So. Every now and then I get supppppper behind on reviews (ok, so it’s more like I’m ALWAYS behind) and in order to catch up I like to throw up these mini-reviews. This post focuses on books that I picked for the 2015 Read Harder Challenge.
The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien
Read for Task 3: A Collection of Short Stories
The Things They Carried is a book of interrelated short stories featuring a unit of soldiers fighting in the Vietnam War. I bought it years ago after reading about it in one of my graduate classes. I then proceeded to not read it, but I am so so glad I finally remedied that.
What I liked: The writing in this book is absolutely beautiful. I have never been to war and probably never will, but this book felt like it carried a truth about war– there’s death, fear, grief, muck, boredom, love, humor, hijinks, drugs, friendship, loneliness. These men (boys, really) are thrown into an unimaginable situation and their lives are forever changed by Vietnam, whether they die there or whether they come home and can’t move on or come home and never stop writing about it.
What I felt meh about: I don’t really have any complaints about this book. It was a tough subject matter, which sometimes made it difficult for me to pick up, but I kind of think that’s the point.
All in all: This has become a classic for a reason. The writing is amazing, the stories are meaningful and presented war to me in the most real/truthful way I think I’ve ever read. I pushed this on my husband to read (and he reads fiction almost never) because it’s that sort of book that will appeal widely. I hope to reread it again someday.
Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers
Read for Task 11: A YA Novel
Mortal Heart is the conclusion of the His Fair Assassin series, a historical fantasy series that I’ve enjoyed. Mortal Heart is Annith’s story. Annith has been stuck at the convent, eagerly awaiting her turn to go out into the field and practice as Death’s handmaiden. But opportunities keep passing by and the abbess seems intent on keeping Annith under her thumb forever, as the seeress for the convent. Annith knows that is not the life she wants or is meant to live, so she strikes out, hoping to uncover the abbess’s motives and to set her own destiny.
What I liked: I generally enjoy the world that LaFevers has created in this series and the things I liked about it continued on into this book– there is plenty of political intrigue and a strong spiritual element to the story. I especially love the old religion and gods in the book and Mortal Heart offers us a look at another aspect of Mortain, as well as the goddess Arduinna. I also loved getting to see Annith back with Sybella and Ismae, as their camaraderie from the first book was something that was missing in the second one. I was also really satisfied to see a conclusion to the political crisis in Brittany, as that historical element of the books has always piqued my interest.
What I felt meh about: This was probably my least favorite of the series, mostly because it got off to the world’s slowest start. It took me over 200 pages to get into to it. I also didn’t buy into the romance as hard, as it felt a bit shallow to me… something that I did not feel about the romances in the previous two books.
All in all: This was mostly a satisfying conclusion to the series and I’m happy I finished it out. This is high on my list of YA fantasy to recommend, even though I feel like these books don’t stick with me for very long. The research and writing are impeccable.
Curly Girl: The Handbook by Lorraine Massey
Read for Task 24: A Self-Improvement Book
Perhaps I’m silly to choose a book about hair for self-improvement, but it became a recent goal of mine to start wearing my hair more natural (that is, curly) and I needed some advice on how to get started. Curly Girl is mostly a handbook on how to cleanse, style, and care for curly hair from products to coloring to up-dos, but it is also interspersed with personal anecdotes (“curlfessions”) from the author and other curly girls who have come to love and accept their curls.
What I liked: I liked the cleansing and styling tips and they have really gone a long way in improving the look of my hair. I’ve been using the curly girl method and my curls seem more defined, less frizzy, and more manageable. Some of the steps (shampooing and drying) take longer than what I was doing before, but the styling part is SO EASY and takes a fraction of the time that blow drying ever did (not that I dried my hair much, mostly brushed it into a ponytail). I also enjoyed the little “curlfessions” and related to these women who have been fighting their hair their whole lives. I have wavy hair and because it straightens fairly easy if I take the time to do so, I have pretty much always felt (and been given the impressions by hairdressers/the world) that my hair should be straightened. Previous attempts to go wavy have always left me feeling like I couldn’t pass as curly, either, with too much frizz and volume and not much uniformity in my curls. It’s nice to see that I’m not alone in feeling like my hair was uncooperative and not worth messing with. It’s also nice to see that there is some light on the other side– curly hair can be easy, fun, and beautiful, too!
What I felt meh about: Large chunks of this book did not apply to me. I don’t color my hair and don’t have any desire to try cutting my own hair or making my own products. Also, the skeptic in me is a little uncomfortable with the fact that the author has her own product line and salon/stylist academy. She never outright tells you to go buy DevaCurl products, but still I wondered about the potential commercial motivations behind the book.
All in all: This was a nice, easy intro to hair care and styling for those of us with curly hair. I don’t think it’s essential to read the book if all you want is instructional information, but the anecdotes and pictures were helpful/interesting for me, so I’m glad I grabbed it from the library.