Review: Cold Tangerines

A few years ago, my roommate recommended reading Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist.  She was processing through some aspects of her relationship with food and had really liked the book.

(Disclaimer: I haven’t shared much about my Christian faith on this blog, and I don’t really plan on it in the future.  That’s not the purpose of this blog, but I also don’t plan on avoiding mentioning it at all – especially when it connects to one of my book reviews.)

A few months later, I was in a weird place in my faith and remembered what my roommate had said about the book.  I checked it out from the library, and thus began my absolute adoration of Shauna Niequist’s writing.

Fast forward 3 years, and my husband gave me what he called a “Niequist pack” for Christmas – 3 of her books that I hadn’t read, as well as a copy of Bread and Wine.  That’s how I came by the book Cold Tangerines, and I am so very glad I did.

Shauna Niequist has a way of weaving essays about life and faith and food and hardship and joy in a way that speaks directly to my heart, and this early book of hers is no exception.  Cold Tangerines is filled with 2-4 page essays on topics ranging from trying to get pregnant to attending funerals to struggling with body image to writing to quitting a job you love to moving to traveling to trying to find yourself in college (and before… and after…) to so much more.

The theme that threads the essays together is finding joy in the everyday things, finding the extraordinary in the mundane.  I love that concept, and Cold Tangerines brought me so much joy every day that I read it.

I’d sit on my couch with coffee or tea by my side with the blinds open to reveal either sunshine or clouds and read an essay or two or three a day.  Her writing is vulnerable and lyrical; her essays are easy to read and easy to relate to.

And one of the unexpected consequences of picking up Cold Tangerines a couple of months ago?  I started writing again.  After reading the first two essays one night, I was finally able to sit down and write something that had been stirring inside of me for a long time.  My writing had felt stuck for so long, but I wrote the rough draft of my very favorite short story that night, and I’m so thankful.

Check out Cold Tangerines or some of Niequist’s other writings if you need a breath of fresh air, a reminder of the simple joys in life, or a friend in the pages of a book.  You’ll find all of those there.

Review: Clariel

Hey all.  I’m still working my way through the Old Kingdom series by Garth Nix.  It was so fun to revisit the original trilogy that I first read when I was 13 or so.  Honestly, I didn’t remember much about them, particularly Abhorsenso it was almost like reading them for the first time, which was cool.

Once I finished the original three, I was so pumped to check out Clariel, a prequel that takes place 600 or so years before Sabriel.  Because I knew there was a prequel, I caught a reference in Abhorsen that I hoped hinted at a sweet backstory that would be explained in Clariel, and I was totally right.  AND I LOVE ORIGIN STORIES, OK?!

As usual, I don’t want to spoil much for you, but here are some of my thoughts.  For me, Clariel started a little slow.  I quickly grew tired of how much she complained and whined about having to move from her small hometown on the edge of the Great Forest to the city for her mother’s career.  As I was reading, I often forgot that Clariel was supposedly 17 – so much of what she did and said made me think she was only 12 or 13.

While the beginning was slow, there were still some redeeming qualities in that first third of the book.  We get to see the Old Kingdom during a different time and from a different angle.  Garth Nix does a great job of further deepening his beautiful world.  We also meet some really cool characters.  So it wasn’t too bad.

AND THEN THINGS GOT CRAZY.  I’m a very expressive person, but I try to limit my all-caps usage.  It’s totally applicable here.  Seriously, I was reading all non-nonchalantly, wondering where things were going, and my husband got home from work.  I put the book down in the middle of a page to talk to him, and then 20 minutes later, I picked it back up again, turned the page, and all hell broke loose.  It was unexpected and awesome.

From then on Clariel was action-packed and heartbreaking and captivating, and I was so invested.  We get to see a familiar character, which was a pleasant surprise, and we also get to see more of his/her (nope – not giving ANYTHING away about him/her) backstory, which makes their actions in the original trilogy even more awesome.

And Garth Nix ends the book in one of my very favorite ways – it’s short and sweet and to the point.  He doesn’t drag the story out too much after the climax.  If anything, it was almost too brief at the end… almost.  So many books I’ve read say too much at the end in my opinion, lessening the effect of the final action.  But that’s just my opinion.

I can’t wait to get my hands on the Old Kingdom short stories, and then finally onto the newest book, Goldenhand.  Such good reading in my future 😀

Exciting, Non-Review Things

Hey all!

My blog has been incredibly review-heavy this year, which has been (mostly) intentional.  But I wanted to give you a little teaser about some non-review posts that’ll be coming up, because in the next few weeks, my life will be full of fun things that aren’t (only) reading related!

 

  • Today (and yesterday and tomorrow), I’m attending my very first convention.  My awesome husband bought me two memberships to Minicon52, and I plan on telling you allllll about it in a post this coming week.
  • I’m currently participating in Camp NaNoWriMo again!  I’ve been pretty low-key about this so far, because I’ve a longer-than-planned break from writing*, so I’m using the month of April to get back to writing regularly by revising my first draft of The Legend of Elliot Major.  I’ll be posting soon to let you know how that goes!
  • That asterisk in the previous bullet point is there because I haven’t taken a total break from writing the past few months.  I’ve written a few short stories, one of which I’m currently pretty obsessed with.  So much so, that I’ve sent it out to a few literary journals to see what happens.  I’d love to share what that process has been like with you all, so expect a post on that soon.
  • And as usual, I’m filling up as much of my time as I can with reading, so be looking for these reviews in the coming days/weeks:
    • Clariel by Garth Nix
    • Tangerines by Shauna Niequist
    • It Starts with Food by Dallas Hartwig and Melissa Hartwig
    • The Big Time by Fritz Lieber
    • Ethan of Athos by Lois McMaster Bujold
    • …and more, I’m sure 🙂

There’s so much happening, and I’m excited to share it with you all!

Review: Cetaganda

Welp, friends.  I’m sad to say that I’m still behind on posting reviews…  I just keep reading (which isn’t sad at all) and doing other stuff (working, running, writing, the Whole30 – none of which are sad either).  So maybe I’m not that sad?  But I do wish I wasn’t behind in sharing with you all the awesome things I’ve been reading.  So here’s a review of Cetaganda by Lois McMaster Bujold, because baby steps to get back on track still make progress.

As you might know, I was a little late to the Vorkosigan Saga party, but now that I’m here, I’m living it up and loving it.  So far, I’ve only read a few of them, but I currently have a few more checked out from library 🙂  (If you want, check out my reviews of The Warrior’s Apprentice, “Mountains of Mourning”, and The Vor Game.

As with her other books, Bujold does a great job with Cetaganda.  Miles Vorkosigan has another somewhat ridiculous adventure, and Bujold is a master of weaving mystery and mayhem into a fun believable tale.   (Confession: I didn’t come up with “mystery and mayhem” myself.  Cetaganda appears in Miles, Mystery, and Mayhem which collects 3 Vorkosigan stories into one volume.  But hey, why fix something that’s not broken, am I right?)

Miles is older and supposedly wiser than when we last saw him in The Vor Game.  We get to see some of that developed character first hand, and we get to see even more growth in him in this story.  We also get to know his cousin Ivan on a deeper level.  The two of them together are so different, and the hilarity that ensues during their adventures (or mis-adventures is probably more accurate) is definitely entertaining.

I loved getting to see the Cetagandan culture more closely as well.  I have a definite weak spot of alien societies and cultures in my science fiction, and I’ve really enjoyed what Bujold has done so far in her Vorkosigan Saga.  I’m excited to see what else she does in the coming books.  I was particularly fascinated by the Cetaganda use of genetics and how it plays a huge role in their social hierarchy.  You’ll have to read it to see what I’m taking about – I absolutely refuse to give anything away about it.

Next up for me in the Vorkosigan Saga is Ethan of Athos, which from what I heard deviates a bit from the rest of the books.  After that I plan to read “Labyrinth” and “Borders of Infinity”, but then I plan to go back in time a bit and check out Shards of Honor, “Aftermaths”, and Barrayar.  I can’t wait to get to know Miles’ parents a bit better and get more backstory on what caused his genetic mutations!

So that’s what you have to look forward to review-wise, as well as a few more Hugo award winning novels and some Old Kingdom books!  Oh yeah, and some non-fiction.   Pfewww.

Review: Abhorsen

Hey, friends!  Sorry it’s been 2 weeks since I’ve shared a review with you.  It’s been busy – not busier than normal per se but busy.  Two weeks ago, my husband and I decided to do the Whole30 – an eating program that involves eating only fruits, vegetables, meat, eggs, and nuts (and a few other things) for 30 days.  The past two weeks have been good and hard and have been full of tons of meal prep since we’re not eating out, not eating processed foods, and are cooking all of our own stuff.  I’ll let you know how it goes in a few more weeks – and of course, I read a couple of the Whole30 books, so I’ll have reviews for you in the future as well 🙂

Anyway, I finally finished book 3 in the Old Kingdom series!  If you haven’t already, check out my reviews of Sabriel and Lirael.  If you want to.

So.  Abhorsen.  I know I’ve mentioned this before, but it’s really hard for me to review series because I’m nervous to spoil book 1 by talking about what happens in books 2, 3, and so on.  But I’ll give it my best shot for y’all.

The “final” book in the Old Kingdom series (which wasn’t ACTUALLY the final book but for a long time we thought it was.  In this case, a long time means about 10 years because that was how long it took between Abhorsen and Clariel, the prequel to the series.  Then a few years later – in 2016 – Goldenhand came out.  I’ve never read Clariel or Goldenhand but plan on doing so soon.  Alright, enough about that…) wraps up the story that began in Lirael.  Here are my non-spoil-y thoughts.

Abhorsen was an amazing finish to the story from book 2.  It wrapped everything up really nicely, picking up right where Lirael left off.  And while Lirael didn’t end on a cliffhanger, it did end with a slight lull in the action – the calm before the storm, if you will.  And I must say, Abhorsen was quite the storm.  I felt like it was full of action, suspense, and intensity from start to finish.

We got to see characters triumph, characters fall, characters finally reveal which side they were on, and characters sacrifice themselves.  As usual, I ugly cried at the end.  It was rough and amazing and powerful.

Garth Nix gave us so much more backstory and detail to this incredible world that he created in the Old Kingdom series, and it was incredibly rich, realistic, and easy to get lost in like I’ve mentioned before.

I’m also excited because something was hinted at in Abhorsen that I’d either forgotten or hadn’t noticed when I was 13ish that I think is fleshed out in the prequel that came out 10 years after the original trilogy.  Meaning I can’t wait to read Clariel now because I HAVE TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENED.

The only negative thing that I would have to say was that Lirael and Abhorsen could have been just one book in my opinion.  I felt like there were some things in Lirael that weren’t super necessary, as well as some things in Abhorsen.  These things slowed the books down for me a little bit but not enough to be detrimental.  So don’t you worry about that.  Forget I said anything and go read this series.  Please.  It’s such a gem.

 

Review: Double Star

Friends, I’m still trying to read all the Hugo Award Winning winners for best novel, and I will be for the next few years.  Well, I will be forever, since there’s likely to be a new one each year.  But right now, I’m trying to get caught up on past ones.  I’m currently at 11 read, so I have 54 to go… bof.

Anyway, I recently got my hands on Double Star by Robert Heinlein.  Heinlein has won the Hugo for best novel 4 times – I think he’s tied for the most?  Or he technically has the most if you count Retro Hugos?  Anyway… not important to this discussion.  Heinlein has won many times, but Double Star was his first.  Here are my thoughts.

Double Star was pretty classic pulp fiction.  When I think of sci-fi from the late 50’s/early 60’s this type of story is what comes to mind.  It’s a romp, with an unlikely crew of people thrown together in unlikely circumstances.  The plot could have taken place in any society or culture, really, but aliens were thrown in for an extra level of mayhem.

It was a fun, quick read that didn’t require much thought at all.  The end was pretty predictable, and even though I didn’t love any of the characters, I finished Double Star with a pretty good impression.  I’d say my view of Robert Heinlein (which was really high after The Moon is a Harsh Mistress and was lowered by Starship Troopers) was redeemed a bit.  I’m excited to read his other works.

Review: Lirael

A couple of weeks ago, I posted a review of Sabriel, a YA fantasy novel by Garth Nix that I read as a preteen and re-read recently.

Welp, I just couldn’t stay away.  I just finished Lirael, the sequel to Sabriel, and let me tell you, it was a good one.

The story picks up 14 or so years after the events in Sabriel.  One thing that I remembered from the first time I read this book when I was in junior high was that I was disappointed that it didn’t take place immediately after the first book and that Sabriel wasn’t the main character.

This time, though, that disappointment didn’t last long.  Lirael gives us a different view of the Old Kingdom, exploring places and peoples that we didn’t get much of in the first book.  We get to meet Lirael, who deals with different struggles from Sabriel and has a much different journey.  We get to learn so much more about the Old Kingdom and its history.  We get to spend time exploring a humongous library with Lirael and her awesome friend, the Disreputable Dog.  So good.

Lirael contains much of the real-feeling magic and world-building the Sabriel did, with Garth Nix fleshing much of it out.  Nix has a great knack for dealing with very real issues (depression, suicide, racism, and more) in a fantasy story, and for the most part, he does this flawlessly.

The one negative thing I’ll say about  Lirael and its sequel, Abhorsen (which I’m reading right now), is that they’re a bit long.  I think it’s fine that they’re two books, but each of them could be shorter in themselves or maybe even condensed into one novel.

Other than that, Lirael is a fun yet serious, fantastical yet believable story of a girl who’s trying to find herself and trying to save the world at the same time – something that I think most of us can relate to.  She humorously manages to dodge romantic advances, she gets way in over her head often, and she has to make solutions up as she goes along.  If that’s not a reflection of real life, I don’t know what is.

Overall, I would say I enjoyed Lirael slightly more than Sabriel.  I’ll let you know soon what I think of Abhorsen!