The Bone Season – Samantha Shannon

the-bone-seasonImportant note: In no way did I tend to start a pattern of reading “The Bone _____” books. Ha.

A colleague of mine recommended this book, insofar as she couldn’t contain her excitement about the upcoming third instalment anytime it was mentioned. Considering I’d already picked up a wonderfully cheap hardcover copy of this book, I figured it was worth the read. Lord have mercy, this book was hard to get into but after the first 50-100 pages I devoured it.

One of the great detriments to being a fast reader is that when there are a lot of details to absorb in a story, I gloss over them. The Bone Season is chock full of details, especially right at the start of the book, and you need those details in order to make sense of the story. (I.E. There is a chart of the levels of clairvoyance in the first few pages and, I kid you not, you need to bookmark that page ASAP.) This is not a ‘leap right in’ sort of read. It is, however, wildly unique in comparison to many fantasy books I’ve read in the past few years.

I loved this book for its uniqueness and complexity, and also especially because of how annoyed I was with Paige’s stubbornness. Sometimes, the most well-crafted characters are the ones which annoy or upset us, just like real-life folks would. Perhaps it is my ISFJ tendencies coming through, but I was so frustrated that she couldn’t just get on with trusting Warden and move on.

I guarantee that a large percentage of people who read this book really won’t like it, as it is weird for both the dystopian and fantasy/sci-fi genre. It sort of has Matrix vibes, though isn’t really like The Matrix at all, and forays into mythological/ supernatural realms that I’m really not familiar with. I do, however, strongly recommend this book for anyone who read Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series and longed for something far more intelligent and raw. Very much looking forward to reading the next books in the series!

The Bone Witch – Rin Chupeco

bone-witchIn the past few years, some of my favourite books have been those which were suggested to be primarily by someone saying, “read it; just trust me”. Generally, this phrase comes up when the premise is just too weird to sell a book. For example: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor involves monsters and the slow collection of human teeth. The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater is about a magical horse death race into the sea. Neither of these descriptions gets an immediate affirmative from me, but I loved both of these books immensely.

Thus, when I read the premise of The Bone Witch — girl accidentally raises her brother from the dead and discovers she is a powerful witch that most people probably won’t like — I was actually reasonably on board. I’ll be honest and say that I can’t give it 5 stars, but it was certainly a great read.

One of my favourite things about this book were the short bits between chapters featuring a glimpse into the future life of the main character (aka: the bone witch) Tea. It reminded me of the way in which Patrick Rothfuss formatted The Name of the Wind, and anything that relates your writing to Patrick Rothfuss is a good sign in my books. It left me totally fascinated and puzzled by how Tea ended up where she did, so I’m certainly on board for a second book.

I struggled a bit with the details of Tea’s training; I was awfully tired of reading about her learning to dance. I think the story would have been well-served by a greater focus on her physical and magical training, rather than the cultural elements of her role as an asha-ka.

In short, the concept of The Bone Witch is phenomenal, and I look forward to reading the next book to see where things ended up for Tea!

Full disclosure: I received an advance reader’s copy of The Bone Witch, but the above thoughts and opinions are fully my own.

A Return

Oh hi.

I started grad school in September of 2014 and somewhat promptly (and unintentionally) gave up blogging. And although any public blogging henceforth is likely to be less personal due to my work in the field of counselling, Imma still go ahead and write book reviews.

I have been a veritable reading machine since 2017 began; I finished up my tenth book a few nights ago and we’re not even two months into the year. For a book-loving dork like myself, there is little else more satisfying than being many books ahead of your annual Goodreads reading goal.

In the spirit of just getting on with it, here are a few of my recent favourite reads:

King’s Cage – Victoria Aveyard: I won’t deny that I enjoyed the first book in this series (Red Queen) much better than the second and third instalments. Nevertheless, this book toyed with my emotions and allegiances REAL HARD, and was extremely hard to put down. I also enjoyed getting some other characters’ perspectives throughout the story.

Windwitch – Susan Dennard: When I read the first instalment in this series, I admittedly wasn’t head-over-heels. I’m always on board for fantasy that focuses on magic and where it came from/who gets to use it and how, so I figured reading the second book was worth it. I was pleasantly surprised by Windwitch! Especially for the last quarter of the book, I could barely put it down. And much to my surprise, I really loved having three different story arcs to follow.

Uprooted – Naomi Novik: I bought myself this book for Christmas because I heard nothing but good things about it and everyone was right. Uprooted is a lovely book, and my favourite part about it is how realistic the magic seems. Stay with me here: the magic behaves in such a way that it actually seems plausible, i.e.: certain spells work better/worse and in different ways for certain people. There were moments that I wasn’t on board for in the story, but overall I was pretty hooked.

A Darker Shade of Magic – V. E. Schwab: I started reading this book in a magical bookstore/coffee shop in Budapest and, admittedly, it was slow going at first. But oh! Oh, did I grow to love it as I continued reading. The concept of there being four different Londons on it’s own was fascinating to me; even more fascinating is the fact that I enjoyed reading a book about inter-dimensional travel. Plus I love Lila Bard. And I also love Kell. The end. Next book please!

Nevernight – Jay Kristoff: This is dark, dark, dark, dark, dark and I also loved it. Definitely not a teen read because of the extreme violence and sexuality, but it is a fascinating story. I had a hard time with the footnotes, and think it would have been better to have a preface with the world’s history instead. If you liked Pierce Brown’s Red Rising (which OMG you should!), this is somewhat of a fantasy alternative.

Crooked Kingdom – Leigh Bardugo: Leigh is my queen. Not only did she masterfully create the Grishaverse, but she also beautifully illustrates diversity in her work. I think I still love the original Grisha trilogy best, but the Six of Crows/Crooked Kingdom duology is a great read. It’s like teenage misfits in a Russian Oceans 11. Just go with it.

Me and my great intentions hope to blog slightly more now that I’m not wildly overwhelmed by coursework and my multiple jobs, but no promises. Still trying to finish my beloved MA thesis. 🙂

Surprised by Motherhood – Lisa-Jo Baker

surprised-by-motherhood

This review originally appeared on my personal blog, Christie Thinks

Although I have always believed (at least to some degree) that someday I will be a mother, I am in the camp of married adults who is not currently defined as ‘parent’. And I do a lot of work to use “if” rather than “when” to describe any hypothetical offspring, largely because I want to model that behaviour for other people so they can perhaps put the same into practice. Because sometimes the lack of children is a really painful thing for people, and I don’t want to go around (unintentionally) wielding my words like a sword.

All of that said, perhaps it then strikes you as strange that I would read a book about motherhood, especially because, for the time being, ‘mother’ is one of the last facets I want to add to my identity. I, however, am someone who does a lot (aka: most) of my learning and understanding by reading books. Thus, if I am to even consider mothering at some point in my life, reading about it (far) in advance is a natural Christie practice.

A book like Lisa-Jo’s is exactly the kind of ‘parenting’ book that I was looking for: it is in no way a manual of ‘to do’s to be The Best Parent, but rather speaks honestly and with love about what it is like to become a parent… even if you weren’t sure that you wanted to. And I’m pretty sure this is the sort of parenting book I’d want to read upon finding out I was going to have a child, or even once I had children of my own. Surprised By Motherhood is gentle but also raw–it doesn’t shy away from the hard truth of real life. (Which is, not surprisingly, one of my favourite qualities of a book.)

I’m certain this is a book that I will come back to if my husband and I choose to be parents. Lisa-Jo speaks frankly about her challenges as a mother, reminding us that parents are human beings too; they get angry and tired and they don’t know what they’re doing just like the rest of us. Surprised by Motherhood would also be a great resource for any mothers (or fathers) who have a less straightforward understanding of ‘home’, or for anyone with anxiety about parenting in light of their own relationship with their parent(s).

In short, this is a great motherhood-in-progress memoir that I highly recommend. Moms everywhere (and Moms of young children especially) would do well to pick up a copy of this book ASAP!

* Full disclosure: I received an advance reader’s copy of Surprised by Motherhood, but the above thoughts and opinions are fully my own. Also, there are Amazon Associate links included in this post. If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this site.

* Image source

Innocence – Dean Koontz

dean-koontz-innocence

This review originally appeared on my personal blog, Christie Thinks

I am a book lover, and thus I spend a lot of time in bookstores. Considering Dean Koontz has published over 100 novels, it is not surprising that–even though I hadn’t read one of his books–I was quite familiar with his name.

I admit that I am generally not particularly keen on Koontz’ genre (suspense thriller-ish), but I was certainly willing to give Innocence a try. Much to my delight, this book was an interesting combination of fantasy and thriller; what I understand to be somewhat of a departure from Koontz typical works.

At first (as I’ve mentioned before), all I could think about when reading this book was The Hunchback of Notre Dame: there’s some horribly disfigured guy, moping about through the universe, and suddenly! Lo and behold! A lady. And although Innocence does have a tiny similarity to the Hunchback, it is a very tiny similarity at that.

I loved the omnipresence of snow throughout the novel; it serves as an excellent tool for illuminating the broader theme of the story. And, although I’m a particularly patient reader, I loved how long Koontz took to reveal the true ‘disfigurement’ of the protagonist. It drove me bananas, but in the way that a good and interesting book should.

My only major critique was that I didn’t feel particularly connected to or invested in any of the characters. Telford is quite certainly repugnant, and Addison is utterly innocent in all ways, but neither of those two characters (nor any of the others) really felt worth investing in. So, overall, this book didn’t blow my mind, but it was definitely enough to make me investigate Dean Koontz writing a lot more thoughtfully.

* Full disclosure: I received an advance reader’s copy of Innocence, but the above thoughts and opinions are fully my own. Also, there are Amazon Associate links included in this post. If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this site.

Tables in the Wilderness – Preston Yancey

tables-wilderness

This review originally appeared on my personal blog, Christie Thinks

There is a moment when, upon reading particular lines in particular books, that I realize ‘this book is going to change me’. And I, a lover of books and literacy and words put onto paper in all forms, I know that all books change us at least a little; that I can’t read the real or not real (or a combination thereof) story of someone’s life without being impacted. That said, I made it only a few pages intoPreston Yancey’s Tables in the Wilderness before I realized it was a life changer. And perhaps that’s drama queen of me to say, and perhaps I say that of a lot of books lately, but I nonetheless believe it to be wholly true.

As a bit of an aside, it’s funny that some of the reviews I mean the most are the reviews that end up being less about the book I read, and more about the life that I’m living. (I suppose this is why I felt so comfortable in my English department, whose motto was that the world is made up of stories, rather than atoms.)

There are some things that other people can’t understand unless they have been there–really been there. And, despite reading his blog for quite some time, I was startled to realize how many of Preston’s words were my words too. Many of the things that brought him in (and out) of silence with God are also my things. Preston’s deep love for his alma mater is akin to how I feel about my own.

And sometimes I feel like a phony, leading churchy things when I distinctly don’t have my churchy stuff together. But I’ve correctly guessed, many thanks to Preston’s writing, that this is God, as all things are God, and God is building and setting and preparing a table for me in the utmost of my wilderness. That God comes to us even when we aren’t sure that we believe it.

I will say that, at times, I thought “Preston, you are too young for this.” But of course I did. This is a thought I have about many people all the time; that we are too young for our hardships, too hard for our existential crises; too young to be so wildly enraptured by love.  But the living of life doesn’t wait until we’re ready, and the writing of books sometimes takes us by surprise.

And so I’m grateful that Preston Yancey wrote this book. I’m grateful that he’s adding to the canon of spiritual memoirs that I (and I’m sure other readers) find so encouraging. Because, as I know I’m writing all the time, it is good to know that we are not alone. So go pick up a copy of this book, will you? It is definitely worth the read.

* Full disclosure: I received an advance reader’s copy of Tables in the Wilderness, but the above thoughts and opinions are fully my own.

* Image source.

Found – Micha Boyett

found-book

This review originally appeared on my personal blog, Christie Thinks

My first encounter with anything remotely monastic or contemplative was a spring break trip during my second year of university, during which a random assortment of students and I road-tripped from lower mainland BC to southern California to spend the week at a former monastery. I really didn’t know what it was going to be like, other than knowing it wasn’t going to be a missions trip (which I was already feeling skeptical about).

Despite my very Mennonite church upbringing, I discovered that I not only loved the Mater Dolorosa retreat centre (because it was quiet and beautiful), but that I also really loved contemplative practice. Later, I took a course on the writing of Thomas Merton, which affirmed my love for the contemplative, even though I really didn’t have much desire to be a part of the Catholic church (or any other liturgical church, for that matter).

For the past two years, I have been a bit obsessed with spiritual memoirs, and basically anything that deals with faith in the real lives of women (Madeleine L’Engle’s Crosswicks Journals started this for me). So, although my reading Micha Boyett‘s book wasn’t a surprise, the degree to which I enjoyed the book was.

Found very much reminds me of The Quotidian Mysteries by Kathleen Norris: both books that delves into issues of faith, but also is grounded firmly in the stuff of real life. In both cases, I was an absolutely delighted reader. Found is so well encapsulated by its subhead: A Story of Questions, Grace, and Everyday Prayer. This is because Boyett doesn’t spend her time spouting theological treatise; rather, she writes about being overwhelmed by moving across the country and beginning a new season as a mother. And that is the kind of spiritual writing I can get behind.

I really identified with Boyett’s childhood experience of God and Christianity: that, despite the sermons about a loving God, and about being saved once and for all, that there she still felt the strong desire to make sure. Because how can eight-year-old children be certain of their faith, beyond a shadow of a doubt (214)? Both Boyett and I did a lot of re-committing hearts to Jesus, and a lot of re-confessing of sins. Especially in issues of faith development, t is good to know that you are not alone.

I think a lot of why this book appealed to me was influenced by Boyett’s background in creative writing. The words of her book were easily painted onto my heart, and certainly penned into pages of my journal. And, as many of the Benedictine prayers that she reflects on throughout the book, Boyett’s prayers are simple, honest and even accessible. Found is subtly instructive without being instructional.

In this particular season of my life, I find myself a bit religiously bamboozled: my late 20s are bringing forth more questions and confusion than I ever anticipated. That said, reading Found gave me a lot of hope: hope that my doubt is not inappropriate, and that even this season of doubt is just that; a season.

The words of Found are gentle in their presentation, a clasping of hands across the table in a coffee shop. This is an excellent debut on Boyett’s part, and I highly recommend getting a copy of this book when it releases on April 1st, especially if you are interested in faith but don’t possess much background in anything religious.

* Full disclosure: I received an advance reader’s copy of Found, but the above thoughts and opinions are fully my own. Also, there are Amazon Associate links included in this post. If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this site.

Image source.