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…

How To Get All The Books
Outside the Reviews / November 5, 2017

First, a quick disclaimer: everything in this post is wholly unsponsored. It’s just ideas from my long experience of never-enough-money-for-all-the-books, compiled for you out of the goodness of my heart. All bookworms are intimately familiar with budgeting problems, right? All these shiny books, and they cost so much. A reader has to keep a sharp eye out for deals and freebies. There are two main divisions here: physical books, and e-books. Physical books in general are more expensive, and correspondingly hard to find deals for. I’ll start with those, since it’s a short list. ~ Physical Books ~ If you’re on Goodreads, the Giveaways are easy to enter. Pros: they have a lot of them, sometimes ARCS too, you can toggle a setting so they’ll notify you when there’s a book on your to-read list, and it’s a quick-n-easy enter like I said. Cons: you do have to use Goodreads, and because it’s a giveaway there’s no guarantees. I haven’t gotten any books this way yet, but people definitely do. Like giveaways? Cool. It Starts At Midnight hosts a monthly giveaway hop every month. Which means a whole bunch of book blogs link up to a single giveaway page, and you can…

October: Monthly Roundup
Outside the Reviews / October 31, 2017

My town usually only gets a few days of autumn color before it snows or freezes and all the leaves wither brown, but this year the weather has held true, crisp and (mostly) clear. I’d like to say that the sweeping color and lovely skies are the reason for only fourteen books reviewed this month, but I haven’t gotten outside anywhere nearly as much as I’d like. It just hasn’t been a productive month overall. But tomorrow…! Nanowrimo is upon us, and yet I have unreasonably high hopes for getting all sorts of things done. More, Oathbringer and Renegades are both coming out, the two new releases I’m most interested in for the rest of the year. ~ Favorites ~ My favorite book of the month… was a contemporary YA romance! Since when, right? At an even four stars, The Geography of You and Me isn’t groundbreaking, but it’s sweet, fluffy, and clean. My favorite recently published book was Apex, the third (and probably last) book of the Hunter series. It’s not very satisfying as an ending, but Joy is such a great main character. In Middle-Grade books, I really liked The Wednesday Wars, a realistic/semi-historical highschool story. Recommend for anyone who: likes Shakespeare,…

It’s Okay if the Sky is Awful
Outside the Reviews / October 29, 2017

It’s okay if the sky is awful. ​ Did you know that the words awesome and awful are directly related? “Awful” was around a lot earlier, going back almost a thousand years, and it meant something that was awe-inspiring. Full of awe. It could mean “worthy of, or commanding, profound respect or reverential fear”. It was not a far stretch, back then, to use it to mean “causing dread”. Sometime after it strayed into strong negative connotations, “awesome” came around, perhaps to replace it; and if now we say awesome the same way we’d say cool or great, still it used to mean “something that inspires awe”. Sometimes awesome is awful. Consider: even now, one of the sentences under the dictionary definition of awful is “the awful majesty of alpine peaks”. Being filled with awe has never been supposed to be a pleasant experience. It’s okay if the sky is awful. Humans are dreamers, philosophers, romanticists. We have always looked up at the sky and seen mystery. We have always asked halting questions about the intangible. We have always tried to paint our emotions: in lofty words of poetry and novels, in the music of songs and orchestras, in sweeping…

Brace Yourselves, Nanowrimo is Coming
Outside the Reviews / October 25, 2017

  Have you ever heard the writing advice, “Write the book you want to read” ? Well, that’s basically why I write things. A lot of things. Often, when I read a particularly good or bad book it inspires me to start something new, to play around with my own world and characters and FIX THE HORRIBLE MISTAKES okay sorry I promise my stories aren’t anger-driven but I recently read The Invisible Library and it’s The Reason I’ve revived an old idea about Libraries because I was so disappointed. (There are other reasons I write too, I just don’t feel like writing up a dissertation on Creative Writing right now.) I still have some notebooks filled with badly-spelled short stories from years and years ago (the first evidence of story-writing is from a journal entry dated in 2007), so maybe it’s not fair to blame everything on reading books? On the other hand, I was reading back then too. So what’s all this about NaNoWriMo? Well. *deep breath* NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month (November), and is also the name of a non-profit organization that encourages people to participate in the month. The official goal is to write a fifty thousand…

September Monthly Roundup
Outside the Reviews / September 30, 2017

Hi there! So the biggest thing on the blog this month was joining the 2017 Discussion Challenge, eight months late. ‘Cause that’s how we roll around here. We only got two posts linked up, When Fandom Stands Alone and Are You a Book-Hoarder? which is 50% of the month’s goal. Whoops… maybe next month? ~ New Books ~ There were actually a number of 2017 books this month! The Last Magician and One of Us is Lying were both 3.5 to 4 star books, although very different from each other. The first is a time-traveling alternate history and the second sort of a high school thriller murder mystery. Sleeping Giants and Waking Gods (I don’t think Sleeping Giants was published in 2017, but you have to read it before the sequel, right?) both sounded interesting but were thick with sci-fi clichés. Finally, What To Say Next and Darkness of Dragons are both down near the bottom of the rating slide, although to be fair to What To Say Next I think that may have been a case of “It’s me not you”. It’s actually pretty good for a contemporary romance/highschool story. ~ Somewhat Older ~ I finished up the Finishing…

Are You a Book Hoarder?
Outside the Reviews / September 16, 2017

Bernadette I’m not just a certified bookworm. I’m afraid I’m a bookwyrm, too. Which is just a nice way of saying book-hoarder. I can’t even say I’m letting you in on a secret, because honestly? All my friends and family know it. It’s hard to disguise an ever-growing collection of books as anything else, especially when it begins overflowing the bookshelf space and piling up across your room in stacks and mounds of paperbacks. In my defense, I pick up a lot of books at thriftstores and used book shops, and actually rarely buy a book new unless I’ve read it or am quite sure I’ll love it. I’ve seen many readers advocating minimalism. Only keep your absolute favorite books, the ones that absolutely deserve space in your home. Read, love, store that story away in your treasure-chest of memories, and pass the book on for someone else to enjoy. I actually agree with these sentiments. They’re wonderful ideas! They just… don’t work for me. For one thing, I have a librarian’s instinct. Every book deserves space in my home (well, a lot of them, anyway). A second factor is that even in this digital age, I am all for…