Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Book Review: Summers at Castle Auburn by Sharon Shinn

Pages: 342
Publisher: Ace (Penguin)
Released: April 1, 2001
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars, Special Shelf

*sigh* How do I describe a book like this? You totally know what I mean to describe, because this is the type of book every reader knows...not genre, not plot, but feel. But, putting that into words is hard.

It's the type of book I want to call "classic" or "timeless" but neither of those are quite right. It's a "quiet" book, without a breakneck plot or even a clear step by step series of events. It's more the type of book where you float in the world, meeting the people, living alongside them, slowly immersing yourself in this state of being that is both new and as familiar as an old favorite sweater.

And then, without making a big fuss, threads start to tie themselves together. The climax appears on the horizon and you realize that, of course, all paths are leading to this final point. The ending was entirely predictable, and really it was more waiting for main character Coriel to catch up with what we've known all along. But it wasn't a frustrating predictability. It was like putting in the final pieces of a puzzle when you've long known what the picture will show, but still feel that firm satisfaction of rightness when the last pieces fall into place.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Book Review: Nightspell by Leah Cypess

Pages: 326
Released: May 12, 2011
Publisher: Harper Collins
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

I read the standalone companion novel Mistwood years ago back in 2010, and while I always intended to get around to Nightspell, it took me a really, really long time to finally pick it up (you know how it goes, all these great TBR intentions, and then suddenly six years have flown by!).

I would normally kick myself for waiting so long, but I'm actually glad I did because Nightspell came into my life at just the right time. I had just finished the lack-luster and mildly irritating The Hidden Oracle, which was even more of a disappointment after coming off of the magical Special Shelf book high of A Knight in Shining Armor. I needed a book to make things better again.

Enter Nightspell. I could see how some might describe it as slow, but I found it absorbing in that black hole, suck the world away kind of way. I inhaled the book over the course of two days, which in normal times is impressive for me since I'm not a fast reader, but is extra fast now that it takes me weeks to finish a book this size.

It isn't high action, but it is a creeping mystery set in an world that is as terrifying as it is fascinating. There are three main characters and three kind of main/side characters and each is a mystery themselves. I can't say that I like any of them, but I loved reading about all of them and I felt deeply for all of them.

This is technically a companion novel to Mistwood since they're set in the same world and one of the characters in Mistwood appears in Nightspell. It probably would have been neat if I had remembered the details about this character, but after six years I could barely even remember that this character existed. I don't think that affected my enjoyment at all though, and so I don't think it's necessary to read Mistwood before reading Nightspell.

I know I'm not saying much about the actual story, or even the characters, but that would take away from all the mysteries. Trust me when I say, fans of court fantasy, slow burn plots, world building, and mysteries will find much to like in Nightspell. I'm glad I own a copy, since I'll definitely reread this one.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Book Review: The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery

Pages: 218
Received: Library, now own
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars, Special Shelf

2016 has been a crazy year. Work has been super busy with a lot of huge projects (including redesigning and opening a library, among other things), I decided to lose my mind and go back to school to pursue another degree, and then of course there's things like all the awful things happening in the world this year, my own family dramas (I swear I can't not think of Carrigan from Casper whenever I hear anything about my soon to be step mother) all the regular normal things in life (sometimes I feel like the world is a revolving door of supermarket trips and laundry. And baking. Thankfully, I've been doing a lot of baking, too).

I'm a very type A, high stress, perfectionist kind of person, so with this type of schedule I really only had one path: death due to stress.

Obviously I'm not really ok with that path, so I had to try to take a different approach to things. A more relaxed, go with the flow kind of approach. 

My reading has definitely reflected that new approach as well. Filled with comfort re-reads, feel-good stories, grab-on-a-whim books, and a whole lot less reading (only 46 books so far this year! Last year was 93! But I'm not stressing about it...), 2016 has been both my worst reading year and my best reading year.

The Blue Castle by L. M. Montgomery falls on the side of "best," and not just for this year, but right up there with best ever in my entire reading life. You know the type of book I'm talking about: book hugging, buying every copy in sight, random sighs and smiles at the thought of different scenes, rereading favorite parts, contemplating naming children and/or pets after the main characters (yeah, even with names like Valancy!), and having to force myself not to spend the rest of 2016 just rereading The Blue Castle over and over.

Dare I say it, but I love Valancy even more than L. M. Montomery's Anne (of Green Gables), and I feel blasphemous even thinking that, but it's true.

Ok, so what is this book even about? The short and sweet sticky-note version is that Valency has a horrible family who she's stuck living with and they run every aspect of her life. It's a misery. Then, Valency goes to the doctor and finds out that she's dying and has only a short while to live. So she decides to shuck off her wallfloweryness and start living for herself.

In doing so, Valency finds empowerment, validation, happiness, tranquility, and love. It is all so, so, so perfect and really is exactly the type of book I needed to read in 2016.

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