Bite-Sized Book Reviews: “The Snow Child”

I’m ashamed to admit it, but it took me seven months to finish Eowyn Ivey’s The Snow Child. This is no reflection on the book’s quality or read-ability; this season of life has just been a ridiculously busy one.

Given the length of time over which my read of The Snow Child was stretched, I would’ve expected the book’s impact to be somewhat lessened. After all, how emotionally engaged can one be, reading a book one 5-minute fragment at a time?

Quite a bit, it turns out. At least that’s what the mountain of balled-up tissues around me as I finished the novel said. Continue reading “Bite-Sized Book Reviews: “The Snow Child””


The Haul

“Are those armadillos are your feet?”

“Why, yes. Yes, they are.”

Note to you, dear reader: Step 1 in creating a perfect “reading kit” is to get yourself an excellent book. But Step 2 is to grab yourself something comfy for your feet. Some recommend fuzzy socks; flip flops are a classic choice if you’re heading to the beach. For me, it’s armadillo slippers or nothing. Just seems right for this Texas gal.

But I’ve skipped ahead, since it’s books first, fabulous footwear later. This post is admittedly several weeks overdue, given that it’s my book-related Christmas haul/to-read list for the new year. But it took a while for all the Christmas packages to make their way to South America. (Remember when I said Foreign Service folks get ridiculously excited about their long awaited mail?) Continue reading “The Haul”

Bite-Sized Book Reviews: “One Hundred Years of Solitude”

You know how your want-to-read eyes are always bigger than your time-to-read stomach? And how this phenomenon leads to you have a waist-high stack of books you know you’ll get to “someday”? (From talking to other bibliophiles, I know I’m not alone in this affliction.)

For many years, Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude occupied a spot on my wishful-reading list. Based on my work on his Love in the Time of Cholera (which features in my chapter in the The Body), I knew a García Márquez novel was not to be tackled lightly. I wanted to wait until I had the time and focus to truly do it justice… which I never seemed to have at hand.

But then I was offered a chance to contribute to another anthology, this one on family, friends, and foes in hispanic literature (set for late 2018 publication). I knew immediately what I wanted to write on: the family saga that is Solitude. Continue reading “Bite-Sized Book Reviews: “One Hundred Years of Solitude””

Bite-Sized Book Reviews: “The Bear and the Nightingale”

It’s standard wisdom: Never judge a book by its cover.

Yet it’s hard not to when a book’s cover–and title–are so fantastic. Beautiful, atmospheric, and a bit eerie, these appealed to the fairy tale/folklore lover in me. Between these exterior flourishes and the novel’s story–main character Vasilisa dares condemnation as she uses her supernatural communion with creatures of Russian folklore and an alliance with winter demon Frost to safeguard her people from a nebulous dark–I knew Katherine Arden’s The Bear and the Nightingale was a book I had to have.

I’m happy to say the cimmerian ambiance promised by the cover carried into the novel. The aesthetics throughout–whether descriptions of the rusalka (a water sprite), or the harsh beauty of a wintery Russian forest–were striking and resonant. Even now, months after finishing the novel, I can summon to mind a multitude of scenes, lovely and ominous alike.  Continue reading “Bite-Sized Book Reviews: “The Bear and the Nightingale””

Bite-Sized Book Reviews: “Uprooted”

As you’ve likely sussed out by now, I’m a fan of reading. But rare is the book that tempts me to sacrifice my own writing time. It’s been ten months since that last occurred. (That siren was Kate Forsyth’s The Wild Girlwhich I review here). But Naomi Novik’s Uprooted called too sweetly to be resisted. I wound up rolling two hours of writing time into the weekend, because I blew them off on Thursday to finish the book.

That wasn’t the only irresponsible thing I did, either. I stayed up until 1 AM, when I had to be into work by 7:30. I thought I’d skim just a few pages before I did my post-work lap-swimming… I wound up reading in the pool locker room for an hour. Uprooted was that compulsively readable; I had to know what happened next. And I definitely wasn’t confident about how it would end: I could see the author taking the triumphant track, or the bittersweet one. (But no spoilers here–you’ll have to read it yourself to find out!) Continue reading “Bite-Sized Book Reviews: “Uprooted””

Bite-Sized Book Reviews: “Baby Doll”

Hollie Overton’s Baby Doll, like B.A. Paris’s Behind Closed Doors (reviewed here), strikes me as another book done a disservice by its marketing campaign’s comparing it to Gone Girl. I realize this is a classic sales technique; hitching one book to another, explosively popular franchise is a guaranteed way to attract fans looking to re-scratch that itch. But it also establishes reader expectations not always fulfilled.

However else one might feel about Gone Girl, it’s nevertheless fair to say it lived up to its label of taut thriller. Action, albeit often twisted, constantly drives the novel forward, ever tightening the narrative screws.

Baby Doll, by contrast, is really about the emotional fallout after the action has passed. The book’s opening shows Lily Riser, kidnapped at 16 and held captive for 8 years, finally escaping her basement prison with her daughter Sky (fathered by Lily’s kidnapper and habitual rapist, Rick). By page 60, Lily and Sky are reunited with Lily’s family, and Rick is behind bars. And there ends the most action-oriented part of the novel. Continue reading “Bite-Sized Book Reviews: “Baby Doll””

Bite-Sized Book Reviews: “News of the World”

Book News: News of the World is among ten titles on this year’s National Book Award Longlist: Fiction. The five finalists will be named on October 13th, with the winner announced on November 16th. So fingers crossed for News! (Of course, I’m biased–as a Texas girl, I can’t help rooting for a Texas-centric tale to win.)

Upon first reading the synopsis of Paulette Jiles’ News, I formed a prediction regarding what the novel might be like, as readers often do when meeting a book. The story of an ex-Army Captain transporting a young girl rescued from Indian captivity across 19th Century Texas, the novel would be a Western-style action/adventure–the literary equivalent of a John Wayne film. Continue reading “Bite-Sized Book Reviews: “News of the World””