The fantasy world that Snow Like Ashes is set in is the best and worst thing about this book.This book is also reviewed on my blog Books: A true story
The fantasy world that Snow Like Ashes is set in is the best and worst thing about this book. The idea of seasons being a kingdom is pretty cool. Some kingdoms have one season all the time and some kingdoms have all four seasons every year. The Season Kingdoms and the "Rhythm" Kingdoms don't like each other. That's a lot of kingdoms and weather to keep track of, which is where the love/hate relationship comes in. The world is interesting and complex but difficult to figure out which made the narrative prone to info dumping at times. Thankfully, the kingdoms and their cities had obvious names to help me out. I liked the play on the names of calendar months for the capital cities - Jannuari, Abril, Oktuber, and Juli. But going for the obvious made it feel a little cliche. The people in the Autumn Kingdom had a Native American ethnicity. The people of the Winter Kingdom had all white hair and blue eyes. It's fun and cheesy at the same time and I still can not figure out how I feel about it.
The magic system grew on me. I did not like it at first. From a logical standpoint, it seemed completely stupid to have magic reside in an object that can easily be stolen (see also: the entire conflict of this novel). I wanted to tell the whole Winter Kingdom, "Duh. That's obviously a stupid idea." Many, many chapters later it's explained why magic only resides in objects and I changed my mind about not liking it. The nature of evil is portrayed through magic as feeding on itself and being about a choice between good and evil. It was actually pretty interesting. Although, there was one scene at the beginning that seemed like it was supposed to have a lot of shock value but since the rules of magic hadn't been explained yet, I was not impressed.
The writing wasn't the best I've read. It had a few cliche sayings that pulled me out of the story and would sometimes tell me things I had already figured out. Villain motivation is very important to me. This villain fell into the category of wanting more power for no particular reason. That is probably the least interesting motivation that a villain can have. I mean, at least have a reason for all this power. Maybe he's always wanted all the things because he never had the things. Please. Something. I kept wondering through the whole book what it was that he wanted. They just called him "evil" the whole time.
Meira is a strong, spunky female lead. I liked her character and reading about her. She wants to be a soldier, not a princess. As much as I liked Meira though, I loved Theron. I thought he was the best character in the book. He was so far from cliche that I don't think Theron and cliche have ever met. Theron says my favorite quote from the entire book:
"There will always be a THEY in your new life, Meira. THEY make decisions; THEY mold your future. The trick is to find a way to still be YOU through it all."
-Sara Raasch, Snow Like Ashes (Chapter 14)
Overall, this was a good epic fantasy with an interesting world (once I figured it out) full of fun characters but had a few too many cliche moments for me to completely love it.
Content warning: some violence that is mildly graphic...more
After reading the acknowledgementsby the author, I could see the Into the Woods inspiration.This book is also reviewed on my blog Books: A true story
After reading the acknowledgements by the author, I could see the Into the Woods inspiration. Stray follows the sappy fairy tale stereotype and gives it a darker undertone especially about it's control towards women. If you kept Cinderella almost the same but made it slightly darker with forbidden magic you might have something like Stray.
This fairy tale was all about controlling women and how they aren't valued in this world even though they are technically powerful. I know it was supposed to be a satire but sometimes it was difficult to read about the extreme rules for them all towards the goal of getting married. The girls act ridiculous and when one of them eats before going to a ball I couldn't get the image of Scarlet O'Hara reluctantly stuffing her face and wondering why you have to be so ridiculous just to catch a husband.
The world building just wasn't very strong. While I liked the plot, it felt hard to imagine the world because it was a little confusing. The biggest problem for me, though, was the question of why these girls would even put up with all these crazy restrictions or where they came from in the first place. That thought pulled me out of the story a lot because it was never really answered very well.
The writing was ok for the most part. A few cheesy lines here and there with the cliche "breath she didn't know she was holding." I'm so glad she figured it out in time or she might have died. And my favorite "Suddenly" was in there more than I prefer. But it had some good writing too. Just not terribly consistent. I liked the characters and their relationships. The villain gives speeches about having fun with the poor, powerless protagonist and it made me roll my eyes.
I didn't like the beginning. It throws me into an action scene right away but I'm not sure why I should care yet. I'm not a fan of when authors do that.
And to be very, very nitpicky - she doesn't use the term "artless" like I'm used to Jane Austen using it and it irked me.
Overall, it was a different take on fairy tales that had an interesting plot but the world building wasn't my favorite....more
Quiet changed how I view introverts and made me realize how many biases there are against theThis book is also reviewed on my blog Books: A true story
Quiet changed how I view introverts and made me realize how many biases there are against them. Our society values people who are outgoing and people who are shy are considered to have some sort of flaw even though that is their natural personality. I had never thought about or even realized how our society values a very "narrow range of personality styles. (pg. 3)" As an introverted person, I didn't think I would have any biases against people who are labeled as shy. Was I wrong. Many shy people are encouraged to be social and change which gives them a feeling that something is wrong with them instead of them just having a different personality.
Introversion— along with its cousins sensitivity, seriousness, and shyness— is now a second-class personality trait, somewhere between a disappointment and a pathology. Introverts living under the Extrovert Ideal are like women in a man’s world, discounted because of a trait that goes to the core of who they are.
-Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking (p. 4)
My favorite thing about this book was how it showed that introverts have strengths just by being who they naturally are. An example she used was Rosa Parks who was "shy and courageous (pg. 2)." Susan Cain points out that the Civil Rights movement wouldn't have gotten started if Rosa Parks had been an outgoing and loud person. It succeeded because she was a quiet, well respected person and the fact that she stood up for herself gained more attention because it was easier for people to realize the huge injustice of it since she was acting against her personality.
Here are a few of the strengths that an introverted person naturally has:
Function well without sleep (pg. 3)
Good at negotiating because their mild-mannered disposition allows them to take strong/aggressive positions and be accepted more easily (pg. 8)
Think before they speak or act (pg. 8, 168)
Prepare more for speeches and negotiations (pg. 8)
Asks lots of questions and listens intently to answers that leads to strong negotiation skills (pg. 8)
Work slowly and deliberately (pg. 11)
Ability to focus intently on one task and high abilities of concentration (pg. 11)
Relatively immune to the temptation of wealth or fame (pg. 11)
Able to delay gratification (pg. 163)
Don't give up easily (pg. 168)
Leadership style that wins people over (pg. 197)
Work independently which can lead to innovation (pg. 74)
I loved hearing the definition of an introverted person that wasn't framed in a negative way compared to an extroverted person. An introverted person enjoys less stimulation which is why they tend to like things like reading. They recharge by being alone while extroverted people recharge by socializing. All introverted people are not necessarily shy. I really liked Susan's illustration of how shyness and introversion were two different things.
Shyness is the fear of social disapproval or humiliation, while introversion is a preference for environments that are not overstimulating. Shyness is inherently painful; introversion is not.
- Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking (p. 12)
There's a quiz in the book to see which end of the spectrum of introversion/extroversion you fall on. She states several times that no one is completely extroverted or introverted. I did get 15/20 on the test which means I fall heavily on the introverted side. So this book felt very relevant to me. But even if you don't feel like an introverted person, this book has so much value because it's pretty much guaranteed that you know or are related to someone introverted and it can help you understand and relate to them.
One epiphany I had about myself was learning that some introverted people are sensitive. There's a study in the book about babies who had personality assessments when they were babies and again when they had grown up. They found the babies who were sensitive, who cried at loud noises and bad smells more easily turned out to be mellow, introverted adults. The babies who were easy going and didn't react much to new things grew up to be more outgoing. It seems like it should be the other way around, but it makes sense. If an introverted baby is overwhelmed by stimulation, they choose to be around less stimulation as they become adults. I immediately called my mom when I read this study because I will never live down the stories of being the baby who was scared of the orange rug every time I sat on it, the lamp from just looking at it, and my aunt's braces when she smiled. And when Susan Cain is talking about sensitivity she is using the psychological term.
Many introverts are also “highly sensitive,” which sounds poetic, but is actually a technical term in psychology. If you are a sensitive sort, then you’re more apt than the average person to feel pleasantly overwhelmed by Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” or a well-turned phrase or an act of extraordinary kindness. You may be quicker than others to feel sickened by violence and ugliness, and you likely have a very strong conscience.
-Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking (p. 14)
It’s as if, like Eleanor Roosevelt, they can’t help but feel what others feel.
-Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking (p. 138)
I wasn't expecting this book to help me think about what I really want to do with my life. Introverts are more likely to ignore their own preferences for career choices. The author talks about her career choice as a lawyer and even though she was good at it, she didn't enjoy or even want to do it. She listed three steps to finding out what you love to do.
First, think back to what you loved to do when you were a child. (pg. 218)
Second, pay attention to the work you gravitate to. (pg. 218)
Finally, pay attention to what you envy. Jealousy is an ugly emotion, but it tells the truth. You mostly envy those who have what you desire. (pg. 218)
When I went through these steps I realized that I love reading and reviewing books. Go figure after studying music and then finance in college that I would eventually come back to reading which I have loved doing since elementary school. Blogging about books has been such a great outlet and way for me to write which I also loved doing. I had to giggle when I came across this quote because my husband can't believe some of the things I post on my blog for the world to see sometimes.
Studies have shown that, indeed, introverts are more likely than extroverts to express intimate facts about themselves online that their family and friends would be surprised to read...
-Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking (p. 63)
If being introverted is so great, why isn't it valued in our society? There's an entire chapter that talks about the shift in American culture to over-emphasize the value of extroverted people that led to a devaluing of introverted people. It was very interesting. It involves industrial change, work force changes, and even parenting changes. She compares other cultures to America's (like China) and shows how their value of extroversion is not as strong or even the opposite and how that affects their culture. The biggest thing that contributed to extroversion being over-valued has to do with the business world. Loud, fast talking people are seen as leaders even if it negatively affects others. Harvard Business School teaches that true leaders have quick and assertive answers which might have led to many of the financial crises since the slow and cautious decision makers were mostly dismissed. There was a study in the book that questioned whether extroverted people are always the best leaders. It turns out they are excellent leaders if their employees are very passive, but in a work environment where the employees are more proactive an introverted leader is actually more efficient at utilizing the knowledge and experience of their employees.
You would think that as an introverted person it would be easy to parent an introverted child. That's not necessarily true and I enjoyed the parenting tips in the book. I need to remember that my child is just sensitive to things that are new in general and not to label him as shy or anti-social.
I feel like I know myself a little better after reading Quiet. I can recognize now when I’m feeling overwhelmed from stimulation and I make it a point to take time to myself to read or spend time on my own. It’s made me a lot happier. I also have been standing up for myself more, but in my own way by asking lots of questions and not being afraid to speak my mind just because I’m not a loud person. It also made me realize the social pressures I had been putting on myself and my kids. I always felt guilty for not having “enough” play dates and social time. And by “enough” I mean daily play dates. I realize now that the pace of a few times a week makes both my and my kids happy. I don’t feel pressure to have them constantly doing something with other kids anymore. Most of all it helped me realize that I am not an anti-social person. Now that I'm aware that going out with lots of friends or to parties will drain me, I make time to wind down afterwards and I no longer turn down social invitations since I understand my personality better. I feel like for me, this book accomplished what Susan Cain wanted it to.
If there is only one insight you take away from this book, though, I hope it’s a newfound sense of entitlement to be yourself.
-Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking (p. 16)
Overall, Quiet shifted my perspective on what it means to be introverted and I learned a lot about myself in the process. I highly recommend this book.
Dad is Fatexpands on Jim Gaffigan's staple humor about kids and the challenges of being a parThis book is also reviewed on my blog Books: A true story
Dad is Fat expands on Jim Gaffigan's staple humor about kids and the challenges of being a parent. I laughed out loud at most of this book. As funny as the book is, I think it helped me look at life more honestly and realize that being a parent IS crazy and hard sometimes. The ability to laugh about it and realize all parents aren't perfect inspires me to do a little better and not let myself get bogged down in the sheer stress of it is sometimes. I can laugh about my stress and let it go.
Failing and laughing at your own shortcomings are the hallmarks of a sane parent.
- Jim Gaffigan, Dad Is Fat (pg 25)
I think another point he makes in this book is how funny kids are just from being themselves. One of my favorite things about Jim Gaffigan's humor is that he can take situations that usually stress me out about kids being themselves and show me how funny it is. Like this:
Children have a tendency to behave as poorly as the most poorly behaved kid in the room. The laws of physics dictate that if there is a kid screaming and running in the hallway of a hotel, all the other children will scream and run in the hallway of the hotel.
- Jim Gaffigan, Dad Is Fat (pg 15)
The chapter that I laughed at the most was called "Vice President" where he compares dads to real vice presidents (like the enforcer role he sometimes has of Dick Cheney) and how dads different vice president roles function in the family. The whole chapter is great but here's my favorite quote:
As a dad, you are Vice President. You are part of the Executive Branch of the family, but you are the partner with the weaker authority. In your children’s eyes, you mostly fulfill a ceremonial role of attending pageants and ordering pizza. I’m never the first choice. My kids don’t even mask it, which I respect them for. “Let’s see, the crabby guy with the scratchy beard or that warm soft lady that tells us stories for eight hours?” It’s not even close.
- Jim Gaffigan, Dad Is Fat (pg 36)
I wish I could share all my favorite quotes with you, but that would be half the book. I listened to the audiobook, but then got the ebook from the library so I could highlight all the quotes that I loved. So here's the last quote that I want to share with you. Jim is talking about how his kids wake up before the sun and how loud they are (which I can relate to) which makes this quote so hilarious to me.
The song goes, “Morning has broken,” and I’m pretty sure my children broke it. Like everything else they break, if they did break it, they’ll never admit it.
- Jim Gaffigan, Dad Is Fat (p. 194)
Narrator Review: Five stars
Listening to the audiobook was just as much fun as listening to one of his standup routines. He's honest, sarcastic, funny and so entertaining to listen to. The way he says things really adds to the humor. I highly recommend the audiobook over the ebook.
Overall, it was a hilarious and entertaining read about being a parent and the funny things that kids do.
The Queen of the Big Time reminded me of Gone with the Wind but set in the north instead of tThis book is also reviewed on my blog Books: A true story
The Queen of the Big Time reminded me of Gone with the Wind but set in the north instead of the south. There's a guy that Nella, the main character, pines for but can't have (who is kind of whiney by the way) and she doesn't fully love the one she has until it's too late. And then she returns to Tara...uh, I mean the farm she grew up on.
We had a great discussion in my book club about this one. It was a book that made you want to have more fun and live life instead of working too much because of Nella's reflections on her life and the choices she made. It also had me ponder about our dreams for the future. I couldn't decide if Nella gave up her dream or if she just got a new one. That was something I can really relate to. I still don't know the answer. Did I give up my dream of music or did I just find a new one that I love?
It was touching to read a story about a family and the support and care they have for each other even when they don't always like each other. I find myself enjoying multi-generational stories like these and how they show the changes of generations and their relationships. My one complaint about the novel was the the plot didn't have much going on it felt kind of slow to me.
Narrator Review: 3 Stars
The narrator, Cassandra Campbell, had a pleasant voice. She read a little slow for my taste but speeding up the narration helped with that. I thought she did a great job pronouncing all the Italian names.
Overall, it was a beautiful story about family and the choices we make with our dreams, our love, our work, and the act of trying to balance it all.
Content warning: a fade-to-black sex scene and there wasn't any language that I could remember....more