Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Review Policy

I do accept books for review! (Yes, that includes self-published books, if they sound compatible with my reading interests.) If you would like me to review something, contact me via (theseasodeep) [at] gmail [dot] com. Before you do that, though, please read this brief review policy.

My preferred genres are the following, or any permutation thereof:
  • Fantasy
  • Science fiction
  • Historical
  • Thriller
  • Mystery
I especially love young adult books that fit into those genres, but adult fiction is great too. :)

I do NOT accept:
  • Romance
  • Straight-up horror (I will read very dark fantasy)
Even in the genres I accept, I'm not interested in books that focus heavily on romance, or feature graphic sexual content.

Policies:
  • I try to review every book that I receive. It might not be extensive, but I will give at least a brief review.
  • My reviews are honest. This means that if I do not enjoy the book, I won't lie about that. However, I will try to limit my comments to the content of the book, and avoid discussing the author.
  • I attempt to post reviews as soon as possible after I finish reading. However, if you would like me to hold a review until around the release date for an ARC, I can do that too--just let me know.
  • I am equally happy with physical copies or eBooks. I accept .mobi, .epub, or .pdf files. Love my Kindle and my iPad. :)
  • All reviews are cross-posted here and to Goodreads. I can also post to Amazon.com and many other sites if you would like.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Review: When Sparrows Fall by Meg Moseley



Meg Moseley's When Sparrows Fall is one of my favorite books of all time. Moseley's prose is gorgeous and evocative (the landscape is a character in itself), and there are no stereotypes here, no caricatures; the characters are complex and interesting. The main ones are Miranda, widow, mother of 6, struggling to escape from her oppressive, legalistic, cult-like church; and Jack, divorced college professor, a man of both faith and reason, who is equal parts angry and sad to see the life in which Miranda and her children are trapped. Both characters are intelligent, capable of great kindess and love, and like most people, struggling with their own kinds of damage.

This book isn't just exceptionally well-written. (I'm normally not a fan of romance, but the one in this book was so well-done that I didn't mind it at all.) This book is important. It addresses a world that needs to be better known: the world of Quiverfull fundamentalist homeschooling separatists. Now, Moseley is not implying that all homeschoolers are like this. Obviously not; she herself homeschooled her 3 children. But she is shining a light on a homeschooling subculture that exists, and is a prison to everyone within it. I know. I have a number of friends who grew up in it. Some are still struggling years later.

The Quiverfull movement at its most extreme gives all women, regardless of temperament or gifting or ability, exactly one role in life: to have as many babies as possible, homeschool them all, cook and clean and practice extreme submission. Men are the ultimate, unquestionable authority. (Which many of them feel trapped into, as well--imagine being a sensitive, indecisive man in a system like this!) Children are harshly forced into unqualified, unquestioning obedience, rather than being taught how to think for themselves and make good choices. Performance and conformity are valued far above grace and courage.

Moseley does a tremendous job of writing a vivid story set against the backdrop of that world, without infodumps and without reducing the characters to bland, powerless stereotypes. Miranda and her children are all so believable that I felt like I knew them, by the end; and despite being trapped in such a stifling world, none of them are without agency. Miranda in particular is done with being controlled; when Jack tries to give her orders, though they come from the opposite of the Quiverfull mentality, she lets him know that her life will no longer be run by men. She will be making her own decisions. She is discovering grace and freedom, the way we all must: not at anyone else's behest, but between herself and God.

I will be leaping to buy any further books by this author.

Rating:

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Review: Sleeping Helena by Erzebet YellowBoy



Erzebet YellowBoy's Sleeping Helena is a jumbled mess of a fairy tale retelling, in which Sleeping Beauty is inexplicably a cruel sociopath. I think we are meant to care about her. Somehow. Though she tortures small animals for fun.

There is also an incomprehensible backstory about her aunts' dead brother who was gay, or under a spell, or both maybe? (I felt sad for him, but he was given very little character development.)

What there isn't, sadly, are many sympathetic characters, or a plot that makes any sense, or a comprehensible ending. Seriously, I still have no idea what happened.

Rating:

Friday, April 27, 2012

Review: Stop Pretending by Sonya Sones



I was fourteen when I found Sonya Sones's Stop Pretending hiding on the shelves of my small-town library. My mother had had a psychotic break when I was six weeks old. She was subsequently diagnosed with schizophrenia and institutionalized. For as long as I could remember, I had been tiptoeing around the gaping hole in my life. I knew hardly anyone else in the same situation.

This is the book that told me I wasn't alone. In beautiful, wrenching, spare poetry, Sones paints a picture of a child's life, lived in the shadow of a mentally ill loved one. Her anger, confusion, grief, love, and resentment bleed onto the page, as vividly as I remember from my own childhood. This is the book that told me it was okay to feel all those things at once.

I will always love it for that.

Rating:

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Review: Till We Have Faces by C. S. Lewis



One of my all-time favorites, C. S. Lewis's TILL WE HAVE FACES is unique among his works. It is a dark, complex retelling of the myth of Cupid and Psyche, focusing not on the beautiful Psyche, but instead on her ugly older sister Orual.

Lewis creates a beautifully realized world, a gritty land of myth in which threads of truth are woven into the tapestry of paganism. Like his world-building, Lewis's characters all being capable of both good and evil. Orual in particular is one of my favorite characters ever: ugly, strong, loving, selfish, courageous... A warrior and a leader, in defiance of the physical unattractiveness that caused her to be deemed "worthless" as a child. She makes big mistakes, and she does great things, and in the end her life is defined by love in ways she didn't even realize. Anyone who doubts Lewis's ability to write well-rounded female characters should meet Orual.

When pitching this book to others, as I often do, I tell them not to be intimidated by its depth and complexity: Yes, it is different from Lewis's other works, and slowly paced in places, but it is a beautiful tale and well worth discovering.

Rating: