Friday, August 26, 2016

Travel Reading: BC Summer

It is far too difficult to write up proper reviews when I've been away from regular internet access for extended periods of time. Thus I started this Travel Reading series, where I simply write a couple sentences about each book read, and leave it at that. So from a trip home to my family and friends in BC comes the following:

"Owl in Love" by Patrice Kindl
Grade: 3 stars
Strange little book, which seems to be Kindl's style. I like her best in fairy tale land, where strangeness doesn't seem unusual (Goose Chase made me very happy). But this one was surprisingly entertaining. The strangeness was less disconcerting than in The Woman in the Wall. Owl's voice is unique, even from Kindl's other heroines; her inhuman-ness was treated well. And I still want to read every one of the rest of her books, if only for curiosity's sake. 2 1/2 stars because I think it was a little young for me, but then an extra 1/2 star for the fact that I couldn't really stop reading it.

"A Coalition of Lions" by Elizabeth Wein
Grade: 3 stars
A sequel to the Arthurian retelling The Winter Prince, but not nearly as heart-wrenching and impactful. I still enjoyed it, especially in the enormous potential for a favourite new character that was young Telemakos (the future books follow him as a protagonist). The setting and politics were cool as well. But it felt too short, and like some of the relationships (especially Priamos and Goewin) and characters needed more background and build up.

"Port Eternity" by C. J. Cherryh
Grade: 2 1/2 stars
Not as good as the other Cherryh I read (Cuckoo's Egg) but that was expected. I'd read reviews beforehand that indicated this. I only read it as my next Cherryh because it was an Arthurian retelling of sorts, and I've been on a bit of an Arthurian kick recently (see A Coalition of Lions above and the Top Ten (Or So): Arthurian Retellings list). I think I would have preferred even more character development, though maybe that wouldn't be possible with the kind of characters these "people" were. Or maybe what I wanted was more action... It happened at the end, but there seemed to be a big, slow build up to some large character explosion, and that never happened as much as I expected. The mythic, idyllic ending seemd to suit more conflict and events than actually happened.

"The Curse of Chalion" by Lois McMaster Bujold
Grade: 3 1/2 stars
It was a little slow to start out with, but once I got far enough through, the Bujold-ness showed up, especially with the main character, Cazaril. The interaction between gods and men was great. There are certain elements of theism that Bujold seems to understand much better than most people (this also showed up in the Vorkosigan saga with Cordelia's beliefs).
Note: everything about this edition (the back cover text, the inside cover picture) indicates there's a cliched main romance, which there isn't. Just putting that out there because it turned me off for a while.

"Tomorrow When the War Began" by John Marsden
Grade: 3 1/2 stars
I appreciated the realism of this YA post-apocalyptic Australian survival story. The teens seemed to me to act and think much like real teens. There was even a religious (not just "spiritual") girl who wasn't stupid or puritanical! That was hugely refreshing. The Australian element also gave it a bit of exciting exoticism for me as a Canadian. I think I'd like to read the sequels, once I come back from my travels and adventures and start a normal life again. It won't be that high on my list, since I didn't become passionate about any particular element. But it was a great and exciting and highly readable start to a series, and I'd recommend it to people who were mature enough for the small amount of sexual content.

Romeo and/or Juliet

by Ryan North

Story summary: Two households, both alike in dignity... an ancient grudge and parent's strife... a pair of star-cross'd lovers... a battle with giant robots...

Why You Will Like This Book:
  • It's so funny.
  • The clever Shakespeare references!
  • The clever geek references!
  • It's Romeo and Juliet as a choose-your-own-adventure. How much more awesome can you get?*

And Why You Might Not:
  • Some Christians could be bothered by some of the dislike of marriage that appears. It's not all like this, but there's enough that it's not just a passing remark one can ignore easily.
  • If your sense of humour isn't the sort of self-referential nerdiness often seen on the Internet and such places, you're likely not going to get much out of this. (On the other hand, if it's not your thing, maybe this would the perfect introduction to just how funny it can be!)

Friday, August 5, 2016

Cuckoo's Egg

by C. J. Cherryh

Story summary: Summary from Goodreads:
"They named him Thorn. They told him he was of their people, although he was so different. He was ugly in their eyes, strange, sleek-skinned instead of furred, clawless, different. Yet he was of their power class: judge-warriors, the elite, the fighters, the defenders.
Thorn knew that his difference was somehow very important - but not important enough to prevent murderous conspiracies against him, against his protector, against his castle, and perhaps against the peace of the world. But when the crunch came, when Thorn finally learned what his true role in life was to be, that on him might hang the future of two worlds, then he had to stand alone to justify his very existence."

Why You Will Like This Book:
  • Humanity from an alien viewpoint.
  • The characters, the politics, the writing, ahhhhhh, so good.
  • Father-son relationship.
  • It's a fairly short book and a stand-alone, so it seems like a pretty good introduction to this author's work. (I haven't read anything else by her, though, so this is pure conjecture.)

And Why You Might Not:
  • Not everything is explained simply, not every explanation is given to you straightly.
  • The ending is a little open, in some ways. I think it's perfect and suits the tone of the rest of the story and it doesn't feel unresolved, but I think it could be found bothersome by some people.

Friday, July 29, 2016

These Beautiful Bones

by Emily Stimpson

Why You Will Like This Book:
  • It's a discussion of the profound Theology of the Body, but focusing on the neglected parts (i.e. the non sex parts).
  • She gets the beauty of simplicity, the earth, daily life, and all those Hobbit-ish things.
  • It's inspiring. It makes me want to pray well, eat well, exercise well, dress well, live well.

And Why You Might Not:
  • I think it could turn off non-Christians and people who were less "Conservative" (see important note below*). It sometimes has that "the modern age is the most horrible age" point of view, which bothers me somewhat, though it's too complicated to get into why I think it's inaccurate.
  • I also didn't like it all that much when she did talk about sex and gender. I thought it lacked complexity of thought, and didn't go beyond stereotypes enough. Though again, it probably won't bother most Conservative Christians who are relatively normal (unlike me, apparently).

Monday, July 25, 2016

The Keeper of the Mist

by Rachel Neumeier

Story summary: Summary from Goodreads:
"Keri has been struggling to run her family bakery since her mother passed away. Now the father she barely knew—the Lord of Nimmira—has died, and ancient magic has decreed that she will take his place as the new Lady. The position has never been so dangerous: the mists that hide Nimmira from its vicious, land-hungry neighbors have failed, and Keri's people are visible to strangers for the first time since the mists were put in place generations ago.
At the same time, three half-brothers with their own eyes on the crown make life within the House just as dangerous as the world outside. But Keri has three people to guide her: her mysterious Timekeeper, clever Bookkeeper, and steadfast Doorkeeper. Together they must find a way to repair the boundary before her neighbors realize just how vulnerable Nimmira is."

Why You Will Like This Book:
  • Cool magic system, of the "instinctive, inborn, just feel it" kind.
  • Relationships, of the family and friends sort, are important.

And Why You Might Not:
  • It was a little light. Definitely a Young Adult book.
  • In general, there just wasn't enough of the good stuff. I wanted it to go deeper.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

And All the Stars

by Andrea K. Höst

Story summary: At first: survival under weird, mysterious circumstances! Then: friendship and The Three Musketeers! After that: plot twists and aliens!

Why You Will Like This Book:
  • See all the exclamation points in the story summary?
  • It's very Australian!
  • At least one of the twists made me want to go back to the beginning and reread from there. (That's by far the best kind of twist.)

And Why You Might Not:
  • There are definitely reasons why you might not like this book, but as I discuss in my thoughts below, Höst's books confuse me somewhat. You'll have to read my thoughts to get a better idea, but my recommendation is to read one of her books yourself and figure it out.
  • For those concerned about sexual content in YA books, there is some here. Not a lot, mostly just one particular scene.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Who Could That Be at This Hour?

by Lemony Snicket

Story summary: What happened to his parents? Where is that screaming coming from? Is it too late? This book contains these and other wrong questions.*
First in the "All the Wrong Questions" series: the story of a young Lemony Snicket and his apprenticeship in a secret society.

Why You Will Like This Book:
  • Puzzling
  • Clever
  • Meta

And Why You Might Not:
  • Full of bleak, unpleasant people in a bleak, unpleasant town.
  • It's strange. A little too strange for me.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Acedia & me

by Kathleen Norris

Why You Will Like This Book:
  • It's about what I believe is one of the primary sins of our age: sloth (in all its forms).
  • There are so many fascinating points to ponder, scattered throughout the book. And so many differing points of view on this one, ever pervasive issue.

And Why You Might Not:
  • I found it a little meandering sometimes. It was just the style, and this is not a criticism per se, but sometimes I prefer books which state their point a little clearer, without circling.
  • For Catholics, there are a couple of weird points theologically speaking, but these are few and far between, so I wouldn't worry overmuch

Tuesday, July 12, 2016


by V. E. Schwab

Story summary: A tale of dark superheroes and broken friendship, of great intelligence and great arrogance and great temptations.

Why You Will Like This Book:
  • Intense relationships
  • Grittiness
  • Brilliantly intelligent people
  • Atmosphere
  • A lovely cover.

And Why You Might Not:
  • It can get pretty dark and bloody.
  • The protagonist is a definitive antihero (my cup of tea, but not everyone's)
  • Some of the several point-of-view characters aren't used to their full potential.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

A Certain Slant of Light

by Laura Whitcomb

Story summary: Ghosts fall in love, relationships break and relationships heal, people struggle with death and abuse and Sad Things, the physical world is discovered to be glorious.

Why You Will Like This Book:
  • People overcoming issues! I love books like this, that give hope and show dragons can be beaten.
  • The visual descriptions! I'm not really one for visual descriptions, but these struck me as quite inspiring.

And Why You Might Not:
  • There is definite sexual content. I think it makes sense given the context and type of story it is, but it deserves a warning.
  • The practicing Christians are all portrayed in a negative light.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

A Silent Voice

by Yoshitoki Ooima

Story summary: From the description of the first volume on Goodreads:
"Shoya is a bully. When Shoko, a girl who can’t hear, enters his elementary school class, she becomes their favorite target, and Shoya and his friends goad each other into devising new tortures for her. But the children’s cruelty goes too far. Shoko is forced to leave the school, and Shoya ends up shouldering all the blame. Six years later, the two meet again. Can Shoya make up for his past mistakes, or is it too late?"

Why You Will Like This Series:
  • Complex people and relationships--messy like real life.
  • Slow growth in friendship, self-respect, courage, and living.
  • The realistic emotions the art managed to portray staggered me sometimes.
  • The romance was pretty much the cutest thing ever, though not as important as even I wanted it to be.
  • With only seven volumes, it's a nice and short and manageable read, and didn't continue past it's expiry date (unlike many series).

And Why You Might Not:
  • This IS manga. A lot of people I know find it difficult enough to read normal graphic novels, let alone ones structured backwards to match the original language's format.
  • I could see this being triggering to people who've struggled with depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and the like.
  • The ending is more open-ended than many people liked. (Not totally sure what I think of it myself.)

Monday, June 13, 2016

Rags & Bones

edited by Melissa Marr and Tim Pratt

Why You Will Like This Book:
  • Neil Gaiman! Garth Nix! Gene Wolfe!
  • Unlike many collections of retellings that I've read, these retell literature instead of folklore and fairytales. Not that the latter are bad things, but it makes it unique.
  • There are some great little scifi gems with ideas that make you think.
  • And great little fantasy gems with worlds that make you dream.

And Why You Might Not:
  • The stories were of mixed quality. (Or at least mixed in nature. Some reviews I read had pretty much exactly the opposite opinion from me, so I suppose it depends on what you're looking for. Point is, it's likely that you'll really like some and not like others.)
  • There were a lot of romances I didn't like: adultery, great passion, sex with a stranger, marriage rejection, etc.

Friday, June 10, 2016


by Brandon Sanderson

Story summary: It's time to fight the ultimate Epic--the superhero who has caused all the rest of the evil superheroes plaguing the world. But to do that, our group of eclectic freedom fighters first have to confront someone a lot closer to home.
Sequel to Steelheart and Firefight.

Why You Will Like This Book:
  • The world-building is super cool and obviously Sanderson's strength (that strange, moving salt city!). This is so much a strength that it totally delights me, even though the characters aren't awesome and I'm almost always more about characters than world.

And Why You Might Not:
  • The characters and their dialogue aren't that interesting or well written.
  • Some could be disappointed by how everything in the trilogy is wrapped up. I'm still a bit undecided on that myself.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

The Sand-Reckoner

by Gillian Bradshaw

Story summary: Archimedes, genius 2,000 years ahead of his time, returns reluctantly home from the knowledge-heaven of Alexandria to his family home, just in time for the Roman siege of Syracuse.

Why You Will Like This Book:
  • It makes one fascinated by a particular era and historical figure
  • And unlike many novels that do the above, this one seems pretty historically accurate (I got this from reviews, I am completely ignorant myself)
  • It brings to life the everyday of another time and place, making it both familiar and foreign.

And Why You Might Not:
  • There is more romance than expected. I mostly enjoyed it (it made it a cozy book, which I always love), but somehow it also made it less impactful to me. I talk about it a little more below, but don't manage to really figure out why.

Monday, May 30, 2016

A Tangle of Gold

by Jacqueline Moriarty

Story summary: Don't want to spoil too much from the end of the previous book. So I'll leave it vague: The royal family still has difficulties with forgetting who they are, the colours are still attacking in larger and larger numbers, and there are yet more political factions with their own agenda. How are the Royal Youth Alliance and a girl from Cambridge going to save the whole Kingdom?
Sequel to the other The Colours of Madeleine books: A Corner of White and The Cracks in the Kingdom.1

Why You Will Like This Book:
  • Complicated human relationships
  • Dysfunctional but interesting and realistic families
  • Unique and beautiful fantasy world
  • Strange and unexpected plots twists
  • It's the kind of book that makes me want to research all these historical figures (huge plus for me)

And Why You Might Not:
  • The writing is somewhat stylized, in a way which usually doesn't work at all for me, so I can see it not working well for someone else
  • I liked the plot twists as well, but I did see many of them coming ahead of time.

Friday, May 27, 2016

The Franchise Affair

by Josephine Tey

Story summary: I can't do a summary right now. I'm too tired and far too behind in reviews. Goodreads to the rescue!

"Marion Sharpe and her mother seem an unlikely duo to be found on the wrong side of the law. Quiet and ordinary, they have led a peaceful and unremarkable life at their country home, The Franchise. Unremarkable that is, until the police turn up with a demure young woman on their doorstep. Not only does Betty Kane accuse them of kidnap and abuse, she can back up her claim with a detailed description of the attic room in which she was kept, right down to the crack in its round window.

But there's something about Betty Kane's story that doesn't quite add up. Inspector Alan Grant of Scotland Yard is stumped. And it takes Robert Blair, local solicitor turned amateur detective, to solve the mystery that lies at the heart of The Franchise Affair..."

Why You Will Like This Book:
  • What you think of when you think Golden-Age British Mystery: small and cozy English village, secluded English country house, amateur sleuth, mysterious women, dash of romance.
  • It's just written really well. I find it difficult to explain or analyze why I like Josephine Tey so much, but at least I know I'm not alone in it. Finishing one of her books leaves me feeling happy in a lovely and satisfied way.

And Why You Might Not:
  • There's no focus at all on whodunnit. You pretty much know from the beginning, it's just a matter of proving it. Not a criticism at all, but if you were expecting that standard aspect of a mystery story, you may be disappointed.
  • And I know that's a bit of a lame reason, but I can't really think of anything else. I have two small criticisms that I list below, but neither are likely to stop one from enjoying the book as a whole. So I guess I'll just have to say it all depends on your enjoyment of mystery stories, especially British Golden Age ones.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Kingdom of Summer

by Gillian Bradshaw

Story summary: Sequel to Hawk of May. "Armed with his magical sword and otherwordly horse, Gwalchmai [Sir Gawain] proves himself the most feared and faithful warrior of Arthur's noble followers. But while defending the kingdom, he commits a grave offense against the woman he loves, leading her to disappear from his life and haunt his memories." (From the back cover.)

Why You Will Like This Book:
  • A tale of a quest for redemption and forgiveness
  • Deep character study
  • Historical accuracy
  • Inspiring Christianity (without being a "Christian book")

And Why You Might Not:
  • It was pretty sad. Well, more bittersweet than anything else, I suppose. I don't want to spoil too much, so I won't be specific.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

The Hunt

by Andrew Fukuda

Story summary: He is a lone human in a society run by vampires. Barely managing to escape notice (and a gory death) through a series of rigorous personal rules, he lives a quiet, lonely life without love or friendship. Until the worst happens, and he's thrown into the spotlight of the event of the century... a human hunt.

Why You Will Like This Book:
  • Everything's inverted! It's the vampires that are just called "people" while humans are strange creatures hunted for their blood!
  • It's gripping! How's our protagonist going to survive when every time he sweats or bleed or shows any emotion whatsoever, he will be ripped to shreds and eaten?

And Why You Might Not:
  • It's a pretty standard YA dystopian. Other than the central twist, there's not really anything new or exciting.
  • I found the characters pretty uninteresting.

Thursday, May 19, 2016


by Rudy Simone

Why You Will Like This Book:
  • A very useful and informative book about Asperger's, with a female focus.
  • It's easy to read and well laid-out, with separate sections for different perspectives (e.g. an Aspergirl, the parent of an Aspergirl, etc.).

And Why You Might Not:
  • If you didn't have Asperger's or didn't know anyone with Asperger's, it would probably be more fruitful to get a different book, since this is a pretty personal type of book, specifically geared towards people who have dealt with this before.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Case for the Psalms

by N. T. Wright

Why You Will Like This Book:
  • Inspiring ideas about how to pray, sing, and live the Psalms in your life
  • Fascinating information on the original Hebrew

And Why You Might Not:
  • His writing style is not the most engrossing. It's not difficult to read or anything, and the content makes up for it, but I still found myself having to re-read sentences a few times to understand properly.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Deep Secret

by Diana Wynne Jones

Story summary: Multiple universes! Missing emperors! Beautiful centaurs! Scifi/fantasy conventions!

Why You Will Like This Book:
  • See the story summary, basically. What a lovely list of awesome things.
  • Also: Characters with faults who are still endearing! Intricate plotting! Humour and romance and magic!

And Why You Might Not:
  • If you're looking for explicitly stated rules for the magic system, that are easily figured out and explicitly stated, you won't find that here.
  • And if you're looking for a story that realistic enough to not have all the chaotic plot points tied up together nicely by the end, you won't find that either. Connected plots are DWJ's specialty.
  • And if you're looking for a typical Diana Wynne Jones story with only the subtlest of references to adult situations--again, you won't find that here. This is an adult story, though written in DWJ's typical fantastical style.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Top Ten (Or So): Arthurian Retellings

With specific bias towards Sir Gawain, because he's my favourite knight by far. There are so many things about him...
--his rather large family of brothers and parents and their often complicated and damaged relationship with each other,
--the fact that they basically live on top of the world (Orkney FTW!*),
--the fact that he is not Sir Lancelot, and not only does he not commit adultery, his most famous stories are about how he treats marriage vows as sacred,
--the fact that Arthur is his uncle, even though they are of similar age, which makes for a cool dynamic (and basically makes him a prince),
--his common portrayal of having a bit of faery blood, and thus being just that bit more strange than everyone else,
--his association with light and the sun, gaining and losing strength as it does (I can relate to this myself sometimes, with my constant craving for sunlight),
--and last but not least, his usually-red hair--though even the non-red haired version of him still seems to have gorgeous hair (see Merlin below).

In fact, I like him so much that I'm going to divide this list into two lists, one with all the books/movies/TV that made me love Gawain, and one for all the rest.

(Taken from LilyBotanica on DevientArt.)

Arthurian Retellings Where Sir Gawain Is Awesome:

--The King Arthur Trilogy (consisting of The Sword and the CircleThe Light Beyond the Forest, and Road to Camlann) by Rosemary Sutcliff. This is a bit more of a straightforward retelling of the legends than most on this list. A good one to start off with, for that reason. And because Sutcliff is possibly the best historical fiction author I've read. Plus Sir Gawain is great in this one. All red-haired and passionate and Orkney and fey.

--The Squire's Tale and its sequel, The Squire, His Knight, and His Lady by Gerald Morris. A hilarious children's series with action, romance, and adventure--and best of all, it's centered on a funny and heroic Sir Gawain. In fact, I believe this book may have been the start of my love for Gawain. (There's a bit of annoying anti-Catholicism, but it wasn't even bad enough to throw me off at the younger age that I read it.)

--Hawk of May by Gillian Bradshaw. An inspiring and personal look at my favourite knight (called Gwalchmai here). Unlike the other attempt to bring Arthurian legends into a historically accurate era (see the King Arthur movie below), this one actually does seem accurate (though I am no historian, so don't take my word for it). Has everything I like best about historical fiction, plus some beautiful parts that appealed to my Faith. Made me want to read everything she's written.

--The TV show Merlin. Ok, so I haven't actually seen a lot of this show, so it's kind of cheating to put it on this list. But what I have seen was great fun, filled with humour and adventure. Gawain was quite different than his normal portrayals here, being one of the least noble of the knights instead of the most. But although I wish they could have delved into his character a bit more, and got to all the interesting bits (should have incorporated the Loathly Lady legend somehow), he was one of the more charming and amusing characters on a charming and amusing show.

--Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the Middle English poem from the 14th century, translated by J. R. R. Tolkien. I'm not always fan of poetry, and not always fan of reading old literature for fun (in a study environment is different--I love that). But this was highly enjoyable. Maybe because I like Gawain so much, or Tolkien's style, or maybe because I like poetry and old literature more than I thought and I should give it the benefit of the doubt more.

--The Once and Future King by T. H. White. Other than the first book, The Sword in the Stone (on which the Disney movie was based), this is a pretty dark book. I loved it. The parts with Gawain and his brothers especially could be so creepy and atmospheric and memorable! Enough so that I lifted the "Runner Up" status on this one, even though Gawain was not very likeable and this is the "Gawain is Awesome" list.

--Runner Up: The movie King Arthur, starring Clive Owen and Keira Knightly. I heard that the historical inaccuracy is rather high on this one--which is fine sometimes, but not when it's trying to be specifically historical. That, as well as the Pelagianism and my lack of interest in Lancelot or Guinevere or their relationships with Arthur are the main reasons why it's a runner up. But there's nothing like a group of awesome guys fighting battles together, especially when the guys are as epic as Sir Tristan and Sir Gawain were in this one. (They were minor characters, but decidedly still my favourites. See this awesome picture of the two of them:)

--Runner Up: Parzival by Katherine Paterson. I read this when I was very young, and loved it. Upon re-reading it recently, it doesn't hold up to an older reading age. It was quite simplistic. But I'm adding it because of how much it thrilled my imagination when I was little. I still remember the feeling of reading some of its main scenes, and I have a very bad memory.

Arthurian Retellings Where Sir Gawain Is Not Awesome, but That Are Still Good for Some Reason:

--The Winter Prince by Elizabeth Wein. Dark and beautiful. The main character is based off of Mordred--one who is broken but struggling for goodness, and not as evil as he is often portrayed. Upon re-reading my review from back in 2012, I was surprised by my lack of enthusiasm. I think now, being a fair bit older and hopefully more discerning, I would have a more glowing reaction. Because the feeling of reading this book is still memorable after all this time, which indicates a lot to me-of-the-bad-memory.

--The movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail. If you haven't already seen this...why haven't you? It can be rather sketchy and irreligious, I suppose. But it's also absolutely hilarious and a cultural icon.

--Runner Up: The Story of King Arthur and His Knights by Howard Pyle. Like Sutcliff's King Arthur Trilogy, mentioned above, this is more of a standard retelling. But in this case, I like Sutcliff's much more, thus the "Runner Up" status. Plus I seem to remember that Sir Gawain is rather boorish (though maybe I'm thinking of the little bits I've read of Malory?**), so that's always a let-down. But it's still one of the staples of Arthurian retellings. I know many people enjoy it, so I thought it really ought to be here anyway. It's just not quite as much my cup of tea.

--Runner Up: That Hideous Strength by C. S. Lewis. It's a runner up because it's not an Arthurian retelling, per se. But a fabulous book, and full of fascinating Arthurian references in the later parts. Those parts probably thrilled me most of all.

(The Orkneys!!!!!)

* I have been to Orkney, and it is one of my favourite places in the world. It made me love those legends that much more.

** I haven't read Malory's famous version (excluding a short skim through little bits of it). Partly because Lancelot annoys me and he's featured heavily, partly because I've read enough Arthur by this point that it would have to have something great to recommend it. Maybe I will one day if I get the chance to do a proper literature study on it.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Stars Above

by Marissa Meyer

Why You Will Like This Book:
  • Short stories starring the delightful ensemble of characters you loved from the Lunar Chronicles (CinderScarletCress, and Winter).
  • Backstory! Alternative viewpoints! Weddings!

And Why You Might Not:
  • You've got to be a fan of the Lunar Chronicles to enjoy this. For the most part, there's no point without that, I think.
  • I think most stories could be more tightly written, in terms of view point and theme. I find this quite essential in short stories, so if you do too, you might not enjoy these.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Not God's Type

by Holly Ordway

Why You Will Like This Book:
  • Conversion stories FTW!
  • Ordway is a fencer, an academic, a lover of Lewis and Tolkien. Sounds like just my cup of tea; I would love to meet her.

And Why You Might Not:
  • I wouldn't recommend this to non-Christians, unless they were really open to Christianity.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016


by Susan Dennard

Story summary: Meh, don't feel like doing a summary. Here's a shortened version of the Goodreads description instead:
"Safiya is a Truthwitch, able to discern truth from lie. It’s a powerful magic that many would kill to have on their side, especially amongst the nobility to which Safi was born. So Safi must keep her gift hidden, lest she be used as a pawn in the struggle between empires.
Iseult, a Threadwitch, can see the invisible ties that bind and entangle the lives around her—but she cannot see the bonds that touch her own heart. Her unlikely friendship with Safi has taken her from life as an outcast into one of reckless adventure, where she is a cool, wary balance to Safi’s hotheaded impulsiveness.
Safi and Iseult just want to be free to live their own lives, but war is coming to the Witchlands. With the help of the cunning Prince Merik (a Windwitch and ship’s captain) and the hindrance of a Bloodwitch bent on revenge, the friends must fight emperors, princes, and mercenaries alike, who will stop at nothing to get their hands on a Truthwitch."

Why You Will Like This Book:
  • Gripping--one of those books you can't stop reading.
  • Devoted female friendship.
  • Awesome magics and fighting skills.

And Why You Might Not:
  • It wasn't particularly memorable for me.
  • The romance was a little quick and passionate for my taste (though it bothered me less than I expected)

Monday, April 4, 2016

Hawk of May

by Gillian Bradshaw

Story summary: A retelling of  some of the Arthurian legends from Sir Gawain's point of view (called Gwalchmai here), and with historical accuracy.

Why You Will Like This Book:
  • Epic, personal, inspiring, gripping.
  • Though it's not a Christian book, I found this very inspiring in a specifically Christian way.

And Why You Might Not:
  • It's yet another Arthurian retelling, and there are so many of them. Really I think that shouldn't matter. If it's fabulous, it's fabulous. But it might turn you off if you're tired of so much Arthur.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace & Babbage

by Sydney Padua

Why You Will Like This Book:
  • What if Lovelace and Babbage, inventors of the first computer, didn't die young and disappointed respectively? What if they actually built their computer, and when on to have thrilling adventures with it after that?
  • This is the subtitle (and how could you not like a book with a subtitle like this?): "With Interesting & Curious Anecdotes of Celebrated and Distinguished Characters Fully Illustrating A Variety of Instructive and Amusing Scenes; as Performed Within and Without the Remarkable Difference Engine"
  • It's a graphic novel! But with so many footnotes and endnotes that it's basically a normal book! But the footnotes are way better than a normal book cause they're so funny and interesting!* Cause history is weird, man.

And Why You Might Not:
  • It purposefully goes off into an alternate universe, with historical inaccuracy. I love this aspect, but it's one of the only possible things I could think of that you might not like.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

The Woman in the Wall

by Patrice Kindl

Story summary: Anna is so shy that she hides in the secret rooms she built in the walls. She does this for so long that her family forgets about her, assigning her memory to foolishness and youthful playfulness. But she is very much alive, growing and changing and falling in love.

Why You Will Like This Book:
  • Growing up
  • Learning self-confidence
  • People are better than you think they are

And Why You Might Not:
  • It's a strange little book. The fantasy elements are only really present at the beginning and are quite small, but they're weird. Why are they there at all?
  • The main character herself is obviously a little on the odd side as well.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Miss Pym Disposes

by Josephine Tey

Story summary: Miss Pym was only going to stay a day. The frightfully early morning bells of the girls' boarding school were far too loud, the food was too healthy to be appetizing, and she had her academic parties to get back to. But as the girls ingratiate themselves with her, she stays longer and longer. And senses more and more that something is not right...

Why You Will Like This Book:
  • Lovely and light and cozy and creepy all at once. Definitely atmospheric--and in the exciting sense, not the boring, long-description sense.
  • It's more of a character study than a mystery, really.
  • Passes the Bechdel test with flying colours.

And Why You Might Not:
  • You may be looking for a typical mystery, and since nobody dies till right near the end, you would be disappointed.
  • In fact, nothing much really happens at all till near the end. Though I'm almost completely ok with this (the ending may have seemed a bit abrupt), since it's still really interesting and gripping.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Caves of Steel

by Isaac Asimov

Story summary: Basically a normal mystery story, but with humanoid robots and space colonization and strange, massive mega-cities and other futuristic developments.

Why You Will Like This Book:
  • How would the general population treat robots? What if someone actually died, and you knew a robot was involved somehow? There are some interesting speculations on such politics and human reactions in the future.
  • SciFi mystery combo! Double the genre points!

And Why You Might Not:
  • The futuristic advances and changes were a little ordinary, especially for a millennium in the future.
  • I didn't become attached to any of the characters, though that might just be me (for reasons I discuss below).

Friday, March 11, 2016


ed. by Deborah Noyes

Why You Will Like This Book:
  • If you're looking for short, dark, and creepy, this is it.
  • There are stories by some great fantasy authors such as Neil Gaiman and Garth Nix.

And Why You Might Not:
  • There's nothing really new or exciting in this collection.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Ink and Bone

by Rachel Caine

Story summary: Burners of books, hoarders of books, preservers of books, eaters of books. The world is now all about books and the flow of information, with the Great Library of Alexandria on top. You'd think that would be a good thing, wouldn't you?

Why You Will Like This Book:
  • BOOKS!!!
  • Schools for learning cool things!!
  • Relationships slowly growing from enmity to friendship!
  • And excitement and adventure and romance and mystery and conspiracy and all that.

And Why You Might Not:
  • It's hard to judge some of the aspects of this book until we see how it turns out in the sequels.
  • There is a important gay relationship present, if that bothers you.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Voice of the Lost

by Andrea K. Höst

Story summary: This is a direct continuation of the first book, The Silence of Medair. Thus any detailed summary of the story is going to involve major spoilers for that. So I'm just going to say: think the first book, with all its fantastical world-building and 500-year-old backstory, except more personal and romantic.

Why You Will Like This Book:
  • Some subtle relationships from the previous book are revealed. Definite pay off for getting through the (to me) slightly less enjoyable first book.
  • There is lots of interesting pondering of ethical questions.
  • New worlds, new races, new cultures.

And Why You Might Not:
  • It's a continuation of the first book, and you really can't read it at all without having first read The Silence of Medair.
  • It's a lot more romantic than the first book, which is actually a plus for me because I like the romance better in the second book than the first. But if you don't like the second-half romance better, it's going to be seriously annoying how much time is spent on it.
  • Not everything is resolved properly. Kind of bothersome, that.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians

by Brandon Sanderson

Story summary: Evil librarians plotting to take over the world! An epic search for a bag of sand! Amazing skills gained in tripping and breaking things! 13-year-old warrior girls with grumpy attitudes! And maybe even young adventurers being tied to an altar made from outdated encyclopedias and sacrificed to the dark powers?

Why You Will Like This Book:
  • The humour!
  • The meta!
  • The strange gadgets!
  • The mysterious happenings!

And Why You Might Not:
  • It's definitely for a younger audience than Sanderson's other books I've read. Although it was still very enjoyable, this made it slightly harder to read for me.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The Silence of Medair

by Andrea K. Höst

Story summary: Medair was sent on a mission of great importance, to save her country from invaders. But upon returning, she finds that 500 years have passed, and the invaders are now integrated with her people. How will she now keep her oath to her long dead emperor? Can she free her country from invaders without slaughtering thousands of innocent descendants? How should she use the weapons of great power she found on her quest? And who has discovered her secret and why are they chasing her?

Why You Will Like This Book:
  • Such a great idea for a story!
  • And such a great way the interesting back story is slowly revealed.
  • Also some interesting moral predicaments.

And Why You Might Not:
  • I found most of the characters and relationships too distant to relate to. This might be just personal, though.

Monday, February 29, 2016

God and the Astronomers

by Robert Jastrow

Why You Will Like This Book:
  • Although written by an agnostic, it discusses how the Big Bang Theory (not the show) and other related cosmological theories are surprisingly true to Genesis. It also discusses the scientists involved in these discoveries, and their reluctance to agree to something so seemingly Christian. (The second idea especially is not one discussed frequently, which makes this book cool.)

And Why You Might Not:
  • It's really short and there's not a lot there besides the central idea and some short scientist biographies.
  • It's really not a great book physically, either. The layout is confusing, they typesetting is strange, and there are page errors. 

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Jinx's Fire

by Sage Blackwood

Story summary: The trees are panicking because the forest of Urwald is being cut down and burnt. The wizards are panicking because they might have to actually do something together for a change. Sophie is not panicking because she's smart and sensible, but she feels like panicking because her husband Simon is caught in life-sucking elvish ice. Jinx is panicking because it's all down to him to save everything.
RED is panicking because she can't think up a better story description than this, and what if it turns people off a really excellent series?
Sequel to Jinx and Jinx's Magic.

Why You Will Like This Book:
  • It has all you could want in a children's book. Friendships and familial relationships, vivid imagery, human insights, surprising humour, magic and adventure.

And Why You Might Not:
  • I really can't think of any good reasons, unless you're not a fan of children's entertainment like Narnia and Pixar. I suppose the battle could be a little scary for younger readers? But yeah, that's pretty much it. Great books!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Catch & Release

by Blythe Woolston

Story summary: Polly gets flesh eating disease and loses her eye. This other victim, a kid aptly named Odd, takes her on a fishing trip to take her mind of things. It turns into a road trip to Portland, with friendship and personal growth and all that.

Why You Will Like This Book:
  • Deals with difficult life events like the loss of a limb or eye.
  • Has an unusual friendship and complex character relationships.

And Why You Might Not:
  • It's strange. The characters are strange, and pretty unhappy.
  • And...I can't really criticize more than this, though not because it's necessarily very good. See after the break for more on this.

Monday, February 22, 2016


by Ryohgo Narita

Story summary: Last unfinished book I read, I used the Goodreads description because I hadn't finished the book and so couldn't actually summarize it. This time I don't have that excuse, because I know the story in fairly good detail, having devoured the anime and manga versions. But I like the Goodreads summary and I'm behind on reviews and I'm super lazy, so here goes:

"The Ikebukuro district in Tokyo is full of interesting people. A boy longing for the extraordinary. A hotheaded punk. An airheaded pseudo stalker. An information broker who works for kicks. An underground doctor who specializes in truly desperate patients. A high school student infatuated with a monster. And a headless rider on a pitch-black motorcycle. Their story may not be a heartwarming one, but as it turns out, even weirdos like these sometimes fall in love.
There's no shortage of bizarre characters in Ikebukuro--read the light novel series that started the anime and manga phenomenon!"

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Jinx's Magic

by Sage Blackwood

Story summary: Jinx, the apprentice of the crabby and possibly-evil magician Simon, learns cool new kinds of magic, meets a werewolf with spectacles, gets his memory wiped by creepy elves, and gets even closer to his new friends, the trees of Urwald.
Sequel to Jinx.

Why You Will Like This Book:
  • Characters and relationships and humour and human insights and adventure! So good.

And Why You Might Not:
  • Cause you don't like kids entertainment, even the awesome stuff like Narnia and Pixar? Only reason I can think of really, because these are great books.

Friday, February 19, 2016


by Sage Blackwood

Story summary: Jinx is abandoned by his step-father in the wild woods of Urwald, and then promptly kidnapped by a possibly-evil magician. He becomes his apprentice, starts talking to trees, meets a thief boy and a cursed girl--and another magician who has knives in his thoughts.

Why You Will Like This Book:
  • Also the world and the humour and the adventure and the insights, but mostly those first two.

And Why You Might Not:
  • The only reason I can possibly think of is if you're against kids' entertainment, even if it's fabulous. If you wouldn't read The Chronicles of Narnia and wouldn't watch Pixar because they're for kids, then yeah, you probably won't like this either.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

No Exit and Three Other Plays

by Jean-Paul Sartre

Why You Will Like This Book:
  • The fascinating ideas. It's all about that, really.
  • Although I found most of them surprisingly entertaining in their own right as well,  There was some well done creepiness and tragedy and even characters.

And Why You Might Not:
  • These are existentialist plays, and every one is depressing.
  • Did I mention depressing?