Monday, August 29, 2016

Book Review: Duskfall (Chaos Queen #1) by Christopher Husberg

Title: Duskfall (Chaos Queen #1)
Author: Christopher Husberg
Enjoyment Rating: 5/5
Source: Audiobook from Audible

Winter, a quiet, seemingly insignificant Tiellan (elvish) woman stands to marry Knot, a mysterious human man her father had pulled from a frozen sea the year before, pierced by arrows and close to death. Their wedding is disrupted by a band of men, and Knot surprises even himself when he kills the men with violent precision.  Knot abandons his new wife in a quest to find out who he is and how he came to possess such deadly skills. Winter is not content to stay behind. She enlists her best friend, Lian, and goes in search of her husband. Winter encounters Kali and Nash who introduce her to Frost, a drug that allows her to access psimantic abilities that give her strength and power to take on the forces that stand in her way. They cross paths with the priestess Cinzia, whose family is caught up in a heretical rebellion that endangers her sister and everyone else in the town they expect to find Knot. Can Winter control her growing addiction to Frost in order to stay focused on her goal? Even after risking everything to find Knot, will he accept her when she finds him?

Duskfall is a dark fantasy novel from debut author Christopher Husberg. Chris is a friend of mine from grad school (plus we attended the same ward! plus our spouses have worked together for many years!). I pre-ordered the paperback, but quickly realized I was too eager to read the book for the short amount of time I have at night to sit down with a hard copy. I bought the audiobook and listened during every spare second I had (walking my dog, washing dishes, folding laundry. . .  you get the idea). Knowing Chris guaranteed I would read the book, but it did not guarantee I would love it, which I did.

I liked the characters and how well their motivations tied in with their actions, but what I especially liked was how gently Chris unfolds the world he built. The trouble I have with some fantasy/sci-fi/dystopian novels is that the authors sometimes leave their readers in the dark, confused about the world or magic system to the point of frustration. Not here. At every turn it was clear there was more to learn, but I felt guided rather than blinded.  If anything, I am frustrated that only the first book of the quintet has been released, but I am confident that the future books will be worth the wait. 

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Book Review: Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum

Title: Tell Me Three Things
Author: Julie Buxbaum
Enjoyment Rating: 4.5/5
Source: MP3 audiobook from OverDrive

Jessie's life is turned upside down when her mom dies of ovarian cancer and her dad elopes with a woman he met in an online support group for grieving widows. She is forced to leave her life and home in Chicago and move to Los Angeles, where she attends the intimidating prep school, Wood Valley High. She feels lost and alone until she gets an email from an account named Somebody/Nobody (S/N) who offers to help be her guide at the new school. She isn't sure she can trust S/N, but she takes a leap of faith because she has nothing else to lose. Jessie's story is partly an exploration of grief, partly a coming of age tale, and partly a love story.

Some friends of mine read the book and gave it less enthusiastic reviews, but it really worked for me. It is rare that I find a character in YA lit whose story is so similar to mine. While all of the details are different, I've experienced many of the same major events. I too had a parent elope after meeting someone on the internet (my mom); I too spent time across the country and experienced culture shock (summers in Georgia with my mom and step-dad); I too lost my mom to ovarian/peritoneal cancer (genetically identical cancers). So while it is easy to brush off parts of Jessie's story as far flung or immature (she views everyone in LA as stereotypes at first), her growth through the process felt familiar and authentic. And I love a good YA love story. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

A Preface

8 1/2 years ago I started a blog using the first names of my husband, Joey, and myself. It seemed like the cool thing for newlyweds to do at the time ̶ start a family blog, post pictures, and write updates about vacations, holidays, and major family events. We were super cute, so obviously the world needed to see us.

It quickly became evident that this was not really a family blog. It was my blog. But the title made me uncomfortable with writing personal essays and publishing them as "joeykatie." While I enjoyed reading the blogs my friends wrote about their families, I did not feel comfortable with the unspoken pressure to write personal details about my children and family events.

Did I really need to post monthly updates about my babies? If I didn't include a picture of every family member present at a reunion, would I hurt someone's feelings?

My anxiety over whether I should be publishing personal thoughts on a family blog and not wanting to overexpose my children on the internet led me to stop blogging 2 1/2 years ago.

That time frame coincides with the time I stopped teaching college writing classes. I finished my last section the week I had my second baby (I had to cancel the last day of class because I went into labor). When I found out I was pregnant with my third baby, I decided to wait longer than I initially had planned to return to teaching. In the meantime, I run a book club with some friends in my neighborhood, I'm making glacially slow progress on writing my first novel, and I use books and audiobooks like oxygen ̶ the key components to keeping my body and mind functioning amidst the madness magic of raising three kids.

Enter Read In, Breathe Out. This is my space to write about books and the issues that matter to me. My husband and children may make guest appearances, but this is my show. I hope you'll come back often.