Bite-Sized Book Reviews: “All The Light We Cannot See”

I don’t know if this is true for all writers, but sometimes when I curl up with a novel, I find myself playing the game of Who’s The Better Writer: Me or the Author?

I don’t recommend this game; it can suck the joy right out of reading. I’ve also wound up with several bouts of inferiority complex. But once my brain kicks into that gear, it can be tricky to turn off.

In an odd way, Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See is comforting in this regard. With his gorgeous prose and masterful plot, Doerr is so obviously out of my league that I can happily settle into the hands of this superior artist (who is, after all, a Pulitzer Prize winner).

Set during World War II, All the Light weaves together the stories of Marie-Laure–a courageous French girl afflicted by blindness–and Werner, an intellectually-gifted young German whose talents in radio science are used to identify (and eliminate) resistance fighters. Continue reading “Bite-Sized Book Reviews: “All The Light We Cannot See””

Advertisements

Bite-Sized Book Reviews: “Legendary”

In many ways, writing the second book in a series is trickier than writing the first. The author faces the challenge of having to maintain the elements that made the first book a success, while also having to amp up the stakes (and yet avoid veering into territory that isn’t cohesive with book 1).

I read Caraval, the first book in Stephanie Garber’s series of the same name, with an overall sense of satisfaction. (Find my review here.) The pacing was good, the world intriguing, and I was curious to see what happened next. Lucky for me, I already had an Advanced Readers Copy of sequel Legendary on hand for review.

Legendary continues the story of the Dragna sisters, Scarlett and Tella. Now traveling with the players who put on Caraval–an immersive, magical game that is half-carnival, half-scavenger hunt–the sisters are enjoying the freedom won from their oppressive father in book 1. But when they are sucked into a second round of Caraval, lead character Tella learns that this time, it’s no mere game. And gaining her mother’s freedom may mean unleashing an ancient evil on the world. Continue reading “Bite-Sized Book Reviews: “Legendary””

Bite-Sized Book Reviews: “Caraval”

The path that landed Stephanie Garber’s Caraval in my hands was a circuitous one.

I actually received an Advanced Reader’s Copy of the sequel–Legendary–for review purposes (coming soon to a blog near you. Update: Legendary review now available here). The first thing that caught my eye was the book’s phenomenal packaging; I mean, never-ever have I received such a beautifully wrapped ARC. (They even tried to bribe me with little, book-themed squares of chocolate… and I’m not mad about it.) Continue reading “Bite-Sized Book Reviews: “Caraval””

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””

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””