This is an illuminating read. Pollan's mantra, printed right on the cover, is simple: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. Well of course you shouldThis is an illuminating read. Pollan's mantra, printed right on the cover, is simple: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. Well of course you should eat food! Duh. How hard can that be? Turns out the evolution of the American food industry has pushed a lot of things that are anything but food into our grocery stores. Fed up with not being sure what, exactly, was in the food I was buying (and after Susan Dennard recommended it to me), I eagerly picked up Pollan’s book. He outlines the history of food science/engineering, the constantly changing diet fads in America, and how it has impacted our food and agriculture; then goes on to provide some common sense suggestions to eating thoughtfully and responsibly. (In short, don’t eat anything with long ingredient lists, especially if you can’t pronounce any of those ingredients. Don’t obsess over calories. Ignore products that make health claims. Just eat real, whole foods, and avoid the processed.)
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, but unfortunately, I have a feeling most people seeking out this info are like me–pretty darn healthy, concerned about what they eat, and eager to make additional lifestyle changes. Meaning those who could perhaps benefit most from the information in In Defense of Food, likely will never come across it. Quite the conundrum.
Arthur Miller's DEATH OF A SALESMAN is a classic that I never read in high school, so after my husband recently reread it, I snatched it up. I both loArthur Miller's DEATH OF A SALESMAN is a classic that I never read in high school, so after my husband recently reread it, I snatched it up. I both loved and despised this play. In many ways it is masterful. Even decades later, the themes of Miller's work are still alive and kicking: the working man, the pursuit of the American Dream, the way corporations tend to treat people not as living, breathing beings, but as numbers. I've watched friends and family lose jobs and be abused by their employers, much the way Willy was in this story. My heart ached for Willy.
And at the same time, I wanted to slap him, because Willy's demise was what I disliked about this book and it seemed avoidable. His intentions were in the right place but he babies his boys when they are young, leading them to sport questionable morals in their youth. He inflates his own ego in the process of trying to feel important and valued. He is downright horrible to his wife. He refuses to accept his sons for the individuals they become and still tries to mold them into what he sees best, even after they are grown, independent, and more or less happy. In the end, he destroys the only thing he has going for him: family.
I found the entire thing depressing, and yet I'm still oddly moved by the whole affair. In the end, I'm glad I read it. There is something powerful about this story, even in its darkness.
I enjoyed Marie Lu’s LEGEND. I really did. But I loved PRODIGY. Day and June are back in action and the stakes, too, are higher. They’ve joined (or raI enjoyed Marie Lu’s LEGEND. I really did. But I loved PRODIGY. Day and June are back in action and the stakes, too, are higher. They’ve joined (or rather escaped to) the Patriot rebels, just when the unthinkable happens: The Republic’s Elector dies, to be immediately replaced by his son, Anden. In exchange for safety among the Patriots (and medical attention for Day), the two agree to certain terms: they will assassinate the new Elector.
Told again in alternating POV’s, June heads back into the Republic’s hands to help steer Anden to the assassination point, while Day stays with the Patriots to work as a runner. He’ll be the one to pull the trigger on Anden if all goes as planned. Of course, it doesn’t. ;)
Lu’s world-building is unbelievable in this sequel. Everything about the Republic and the greater world came to life, and the plot and pacing is taut. These two characters have faced a lot. There are moments when they seem perfect for each other, and others where we see how very different they are, how the odds seem completely stacked against them. I still find myself picturing them far older than 15 given how mature/strong they are, but hey, that’s why Day is a legend among the poor and June a prodigy among Republic soldiers. In this sequel, secondary characters–Tess, Kaede, Razor–are also fantastic, both from an individual perspective, as well as how they weave into and add complexities to Day and June’s story. And the ending! So perfect, if not a little heartbreaking. I am incredibly anxious for the final installment!
This is going to be the vaguest review ever because Susan Dennard’s A DARKNESS STRANGE AND LOVELY doesn’t come out for another eight months still, butThis is going to be the vaguest review ever because Susan Dennard’s A DARKNESS STRANGE AND LOVELY doesn’t come out for another eight months still, but I can’t not talk about it. The sequel to SOMETHING STRANGE AND DEADLY, this novel picks up right where the first left off. The Spirit Hunters have fled Philadelphia, and Eleanor Fitt is dealing with the aftermath. When the evil necromancer Marcus reappears, Eleanor heads to Paris via steamer to track down Joseph, Daniel, and Jie. Aboard the ship she befriends Oliver, a mysterious young man harboring secrets regarding black magic, and what Eleanor learns from him complicates things greatly as she reunites with the Spirit Hunters.
I had a hunch while reading book one that Dennard excelled at writing setting (historic Philadelphia seeped off the pages), but now I’m positive of it. I truly felt like I was in Paris while reading this novel. Everything about the bustling city felt realized, and just as in book one, the fashions, speech, and technologies that populated the story were authentic to the late nineteenth century. Setting/world aside, I love these characters. It was so fun to be back with them. The Spirit Hunters are more of celebrity figures in Paris than the rag-tag team Philadelphia perceived them as, and this puts an interesting spin on their dynamic. Tensions between Eleanor and Daniel, who has “cleaned up” given all his time in the spotlight, couldn’t be higher. Jie is as spunky as always. And Oliver! I loved this new addition to the cast and how he fits both into the backstory as well as Eleanor’s present. Full of equal parts action and mystery (with a dash of romance), this sequel was a blast. Can’t wait for the final installment.
I like reading books about the craft of writing. I like feeling like I'm not alone, listening to someone else that gets it. And my goodness does AnneI like reading books about the craft of writing. I like feeling like I'm not alone, listening to someone else that gets it. And my goodness does Anne Lamott get it. Reading BIRD BY BIRD was like tapping into my chaotic brain and hearing all the neurotic thoughts that run around in there read back to me in some semblance of order.
This is a candid account at the ups and downs of writing, and the craziness that is leading a life filled with words. Lamott discusses validation, jealousy, shitty first drafts, the muse of creativity, publication, voice, and so much more. I laughed out loud numerous times while reading this, and when I wasn't laughing, I was often nodding in agreement. There are a few places that come across a bit pessimistic, but I appreciated them. Because they so honestly talked about the woes and fears and worries we have as writers. This book made me feel like I'm not (entirely) crazy. I'd consider this a must read for anyone who can't not write.
Having heard so many amazing things about Megan Whalen Turner’s The Queen’s Thief series, I finally snatched up the THE THIEF. After bragging that heHaving heard so many amazing things about Megan Whalen Turner’s The Queen’s Thief series, I finally snatched up the THE THIEF. After bragging that he “can steal anything,” Gen ends up in the King’s prisons, only to later be selected by the King’s scholar, the magus, to accompany him on a journey to seek out–and steal–and invaluable ancient treasure.
I found the beginning of this one a little slow, but the second half made up for it tenfold. Talk about twists and turns and surprises. (Like Jellicoe Road, I would tell hesitant readers to give this one ~100p before quitting.) Gen’s voice is blunt and humorous–he’s lazy, and yet completely sympathetic, likely because he does have the skills to back up his bragging (and then some). He’s also one of my favorite types of narrators: an unreliable one. This fantasy world is rich and evocative–an almost Greek-like setting, but with a unique series of gods/goddesses and their own histories–and the character development is top notch. None of the characters we start out with as a reader are left unchanged by the end. I’ve heard the second and third installments in this series are where the story really shines, so after a thoroughly enjoyable tale in THE THIEF, I’m pumped to pick up THE QUEEN OF ATTOLIA.
I really enjoyed Kendare Blake’s ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD when I read it around this time last year and was not about to miss the sequel, GIRL OF NIGHTMAI really enjoyed Kendare Blake’s ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD when I read it around this time last year and was not about to miss the sequel, GIRL OF NIGHTMARES. Cas, the ghost-hunting teen who feels like half of Supernatural‘s Winchester brothers, is having nightmares–and sightings–of Anna, the ghost he set free of a curse in the first installment. But these visuals are extremely disturbing. Anna appears tortured, trapped, and anything but at peace. So of course, Cas takes it upon himself to set things right.
This was a fabulous follow-up novel. Cas’s voice is as honest and humorous as ever. His ghost-hunting friends are animated and loyal. There were some seriously creepy scenes–the one with Thomas’s aunt and the entire showdown at the climax of the novel, for instance. And the ending was perfection. Bittersweet, but exactly what it needed to be–for Cas, for Anna. I still think I enjoyed ANNA better, for reasons I can’t quite pin-point, but I was not disappointed with GIRL OF NIGHTMARES.
Having read ToG ages ago, I knew exactly where Celaena (and Sam) would be at the end of this novella, but it was still my favorite of the four. Yes, iHaving read ToG ages ago, I knew exactly where Celaena (and Sam) would be at the end of this novella, but it was still my favorite of the four. Yes, it was terribly frustrating. Yes, I wanted to scream at the two of them (mostly Celaena) the entire time. Yes, it was painful and tragic and depressing as hell, but it still ends with a glimmer of hope, and I am so glad I read it.
My favorite part of these novellas has been watching Celaena’s character arc. Some might claim she hasn’t changed. And in many ways this is true: she’s still stubborn, arrogant, passionate to a fault. But in others, she couldn’t be more different.
These novellas first introduced us to a girl who refused to let anyone into her life. Who didn’t know how to love, felt strongest on her own, and didn’t have things like “I’m sorry,” or “I was wrong” in her vocabulary. They end with a different girl: one who understands that she can be a better version of herself when she opens up to others. One who can admit she is scared, uncertain, and nowhere near as bold and unfeeling as her outer shell lets on. Above all, these novellas end with a girl who has truly transformed: it takes hitting rock bottom to get her there, but she comes to regret many of her decisions. She admits fault to herself. She realizes her stubbornness is both a strength and a weakness and vows to not let Endovier break her. She will not be afraid.
The lines about fear are my favorite of the novellas. When I first read THRONE OF GLASS I had no idea the mantra came from Sam, and hearing him say it for the first time in EMPIRE had me tearing up. I wish I could hug Celaena. I want to tell her we’re all afraid, but I suspect she finally knows this. I only wish she could have learned the lesson in a less tragic manner.
Another Throne of Glass novella by Sarah J. Maas, and once again, I loved it. Celaena's motives in this installment stem from the very fist novella–thAnother Throne of Glass novella by Sarah J. Maas, and once again, I loved it. Celaena's motives in this installment stem from the very fist novella–the cruel injustice of slavery. When Adarlan tasks her with eliminating a pro-slavery figure, her mission takes her into the sewers below Rithold. This dank, filthy location contrasts against the stunning aspects of the above ground city that Maas effortless brings to life.
Celaena is quickly becoming one of my favorite heroines. In this novella we see her make some terrible mistakes (blindly following orders, snapping at the boy who loves her, etc), and I can't help but marvel at how these flaws in her character hint at her growth throughout the series. (Having already read THRONE OF GLASS, I appreciate this look at her past, her fire and impulsiveness. She still has some of it in ToG, but she's changed, grown). And Sam! I fall a bit further in love with him every time he graces the pages.
I'm so very excited for the final novella, but I'm also truly terrified. Because I love both Celaena and Sam and I know what has to happen to get them to where they need to be for the start of THRONE OF GLASS. I have a horrible feeling that tissues will be in order.
About a year ago, I was at the day job (web design), when a link to a blog post made it’s way around the office via AIM.
The post was basically one manAbout a year ago, I was at the day job (web design), when a link to a blog post made it’s way around the office via AIM.
The post was basically one man’s manifesto when it came to creativity. He listed out ten things he wished he knew when he was starting out as a writer and artist. I remember the simplicity of his statements — practical, to the point — but also incredibly insightful. Small things we often forget when we are knee-deep in The Creating or overwhelmed by The Doubts.
I remember nodding my head in agreement to nearly everything in that blog post, and then just the other day, while I was at B&N, I saw his book on the shelf. That blog post (by Austin Kleon) has been turned into a lovely little book: Steal Like an Artist.
I bought it, took it home, read it in under an hour, and experienced the euphoria I had reading the original blog post all over again. I wanted to jump up and shout, “Yes! This! Exactly this!”
This book is a little piece of genius and I think that Every. Single. Person. leading a creative life ought to read it. Or at least flip through a couple pages.
Let me give you a sampling.
The book opens with a quote from Pablo Picasso –”Art is theft.” — and then goes on to discuss how nothing is truly original. How every idea is simply a re-imagining of previous works. Kleon says:
“Some people find this idea depressing, but it fills me with hope…If we’re free from the burden of trying to be completely original, we can stop trying to make something out of nothing, and we can embrace influence instead of running away from it.”
Oh my goodness, yes! Nothing is new. Everything is borrowed and expanded upon. From here, the idea of “stealing” is introduced. And not stealing as in plagiarizing. That is bad. BAD! Plagiarizing is trying to pass someone else’s work off as your own. Kleon instead talks about “copying” as a method of practice, as a way of finding yourself.
“Nobody is born with a style or a voice. We don’t come out of the womb knowing who we are. In the beginning, we learn by pretending to be our heroes. We learn by copying.”
He talks about surrounding yourself with the work of the artists you love, and the work of the artists those artists love, and studying everything. Embrace those artists. Emulate them. Try to create not only as they create, but to see as they see. Get inside their minds. The goal of copying is to see the ways in which you can’t be those artists because they are them and you are you. Kleon says this much better than me:
“Copy your heroes. Examine where you fall short. What’s in there that makes you different? That’s what you should amplify and transform into your own work.”
And then Kleon gives the most basic advice: Start making stuff. Just start! He talks about how “imposter syndrome” often holds people back. (I know for a fact that I struggle with this daily.) So what is “imposter syndrome?”
“The clinical definition is a “psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments.” It means that you feel like a phony, like you’re just winging it, that you really don’t have any idea what you’re doing.
Guess what: None of us do. Ask anybody doing truly creative work and they’ll tell you the truth: They don’t know where the good stuff comes from. They just show up to do their thing. Every day.”
YES! It’s like he’s in my head. I do feel like a phony, a hack, a sad excuse for a writer. I don’t know what I’m doing, and that’s OK. No one does. Every writer face doubts and fears. They sit down and create without knowing the answers — from the NYT Bestselling author, to the child picking up a pencil to draft their very first story.
The rest of the book became a sort of surreal reading experience for me, where I felt like Kleon was sitting in my office, speaking directly to me. Everything I need to hear when I’m lost in revisions or slogging through a first draft or swimming in the Vortex of Self-Doubt and Loathing for any number of reasons was in this book.
Sometimes these words of encouragement were written:
“There are no shortcuts. Make stuff every day. Know you’re going to suck for awhile. Fail. Get better.”
“We’re drawn to certain kinds of work because we’re inspired by people doing that work. All fiction, in fact, is fan fiction. The best advice is not to write what you know, it’s to write what you like…write the story you want to read.”
“Don’t worry about a grand scheme or unified vision for your work…What unifies your work is the fact that you made it.”
“You can’t go looking for validation from external sources. Once you put your work into the world, you have no control over the way people will react to it…Not everybody will get it. People will misinterpret you and what you do. They might even call you names. So get comfortable with being misunderstood, disparaged, or ignored–the trick is to be too busy doing your work to care.”
And then there were the doodles — you can see a bunch more here — interspersed between all the brilliance:
While I’ve summarized the book in this post, it’s nothing like the actual experience of reading it. Between the simple statements, sketched visuals, and conversational tone, it’s almost as if Kleon is speaking directly to you. This book is honest. And beautiful. And real. And it’s just good advice. For a creative life, but for life in general.
But of course, as Kleon points out on the very last page:
“Some advice can be a vice. Feel free to take what you can use, and leave the rest. There are no rules.”
I adored this novel. I knew very little about it going in, but the cover grabbed my attention at B&N and after reading the opening pages, I was hoI adored this novel. I knew very little about it going in, but the cover grabbed my attention at B&N and after reading the opening pages, I was hooked. The story follows Finley, who lives and breaths basketball. So does his girlfriend, Erin. They both live in a bad neighborhood, ruled by the Irish mob, drugs, crime, and severe racial tension, but the two find an outlet in ball. They train together. They even break up each basketball season to better focus on their game.
Then Russ moves to town after the tragic murder of his parents. A prodigy and highly-recruited ball player, Russ has been shattered by the loss of his parents. He will no longer touch a basketball and answers only to Boy 21, the number of the jersey he used to wear. Finley’s coach asks Finley to reach out to Russ. While the two boys’ lives are initially forced together, they both find a surprising friend in the other.
There is so much to love about this novel, especially the friendship aspect. I want to read more novels about friendship. And what sparks between Russ and Finley is no easy relationship, because as Russ heals from his loses, he begins to touch the basketball again, threatening to take Finley’s starting position. Finley’s relationship with Erin sees similar levels of growth. By the end of this novel I was crying like a baby. This is a moving story about trust, hope, and the power of friendship. And if you’re like me and have a love of lay-ups, jump-balls, and triple doubles, the basketball aspects of this novel will be icing on the cake.
I fell in love with Amy Garvey’s COLD KISS about a year ago, so I was so excited to get my hands on an ARC of the sequel, GLASS HEART. In this follow-I fell in love with Amy Garvey’s COLD KISS about a year ago, so I was so excited to get my hands on an ARC of the sequel, GLASS HEART. In this follow-up, Wren is still struggling to understand her powers, and when Gabriel encourages her to stop using them, she fells a sting of rejection; almost as if he is unwilling to accept her for who she is. After meeting a couple in town (Bay and Fiona) that seem to share her abilities, Wren begins to practice using her powers with those that don’t want her to hide them. But something is off about Bay. He is not outwardly threatening, but even as a reader, you can sense a certain wrongness from the start. He made my skin crawl for most of the book, and I think Garvey’s treatment of his character is brilliant.
My love for COLD KISS outweighs GLASS HEART, but I still thought this was a lovely sequel. Wren and Gabriel have their ups and downs, and like always, Garvey is able to write young love in such a sweet, convincing, authentic manner. Family drama continues to play a role as Wren’s absent father re-enters their lives. And above all: the prose! It is as gorgeous as always. Amy Garvey has a way with words and I will gladly read anything she writes.
I have been counting down the days to THROUGH THE EVER NIGHT since I finished reading its predecessor UNDER THE NEVER SKY. (So, pretty much a solid yeI have been counting down the days to THROUGH THE EVER NIGHT since I finished reading its predecessor UNDER THE NEVER SKY. (So, pretty much a solid year.) This is one of my favorite ongoing series at the moment, and the sequel does not disappoint. I may have loved it even more than the first, and I loved that one something fierce.
TTEN picks up where UTNS left off. Perry and Aria are reunited, but new tensions surround them. Perry’s tribe isn’t quick to accept Aria, a dweller, into their compound. Perry is struggling to fill his brother’s shoes as Blood Lord. Then there’s the added pressure of Aria trying to locate the Still Blue for Hess to secure Talon’s safety/freedom, all while poor Roar battles his own demons. And all the smaller characters of book one–Marron, Cinder, Soren–are woven effortlessly into this tale, creating bigger stakes and an even more intricate story. I loved this characters in book one, but now I truly see how important and purposefully each is.
Rossi’s writing is as unique and poetic as always. The Aether feels like more of a threat than ever. The relationship between every single character seeps off the page. I’ve started to think that Perry and Roar and Aria are real. I know what they will say or how they will react to situations. I fear for them. I cry with them. I really can’t do this book justice. If you’re not reading this series, you should be. I’m already counting down the days to INTO THE STILL BLUE.
I went into ANOTHER LITTLE PIECE without knowing much about it, and I think that was for the best. This is a dark, twisted, deliciously creepy read! TI went into ANOTHER LITTLE PIECE without knowing much about it, and I think that was for the best. This is a dark, twisted, deliciously creepy read! The story follows Annaliese, who was last seen stumbling out of the woods at a house party in upstate New York, drenched in blood. She went missing shortly after, for many months, only to be found in Oaklahoma, with no memory of what happened that night. No memory at all. In fact, she has only one possibly theory as to what happened and speaking it aloud is not an option: She fears she is not the real Annaliese.
The structure of this novel was so unique: the current timeline interrupted by flashbacks and memories, all of which are punctuated by stark, haunting poems. As the truth is slowly discovered, the reader realizes how truly mangled and complex Annaliese’s situation is. This novel is creepy, creepy, creepy, and still, I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. Solving the mystery of Annaliese’s past alongside her is addicting, even when the discovers are difficult to swallow. Highly recommend!