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””

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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””

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””

Craving Those Comfort Reads

No doubt about it: I have Book Lust Syndrome. I already have far too many books on my “to-read” list. But that doesn’t keep me from adding new ones to my shelf when something catches my eye, or a trusted friend makes a reading recommendation (talking about you, Courtney!) In short, I’m a textbook (pun intended) victim of this adage:

 

Leona, 7, poses inside a labyrinth installation made up of 250,000 books titled "aMAZEme" at the Royal Festival Hall in central London
Photo credit: Olivia Harris/Reuters.

But as giddy as I get over cracking a new book’s spine and exploring the possibility contained within, there are times when a familiar read offers much-needed comfort. These comfort books aren’t always the most refined or revolutionary. But there’s something in their familiarity, in their resonance of a simpler time, that is soothing.

Life at this moment is definitely making me want to hide in some well-worn pages. The deadline for my massive, months-long work project is approaching with terrifying rapidity. I’m still juggling my writing and my full-time “real” job at the Embassy, along with all my other responsibilities, my relationships. It’s all I can do to get in my lap-swimming sessions. I haven’t picked up a paintbrush in months and that makes me sad.

Continue reading “Craving Those Comfort Reads”