One star for nostalgia alone, one for the plot, which was mildly entertaining. Unfortunately, this simply did not fly. At all. Super disappointing. IOne star for nostalgia alone, one for the plot, which was mildly entertaining. Unfortunately, this simply did not fly. At all. Super disappointing. I know, I know, it's Fear Street. But still. Gah!...more
How do you solve a riddle like The Three? Well, if you’re me, you don’t. You just sit and stare at the book, and re-read the “epilogue” until it ceaseHow do you solve a riddle like The Three? Well, if you’re me, you don’t. You just sit and stare at the book, and re-read the “epilogue” until it ceases to make any coherent sense. Then you go back to the prologue, and re-read, looking for clues. I love stories about the uncanny, horror with a twist of weirdness. Think Twilight Zone. I used to watch The Prisoner, starring Patrick McGoohan, when I was young. So, when I came across The Three by Sarah Lotz, with a screaming endorsement by Stephen King on the cover, I couldn’t pass it up. The documentary style layout totally appealed to me and my riddle-solving interests. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the story, The Three is a book within a book, about a reporter who has pulled together a variety of materials and interviews, chronicling Black Thursday: a strange occurrence when four planes crashed simultaneously in Japan, US, South Africa, and the UK. In three of the four crashes, there is a single child survivor. A zealous religious group declares the children harbingers of the apocalypse, but most people shrug away the statement without a second thought. That is, until each respective family notices strange behaviour and tendencies in the surviving children. Sounds good and captivating, right? That’s why I bought it, and blew though the 500+ paperback in a couple of days. But the ending seemed to unravel in a slap dash, confusing direction. I read the last page about five times, though I’m still as discombobulated as before. Sarah Lotz has come out with a second book, entitled Day Four, that carries on the apocalyptic theme, employing some unique concepts that once again appeals to my love of the uncanny. I am willing to read Day Four, in hope that it will add some much-needed context to The Three. ...more
When I was young and in high school, I had a soft spot for the rebel, the bad boy, the damaged boy. There was an undeniable romance to the idea of heaWhen I was young and in high school, I had a soft spot for the rebel, the bad boy, the damaged boy. There was an undeniable romance to the idea of healing someone who has gone through a horrible trauma. Unfortunately, this usually means immersing one’s self in – or trying to pull that person out of – troubling, often masochistic behaviour. Over the years, after experiencing this emotional quicksand one too many times, I inevitably lost patience with my position as quasi doctor and therapist. In short, it gets heavy, real quick. Some may argue that it’s impossible to help someone who does not want to be helped.
Which brings me to Danila Botha’s intriguing and insightful Too Much on the Inside. It follows four young adults living in ultra-urban Toronto, three of whom are new to Canada. First, there is Marlize, a former ballet dancer from South Africa, trying her best to feel like a human being after a horrifying experience in her home country. Dez, a recent transplant from Brazil, moved to Canada and opened a bar. Finally, there’s Nicki, a young girl from Israel, and her boyfriend, Lukas, who hails from Nova Scotia, the only North American of the bunch. The narrative hops among each of the four, revealing nuggets from each background at a solid and satisfying pace. Too Much on the Inside illustrates the immigrant experience in a unique, unexpected way.
In a scene between Marlize and her sister, the two argue over the former’s issues with food deprivation and obsessive behaviour. The sister, who is legitimately worried for Marlize’s mental and physical health, says something that stuck with me throughout the novel: “All this ambition is going to leave you disappointed” (115).
For me, Too Much on the Inside is about that elusive intersection between ambition and expectation. Or, if we want to get really blunt: fantasy vs. reality, what we want vs. what we actually have, and our inability to accept what is. As a result, we (humans in general) turn to the people and things around us to make us happy, to help us, to fix us. But, sometimes we’re just too afraid to acknowledge the deepest part of our unhappiness.
I must admit that, just as I lost patience with the emotional quicksand of helping someone who does not want to be helped, I grew somewhat impatient with the narrators of Too Much on the Inside, namely Lukas, whose intense anger and masochism did not always make sense to me. This is a minor complaint, though, and does not minimize this book’s breathtakingly honest portrait of the human condition. Marlize is especially difficult to understand, but reasonably so, as you will come to discover if you read the novel.
The characters of Botha’s novel live in their heads, in a perpetual state of worry and dissatisfaction. Their memories play incessantly in their minds while they anxiously consider the future. The present moment, unfortunately, fades into the background. There’s no time for now. Their fear, depression, uncertainty, and sense of loss take root in their hearts and simply will not let go.
Yet, despite what seems like some seriously insurmountable pain, within the final pages I caught a glimpse of potential, a sliver of light on the horizon, a promise of peace. Just enough to put a smile on my face. Highly recommended for anyone who has ever been thrown under the bus of life.
Full disclosure: review copy provided by the author....more
My knowledge of wine is minimal. I drink a glass of red in the winter to stay warm, and I sip on a glass of white in the summer to decompress from a sMy knowledge of wine is minimal. I drink a glass of red in the winter to stay warm, and I sip on a glass of white in the summer to decompress from a stressful workday, preferably on a patio somewhere. Over the years, my amateurish palette has developed to a point where I can, at least, identify what I like and what I don’t like.
Kristen Harnisch’s The Vintner’s Daughter, in addition to being a lovely novel and travelogue, is an education. Every part of the winemaking process is seamlessly woven into the story. Within the first few chapters, I learned about phylloxera, an insect that infects grape vines, and the ways in which turn of the century vintners would’ve treated such infestations. A few pages later, the reader is taught how grapes are “pressed a total of four times. The must from the first three pressings would be fermented in large vats and pasteurized to make a fine wine that would be sold in casks… …[the] fourth pressing would be made into table wine to be sold cheaply to the local villagers. The leftover skins would be given to the pickers or used for fertilizer” (15). Every layer of relevant historical detail is accounted for and integrated into the narrative, bringing to life a time of forgotten traditions and culture.
I interrupted my Russian reading with Far North, a mystery series by Michael Ridpath that unfolds in Iceland. (My brain had to take a trip from MoscowI interrupted my Russian reading with Far North, a mystery series by Michael Ridpath that unfolds in Iceland. (My brain had to take a trip from Moscow to Reykjavik and back.) As I mentioned in an earlier post, this time last year I was gearing up for a trip to Iceland, and I’ve been feeling wistful lately. The country made an immense impression on me. There’s something about the landscape that beckons: the quiet, the lava fields, the heavy clouds, the green hills, and, as much as it wreaked havoc on my sleeping pattern, midnight sun. Believe it or not, it is in Iceland that I gained an appreciation for darkness, which is rather ironic, considering I love the sunshine, the ocean, and white sandy beaches.
Anyhow, I felt like returning to the fascinating streets of Reykjavik, so I turned to Michael Ridpath’s aptly titled Fire and Ice series, featuring detective Magnus Jonson. (You might wonder why I didn’t bother to read something by an Icelandic author, but it was purely a case of library availability. Far North was on the shelf, but I still have titles by Yrsa Sigurdardottir and Arnaldur Indridason on my list.)
For whatever reason, reviews on Goodreads are quite critical of Ridpath’s writing. He’s either too predictable or incorporates too much personal life details of the detective into the mystery. On the first point, I would disagree, but on the second, there is perhaps some credence. Despite my forthcoming complaints, I quite enjoyed Far North, which used the financial crisis of 2009 (aka, the kreppa) as an interesting plot device. However, I was a little frustrated by the level of family history provided, and that great big chunks of the novel ultimately had no bearing on the actual crime in question, which is the murder of bankers responsible for the financial collapse of Iceland. Not to mention, if I want to know how that particular mystery unwinds, I will have to keep reading the series.
Frustrations aside, I was captivated enough by the story to keep going, because I was curious to discover who the killer was, someone I guessed correctly approximately 275 pages in. There were many elements of the novel, though, that were surprises, but awkwardly executed (excuse the pun). The major disappointment would have to be the wrap up, as the killer is never really questioned, and the reasoning behind the whole murder plot is never fully articulated. ...more
A solid beach read. Although I had some major issues with the ending, and Toby as a character in general, I found myself thoroughly entertained by thiA solid beach read. Although I had some major issues with the ending, and Toby as a character in general, I found myself thoroughly entertained by this novel by Hilderbrand. This is my third Hilderbrand (the first and second being The Blue Bistro and The Castaways) and I'm growing to enjoy her plot lines and descriptions of Nantucket. The wealth factor is a bit of a sore spot with me, but still good entertainment for the summertime. ...more
Bad. Just... bad, on every level. The plot is absurd and the people are horrible. Don't even get me started on the dialogue! Holy guacamole. The onlyBad. Just... bad, on every level. The plot is absurd and the people are horrible. Don't even get me started on the dialogue! Holy guacamole. The only redeeming quality: the Nantucket landscape....more
This was a quality legal thriller with impeccable writing. I grew to really like Victor Carl's humanity and Lashner's talent for character building. IThis was a quality legal thriller with impeccable writing. I grew to really like Victor Carl's humanity and Lashner's talent for character building. I would totally read more of this series, or anything else by this writer. ...more
Like many other reviewers here, I found the content a little on the thin side. I already had a copy of A Course in Miracles, and didn't see the valueLike many other reviewers here, I found the content a little on the thin side. I already had a copy of A Course in Miracles, and didn't see the value in each meditation. However, there was some value in chapter introductions. They were probably the most significant portions of the whole book, in ten-page chunks. Despite my disappointment and all the casual/hip/slang speak, I felt like I came away from this book with some tangible ideas for moving forward....more
Fun book! It helped stretch the Christmas season a little further. Hokey but funny and, oddly, realistic. Sort of. Either way, enjoyable. More like 3.Fun book! It helped stretch the Christmas season a little further. Hokey but funny and, oddly, realistic. Sort of. Either way, enjoyable. More like 3.75 stars....more