May Reads

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I actually got back on the reading wagon last month and knocked some books off both my Currently Reading and To Be Read lists. I’m proud of myself.

Instead of doing separate blog posts for each review, I’m just linking to my reviews on Goodreads with an excerpt. (Or, if they’re incredibly short reviews, posting the whole thing here.)

First, the digital books! Not necessarily in order of reading.

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Broken Sleep by Kaimana Wolff

4 out of 5 stars

I may be coming from a biased place because my mom is the author and I’m the publisher…but I don’t think that should count against my review. We’re all biased in some form; one of the first lessons of Journalism class was there was no such thing as objectivity. My relation to the author makes me no more biased than the fact that I went through a lot of the events in the book.

A harrowing exposé of abuse…hard to read, as someone who’s lived through it. But a necessary book — if you’ve ever wondered why a victim of abuse stays with their abuser, this book might shed some light on that for you.

My review at GoodReads.

WritePublishRepeatcoverWrite. Publish. Repeat. by Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant with David Wright.

4 out of 5 stars

Non-fiction I read as part of my ongoing efforts to improve myself as a writer and my author career. 90% of the book I’m on board with, but they lost me near the end.

These guys know their stuff when it comes to writing and marketing, but they should stay away from topics they know nothing about. Dieting and weight loss are billion dollar industries that have nothing to do with individual health, worth, or work ethic.

At this point I won’t be picking up their fiction, though I planned on it, because I don’t know what kind of fatphobic ideas might lurk within. I’ll continue to read their non-fiction because I think they do know what they’re talking about when it comes to an indie author career — and I do think this book is an essential read if you’re an indie author and you don’t really know what the hell you’re doing — but in the end, their ignorance and perpetuation of fatphobic stereotypes has cost them a cross-pollinated (non-fiction to fiction) reader.

My review at GoodReads.

And now, the paperback/hardcover books!

May reads.

Medicine River, by Thomas King

3 out of 5 stars.

I picked it up because I love Thomas King. It’s not my favourite of his work, but I didn’t hate it.

Bottom line: if you’re used to Western (white dude!) literature as the dominant narrative, then you need to erase your expectations when picking up this book. It does not follow the dominant cultural narrative we have around literature: it deliberately bites its thumb at those expectations. It’s different, and that’s not always bad.

My review on Goodreads.

Tuesdays with Morrie, by Mitch Albom

4 out of 5 stars.

I went into this with the full knowledge that I would likely cry at the end. It’s a very quick read, but that doesn’t lessen the extent to which it tugs on one’s feels.

Well, I cried.

Can’t say much other than: beautiful book, quite touching, do recommend it.

Bloodchild and Other Stories, by Octavia E. Butler

4 out of 5 stars.

A collection of short stories with afterwords by the author, as well as 2 non-fiction essays at the end.

I really liked Speech Sounds. It’s a post apocalyptic story with a bit of hope at the end — basically my favourite type of story. And it’s sad, too. I don’t want to give away too much, but it’s good, and I recommend it. Possibly the best story in the book.

My review on Goodreads.

Hopefully I’ll do a similar post for June. I’m trying to actually read the myriad books in my collection instead of just smelling them to get my daily fix of book-scent.

-Katje

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Thomas King, Vancouver Poetry Slam, and my health

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The past four or five days have been interesting. I had an adverse reaction to some belladonna applied topically on Thursday night, and since then the ache in my left shoulder has intensified to the point of my arm being pretty much out of commission. Advil helps, but there’s still pain. I plan on seeing a doctor this week — I may have wrenched the shoulder out of alignment during Galactica’s bid to murder me.

Despite all this sturm und drang surrounding my physical health, I’m alive, and was feeling well enough on Monday to leave the house for an opportunity to see Thomas King speak.

If you don’t know who Thomas King is, then get the fuck out you are missing out on part of life.

Seriously, though, Thomas King is brilliant, and funny, and an amazing writer, and incredibly patient with babbling star-struck First Nations Studies graduates.

Continue reading

30 in 30: Day 27 (in which I shamelessly plug my own writing, but I’m entitled as it’s my fracking birthday)

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Cover of "Snow Queen"

Cover of Snow Queen

If a book contains ______, you will always read it (and a book or books that contain it)!

This is honestly a very tough question. It’s hard to think of a single thing that will always make me read something; I could say strong female lead characters, but that’s not true — there are books that I refuse to read containing that quality.

I suppose something I am truly a sucker for is a sense of myth in the story. Kushiel’s Legacy is a very good example of this; not only is there a very rich backdrop to the story, filled with different cultures and myths based loosely on ones from Earth, but the story of Phedre and Joscelin has its own mythic quality — these characters are true heroes on the hero’s journey, and their deeds will be talked about in centuries to come.

Other examples of this mythic quality, not limited to books:

  • True Grit (the recent one)
  • Battlestar Galactica
  • The Fifth Sacred Thing
  • Lord of the Rings (though, I will admit, I did not finish reading the books — it’s the films I have a true love for)
  • Harry Potter
  • Green Grass, Running Water (by Thomas King)
  • The Tir Alainn Trilogy by Anne Bishop
  • The Black Jewels Trilogy (same)
  • The Snow Queen, by Joan D. Vinge
  • anything by Ursula K. LeGuin, the First Lady of Fantasy
  • Bellica, by Katje van Loon (why shouldn’t I shamelessly plug my own awesome stories, I ask you)

It’s the sense of myth that truly gets my heart racing, that makes me cry for the characters (yes, including my own), that wraps me up so completely in the story that when it’s over I am bereft for having lost a part of myself.

However, that’s the beauty of myths — once I am done mourning, I can read or watch and experience them again, and allow myself to fall in love many times with the same, heart-rending story.

Books I Think You Should Pick Up (And Read, Obviously).

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Cover for the poetry book "glasstown" by Katje van Loon

Yep, I designed that by myself.

So, I heard about something called The Friday Five, and apparently it’s something you do on your blog each week. There seem to be sites that generate questions for it, but I’ve been told you can also just list five things you want to share.

I’ve decided to do it. As this is the blog of a writer and an avid reader, my topic will be Books I Think You Should Pick Up (And Read, Obviously). This will probably remain the topic for a while, but I will always post the topic as the title for the entry.

  1. The City of Ember, by Jeanne DuPrau. YA literature is not just for young people and The City of Ember is highly enjoyable. (Though, if you plan on seeing the film as well I recommend watching the movie first, so it doesn’t spoil your enjoyment of the book.)
  2. Green Grass, Running Water, by Thomas King. I’ve blogged about this great book before, but I think it bears reiterating that it’s well worth your time to pick up this novel and give it a read. It starts out a bit wonky, as King doesn’t adhere to traditional rules in novel writing, but persevere — it’s worth it.
  3. glasstown, by yours truly. This is my poetry book, and I think a lot of people should pick it up (by which I mean buy it) and read it. Just saying.
  4. The Undomestic Goddess, by Sophie Kinsella. This is a good story about a high-powered lawyer who finds out who she really is in the unlikeliest of places — the kitchen of a rich family. It’s not “chick lit”* because it’s not about how important it is to have a boyfriend — it’s about how important it is to be true to yourself. (The fact that there’s a hot guy involved? Bonus!)
  5. The Fifth Sacred Thing, by Starhawk. Another great book I’ve blogged about. Seriously, pick this up and read it. The film has reached its funding goal on Kickstarter, which means that soon pre-production will begin. I’m sending an email to Starhawk to ask for the chance to audition. So, who knows — you might see me on the silver screen in a few years. 😉 Regardless what happens, read this book. You won’t regret it.

*Coming soon: a rant about the sexism inherent in the very existence of the genre of “chick lit” and how it makes my blood boil.

30 in 30: Day 14 (in which I briefly talk about the Chaotic Canine, as portrayed by Thomas King)

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Favorite character in a book (of any sex or gender)

This is kind of a difficult question. I mean, I’ve read like a thousand books (I wish life had achievement trackers like WoW does) so choosing one character out of all those stories is sort of a monumental task.

But, eh, what the hell. Coyote from Green Grass, Running Water, by Thomas King. First of all, I love the book, highly recommend it — it’s funny, poignant, and succinct. King is a master storyteller and humble, too (I recommend listening to his CBC Massey Lecture, The Truth About Stories: A Native Narrative), and after having the aforementioned novel assigned last semester in class I’m pretty excited to read his other works.

Coyote is the Chaotic Canine. He’s referred to as Coyote, but it never actually says that he appears as such — he could be human too. He’s always getting into trouble, or causing it. In Green Grass, Running Water his thread runs throughout all the stories, but mainly the creation story that pops in every few chapters and blends both Native and Christian imagery (it is even hinted at that Coyote is responsible for Mary’s “virgin” birth, which is pretty funny).

The main idea behind Coyote is that if there is Order, he will introduce Chaos to disrupt things. Because Order left alone lets things stagnate, and then we never grow. It is only Chaos that allows things to flourish — and as Chaos naturally gives rise to Order, it’s a self-perpetuating cycle. Order appears, Coyote disrupts it, Chaos reigns, Order appears again.

I think it’s obvious why he’s my favorite character. He’s an agent of chaos (like me) and he’s hilarious about it. To paraphrase from the book:

Talks-to-Coyote: “Where were you when the Rangers were shot, Coyote?”

Coyote: “I was in Toronto.”

Talks-to-Coyote: “When was that?”

Coyote: “…when were the Rangers shot?”

It’s like the Eddie Izzard sketch about how we lie about everything as kids: “I was dead at the time! I was on the moon, with Steve!” That’s Coyote.