Saturday, December 17, 2016

A New Classic Christmas Tale

Before there was Santa Claus, there was a young boy who believed in the impossible. . . . Lemony Snicket meets Elf in this warmhearted Christmas caper.
Eleven-year-old Nikolas—nicknamed “Christmas”—has received only one toy in his life: a doll carved out of a turnip. But he’s happy with his turnip doll, because it came from his parents, who love him. Then one day his father goes missing, and Nikolas must travel to the North Pole to save him. 
Along the way, Nikolas befriends a surly reindeer, bests a troublesome troll, and discovers a hidden world of enchantment in the frozen village of Elfhelm. But the elves of Elfhelm have troubles of their own: Christmas spirit and goodwill are at an all-time low, and Nikolas may be the only person who can fix things—if only he can reach his father before it’s too late. . . .
Sparkling with wit and warmth, A Boy Called Christmas is a cheeky new Christmas classic-in-the-making from acclaimed author Matt Haig and illustrator Chris Mould.

I promised to do two things before the end of the year; I said I would post the list of top 2016 reads (which I have yet to do) and I said if A Boy Called Christmas arrived in time to review before Christmas Day, I would review it.

Well I'll be damned if RandomHouse didn't expedite shipping and get me the audiobook in record time. It arrived late last night and for the first time since I was a child, I have an audio Christmas story to listen to just before Christmas.

My first thought upon popping in disc one was-My god, I never knew I needed Stephen Fry to read me a Christmas tale. I absolutely love his story telling abilities and he has done a marvelous job with A Boy Called Christmas. I'm practically swooning over here.

Matt Haig's Christmas tale is simply wonderful. It's heart-wrenchingly sweet and for the first time in years I find myself wishing I still believed. Christmas just loses its magic over the years and now that I have a child of my own I've done my best to bring some holiday cheer into our home while secretly wishing it would be over already. 

Matt Haig's story has truly put me in the mood for the holidays. It's a new twist on an old tale with unexpected characters and a story that will stay with you every Christmas season.

I'm slightly sad I don't have a printed version as well to see the artwork I've heard so much about. I may pick up a copy just to have a look and save it for when my son is older. 

We sat by our artificial fireplace all morning, eating Christmas cookies and listening to Nicholas's adventure and it was a fantastic way to spend the day. I believe we'll listen again the closer it gets to Christmas and I will definitely be sharing this audiobook with his grandparents.

A Boy Called Christmas is a must read/listen this Christmas season and it will certainly become a yearly tradition in our home.

Monday, December 12, 2016

The Year in Review-2016 Best of Macro

Happy Macro Monday!

I'm winding down for the year so this will be the last Macro Monday of 2016.
I will still be uploading photos to Instagram *ChasingtheWindPhoto
but my blog will be a bit bare for a few weeks.

To celebrate the upcoming year (hopefully a better year than this...) I've compiled the top picks from my Instagram page, the photos most liked and chosen by you!

Thank you so much for following and I'll see you next year.

Your #1 top pick of 2016!

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Arm of the Sphinx

Forced by necessity into a life of piracy, Senlin and his crew struggle to survive aboard their stolen airship. Senlin’s search for his lost wife continues, even as her ghost hounds his every step. But the Tower of Babel proves to be as difficult to reenter as it was to escape.

While searching for an unguarded port, Senlin encounters the camp of Luc Marat, who seems equal parts bandit and humanitarian. One thing is for certain: his asylum for the downtrodden hods is not as peaceful as it appears.

In desperation, Senlin turns to the mysterious and dangerous Sphinx, with whom Edith shares a terrible bond. They discover the Sphinx’s help does not come cheaply. Senlin must choose between his friends, his freedom, and his wife.

'A crew could never be sure what sort of welcome the tower would offer them.'

I have decided that I do not have the talent to give this book the review it deserves, so I'll give it the best I can. 

I had no idea what to expect from Arm of the Sphinx. Senlin Ascends was so fantastic and ended on such a cliffhanger that Book 2 could have gone in any direction and I couldn't even imagine what Josiah had in store for these characters.

If you've read Book 1 and have yet to dive into Book 2, I will do my absolute best not to spoil anything. If you haven't read either book, you're probably best checking out my review of Senlin Ascends and going from there because there are quite a few changes in Arm of the Sphinx and discussing them here could potentially spoil Book 1.

If you've read both books, I love you and move right along from here.

With that in mind, here we go.

Everything has changed. Nothing is as it was and things will never, ever be the same again. The Tower continues to take everything from its inhabitants that which it demands and Thomas Senlin finds he can either become the thieving pirate he needs to be, or face the ruin of his crew and the ultimate failure at recovering Marya.

I mentioned in my review of Senlin Ascends that Senlin changes throughout the book and as he changes so does the depth and complexity of the story. He transforms from cringe-worthy naivety to a more a conscientious, worldly man, shedding his shy, childlike views and growing to adapt to his situation. The same can be said of the story itself, evolving from simplicity to a wonderful complexity.

With Arm of the Sphinx, it's all brand new. My first impression was-I don't recognize these people! Not only has Senlin taken command of his ship, he's taken control of his destiny. He continues to evolve and adapt and it's absolutely fantastic to witness. 

Beneath that shy exterior he began with, Thomas Senlin is hilariously cunning. He is the ultimate pirate, an even better Jack Sparrow as he knows how to get exactly what he needs and what he wants while continuing to be grossly underestimated despite his growing reputation. He is an absolute joy to read about and he isn't the only one going through these fascinating changes. The entire crew has to face their new life and their new roles in the tower and what's more is they now have to learn to trust and rely on each other, something none of them had ever done before.

But how far will they trust their captain and his continuing need to find someone they all believe to be lost forever? His obsession may just lead to his ruin.

Marya takes a backstage in this book, at least the real Marya does, as for the other... You're in for a treat. She's deviously haunting Senlin and her presence is a bit more than he'll admit he can handle.

There are so may answers in Arm of the Sphinx and yet so many more questions arise. The Tower is not what it seems, it's definitely not what I had guessed, and I have no idea what will happen from here. 

Arm of the Sphinx definitely tops Senlin Ascends, it's a fantastic sequel and I'm wringing my hands trying to find some way to distract myself until The Hod King arrives sometime next year. We haven't even seen a fraction of what the Tower conceals within it's walls and I'm freaking dying with anticipation.

This series is an absolute must read, Bancroft has absolutely blown me away with his work and he's only just begun.

If you're interested in checking out my review of The Books of Babel book 1 - Senlin Ascends, you can read that Here

About the Author
Josiah is a freelance writer, poet, and musician. His work has appeared in dozens of journals and magazines, including Slice Magazine, BOMB Magazine’s: Word Choice, Rattle, the Cimarron Review, the Cincinnati Review, and Gulf Coast. In 2010, Josiah's book of poems was a finalist for AWP’s Donald Hall Prize in Poetry. The poet Alberto Rios had this to say about his collection of poems, The Death of Giants:
"These are poems of constantly surprising adventures for the reader. The title poem sets the tone, marvelous in its pragmatism and equanimity, and the poems benefit from this start. Things happen, and things get done because of that, but what is so easily said is the precise source of wonder in these pieces, in that even the most complex and strange occurrences are simply dealt with."
Connect with Josiah

Wednesday, December 7, 2016


When Felix is deposed as artistic director of the Makeshiweg Theatre Festival by his devious assistant and longtime enemy, his production of The Tempest is canceled and he is heartbroken. Reduced to a life of exile in rural southern Ontario—accompanied only by his fantasy daughter, Miranda, who died twelve years ago—Felix devises a plan for retribution.

Eventually he takes a job teaching Literacy Through Theatre to the prisoners at the nearby Burgess Correctional Institution, and is making a modest success of it when an auspicious star places his enemies within his reach. With the help of their own interpretations, digital effects, and the talents of a professional actress and choreographer, the Burgess Correctional Players prepare to video their Tempest. Not surprisingly, they view Caliban as the character with whom they have the most in common. However, Felix has another twist in mind, and his enemies are about to find themselves taking part in an interactive and illusion-ridden version of The Tempest that will change their lives forever. But how will Felix deal with his invisible Miranda’s decision to take a part in the play?

This has officially been my very first Margaret Atwood novel. I've heard all good things and her work has been described to me as 'absolute genius' so when I saw one of her works up for grabs on Blogging for Books I figured it was the perfect time to give her a go.

My first impression wasn't positive. I don't know much about Shakespeare and I figured that would hinder my reading a bit, but that really wasn't the problem. The book is slow, thoughtful, calculating, and it's all told by Felix while slowly losing his sanity.

I had to push through the first few chapters of his loss and building depression, his troubles garnering no real sympathy from me and it left me wondering if the story would ever build into anything remotely fascinating. It was just so slow going.

But, the more I read, the more I realized I had to know how it ended. I had a few theories throughout the book, and remember, I don't know much about Shakespeare so there's no way I could have compared his story to that of a Shakespearian play and actually figured out what was going to happen.

Halfway through I was pleasantly surprised to find that the book had pulled me in and I couldn't stop reading. I had to know what was going to happen.

I still had a few issues, like that fact that everyone in the book seemed to know way more about Shakespeare than I would have thought an every day Joe should have known... I mean, how many jail security guards studied Shakespeare and can name his more obscure plays? I definitely couldn't name more than three and that would take quite a bit of thinking...

But overall Hag-Seed built into a fantastic story, an emotional and gripping read and I'm very glad I saw it through to the end. 

Friday, December 2, 2016

Holliston: Friendship is Tragic

Down on their luck wannabe filmmakers Adam and Joe want desperately to celebrate Halloween to the fullest, but their wallets say otherwise. When Adam finds a pre-paid credit card loaded with money, he decides to buy gifts for his friends Joe, Laura, and Corri from a mysterious shop full of rare items. Little does he know the card carried a terrible curse; one that will not only tear apart their friendships, but tear apart all of Holliston! Loaded with laughs, guest appearances, and horror movie references that fans of the show or just fans of great comics will all enjoy! 
Written by Greg Wright (Monstrous, Wild Bullets), edited by Travis McIntire (Up the River, Bayani and the Nine Daughters of the Moon), with pencils and Inks by Stephen Sharar (Up the River, Wild Bullets), and colors and letters by Joshua Werner (Zombie Rush Riot, Jack of Spades). 

I know I'm a little late on this one being that it's a Halloween story, but I so wish I had read this before my Halloween Reads post because Holliston would have been on it! You can believe it will be on the list for next year.

I hesitated in responding when Greg Wright asked if I wanted to read his newest work, not for any particular reason, I just wasn't up for trying something new and I really wasn't up for the possibility of a disappointing read (it always breaks my heart writing a negative review). I almost said no, but I knew he was working on a project with Jim Kersey, and if you don't know that I love Jim Kersey's work then you're definitely not following my twitter feed (Amok Brothers is epic and you should be checking it out).

If Jim says a guy's alright, then that's good enough for me.

I had never heard of Holliston, I didn't know it was a tv show until I read the foreword in Friendship is Tragic, but don't worry if you've never seen an episode, this novel is a stand alone addition that anyone can enjoy-And if you enjoy this graphic novel I can guarantee you'll want to watch the show. 

My copy of Season 1 is already on its way.

Friendship is Tragic absolutely stole my heart within the first few pages, not only because the foreword is so personally inspiring and completely heartfelt from the creator Adam Green, but also because Joe and Adam are so perfectly adorable. Adam is over the top innocent and completely excited to make this year the best Halloween ever and Joe's sarcastic cynicism is simply hilarious. The banter between these two makes it apparent just how close of friends they are. The connection between them is immediately apparent and even had I not read Mr. Green's foreword, it's clear a lot of love went into crafting these crazy characters.

What's really fantastic is that the creators of this comic are fully aware of just how unbelievable their story is. Greg Wright openly makes jabs at the plausibility of his own story and it only adds to the hilarity of the situation as it's blatantly obvious things are seriously getting f&%$ed up and the guys just keep rolling with it and seeing where the trouble leads. 

The pop culture references are on right on point and I love the throwback to Adam Green's other works. Hatchet happens to be one of the first horror films I watched when I started getting into the genre.

Joe and Adam had me smiling from page 1 and I just can't say enough good things. Greg Wright did an excellent job pulling this comic together. 

I said this after reading Halcyon's Wake and i'll say it again for Holliston- If you can sit back and let the author run with their imagination and enjoy the pure, slap-stick comedy fun they've brought you, then you'll truly be able to appreciate Friendship is Tragic. It's a great ride and I'm looking forward to learning more about this Holliston fandom.

Check out more about Holliston at Source Point Press

Buy Holliston: Friendship is Tragic

Monday, November 28, 2016


Happy Macro Monday!
I have a lot of images to share from this week, and many more you may have missed on Twitter. Every morning I'm uploading an alternate version of the image I officially upload to Instagram, so if you're not following me on Twitter, you're missing half the photos!

So enjoy this Macro Monday pick-me-up because we all know today isn't going to be the best day of returning to work, and don't miss out on today's image I'll be posting in a bit.




Saturday, November 19, 2016

I Support Indie Authors

I have a confession to make and it's been a long time in coming... 

Brace yourselves for this because it's not pretty...

am an absolute Book Snob.

A recovering Book Snob really...

But, there it is. When it comes to books I am a perfectionist. I have always preferred my books from big name publishers who I thought provided the best, most grammatically correct, and error free, novels that would satisfy my need to read. I mean, these books are in stores all over the world with the backing of the best and brightest in the publishing industry, right?

A few years ago, before I started this blog, if someone had offered me a copy of their self published book I would have scoffed at them and told them to come back to reality and realize if the publishers didn't want it, I didn't want it either. (I told you- Book. SNOB.) That sounds terrible, but it's true. If the publishing companies didn't want it, then how could it be any good?

While I'm at it, confessing things and such, I'll go ahead and tell you another one of my little quirks-I don't do libraries. I borrowed a book from a library once several years ago when I was unsure of whether I was really interested in the series (that book was The Emperors Blades btw) and then cried and whined for three days because the book I'd fallen in love with wasn't my own and I had to give it back. Sure, I could buy another copy (which I did) but it wasn't THE copy... and my heart was slightly broken.

So there you have it. I'm a book snob and I don't like using libraries...

Anyway, now that your asking yourself why the hell am I telling you any of this, well, mostly it's because this is my blog and I can write about whatever I want. But, more importantly, I am writing this because I want to point out that if I can change my book snobbery ways, then so can you. 

I posed the question online as to why fellow readers support Indie authors and thanks to the Grimdarkians I have a more well-rounded view of why these authors deserve our support.

I can tell you exactly why I support indie authors-I support them because I know how hard it is to write a book. I know how heartbreaking it is to receive rejection after rejection, and I am very well aware of the nightmares of marketing. Marketing is a full time job. Believe me, writing the book is easier.

Every book out there comes from a desire to be heard, the author has a story to tell and they want to make the world a better place by sharing it and that's why I support their need to create. And on many occasions, I have been blown away by their talent. 

To quote Steven Kelliher (author of Valley of Embers) - I started supporting indie authors when I realized they didn't suck.

Indie books aren't born from a lack of talent, they are not a lesser form of writing. Most of the time an author becomes self published because they are tired of the rejections. They have a solid book, professionally edited, ready to go, and it's time to get it out in the world and move on to the next project. 

Another reason for going the self publishing route is the freedom to control your own vision and I'm so glad Martin Owton brought this up in the discussion. With self publishing, the author has complete control over the way their book is presented. You get to choose your cover artist, you decide the genre, where the book is sold, who gets copies for review and you have full control over all future writing to follow. 

I know in my case, when I looked over a publishing contract, the publisher wanted full control of any writing from then on. They wanted first dibs, and then they had final say over who got the piece after them, or if it would ever be published anywhere. I don't know about you, but that was too big of a risk for me. I could write a piece I really believe in and never be able to share it.

So, from one stand point, supporting an indie author is supporting an uninhibited art form.

That's not necessarily to say that traditional publishing hinders their authors into writing uninspired mush, mainstreamed to create fast sales, though many times it does feel like that's exactly what they're doing. I mean, Twilight... Come on guys...

I was still on the fence about something I have been considering until Scott Oden chimed in and cleared my head in his brusque, no nonsense way. For a while now I have considered going strictly indie and small publishers. Reading and reviewing only Indie authors to free up my time to help bring more attention to the 'lower tier' authors out there. I considered it, that is, up until Scott appeared on the thread and posed the question- "Why are we making it 'Us vs Them'?"

Self published authors aren't the only ones struggling for exposure, he pointed out. It's not just Indie books vs Traditionally Published books, it's a whole community of authors looking for support for their writing. If we really want to put a label on it, it's Bad books vs Good. And that's what I'm here for, to sift through the duds and bring you the best of the best, no matter the publishing format.

So why support Indie Authors?

Because we can all agree that we love a good story. We want to be entertained and there are so many amazing books out there we haven't discovered yet.

I saw this fantastic design by Shawn King (STK Kreations) and you can blame him for this entire post if you like, or thank him (if you stuck around to the end you're probably in the mood to thank him, I hope). I love this badge he created and asked if I could borrow it because I really wanted to share it and display it proudly on my blog.

I support Indie Authors 
and I hope you take the time to give them a chance and support a growing community of fantastic self published books.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Macro Monday! On a Tuesday...

So... Once again, I totally skipped my post for Macro Monday, and seeing as how I am currently avoiding all the things I need to be doing... 

Happy Macro Monday!
(On a Tuesday)

I do all my photography with my iPhone right now, it's simpler and convenient and I don't have to worry about my 4 year old trying to break a $2000 piece of equipment...

Plus, I have really enjoyed the way my images have turned out.

There's just so much freedom in taking a shot and editing it right there on my phone, and oh, how convenient, I can easily post it on all my sites for the world to instantly see!

I had begun to feel like my DSLR was hindering any growth in my art simply because I was easily discouraged over learning new techniques, remembering combinations in photoshop... etc. I constantly felt like my photography was sub-par and the somehow made me less of a photographer.

But, this exercise in iPhone photography has been more than rewarding. I am reminding myself every day that art doesn't come from the camera or the equipment used, it comes from the artist. These are my works of art, they'r my vision, and it doesn't matter if they're 'good' or 'bad', what matters is that they exist and that I am satisfied with the feeling that I have created something from my heart that others just happen to enjoy.

How's that for an Artist's Statement?

I haven't decided yet if the iPhone is a permanent change, if I'll continue to upgrade and strictly use iPhone as my medium, but I know is it is a step in the right direction and it's what's best for my work for now.

I wasn't planning on photographing the Super Moon the other night, but then I stood there staring up at it and decided to have a little fun, and this is the result.

Friday, November 11, 2016


**4.5 Star Read** 'Die Hard meets Aliens'-IN SPACE

Moving to a space station at the edge of the galaxy was always going to be the death of Hanna’s social life. Nobody said it might actually get her killed.

The sci-fi saga that began with the breakout bestseller Illuminae continues on board the Jump Station Heimdall, where two new characters will confront the next wave of the BeiTech assault.

Hanna is the station captain’s pampered daughter; Nik the reluctant member of a notorious crime family. But while the pair are struggling with the realities of life aboard the galaxy's most boring space station, little do they know that Kady Grant and the Hypatia are headed right toward Heimdall, carrying news of the Kerenza invasion.

When an elite BeiTech strike team invades the station, Hanna and Nik are thrown together to defend their home. But alien predators are picking off the station residents one by one, and a malfunction in the station's wormhole means the space-time continuum might be ripped in two before dinner. Soon Hanna and Nik aren’t just fighting for their own survival; the fate of everyone on the Hypatia—and possibly the known universe—is in their hands.

But relax. They've totally got this. They hope.

Once again told through a compelling dossier of emails, IMs, classified files, transcripts, and schematics, Gemina raises the stakes of the Illuminae Files, hurling readers into an enthralling new story that will leave them breathless.

And Finally we come to our Featured Title of the month; Gemina! 

I did, in fact, read the second book to the Illuminae series the week it was released, but I've held off posting a review. I had planned to post a review earlier this week, before I met up with the authors, but it worked out better this way because now I can share with you a bit of the fun from the Gemina book tour signing here in Miami Florida!

Brace yourselves, this is going to be a long post. 

First off, Gemina is a fantastic sequel to Illuminae. Jay and Amie really worked their asses off to bring new twists and challenges to this epic space adventure and it is truly fascinating how the two stories finally mesh together. 

*Keep that in mind when reading this review because I want you to remember I love these books while I lay down some issues*

Illuminae was an absolute breath of fresh air, it was new and exciting and unique, it was a whole new way to tell a very visual story from the pages of a book without completely switching the project into a graphic novel. I was absolutely enraptured with the one of a kind debut from page one and I absolutely could not put it down.

Gemina brings us all the same extraordinary uniqueness as book one, but I couldn't help but feel that uniqueness began to work against them. The setup is great, the story told through a collection of documents and recordings and such from the ship during the actual event in question, but the segmented pieces of information also left a lot of places to easily set the book down and start again later on when I had a bit more time to spare. I didn't have that trouble with Illuminae, and perhaps it was because of the newness of the series or perhaps my attention span is shrinking, but I did find myself often overloaded with information and imagery and needing to take a break.

I'm almost done with the bad, I promise... Well, not really 'bad', that's too strong a word for it, but you know what I mean.

The new characters are fantastic, Hanna is an absolute badass and Nik is my kind of scum and his cousin... She is freaking epic. These are some tough kids going through absolute tragedy, and that's where I come to my second small issue with the book. In the texting format serving as most of their communication between each other, and with the case reviewer describing what he sees or hears, there's very little room for that emotional turmoil to build and spill over onto the page. 

They're tough kids, yes, but I felt they handled their situations a little too well...

But, that being said, I really enjoyed this sequel.

So, is this book as badass as everyone says? YES! A thousand times yes. Should you give the series a go? YEEEESSSS, why do you think I keep talking about these books? Definitely give Illuminae a read and if you love it the Gemina is a must because book 3 is already written and ready for illustrating and I can guarantee it's going to be insane.

This series is completely immersive, putting you in the role of the case reviewer (who's identity will be revealed soon!). It's a brand new way to enjoy reading and these two plan to bring us more epicness in the years to come. 

Right now Jay and Amie are working on a new series together that they describe as; The Breakfast Club enrolls in Starfleet Academy so you know I'll be all over that shit and I will definitely keep you up to date on all that awesomeness. Not to mention there's Nevernight 2 hopefully publishing next year and on top of that there is another series Jay is working on that I have been looking forward to for over a year now, LIFL1K3, which he describes as; Romeo and Juliet meets Mad Max: Fury Road.

I'm swooning already ;)

The other awesome news I have for this post is last night I made my trek to Books and Books in Miami, Florida to meet up with Amie and Jay on their Gemina US Tour! They were absolutely fantastic to meet, Amie is hilarious and I love her and definitely have plans to pick up more of her books ASAP. I am VERY interested in her upcoming series with Megan Spooner, Unearthed. It sounds fantastic and I am already hooked by her description of 'Indiana Jones teams up with Lara Croft IN SPACE' (Because according to Jay and Amie-'In Space' makes everything cooler)

Me (cosplaying Mia Corverre) with Jay and Amie at Books and Books Miami, FL

Very exciting stuff is coming from these two! They work so hard for us readers and I know I definitely appreciate their time and TSA struggles in going on tour and being there for us! I've been to a lot of signings and these two truly do everything for their fans.

And what's more, apparently today is Jay's birthday! Happy Birthday Jay! Go give him some happy wishes and thank these two epic folks for bringing a little more awesome into our lives.

The folks of Books and Books had a great birthday surprise for Jay last night and you can watch his birthday unfold in the video below. I am so happy I made it to this event!

Friday, November 4, 2016

Josiah Bancroft Ascends Mere Storytelling

Senlin, a mild-mannered school teacher, is drawn to the Tower of Babel by the grandiose promises of a guidebook. The ancient and immense Tower seems the perfect destination for a honeymoon. But soon after arriving, Senlin loses his young wife, Marya, in the crowd. 

Senlin’s search for Marya carries him through slums and theaters, prisons and ballrooms. He must survive betrayal, assassination, and the long guns of a flying fortress. But if he hopes to find Marya, Senlin will have to do more than survive. This quiet man of letters must become a man of action.

I Believe my exact words were; 

There are no friends in the tower. The Sink of Humanity, The Tower of Babel, houses within its ringdoms the likes of thieving pirates, cut-throat murderers and condemned hods—and no one ever leaves. The tower takes from you all that you have, uses what's left of you for its purpose—And the tower is not finished with us yet.

Thomas Senlin has saved for years for this trip, to fulfill his dream of entering the Tower of Babel and making his ascent into the whimsical world of adventure and romance the tower offers the every day fellow, as described in his Everyman's Guide to the Tower of Babel. He brings with him his trusty guide and his new bride who's bright and bubbly personality could not be further from Senlin's own quiet, socially awkward, troglodytic existance. 

When it comes to being a new husband, Senlin seems slightly unsure of just what to do with a wife and the awkward tension is apparent from scene one. Senlin married way above himself and he knows it, his friends know it, and we, the readers know it. The only one who seems unperturbed by that fact is his doting wife Marya who enthusiastically coerces her husband into having some sort of social life.

It's almost too difficult to believe the pair could have possibly come together, Senlin's own confusion to his marital luck muddling the matter further, and the connection between the two is, at first, a bit... lacking. I was almost unsure of whether I wanted to continue. I was intrigued by the mystery surrounding the disappearances linked to the tower, and I absolutely wanted to find out what was going on, but as for Senlin and his missing bride... I wasn't terribly concerned with reuniting the two. I almost felt that Senlin would be better off dropping the matter entirely and going home. He was clearly too uncomfortable with continuing on alone and way too indecisive to make the next move and a happy ending for the newlyweds seemed terribly unlikely. I really didn't think he had it in him, and I wondered, how fascinating can a story be with an introvert awkwardly going out of his comfort zone and bumbling his way through a mystery he couldn't possibly put a level head into solving?

The answer? Tremendously fascinating.

Here's the thing, and here's the genius behind Senlin Ascends—Thomas Senlin awakens.

Picture Senlin as a big toddler learning his lesson about touching a hot stove. He is naive, he is innocent, he has yet to feel the stinging pain of his misguided curiosity and all the years he's spent studying the written imaginations of supposed 'traveled men', and all the hopes and beliefs he'd built in his mind into truths and dreams are all about to unravel and come crashing down on him.  

Bancroft pulls us into his tale leaving us just as in the dark and unaware of the towers true purpose as our unlikely hero. We are fed the same facts, the same dreams and wonders as Senlin finds listed in his guidebook. His naivety radiates from his every action, his doubts and his struggles appearing, at times frustratingly, childlike. Senlin is the epitome of innocence and I very quickly realized what felt like detachment—the strange apprehension toward Marya and the doubts he expresses in seeking out answers to her disappearance—was merely the outer shell of what Senlin allows the world to see of him. Perhaps even the way he sees himself. Without his wife to douse his fears with laughter, without his students to look upon him with adoration, reminding him that their young minds require his guiding hand to mold them, without money in his pockets and no clear destination to chart his path, what was he? 

His personality reflects his current level of maturity. At the base of the tower, he is the equivalent of a young child, alone, confused, and without the necessary street smarts to guide him. As Senlin makes his through the strange levels of the tower, we, as readers, watch him grow as he faces struggle after struggle, his whole world unraveling around him. The deeper we go into Senlin's ascent, the more we learn about Senlin's loss and his story. The more Senlin is forced to broaden his mind and face the truths of the tower, the closer he comes to finding his place among the ringdoms and we find there are as many layers to Senlin as the tower itself. And we do not yet know how high that tower climbs...

Every encounter has a purpose, characters entering the story to help move Senlin's growth along, and each new tower dweller is just as fascinating and unique as the next. Every one of them has a story to tell, and whether they decide to reveal their estranged past or not, it's apparent every character is driven by their own pasts and desires. There are no wasted words in this book.

Marya is truly the greatest of mysteries, she is a beautifully willful woman who cannot be stirred from her course. Headstrong and fantastically devious, and though we don't get to know her full story, the parts that are revealed are extremely telling of her strength and cunning. I still hold out hope that she will be the one to rise against the workings of the tower and rescue Senlin. 

There is one moment in Senlin Ascends, one single instance where Senlin finally lets it all go, when we finally see the man Marya fell in love with, a part of him he had never revealed before, and that's when I fell in love with this story. Senlin isn't the cold hearted, socially inept failure chasing shadows to spare himself the embarrassment of returning home to explain he'd somehow lost the only woman he could find to marry him. He is a man who has lost everything. His very existance having revolved around the woman he loves, the woman who gives him life, something he himself could never have obtained without her by his side and though he may not where his heart on his sleeve, he does care more deeply than one would, at first glance, believe.

With Senlin Ascends, we are not simply reading a story about a man and his tragic, fantastical trial. We are traveling alongside him, learning and growing and seeking truth for truth's sake, together holding out hope that the tower has not fully soiled every soul that has lost its way in its ringdoms, and it is a beautiful way to make a journey. 

Senlin Ascends blossoms into an epicly heroic tale of love, loss, devotion, betrayal, and awakening to the bitter truths that lay hidden. The Books of Babel are masterfully crafted, Josiah Bancroft's prose, at times, moving me to tears at its beautiy and simplicity, his insight simply awe-inspiring. His web of words has caught me and I am held helpless against its pull to read more.

About the Author
Josiah is a freelance writer, poet, and musician. His work has appeared in dozens of journals and magazines, including Slice Magazine, BOMB Magazine’s: Word Choice, Rattle, the Cimarron Review, the Cincinnati Review, and Gulf Coast. In 2010, Josiah's book of poems was a finalist for AWP’s Donald Hall Prize in Poetry. The poet Alberto Rios had this to say about his collection of poems, The Death of Giants:
"These are poems of constantly surprising adventures for the reader. The title poem sets the tone, marvelous in its pragmatism and equanimity, and the poems benefit from this start. Things happen, and things get done because of that, but what is so easily said is the precise source of wonder in these pieces, in that even the most complex and strange occurrences are simply dealt with."

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