Seven Summer Reads (Fantasy, of course)
Outside the Reviews / June 25, 2017

Summer returns! Days are long, evenings pleasant, The Outside a riot of green and sunshine that may tempt even the most reclusive bookworm out into it. And what better way to spend those extra hours of sunlight but reading awesome fantasy? (Reading on the porch totally counts as outside time. And if well-meaning relatives absolutely insist you move around, it’s always possible to level up your skill-level to the point of reading whilst on your walk. Just don’t read in the street. Please.) Just to get you started, here’s a list; seven of my favorite fantasy books. I can’t pick a single favorite book to save my life, can’t even lay out a definitive list of favorites, but – seven of my favorites. 1. The Forgotten Beasts of Eld seems a good starting point. This book was my first blogged review, over a year ago! Not a beginner’s intro to fantasy, mind. The Forgotten Beasts starts off with a genealogy of sorts and doesn’t pick up pace for quite some pages further. However, sweet, solid prose and a strong magical setting provide the backdrop for Sybel’s growth and Coren’s love, for a dreamy atmosphere and hinted-metaphors. 2. The Girl Who…

Why Vampires?
Outside the Reviews / June 4, 2017

Trends and fashions generally move through books at about the same speed as they do in clothing; perhaps a little slower. And just like clothing trends, most of the time they’re completely harmless, but sometimes they go all weird and pear-shaped, and readers find themselves looking back and wondering “Just how did we end up with seventeen supernatural books following the same angelic plot line published over the same two years?” One of the weirder trends that’s doing a good job of sticking around is the vampire novel. Stories of revenants date all the way back to the 12th century, and by the 16th and 17th centuries they were blood-drinking; these walking dead entered literature through Gothic Horror around the 19th century, and the rest, as they say, is history. Only… it isn’t. Not really. In the first place, the vampire novels are hardly history – they’re still being published. But in the second, the series coming out today are very, very different from the early horror novels. They do still pull their traditions from the same source, though, and the result is what makes them odd. Early vampires were the incarnation of evil. Literally soulless, constantly murdering, driven away…

The Day to Day Impact of Books
Outside the Reviews / May 28, 2017

How has reading changed you? And I don’t mean “This biography was so meaningful it changed my life!” or “Reading the classics turns you into an intellectual.” I mean the small, every-day things that we don’t always realize come from the books and stories we surround ourselves with. Recently, I was working through a plateau in my martial arts training. I was tired, bored, and didn’t feel like I was going anywhere. Taekwondo had, and has, no immediate application in my life, and I wasn’t enjoying the exercise I got out of it. Why keep going? Because, I told myself, this is my backstory. In any good book the hero or heroine doesn’t whip impressive skills out of nowhere at the critical point. They have well established backstories. He didn’t just happen to understand the ancient writing on the walls: he’s a linguist fascinated by early periods, and we’re well aware of his interest. She didn’t just happen to sketch the intriguing design on the front of her notebook that caught the agent’s eye: she loves drawing and she’s been doodling and sketching throughout the book, maybe even taking lessons. She didn’t just happen to fend off the older, stronger, man following her…

Life On the Edge: Bookworm Edition
Outside the Reviews / May 21, 2017

Confession time: I’ve always been one of the dare-devil bookworms. Despite years of ingrained caution from my parents’ repeated warnings (“No library books at the table.” “Please don’t eat and read.” “Have you washed your hands since eating? Don’t pick up that book yet.” “Watch out! Move that stack of books away from the food”), there’s just something so cozy about curling up with a good book and a snack. Or better yet, a big mug of tea. C.S. Lewis said “You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me,” and it’s so true. And what about indoors vs. outdoors? Even hard-core readers need to get some fresh air and sunlight from time to time, but the outer world is a dangerous place for books. They can fall in the mud. Get dropped in the street. Be seized by some ruthless relative to squish a bug. And, worst of all, what if you somehow left one behind? I’ve seen too many painful casualties in the middle-grade books my sisters would abandon outside to the merciless hands of weather. On the other hand, a good shady bench or a patch of thick…