Warbreaker. And Vasher *was* kind of a bounty hunter.

So many questions though then –

(1) Where is Vasher?

(2) How do colors / breaths interact with this world? Nightblood feeds on stormlight first, and THEN colors. But obviously colors are still a thing.

(3) Everyone in Roshar should still have all their breaths. How do breaths interact with shards or spren?

The Fall of Alekthar

More twists and turns. Who saw Alekthar falling? I definitely did NOT. I assumed the entire book was building up to a giant battle at Alekthar for the final Act, Dalinar and Alethi troops rolling in to stem the tide to rescue a beleaguered Kaladin, Adolin, Elhokar, and Shallan . Welp, I was wrong.

Kaladin saw them. All of them. Sah and the parshmen, fighting to keep their freedom. The guardsmen who had been rescued, fighting for their king. Azure’s Wall Guard, terrified as their city fell around them. The Queen’s Guard, convinced they were loyally following orders.

In that moment, Kaladin lost something precious. He’d always been able to trick himself into seeing a battle as us against them. Protect those you love. Kill everyone else. But…but they didn’t deserve death.

None of them did.

Kaladin screamed, tears streaming form his eyes. He begged them to just stop, to listen.

They couldn’t hear him. Sah – gentle Sah, who had only wanted to protect his daughter – died by Noro’s sword. Noro, in turn, got his head split by Khen’s axe.

Noro and Sah fell beside Beard, whose dead eyes started sightlessly – his arm stretched out, glyphward soaking up his blood.

We spent so much time with Kaladin as he befriended the parshmen on his reconnaissance before; just as much time with Kaladin as he made friends on the Wall Guard. I thought for sure the ending to this battle would be Kaladin at the *very least* convince everyone to stop killing each other. That it would be this grand scene where everyone lays down their weapons because they know Kaladin, and they all work together to defeat the queen and save the city.

But nooooope. Everyone died. And it broke Kaladin. And a little bit of me as well.

Kaladin could almost hear Elhokar stuttering the words.

Life … life before death …

The hair on Kaladin’s neck rose. Elhokar started to glow softly.

Strength … before weakness …

“Do it, Elhokar,” Kaladin whispered.

Journey. Journey before …

A figure emerged from the battle. A tall, lean man – so, so familiar. Gloom seemed to cling to Moash, who wore a brown uniform like the parshmen. For a heartbeat the battle pivoted on him. Wall guard behind him, broken Palace Guard before.

“Moash, no…” Kaladin whispered. He couldn’t move. Stormlight bled from him, leaving him empty, exhausted.

Lowering his spear, Moash ran Elkohar through the chest.

And when I say everybody, that doesn’t mean “no name characters that no one really knew anyway,” that includes freaking ELHOKAR. And of storming course it’s Moash that does it.

So sad that he was *so close* to becoming a Radiant, to coming one step closer to becoming the hero and leader he wanted to be.

All of this is so same. I’m honestly surprised Elhokar was killed. I’m still trying to figure out what is going to become of Moash though.

Teft

“Can you see it, Teft?” the Spren whispered. “Can you feel the Words?”

“I’m broken.”

“Who isn’t? Life breaks us, Teft. Then we fill the cracks with something stronger.”

Storm you! Be a man for once in your life!

“I will protect those I hate. Even … even if the one I hate most … is … myself.”

I’ll be honest. I didn’t enjoy most of Teft’s chapters for almost the entire book. Same. I thought he was a whiny little bitch that kept abdicating his responsibilities. But I guess that was just one giant elaborate setup for his own personal little redemption arc at the end.

Hilarious it is to see his spren basically be as gruff as he is. She basically calls him a pussy and literally tells him to man up.

Light exploded from the Oathgate platform in a wave. The Fused cried out in a strange tongue, zipping into the air. A luminous wall expanded from the Oathgate platform in a ring, trailing a glowing afterimage.

It failed to reveal an entire division of Alethi troops in Kholin blue standing upon the Oathgate platform.

Then, like a Herald from Lore, a man rose into the air above them. Glowing with Stormlight, the bearded man carried a long silver Shardspear with a strange crossguard shape behind the tip.

Teft. Knight Radiant.

And as a result, Teft gets major screentime in one of the best scenes of the book! The entire end is of course breathtakingly amazing, but for him to figuratively ride in as the cavalry with the description above was…jawdropping.

Shallan/Veil/Radiant

“We’re still ignoring too much,” Shallan said. “We’re getting too good at pretending.” She had decided to stay with Jasnah in the first place to learn. But when the woman returned from the dead, Shallan had – instead of accepting training – immediately fled. What had she been thinking?

Nothing. She’d been trying to hide away from things she didn’t want to face. Like always.

Shallan’s character took a *very* interesting turn in this book, where she deals with split personalities and has a crisis of confidence in herself.

Much like Dalinar, she has to come to grips with some stuff from her past; whereas Dalinar hid himself in drinking and went to the Nightcrawler to assuage his guilt, Shallan tried to just run away from it all together and never face it, making up new personalities to deal with problems as she went.

We saw Veil again, but instead of being a character she puts on to accomplish things sometimes, we saw Shallan start to imagine herself with Veil as her main personality and Shallan as a personality she wanted to hide from the world…which was…weird.

Moreover, we saw Veil undergo her own plot lines and suffer major setbacks herself. Which ordinarily wouldn’t have been a problem since she’s a made up person, but…

“Since the first day, you storming woman. Hate…hate you…Others too. We all…hate you…”

The whole city was depending on her, but she hadn’t even been able to save a little beggar boy. As she curled up on the floor, Grund’s death seemed a shadow of everything else, of her good intentions turned arrogant.

Everywhere she trod, death haunted her. Every face she wore was a lie to pretend she could stop it.

Couldn’t she be somebody who didn’t hurt, just once?

Tragedy! How horrible would it be to genuinely figure out that while you were trying to do something good for people, you were actually ruining their lives? And that they *hated* you for it!

I give money to the homeless folks on the street; I donate to charities. I would feel crushed if I figured out that I had basically gone out of my way to accidentally hurt people.

“You tried to help the people of the market. You mostly failed. This is life. The longer you live, the more you fail. Failure is the mark of a life well lived. In turn, the only way to live without failure is to be of no use to anyone.”

-Wit

And the same things happens to Veil. She doesn’t “come out” as often anymore after that soul crushing realization. Wit literally has to rescue Shallan/Veil and help her back to her feet. And even then, she really doesn’t do much in the climax of the book.

Shallan’s struggle with who she was (Veil? Radiant? Shallan?) was honestly a little weird for me. I thought her battle with self doubt was basically over in Book 2, and it was curious to see it bleed over as her central theme in Book 3. I wonder how much of Shallan’s story in Book 4 will center around it. I hope in book 4 that Shallan figures out who she is and comes to terms with it. 

Adolin searched her eyes. She bled from one, to the other, and back. A moment of Veil. A moment of Radiant. Shallan peeking through –

Adolin’s hand tightened around her own

Shallan’s breath caught. There, she thought. That’s the one. That’s the one I am.

He knows.

Speaking of things spilling over from Book 2 to Book 3, remember that whole sexual tension between her and Kaladin and her and Adolin? It’s resolved!

And in a pretty cute way at that. Adolin noticing that Veil and Radiant have a thing for Kaladin and offering to step aside, only for Shallan to confidently proclaim that she wanted to be with him and he with her. Their exchange was heartwarming.

Some other things about Shallan is her involvement with the Ghostbloods. I guess we are going to see how that plays out in Book 4 but I’m wondering if her brother’s are going to be held against her in someway now that they are around. Honestly, I thought she (and Brandon) had forgotten about her brothers altogether. I even messaged Edmund when i had about 40 minutes left thinking they weren’t going to be mentioned. But nope, they get a super short scene where they show up just before her wedding, convenient!

Lift

This is not possible, the Stormfather said in Dalinar’s mind. How did she come here?

“You didn’t bring her in?” Dalinar said softly.

No. This is not possible! How…?

This is a creation specifically meant to defy my will!

That child is tainted by the Nightwatcher. This is different. This is unnatural. She goes too far. The Stormfather rumbled his discontent, refuisng to speak to Dalinar further. He seemed genuinely upset.

It was really interesting that she was able to pop in and out of the Stormfather’s and Odium’s visions, and even take people out of them. Both of them seemed so unnerved whenever she did so. In fact, it’s the only time that Odium ever seemed freaked out.

Lift seems to be tied closely to Cultivation, who I assume will play a larger role in the books ahead. With Honor dead, Cultivation is really the only thing that can stop Odium.

Her deal with the Nightwatcher seems very interesting. She asked to stay young forever, but in addition, she seems able to do a lot of things other Knights Radiant can’t. She can metabolize Stormlight directly from food (I think this is an extra bonus about being an edge dancer, but I’m honestly not sure); she can screw up things from Odium and the Stormfather; her spren seemed to survive with more of his memories intact than either Syl or Pattern after transitioning over, and he always talks about “mother” who I can assume is either the Nightwatcher or Cultivation.

I wonder what her curse is? And how her special abilities as a Knight Radiant will factor into everything. I think that somehow her curse/boon will be reversed – like Dalinars. I think that since bonding, that is what has given Dalinar back his boon/curse, so maybe the same thing will happen with Lyft.

The VoidBringers

The biggest twist of this book was set up perfectly. *We* are not necessarily the good guys in this story, defending our land from the voidbringers. We are the original voidbringers!

Syl confirmed that humans originally brought Odium with them when they came from another world. They switched to Honor as a religion *afterwards*.

You could protect your home. You could kill to defend the people inside. But what if you’d stolen that house in the first place? What if the people you killed were only trying to get back what was rightfully theirs?

It got so complicated. Humans had lived upon this land for thousands of years. Could anyone really be expected to let go because of what ancient people had done, no matter how dishonorable their actions?

“The oaths are about perception, Syl. You confirmed that. The only thing that matters is whether or not we are confident that we’re obeying our principles. If we lose that confidence, then dropping the armor and weapons is only a formality.”

“Kal-”

“I’m not going to do the same,” Kaladin said. “I’d like to think that the past of Bridge Four will make us a little more pragmatic than those ancient Radiants. We won’t abandon you. But finding out what we will do might end up being messy.”

This brings about all sorts of interesting philosophical questions that I’m sure will be delved into in further books.

Will it kill people’s will to fight? Or will they not care, because fuck, it’s their lives they’re fighting for, and we’re now thousands of years removed from that. Plus, it’s *Odium* that we’re fighting, and he is the one bringing the void.

A good analogy is “Should Americans today feel less national pride because of what we did to the Native Americans?” and the answer in society has been a resounding NO. What we did to Native Americans has, for most intents and purposes, just become a footnote in history. So I feel like it’ll be something similar here in Roshar.

The Oathpact and the Heralds

Honor let the power blind him to the truth – that while spren and gods cannot break their oaths, men can and will. The ten heralds were sealed upon damnation, trapping the voidbringers there. However, if any one of the ten agreed to bend his oath and let voidbringers past, it opened a flood. They could all return.

That started a desolation.

“They were tortured, weren’t they?”

Horribly, by the spirits they trapped. They could share the pain because of their bond – but eventually, someone always yielded.

Ohhhh! We learn the secret of the oathpact relatively early on in the story, about 1/3 of the way through. NOW that first prologue in The Way of Kings makes sense! I’d always wondered why that battle was described and then basically never really referenced again.

Poor Talenelat. 4,500 years of torture. So that explains why HE’S crazy. Why are the rest of them crazy? And if any of them were like Ash, who felt bad about the whole thing, how come none of them ever decided “Hey, we should prob go back and help out Talenalat?”

Can new Heralds be made? Is that the endgame of all this? Kaladin, Shallan, and Dalinar as new Heralds? Or is that the obvious BAD solution that we’ll shy away from at the conclusion of this series since that really doesn’t solve anything, but only delays another desolation? Plus, it’s the obvious solution, so I’m sure Brandon Sanderson won’t bring us there.

Most of the remaining Heralds all seem crazy. Ash is the only one who seems even remotely sane that we see any screentime for, and she spends all her time trying to deface anything that praises the Heralds. Talenelat’s brain is broken except for small outbursts of clarity; Nalan went crazy and is now actually going to join Odium’s side. Jezrein, king of the Heralds, was acting like a crazy hobo dude and just got perma-murdered by Moash? And there’s one Herald who apparently has his own army? Can’t remember his name right now, but I imagine he’ll end up being some sort of antagonist in future stories.

Arielle’s Final Comments

Here are some things I’d like to say that Edmund didn’t really cover! 😀

Venli: I loved seeing her grow, loved seeing her start to understand and dislike Odium, and I really LOVED Timbre. I loved that she bonded a spren and he speaks her language. It’s adorable. I kind of hope she helps out Dalinar, she did see him as a beacon of light or something really similar to that.

Renarin: HOLY SHIT. He bonded a spren and then it became corrupt! His visions weren’t correct! HE WENT TO FIGHT A GIANT ROCK MONSTER! What a freaking badass. I have high hopes for Renarin in the future.

Taravangian: This guy will stop at fucking nothing. I know that when he met with Odium that The Diagram had a lot of applicable parts.  I WISH he had just followed Dalinar and tried to help him once he realized that people would actually follow him. I thought there was a bond there and then he effing goes running off to Odium. Little bitch. 

The Unmade: It’s really exciting to see the sides of the unmade. Some of them are “nice and some of them are definitely not. I’m wondering if the one Shallan scared away will be back, but it was awesome of the one in the castle to warn Shallan. I like the little insert from Hessi’s Mythical too.

Shadesmar: I really like that we got to learn more about Shademar and how it works. We’ve always known about the beads but it was definitely interesting learning about the spren, the perpendicularity, how Oath Gates USED TO BE ABLE TO GO BETWEEN REALMS LIKE WHAT.

Book 4: I really hope they figure out how to “run” the tower. I hope our Radiant’s learn to summon their shardplate. I wonder if Kaladin’s family is going to play a bigger part in the book as well.

Last side note: Apparently I need to read another book to put the Azure thing together. 😛

Random Nitpicks

All this to say that a LOT of stuff happened in Book 4. And I really enjoyed it. Sucks that I have to undergo a multi-year wait now for the next book. But I guess not everyone can be like James S.A. Corey and pump out a new novel every year. I got spoiled since it was only a few months between Books 2 and 3 for me personally.

Honestly, I wouldn’t mind if these were released in smaller novels more regularly. Like you could publish each part every year? I wonder why Brandon Sanderson doesn’t do that…

That all being said, one thing I did notice was that I had a lot less of Kaladin + Syl in my life in this book, and chatter from the internet seems to think that this will be a trend going forward. If so, that’s disappointing, as Kaladin is the main reason I read and love this series. Doh.

Conclusion

I’m pretty happy with this book overall, and am sad that I probably won’t get to read the next until until 2022. I’ll definitely have to come back and reference this review, maybe even read this entire book again in order to get ready.

I hear that we’ll have a significant time jump between books 3 and 4, which is…honestly, a little disappointing for me. Time jumps always kind of mess up my flow quite a bit. I just finished reading The Expanse Book 7, Persepolis Rising, and the time jump really messed up my immersion since literal DECADES had occurred between books. But I guess we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

I loved that we got to see Kaladin’s showdown with Amaram, loved seeing Dalinar’s character development through flashbacks, and the two twists (Alekthar NOT saved, *We* are the voidbringers) were really well done. Never saw them coming.

I hope that we’ll see more of Kaladin and Syl in future books, but am a little afraid that won’t happen. While I enjoy Lift’s chapters, and Pattern + Shallan’s chapters, nothing really comes close to the banter between Kal and Syl. But again, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

I’m really happy that Kathleen introduced me to this world, and will probably read some of the other books in Sanderson’s cosmere. I LOVED the crossover from Warbreaker and it felt so cool when I figured out that Azure was probably Vivenna, and that Nightblood MOST DEFINITELY was the same sword!

Sanderson has a real gift for world building and tying everything together. I’m sincerely impressed. Kudos to you, Brandon. See you in your next book.

 

Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House – TwoMorePages Book Review

Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House – TwoMorePages Book Review

You know how best to get everyone to read a book? Freak out and tell everyone not to read it, call it a bunch of lies without even knowing what’s in it, like Trump’s administration did lol. I hadn’t planned on reading this book at all, and yet here we are!

Honestly, I thought my friend Elijah would be right when he said that I probably wouldn’t learn anything by reading the book. It would just reinforce some of the things I already thought, and so it probably wouldn’t be a good use of my time. So surprise surprise, when I *did* actually learn things in Fire and Fury!

It never really occurred to me that Trump’s advisors would not only NOT be one unified front, but would actively be undermining each other. I thought they were just incompetent and that’s why they couldn’t get on the same page.

Nor did it occur to me that Steve Bannon, of all people, would sometimes be the voice of reason among the senior advisors. For instance, he was the loudest voice against firing James Comey! WUT?! I’m sure this is due in part because he ended up being such a primary source for the book, but he’s painted as this racist political mastermind.

So here we go. Let’s talk about some of my favorite passages from this book. And Rachel’s too (in blue!)

The Administration’s Beginning

“Don’t let him piss off the press, don’t let him piss off the Republican Party, don’t threaten congressmen because they will fuck you if you do, and most of all, don’t let him piss off the intel community,” said one national Republican figure to Kushner. “If you fuck with the intel community, they will figure out a way to get back at you and you’ll have two or three years of a Russian investigation, and every day something else will leak out.”

Lol, if this was really told to Kushner and Trump’s advisors right in the beginning, that was extremely prescient. The only thing they got wrong so far was predicting legislative pushback from Republicans, since they seem to be actively aiding in obstructing Mueller’s investigation so far (*cough Nunes*).

Hi guys – Rachel here! Writing this a few months out, (and quite a few Mueller team revelations and subpoenas later), it’s remarkable to watch how little the modern Republican leadership (and I’m not taking shots at all of them or all Republicans so hold your horses people) seems to care that Trump is actively going after the Mueller investigation. Basically the strongest quote is Lindsey Graham saying firing Mueller will be “the beginning of the end of his presidency,” but since I’m pretty sure we’ve already past that point, its not much of a threat. And wow, let’s just say Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell have severely given up the mantel of any ethical leadership. I pretty don’t much want to hear them say the words moral, right, or good, ever again 

The Breitbart formula was to so appall the liberals that the base was doubly satisfied, generating clicks in a ricochet of disgust and delight. You defined yourself by your enemy’s reaction. Conflict was the media bait – hence, now, the political chum. The new politics was not the art of the compromise but the art of conflict.

On Friday, January 27th, the travel ban was signed and took immediate effect. The result was an emotional outpouring of horror and indignation from liberal media, terror in immigrant communities, tumultuous protests at major airports, confusion throughout the government, and, in the White House, an inundation of lectures, warnings, and opprobrium from friends and family. What have you done? Do you know what your’e doing? You have to undo this! You’re finished before you even start! Who’s in chart there?

But Steve Bannon was satisfied. He could not have hoped to draw a more vivid line between the two Americas – Trump’s and liberals’ – and between his White House and the White House inhabited by those not yet ready to burn the place down.

Why did we do this on a Friday when it would hit the airports hardest and bring out the most protesters? almost the entire White House staff demanded to know.

“Err…that’s why,” said Bannon. “So the snowflakes would show up at the airports and riot.” That was the way to crush the liberals: make them crazy and drag them to the left.

Never really thought about it in that respect. With the benefit of hindsight, I can see now that okay, this was Bannon trying to set a tone for the administration, one that purportedly never thought it was going to win, and so never planned for what to do if it did.

The way Bannon is described in the beginning of the administration is true to what we know about him – he is brash, and he is a man of action. It makes perfect sense that he would advise Trump to just start making executive orders, and then let the fallout happen. Even more than that, it makes perfect sense that he would do something that would provoke the maximum response and push people away from what would have been the middle.

If I’m being introspective for a second, I’m as guilty as anyone of being pushed left from his actions, and then condemning people that were pushed to the right. There are some friendships of mine that will never recover.

Bannon and Trump’s actions reshaped the national dialogue. The administration of most Presidents, after winning, tries to unite the country again, bringing people back to the middle so that compromise can be reached. So that we can move on and move forward as a country. Bannon and Trump did the opposite, and that’s part of why you still see stupid shit about Clinton when the election was FOURTEEN MONTHS AGO.

But it’s interesting to see that this was planned. That we were all part of Bannon’s game. Which if I take a step back, is honestly…pretty impressive. Especially when the rest of the book paints everyone else as basically incompetent idiots running around just trying to make the best of their situations. Steve Bannon – racist political genius.

 This is probably something I’m going to end up saying a lot here, but Steve Bannon – at least Michael Wolff’s Steve Bannon – is scarily prescient. This man, from what it appears, was smart enough to know enough about a deep, dark, scary vein running through America. Do I severely dislike the man? Hell yes. Do I think maybe the way he is portrayed in this book is at least in part a product of his own making? Again, 100%. Do I think he is extremely, virulently racist and discriminatory? Oh yeah, for sure and for certain. But, I also think he knew pretty much exactly what he was doing and what he needed to push and prod to make his scary-ass dreams come true.  

The Stupid Wiretapping Allegations

“At the Obama White House, Mr. Trump’s statements toked fears among some that intelligence could be covered up or destroyed – or its sources exposed – once power changed hands. What followed was a push to preserve the intelligence that underscored the deep anxiety from which the White House and American intelligence agencies had come to view the threat from Moscow.”

-The New York Times

Here was more confirmation of a central Trump thesis: The previous administration, its own candidate defeated, was not just disregarding the democratic custom of smoothing the way for the winner of the election; rather, in the Trump White House view, Obama’s people had plotted with the intelligence community to put land mines in the new administration’s way.

So here is one example of something I genuinely learned from this book. Perspective, however screwed up, from the other side.

I remember being absolutely livid when Trump’s allegations against President Obama came out. I got a fight with my buddy Scott, from which our relationship has never truly recovered. I almost doxxed him, I was so mad, in order to prove a point as to how dangerous those allegations truly were.

It’s interesting to see how Trump and his administration saw it. From Trump’s POV, where he’s always a victim, the fact that intelligence agencies were scrambling to protect themselves wasn’t a symptom of a larger problem – namely, that they didn’t trust the President.

No, instead, it was a symptom of some larger conspiracy, where Obama’s administration set “land mines” in Trump’s way to prevent him from having a good relationship with the intelligence agencies. Absolute lunacy from a 3rd party perspective, but at least now, you can get a glimpse into the craziness.

“Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped” in Trump Tower jsut before the victory.”

And once you understand that level of paranoia and craziness from Trump, you can see how it was so easy for Trump to jump to his stupid tweets accusing Obama of heinous acts that he didn’t do.

So…learning…yay…?

Yeah, okay so here’s something  I still have problems understanding. So I get that Trump is terribly paranoid. Sure, I think we’ve all grasped that by this point. But, in reading this book, it struck me once again just how odd it is that the rest of the Trump team – like all of them, generals, commanders, RINOs, CEOs, the Kushner family, etc. – are going along with the paranoid shtick. I know they get to be in some of the powerful position in the world by following along with Trump’s paranoiac behavior, but you know…they still technically won the election. Meaning, they could hold onto power and not bow to conspiracy theories every three days. Just a thought! *cough* Javanka and Kelly *cough* 

Steve Bannon’s Best Quotes

Despite the fact that I think he’s an absolutely awful human being, Steve Bannon has the most entertaining and memorable quotes in this entire book.

“The three senior guys in the campaign thought it was a good idea to meet with a foreign government inside Trump Tower in the conference room on the 25th floor – with no lawyers. Even if you thought that this was not treasonous, or unpatriotic, or bad shit, and I happen to think it’s all of that, you should have called the FBI immediately.”

-Steve Bannon

“He (the President) said to me everybody would take that Don Junior meeting with the Russians. I said, ‘Everybody would not take that meeting.’

‘I’m a naval officer. I’m not going to take a meeting with Russian nationals, and do it in headquarters, are you fucking insane?’ ”

-Steve Bannon

It boggles my mind that Bannon and I have things we 100% agree on. Bannon’s condescension and disbelief at the stupidity of that meeting in Trump Tower mirrors mine. He just makes it so entertaining to read lol.

“I’m pretty good at coming up with solutions, I came up with a solution for his broke-dick campaign in about a day, but I don’t see this. (Russia thing). I don’t see a plan for getting through. Now, I gave him a plan…but he’s the President…and you can’t stop him. The guy is going to call his own plays. He’s Trump…”

-Steve Bannon

“If he fires Mueller, it just brings the impeachment quicker. He wants an unrecused attorney general. I told him if Jeff Sessions goes, Rod Rosenstein goes, and then Rachel Brand goes. We’ll be digging down into Obama career guys. An Obama guy will be acting attorney general.

I said you’re not going to get Rudy (Guliani) because he was on the campaign and will have to recuse himself, and Chris Christie too, so those are masturbatory fantasies, get those out of your brain.”

-also Steve Bannon haha

That last one is I think my absolute favorite. “Those are masturbatory fantasies, get those out of your brain” bahahaha

The way that Bannon describes *just how bad* of a decision firing Mueller would be is hilarious entertaining.

Quick snap back to real life, I’m obvious on Team Mueller, and hope he finds enough to not only get Trump out of this Presidency, but charged with actual crimes. With the increasing speed of front-page worth news articles related to Trump, since this book got released, Mueller got a subpeona to interview Bannon.

What’s weird to me is that Bannon has basically lost everything now. He was kicked out of the White House by Kelly/Jared/Ivanka. Then, because of some of these hilarious quotes in the book, he and Trump no longer publicly get along. And on top of that, the Mercer family, the main family backing Breitbart, cut ties with him and so he got fired from Breitbart, of all places.

So here he is, having lost everything. No income. No relationships. No nothing. He’s literally got *nothing* to lose by talking.

So why isn’t he turning on Trump and Trump’s family? *Especially* because the book goes into so much detail about how much he hated Jared and Ivanka. Considering how vengeful he seems to be, this would seem to be a prime opportunity for some vengeance at getting ousted by them.

Instead, he’s hiding under executive privilege from Trump, and seems to be actively trying to not answer Mueller’s questions. WHY? I’m so confused…

Couple months out from the release of the book and not one whisper from Bannon. Which, agreeing with Edmund, is super super super odd. It’s kinda like the saying about toddlers and puppies, although this time applied to a much more sinister case scenario — The scariest sound of all is silence. 

Favorite Quotes from Other People

It’s worse than you can imagine. An idiot surrounded by clowns. Trump won’t read anything – not one-page memos, not the brief policy papers; nothing. He gets up halfway through meetings with world leaders because he is bored. And his staff is no better. Kushner is an entitled baby who knows nothing. Bannon is an arrogant prick who thinks he’s smarter than he is. Trump is less a person than a collection of terrible traits.

I hate the work, but feel I need to stay because I’m the only person there with a clue what he’s doing. The reason so few jobs have been filled is that they only accept people who pass ridiculous purity tests, even for midlevel policy-making jobs where the people will never see the light of day. I am in a constant state of shock and horror.

-Gary Cohn

I think this totally unrefuted blurb from Gary Cohn is the most telling thing about the inner workings of the Trump White House. This is someone who was on the inside, who worked for Goldman Sachs. Why wouldn’t I believe him?

“Its impossible to make him understand you can’t stop these investigations. In the old days, you could say leave it alone. Now you say leave it alone and you’re the one who gets investigated. He can’t get this through his head.”

-Roger Ailes

I think it’s funny that even Roger Ailes speaks condescendingly of Trump, especially in relation to the Russian investigation that most die hard Trump supporters think is a “nothing-burger.”

To me, the exposition of the relationship between Murdoch, Ailes, Trump, and Bannon was fascinating. Three of these men have been household names for decades now, and all four will be for a long, long time in the future. But I guess what’s crazy is you never think about the fact that these guys actually know each other – like each other, hate each other, tolerate each other – in real life. But that’s beside the point. The point is this quote by Roger Ailes: 

“Men who demand the most loyalty tend to be the least loyal pricks.” 

Now, who on earth in the White House do we know demands absolute loyalty from anyone he encounters… You’d think by now people would know Trump is one of the least loyal humans ever. I mean come on, the man’s been stabbing people in the back since the 70s. 

Trump: Marshmallow in Chief

“The President fundamentally wants to be liked. He just fundamentally needs to be liked so badly that it’s always…everything is a struggle for him.”

-Katie Walsh

The speech also confirmed Ivanka’s understanding of her father: he just wanted to be loved. And, likewise, it confirmed Bannon’s worst feat: Trump, in his true heart, was a marshmallow.

This is simultaneously the most insightful and most sad revelation from this book. That maybe, at his core, Trump isn’t an awful person. He’s just a someone with the mind of a child who’s surrounded himself with awful people, and so he does awful things with the powers granted him based on their influence.

It makes sense when you zoom out and see which world leaders he gets along with the best. They’re all people and regimes that flatter him – literally almost everything else doesn’t matter. He gets along with Russia, Saudi Arabia, and the Phillippines, autocratic regimes that flatter him.

And the countries that he gets along least with? Our allies who don’t just cowtow to him, but expect him to lead and set a good example. Germany, Australia, France, Great Britain, Canada.

Or when you look at his visceral reaction to the press. Fox News, which is basically a propaganda machine built on fellating Trump, is his favorite. He even likes Infowars and Breitbart, not because of the quality of their journalism, but because they praise him. Meanwhile, actual good news outlets are all “fake news” because they are critical of the MANY things his administration is failing at.

So how do we approach things given this information? Because right now, the only people who deign to be his sycophants are awful people with awful agendas. They are the only ones with his ear.

Does the press start focusing on praise when he does well, to encourage him to do more good things? Like a child? I’ve always heard you teach children/pets tricks by praising them when they do something well, not punishing them when they do something you don’t want to do. Could that work with Trump as well?

And if so, how does that change the national discourse? Does it change it in a positive way? Will he stop attacking the press if so?

To be clear, this argument is not advocating to go full on Fox News apology mode, ignoring anything he does poorly and making excuses for them. It’s just to give him a little positive press when he DOES do something well that’s popular – like when he pulled out of the TPP for instance. And then continue being critical of him where he fails.

Or maybe we can praise him for things like NOT firing Mueller? 😀

Would that work? Would that help dilute the advice of his awful advisers, and somehow mitigate some of the terrible effects of his awful presidency? Food for thought.

I gotta agree – this portion of the book hit me hard too. But, maybe I’m more cynical, I just have a hard time believing that underneath the racism, sexism, power hunger, class-ism, etc. that Trump is just a big Marshmallow. Truly, I think he has a narcissistic personality that has been fed simpering, sycophantic flattery over his entire life, is someone who has never worked an honest job (yes, I know he worked, but come on, it wasn’t really honest), and is very rarely contradicted by his inner circle when he says something blatantly (or dog whistle-y) wrong. Give a man like this nearly unlimited power and attention…well, why did we except him to change upon entering the Oval Office. I’m sure he does feel some level of sympathy about bad situations, but if the man – who, let’s just reiterate, is THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES – needs a card that reminds him to say “I hear you” at a listening session for shooting victims…something’s off there. 

Conclusion

In conclusion, this book was a better read than I thought it would be. I got a little glimpse into Trump’s POV (however wrong) in certain issues, developed a better understanding of the adversarial relationship that Priebus, Bannon, and Jared/Ivanka had in Trump’s White House, and maybe got a little glimpse into the President’s character as well, along with some *very* entertaining quotes from Bannon.

A worthwhile read.

The Only Pirate at the Party – TwoMorePages Book Review

The Only Pirate at the Party – TwoMorePages Book Review

My evolution as a violinist has included many thrilling performances, and I still love what I do, but there are times when even I get burned out. When this happens, I go back to that moment ten years ago. I picture myself on the stage with my bow in the air. I feel my heart racing, I see the faces in the audience smiling, and I remember the moment I thought, I have to make this my life.

So I was overseas, with limited access to internet and…whoops, I read through all the books that I had on my kindle. So…what was I to do, but re-read something I’d already read?

Well, what book to read then? I’d just finished a load of sci-fi with the latest installment of Craig Alanson’s The Expeditionary Force (aka THE ADVENTURES OF SKIPPY haha), fantasy with Brandon Sanderson’s Oathbringer, and well…I was trying to read to relax instead of stress out with righteous indignation, so politics was obviously out of the question (thanks Trump lol).

I looked through my library and…voila! The Only Pirate at the Party, from my first favorite violinist, Lindsey Stirling! I didn’t remember a ton about it, since I’d last read it 2 years ago, but I remembered it being mostly positive and uplifting?

It hit the spot, helping me turn around a vacation that honestly had not gone that well up to that point, and helping me cool off some of my anti-Trump rage. So kudos to you, Lindsey. 🙂

Uplifting Messages/Advice

That’s the best part about being a kid. Nothing seems impossible until someone bigger and older tells you it is. I grew up in a lovely little world where nothing was too far out of reach if I wanted to work for it. I think I still live in that world.

Standing out on purpose is one thing, but doing so by default takes a lot of energy and confidence. I’m proud of the things that set me apart, and I know why they are good; but that doesn’t mean it isn’t difficult.

Lindsey had a lot of great and relatable messages to her readers in this book. The above two are my favorites.

I’m often told that I have a lot of (too much?) energy, especially for my age, and I know for a fact that I stand out. I’m confident now, but I wasn’t always. Stick me in a completely unfamiliar place, and you’ll see me struggle sometimes if I can’t turn “it” on.

Based on her stories, Lindsey seems the same way. She grew up a certain way, found it didn’t *quite* conform, but rolled with her personality and upbringing anyway. It’s nice to see and read affirming messages, and I hope she reached some of her younger fans with them.

Living in the Moment

Once upon a time, I thought I blew the greatest moment of my life. I no longer believe that is possible. Life is kind and full of great moments, but I think the greatest moment of my life is always ahead of me. When I reach it, there will be another, greater moment to come.

I want to spend more time balancing in the present. It’s the only thing that truly exists. If I’m too busy ruminating over the past or pining for the future, some of those great moments will pass by before I get the chance to live in them.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this review, I had been pretty stressed out, both personally and at global affairs for several months leading up to re-reading this book. I’d spend hours ruminating on what-could-have-been if only I’d made a different decision at a certain point in time in December, or stressing out about the LATEST idiotic thing that Donald Trump did, or stressing about learning that someone *else* I knew and looked up to had voted for and continues to support Trump through it all. Oi.

But Lindsey’s message of staying in the moment, of not dwelling on the past or waiting for the future was a kind reminder to pay attention to the present, was a good reminder to enjoy the here and now. It helped that I was in New Zealand, of course, but yeah – I should enjoy this vacation, weather and bad luck be damned.

Lindsey Philosophy

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” What genius came up with that one? A robot? What a load. Let me set the record straight. Throwing stick sand stones is mean (and archaic), but you really want to hurt me, use words. They are much more effective.

Lindsey went into detail about how pretending to not care about how others feel about you may work for some people, but not for her. I think that’s a really good lesson for any of her readers that have or have had self esteem issues.

It’s not weak that you care about what other people think of you. You can try to minimize it, but it’s okay to still care.

“Not long after, I came across some positive comments on the internet, and I was reminded why I do what I do: to bring people joy. Am I the best violinist in teh world? No. Do I need to be the best to bring people joy? No.”

What’s important is how you deal with it. Lindsey’s solution was to care more about what she thought of herself, and to think about why she performed. And bravo to her for that.

“Maybe my best isn’t as good as someone else’s, but for a lot of people, my best is enough. Most important, for me, it’s enough.”

And of course, her real overarching idea in that chapter was acceptance. It’s okay if you’re not the best, as long as you’re accomplishing what you set out to do. For her, it was helping others have fun via entertaining them.

For me, it’s okay if I didn’t make the perfect trade – sure, I maybe could have retired if I had, but I still came out well ahead of most of the decisions I could have made, so I should be happy with what I’ve done, and look to the next trade, instead of beating myself up for not timing the top and making the perfect one.

Selfishly Selfless

Selfishly selfless: Selfless behavior resulting in positive recognition for good deeds, warming the heart and causing feelings of being noble and heroic.

Selflessly selfless: Selfless behavior resulting in negative recognition, or no recognition at all.

I’ll let you in on a little secret: being selflessly selfless was really hard for me.

Her chapters about her Mormon missionary work were very interesting. She went into depth about how hard it was, and about her mindset going into it: that she’d go and save souls and be super recognized for it, and oh how fun that’d be!

If you’ve seen The Book of Mormon, the main character has similar aspirations for credit, and falls on his face, similar to what Lindsey experienced initially as well.

Her main point with her mission stories is that if you go into the mindset that helping you will help you feel better via praise from others, it’ll sometimes be really hard to enjoy being selfless. Which is…an interesting concept.

I’ll admit that part of the reason why I help people when I can is exactly that. I want to be recognized for helping others so that way I feel better about myself. Selfishly, I also think that doing so will end up coming around karmically to help me out if I’m even in a bind, which is…if you think about it, kind of a selfish reason to be selfless.

“Whenever anyone asks him how he found the church, Mike talks about you. Says he met a little short haired angel on the subway.”

Her major success story in her missionary work brought a smile to my face, and is clearly an important moment in her life. I’m glad she shared it.

Lindsey’s Struggles

Reading about Lindsey’s struggles, both professionally and personally, was a lot more than I honestly expected. I had expected more of “Well, things were hard at first, but then I kept working and things kept getting better and then yay!”

When the lights faded, I held it together until I reached the bathroom, where I locked the door, sank to the floor, and sobbed. I was humiliated, but more than anything, I felt utterly betrayed by God. Leading up to my performance, I was confident it was nothing short of divine intervention that had led me there – that God wanted me to do well. Instead of rising to the top as I had prayed for, I took a nosedive, and I couldn’t understand why.

Reading about how she locked herself in a bathroom and cried after what happened to her on America’s Got Talent was heartbreaking. I’ve been there where you think “welp, guess it was fun having hopes and dreams. That’s over. What are my consolation prizes / where do I go from here?”, and it is a *dark* place.

At first, I felt like I had a split personality. Every time I ate something out of my comfort zone, the internal battle would begin in my head. Automatically, the eating disorder side of my brain would say, You can’t even say “no” to a small bowl of ice cream? You are pathetic and weak.

Furthermore, reading about Lindsey’s struggles with anorexia were both frightening and eye opening. If I ever have a daughter (or son) going through something similar, I hope I’ll be able to help them, first with getting them to read her anorexia chapters in this book, and then starting on a support structure from there.

Hopefully the chapters here would help her (or him) to see that she (or he) is not alone, that others have gone through it, and that they have triumphed, Lindsey being one of them.

I’m fortunate enough to not have gone through something like that, but damn, the way she described anorexia was psychologically pretty frightening – the way her relationships with her friends changed, the way her relationship with her family and her mother changed. That’s scary.

Gavi

I can only hope I never have to find another keyboard-playing best friend. Those are some big shoes to fill. I would know, since I once tried to wear Gavi’s shoes into a venue. It was snowing, and I couldn’t find my own. I ended up using one as a toboggan instead.

And Last but not least, I heard it from someone somewhere that Gavi thinks I’m hott. Don’t make me say it again, I’m blushing so hard right now.

-Phelba

I’ll close this review the same way that Lindsey closed her book, with Gavi.

I had heard whispers that Gavi and Lindsey were almost a couple, but never quite. Lindsey wrote this book while he was still sick, but everyone thought he’d recover. He was a healthy guy in his late 20s, early 30s before he got sick – surely nothing to worry about?

But then…

Gavi passed away after the completion of this book, but before it was published. Losing him was the darkest period of my life, but he will always be a light in my memory.

When I think of him, I will always imagine him laughing, because that’s what Gavi was best at – making people laugh and spreading joy.

I love you, Gavi. I love you more than you will ever know.

That’s just…so sad. 😦

Reading this book gave us all insight into Lindsey’s past life via her stories and musings, but it also gave us a window into her life at the time of her writing this book. I’m sorry you and Gavi didn’t get your storybook ending, Lindsey.

Seems like you two truly did have something special, especially after hearing Gavi’s Song, from your Brave Enough album. Gosh, I even believe the online speculation that you named your album Brave Enough because you wished you had been “brave enough” to tell him your feelings. 😥

Persepolis Rising – TwoMorePages Book Review

Persepolis Rising – TwoMorePages Book Review

Unpopular opinion incoming: this book might have been my least favorite in The Expanse series, and I’m a little afraid it’s going to set the tone going forward for the rest of the series.

The Expanse to me has always been about the adventures of the Rocinante and its crew, zipping around in a mostly state of the art MCRN corvette, and dealing with sci fi and space travel in a way that Star Trek, Star Wars, and other major Space franchises didn’t – without a lot of fancy tech.

No inertial dampeners to provide gravity, so ships are built more like skyscrapers to provide thrust gravity. No shields to make space travel less dangerous, so everyone’s ships are actually super fragile. No fancy space lasers, but more conventional weapons like PDCs, torpedoes, and railgun rounds (plus ingenious weapons like just throwing rocks at high speeds at planets).

So to have the Laconians come in and seemingly break all of those rules made this installment of the Expanse radically different for me. Then, combine that with the HUGE time jump of 30-ish years for our crew, and I felt like I was reading an entirely different series.

And maybe that was part of the point of this book. To put us in the mindset of our characters, having everything turn upside down all at once. What do you mean one ship can take out the entire Earth-Mars-Union fleet? What do you mean it can eat a nuke and keep on trucking? What do you mean it has fancy space weapons that can take out entire stations? What do you mean it TOOK OUT TYCHO STATION?

Maybe this book was supposed to be all about transitions. The transition of Rocinante leadership from Holden to Bobbie; the transition of power from the Sol system to Laconia; the transition of technology from mostly human technology to alien protomolecule technology.

If that was the case, then the authors definitely set the uneasy tone of transition very well. I can’t say that I had fun reading this book – everything felt shitty the whole time because everyone we were cheering for instantly got conquered. There was only small tokens of resistance victories, and even those came at a price.

Clarissa

I have killed, but I am not a killer. Because a killer is a monster, and monsters aren’t afraid.

“I’m a monster,” Clarissa said.

No you aren’t, baby. You’re not a monster. You’re not. Which meant Naomi had misunderstood. Clarissa had meant, I’m not afraid. She tried to think what to say that would clarify that, but it was a lot of effort. And what did it matter really if anyone else understood? She knew.

Fuck it, she thought. Some things you take to your grave.

Clarissa Melpomene Mao closed her eyes.

One thing that hit me harder than I thought it would was Clarissa’s death. 😥 We barely even got to know her character once she became one of the Roci’s crew. She had a few chapters in Babylon’s Ashes, but not nearly enough to develop her character on the level of Naomi’s, Holden’s, or Amos’s. I was really looking forward to learning about her more.

Her final chapter was my favorite of the whole book – great action, a win for the good guys, intriguing introspective thoughts, and laconians dying.

Singh

The story of Medina will be that Governor Singh mismanaged the station, lost his ship to a band of malcontents, lost his perspective. And when he let his wounded pride exceed the mandates of the high consul’s directives, he was removed for the protection of the everyday citizens in his care.

And, speaking of characters dying, one person who I was very happy to see go was Singh, main Laconian POV character. I’m not really sure what the point was of his chapters.

He was clearly unqualified to be governor, lashing out in petty ways even against the advice of his senior staff. His actions were that of a coward rather than a leader, constantly second guessing his own decisions and growing increasingly fascist and authoritarian as he feared more and more for his safety. We saw him go from an idealist family man to a person willing to kill everyone on Medina that he didn’t deem “loyal”.

And then we saw him die as a result of that transition, executed by his own security officer who apparently had orders to keep him in check and make sure that he didn’t turn fascist and authoritarian? Well then why did you send this guy anyway?

There are plenty of older, more seasoned and established MCRN staff that came through the gate that could have and *should have* been given this responsibility instead. Why give this green officer this important responsibility?

Final Thoughts

It’s weird reading all the other reviews that are praising this book. I feel like it’s a radical departure from The Expanse that we’ve been reading for the last several years. The time jump for me is jarring, as is the entire shift of balance of power.

This is the first time where I’ve been reading an Expanse novel and hoping that it would just be over soon. Because I was gonna finish it! haha. But I wasn’t really enjoying it.

Maybe this is just because I read book 3 from The Stormlight Archive right before it and it was a hard act to follow? I’m definitely staying invested in the series, so I’ll see y’all at the next book.

Conscience of a Conservative by Jeff Flake – TwoMorePages Book Review

Conscience of a Conservative by Jeff Flake – TwoMorePages Book Review

{Edited Preface: Like The Words of Radiance review, this one has two voices. This time, I read the book along with my good friend Rachel, and she’s shared her thoughts below in blue.

Funnily enough, Jeff Flake had an unexpected announcement while we were coming up with our thoughts. I wrote all of my thoughts *before* his announcement and Rachel wrote all of them *after*, so there will be a slightly interesting dichotomy in timing and verb tenses. Enjoy!}


So I’ve been reading a lot of political books lately given our…unique political climate. Senator Bernie Sanders’s book was cool, if a bit preachy. Senator Al Franken’s book was hilariously entertaining, while also being on point with his messaging.

But in order to prevent myself from living in an echo chamber, I thought it important to read something from a conservative viewpoint. On a recommendation from my buddy, Eric Kuhle, on our Acadia National Park trip, I picked up Jeff Flake’s book, “Conscience of a Conservative.”

It was way better than I thought it would be. And, surprisingly, it read *really* similarly to Al Franken’s “Giant of the Senate book.” The main difference wasn’t one of topics, but of tone. Whereas Franken’s book carried a mostly comedic tone, Flake’s come off in a very serious manner. The only time he really tries to be funny is when he points out the absurdity of some of the situations he has been faced with as a US Senator.

Hi! Rachel here. I picked up this book on a recommendation from Edmund and, I have to admit, I honestly enjoyed it. It was short, witty, to-the-point and a breath of fresh air in an otherwise very smothering political atmosphere. Was it a little preachy? Yeah, of course, it’s a book written by a politician. Was it necessary? Absolutely. 

On Bad Information and the Threat to Democracy

For instance, the third chapter of Flake’s book is titled “On Bad Information and the Threat to Democracy”. Compare that with Franken’s chapter “Lies and the Lying Liars that Tell Them”. You could have dropped one persons’s chapter into the other verbatim and aside from a slight change in tone, I would never have noticed. For instance, compare the following statements from each of their books:

Whatever the source, a steady diet of bad information, conveyed in bad faith, can over time become a serious threat to democracy. Over time, a determined effort to undermine the very idea of truth softens the ground for anti-democratic impulses.

-Jeff Flake

I know I’m sort of farting into the wind on this. But I hope you’ll fart along with me. I’ve always believed that it’s possible to discern true statements from false statements, and that it’s critically important to do so, and that we put our entire democratic experiment in peril when we don’t.

-Al Franken

or these statements from each of their books:

There was once a time in politics, as well as in journalism, when in order to be serious and credible, you had to observe a baseline fidelity to empirical truth. And if you made mistakes – or worse, if you were a bad actor and got things wrong on purpose – you suffered real consequences. Violate the public trust, and you paid a steep price. The higher up the food chain you went, the more serious and credible you were expected to be.

That order seems to have vanished.

-Jeff Flake

All of this to say that I care a lot about people in politics telling the truth. And even considering all the horrible things Trump got away with during the campaign – mocking a disabled reporter, attacking a Gold Star family, referring to Mexican immigrants as “rapists” and “drug dealers,” calling for Muslims to be banned from our country – I still can’t believe he got away with lying so much.

Frankly, it made me wonder whether, sadly, the war was over and the liars had won.

-Al Franken

I’ll give credit where credit is due. Flake is an eloquent writer. While his prose is more fancy than Franken’s, they basically had the exact same message. And remember that they are on pretty staunchly opposite sides of the political aisle.

THE TRUTH MATTERS. AND AGREEING ON WHAT IS PROVABLY TRUE OR FALSE MATTERS.

Look on my facebook wall and you’ll see that I don’t shy away from political debate. But you’ll notice that until someone tries to use “#FakeNews” to discredit something that they disagree with, I try to be relatively cordial, trying to address the specific points that we are disagreeing on vs assuming that they are dumb.

Just because we disagree doesn’t make either one of us stupid. I fully agree with Day[9] when it comes to internet arguments, and try to approach discussions that way.

But try to discredit anything you disagree with as “fake” not because it’s actually fake, but because it disagrees with you? Now I’ll treat you like an idiot child.

If you treat everything that you disagree with as “fake” and then ignore it, how are we supposed to have a reasonable discussion? Your mind can’t be changed, and you can’t support your argument with provable facts. Why are we even talking?

It was very heartening to see Senator Flake, a staunchly Republican Senator, agree that facts are important.

Perhaps most destructive of all, we haven’t ever had an occupant of the White House who so routinely calls true reports that irk him “fake news” while giving his seal of approval to fake reports that happen to support his position.

It is madness to turn ourselves inside out in an attempt to make reality comport with an alternate reality, just because someone in power would like us to.

It was further heartening to see him call out Trump specifically for what infuriates me about him – calling everything that disagrees with him “fake” while automatically praising anything that agrees with him, regardless of its validity.

I’d go further down this rabbit hole, but I already did in my review for Franken’s book, so no need to rehash that here.

Only in anti-democratic propaganda states do we see “alternate facts” successfully compete with the truth for primacy. Only in such states do we see a sustained program of bad information emanate from the highest levels of the government. This, as I will continue to point out in the course of this book, is not a conservative value. And as conservatives, we simply cannot carry on as if it is not happening.

As someone who grew up staunchly conservative and who has become sickened at what now passes as conservative, it’s nice to know that there’s still someone home who has the ability to think critically. And that if Flake thinks this, surely other Republican Senators and House Representatives do as well.

I wholeheartedly agree with Edmund’s analysis above. While always a liberal, I too grew up in a pretty conservative extended family and I have watched the Republican party and its conservative affiliates leap to the right and leave my family behind, bewildered and all of a sudden pretty liberal. (Shout out to all the Southern Baptist conservative Texan families out there who have rejected this administration as well…oh wait, no one else? Ah well.) Senator Flake analyzed the situation fairly aptly: The Republican Party, “following the lead of a candidate who had a special skill for identifying ‘problems,’ if not for solving them…lurched like a tranquilized elephant…” with no solution or moral code in sight.  That’s a pretty damning indictment of someone who will continue to work on behalf of the Republican Party for another year and a half. 

On Fox News

I fully expected to receive the “Do you believe the President is a citizen?” question, and sure enough, when the question came, I said that if we wanted to be taken seriously, we had to stop indulging in ugly conspiracy theories. Those words were met with a choros of boos.

When a conspiracy theory becomes litmus-test orthodoxy, objective reality is at risk.

The truth is the truth, and anything else is a waste of time. Still, to be booed because I didn’t subscribe to a right-wing conspiracist fantasy about our first African American president is a sobering experience indeed.

The impact of the support of the absurd birther theory regularly received on certain shows on Fox News cannot be overstated. In fact, the impact of the conditioning that the minds of American conservatives receive on some of these Fox shows cannot be overstated.

That last paragraph was something I had not expected to read AT ALL in a book written by a conservative senator. That was an amazingly pleasant surprise.

So kudos to Jeff Flake, calling out bullshit where he sees it.

I know that one of the big hullabaloos about him writing this book at all was that he put himself in danger of losing re-election, not from a democratic challenger, but from a primary challenger. And I think that danger is very real, given that he calls out the idiotic ideas that galvanized the extremes of his party’s own base (who are the ones who usually vote in primaries). So again, major props to Jeff Flake.

Way to stick to your principles, Flake. I really hope you’re not punished for it from within your own party, that smart conservatives actually read your book and show up to the Primary voting booths.

So I’m adding to this review a few days late and it looks like my prediction that Flake would drop out has come true. I haven’t quite come to terms yet with how I feel about that. This is a man with whose policies and voting records I vehemently disagree.  This is a man who voted 91% of the time with the Trump Administration’s policies. But as much as I disagree with this, I can’t really blame him – Flake is a staunch conservative who borders on libertarianism, of course he would vote this way. 

However. This is also a man who wrote in his condemnation of the modern Republican party, “We hold out our hand, expecting our share of nonwhite votes, and yet we give these Americans too few reasons to come our way. Instead, we demonized them, marginalized them, blamed them for our country’s problems…” That statement right there? Incredible. A member of the modern Republican party being able to critically diagnose his party’s failings in this regard is almost unprecedented. 

On Globalism and Free Trade

Seemingly overnight, the word globalist became a grave insult among people in my party who also called themselves “conservative.” I remember a right-wing blog post during my election t the Senate that said I had “been seen in the company of globalists in Paris, France.”

Quel scandale! Globalist as opposed to what, exactly? A provincialist? A parochialist? A localist?

In this country, we are less than 5% of the world’s population. We are 20% of the world’s economic output. And if we don’t trade, we don’t grow. Given the alternatives, I’ll take the globalist moniker, thank you.

One of my favorite snippets of the book came in his chapter about Free Trade. It’s one of the few times that he comes off as comedic and, imo, the perfect amount of snarky.

Yes, Flake! This is something that has been driving me up a wall for years. When on earth did we decide that being a “globalist” or internationalist was such a bad thing? Did we learn nothing from World War 1 or World War 2? Let’s just set this straight. No, the U.N. is not out to take over the world and ruin American lives. No, isolationism is not the best way to solve problems. No, understanding other cultures is not going to undermine your own. No, attempting to make peace through treaties and diplomacy is not a symbol of a country’s weakness. And no, globalization and trade and international relations ARE NOT A ZERO SUM GAME. They’re just not. 

As someone who grew up with the notion that free trade makes everyone richer and better off, the whole “protectionism” vibe that we’ve been seeing with the election of Trump, the potential election of Marie LePen in France, and the whole BrExit fiasco has been super puzzling for me. Who votes to cut off their nose to spite their face? Well, a lot of people apparently.

Free trade is a lift-all-boats phenomenon, and that is precisely what free-market economics is all about. It provides for the most efficient use of capital…It is precisely because we have taken advantage of globalization that we have the standard of living that we have.

In America, it’s even weirder, because, to me, the party that is about hands-off government and laissez-faire economics should be the party that is all about open borders and free trade. IT MAKES EVERYONE RICHER, so why wouldn’t the pro-business party be all for it?

His condescension at the idiot members of the Republican party that seem to be for protectionism, those idiot members who use globalist with a negative connotation perfectly encapsulates how I feel about them. DO YOU NOT LIKE MONEY? WHY WOULD YOU BE FOR TRADE WARS?

On Thinking About What You Say

In politics, it is difficult to win an argument with complexity and facts when the other side offers easy answers and free stuff without worrying about the details. This is largely how Donald Trump vanquished the Republican field in 2016.

Candidate Trump was giving – and we, the Republican electorate, bought – the late-night infomercial: “Health Care for Everybody! Much Better, at a Fraction of the Cost! Free Border Wall! Super-Colossal Trade Deals! But Wait! There’s More!!”

This doesn’t need much commentary by me. It is just straight up funny, while being OH-SO-TRUE.

Trump promised his electorate the world, and those of us who questioned how the fuck he was going to do things that seemed mutually exclusive like make health care better while simultaneously making it cheaper while simultaneously covering more people were brushed off. And then of course, when push came to shove, came “Nobody knew health care could be so complicated.” Yeah, “nobody.” /s

Exactly. As a Political Science major a little piece of me dies inside any time a politician or layman tries to say that a policy is bad because it is too long or complicated. There really isn’t ever such a thing in politics as an easy solution. In fact, there is a whole branch of political science devoted to something called Wicked Problems: problems that have incomplete or contradictory information, a plethora of people and interest groups involved, a large economic burden, and interconnections with other problems and policy areas. So yeah, the legislation that is the most detailed, comprehensive, thought-out, and analyzed is probably going to be the best legislation to pass. And yeah, we all knew health care (and literally any other policy arena) was going to be complicated. 

On Checking the Powers of the Executive Branch

I was puzzled when the new president’s senior adviser Stephen Miller – who was also credited with a principal role in the development of the travel ban – appeared on national television and announced that “our opponents, the media, and the whole world will soon see as we begin to take further actions, that the powers of the president to protect our country are very substantial and will not be questioned.” Will not by questioned? Really?

Presidential power should be questioned, continually. That’s what our system of government, defined by the separation of powers, is all about. It shouldn’t matter whether the president belongs to my party or to another one.

Besides, I’m from the West. Questioning power is what we do.

Aside from entertaining Jeff Flake’s mic drop there at the end (Woooh! West USA!), I was very happy to see that Senator Flake understands that the legislative branch is there not to serve at the leisure of the President, but to work alongside him/her, and to provide a check on executive power when it is over-reaching.

Contrast that other Republican lawmakers literally saying that our representatives “work for the President” instead of their own constituents.

Once again, a little piece of me dies every time I hear a politician – on either side of the aisle – say they serve the interests of the President. No you don’t. Please, just read the Constitution once. That’s all I ask. And while Flake has voted incredibly frequently for the President’s agenda, and while I disagree with most of it, I believe that *he* believes he is voting in the best interest of those who elected him, not the President. 

The Senate must be the saucer that cools the coffee, as George Washington is said to have told Thomas Jefferson.

A case in point early in the new presidency was President Trump’s increasing pressure on the Senate to dispense with the filibuster for legislation so that he might be able to get his program through the Senate without concern about achieving consensus.  Such a move would turn the Senate into just another majoritarian body just like the House of Representatives, thus forfeiting its reputation as a deliberative body at all, much less the world’s greatest. At that point, it might be fair to ask: Why have a Senate at all?

That is not how constitutional democracy works. And it’s not how the United States Senate works, either.

How willing would the Republicans be to go along with the President? Would we be willing to change the institution for short-term gain? We all consider ourselves institutionalists, but what will we do when the President starts tweeting, scolding us for obstructing his agenda?

What happens if there is a tax bill which isn’t getting any Democratic support? Will we stand up and say no, we’ve got to be bipartisan, we’ve got to work for it and pick up the necessary votes? Or will we scrap the rules?

I will not support any such effort to harm the Senate. It is a line I cannot cross.

 

I was pretty pumped when I read the above section in his book. And then I went to google and found out that he did indeed vote on completely partisan things like removing the filibuster to put Gorsich on the Supreme Court. And he voted for the terrible Republican health care bill. And he voted to put Devos as Secretary of Education.

So…partial credit. Good rhetoric, no matching action. :/

But maybe he’ll be better going forward? I hope so.

Maybe. I’ve probably studied politicians and Congress too much to have much faith in them but maybe now that Flake has completely severed his ties with the President and the scary wing of his party he’ll be more inclined to buck them. 

On Conviction of Conservative Beliefs

Never has a party so quickly or easily abandoned its core principles as my party did in the course of the 2016 campaign. And when you suddenly decide that you don’t believe what had recently been your most deeply held beliefs, then you open yourself to believing anything – or maybe nothing at all.

Why did we do that/ And how did it happen? How did conservatives betray conservatism? Or worse: how did we embrace incoherence?

The quick answer: We did it because it was cheap and easy and the real world is hard and defending a principled position to voters is harder still.

His introspection into what has happened to the Republican party over the past decade, but ESPECIALLY in the 2016 election was especially poignant in my opinion.

It is a testament to just how far we fell in 2016 that to resist the fever and stand up for conservatism seemed a radical act.

I often wonder what Barry Goldwater would make of the current state of his party and of American politics more generally. I am confident that he would not be pleased or amused.

The party of Lincoln would now likely be unrecognizable to the Great Emancipator.

I don’t even recognize the current Republican party. It’s not the same party that I grew up with, *that I was a part of* in my younger years. It’s funny now to me that I’m considered “so liberal” when I don’t feel like I’ve really changed that much. didn’t change – the party did, bringing the needle *so far to the right* that apparently now I’m liberal?

When did it become a conservative value to place party over country?

When did it become a conservative value for your elected official to do/say something because he has an R next to his name, but not okay for someone else to do/say a similar thing because he as a D next to his name?

When did it become a conservative value to turn a blind eye towards lies and misinformation?

When did it become a conservative value to be okay with consorting with foreign powers during an election?

So it’s refreshing to see that at least one (and hopefully more) Republican lawmakers feel the same way, that their party has changed, and not for the better. They may not all have the courage of conviction that Jeff Flake has, who may or may not be committing career suicide by breaking ranks and publishing this book; but I want to believe that some at least are smart enough (and sane enough) to realize what is happening to the Republican party.

It’d be nice to be able to “come home again” and be able to agree with a Republican on political topics without having to believe such silly things as “Obama wasn’t a US citizen” or “Climate change isn’t real”.

When your raison d’etre stops being How can we hold to the principles of limited government and economic freedom? and becomes How can we hold on to this majority for one more cycle? then you’ve become the very thing that you’re supposed to be against.

In this era of dysfunction and collapsed principle, our only accomplishment is painstakingly constructing the argument that we’re not to blame and hoping that we’ve gerrymandered ourselves well enough to be safe in the next election.

We decided that it was better to build and maintain a majority by using the levers of power rather than the art of persuasion and the battle of ideas. And we have decided that getting nothing done is okay.

There are many on both sides who like this outcome so much that they think it’s a good model on which to build a whole career. (Edmund insertion: *Cough Ted Cruz*) Far too often, we come to destroy, not to build.

Moreover, I like how he spends entire chapters talking about the foundations of good governing, and how poisonous the current Republican party’s stance on governing is for the country.

TARP was actually a modest price to pay to forestall a global depression. My vote against the bill is a vote that I still regret.

Here’s what mattered: At a moment of national and global crisis, that vote was an abdication of my responsibility as a member of Congress.

For instance, he goes into detail about how stupid it is to “Vote No, but hope yes” (on the TARP bill), and about how he is ashamed to have done so in the past.

He talks at length about how bipartisan legislation used to be passed, and about how wholly partisan victories are shallow, because they’re just as easily overturned in the next election cycle without bipartisan support. He uses specific examples of attempts at good, enduring legislation, successful or otherwise, and it’s not all to make himself look good – some of his examples he isn’t even involved in.

I have to agree with everything above. I think it is remarkable that a sitting politician could come out with such a damning expose of his entire party and I admire him for that. It was interesting that he agreed with Franken when he traced part of the start of the Republican Party’s decline to Newt Gingrich. Both Flake and Franken wholeheartedly condemned Gingrich for bringing to light the vicious underbelly of the Republican Party. Flake’s condemnation of Gingrich echoes my concerns with many of today’s politicians: “Newt, whose talents for politics exceeded his interest in governing…” This is extremely on point. As someone who one day would like to enter the world of politics, it worries me that many politicians seem to prize their ruthlessness and cunning over their concern and care for their constituents. 

Conclusion

I am a proud conservative and a lifelong Republican. That does not make the Democrats my enemies. America has too many real enemies to indulge such nonsense.

It’s good to not demonize the people on the other side of the political aisle, and this book helped me a ton in that respect. The similarities between Jeff Flake’s book and Al Franken’s book were eye opening to me. If two senators that are that different from one another politically can agree on things like that, it gives me hope for the future.

This book helped me greatly in that respect. It’s good to know that not all Republicans are Trump supporters who are ignorant to logic.

It’s great to know that not all Republican lawmakers have abdicated their responsibility in understanding that the legislative branch doesn’t work as an arm of the executive branch.

It’s fantastic to know that some of them like Jeff Flake have such strong conservative convictions that they’re willing to put themselves out there and risk their own re-election to help lead their party’s return to sanity.

I think it’s really interesting that once Republican legislatures are free from the shackles of worrying about re-election, they say and do sane things. Like Bob Corker. or John McCain.

Of course, relying on Senators not worrying about re-election to keep Trump in check is not sustainable. So I do hope that Jeff Flake, like his idol Goldwater (whose book Flake based his own book on), sparks a conservative revolution, one that affects the ranks of normal congressmen and women that *are* seeking re-election.

Now, more than ever, America’s separation of powers is what is keeping her afloat. But that requires legislators like Jeff Flake to have the conviction to stand up for their conservative ideals rather than act as servants for Trump.

And maybe more than that, I hope it helps spark activism amongst more moderate conservatives, ones who look around and see that things ARE INDEED NOT NORMAL AND NOT OKAY. I plan on giving this book to some of my more conservative, older friends. They’d be much more likely to read a book by the Republican Senator from Arizona than the Democratic Senator from Minnesota. I don’t know if it’ll work, but I sure hope it does.

I could not agree more. The only way to escape our political malaise is to educate ourselves. Jeff Flake’s book is a good first step in this direction. I can only hope that his actions support his words.