Review: The Princess Diarist

Hey, friends.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I’ve been trying to listen to more audiobooks, and the first one that I stumbled upon this year (and then promptly forgot to write a review for because I finished it at the same time as another book which I DID write a review for…) was The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher.

I was pretty devastated when Carrie Fisher passed away.  As you probably know, I’m a HUGE Star Trek fan, but believe me, I have plenty of love for Star Wars, too.  I’ve loved Princess Leia since I first saw the movies when I was… 7, I think?  I’ll never forget the first time I was introduced to the Star Wars universe.  It was the summer when I was 7 years old – it must have been around the 4th of July, because I’d gone to a carnival that was in a neighboring town that weekend every year.

I came home, and my dad’s youngest brother was visiting from Washington (I grew up in southern Illinois – have I ever told you that?).  Anyway, he talked my dad into watching it, and I stuck around in our family room, mostly just to spend time with my super fun uncle.

I’m so glad I did.  It was a magical experience.

Anyway.  I loved Princess Leia, and as I got older and got to know more of who Carrie Fisher was and what she’s done, I loved her, too.  So I was really excited to listen to this book – especially because she and her daughter read it.

carrie-fisher-the-princess-diarist-is-the-perfect-book-to-read-over-the-holiday-ftrThe Princess Diarist was fun and hilarious and vulnerable and smart.  It provided such a unique, behind-the-scenes perspective of the filming of Star Wars, all from Carrie’s point of view.

She was honest and harsh and forgiving and honest.  She opened up about getting the part of Leia, about trying to figure out who she was, about her relationship with Harrison Ford, about friendships on set, about drugs, and so much more.

It was incredibly enjoyable, and Carrie did a fabulous job reading her work, adding flair in the way that only she could.

I also really loved that her daughter, Billie Lourd, read the old journal entries that Carrie had found from her time on Star Wars.  So cool.  And the journal entries were amazing.

Anyway.  If you like Star Wars or memoirs or the movie business, or if you’re just looking for an easy, fun, real read, check out The Princess Diarist.  It’ll make you grieve Carrie Fisher all over again.


Review: Bonhoeffer

Hey all.

So this year, I’m trying to get into audiobooks.  I spend a lot of time in my car, and in looking for a way to redeem that time, I’m trying out books instead of music.

I started off with The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher (and I JUST realized I never wrote a review for that – I’m on it!), then moved to something much weightier – Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas.

Bonhoeffer tells the story of the life and death of Dietrich Bonhoeffer – a German Evangelical pastor who was part of the plot to assassinate Hitler.  As I’ve mentioned in my posts before, I’m a Christian, and the idea of trying to reconcile one’s Christian beliefs with seeking to murder someone for the greater good was fascinating to me.

The size of this book was pretty daunting – I was going to spend over 24 hours listening to this beast of a biography.  Thankfully, the reader (who did a GREAT job, by the way) read slowly, so I was able to increase the audio speed of my app and cut that baby down to 21-22 hours.  Slightly more manageable.


Eric Metaxas does a great job of leaving no stone unturned.  Bonhoeffer starts with Dietrich’s ancestors – it took longer to get to his birth than I was expecting.  But Metaxas draws on Bonhoeffer’s family history throughout the story, so it definitely wasn’t in vain.

He then takes us through Bonhoeffer’s entire life: his childhood and schooling, his time in America and multiple countries in Europe, his theological journey and convictions, and how he became a part of the Hitler assassination attempt.

Metaxas does a marvelous job of weaving in details and context, helping the reader to understand why each little piece matters.  He writes matter-of-factly but not so much that we don’t care about Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  On the contrary, I found myself caring very much.

The one negative thing I’ll say is that I found the author’s interpretation of the religious climate in Germany a little… how do I say this?  Disappointing.  Or I guess, more accurately, I found myself doubting the validity of what he was saying due to many of his comments the past year regarding Evangelicals in America today and the Trump administration.  His comments have come across as very nationalist, so when I read his criticisms of the German church’s harmful nationalism and how it affected the Jews, I had to roll my eyes just a bit – it seemed hypocritical in light of his defense of many of Trump’s nationalist, racist, and prejudiced comments and policies.

I struggle with trying to understand how an author’s actions outside of their work affects my enjoyment of their work.  More on that another time, maybe.

It was a good biography – thorough and engaging.  I would recommend it if WWII interests you, if Christian ethics interest you, or if you want to think more about today’s political climate through a new lens.

Review: Prophetic Lament

Hey, friends.

I just finished my first non-fiction book for Summer Reading 2017, and it was a good one.  As you might have read in my previous posts, my reading list this summer is only comprised of authors of color.  One of my unwritten goals is to read new authors in the genres I normally read.  Not only those genres of course – but I want to discover new-to-me authors in the genres I love.  Obviously this means lots of science fiction and fantasy, but this also means a lot of non-fiction; I read a lot of Christian non-fiction for work, so I’ve been on the look out for new authors in that category.

Unfortunately, this is the first Christian non-fiction book that I’ve read this summer.  That bums me out a bit, but I’ve got some great ones lined up soon.  Anyway, without further ado.

Prophetic Lament by Soong-Chan Rah was challenging and heartbreaking.  Rah walks the reader through the book of Lamentations from the Old Testament, giving cultural context, unpacking difficult passages, and explaining the style of the genre of lament.  Throughout the book, though, he adds commentary on American Christianity and how it has fallen so incredibly short in the area of lament.

The truth that Rah brings about the history of the American church and racism is convicting and so timely.  He challenges white Christians to think long and hard about their own privilege – something that hasn’t been done enough in my opinion.  He challenges American Christians to get over their exceptionalism and actually lament injustices, rather than always being focused on celebration.  He offers actual, tangible ways of doing this; none of them are easy, but all of them are necessary.

I’m still chewing on much of what was written in Prophetic Lament, and I imagine that I will be for a long time.  If you’re interested in the book of Lamentations, the history of the American Christianity and racism, or what the Church is doing now for social justice, get your hands on this book.  It’s worth your time.

Review: It Starts with Food

I’ve mentioned in a couple previous posts that my husband and I are doing the Whole30.  If you haven’t heard of the Whole30, it’s essentially eating only nutrient-dense, whole, minimally processed food for 30 days.  You can eat: meats, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and eggs.  You can’t eat: dairy, legumes, grains, anything with added sugar.  The goal: eat good food, heal your gut, figure out how “unhealthy” (by certain standards that they lay out extensively in It Starts with Food) foods affect your body, and improve your relationship with food.  And other things.

My husband and I have been considering doing the Whole30 for a while, and we finally pulled the trigger.  Since we’re both information hoarders, we researched a ton on their website, in the Whole30 book, and I checked out It Starts with Food from the library.  As of today, we’re ALMOST done re-introducing all the food groups (to see if we have weird reactions to any of them), and I must say, it’s been a really good experience overall.

But about the book:

It Starts with Food by Dallas Hartwig and Melissa Hartwig was a really good read.  It covered almost everything that I needed and/or wanted to know about the Whole30 program in a way that was easy and fun to read.  Dallas and Melissa did a great job of explaining more science-heavy information in an easy-to-understand way, and they weren’t afraid to encourage their readers to skip whole chapters if the science wasn’t interesting or important to them.  They had great summaries at the end of each chapter, too, which was helpful.

I’ve read a few criticisms of the Whole30 program in general, saying it’s based on bad science or too many restrictions.  Having read the book (and I’m slowly working my way through the Whole30 book), I think those criticisms are pretty misinformed.  Yes, the Whole30 program has many restrictions, but you’re encouraged to eat as much good food (again, based on their definitions: good cuts of meat, vegetables, fruit, eggs, and nuts) as you want.  They also discourage you from counting calories or weighing yourself at all during the program.

As far as the science goes, I felt that Dallas and Melissa are very straight forward in saying that some food has certain bad affects on some people.  The whole premise of the 30 days is to cut out those potentially harmful foods then to re-introduce them slowly to see how they affect you individually.  They backed themselves up with plenty of peer reviewed research and were honest about what they knew (the nutritional content of vegetables) and what they suspected (peanuts contribute to systemic inflammation in some people).

Anyway, all that to say, I really enjoyed reading It Starts with Food, and I’d encourage you to check it out it you’re considering the Whole30, are curious about how what you eat affects you, or desiring to make a health change.  It’s a great place to start.

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: How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy

Almost a year ago – December 24, 2016 – my fiancé (now my husband) gave me a large box of books.  I’d recently finished writing the first draft Bombshell and was working on revisions.  I had just shared with him that it was my goal to query agents in 2016 as a first step to trying to publish my work.

This large box contained six books about writing in general, revising, the publishing industry, and much more.  Among the six was an especially thin one with a boring brown cover: How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy by Orson Scott Card.

It took me a long time to start, but over the past two or three months, I’ve been reading it.  Well, reading probably isn’t the right word.  It’s more accurate to say that I’ve been studying it little by little, highlighting thoughts and writing notes in the margins.  I’ve been reading a section, taking a week or so to chew on it, then reading more.  It’s been a slow process, but it’s been oh so good.

Orson Scott Card does a fabulous job of looking at science fiction and fantasy from every angle.  He talks about the history of science fiction and fantasy, the difference in the genres, and the similarities in the genres.  He dissects a few of the different sub-genres.  Card prompts thoughts on the pros and cons of writing either science fiction or fantasy, as well as the benefits and drawbacks reading each of those.  He talks, from much experience, about the joys and woes being an SFF writer.

Card doesn’t just write about the genres though.  He writes about the writing: worldbuilding, plot, character development, etc – so many tips and things to consider.  For example, he dives into the different methods of space travel that have been used in science fiction, and he looks in depth at what makes each one both viable and unlikely.  He does the same things with different magic systems in fantasy stories.

But Card doesn’t just do it to do it.  With every example he gives, he ties it back to why that aspect of storytelling is important, leaving you encouraged, inspired, and desperate to rake through your manuscript to look for worldbuilding inconsistencies.  It’s a great and terrible thing and so necessary.

I loved reading How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy, and I highly, HIGHLY recommend it if you enjoy writing – not just SFF, but any genre, really.