Archive for the ‘Fiction Review’ Category

Review of The Harp of Kings, by Juliet Marillier

Friday, September 13th, 2019

The Harp of Kings

by Juliet Marillier

Ace, 2019. 448 pages.
Starred Review
Review written 9/13/19, from my own copy, preordered from Amazon.com

I love Juliet Marillier’s novels so much! I was delighted when my preorder came in for this one. (A little less delighted when I discovered I’d preordered it twice.) I was even more delighted when I discovered the main characters were the children of Blackthorn and Grim – the main characters of her most recent trilogy, which began with Dreamer’s Pool. There’s a caption on the front: A Warrior Bards Novel, so I fondly hope it’s the start of another trilogy.

As the book begins, Liobhan (There’s a character list with pronunciation guide at the front – she’s LEE-vahn.) and her brother Brocc are training on Swan Island to be warriors. (If the reader has read the Sevenwaters books, they will know about Swan Island – though I didn’t remember any particular characters who were there.) Only a few of the trainees get selected to stay on the island as elite warriors and spies – and Liobhan wants nothing more, as does Dau, who has become her rival.

But then Liobhan and Brocc get selected for a special mission. In a nearby kingdom an important ritual object has gone missing, the Harp of Kings. It is needed if the royal heir, who has just come of age, is to be crowned at midsummer. However, the regent doesn’t want anyone to know it’s missing, which could cause unrest. Liobhan and Brocc are skilled musicians, so they will go to the kingdom as traveling minstrels with a leader from Swan Island, and seek to recover the harp.

Readers of Juliet Marillier’s other novels will not be at all surprised when druids are consulted and the Folk of the Otherworld get involved. There’s a wise woman who lives on the hillside outside the town who is very like Mistress Blackthorn.

The plot is interesting and otherworldly, but what makes these books so wonderful is the way the author pulls you into this ancient world and you believe that magic can happen.

Here’s a short section from Brocc’s perspective after they’ve gone on their mission:

We play for the household on our first night at court. With time so short, Archu thinks it best that we make our presence known straightaway, and what better opportunity than this? Everyone is gathered, from Prince Rodan and the regent down to serving folk, grooms, and a group of children under less than strict supervision. We choose pieces that are tried and trusty, those most popular with our audiences back home. While we sing and play I try to observe, as we’ve been taught, but it’s hard; my mind loses itself in the music. At a certain point, someone in the crowd asks for dancing, and folk move the tables and benches back to make space. So we give them a couple of reels, and then “Artagnan’s Leap,” which allows Liobhan to show off her talents on the whistle. The children love the jig; they try to clap in time, even though it gets quicker and quicker, and they perform their own version of the dance to the accompaniment of much giggling. Except for one, who sits very still, apart from the others, watching us with such concentration that it’s a little unnerving. When I smile in her direction, she turns her gaze away as if caught out in a misdemeanor.

This book does stand alone and come to a satisfying finish – but I still hope that more books will come soon. I want to read more about these people and this world.

julietmarillier.com
prh.com

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Review of The Raven Tower, by Ann Leckie

Friday, August 9th, 2019

The Raven Tower

by Ann Leckie

Orbit Books, 2019. 416 pages.
Starred Review
Review written August 9, 2019, from a library book

Oh, this book is amazing! I can’t expect anything traditional or stereotypical from Ann Leckie, but she still surprised me. I can tell you about the set-up, but not how everything comes together. Let me tell you that it does, and this book is well worth reading. This one’s fantasy, rather than the science fiction she’s written previously, but it breaks up expectations of the genre, just as her other books did with science fiction.

Here’s the first sentence:

I first saw you when you rode out of the forest, past the cluster of tall, bulge-eyed offering stakes that mark the edges of the forest, your horse at a walk.

At first, I thought this would be like The Fifth Season, by N. K. Jemisin, and take the entire book to let you know who is speaking to whom. But we do find out fairly quickly that the person being addressed is Eolo, the aide to Lord Mowat, who is the heir to the Raven’s Lease. Eolo and Mowat have arrived from the southern defenses on an urgent summons because the Instrument had died. Eolo is a wonderful and resourceful character who is also a transgender man (which barely comes into the story, but I did enjoy the representation).

Then the one speaking begins telling his story and we learn he is a god, a god who lives in a large stone that began under the sea. The god’s story takes a long time to intersect with the Raven god. (There’s a nice touch that this god has a friend who is a god that inhabits mosquitoes, called Myriad. I can believe in that god!)

But all is not well at the Raven Tower. The Instrument (a physical raven) is dead, and the previous Lease, Mowat’s father, should have sacrificed himself to the Raven god while the next Instrument is in an egg. But the former Raven’s Lease was nowhere to be found. His brother Hibal, Mowat’s uncle, has taken the Lease’s bench, because it could not remain empty. Mowat is still the Heir to the Raven’s Lease.

But Mowat does not believe this story. His father would never have fled. His father was committed to make the sacrifice. There are many complications, complications with other nations, complications with expectations of the way the Raven god works that don’t seem to be met, and complications with schemers and plotters.

Behind it all, we also get the epic and centuries-long story of the life of the Strength and Patience of the Hill. What is this god’s place in all this?

And yes, we grow fond of both Eolo and the Strength and Patience of the Hill as the story unfolds.

I don’t dare say much more at all, but the story is woven wonderfully. Here is a fantasy tale with nothing typical about it.

annleckie.com
orbitbooks.net

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Marilla of Green Gables, by Sarah McCoy

Saturday, July 13th, 2019

Marilla of Green Gables

by Sarah McCoy

William Morrow (HarperCollins), 2018. 300 pages.
Starred Review
Review written July 4, 2019, from my own copy, a birthday present from my sister Becky

This book came out toward the end of 2018, when I was in the thick of reading for the Newbery, and couldn’t possibly get to it. After the winner was chosen, I’d forgotten about it, so I was completely delighted when my sister sent it to me for my birthday. The gift was all the more perfect because I’m planning to go with two girlfriends to visit Prince Edward Island in the Fall, and I’ve been rereading all my L. M. Montgomery books in preparation. One of those girlfriends was at my house on my birthday when I opened the gift. So the timing was perfect to read this prequel to Anne of Green Gables.

Sarah McCoy takes us into the heart of Marilla. We see her as a young teen living with her parents and her older brother Matthew. The author gave Marilla’s parents the same names as L. M. Montgomery’s parents, Clara and Hugh, in a nice act of tribute.

Clara is expecting a baby, and her twin, Marilla’s Aunt Izzy comes to stay and to help. When both mother and baby are lost, Marilla must carry on, taking care of Matthew and Hugh.

But it’s delightful getting a glimpse into Avonlea in the years before Anne. Marilla’s friendship with Rachel started when they were young, and we hear many more names that will be in the village in later years. Yes, we knew that John Blythe had been Marilla’s beau, and we get the story of their quarrel.

A part of the story that surprised me was when Green Gables becomes a safe haven for runaway slaves, under the protection of Izzy. I hadn’t realized that slave catchers could even come into Canada looking for them. There is also some political unrest in Canada at that time, which I’d known nothing about.

I enjoyed this book thoroughly. It’s a gentle story, a story of a reserved young woman growing up in a small village in Canada in the 1800s. She’s living a quiet life, and love seems to pass her by. At the end of the book, they think that Matthew could use some help on the farm….

This was perfect preparation for a visit to Prince Edward Island, and I heartily recommend it for all other Anne fans out there. The style isn’t the same as L. M. Montgomery’s, but it made me feel I understood Marilla better than when I had only seen her through the eyes of a precocious orphan.

sarahmccoy.com
harpercollins.com

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Review of The Colors of All the Cattle, by Alexander McCall Smith

Thursday, July 4th, 2019

The Colors of All the Cattle

by Alexander McCall Smith

narrated by Lisette Lecat

Recorded Books, 2018. 9.75 hours on 9 compact discs.
Starred Review

I do love Alexander McCall Smith. Okay, he rambles at times, and his characters tend to go over and over their feelings and decisions. But they are delightful people to spend time with, and I lose my impatience when I listen to the books on my commute, since spending time with them makes sitting in traffic a much less odious experience.

This is now the 19th book about the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. (Wow!) This book had more about Charlie, who was a young apprentice in the first book and is now getting to be a young man. He does some investigating in a difficult case, and we learn more about his private life.

But we also have Mma Potokwami manipulating Mma Ramotswe into running for Council – even though she doesn’t want to at all. She is not the sort of person who likes politics. But her opponent is none other than the villain of every book (Okay, this is always where I roll my eyes) – Violet Sepotho. So of course she can’t simply let Violet run unopposed. At stake is a proposed project to put up the Big Fun Hotel next to a graveyard – which would disrespect all the late people in the graveyard and their families.

As always, this book takes us to the heart of Botswana and shows us the heart of Botswana. It also shows some good people helping other people. And it’s nice to spend time in their company, even if it feels like a little more time than another author would have given the same events. By the end, you’re ready to pull up a chair, drink some red bush tea, and enjoy the stories.

alexandermccallsmith.com
recordedbooks.com

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Review of The Stone Sky, by N. K. Jemisin

Saturday, June 15th, 2019

The Stone Sky

The Broken Earth, Book 3

by N. K. Jemisin

Orbit Books, 2017. 416 pages.
Starred Review
2018 Hugo Award Winner
Review written May 18, 2019, from a library book

The Stone Sky finishes off The Broken Earth trilogy, the first trilogy ever to have all three books win Hugo Awards, and the first time an author has won three consecutive Hugo Awards. You should definitely read the books of this trilogy in order, because it would be very confusing without the background laid in the first two books.

The strength of this trilogy is in the world-building, though perhaps I should say in the world-breaking. The planet has literally been broken apart and humanity is dying and all life is struggling in this latest Fifth Season, with the sky full of ash and the earth unstable. There are two people who can do something about that – Essun and her daughter Nassun.

But Essun and Nassun are far apart from each other. Both have been growing more powerful as the trilogy progressed. Nassun has been taken under the wing of Schaffa, the Guardian Essun once thought she’d killed. Essun has been wanting to get to her daughter all this time, but other matters of survival got in the way. By now we wonder what will happen when they come together.

Besides orogeny – feeling and manipulating the forces of earth – the two are learning to manipulate the silvery magic in all living things – including the earth itself – and to harness the power of the obelisks, made by ancient people centuries in the past. But using that power comes with great risk.

The reader also learns more about the Stone Eaters. They were human once, long ago, about the same time that the obelisks were made. In this volume, we hear more of their stories.

I can’t say that I thoroughly enjoyed reading these books. Lots of death and destruction in the middle, and this final book was awfully cerebral – I felt like I sort of understood the mechanisms of magic and orogeny and the obelisks, but not completely.

All the same, this book is unlike anything I’ve read in a long time, and I am amazed at the author’s mastery of world-building and unusual narrative structure. It works, and all tells a fascinating story about family, love, and the fate of the world.

nkjemisin.com
orbitbooks.net

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Review of How to Find Love in a Bookshop, by Veronica Henry

Friday, May 17th, 2019

How to Find Love in a Bookshop

by Veronica Henry

Pamela Dorman Books (Viking), 2017. First published in Great Britain in 2016. 340 pages.
Review written April 6, 2019, from a library book

I picked up this book because I was looking for something light and fluffy after reading the first two books of The Broken Earth trilogy, by N. K. Jemisin, where all life on earth is probably coming to an end. This book filled the bill nicely. It’s not just the main character who finds love in a bookshop, but several other couples as well.

And there is some richness to the story, despite it being essentially about everyone getting nicely paired off. Emilia’s father purchased Nightingale Books in a small town near Oxford when he was a widowed young father with a small baby on his hands. Now he is dying, and Emilia has come back to the place she grew up to carry on the bookshop in his place.

We learn how much her father and his shop meant to the people of the town – and all the romance that has happened and is happening in and around the bookshop.

My one quibble is that a few of the happy couples are in relationships with someone else at the beginning of the book, and I’m less enthusiastic about falling in love with someone who’s supposedly committed to someone else. In fact, we get the story of an affair that played out over years and we’re told it ended happily, with no one getting hurt. As someone who’s been cheated on, I always feel like authors are cheating the reader when they write about an affair where nobody gets hurt. Let’s just say I’m super skeptical.

But it was all nice for these characters, and the author even got me feeling sympathetic toward the couple in question. Read this if you want a story of book lovers finding each other and a lot of ultimately happy love stories. As for me, it sustained me to tackle the third book in the science fiction trilogy about the earth being torn apart.

veronicahenry.co.uk
penguin.com

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Review of Spinning Silver, by Naomi Novik

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2019

Spinning Silver

by Naomi Novik

Del Rey, 2018. 466 pages.
Starred Review
2019 Alex Award Winner
Review written April 11, 2019, from a library book

Ahhhh, such a lovely book! I love reworked fairy tales, and this one only had the beginnings of an idea from one, but spun an intricate tale with a mythic feel.

Here’s how the book begins:

The real story isn’t half as pretty as the one you’ve heard. The real story is, the miller’s daughter with her long golden hair wants to catch a lord, a prince, a rich man’s son, so she goes to the moneylender and borrows for a ring and a necklace and decks herself out for the festival. And she’s beautiful enough, so the lord, the prince, the rich man’s son notices her, and dances with her, and tumbles her in a quiet hayloft when the dancing is over, and afterwards he goes home and marries the rich woman his family has picked out for him. Then the miller’s despoiled daughter tells everyone that the moneylender’s in league with the devil, and the village runs him out or maybe even stones him, so at least she gets to keep the jewels for a dowry, and the blacksmith marries her before that firstborn child comes along a little early.

Because that’s what the story’s really about: getting out of paying your debts. That’s not how they tell it, but I knew. My father was a moneylender, you see.

He wasn’t very good at it. If someone didn’t pay him back on time, he never so much as mentioned it to them. Only if our cupboards were really bare, or our shoes were falling off our feet, and my mother spoke quietly with him after I was in bed, then he’d go, unhappy, and knock on a few doors, and make it sound like an apology when he asked for some of what they owed. And if there was money in the house and someone asked to borrow, he hated to say no, even if we didn’t really have enough ourselves. So all his money, most of which had been my mother’s money, her dowry, stayed in other people’s houses. And everyone else liked it that way, even though they knew they ought to be ashamed of themselves, so they told the story often, even or especially when I could hear it.

But when things get desperate and her mother gets sick, the narrator, Meryam, decides to take on the duties of moneylender herself. She gets out her father’s ledgers and demands what is owed. And people pay her.

In fact, she’s so good at it, she gloats a little that she can turn silver into gold. And the king of the Staryk people hears her. Three times, he leaves her silver that she must turn into gold. If she doesn’t, she knows she’ll be destroyed. If she does – he’s going to marry her. And that is only the beginning of her troubles.

That is one of the three main threads in this book. Another involves the recipient of the jewelry she has made with the silver from the Staryk – jewelry that attracts a fire demon who is inhabiting the tsar, the tsar who needs a wife. The other thread involves a poor family who owes money to the moneylender. When he can’t pay it, Meryam takes the services of his daughter Wanda to pay off the debt. Wanda likes spending her days at the home of the moneylender more than staying at home.

All three young women are thought to be powerless in their world, and all three discover their power and their usefulness.

There’s plenty of magic in this story, with the Staryk prolonging winter, so crops fail and people die, and magical bridges between the Staryk world of ice and the sunlit world. And the plot twists and turns and what we mostly want is for these resourceful women to discover their power and be able to help the people they love.

Naomi Novik spins a magical and mesmerizing tale with threads within threads.

naominovik.com
randomhousebooks.com

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Review of The Obelisk Gate, by N. K. Jemisin

Friday, April 5th, 2019

The Obelisk Gate

by N. K. Jemisin

Orbit Books, 2016. 410 pages.
2017 Hugo Award Winner
Review written April 2, 2019, from a library book

I wish I could say that I enjoyed this book more than I did. It is the middle book of the first-ever trilogy to have all three books win the Hugo Award. The world-building is intricate, complex, and mind-blowing.

I’ll say the good things first. I indeed understood better what was going on in the second book, and appreciated the richness of the background that her way of writing the first book gave us. In this book, Essun has lost track of her daughter Nassun, but the reader gets to follow both. Both find a place of refuge against the Season which is building up – ash covering the sky and the whole world hunkering down and trying to survive.

Orogeny – the ability to sense and manipulate the movement of the earth and stone – is commonplace in that world, although feared by the “stills.” Both Essun and Nassun are powerful orogenes still growing in their power. In this book, they each also discover an ability to sense magic – silver threads in the world and people and creatures around them.

Most of the book is about their survival concerns in two different locations. Essun is in an underground comm that accepts orogenes – or do they? Nassun is far to the south, still learning from Schaffa – and we’re not sure if that’s a good thing or very, very dangerous.

But we do sense that something much, much bigger is at stake. We learn that the moon left the earth’s regular orbit long ago – and that’s what started the cycle of fifth seasons. But it’s due to come back around before long. Alabaster is dying – but he’s trying to teach Essun what she will need to be able to do to deal with that. And then there are those obelisks in the sky, obelisks with strange and awesome power. And stone eaters – those statue-like creatures that move either very slowly or more quickly than sight – turn out to be both benevolent and malevolent, with agendas of their own.

This book is also very violent. You should not pick this up if you’re looking for pleasant, light-hearted reading. The earth has been broken, and everyone on it is somewhat futilely fighting for survival. Unfortunately, this is the book I was reading when I tried to read on the metro going into DC and was struck with motion sickness. Alas! In that section, a couple of arms got cut off and many people died in gruesome ways. That was decidedly not good for decreasing my nausea. So I’m afraid that influenced my enjoyment of the book.

I am indeed fascinated by the world-building, and I do want to know what happens next, so I will be finishing the trilogy before long. But I’m going to read something light and fluffy first!

nkjemisin.com
orbitbooks.net

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Review of Becoming Mrs. Lewis, by Patti Callahan

Saturday, March 16th, 2019

Becoming Mrs. Lewis

by Patti Callahan

Thomas Nelson (HarperCollins), 2018. 406 pages.
Review written March 16, 2019, from a library book.
Starred Review

It was good to again have a novel keeping me up late at night reading (we’re talking 3 am), and since it was a novel for grown-ups instead of all the children’s books I read last year for the Newbery – it kept me up late more than one night. This wasn’t necessarily a good thing – except that it was nice to be pulled into the world of the novel that thoroughly.

This book tells the same story as one of my favorite movies, Shadowlands with Anthony Hopkins, but of course the book went into much more detail. It’s the story of Joy Davidman and how she fell in love with C. S. Lewis and married him. But they didn’t have long together, because she got cancer.

I don’t feel like I’m giving away too much, even though the marriage happens at the end of the book – because anyone who knows that C. S. Lewis wrote A Grief Observed about his much loved wife will know this is coming. And, oh yes, the book is called Becoming Mrs. Lewis. So it’s not a surprise that they fall in love. The story is in the exquisite way they fall in love.

The book opens with Joy Gresham’s salvation experience. Although she’d been an atheist, in a moment when she was feeling desperate, stranded at home after a call from her drunken husband, thinking he was either committing suicide or with another woman – she suddenly felt the presence of God.

God didn’t fix anything in that moment, but that wasn’t the point of it all. Still I didn’t know where Bill was, and still I was scared for his life, but Someone, my Creator it seemed, was there with me in all of it. This Someone was as real as my sons in their beds, as the storm battering the window frames, as my knees on the hardwood floors.

After she became a Christian, she had many questions about her faith, and then read an article about C. S. Lewis which led her to read and reread all of his books (the ones written by 1950). She talked to the professor who’d written the article, and he urged her to write a letter to C. S. Lewis, thinking he could answer some of her questions about her relatively new faith.

And so began their long and avid correspondence.

The book includes excerpts from their letters, though I was disappointed to learn at the back that we don’t have existing copies of the actual letters. Patti Callahan used his other writings and talks to simulate their correspondence. But she did have a set of poems of longing that Joy had written during that time and dedicated to Jack. Some lines from the poems are at the head of each chapter.

In so many ways, this is a novel of longing. Because Joy fell in love with Jack long before he fell in love with her – but their friendship blossomed from the start. First, it was in their letters. They each found a correspondent who understood and to whom they could really open up.

Joy and her husband were both writers and were having trouble getting work finished. Joy had some health troubles and decided to go to England. She could stay with a friend who was living in London, research a book she had begun on King Charles II, and even get her teeth fixed and get medical care she’d been putting off because medical care in England was almost free even to tourists, and she couldn’t afford it in America. Her cousin Renee and her two daughters had been staying with them since her divorce, so Renee could hold down the fort while Joy tried to get back on track in England. And she could finally meet Jack, to whom she’d been writing for three years.

And in England her friendship with Jack deepened. And her husband ended up having an affair with Renee.

But it’s all told in much more exquisite detail than that. Joy already had a firm and deep friendship with Jack on that first trip to England. She went back to her home in America to get her sons and straighten things out – and file for divorce.

But divorce wasn’t easy to get in the 1950s. She was still technically married when she moved back to England with her boys. After the divorce did go through, the authorities had extended her visa too often, and she was going to have to move back to America. A civil marriage in name only to Jack allowed her to stay. In the Shadowlands movie, this was her idea. In this book, it’s Jack’s idea, because he doesn’t want her to leave. She was typing his manuscripts for him and essentially collaborating with him on the book Till We Have Faces.

But even after her divorce had gone through, the Anglican church still wouldn’t permit their marriage – and Jack scrupulously wouldn’t allow himself to fall in love with her. He’d written The Four Loves by then, and was keeping things as philea brotherly love. Even though she was obviously precious to him.

There’s a wonderful chapter where Joy comes to peace with this. She has long loved him, and he’s not loving her back. They’ve written Till We Have Faces together.

It was as clear as if someone had walked into the room and ripped the veil off my soul, forcing me to stare into its darker depths. Much of what I’d done – mistakes, poems, manipulations, success and books and sex – had been done merely to get love. To get it. To answer my question: do you love me? Even as I gave love, was I trying just to gain it? Had it really taken the fictional Orual to show me the truth?

In my bedroom, I fell to my knees on the hard floor and rested my head on the edge of the mattress, pressing my face into the softness.

The face I already possessed before I was born was who I was in God all along, before anything went right or went wrong, before I did anything right or wrong, that was the face of my true self. My “bareface.”

From that moment on, the love affair I would develop would be with my soul. He was already part of me; that much was clear. And now this would be where I would go for love – to the God in me. No more begging or pursuing or needing. It was my false self that was connected to the painful and demanding heart grasping at the world, leading me to despair. Same as Orual. Same as Psyche. Same as all of humanity.

Possibly it was only a myth, Jack’s myth, that could have obliterated the false belief that I must pursue love in the outside world – in success, in acclaim, in performance, in a man.

The Truth: I was beloved of God.

Finally I could stop trying to force someone or something else to fill that role.

The pain of shattered illusion swept through me like glass blown through a room after a bomb.

All had been turned around. No longer was the question Why doesn’t Jack love me the way I want him to? But now Why must I demand that he love me the way I want him to?

I was already loved. That was the answer to any question I held out to the world.

This was a beautiful time in my life to read this. I’m divorced and have an empty nest. After finishing the Newbery reading, I decided I no longer have an excuse not to go back online – but for various reasons I’m not setting my heart on quickly finding a good match there.

So to read about the peace she got, loving this good man who didn’t think it was right to love her back – that peace passed on to me. Yes. I, too, am loved. I, too, am doing my work, living my life, caring about my friends – all under God’s hand.

And when did C. S. Lewis finally come around? When did he finally marry her before God? After she was diagnosed with cancer and given only a few months to live.

But this book is not a tragedy. In fact, it’s one of the most beautiful love stories I’ve read in a long time.

And though I’ve told a lot of what happens, because it’s really not a secret (And watch the movie Shadowlands if you haven’t already!) – the beauty of this book is in how it all happens, the beautiful details along the way. You’ve got wise gems from C. S. Lewis as they discuss their faith – and lots of wisdom from Joy Davidman as well.

It’s an exquisite and slowly unfolding love story between two remarkable people, but it’s also full of wisdom about life and about God’s working in the world and observations about what it was like for a strong woman to make her way in the world in the 1950s. I’m afraid the worst effect of the book was that it made me want to pack up and just move to England. (Finding an Englishman to marry me might be a problem, though.)

ThomasNelson.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Fiction/becoming_mrs_lewis.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of The Fifth Season, by N. K. Jemisin

Friday, March 1st, 2019

The Fifth Season

The Broken Earth, Book One

by N. K. Jemisin

Orbit Books, 2015. 471 pages.
Starred Review
Winner of the 2016 Hugo Award

After the Newbery, I was ready to read something completely different. Both my adult children highly recommended the Broken Earth trilogy. They told me N. K. Jemisin was the first black woman to win the Hugo – and then the first person to win the Hugo three years in a row – with the books of this trilogy.

Tonight I finished The Fifth Season, and I had to go back to the beginning to see if I understood now what was going on at the start of the book. I think maybe, sort of? I am hoping things will be a bit less murky after book two. Which I am going to read.

This book, like much science fiction, is more cerebral than emotional. The world-building is amazing. We’ve got three plot threads going on, one of them addressing the reader as “you.” You do learn how the three threads are connected before the book ends – but it does end up having you do some rethinking.

The world here is a world that may be ending. They’ve long had “Fifth Seasons” – where ash from a volcano or some other disruption means there is a prolonged winter and little to harvest. They’ve got stonelore to tell them what to do, how to prepare. A new one is beginning, and this may be the worst ever.

This world has orogenes – people who can sense and manipulate the earth. They can raise volcanoes and still earthquakes. Earthquakes that are constantly happening in this world. Orogenes can also kill you by icing you – sucking all the energy out of an area around them and instantly freezing you to death. So they are deeply feared – and kept away from society, trained at the Fulcrum.

There are also Stone Eaters. They seem to be made of stone and can eat stone and move through stone And then there are Guardians, who can neutralize the power of orogenes. Their job is to watch over them. But if you don’t follow the rules, you’re in trouble.

The book follows a woman who was hiding her orogeny and has lost her son, a young girl being taken to the Fulcrum to be trained, and an orogene well along in her training, given a job under a new mentor – where something happens that she can’t explain and changes everything.

I’m still not sure I completely understand all that happened in this book. I need to read on…. How lovely that for once I’m reading a trilogy that’s already completely written!

Go to this book for intricate world-building and mind-blowing ideas. I have a feeling I’ll like it more as I begin to understand more of what’s going on! But I’ve definitely gotten hooked.

nkjemisin.com
orbitbooks.net

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Fiction/fifth_season.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?