I gave it a fair shot. I was listening to the audio and was about 4 hours in. That's just over a third....moreI hate doing this, but I'm marking this one DNF
I gave it a fair shot. I was listening to the audio and was about 4 hours in. That's just over a third.
Here's my reasons:
1) Ridiculously slow pacing. I'm a third in. Something should have happened by now, even if its just the idea of what's too come. 2) The Women - The women in this book are ridiculous. They have no substance, no value. They are completely defined by their performance in bed. He says he loved his wife but other than how good she was in bed, I have yet to hear what it is he loved about her. 3) Sex for the sake of sex. - I don't care if there is sex in novels. People have sex. It's normal. However, Sex for the sake of sex, when it isn't actually necessary, or is drawn out, is no better than violence for the sake of violence. It's a cheap tactic to get people to be shocked by your book. It's like watching a slasher film. Yeah sure it's fun sometimes, but no one will take it seriously. For something that is described as "literary" is reads an awful lot like erotica. 4) Jake - Jake annoys the hell out of me. I can't put my finger on it exactly but I just can't connect with him. Characters (to me) are the most important aspect of the book so I find this lack of connection disappointing.
Finally I will say this, double points to Glenn Duncan for the amount of different ways he's come up with to say testicles - balls, plums, gonads, I heard them all in my 4 hours on the Last Werewolf. *rolls eyes*
Maybe I'll try this again one day in print, but at the moment it seems highly unlikely. (less)
The Red Phone Box story cycle is one of the most imaginative and unique stories I have read in a...moreThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
The Red Phone Box story cycle is one of the most imaginative and unique stories I have read in a long time.
I can only begin to imagine how much time and hard work went into assembling this collection. I’ve had some experience with anthologies myself and I know how difficult it can be to organize a project around so many different contributor’s – each with their own schedule and deadlines. But what Salomé Jones has done with Red Phone Box is on a whole different level. This isn’t just a random selection of stories. Instead this book is made up of various pieces of a larger puzzle. And each piece carries the distinct style of it’s author. Jones has arranged the stories in such a way that the story unfolds slowly for the reader, the mystery building bit by bit.
Some of the stories were incredibly interesting. I particularly enjoyed the story of Amber, Stuart and Jon and how each installment left you wondering what was real and what was imaginary. And I liked how the characters Amber/Stuart/Jon interacted with would pop up in other stories. It kept me alert, constantly looking for clues or hints dropped by the various contributors. You never knew exactly where each story was going to take you – only that the mysterious Red Phone Box was going to show up at some point.
However, while some of the stories were fascinating, others left me wanting more. The characters would come out of nowhere, or the plot would be jerky or just plain confusing and sometimes the style itself just didn’t work for me. I found myself either loving a story or wanting to skim through it. There wasn’t a lot of middle ground, which made some parts of the anthology feel disjointed. Had some of the rogher stories been smoothed out a bit more I think this collection could have been truly great, but ultimately it fell just a little short of that goal.
At it’s heart Red Phone Box is a very atmospheric and dark story. Image Doctor Who and the TARDIS but much darker and more disturbing. It’s a great concept and will keep you on your toes. If you’re looking for a more unusal read or one that will allow you to flex your puzzle solving skills, this is the book for you. But if you prefer more straightforward narratives you may want to pass.(less)
Mara Dyer was a pretty average girl. That is until she survived a freak accident, that killed three of her closest friends. Now she's suffering from post traumatic stress and amnesia. She can't remember what happened that night and what she does remember comes to her in horrible visions. It gets so bad that her family decided to move to a whole other state to get her away from the memories. Despite the move, however, Mara is still haunted by visions and strange things seem to happen where ever she goes. She begins to wonder if she'll ever feel normal again.
Let me start of by saying this is one creepy creepy book. I started reading it before going to bed and then couldn't put it down, and even though I knew I should go to sleep and get some rest every time I tried all I could think about was the craziness that is Mara Dyer. It ended up being 3:30 am when I finally finished the book and even then, despite my exhaustion, I needed to leave the lamp on. This book will rattle you.
There are a lot of things I want to tell you about but I just can't because it would give too much away and the less you know about this book before you begin the more exciting it's going to be. So instead I'm just going to talk about Mara and Noah. Before the accident Mara seems like your average teenage girl, a little curious, a little insecure. Just trying to figure herself out. After the accident she's a little pouty (which you just can't blame her for) but she has a whole new level of determination. You've got to admire that in a character who has been through hell and back.
And then there's Noah. Bad boy, rebel without a cause. There's been a couple of reviews that have called him a douchebag. I don't know if I'd go that far. He certainly does think highly of himself and can get a little annoying but I don't think he was overly mean. I hesitate to call him swoon-worthy but he is definitely an excellent lead male character and he really cares about Mara, which is always a plus in my book.
My only complaint is that sometimes things seemed to happen a little to easily. At over 400 pages you wouldn't expect a lot of easy resolution. At least I don't. If I'm reading something that's over 400 pages I want depth, I want layers and mysteries. There were also a couple of loose ends and unanswered questions, but this book is set to have a sequel so I'm assuming they'll get answered there. My final verdict: a suspenseful and creepy read, that will have you up all night but is easy and fun to read.(less)
I am the first to admit that I am a huge Margaret Atwood fan. She is by far my favourite writer and I could read her work over and over again. So I f...more I am the first to admit that I am a huge Margaret Atwood fan. She is by far my favourite writer and I could read her work over and over again. So I finally read Surfacing, after having it recommended to me a number of times,and though I went in with high expectations I found that the book wasn't as good as I had hoped. True to Atwood style the novel was beautifully written. Despite any reservations I may have, it was nothing if not poetic. Her description of the Canadian wilderness was incredibly vivid and made me want to hop in my car and drive a few hours north to get back in touch with my roots. The elements of survival and the fear over wilderness destruction were particularly well pronounced and made parts of the novel incredibly gripping and lifelike. Nevertheless, I just had some trouble really getting into the novel. One of the main reasons I had trouble getting into the novel was the characters. I found them all quite despicable and there were points where I didn't seem to care what happened to them, except for Joe whom I found too...innocent, for lack of a better word, to dislike. It is completely possible that I was reading the characters too much at face value but the fact of the matter is I just didn't like them. My opinion of the main character changed however at the point of her transformation. This in my opinion was the turning point of the book! Too bad it didn't happen until the book was almost over. My final thoughts on this book was that it was a little dated. In a way this made it an interesting read. It was first published in 1972 and its references to the Quebecois and Americans made me take a second to think about what was happening in Canada/America at the time. This was an incredibly dynamic time, with Trudeau trying to handle the separation movement in Quebec, the assassinations of R.F.K and Martin Luther King JR, and the juxtaposition of Nixon's elections and the hippie movement. It was interesting to read in Surfacing how this atmosphere could affect average Canadians, who though removed from the events were still affected by them. On the other hand the book being dated was also a bit of a drawback, as some of the references were hard to place or are no longer relevant/effective. This is a chance every book takes, however, when being read in a time period different from when it was written. All in all I didn't think this was Atwood's best work but I still found it an interesting and at times engaging read. Her writing is beautiful and it is an important piece of Canadian literature, that should be enjoyed by all who have an interest in Canadian history and identity(less)
Half Blood Blues is a heart wrenching story of survival, betrayal and how the choices we make affect us for the rest of our life.
Half Blood Blues, along with The Sisters Brothers are two books that have received a lot of buzz this award season. Both have received short list nominations for the Giller and Booker prizes. It doesn't get much better than that. In the interest of full disclosure I have to say that I read The Sisters Brothers earlier this year and fully enjoyed it. And as a result I went into Half Blood Blues, unsure if it could match it the quality and creativty. Now I can honestly say I don't know which book I prefer more. They're both so good!
But I'm getting off topic. Half Blood Blues is one of those books that feels so gritty and raw with emotion that you become deeply attached to the characters and to the story. They consume you. It's authentic and dark. There are no “good guys” or “villians” - characters are whole people and Edugyan doesn't shy away from showcasing darker side of human nature.
The most brilliant example of this is Sidney Griffith. In my opinion Sid is one of those great literary characters that only come around every now and again. He's not perfect man. Far from it – I could write a list a mile long of all the things he's done or characteristics he should change. But he's someone you connect with, someone you can relate to. Despite all his flaws, you find yourself pulling for him. It was almost a protective feeling I had for Sid – like I wanted to shield him from the world and tell him it was going to be ok from here on out, but at the same time I also knew he was going to be okay.
Writing and characters aside, however, the most amazing part of this book is the ending. And I don't just mean that it is a well put together ending. When I got near the end of this book I didn't want to know what happened. Without giving too much away, there comes a point where Sid is presented with a particular choice. Both options have their benefits but both also have their consequences. Some many argue strongly for one side or another but really it's a choice that could go either way. I found there was a part of me that didn't want to know what Sid chose. Whatever choice he would end up making would defining who he was as a person and I almost didn't want to know, I wanted it to be ambiguous, because in real life isn't always going to be ambiguous? I still think he chose well and Edugyan ended on a strong note, but there's still that little part of me that wishes I had stopped reading right before reaching the end.
Half Blood Blues blew me away. It is a beautifully written book - Esi Edugyan writes with a strong voice and forms amazing, complex characters. The story broke my heart and by the end of it all it felt like I had lived it right along with them. It's an amazing read, more than worthy of all the attention and recognition it's been receiving. (less)
I am so tired of hearing books compared to Gone Girl. Seriously. It’s getting to the point that a...moreThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
I am so tired of hearing books compared to Gone Girl. Seriously. It’s getting to the point that as soon as I hear that book mentioned I back away slowly before anybody sees me. So fear not. I will not be referring to Gone Girl in this review. This book is not “like” Gone Girl or “better” than Gone Girl or anything like that. Instead, Night Film is a stand out unique and frightening novel that grabs hold of you and doesn’t let go, despite it’s 600+ pages.
We follow the mystery of Ashley Cordova’s death with journalist Scott McGrath. I have to admit that right off the bat I didn’t like Scott McGrath as a person. As a character he’s very complex. But as a person? I just wanted to kick him sometimes. Especially when he talked about the women in his life. But I enjoyed that he wasn’t the most likeable protagonist. It kept things interesting and kept you more invested in the mystery than the players.
And what a crazy mystery is was! Night Film is nothing like you would expect. It’s dark, twisted and will keep you on the edge of your seat. As you fall further and further into the mystery of “who is Cordova?” and “what happened to Ashley?” you soon learn that nothing is as it seems and nobody can be trusted. I love a mystery that can keep me on my toes and doesn’t fall back on traditional conventions or twists to keep the story moving. Night Film is a wholly original tale and it is guaranteed to surprise you.
In addition to the mystery, one thing that really impressed me about Night Film was the amount of planning and research that must have gone into this book. Pessl leaves no detail out, no rock unturned. Even Cordova’s films. All completely fictional but she clearly has full plots and characters mapped out for each one. I don’t know how she kept everything straight, but she did.
One final thing that really sets Night Film apart is the multimedia angle. The book is full of pictures, websites, newspaper articles etc. And there’s even an app you can get for more information. I was worried all these extras would seem gimmicky, but they had the opposite effect. They really made me feel like I was the one investigating the Cordova family. The unique format gave the whole book a really modern feel that might appeal to younger or more reluctant readers.
Recommendation: Don’t be intimidated by its large size. Night Film is a dark and haunting read that stays with you. If you like mysteries, thrillers or spooky stories of any kind this is the book for you.(less)
The Valley of Amazement is the story of Violet Minturn, a half Chinese, half American girl living...moreThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
The Valley of Amazement is the story of Violet Minturn, a half Chinese, half American girl living in Shanghai in the early twentieth century. The story follows her from when she was a small girl in her mother’s courtesan house, to becoming a courtesan herself, to married life and beyond. It is a rich and detailed tale and is really a testament to Amy Tan’s skill as a storyteller.
From the first few pages I felt transported into the world of Chinese courtesans. It’s a snippet of history I know very little about but it is definitely a fascinating one. Though at first glance many may dismiss their profession as high class prostitution, it was also interesting to see the ways these women wielded some power over men. Especially in a time when women had almost no power at all. No matter how bad Violet’s situation got she carried on. All the women in this book did. The men on the other hand were a different story. There were times I become enraged by their actions in the story and I had to remind myself they were a) from a different time period and b) fictional to keep myself from throwing the book across the room. (The exception to this being Edward who I will adore forever).
Though the setting is beautifully articulated it is the characters who really make this story shine. Not just major characters like Violet and her mother Lulu, but minor ones as well like her mother’s business partner Golden Dove and an old friend named Danner. I found myself growing attached to so many of the characters and didn’t want to stop reading because I missed them when I was away from the book.
A lot of coverage of this book (including the synopsis above) focuses in on the relationship between mothers and daughters. That is a huge theme throughout the story. Both the relationship between Violet and her mother, Lulu and Violet and her own child. They have a challenging relationship. But what I found myself focusing on the most was the tumultuous relationship Violet has with her father. His lack of presence from a young age is something that shapes Violet’s personal identity right from the get go and as pieces of him keep popping up throughout her life she is constantly forced to revisit her feelings towards this man she barely knows and who didn’t want her because she was a girl.
Be warned, however, this is a long book. If you’re the kind of person that wants to know every detail of a story, you will love The Valley of Amazement. But if you’re the kind of reader that prefers fast paced, plot driven novels, you may find this a bit too dry.
I personally found The Valley of Amazement to be a fascinating, rich novel about a period of history that isn’t often talked about. The story will shock, surprise and amaze you as you follow Violet and Lulu’s struggles to survive on their own and be a stronger person than they were before. If you liked Memoirs of a Geisha or family sagas like The Pillars of the Earth and the House of the Spirits, The Valley of Amazement will appeal to you.(less)
In the not to un-seeable future technology has evolved. Robots are everywhere. They're in our homes, in our cars, they head up our national defence. So what happens when we push the technological advances too far? When artificial intelligence becomes more than just artificial? In a quiet and seemingly normal lab one night those questions become more important than ever before, with the creation of Archos. A computer that can think and act for himself. And what he thinks is that there is only room for one species on this planet.
Beginning at Zero Hour the Robot-Human war has begun. Cars start running people down in the street, toys come to life, robots that use to clean your house are now out for your blood. It's a terrifying world but pockets of resistance do arise. In Afghanistan, in London, in Tokyo, in America. Told as a series of radio signals, witness statements, first hands accounts and the like Robopocalypse is a haunting chronicle of these fighters and their fight to save humanity.
The author of Robopocalypse, Daniel H. Wilson has a doctorate in robotics and boy oh boy does his knowledge shine through in this book. Every detail is meticulous. It was complex enough that you knew this wasn't our current day technology, but easy to understand, so that you always knew just what was going on and how the technology had developed to this point. By writing this book as a series of accounts, Wilson kept the pacing steady and was able to build the excitement and dread in a slow, but strong, manner. There were so many chapters where I knew something horrible was about to happen but I had no idea what. While reading one particular chapter about a young girl named Mathilda Perez I remember clasping my hands over my eyes and having to peer through my fingers I was so nervous about what the robot was going to do next.
The characters themselves are something to do admired. These were not just your average run of the mill war heroes. These were everyday people, backs against the wall that chose to fight back. Sure, they committed amazing heroic acts, that I know I wouldn't be able to do (I'd be frozen from fear) but they were so human. They were scared, they fought amongst each other, they were selfish. But at the end of the day they worked together. They chose to look past their differences and joined forces. It was nice to see the progression from your average, horribly flawed human being, to people working to together to save us all.
Robopocalypse is an amazing piece of literary science fiction. It is well though out and detail and it will have you hanging on to every word. It's also sure to give you a good scare. In our current time we're already so dependent on technology. I don't know where I would be without my computer, phone, car etc. This book made me stop and think what I would do if I suddenly didn't have those things any more and was forced to venture out and survive completely on my own, in a hostile environment. And if that weren't enough, we're always looking for the next big technological break through. So maybe the lesson of Robopocalypse is this: let's not push technology to much, because at some point it may start to push back.(less)
Every so often a book comes along that is so amazing that you want walk around thrusting it into everyone's hands. The Night Circus is one of those books. I want to go around and convince everyone they should read this book – friends, family members, complete strangers on the subway.
The story is one of two young magicians – Celia and Marco. As children their eccentric guardians binded them together in a life long duel. As they aged, unbeknownst to them, their duel encompassed all that they did and all those that they knew. Their stage was the Night Circus. A mysterious and magical circus that traveled the world and only opened after dark. Everything has been set up perfectly but their was one thing their guardians could have never expected. - that Celia and Marco would fall head over heels in love.
Everything about this book is absolutely beautiful. There is no place that sounds more magical and more enchanting than the Night Circus. Erin Morgenstern has really drawn on all your senses when crafting this beautiful setting. It really feels like you are right in the middle of the circus. If you close your eyes you can picture the gorgeous black tents, the smell of the concessions, the sense of awe that would radiate through the crowds.
In addition the setting it is also completely effortless to fall in love with the characters. Just like the circus themselves they all exude magic and mystery. Celia is particular is my favourite. As the circus illusionist and a true magician there is never a dull moment. She has an absolutely charming personality and she is the definition of a pure character – guided by love and dedicated to the Circus and all who reside within it. I found the relationship between her and Marco inspiring. All odds were against them and it thrived despite everything their guardians did to stop it.
This is one of the most beautiful books that I have ever read. I got so swept up in the story and the characters and the setting that I missed my subway stop...twice. Erin Morgenstern`s skillful writing will transport you to a world you never imagined existed. Sure you've been to the circus before, but there's never been a circus like this one. The magic and mystery isn't just brought into the circus, it's woven into every tent, every piece of popcorn every spark of the bonfire.(less)
The more I read this series the more I love Alma Katsu’s writing. She is a mystery/paranormal/historical fiction...moreOriginally reviewed at Hooked on Books
The more I read this series the more I love Alma Katsu’s writing. She is a mystery/paranormal/historical fiction mastermind. She’s got three genres going on here and doesn’t drop the ball once.
The Reckoning reunited us with Lanny and Luke a few months after The Taker ends. They’ve settled into a life together and Lanny is learning to let go of her past, to really let herself be free. This plan hits a snag however when the building keeping Adair prisoner is demolished and he is finalley freed, ready to seek vengeance on Lanny.
Despite being horribly evil Adair is easily my favourite character of this series. He’s just so…bad. I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the page when he’s in the scene. So you can imagine I was happy to see him return in The Reckoning. Not only does he return – you get to know his character in some very new and personal ways. It was really interesting to get a look inside the mind of the Devil himself.
The Reckoning also goes back and fills in the gaps. It tells the reader, in amazing detail, what Lanore goes through all those years that Adair was buried in the wall. She travelled all over the world and Alma Katsu devotes equal attention to all the different locations she visited. From Moracco, to Italy, to Barcelona – it is so easy to get swept up in the epic nature of this story.
Final recommendation: if you haven’t picked up this series yet, go out and find a copy of book one, The Taker, immediately. If you’ve already read (and loved) The Taker you will not be disappointed by The Reckoning. It is a sequel that is every bit as good as the first.(less)
Where to begin when talking about One Night in Winter? It is a dark and intriguing tale of secret...moreThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
Where to begin when talking about One Night in Winter? It is a dark and intriguing tale of secrets, paranoia and love all stemming from a single event – the death of two teenagers during the Victory Parade. Had these been the children of lesser known families their deaths may have been unremarkable. But instead they were the children of some of the most well known and important people in 1945 Moscow. The investigation into their death – ‘The Children’s Case’ – quickly escalates into an even more suspenseful case of suspected political sabotage, secrets, lies and forbidden love affairs.
It is obvious that One Night in Winter is written by a historian. This novel is so rich in historical detail I truly felt as though I had been transported back to Soviet Russia. Many of the characters are real historical figures – including Stalin himself – and I loved getting this little (albeit fictional) glance into what their lives were like. When I was in university I read Simon Sebag Montefiore’s biography of Stalin but it was very factual and took a long time to get through. This book was the perfect comprise. I got to learn all about a fascinating period of history wrapped up in a high stakes novel of political intrigue.
The theme of paranoia is built into every scene, every character, every bit of dialogue. At one point well reading I remarked that “Soviet Russians must make the best chess players because they’re always thinking five moves ahead just to stay alive.” Every seemingly innocent or helpful statement can be misconstrued. It’s easy to talk about paranoia abstractly but One Night Winter illustrates how fast it can get away from you and what the costs of that paranoia can be. One character compares secrets to mine fields. You never know when one is going to blow up on you. I can not think of a more perfect way to sum up the fate of the teenagers in this novel.
My one complaint about this novel is that I didn’t quite find it as emotionally stirring as I had expected. While the first half of this novel focuses on the teenagers (and their creation of the Fatal Romantics club) the second half focuses on more specific love affairs. They are just as gripping as the interrogations and produce some fantastic lines, such as “Every love story is a requiem.” and “Heartbreak is an agonizing disease that you’re delighted to have.” But nevertheless I never felt emotionally invested in what was going to happen to them. I wanted to feel more for these characters then I did. It’s possible this was done on purpose (emotions being a bourgeois sentiment and all) but it didn’t quite work for me. It’s something I would love to discuss in a book club setting.
Overall, One Night in Winter is a fascinating glimpse into the life of Soviet Russia and the difficulties that people faced on a day to day basis. It’s an unpredictable story, so despite its somewhat cold sentiments you can’t help but keep turning the pages, wondering what spin Stalin and his officers can come up with next.(less)
What sets this book apart from others in the Iron Fey series is that it is told from Ash's point of view, not Meghan's. I was a little wary at first. I like when Meghan tells the story. Over the course of three novels we've really seen her grow as a person and I was worried that the Iron Knight just wouldn't have the same feel without her. Well all my worrying was for nothing. Julie Kagawa does an amazing job of shifting the viewpoint. It doesn't feel forced, it feels natural, like Ash has been telling his story the whole time.
This story is incredibly well put together. Not only does it tie up all the lose ends of the previous books it also goes back and fills in some earlier details. In particular we get to find out more about Ariella, her relationship with Ash and their friendship with Puck. I don't know about the rest of you but I was always curious about Ariella and wondered if she was always going to be the elephant in the room, so to speak, for Ash and Meghan. All of those questions and more will be answered!
This is also an incredible book for character development. The first three books are all about Meghan (as they should be) but this one really focuses on Ash, and to a lesser extent Puck. We really get to know them and their history and you're really able to connect with them on a more personal level. Whether your Team Puck or Team Ash doesn't matter so much in this book. You'll be cheering them on and easily fall in love with both of these amazing boys.
Overall this is a beautifully written book and the perfect end to the series. As always Kagawa weaves together an incredible fantasy land, where magic and mystery exist side by side. The characters are lovable, creative and full of life. It's a bittersweet moment when a series you love comes to end so perfectly. You want it to keep going but you know it's right just the way it is. (less)
A Canadian novel, named after a Radiohead song with fantastic and incredibly realistic characters...moreThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
A Canadian novel, named after a Radiohead song with fantastic and incredibly realistic characters? What’s not to love about Creeps?
Creeps is the story of Wayne Pumphrey – fifteen years old, a bit small for his age and more than a little self conscious. Unfortunately for Wayne, being different doesn’t win you any favours in high school and he is targeted by a group of particularly nasty bullies.
I thought Darren Hynes’s depection of being bullied was incredibly realistic. Bullying comes in a lot of varieities and Wayne experiences quite a few of them – from emotional to physical. Some parts were difficult to read – such as any of the more violent episodes – but I appreciated that Hynes didn’t shy away from those scenes. These things DO happen and Creeps is honest about it.
Thankfully there’s Marjorie. A quirky, fascinating girl who – though often bullied herself – sticks up for Wayne one day. From there they form an unlikely but fantastic friendship. It was a difficult friendship and at times you didn’t think it would last but they are both incredibly strong and admirable people. I loved that Marjorie was quirky and out there, but didn’t fall into the whole Manic Pixie Dream Girl archtype. She was a fully developed character who was just as flawed and complicated as Wayne. I also liked that she gave Wayne hope. That she was a ray of light that he didn’t have to wait for. So many YA books about bullying seem to subcribe to the “it gets better” message. And while that is important, I believe it’s just important to show that there can be amazing things DURING your teen years as well.
I also think Hynes did a good job depicting how adults and other students react to bullying. From Wayne’s father thinking he could just talk it out with the bully’s parents to the oblivious high school principal. The principal in particular really angered me. I think a lot of the time teachers/principals don’t want to believe bullying is happening in their school. Or that certain kids are actually bullies. And that kind of behaviour can make a horrible situation even more desperate. And because of this I think Creeps is also a great book for adults to read – particularly parents or those who work with teens on a regular basis. I think it could be a bit of an eye opener.
Finally, I loved the setting of this book. Set in Labrador it’s hard to imagine a more remote location. If we’re being honest I don’t know that much about the area so it was nice to get a glimpse into life there. There aren’t enough books set in Northern Canada and I think that’s something that really sets Creeps apart.
Recommendation: Creeps is an authentic and emotional look at what it’s like to be bullied. This is a book that a lot of people are going to be able to relate to, even if they weren’t bullied as heavily as Wayne. Definitely an essential read for high schoolers and those who work with teens.(less)
Fairy Tale re-tellings seem to be what’s hot right now and I personally think that’s fantastic. I...moreThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
Fairy Tale re-tellings seem to be what’s hot right now and I personally think that’s fantastic. I think it’s even more fantastic however when I get to read a totally original fairy tale like The School for Good and Evil. Soman Chainani’s book is a brand new fairy tale – instead of remixing old stories, it explains to readers where the stories come from.
Agatha and Sophie are both fantastic characters. They’re both complex. At times you love them, at times they drive you insane (especially Sophie) but they are always compelling. At its heart The School For Good and Evil is the story of their friendship – of all friendships – and the trials and tribulations that go with it. No relationship is a walk in the park, they require work, but true friendships are the ones that push through.
The School For Good and Evil makes you question the idea of good and evil being polar opposites and makes you consider the grey area in between. It’s a longer middle grade read, but you won’t care because you’ll be so wrapped up in the story. I personally can’t wait to see what Agatha and Sophie get up to next in A World Without Princes.(less)
I love the amount of fantasy titles that are on my radar this year. The Gypsy King is my second a...moreThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
I love the amount of fantasy titles that are on my radar this year. The Gypsy King is my second and it’s still January! I sat down with high expectations for this novel and I was overall really pleased with the fun, adventure filled story I got lost in.
I particularly liked Persephone as a heroine. Having grown up a slave, she was a little rough around the edges and developed a thick skin. But despite her unfortunate circumstances she still had a lighter, pleasant side. She’s quick with a laugh or a sarcastic comment. She also talks to and names all the animals she encounters. As an animal lover myself, I am instantly drawn to those who love them too.
I thought Persephone was at her best when she was interacting with Azriel. I loved the back and forth between them. There is a romance present but there’s so many other things going on, their relationship is placed on the back burner. I think this is a positive because it gave them more time to get to know one another and to grow alongside each other. They’re incredibly cute and they absolutely make me laugh. The one drawback was that I didn’t appreciate her all too frequent lies to him. This made their relationship seem a little one sided and at times I wanted her to get over herself.
But while I really enjoyed the protagonists of this story, I have mixed feeling about the villain - the Regent Mordecai. He was creeptastic. Don’t get me wrong. He was truly a horrible human being and his presence could give you goosebumps. But at times he felt a little two dimensional. He reminded me a lot of Jafar, from Aladdin. We know he’s bad, we know he wants power and control but we don’t know how and why he became so ruthless. I love complex villains and the Regent just didn’t do it for me.
I also found that some things felt a little too…convenient. I don’t mind the odd coincidence but when they start cropping up on a regular basis it takes me out of the story. In The Gypsy King animals are always showing up exactly at the moment when needed. Or a character happened to be a perfect pool of water right beside where she fell in the mud etc.
Like many first books, The Gypsy King, left me with a lot of questions. I want to know more about the kingdom, the Gypsy lifestyle, the circumstances that left to the genocide of their people. I don’t think the answers were missing from this book. It’s already 400 pages, there would have been no way to smoothly include all that surplus information. But these type of questions have made me really, really excited to read book two and get absorbed within this world again.
Recommendation: A fun fantasy adventure, with an excellent pair of protagonists but a few notable flaws. Recommended for those looking for a light hearted read that is still packed with adventure.(less)
Crazy Rich Asians is like Dallas meets Downton Abbey in Asia. I can think of no better descriptio...moreThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
Crazy Rich Asians is like Dallas meets Downton Abbey in Asia. I can think of no better description.
Nick’s best friend is getting married back in Singapore and he see’s this as the perfect opportunity to spend a summer with his girlfriend – Rachel – in Asia. And for her to finally meet his family. What he doesn’t tell her is that his friend’s wedding is the social event of the year, and that family he wants her to meet? They’re rich. Supremely rich. Crazy rich. It’s a fantastic premise and one that lives up to all your expectations – it’s hilarious, it’s smart, it’s well plotted and it offers some interesting insight and commentary into the lives of the super rich.
Crazy Rich Asians is dramatic. I compared it to Dallas and Downton Abbey above. And those comparisons are totally apt – this book is full of twists and surprises but more importantly it’s filled with drama and scandal! It had me hanging onto every page waiting to see what this crazy group of people would do next. No one could be trusted and you were always waiting to see who would stab who in the back. This scandal is also what gives the book its comedic edge. Crazy Rich Asians is a satire and you can’t help but giggle at some of the over the top schemes that are carried out. Especially those of Nick’s mother and cousins.
Crazy Rich Asians is chock full of interesting characters – some loveable, some intensely despicable. Normally when a book has such a huge cast of character I have trouble keeping them straight. When I read War and Peace I had to keep a special bookmark on hand with all the characters names and who they were so I could keep them straight in my head. But this didn’t seem to be a problem while reading Crazy Rich Asians. Everyone had such distinct personalities. I may not be able to recite everyone by name but I do remember who they are and how to connected to the larger plot.
There is so much detail throughout this story. Kevin Kwan truly did a fantastic job of bringing Singapore to life on the page. From the architecture, to the food, to the clothes. It was brilliant. This was a whole different world to me. I’ve never been to Asia but after reading this book I am dying to take a trip over there. Particularly for the food. They ate so much food in this book and it all sounded fantastic. I also loved the footnotes. Scattered throughout the book they were used to explain slang, or menu items or just general customs. The footnotes were my favourite part of the book. They were funny and insightful and expertly placed – I never felt like I had to pause the story just to read them.
Recommendation: Crazy Rich Asians is a funny and smart summer read. It’s definitely one you’ll want to throw in your beach bag or read out by the lake. Highly recommended.(less)
It actually blows my mind a little that this is Helene Wecker’s debut novel. It is an absolutely...moreThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
It actually blows my mind a little that this is Helene Wecker’s debut novel. It is an absolutely stunning and gorgeous tale that pulled me in right from the first few pages and wouldn’t let go until the very end.
The setting for The Golem and the Jinni is absolutely perfect – Historic New York City at the end of the 19th Century is an incredible time and place. It has an old world, ancient feeling to it – as more and more cultures, with deep traditions, make a new home there. But yet it is still a new and vibrant city. There are people everywhere and always some sort of commotion. It is as if the city itself is filled with energy. These two different versions of NYC combined give a very magical quality to the story. The blending of the old with the new to create something previously unthinkable.
Within the larger setting of New York there are two smaller worlds that our characters abide within. The more impoverished Jewish area – where the Golem, Chava resides. And a place called “Little Syria” where the Jinni, Ahmad, is released from his prison. I loved the blending of Jewish and Islamic cultures throughout this story. Both religions share some common roots, but are distinct. I think Wecker does an excellent job approaching the more mystical elements of these theologies and cultures without making them seem silly or simply superstitious There is nothing I hate more than when writer’s depict religious traditions (whether in the present or historical fiction) and only serve to make them look foolish. Thankfully Wecker treats both traditions with the respect they deserve.
Small confession – Before I started reading I thought this was the story of two characters, the Golem and the Jinni. But it is actually the interwoven tale of many. I liked the way Helene Wecker blended them all together. One perspective would bleed into another as if it were the most natural thing in the world. They truly felt as though they were one whole – one story. As opposed to books like Game of Thrones where everything is interconnected but the different points of view seem so separate and disconnected from one another. As if you were reading a series of stories that happen to intersect at some points. The Golem and the Jinni is an ensemble piece. Each character needs one another is order to continue on.
Of all the characters however I think the Golem was my favourite. I liked the Jinni too but Chava seemed to experience more growth throughout the course of the novel and struggled with more interesting (to me) dilemmas For example, wanting to please everyone or trying to maintain your independence in a sea of others. As opposed to the Jinni’s need to learn responsibility and to become less selfish. Both are fascinating and I think different people will be drawn to one or the other depending on what mood they’re in or what themes/ideas interest them.
Recommendation: The Golem and the Jinni is one of those beautiful books that only come around every so often. I think I could talk forever about this book but only scratch the surface of why it’s wonderful. If you love rich, detailed, thematic writing with a touch of fantasy and mysticism thrown in The Golem and the Jinni is absolutely the book for you.(less)
I’m just going to call it now. This is one of my favourite books this year. It’s like Middles...moreThis review was originally posted at More Than Just Magic
I’m just going to call it now. This is one of my favourite books this year. It’s like Middlesex meets The Casual Vacancy – full of touching prose, well crafted characters and an extremely compelling story.
Golden Boy is the story of an intersex teen named Max. Raised as a boy his life is turned on its head when he is sexually assaulted. This book hooks you in right away. I started reading it before bed one night and I was up so late devouring every last page because I needed to know what was going to happen to Max. Golden Boy was an incredibly emotional book. At times it could be hard to read (trigger warning for rape) but it was always honest and realistic.
The unique thing about this book is that it rotates perspectives between a wide variety of characters – people of different ages and genders. Max, his younger brother, his parents, his doctor. It was incredibly fascinating to see how people at different stages of their life cope with the same situation. In a similar vein, Abigail Tarttelin also gives the reader a wide range of medical perspectives. It was interesting to see how different education or societal pressures (or lack there of) influenced people’s opinions and prejudices.
Out of all the different characters however I think I liked Max the best. He is definitely a sympathetic character. It absolutely broke my heart watching him cope with being a victim. We see him go through all the different stages. Guilt, blaming himself for not fighting back more, shame, withdrawl from friends and family. I just wanted to reach into the page and hug him.
I reviewed another intersex novel earlier this week (Pantomime) and I am glad to see they are out there but would still like to see more and to see more people talking about them. These novels are uniquely able to raise questions about gender – particularly what is means to be male/female and how social constructs shape who we are and who we think we should be.
Recommendation: Though Golden Boy is not technically a YA novel I do think it is a book with massive cross over appeal. It’s an inspiring and heart breaking story for fans of literary fiction and those who like to questions society’s expectations.(less)
One weekend I took this book with me to the cottage. I only really pick up contemporaries in the...moreThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
One weekend I took this book with me to the cottage. I only really pick up contemporaries in the summer, when I need something quick and fun to read while sitting outside – and a book about a girl who DJ’s at warehouse parties seemed to fit the bill. So I was surprised when I sat down with This Song Will Save Your Life and found myself completely engrossed in the touching, heart wrenching story of Elise Dembowski.
Elise Dembowski is a pretty average high school student – which I’m sure most of you know isn’t easy. High school is hard and it can be lonely and in a desperate moment Elise found herself considering suicide. Thankfully she didn’t go through with it but now she needs to deal with the “what comes next.” I’ve read a lot of books about suicidal teens, but not a lot that deal with the aftermath. The recovery. In some ways Elise’s life has improved, her family is more attentive, she has a few people to eat lunch with. But she also has to deal with the stares, the gossip and a new website that’s popped up. I really liked that This Song Will Save Your Life provided a balance look at Elise’s life. It wasn’t unbearable all the time but it also wasn’t sunshine and rainbows now that she no longer wanted to take her life.
In addition to recovery and survival, This Song Will Save Your Life is also about pursuing your dreams, regardless of what other people think. Even if you didn’t realize they were your dreams at first. Elise has always liked music but purely by accident she discovers the world of DJing. And she discovers that she’s good at it. I think we all have something like this and if makes you happy you should keep doing it! Even if it’s difficult – although sneaking out to a sketchy warehouse in the middle of the night is not generally something I recommend ;)
I’m not sure this review did this book justice. It is more than just a light contemporary read with some great music references. This Song Will Save Your Life is a story about healing, about family and about finding your place in the world. Elise Dembowski could have easily been me in high school. She could have easily been any of us. And that is what will make this book resonate with people of all ages.
Recommendation: Read it. Read it if you remember the ridiculous nature of high school politics. Read it if you like music. Read it if you’ve ever felt like giving up. Read it if you simply need a good book to get you through the day. Just read it.(less)
I finally worked up the courage to tackle The Casual Vacancy. I am a fanatic Harry Potter fan and...moreThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
I finally worked up the courage to tackle The Casual Vacancy. I am a fanatic Harry Potter fan and was understandably nervous to read Rowling’s first non-Harry Potter novel. And then the reviews came out and they were well…let’s just say mixed. But I kept my expectations in check and jumped right in and I am happy to report that I genuinely enjoyed this book. I wanted to know what would happen next and how the events that transpired would all play out.
The plot of The Casual Vacancy is a seemingly small story. A man dies, leaving his position open on the parish council – also known as a casual vacancy. But J K Rowling, being the expert story teller that she is, weaves it all together in a huge story, with deceit, lies, intrigue and disaster. She peels back the surface story and exposes something raw and dark. And true to form, Rowling really knows how to turn a phrase and I found myself flagging a ton of clever passages that I wanted to return to later on.
Story aside I found the best thing about this book was the characters. There are A LOT of them! But they were all integral to the plot and they helped keep the story moving. I loved how distinct everyone’s personalities were. Maybe it’s a small town thing but I know people exactly like everyone in The Casual Vacancy. I think this is a testament to just how well Rowling develops her characters. Especially the children. That’s not to say her adult characters were poorly written – anything but. But at the end of the day it was the children I was the most drawn to and that will stay with me the longest.
On the subject of characters I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the Wheedons specifically. I thought that she gave them really fair treatment. It would have been easy for her to fall back on some old stereotypes but they truly felt like three-dimensional people. This goes with for everyone in the book but especially this family. Through the Wheedons and the people connected to them Rowling makes some excellent points about social services and the people who depend of them, and proves just how wrong it is to make assumptions about people and abandon them when they need our help the most.
The Casual Vacancy is not without its problems however. Most notably – it’s long. Way too long. I don’t mind books that are over 500 pages. Not in the slightest. But if they are going to be that length they should be making use of every page. Frankly, I don’t think that was the case with The Casual Vacancy. Some scenes felt overly long and dragged out and I’m not convinced all of them were completely necessary. I think this book would have benefited greatly from a more thorough editing process and I think had it been any other author it probably would have received it. I think this happens to a lot of best selling authors and it really does them, the publishing house and the readers a disservice. But even still, I was definitely caught up in the story and wanted to keep reading to see what happened next.
Recommendation: A intense and well plotted read. But don’t read this book just because it’s written by J K Rowling. If this doesn’t sound like something you would like, well you probably won’t like it. But if you like literary fiction I definitely think there’s some interesting things being said in The Casual Vacancy. It’s all in your approach.(less)
I love fairy tale re-tellings in all their forms. But I especially love when those re-tellings ca...moreThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
I love fairy tale re-tellings in all their forms. But I especially love when those re-tellings capture the feel of the original story they were inspired by. Strands of Bronze and Gold is a perfect example of this. It is a captivating read that is just a creepy and mysterious as the original.
That being said, if you’ve never read the original tale of Bluebeard or if you only know the bare bones of the story, that’s ok! Strands of Bronze and Gold does not make any assumptions about its readers. It presents itself as if it was a brand new tale. I was only familiar with the basic premise of the story (and the Fables version and I never felt like I miss any information, or that the story was moving on without me. I also think not knowing the story adds an extra creepiness factor to this book, as you begin to suspect what’s really going on.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this review, Jane Nickerson does a superb job of capturing the original feel of the fairy tale. Classic fairy tales often have this creepy, mysterious and poetic feel to them but not many re-tellings are able to capture this style. Strands of Bronze and Gold is the best example of this style I’ve read since Ash by Malinda Lo. Strands of Bronze and Gold takes place in the pre-Civil War era of the South and it very atmospheric. I truly felt as though I had been transported into another time and place. The descriptions of Wyndriven Abbey and it’s surrounding land were haunting and made me wish it was a real place I could go visit.
At the centre of all this wonderful story is our heroine -Sophia. I found her a little naive in the beginning but as I continued to read I found there was much more to her than that. Most of all I like that she makes up her own mind up about things – such as her position on slavery – and does what she can with her situation. She finds her own way to work around Bernard’s fluctuating moods, puts herself in danger by assisting with the Underground Railroad and breaks all of societies conventions when it comes to a certain pastor… No matter the situation she finds a way despite the difficulty of her situation.
Recommendation: A fantastic and atmospheric fairy tale re-telling, with a plucky heroine and creeptastic plot. Strands of Bronze and Gold is not to be missed!(less)
The Holders is a familiar tale. It’s actually the second book about a boarding school for kids wi...moreThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
The Holders is a familiar tale. It’s actually the second book about a boarding school for kids with special abilities I’ve read this month! But Julianna Scott manages to take a familiar concept and infuse it with enough of her own ideas and brilliant characters so that it’s hard not to get caught up in all the excitement.
Our journey into the world of The Holders is guided by a teenage girl named Becca. I love Becca’s narrative voice. She felt like someone I would want to be friends with. She’s quite clever, having graduated high school when she was only 15, but isn’t stuck up about it. She’s also fiercely loyal to anyone she cares about – especially her family, and this immediately earns her points in my book. And if that weren’t enough she’s brazen, courageous and speaks her mind, no matter what. She’s someone you can respect and someone that you want to cheer for.
In a similar vein it’s also really easy to root for Becca’s relationship with Alex. Like Becca, Alex is an extremely likable character. If you’re tired of the “bad boy” trope than you’re going to love him! He’s so sweet and genuine. I like that they were drawn to one another right away but still had to work to be together. Their romance was never easy or obvious or without obstacle. But it was also totally swoon worthy and adorable.
The further I get in writing this review, the more I realize that it was really the characters that sold this story for me. Too often in YA novels, familial realtionships are forgotten or pushed into the background. The Holders, on the other hand, is all about family dynamic. There’s how protective Becca is of her younger brother. There’s the way Mother and daughter have bonded to keep the family going. And complications over meeting an estranged father again. I loved seeing so many different focuses on familial relationships.
There are a lot of other things to love about The Holders – a detailed history and Celtic element come to mind – but it was really the characters that sold this novel for me. It wouldn’t have been the same story without them. Julianna Scott takes her time revealing what’s going on and the beginning can be a bit slow. But I found this detailed beginning really fleshed out what I was getting into. I would have liked if the pacing was picked up a little, but it is the first in the series, so perhaps the second book will move along faster.
Recommendation: If you prefer novels that are more fast paced and plot driven this one may not appeal to you but if you like character driven novels AND if you’re a fan of X-Men and Harry Potter and happen to have a love affair with Ireland (who doesn’t?) this book is for you.(less)
The Key and The Flame is a whimsical middle grade adventure. It has a very Narnia feel to it – fi...moreThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
The Key and The Flame is a whimsical middle grade adventure. It has a very Narnia feel to it – finding a portal into another world within an every day object. But this time it’s a tree instead of wardrobe. I love stories where ordinary people/kids are whisked away to new places where they encounter adventure, danger and best of all magic. Because of this The Key and The Flame called out to me right away and I knew I had to read it.
Claire M Caterer has a real flair for setting the scene. She writes great descriptions – of the English country side, of the forest in Anglielle, of the castle. I think it’s safe to use the phrase “paints with words” in this case. But her writing isn’t overly fancy either. The voice is clearly middle grade. There are a lot of lines that are sure to get younger readers to crack a smile (and the young at heart too).
Holly, Ben and Everett were a fun and interesting bunch of characters and I especially appreciated the sister-brother relationship, between Ben and Holly. I liked that they still squabbled like siblings, but ultimately they worked together. It seemed in line with my own experience with my video game loving younger brother, so they were an easy pair to relate to. But on the other hand I also felt like we never really knew anything about these characters. There wasn’t a lot of back story for any of them. I wanted Holly to prevail because I don’t want to see anyone innocent imprisoned/murdered but there was no deeper investment than that.
The only other problem was that the book was a bit long. I guess that’s the downfall of such great descriptions is that often they can take and add extra bulk to the story. Sometimes the large size works for Middle Grade but sometimes it seems to drag. Depends on the reader, so it may be something to keep in mind if you’re considering picking this up.
Recommendation: A fun, easy middle grade read. Great for fans of the Narnia series by CS Lewis or Wildwood by Colin Meloy.(less)
I picked up a copy of Breed this year at BEA and initially I was incredibly excited for it. A horror novel in the...moreOriginally posted at Hooked on Books
I picked up a copy of Breed this year at BEA and initially I was incredibly excited for it. A horror novel in the vein of Rosemary's Baby? What's not to love about that? As I started reading, however, I found that this book was nothing like I expected to be and that this was both good and bad.
Breed is divided into two parts and my feelings about these two parts are as different as night and day. The first part focuses in on Alex and Leslie and their struggles to get pregnant and produce an heir. It was touch and go for a bit on whether or not I was actually going to finish this book, Alex and Leslie are such unsympathetic characters. Leslie is whiny and annoying and Alex is condescending and ignorant. (I mean really you're going to complain multiple times about how hard it is to be rich?) As far as I can tell you were supposed to feel this way about them, but it makes it really difficult to keep me interested in a novel when I absolutely do not care about what happens to the characters.
The second part, switches gears to after the children are born and I found it much easier to get into and it kept me hanging onto the very end to find out what happened. Because of the comparison to Rosemary's Baby I wasn't expecting the children to be overly developed, and though they weren't as fleshed out as I would like, there was still actual substance to them. It was easy to care about them, and cheer them on. I do wish more time would have been spent on Alice, as I felt Adam dominated part 2, but it wasn't a huge problem.
Overall, I didn't find Breed as scary as I expected. It was interesting and quite strange (seriously, there must have been some bizarre expressions on my face while I was reading this one the subway) but the characters were poorly developed and I can't say I'm 100% satisfied with it's resolution. It felt like it was falling just short of being a really exciting novel.
Recommendation: If you're looking for a book that will send chills up your spine this Halloween, Breed is not it. (less)
Storyline: Aquaman has always been the big joke of the superhero universe. I always thought this was a little unfa...moreOriginally posted at Hooked on Books
Storyline: Aquaman has always been the big joke of the superhero universe. I always thought this was a little unfair, because I had always been so envious of his powers. He could stay underwater for the longest time, communicate with sea life and he knew where Atlantis was! Apparently Geoff Johns felt the same way because he brought Aquaman back and is attempting to depict him as the superhero I always knew he could be.
The premise of this story is that Aquaman is just as big a joke within the pages of the comic book as he is outside of it. People laugh at his costume, tease him about talking to the fish, ask him if he's going to dehydrate if he goes too far from the water and worst of all they tell him they don't need his help, even after he fights alongside them against a vicious attack from the creatures in the trench. He faces a major identity crisis about whether or not he should even try anymore. It's a fascinating story and one that sets straight all of our misconceptions about Aquaman and his mythos.
Characters: Aquaman (or Arthur Curry) is an incredibly interesting character in this new series. He's facing a major crisis of identity and Geoff Johns does an amazing job of depicting just how torn he is between doing what's right for the people, doing what he thinks will make him happy, and deciding whether or not to return to Atlantis. The people of Earth don't make it easy for him but he is always on their side and I found him incredibly sympathetic and relatable.
And then there's Mera, his wife and mermaid (just don't call her Aquawoman!). I never knew all that much about her and her role in the Aquaman story, but I can honestly say I never expected her to be so badass. Whereas Aquaman simply turns the other cheek to the people's mocking, Mera bites back with her sharp tongue and attitude. I really admired her ability to stand up for herself and those she cared about. Plus with the ability to manipulate the water, she's a pretty tough superhero in her own right.
Artwork: Ivan Reis is an amazing artist. I was floored by how detailed some of his panels are and how much emotion he's able to convey in such a small space. And the creatures from the trench! They're still giving me the shivers. But it is the full page pieces that are the real treat of this collection.
Readability for new comic book fans: If you have never read a comic book before (let alone an Aquaman comic) you can read this one. Part of the premise is that people no longer understand Auqaman, so the story sets out to educate you/them on exactly who he is and what he can do. It's a great intro into one of DC Comic's most famous heroes. (less)
The Reluctant Journal of Henry K Larsen was not the book I expected it to be. I had another copy...moreThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
The Reluctant Journal of Henry K Larsen was not the book I expected it to be. I had another copy of a Susin Nielsen book - Dear George Clooney: Please Marry My Mom - before received this one and judging from it’s synopsis and her creative titles, I thought I was in for a nice light read, and maybe a few laughs.
A did get few laughs but a “nice light read”? Not even close.
Don’t get me wrong. This isn’t a criticism. If it had been the book I expected, I probably would have flown through it, enjoyed it, but then it would simply become one of those books that sit on the shelf, forgotten among a sea of titles. Instead, this book is forever cemented in my memory. It made me cry, it made me angry, it made me want to curl up with my puppy until I felt okay again.
In light of all the conversations happening right now about gun violence and bullying, The Reluctant Journal of Henry K Larsen could not be more timely. Henry Larsen is the brother of a bully victim AND also the perpetrator of a violent crime. Told in the form of Henry’s journal entries, I think this book does an amazing job of exploring the situation for a variety of perspectives and ideas. The Larsen family, the victim’s family, the media, the community. This book is a fair and honest account. I don’t think it makes any excuses for anything that happens, but does it’s best to present all the information and let the reader decide for themselves.
That being said, it’s hard not to like Henry. He’s charming but also afraid. I wanted to be his friend but I also wanted to wrapped my arms around him and squeeze as tightly as possible. I instantly felt like I could relate to him – especially since we were both Reach for the Top members (trivia for the win!). Susin Nielsen nails his voice. He seemed so real when I was reading – at times it really felt like I had stolen some poor boy’s journal.
I think The Reluctant Journal of Henry K Larsen is an important book for students to read. Especially those struggling with bullying, or those simply trying to fit in. I also think it’s an important book for parents and teachers to read. This book confronts a lot of issues that we all should be thinking about and it would be an excellent way to get the conversation started. And it’s a Canadian setting! This may not seem like a big deal, but little references to things like the Superstore, Reach for the Top and familiar cities, could really help this book resonate with Canadian students. It may help them realize that these things can happen here too and not just in far away cities.
Recommendation: The Reluctant Journal of Henry K Larsen is more than just a memorable read. It’s a life changing, necessary read and I personally think that it should be on hand in every high school across Canada. But be warned – you may find tears rolling down your cheeks before the book is through.(less)
I've watched his Food Network show "Chopped" a few times, and know that his recipes always seem to be something normal/ordinary with a neat twist. Su...more I've watched his Food Network show "Chopped" a few times, and know that his recipes always seem to be something normal/ordinary with a neat twist. Sure enough, that's what I found in this cookbook, with recipes like Bruschettea with Strawberries and tomato, Macaroni and Cheese with Aged Gouda and Chicken Quesdillas with Broccoli Rabe. If you like to cook and are looking to try some new, but easy to pull off recipes, this is definitely a good cookbook to pick up.
To read my full review (with recipe attempts) of In My Kitchen, check it out on my blog Hooked on Books(less)
Earth Girl is an exciting new science fiction novel, with a foot in both the young adult and adul...moreThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
Earth Girl is an exciting new science fiction novel, with a foot in both the young adult and adult fiction worlds. I would hesitate to classify it as either one and because of that I think it will appeal to a wide range of fans once it hits shelves.
In particular, readers are going to fall in love with the setting of this novel. The idea that Earth is no longer our primary location in 2788 was fascinating to me. Janet Edwards develops a really creative new system for our society to grow within and I liked learning about the different planets and what each one was known for. That being said, I was happy that the majority of the novel took place on Earth. Though it is interesting to see what would happen once we spread out across the galaxy, the history buff in me is fascinated with what would happen to the Earth after we leave it behind.
This focus on history continued throughout. This was nice to see in a science-fiction novel - which are usually so focused on the future. Because Jarra is a history student the reader gets a slow and steady exposure to what has happened between the present day and the year 2788. We got to look back over the years and learn what we did wrong. This interesting perspective of looking back on things that haven't happened yet, might be just the thing needed to keep us from making some horrible mistakes in the future.
In addition to the history, Earth Girl's complex and unique plot was able to explore some interesting questions. Such as the effect labels can have on a person and the importance of self identity. Jarra becomes an interesting character study over the course of this novel and I was fascinated with watching her change, devolve and evolve as the story progressed.
Unfortunately, this character study was both a positive and a negative. Though this made her an interesting case to look at, it also made her hard to relate to as a person. I never felt a very strong connection with Jarra and because she was so central to the plot, I also never felt a strong connection to the novel.
I also had some problems with the science behind this story. I'm willing to suspend a certain amount of disbelief with science fiction novels. It's one of the requirements of the genre. But Earth Girl pushed the boundaries of this suspension to the limit. Some things were just too far fetched, or just didn't make scientific sense. I think some better science could have greatly improved the believability of this novel.
Earth Girl is an exciting novel with some unique and interesting ideas worth exploring. However, the character development wasn't as thorough as I would have liked and I often found it difficult to believe the explanations for what was happening. It's not a bad read, but it wasn't one I particularly loved either.
Final recommendation: May appeal to science fiction and dystopian fans, but not recommended for those who enjoy the more "heady"/innovative versions of the genres. (less)