Mini-Reviews: Female-centric Fantasy

Going through old pages of a journal, I found some review notes from 6 months ago. They were good books and I hate to lose a review, so here you go! 3 female-centric fantasies. Enjoy.

This Savage Song by V.E. Schwab

Honestly, I struggle to review Schwab’s books. I just like them so much! This Savage Song was my second Schwab read, and I savored it over Christmas vacation in sunny Florida, which was very much a contrast to the dark setting of the book. Here are my (nearly) unvarnished notes:

  • beautiful
  • each word crafted and carefully chosen
  • characters that both shine & bleed
  • a world that builds effortlessly through the chapters
    • feels at once both brand-new and almost familiar
  • variety of characters & emotions
  • introspection/theme/meaning with subtlety

…..I can’t offer a lot of expansion on what six-months-ago Lyse was thinking, except that she really liked the book! Also, she strong-armed her husband into reading it and he carried it around the house and read in every spare minute until he finished it.

Skylark by Meagan Spooner

Skylark is the first of a trilogy that I began on audiobook and have not yet finished. 😦 Not the trilogy’s fault–I just stopped listening to audiobooks when I didn’t have to commute anymore. (This one is maybe technically dystopian, not fantasy.) So! Old notes:

  • Love the monster/human story
  • information is legitimately limited & MC grows to full(er) understanding naturally
  • interesting world that requires more exploration
  • lacks some early nuance
    • I struggled for interest/understanding through the first several chapters. The world took a long time to build for me.
  • I thought the author’s opinions/agenda were a bit heavy, but that may not be fair.
  • I have questions about the MC’s parents, but maybe they were answered in future books? Not sure.
  • I read most of the first book while I was walking local parks, and it made a great accompaniment to nature.

The Girl Who Swallowed the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

I didn’t know much about this book when I read it, but the cover was fun and I think The Book Wars recommended it. It was quite different, but I enjoyed it. Notes!

  • The darkness of Grimm’s with the whimsy of Lewis Carroll or Tolkien
  • timeless universal themes (even dark ones) made palatable for MG and younger
  • fairy-tale tropes re-imagined & rewoven
  • information doled out slowly
  • love of stories (fairy tales, mothers telling legends, etc.)
  • joyful, but not happily-ever-after


There you have it! Old review notes that I should have written up months ago. Are these useful for you at all? Have you read these? Let me know in the comments!

8/30: The Actor and the Housewife

The Actor and the Housewife
Shannon Hale

Summary via publisher

Becky is seven months pregnant with her fourth child when she meets her dream actor Felix Callahan by chance. Twelve hours, one elevator ride, and one alcohol-free dinner later something has happened, though nothing has happened… it isn’t sexual. It isn’t even quite love. But soon Felix shows up in the Utah ‘burbs to visit and before they know what’s hit them, Felix and Becky are best friends. Really. Becky’s husband is pretty cool about it. Her children roll their eyes. Her best (girl)friend can’t get her head around it. But Felix (think Colin Firth) and Becky have something special… something unusual, something completely impossible to sustain. Or is it?

Where to start?

First, some background. I’ve been reading Shannon Hale since I was pretty young. Although I don’t have records of my reading that far back, my best guess is that I read my first Hale book when I was 14. I really love the Books of Bayern and I’m generally a fan of all her work. Since I’ve been on Twitter, following her campaigns for gender equality in reading, I’ve come to respect her even more. Continue reading

7/30 Book Review: Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign

[Welcome to day 7 of my 30/30 blog event. Catch up on the details.]

Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign
Amie Parnes & Jonathan Allen
Non-fiction (contemporary politics)

Summary via publisher

It was never supposed to be this close. And of course she was supposed to win. How Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 election to Donald Trump is the tragic story of a sure thing gone off the rails. For every Comey revelation or hindsight acknowledgment about the electorate, no explanation of defeat can begin with anything other than the core problem of Hillary’s campaign–the candidate herself.

Through deep access to insiders from the top to the bottom of the campaign, political writers Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes have reconstructed the key decisions and unseized opportunities, the well-intentioned misfires and the hidden thorns that turned a winnable contest into a devastating loss. Drawing on the authors’ deep knowledge of Hillary from their previous book, the acclaimed biography HRC, Shattered will offer an object lesson in how Hillary herself made victory an uphill battle, how her difficulty articulating a vision irreparably hobbled her impact with voters, and how the campaign failed to internalize the lessons of populist fury from the hard-fought primary against Bernie Sanders.

Moving blow-by-blow from the campaign’s difficult birth through the bewildering terror of election night, Shattered tells an unforgettable story with urgent lessons both political and personal, filled with revelations that will change the way readers understand just what happened to America on November 8, 2016.

Do I care about politics?

Not much. They’re contentious and I don’t like talking about them and I don’t usually like dwelling on them. So why would I read this book? Because I think Hillary Clinton is a fascinating person. Because I work in marketing and campaigning is just really extreme marketing. Because it sounded interesting.

I’ve shared articles before that analyze Clinton and how her personality hinders her in the political arena. As a woman whose personality isn’t especially helpful, I sympathize with that. Unfortunately, Shattered doesn’t explore that element of Hillary much as I would like.

What went wrong?

Continue reading

5/30: NetGalley Reviews

I meant to post this yesterday, but I jumped straight from BookCon into work Monday morning and I was overwhelmed! I’ve posted several shorter reviews for NetGalley books, so here’s a little grouping.

How to Make a French Family
This is a wonderful story of adjusting to change, trying new things, and developing family. The recipes sound delicious and don’t take up too much of the book. If you’re not a food person, you can enjoy the story without missing much at all. The author balances the book perfectly, showing just enough of her family and her feelings to draw you in, but not exposing too much private information or dwelling too long on the hard things. She manages to convey depth of negative feelings with wallowing, which is a pretty remarkable feat for a memoir.

It’s All Absolutely Fine
It’s All Absolutely Fine feels like a great commiseration session with someone who is going through hard things like the hard things in your life. Ruby is honest about her struggles without being Continue reading

1/30 Book Review: And I Darken


(Did you miss the 30/30 announcement?)

And I Darken

Kiersten White

YA Historical Fiction(ish)

Apparently this is a gender-bent Vlad the Impaler retelling. I just grabbed the ebook from my library on a whim and had no idea until after I finished. Although I did wonder about the Dracul family name!

Not having a clue what was going on did not hinder my enjoyment of this tale one bit.

Plot Stuff

Lada is a fierce girl burdened with a sensitive younger brother (Radu) and a father who doesn’t notice her. Follow Lada and Radu through the complex politics of the Ottoman Empire and (equally complex) growing up.

(As I’ve noted before, I don’t like much detail in synopses.)

What I Loved

Complex Characterization

Lada and Radu, in particular, are written with exquisite care. Lada is a fierce and wonderful girl/woman, but White doesn’t neglect softer feelings as well. Lada does care about people in her own way. I’m particularly fond of her response to Radu–she flip flops between despising him and being fiercely protective, just the way most older siblings do. Authors seldom balance their “strong female characters” in a way that I can tolerate, much less admire, so I really, really appreciated Lada. Continue reading

Unpopular book opinion: Excerpts/Previews

Have you noticed the trend recently of authors and publishers releasing excerpts/previews/sneak peaks? They’ll market them as huge news! or a giveaway! or even a pre-order bonus. When I go to book conferences, many authors give them away at their signing tables.

But here’s the thing.

I don’t read excerpts. In fact, I prefer as little preview of a book as possible. That wasn’t always the case. As a kid, I didn’t know a lot about book news, but I obsessively followed the trailers and hype for movies. And eventually I learned that I enjoyed a movie less when I’d seen all the good parts first. The jokes are less funny when you’ve watched clips of them ad infinitum. But in my early years around the book community, I did the same thing. I’d read the synopses and the previews and follow all the pre-release hype. And no joke, I have sitting on my shelf right now 2 books that I pre-ordered last year and still have not read.

I’ve realized that excitement about a release often has more to do with the event than it does the story in the book. When I get caught up in hype, it’s normally about being part of the community–fangirling with other fans, getting likes and retweets from authors, participating in the collective hullabaloo.

Enjoying stories, on the other hand, happens most often when I pick up a book out of curiosity. “Hey, I think I’m in the mood for this.” “Oh, I remember people posting about this. Let’s see what it’s about.” Some of the books I’ve enjoyed most are the ones I didn’t know much about ahead of time.

So I don’t read excerpts or synopses anymore. And I kinda wish publishers would stop making such a big deal out of them. Even if, from a marketing standpoint, I understand why previews are an easy move.

Side note: nonfiction is a different story. I read The Undoing Project 100% because of excerpts released as articles.

What about you? Do you love excerpts and previews?