Title: The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco
Series: The Bone Witch #1
Published by Sourcebooks Fire
Published: March 7th 2017
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Rin Chupeco’s The Bone Witch
is a fantasy about a girl who accidentally discovers her powers when she brings her brother back to life. She is taken in by a bone witch for training, and her brother, Fox, becomes her zombie familiar of sorts. The story follows Tea’s instruction from age twelve to about age fifteen? We get to see the “coven” in which she is raised and trained, the day-to-day life, the details of the clothes she and the other people wear, glimpses of the food, and all of the minute details that comprise Tea’s education. In a way, this works, but it also drags the story out and often feels like nothing is happening. Most of the action happens in the first quarter of the book and the last quarter of the book, and the rest is mostly world building filler with a few minor conflicts that Tea has while learning how to utilize her powers.
The world building in this story draws heavily from Chinese influences, and this makes it different for me from any of the recent YA fantasy I’ve read. The atmosphere and setting are richly detailed, and everything is described so vividly, and I enjoyed that a lot. I also like that the main character’s magical powers are necromancy. It’s dark, and it’s different from the soft and beautiful magic often reserved for female characters. I like that, and I want to see how that power grows and manifests itself as she ages. Fox is probably my favorite character, because who doesn’t love a sidekick named Fox who is also a zombie and who also has an interesting personality?
After finishing this, I found myself wanting more, more to have happened and more to have been done with the story. The intertwining parts of a bard recounting his experiences with an asha (who is most likely Tea) in the future with the story of Tea in the past is very reminiscent of Rothfuss’s Kvothe in The Name of the Wind, and I feel like this is like the younger end of the spectrum YA sibling to The Kingkiller Chronicles. The world Chupeco created is so grand and so vivid that I just wanted to see more of Tea’s interaction with that world and within that world rather than descriptions of it, and I’m hoping that’s what we’ll get to read in the sequel.
A copy of this book was provided to me by Sourcebooks Fire and Netgalley for review; all opinions are my own.
Title: Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson
Published by W. W. Norton & Company
Published: January 1st 1970
Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Astrophysics for People in a Hurry
is an excellent, fact-packed book about science, space stuff, and physics for people who either don’t have the background in any of the subjects and want to learn more or for people who don’t have the time to read denser books about these subjects but still want to get a decent grasp on the concepts without spending a lot of time getting into the theoretical aspects of it.
What I think I like best about this book is the fact that you can read a chapter at a time and feel like you’ve learned (or refreshed your memory) about some cool stuff that you can then use as a jumping off point for more research, just feel like you can have a general conversation about whatever the chapter covered, and/or understand some of the space concepts covered in the news or on social media. What I think I disliked most was the fact that if I read multiple chapters in one sitting without taking even the tiniest break between them I felt a little lost and confused. This book is definitely something you’ll want to keep on hand and flip through a chapter or two just before bed or in those times while you’re commuting or on a lunch break.
NDT explains complicated subjects well a way that don’t sound condescending to the average reader (or me), and he interjects a lot of humor into his writing which sometimes helps explain some of the more elaborate things. If you’re interested in refreshing your astrophysics knowledge or learning more about space and what we know and don’t know is out there in the universe, this is a great place to start!
Thank you to WW Norton and Netgalley for an advance copy for me to read! All opinions are my own.
Here’s another little list of reviews! There isn’t a theme to this list this time, but they’re all books that I’ve been reading on and off for a long time that I’ve finally finished!
Title: Summerlong by Peter S. Beagle
Published by Tachyon Publications
Published: September 6th 2016
Peter S. Beagle can spin a fantastic, beautiful phrase, and I’m looking forward to reading more of his work (can you believe I’ve never read The Last Unicorn??
). However, Summerlong
didn’t do it for me. I feel like I might have approached this book differently had I know about the mythological twist that reveals itself in the last third of the book, because without having known it, I felt that the fantastic elements of it led to a disconnect between the story that I had become familiar with and the story it ended up being. I don’t recall reading anywhere about the ties to Greek mythology, so it was definitely a wait, what??
sort of moment. I think my lack of enjoyment of the story is completely on me, because I was expecting something more fantasy driven than the contemporary character driven story it is. I felt like I didn’t relate to any of the characters, and it took a long time for me to get through a relatively short novel. If you enjoy stories about coming to life, as it were, after the summer of your life has passed, I think you’ll find this novel right up your alley!
I received a review copy from Netgalley and Tachyon Pub; all opinions are my own.
Title: Monstress, Vol. 1: Awakening by Marjorie M. Liu, Sana Takeda, Rus Wooton
Series: Monstress #1
Published by Image Comics
Published: July 19th 2016
Genres: Graphic Novel
Format: Trade Paper
The illustrations in this are amazing and worth it just to peruse it for that, but I found the story incredibly complex and a little unforgiving to casual reading. Not every graphic novel needs to have the ability to just pick up and go, but this is something that will require rereading (either after a first read or while reading it [the latter of which is irritating to me because I really don’t like having to backtrack through a short-form story to find clarity]), so maybe it’s ultimately not the thing for me? The story did become clearer about halfway through once the pieces came together, and I think I’ll read the next ones, but it’s not on the priority list for me at the moment.
Title: Welcome to the Universe: An Astrophysical Tour by Neil deGrasse Tyson, Michael A Strauss, J. Richard Gott III
Published by Princeton University Press
Published: September 29th 2016
Some of this stuff went way over my head, but it was interesting! And definitely better read in sections as each chapter is essentially a lecture! I liked the structure of it, though. Each chapter built on the one before it, and while it was challenging at times to understand the concepts, I feel like each of the three author’s thoroughly explained the concepts and their relativity (heh) to other concepts in the knowledge we have of our vast universe.
Title: The Wages of Sin by Kaite Welsh
Series: Sarah Gilchrist #1
Published by Pegasus Books
Published: March 7th 2017
Genres: Fiction, Historical
I knew how the world worked; I knew it could be cruel, and I was not content to let it remain so.
Give me all of the historical fiction about flawed women doing things that society says they shouldn’t do!!! Kaite Welsh’s The Wages of Sin is about a woman named Sarah Gilchrist who “ruined” herself with the involvement with a man who took advantage of her. She moves in with her aunt and uncle to start anew, and she enrolls at the University of Edinburgh in the first year it allows female students. The plot goes back and forth between her past and her present and it’s a little slow moving, but I enjoyed that. I felt like Welsh easily incorporated the day-to-day life of this first class of female medical students to show the reader the kind of resistance those students felt in their everyday experiences. It also explores the victim-blaming and -shaming rhetoric that women still face regarding their sexuality and their choices and how it can be damning to assume anything about anyone without knowing the other person’s full story.
While reading this, I felt like this story also highlights the injustices and prejudices women face today in all sorts of sciences and male-dominated fields across the board. Sometimes it was troubling to read because I’ve even experienced similar things. However, that’s what I like most about good historical fiction. It illuminates the problems of the past and present. I like reading historical fiction for an escape from the present like so many others, but I also like reading historical fiction because of the explorations and struggles people have faced throughout history. It’s reflective and contemplative, and it’s always a joy to have a relatable heroine telling us her story.
I’m going to be thinking about The Wages of Sin for a while, and I’m pleased to know that there will be more of Sarah’s story, because most of this novel felt like a set up for so much more. I think I’d be disappointed to know that was the end, because it ended with so much hope and promise. I can’t wait for the next one! If you’re a fan of Deanna Raybourn’s Veronica Speedwell series or enjoy reading feminist historical fiction, I think you’ll like Sarah Gilchrist and her adventures.
Thank you to Pegasus Books and Netgalley for a review copy!
Title: Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller
Published by Tin House Books
Published: February 7th 2017
Writing does not exist unless there is someone to read it, and each reader will take something different from a novel, from a chapter, from a line.
After finishing Swimming Lessons, I’m a little sad I don’t have any more novels to read by Claire Fuller. I read Our Endless Numbered Days earlier this year and loved the fairy tale-like quality to the story, and Swimming Lessons evokes a similar response from me. Swimming Lessons is about a woman named Ingrid who writes letters to her husband Gil. Instead of delivering the letters to him directly, Ingrid leaves the letters in topically relevant books that Gil has scattered all over his house. After leaving her final letter, Ingrid leaves and disappears from a beach in Dorset, leaving behind her husband and two daughters with unanswered questions. Twelve years after her disappearance, Gil – older and suffering from the effects of age – thinks he sees Ingrid in a bookshop and falls, hurting himself. Flora, his daughter, returns home to care for her father. Flora doesn’t believe that her mother died, only disappeared. While caring for her father, Flora begins to discover the answers to her questions about her mother’s life and disappearance in the books quite literally stacked all through her father’s home.
I was hesitant to start this one because I wanted to read Our Endless Numbered Days first. I’m weird and sometimes like to read an author’s work in publication order. After completely devouring Fuller’s first novel in just a few days, I started reading this one almost immediately after. Fuller has a gift in transforming family tragedies and terrors into a story of mythical allure. I also have a soft spot for epistolary novels or books that incorporate letters and other forms of text communication, and Swimming Lessons does just that. I loved reading Ingrid’s thoughts throughout the years of her marriage, of her family, of herself, and seeing how the present day family reacts and responds to Ingrid’s letters.
I’ve already talked about this book a lot to some of my customers at work and a few of my acquaintances, and I tell them, if you enjoy books about books and reading and letter writing with a family mystery tied into it all, you’ll really like this one. My favorite bits had to be the letters because Ingrid’s voice just felt so immediate and emotional. However, if you don’t like ambiguous endings, beware. You don’t get all of the questions answered, and you’ll be left thinking about the possibilities of hope and the reminders of grief once you’re through. I read it during some warm February days, and it’s the perfect kind of novel to read with the soft warmth of the day wafting through the windows.
Thank you to Netgalley and Tin House Books for a review copy!