Category Archives: Reviews

Review: Damn Fine Story

Damn Fine Story: Mastering the Tools of a Powerful NarrativeDamn Fine Story: Mastering the Tools of a Powerful Narrative by Chuck Wendig
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I wasn’t able to attend the DFW Con writing convention this year, where Chuck was the keynote speaker, but I did get to read this book, so I still feel like I got to have a good long conversation with him.

The book is both light-hearted and zippy and meaty and something you’ll ponder. It took me a long time to get through because I kept ruminating. Which is the point! Thank god this was a different kind of writing book! There is no torture over adverbs or controversially short memory devices; Chuck leaves all that to King and the plethora of his imitators. Instead, this book is about the overall shape of a story. That’s a mushy, hard-to-define topic, which Chuck handles with movie story examples, quick jokes, and great illustrative metaphors.

You’ll have something to think about, and you’ll damn well like it, young man!

(Seriously though, I just want to watch TV with Chuck. He has excellent nerd taste.)

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Review: Camino Island

Camino IslandCamino Island by John Grisham
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Sorry, Mr. Grisham, life is too short for me to keep reading this one. I got two chapters in and nothing grabbed me, and the bookish theft plus independently wealthy indie book store owner who is kinda an asshole already deterred me from continuing. Maybe it picks up? But I’m not willing to stick it out.

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Review: A Hat Full of Sky

A Hat Full of Sky (Discworld, #32; Tiffany Aching, #2)A Hat Full of Sky by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is a warm, cheery hug. Tiffany Aching is ready to start to learn to use magic and become a Real Witch, but it means leaving home for the first time and staying with a rather odd witch named Miss Level, who is frustratingly not very witchy at all! Tiffany is a bit homesick and irritated that magic seems to be mostly helping ungrateful villagers and not a lot of swishing magic wands about. But danger has followed Tiffany, and, with the help of the Feegles (see: Wee Free Men) and a few other witches, she learns how to tap the true power of a witch.

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Review: The Wee Free Men

The Wee Free Men (Discworld, #30)The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Superbly charming, Pratchett at his best. Tiffany is a young girl living on the Chalk, which sensible witches know is far too unstable to create a witch. And yet… and yet, Tiffany shows all the characteristics of one. She’s very clever, thinks things through, and, above all, cares. Plus there’s the fact that she knocked a fairytale demon right back out of a stream and has been talking to feisty little fairy men.

It was so good that I blazed through it and immediately grabbed the next one, which I also finished off in a blitz. A perfect vacation read. The Tiffany Aching books are officially YA, and certainly would be a riot for a kid reader, but I didn’t find it too different from the general Discworld populations, and of course adults should enjoy it, too. Give it a read, ya scuggin!

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Review: Like a Mother

Like a Mother: A Feminist Journey Through the Science and Culture of PregnancyLike a Mother: A Feminist Journey Through the Science and Culture of Pregnancy by Angela Garbes
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I picked this book up on a whim because the pregnancy book I had wanted to read was on backorder at the library. I’m glad I did! Like a Mother is one part memoir (focused on the author’s pregnancy) and one part Weird Science Facts. I now know far more about what a placenta looks, feels, smells, and yes, tastes like than I ever expected. I also know what it does.

Honestly, it was such a fascinating and frank look at pregnancy that it shouldn’t be slated as “just” a pregnancy book. Anyone interested in the human body and biology could benefit from reading it.

That said, it feels like every pregnancy book features vignettes about the author’s birth experience, which… I don’t know, I see a value in it, but that wasn’t why I was showing up to the book, and I found those sections a little too personal and intense for me compared to the Weird Science Facts.

I also thought the book had some good discussions of the feminism of pregnancy in general, and it was reassuring in a Hell Yes I’m Not Alone kind of way to know that there are other people out there pushing against the standard pregnancy mantras.

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Review: Tiamat’s Wrath (The Expanse)

Tiamat's Wrath (The Expanse, #8)Tiamat’s Wrath by James S.A. Corey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It’s taken me a few days to digest this book. It should be no surprise to fans by now that each book has Big Ramifications. But the writing is also so embracing that it feels like home.

I’m not sure if I loved this book or not. On the one hand, I was thrilled to get it and continue the story. On the other—as has been true throughout—the storytellers and story type shifts with the needs to the narrative. As such, I didn’t “hear from” some of the characters I missed. I did feel Teresa, one of the newer characters, had a distinctive, age-appropriate voice—I just didn’t like her much. But I think that’s intentional. But it does make it hard to get attached when you dislike one of the leads. I was glad to see Elvi back, though I do not envy her her plot.

Mixed bag, and it will definitely make you feel all kinds of things.

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Review: A Closed and Common Orbit

A Closed and Common Orbit (Wayfarers, #2)A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I picked this up because I wanted to renter the calm, warm, happy world of Chambers’ first book. And while this one has a few overlapping characters and the same general universe backdrop—it just didn’t take me there.

Part of my problem was I only liked half of the story. The main thrust of the story, an AI trying to adapt to being foisted into a humanesque body, wasn’t something I cared about. The counterpoint, describing the plucky tech Pepper’s hard upbringing as a child slave on a terrible, wasteful planet, I loved! I found myself dully reading Sidra’s (the AI) bits, then getting excited on Pepper’s.

But the end of that one felt rushed, so I didn’t get the ending I was hoping for. Plus the social issues aspect on this one was just so thick, at times it felt like a lecture—even if I agreed with it, I wanted to spend my time on more plot and less musing. I should have known that going in, I guess. I’ll keep chasing my warm fuzzies, though.

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