Surprise! I’m alive
Outside the Reviews / May 21, 2018

It has been… six weeks since I vanished without a word. Sorry about that. In the time since I last reviewed a book, I’ve: survived the flu graduated highschool started a new summer job In other words, I’ve been a little busy. I do want to start reviewing books again, but I don’t know for sure how soon I’ll be able to. In the mean time I just wanted to note that no, I’m not dead, yes, I’m still keeping an eye on x-rayreads, and if you’d like to see a specific book reviewed, drop me a note in the X-Ray Machine!  

All Things Austen, Part 1
Adult , Outside the Reviews / February 23, 2018

Hello everyone, Marietta here! Yes, I’ve finally crawled out of my Internet Silence Hole and am ready to blow you all away with a fascinating post about the most exciting, fast-paced books you’ve ever read, written by the most awesome author in the world: Jane Austen!! Right? Don’t you all agree with me? (Say yes, it’s the safest answer.) OK, I’ll admit it – Jane Austen isn’t exactly known for action scenes, fast-paced, witty dialogue or content that needs to be censored. But there are a lot, LOT of good reasons why she is one of the most famous authors in the world and why every book she wrote is a classic. Her books are FANTASTIC, you all. And I know this for a fact, because I just finished reading through all of them this past year. I discussed them with my mother and a friend here in Wisconsin, and together we compared, contrasted, attacked, defended and lauded all of her excellent works. (Then we watched the movies and criticized the way that BBC did Persuasion, because it could have been so much better.) But since I don’t have enough time to do 6 reviews and since you don’t have…

January: Monthly Round-Up
Outside the Reviews / January 31, 2018

It’s hard to believe we’re already a month into 2018! Of course, I spent the first two weeks of January in a fog – it was probably bronchitis – and I’m sure that’s contributing to how fast time seems to have gone. Mostly I’ve been readjusting to school. Did a bit of reading, a bit of crocheting; not very much writing. It’s been a very quiet month. I’m not particularly complaining about that, but hopefully I’ll get a bit more done in February. So just how much reading did I do? Well. Three adult books, all in completely different genres: The Princess Bride, We Have Always Lived in the Castle, and The Tea Master and the Detective. I’ve watched The Princess Bride before, of course; it’s a classic adventure-comedic-romance (yes, I know that’s not a genre) and while the book delves into backstories a bit more and has some more funny lines, overall I wasn’t hugely impressed. We Have Always Lived in the Castle is also considered rather a classic, in the horror genre, and I really enjoyed it! It’s about two sisters who live alone together, and it seems to move along pretty slowly on the surface, but there’s…

Comfort Books
Outside the Reviews / January 30, 2018

Some books just feel like home when I open them. A combination of familiarity, love, the story-atmosphere – I don’t know what all. But there’s something about these books, because the idea of having comfort books is not something I came up with; reaching for a well-read book came naturally when I was tired, or sick, or just not doing well that day. Right now, those books are The Hobbit, The Goose-Girl, The Last Unicorn, and A Tale of Two Cities for me. There are other books I’ve read again and again, other books I’ll read for certain moods or times; but these four are books where every word is familiar, and still I love reading them. The funny thing is that I haven’t read any of those all the way through very recently. I tend to read the first few chapters at night, or in a blank interval between work, and then put it back down. By the time I come back, weeks or months later, I start at the beginning again. When I do make my way all the way through one of them, that generally either means I have time on my hands and nothing in particular…

2017 In Bullet Points
Outside the Reviews / December 24, 2017

2017 summed up in one bullet list of Important Events!   Took my first solo cross-country trip, plane flights and all, to see my best friend. Complete with very-nearly-missing a flight. Acquired a baby sister by nefarious means. Already feels like she’s been here forever! Got a pixie cut for the first time. Won my first short-story contest in June. Acquired my driver’s license: so I could drive to the library. Went to a college summer program. Spent eight months working a part-time job at an animal shelter, the longest stretch yet, and learned both how to deal with hyper dogs and with the human limits of non-sleeping. Started learning to play the ukulele. Sent out query letters for my manuscript and received the corresponding number of rejections. My oldest pet, Sunflash the Cockatiel, died. Drew three different full-page drawings I actually like. Got accepted into college! (Also promptly lost the acceptance letter – my ability to lose anything and everything remains the running gag of my life – and then found it again.) Learned to crochet. Lost Nanowrimo for the first time ever. Reviewed 173 books. Continued to utterly fail at Sleeping and other such normal human things.

2018 Blogging Challenges
Outside the Reviews / December 21, 2017

Challenges, you say? ‘Tis the season to make unreasonable goals and take on a whole new pack of challenges. Ha, just kidding. I’m starting out small this year with just three blogging/reading challenges, all aimed at different aspects. First, there’s the awesome 2018 Discussion Challenge, hosted by It Starts at Midnight and Feed Your Fiction Addiction. The goal here is to do more “discussion” posts, instead of just book reviews. Since I’m trying to be sensible and all, I’m aiming for Discussion Dabbler (a goal of 1-10 posts) which is only one per month. If I can do more, that’d be great, but otherwise, I think one discussion post per month is an excessively reasonable goal. Next up, I have the Back to the Classics challenge, hosted by Books and Chocolate. This one is perfect for me, because I love reading classics, and always want to add more to my list. You only need to read 12 over the year, one from each of 12 categories. I think this one is going to be really fun! And last, we have Science Fiction Vs. Fantasy Bingo, hosted by Curiosity Killed the Bookworm. (I can’t seem to coax the bingo board into…

Top Books of 2017
Outside the Reviews / December 6, 2017

Alright, you know I can’t pick favorites. It just isn’t happening. But I did go through all the book-reviews from the last year, and pick out the top ones, sorted by age. So, here’s some of the books I loved most in 2017*. ~ Adult ~ The Scent of Water. A quiet, slow-paced story set in the countryside. Probably not the sort of thing I usually review, but maybe I should try to find more such stories – this one is on my mental ‘inspirational’ list. To read it was mentally renewing in a way very few, maybe none, of the more ‘exciting’ books was. The Ocean at the End of the Lane. Top of the line fantasy by Neil Gaiman. This is the sort of surreal story that slides from creepy to horrifying then somehow into beautiful and back to creepy again, the story of a little boy’s adventures narrated by the adult remembering, a story that might very nearly convince you – at least for as long as you’re reading – that this world is thinner than you thought and there are things behind the stars. Bellwether. This one’s just fun. An oddball sci-fi/realistic story about chaos theory…

November: Monthly Round-Up
Outside the Reviews / November 30, 2017

November’s been a slow month on the blog. Only four books reviewed – possibly a personal worst, if you’re only counting active months – and a handful of other posts. It’s been a kind of slow, weird month IRL too. I’m losing Nanowrimo for the first time even as I write (the Half-way Update). I have 15K left to write, and while it might be possible (just barely maybe) it’s not worth it. I wrote a lot of words through November, and I’m eight chapters into a new novel, so it’s good. I’m happy enough. I haven’t been reading a lot, hence the sparsity of reviews, but I’m already getting back into that. This past month I reviewed two books that surprised me by being better than expected: Turtles All the Way Down, a contemporary character-driven YA by John Green, and The Scorpio Races, by Maggie Stiefvater. I haven’t liked John Green’s writing before, but the mental-illness portrayal in this latest novel was incredible writing, and really resonated with me. I actually read The Scorpio Races ages ago, but not at the best time for me, and wow. So much better the second time through. Definitely recommend if you like kelpies, water-horses, slow-unfolding…

Half-Way Nano Point
Outside the Reviews / November 16, 2017

Every Nanowrimo I’ve done so far has brought some new experience with it. This year, so far… this year’s record is “most re-starts”. I didn’t hit it off with my first story idea, persisted for about 14K words, and then when I still didn’t like any of it I decided to start a new story. That one didn’t work either. I’m working on my third beginning now, and this time I love the story-idea. I’m still not confident in my own ability to write it, or at least write it as well as it deserves – but G. K. Chesteron once said, “Anything worth doing is worth doing badly,” and besides, I’m not about to break my Nano-win streak. So, current wordcount for my Nano novel: 3448 words. Someone send help. (A new muse would be good, or a box of writing ability. Failing that, chocolate.) Actually, speaking of chocolate, I decided to participate in the Nanowrimo swap this year: a participant-organized parcel swap, where writers trade small packages of useful things. Like chocolate. I got an absolutely wonderful partner, who sent me (among other things) an amazing ravenclaw hat, a new TARDIS notebook, and, yes, chocolate. The day that…

Five Reasons to Read Brandon Sanderson
Outside the Reviews / November 10, 2017

By Bernadette and Marietta Oathbringer, the third book in the Stormlight Archives by Brandon Sanderson, is coming out in just a few days! ​Because we just can’t wait in honor of the occasion, we’ve compiled a list of five reasons to read Brandon Sanderson’s books. If you’ve never read his books, I hope this can convince you to remedy that situation, as well as explaining why I’m such a huge fan of his. 1. All The Shattered Characters. Wait, what? No, I meant it. Sanderson’s books are full of characters with tragic backstories; but instead of being a pity-point, these backgrounds are critical to the formation of said characters, shaping complex, often conflicted people with real issues that will affect the story and their part in it. There’s Kelsier, a former-slave who came into his powers when he ‘snapped’, both magically and almost mentally, after losing everything; he will literally change the world he lives in, and the course he chooses remains one of a man who will give everything up to save the world. There’s Vin, street-urchin and thief, a girl who grew up with betrayal and death; and it will take thousands and thousands of pages of the long series…