Love in the Time of Global Warming is a beautiful, heart wrenching tale of one girl against a desThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
Love in the Time of Global Warming is a beautiful, heart wrenching tale of one girl against a destroyed world and the friends they gained along the way. It’s a tale of survival, and love and hope that I think everyone should read.
Francesca Lia Block writes beautifully. Her style is almost lyrical with phrases such as “Now this love was just another loss in a sea bubbling with corpses of loss.” I was reading a digital copy of this book and I have never used the highlighting and notes feature on my Kindle so much. I love the way the writing paints a picture that isn’t quite reality and isn’t quite fantasy. This book is technically set in the real world – an earthquake torn Los Angeles. It’s grounded in something that could happen. But then it’s given a twist into the surreal. At times it’s hard to tell when the metaphor ends or begins but once you let go of the traditional notions of reality it’s easy to lose yourself in the setting.
Pen (our heroine) finds herself on a journey to find her mother and brother, who she was separated from during the earthquake. This journey closely parallels The Odyssey, the book she is reading along the way. It should be no surprise then that her journey ends up becoming quite epic in nature. There’s everything from giants, to Monarch butterflies sent as signs from the heavens.
But to me the journey was secondary to the amazing characters we meet along the way. Particularly Pen. She is such a great complex character. Sometimes she’s strong and brave but other times she’s terrified, weak and angry. Sometimes she’s all of these things at the same time. But you can’t judge her by her weak moments. Those moments are what make her human. It’s how normal people would react. What’s important is what she does after those moments. How she keeps going, keeps fighting, no matter how bad things get. I also loved how dedicated she was to the friends she meets in her travels. She couldn’t feed them, they didn’t know exactly where they were going but they drew strength from one another.
I also want to point out the theme of sexuality throughout Love in the Time of Global Warming. It’s treated as something fluid, versatile (which is something I talked about in my review of Freakboy). I appreciated that Francesca Lia Block didn’t follow conventional norms when approaching this subject. There are no neat little boxes for everyone to fit into, just people and love. A positive message that I think people of all ages need to be constantly reminded of.
Love in the Time of Global Warming is one of those novels that comes out of the blue and blows you away. It’s beautiful and poetic and I could read it over and over again. Highly recommended....more
Seeing as this is a cookbook from Martha Stewart I had certain assumptions before I even flipped througThis review originally posted at Veggietropolis
Seeing as this is a cookbook from Martha Stewart I had certain assumptions before I even flipped through the pages for the first time. I was expecting a lot of elegant looking dishes that one might want to serve at a dinner party. A dinner party where you want to impress your guests with your cooking skills. I also expected it too have long ingredient lists that would make my wallet groan.
However I was pleasantly surprised to find not all my assumptions were correct. Yes, many of these dishes look elegant and would be impressive to serve for guests but the recipes themselves are fairly simple. Most have only a few short steps. And the ingredient lists are quite reasonable. Though I have to admit she uses a few strange things that I had to go to a couple different stores to find - but it was kind of fun to cook with vegetables/grains I had never tried before.
The first recipe we attempted was the quinoa burgers. I’m not sure if I didn’t let the mixture sit/cool long enough but I just couldn’t get these burgers to stick together. They tasted fantastic but they definitely didn’t form patties.
Next I made the Eggplant Israeli Couscous salad. This was by far my favourite recipe. I always want to make things with Eggplant and I ended up making this recipe twice in one week so I could keep taking it for lunch. Really anything with carmalized onions is a win right?
Finally we tried the Green Gurry. This also turned out quite well (sorry for the blurry photo). It was really flavourful and I loved the addition of green beans. I found it a bit soupy so next time I plan on letting it simmer longer than the recipe calls for, but other than that it was quite good.
But what I really loved about Meatless was some of the references and staple recipes at the back. Things such as toasting nuts, making vegetable stock, various sauces, salsas and pestos and my favourite - a grain cooking chart. I find this is the best reference and I consult it all the time, even when I’m not making a recipe from the book.
Overall it wasn’t a bad cookbook. It had some interesting recipes, and though not all of that turned out as expected I’m still planning on trying more from this book. Would recommend to vegetarians and those looking to add more meatless meals to their repertoire Not great for vegans though as a good chunk of the recipes call for cheese. ...more
The Winner’s Curse has easily been one of the most buzzed about books this spring. It has a greatThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
The Winner’s Curse has easily been one of the most buzzed about books this spring. It has a great premise, a gorgeous cover and was blurbed by Kristin Cashore. It seemed like a perfect fit for me.
The story takes you inside the complicated world of the Valorians and the Herrani. A few years before the events of the novel the power-hungry Valorians conquered the lands of the Herrani, taking it’s citizens as slaves. I think one of the greatest strengths of this novel is its detailed and complex world building. The beginning is a bit slower then most YA novels, but I was grateful for that in the end. It allowed me the time to really get to know Kestrel’s and Arin’s world. And trust me you want to get to know it – there are some complex and dangerous politics involved in daily life here.
Through these politics Ruthoski offers some great social commentary on how we treat other people and the cost and value of freedom. The story is told from both Kestrel and Arin’s perspective – the slave owner and the slave. It shows how that dynamic affects both parties and the harm it does to society as a whole. But these themes also extended to other relationships as well. Like between Kestrel and her father. Women in this society basically have two options – the army or marriage. Kestrel doesn’t really want to choose either. She’s smart and a good strategic thinker, but following in her father’s footsteps doesn’t really appeal to her and neither does being married. She wants to be her own person, to walk around the streets without a chaperone, and play the piano (something else that is frowned upon in their world). She may not be a slave like Arin is, but that doesn’t mean she’s free either.
I found the cast of The Winner’s Curse to be well balance. Both male and female characters are important and equal players. It wasn’t about some characters being smarter then the others. It was about strategy and right or wrong choices. I also liked that women in this world were given equal opportunity in the armed forces and that once they proved themselves they were given more autonomy in society. So often high fantasy novels follow similar world building patterns and those patterns often involve subservient positions for women. It was nice to see Rutkoski take a different route.
The only part I wasn’t completely sold on was the romance. Both Kestrel and Arin were well developed individuals and I completely understand how their personalities would match up. But the power dynamic between them (that she purchased him as a slave and then owned him) made their relationship feel unbalanced. I wanted to root for them, I really did, but I had a hard time feeling right about it.
The Winner’s Curse was a well plotted book that’s pacing increased with every chapter. At around the half way point I just couldn’t put it down. The stakes got higher, the world got more dangerous and every move that Kestrel made was a gamble. Though it may have had a slow beginning, the ending was anything but. The Winner’s Curse is a solid start to what I predict will be a strong series and I can’t wait to see where the story goes next....more
I’m really sad that this series is drawing to a close. I think I could follow the adventures of WThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
I’m really sad that this series is drawing to a close. I think I could follow the adventures of Waverly and Seth, and even Kieran, forever. This is one of the most underrated YA sci-fi series out there. Just like Glow and Spark, Flame is a dangerous, action packed novel that grabs you from the first few pages and doesn’t let go. Now that our crew is on the New Horizon they’re surrounded by people with questionable motives. It’s hard to tell who’s telling the truth and what their real plan might be. You’re rooting for Waverly and Seth but you’re also terrified for them. There’s a number of new players on the board, as well as the return of some old familiars. But I never felt overwhelmed by the number of characters and their relationship to one another.
There isn’t too much I can say about this book without giving things away. The same elements that made me love the first two books are still here. It’s intense and suspenseful and keeps you on the edge of your seat. It has romance but it knows when that romance needs to be put on the back burner. And it provides an interesting, and I think balanced look, at religion – the damage it can do (in the form of Anne Mather) and the good it can do (in the form of Kieran).
I’m not overly thrilled with how neatly the ending tied up – it felt too easy, too simple. But all things considered this was a solid conclusion to an exciting series. Recommended to the science fiction lover....more
Undone is a complicated story – it’s about grief, it’s about friendship, it’s about death. It’s aThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
Undone is a complicated story – it’s about grief, it’s about friendship, it’s about death. It’s a little bit revenge plot, a little bit melodrama. But it is 100% captivating.
Jem’s best friend in the whole world, Kai, has committed suicide after he is outed to the whole school. Confused, alone and not sure how to carry on, Jem decides that she is also going to commit suicide, but only after she finds out who was behind outing Kai and only after she gets her revenge. To do so she needs to infiltrate the popular group and figure out the best ways to hurt them like they hurt Kai.
This book might be a tough sell to some readers because Jem and Kai are complicated (or unlikeable) characters. Jem is not a sentimental person. She loves Kai, but everyone else? She could take them or leave them. Combine that with the anger, grief and bitterness and you have one unpleasant girl. At times she really frustrated me but I can’t begin to imagine what it’s like to lose your best friend so suddenly and without warning. I think her attitude was completely warranted given the context, and as you keep reading, her dry sense of humour and sarcastic wit really start to grow on you.
Kai I had a harder time figuring out. I wish the reader was given a little more time with him before he committed suicide, and given a better sense of his personality and where he was coming from. Most of the reader’s encounters with him are through his letters. The letters were filled with tasks for Jem – to dye her hair, to buy a top at a store she hates, etc… Though it was clear he meant well by them, they actually made me dislike Kai more and more as the novel went on. If he was her best friend and only wanted her to be happy, why did he want her to change so much about herself? Thankfully, after some time the novel became less about the letters and more about Jem and her dealings with ‘Team Popular.’
I really appreciated that Undone wasn’t afraid to dig in deep and address more sensitive subjects – bullying, suicide, sex, drinking, rape…. It’s a tough book. But they are all very real issues and Clarke handles them expertly. It’s an emotional read that really draws attention to the problem of bullying – particularly bullying based on sexual identity – and how horribly it can affect people. Though you may not agree with all of Jem’s decisions, I think it’s easy to see where she’s coming from and how she got to that point.
With its complicated characters, tough subject matter and revenge-focused plot line, Undone is far from an easy read. But if you give it a chance you’ll find a dangerous, emotional journey that is both riveting and surprising. I highly recommend this book to fans of Courtney Summers and Laurie Halse Anderson....more
The Brimstone Bleed – a secret, dangerous race, where a select few are chosen to compete. They alThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
The Brimstone Bleed – a secret, dangerous race, where a select few are chosen to compete. They all have someone close to them who is sick and are told if they win the race they will be given the cure to whatever ails them. Tella is fighting for her younger brother – he’s been sick for awhile and no one knows what’s wrong. He may be her annoying kid brother, but she would do anything to save him.
I instantly connected with Tella. Particularly her sense of humour. She has a very dark, sarcastic way of looking at the world, which is how I like my narrators. Her observations made me giggle more than once. Such as,
“Once, when we still lived in Boston, my mom took me to hot yoga. It’s normal yoga but for masochists.”
I also liked that she wasn’t perfect, nor was she weak or timid. She was balanced – she had good characteristics, like her humour, her compassion, her empathy. And she had flaws, like her over-dependence on others and lack of assertiveness. And just because she was brave enough to compete in the Brimstone Bleed, doesn’t mean she was brave all the time. In certain moments she was completely terrified but the important thing was she pushed through. So even though her actions sometimes annoyed and frustrated me she always felt realistic.
We’re told the Brimstone Bleed will take place in four arenas – the jungle, the desert, the ocean and the mountain. This instalment deals with the jungle and desert portions of the race. I think that Victoria Scott used the settings to their full advantage. I had no trouble picturing the landscapes, the wildlife and the weather. The descriptions are great and the race is sure to come alive in your mind. The world-building beyond the settings however is a bit lacking. I have so many questions about the race itself, how it functions, why know one else in the world seems to know it’s going on and the motivations behind the organizers. I suppose these questions could be answered in the next book, but it prevented me from suspending my disbelief and really getting into the story. I just couldn’t accept that this race was taking place because some over-zealous scientists and that they were able to hide all trace of it from the rest of society.
And there’s a boy. Because there’s always a boy right? Guy is your typical survival type – jungle, desert, it doesn’t matter. He’s got this. I actually liked his character for the most part. Except that he was so knowledgeable and so capable that in my head he was older. Much older. Like army veteran older. So when the romance started to develop between him and Tella it totally threw me off. Scott does mention near the beginning of the book that he is about the same age as her, but despite that his characterization made him feel much more mature. I’m still not sure how I feel about this pairing. It wasn’t horrible, and it didn’t take over the story. But I think we could have done without it as well.
Through all the highs and lows of the book there was one thing that I loved above everything else – The Pandora’s. Contenders are allowed to choose one Pandora (an egg) at the start of the race. Eventually they hatch and they have an animal companion. Animal companions are always a plus in my book. (I blame Disney movies). I think it would have been neat if their choice had somehow reflected their personality, rather than each person receiving a random animal. But regardless they still added an interesting and unique dimension to the story and many of the animals became my favourite characters.
Fire and Flood is a high concept, adventure story that I really wanted to love. But ultimately I found it a little rough around the edges. Tella and the Pandora’s were great but the world-building and the tension weren’t quite there and I had a hard time getting invested in the story itself as well as believing that any of it could happen. It’s possible that the next book could address some of these concerns, but that might be too late for some readers....more
I am of two minds about this book. I wanted to review it because it claimed to be for fans of GonThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
I am of two minds about this book. I wanted to review it because it claimed to be for fans of Gone Girl – which I really enjoyed last year. And I think that claim rings true. But I also had a number of problems with some of the characters and I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as I had hoped.
Let’s start with the mystery as it is the real strength of this novel. Lisa is a busy working mother. There’s always a million things on her mind and it feels like life never stops. I’m sure we can all relate – even if we don’t have children. But as a result of how busy she is, she ends up losing track of her friend’s child at a time when a serial rapist is on the loose. Can you imagine the guilt? I don’t know if I could cope with that.
This story is filled with lots of great surprises and twists and the mystery itself is really interesting and keeps you guessing. I especially loved the short, interspersed chapters from the perspective of the kidnapper/rapist. They were so creepy and very well done. I think that Paula Daly did an excellent job alternating the points of view between Lisa and the Detective on the case, Joanne. I never got bored of one, or found myself wishing it would get back to the other. And I was definitely surprised at the end. Not at all what I was expecting!
So then what was the problem? To put it simply, the female characters. Particularly Lisa and Joanne.
Let’s start with Lisa. Aren’t we tired of this character? This middle class woman who “has it all” and says that she’s happy but at every turn bemoans her unlucky state regarding her house, husband, kids, job etc. She’s a woman who makes her own problems. Who seems to thrive off her own unhappiness. A well off woman who I just don’t feel any pity for. And maybe I’m not supposed to. But this character has been done to death. She’s the same character that’s popped up in a number of books I’ve read recently – Gone Girl, Shine Shine Shine, The Dinner etc. I’m tired of this character. I want to read about women who are confident (note that confidence is not the same as stuck up or boastful). Who don’t feel a sense of resentment toward Every. Single. Person. they come across. I want to read about people who are a) more complex than that and b) better than that. Because I think most women are.
Joanne was a bit of a stereotype as well. Perpetually single, always working. I don’t think she was nearly as fleshed out as she could have been and as a result her character felt a bit flat. The only defining characteristic I could tell you about her is that she has a 36GG cup size. No that wasn’t a typo. There are two ‘Gs’ there. And throughout the kidnapping of this thirteen year old girl we get snippets of her wanting to have a breast reduction surgery. It felt very strange and out of place. All the other women in this book were more secondary characters – but every single one of them was described as “sad-looking”, or attention seekers, or at times a little insane. Not a single positive, or semi-positive female character in a book full of women, written by a woman.
Recommendation: I think this is a fun read for mystery lovers, and the pages fly by as you get wrapped up in the story. But for me the female characters felt tired and stereotypical and I just wanted something different....more
This was one of those books that everyone was talking about at Book Expo America this year and I knewThis review originally posted at Hooked on Books
This was one of those books that everyone was talking about at Book Expo America this year and I knew I had to get myself a copy. If only to see what all the fuss was about. And I'm so glad I did, because not only did I love this novel, it has become one of my favourite reads of 2012 so far.
A sure fire way to get me to fall in love with your novel is to have a complicated but kick ass heroine. Celaena fits this bill in every way. She can take care of herself – not only is she the most famous assassin the land, but she also survived Endovier - one of the most ruthless work camps/prisons, which no one ever returns from. But this strength and “talent” do not make her a cold person. She obviously cares about other people, and she struggles with demons of her own. I liked that she wasn't a cut and dry character and I really enjoyed getting to know her. Plus she likes to read! Hooray for bookish heroines that can kick some butt!
But an amazing heroine isn't the only thing that won me over to the Throne of Glass fan club. I was also entranced by Sarah J Maas' descriptive writing. Everything she wrote about felt so vivid. She's obviously a skilled writer and makes use of all five senses when depicting a scene to her reader. I often found myself re-reading passages over and over because I was blown away by beauty of the phrasing. If I can write a fantasy novel half this well, I will consider myself a success.
Another equally important element of this novel, however, was that Sarah J Maas knew when to stop writing. She knew when enough detail or background was enough. I wasn't overwhelmed by excess characters or annoying subplots. Everything that was in the book should be in the book, with no filler to distract the reader. That being said, I would have really liked to see more of the trials Celaena was put through and to have her interact a bit more with her fellow competitors. I felt like she wasn't given enough time to showcase her skills and abilities. She is an assassin after all. But here's hoping there will be more of that in Book 2, when she isn't so limited by guards and competing for her life.
Throne of Glass is an example of everything I love about fantasy novels. Great characters, beautiful settings, intricate plot lines, mysterious magical forces. I wish there were more books like this.
Final recommendation: Throne of Glass is a perfect read for fans of Kristin Cashore and Tamora Pierce. Or just anyone who loves strong female characters.
P.s. I'm also head over heels for the Captain of the Guard and his understated, tortured kind of love. *swoon*...more
You know when you watch an episode of The Simpsons and it starts out in one place and ends up inThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
You know when you watch an episode of The Simpsons and it starts out in one place and ends up in a completely different one? But you don’t even realize how far off course you went until it’s all over? That’s kind of what this book is like.
The Universe versus Alex Woods, is, unsurprisingly, about a young man named Alex Woods – a boy who was never meant to have a regular life. Hit on the head by a falling meterorite at ten years old he becomes a bit of an outcast at school and befriends Mr Peterson, a old American Vietnam war veteran in his neighbourhood. That alone would make an interesting novel in my opnion, but this book takes things a bit further when it introduces Kurt Vonnegut to the mix.
Unlike Mr Peterson, who loves Vonnegut’s work, I have never been a huge fan. I’ve read a few of his books and well I think they’re well written I didn’t see why people LOVED them. But during The Universe vs Alex Woods, we follow Alex’s discovery of the books and the book club he forms as a result and I found myself wanting to read all of Vonnegut’s books. Especially ones I hadn’t heard of before – like the Sirens of Titan and Timequake. Alex’s enthusiasm about these books and the conversations the book club have made me excited to give Vonnegut’s writing another shot. I love when a book gets me excited about reading even more.
And then if that wasn’t enough this book switches trajectory once again. I don’t want to reveal to much about what happens next but this book addresses a pretty important and serious political and social debate. It’s a fantastic look at humanity, dignity and a person’s right to agency over their own body. And though the book ended on a sad note, it was also – in my opinion – the appropriate one. I was proud of Alex and I wish he was a real person so I could hug him.
The Universe Vs Alex Woods is one of those books that manages to be a great many things all at the same time. It’s thoughtful and intelligent – without being condescending. I hate when books purposely try to be clever but it all feels very natural here. This book is also compelling. You want to know what will happen to Alex and where is crazy life will take him next. And surpringly, given some of the subject matter, this book is funny. Gavin Extence’s voice is charming and refreshing and I’m really looking forward to reading more of his work.
Recommendation: The Universe Vs Alex Woods was a book that really resonated with me. It is thought provoking and heart warming without being annoying, depressing or over the top. Highly recommended....more
I wanted to like this book so badly. I mean ghosts on Canada's east coast? I was so sold. But this book needs so major work/editing. The characters feI wanted to like this book so badly. I mean ghosts on Canada's east coast? I was so sold. But this book needs so major work/editing. The characters feel unrealistic and two dimensional and the dialogue is forced and awkward (and sometimes just weird).
"So you want to be a mechanic someday?" "It's definitely where I'm leaning. The community colleges have some good courses, and they're so much cheaper than university. If I can get my course and do well at the work placement, who knows, maybe I'll luck into a job."
After walking in to find his brother looking at swimsuit models on the internet: "Isn't that the same chick on your poster over there?" I asked as the woman in a string bikini, nipple just barely covered with little yellow triangles of materials appeared on the screen. "Yup that's her. Man what I wouldn't give to nail her. I'm on MSN with Jordan. He gave me the link to this awesome site. Nothing by bikini babes." "I'm glad I didn't wait too long to come down here. You might have been preoccupied," I joked. Blake chuckled. "You might be right."
Who are these people?!
Other things just didn't make sense. Like the family was ok living ten minutes away from town but fifteen minutes was an absolute deal breaker? Or why a previous owner who never intended to set foot in the house again would bother to fix the interior basement door. Or why no one even teased this kid for having a New Moon poster hanging in his bedroom.
One Boy's Shadow was a book with a lot of potential but it wasn't quite there. ...more
Fairy Tale re-tellings seem to be what’s hot right now and I personally think that’s fantastic. IThis 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....more
The characters of the Raven Cycle series have come a long way since the first book. Starting withThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
The characters of the Raven Cycle series have come a long way since the first book. Starting with Ronan. I couldn’t stand him in The Raven Boys. He was so smug and annoying and I kind of wanted to punch him. But now my feelings are more…complicated. He’s still incredibly smug, but The Dream Thieves opens up a whole new side of him. He’s not just your average bad boy, he’s an extremely complicated and damaged individual and he makes this story so interesting.
And then there’s Gansey. I have to admit I didn’t fully understand the Gansey love in the first book. He was interesting and well written but I didn’t love him. Now I do. He went from simply being interesting to making my heart melt a little more every scene he was in. And Noah. Although instead of heart melting, it was heart breaking. Now that we know the truth about him we see how much he’s missing and how hard it is for him. I wish he was real. For his sake and us heart broken readers.
In The Raven Boys the magic felt a lot more subtle. Tarot cards and scrying and so forth. It was though everything in their lives was fairly “normal” with a strong magic core running through it. In The Dream Thieves, however, the magic is more front and centre and I wasn’t entirely prepared for it to take the main stage so soon – I thought Stiefvater would be introducing things more gradually as the series progressed. This book was a lot more dangerous and a lot more dark than I thought it would be but on the other hand it was also a lot more exciting and action packed.
Great characters, magic, danger, excitement – this all speaks to Stiefvater’s writing. As I said in my review of The Raven Boys, she gets better with every book. The Dream Thieves is poetry in prose. It’s deep, emotional and humorous. It’s everything that good writing should be. A friend of mine pointed out that reading a book like The Dream Thieves helps us become better writers. I also think books like this make us better readers. They make us think, they let our imagination soar and they demonstrate how a story can change us.
The Dream Theives is enchanting. I can think of no other word that best describes this series. It has packed such an emotional punch in only two books, I can only imagine what three and four have in store....more
When I started reading A Conspiracy of Alchemists my first thought was that I had opened up the sThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
When I started reading A Conspiracy of Alchemists my first thought was that I had opened up the steampunk version of The Transporter. Which would be awesome! And I was perfectly happy to settle in and read that story. But, like books often too, it became so much more than what I expected, and as a result was even more awesome than I hoped.
At its most basic A Conspiracy of Alchemists is the story of a girl, pushing against the constraints/expectations of her society and doing what needs to be done to rescue her father. Elle is a spunky, strong willed woman and when she sets her mind to something she is going to do it. Like getting her pilot’s license. Or flying an otherwise untested machine. I like reading about characters that have a strong head on their shoulders and know exactly what they want.
There is a big romantic element to this story but at the same time it doesn’t take away from the adventure of the central plot line. It’s easy to get annoyed if a protagonist is too focused on the romance when there are more important things going on. But Elle is like us. She knows there’s no time for distractions. There was a good balance between the main story and the romance. The swoon worthy moments were a nice break between the more intense scenes and they made me cheer for Elle and Hugh as a unit rather than just Elle on her own.
My one problem however with A Conspiracy of Alchemists was that sometimes I did get bogged down by unnecessary detail. At times it felt like a lot of extra elements were added in and you just wanted to get to the point. Other times I wanted those extra details expanded upon. Like the absinthe fairy. Hopefully some things get fleshed out/explored further in book 2.
Recommendation: Great for those who like a touch of romance with their action. Recommended for fans of Cassandare Clare’s Infernal Devices series and Kate Locke’s Immortal Empire series....more
Natural disasters are not uncommon occurrences. It seems like every time you turn around there’sThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
Natural disasters are not uncommon occurrences. It seems like every time you turn around there’s been a tsunami, or tornado, or earthquake or hurricane. We see the damage done on television, we read the numbers – homes destroyed, people injured or killed. And we know it’s devastating but sometimes I feel like we’ve become a little too desensitized. After some time passes the news moves on to the next big story and we forget that there are people still trying to cope with the aftermath of the disaster, still trying to survive after they’ve lost everything.
“what the news crews couldn’t show was the real damage Elizabeth’s monster tornado had left behind. How do you record the wreckage left in someone’s heart?”
Torn Away brings the reader right into the heart of the disaster itself as well as it’s aftermath. The tornado strikes right at the start of the novel and Jennifer Brown does an amazing job setting the tone and the atmosphere for it. Jersey finds herself alone when the storm touches down and her fear feels so real. It comes through in every paragraph. But that’s only the beginning of the story. What really impressed me throughout the novel was how well Jennifer Brown described what Jersey’s world looked like after she lost everything – from the half-destroyed buildings, to the injuries her neighbours suffered, to the lists of missing people, I felt like I was walking the wreckage right alongside her.
In addition to the tornado, Torn Away is also a book about family. The storm not only took away Jersey’s house but it also took her mother and sister who weren’t able to make it to safety. Her step-father is unable to cope with his grief and sends her off to live with her father’s family, whom she has never met before. If this was a different kind of novel, they may have welcomed her with open arms – a long-lost daughter/sister/granddaughter finally come home. But Torn Away is not that kind of book. Through Jersey’s struggles Brown shows that ‘family’ isn’t something that comes automatically with blood relation. It’s something that requires effort and co-operation and there may be some obstacles that people are unwilling to tackle. It’s a tough message but it’s one that makes the reader appreciate their own family that much more.
My one complaint is that her father’s family – grandparents, her alcoholic father and step-mother and her half sisters – were so cruel and so unrelenting that at times it was almost too much. They were perfect stereotypes of white trash, so much so they became a little cartoonish in nature. This diminished the severity of her situation a touch, but was only one piece of the overall story. It wasn’t my favourite part but I don’t think it took away from the overall strength of the work.
Torn Away is tough, somber and unflinchingly honest story about loss and what it means to be a family. It demands to be devoured in a single sitting and will manage to both make you cry and warm your heart....more
I love the amount of fantasy titles that are on my radar this year. The Gypsy King is my second aThis 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....more
Otherbound is the story of two people whose lives are inexplicably bound – Amara and Nolan. But tThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
Otherbound is the story of two people whose lives are inexplicably bound – Amara and Nolan. But their bond is different. They are not friends, partners, co-workers etc. In fact they have never met. They don’t even live in the same world.
Nolan is just a young boy living in Arizona. He has a mom and a dad and a sister. He goes to high school. But when he closes his eyes, even for a second, her see’s Amara’s world through her eyes. This ability keeps him from living a normal life and he is diagnosed with epilepsy to account for his behaviour. But eventually he grows tired of watching from the sidelines and he takes control of Amara to let her know he’s there. This obviously doesn’t go over well with Amara (would you be happy to find out someone has been watching everything you do and can take over your body at will?)
And it’s not as though Amara doesn’t have enough to deal with already. She is a member of the servant class in the Dunelands. She can’t speak, only sign and she’s on the run with the cursed Princess Cilla. She’s often made to endure the pain of the curse for Cilla, and suffers beatings from Jorn, her master. Her life has never truly been her own but she’s always kept her head down. Until she finds our about Nolan. That’s the final straw that pushes her to fight back for herself and the people she cares about.
Amara and Nolan are both such compelling characters. Similar in a lot of ways – they’re both quite stubborn and determined. They both suffer from disabilities. Amara is mute and Nolan is missing a foot. But neither of them let their disabilities hold them back. They’re fighters and won’t give up until they find a way to accomplish their goals. But despite sharing the same memories/experiences, they’re still quite different as well. Though I would be hard pressed to choose which one was my favourite I will admit that Nolan felt slightly more developed than Amara. This is likely because he appears in both Earth and Duneland chapters, whereas Amara is only in the Duneland. Their connection does not go both ways.
Blending two very different worlds together is no easy task, but it is so seamlessly done in Otherbound it really speaks to Duyvis’s world building abilities. My fear before reading was that Duyvis would spend so much time developing the Dunelands that Nolan’s world would be neglected. But those fears were unfounded. In particular I loved how well you get to know Nolan’s family, especially his sister, and what life must be like for them living with Nolan’s “seizures.” Duneland was also well developed. I loved the magic system and the politics. I would gladly read more novels set in this fascinating, complex world.
There were a few times I felt like the pacing wasn’t quite right. Sometimes it would change in an instance and I would have to go back because I was afraid I had missed something. I would recommend reading this book when you have the time to devote your full attention to it. It’s a complex story, with complex characters existing in multiple worlds. If you’re only reading a chapter or two a day it would be very easy to get lost in the shuffle.
Otherbound is a unique fantasy read. Not quite other-world fantasy, not quite portal fantasy, it stands on its own. And I loved its cast of diverse, compelling characters. This is how you write diverse fiction. There was different races, genders, body types and even a female/female relationship. None of this is the focus on the novel, simply a reflection of reality in fiction. Despite some pacing issues I found Otherbound to be a fascinating read wrapped up in masterful world building and skillful writing. It’s a distinctive read that may not appeal to everyone but that I for one really enjoyed....more
Callie’s mother, convinced that her father would sue for full custody, kidnapped Callie at a younThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
Callie’s mother, convinced that her father would sue for full custody, kidnapped Callie at a young age and they became fugitives. This lifestyle lead to some very dangerous situations and at one point allowed for one of her mother’s boyfriends to take advantage and sexually abuse her when she was still a child.
These events happen before the novel starts. The reader doesn’t see the assault take place, we’re only aware of it through Callie’s memories. It’s something that she always carries with her, no matter how her situation changes, even when it improves. I think this is an important thing to take note of – one does not simply “get over” sexual assault, no matter how much time has passed, no matter how good their life becomes.
I also thought Where the Stars Still Shine did an excellent job showcasing how the assault affects her relationships with other people. Calllie is always ready to run and take off. She’s often afraid things are too good to be true. A big part of this stems from the fact that she loves her mother and she trusted her to keep her safe, but living with her mother ended up being incredibly damaging – How can she trust her situation with her father won’t turn out the same way?
It also affects her romantic relationships. Early on a friend sets her up on a date. She’s never been on a date and the only time men or boys have shown an interest in her it has involved sex. So right away she assumes that they’re going to have sex on this date because that’s what all boys want. And then there’s Alex – the love interest of this story. Callie has a hard time opening up to him. The book chronicles the stages of their relationship. From some rocky encounters (including nightmares), to her telling him the truth, to them pushing each other to face things they may not want to, and so on. It’s a slow building love story and at times extremely complicated. But it feels so authentic, which is why it was one of my favourite things about this novel.
Where the Stars Still Shine is an emotional novel that doesn’t shy away from some intense issues. It examines the after effects of sexual abuse and how they affect relationships throughout the course of a victim’s life. I found it to be an honest and realistic read that I highly recommend to contemporary YA fans....more
It actually blows my mind a little that this is Helene Wecker’s debut novel. It is an absolutelyThis 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....more
“Life is full of stories. Or maybe life is only stories.”
After hearing Ruth Ozeki read in Toronto I knew I would have listen to the audiobook. She has the most fantastic voice. It’s energetic and also very soothing. Usually I can usually only listen to an audiobook for an hour or so at a time but with Ozeki narrating I easily doubled that. Her voice draws you in and makes you want to learn more.
A Tale for the Time Being is a tragic story that touches on a number of issues and themes but the one that stood out to me the most was that of suicide. It explored the idea of suicide from a variety of angles (from Japanese notions of honour, to the people who jumped out of the towers during 9/11) and provides a lot of food for thought. Nao’s story is an emotional one and at times hard to read. I loved the back and forth between her narration and Ruth’s. I could really relate to Ruth and her reactions to Nao’s story felt so authentic.
This is an incredible story of loss, of courage and of moving forward. There’s a reason A Tale for the Time Being is making all the “best of” lists. Ruth Ozeki has a way with words- both on the page and off....more
Though I often lament that I am suffering from extreme dystopia burn out (and I am) I still can’tThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
Though I often lament that I am suffering from extreme dystopia burn out (and I am) I still can’t resist those titles that sound reminiscent of the parents of the genre. The ones that made me fall in love with it in the first place. And when Viking suggested this title for fans of Margaret Atwood and Kazuo Ishiguro there was no way I could say no.
The Office of Mercy takes place in the distant future, where society as we know it has shifted into a high tech, ultra evolved civilization that basically lives inside a bubble. Not a figurative bubble. And actual bubble. But with tunnels and stuff. More like a hamster maze than a bubble. But rather than describe this book as “dystopian” it swings more toward the “utopian” side of the spectrum. We’ve made huge advances in health, science and tech. Overall things don’t look too bad.
The problem, however, is that not everyone lives inside the hamster maze. There are “tribes” of people who still live out in the Wilderness. And because the people of America Five (the bubble) consider themselves so advanced, they also think they know what’s best for those outside the walls. And what’s best, in their opinion, is the complete genocide of the Tribes. Why? Because they are obviously suffering (what with their sickness, and unpredictable weather and death –out there and it would be cruel not to put an end to that suffering. Oh and they carry out this genocide without any warning (does that make it better or worse? I’m still undecided.) They justify this by teaching their citizens:
“For if the Tribes ever did suspect that people like themselves were being systematically wiped from existence, they would feel dread, and dread was a particularly terrible form of suffering, worse even, as some had argued during the debates of Year 121 Post-Storm, than purely physical pain.”
As the novel continues our heroine – Natasha – begins to doubt this policy. She’s always been interested in the Tribes but it’s not until her first outing beyond the Walls that her beliefs are really called into question. She comes across a dog and she’s unable to separate this living thing in front of her from the more abstract ideas she’s always been taught.
I found this novel really interesting because Natasha doesn’t start out as a nay sayer or a rebel. She doesn’t have the same knee jerk reaction that most of us would have while reading this novel. She changes over time as outside influences come into being and we get to watch her transformation and the issues she begins to question at each step.
The Office of Mercy calls into question the nature of mercy itself as well as the question “what makes a meaningful life?” Is their life in America Five more valuable or more meaningful because of their scientific advancement? Or is it better to be a part of the Tribes and have more deep and meaningful connections with your fellow men and women? I don’t have a perfect answer but The Office of Mercy definitely got me thinking.
Though I loved almost everything about this book, I had a few issues with the writing style. At times it felt a bit cold and clinical – and maybe that was on purpose to mimic life within America Five but it always kept the story at arm’s length for me. I was never particularly moved by what was going on and I had a hard time bonding with Natasha. It all just felt so distant. It’s still an incredibly interesting book just not as emotional as it probably could have been.
Recommedation: I’m really happy I read this book. It’s a complex book that raises some complex questions. It’s not the most beautifully written but it is really interesting and very compelling. Recommended for fans of 1984 and Logan’s Run....more
Openly Straight is one of those novels that is so fantastic for so many different reasons. It’s aThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
Openly Straight is one of those novels that is so fantastic for so many different reasons. It’s a layered story with complex characters and I hope my review does it justice.
To start out, I liked that it wasn’t a coming out story. Not that I don’t think coming out stories are important. I just think there are a lot out there already and there are other issues that need to be addressed. Particularly the issues of labels. Rafe wants to go to boarding school because he’s tired of being known as “the gay guy.” It’s not that people aren’t understanding or accepting. But anyone is going to be annoyed if you’re only known for one thing. People are complex and I understood Rafe’s desire to be known for more than just being gay. His methods may not have been the wisest but I think his motivation is something all readers – young and old, gay or straight – will be able to relate to.
In addition to labels, Openly Straight is also about friendship and the different forms love can take. Throughout Rafe’s experiment at boarding school, we get an up close and personal look at his relationships with a bunch of different people – his parents, his best friend, her nerdier roommates and in particular a boy named Ben. He loves all of these people in different ways and each relationship affects him and changes him. I liked that Bill Konigsberg didn’t just focus this story on Rafe finding a boyfriend/falling in love. He made his story a lot more rounded than that.
An added bonus to Openly Straight were the bits of writing advice that appeared as the story progressed. As part of one of Rafe’s classes, he submits a journal that is read and critiqued by his creative writing teacher. As an aspiring writer myself, I found a lot of tips incredibly helpful in terms of examining my own work and I think others will too.
Finally this book really made me want to move to Boulder CO. It just seems so wonderful there! It was a nice juxtaposition of the incredibly accepting area that Rafe comes from and a the more challenging (though not expressly negative one) that Rafe moves to.
Recommendation: An absolute must read for contemporary fans, Openly Straight is a touching and poignant read that will speak to readers of all ages....more
Zebra Forest is the story of Annie and Rew, a pair of young siblings that live with their Gram. TThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
Zebra Forest is the story of Annie and Rew, a pair of young siblings that live with their Gram. They run a little wild, knowing how to lie just right to teachers and case workers. Their mother is no where to be found and their father is in prison. Or rather, he was in prison…One night during a particularly large storm, he escapes, making his way to Gram’s house, and holding them all hostage, despite Annie and Rew’s best efforts.
I loved how Zebra Forest looked at sibling relationships. Annie and Rew live with their Gram, who isn’t the best caregiver and their parents haven’t been around for years. But they look out for one another. They fight – frequently – but at the end of the day they have each other’s back. Though the scenario in this book was an extreme one, I still thought their relationship was indicative of sibling relationships as a whole.
I also loved the role Treasure Island plays in the book. Annie and Rew love that book and read it over and over again. It inspires a sense of adventure in them and they turn to it when in need of comfort. It even bridges a bit of the gap between Annie and Andrew Snow. I think it’s beautiful and a fantastic example of how a good book can bring people together.
Zebra Forest is a very simple story. There’s no real mystery or suspense. Just a family drama. And though granted this particular family was unique and highly dysfunctional, at times it simply felt like people playing house. I personally could have used a little more excitement. As Douglas Coupland said “all families are psychotic” so I wanted something a little more from Annie, Rew and their elders.
Zebra Forest is the story of families, of building and regaining trust, of telling the truth and of what it means to be free. It is beautifully written and Adina Rishe Gewirtz has a fantastic literary voice. It is a book that will resonate strongly with some readers – especially younger readers with difficult home lives.
Notes on the Audio
Kate Reinders has a very clear, very straight forward way of reading this book and it would be perfect for younger listeners. Annie is the narrator and Reinders voice sounds like the right age. I think young listeners will enjoy the steady (but not slow) pace of the audiobook and Reinders expressive tone. And at only 4 hours 11 minutes, this would be a good book to try out if you (or the children in your life) are new to audiobooks and want to test them out....more
Are You Afraid of the Dark was a major part of my childhood so when I saw D J MacHale’s name on SThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
Are You Afraid of the Dark was a major part of my childhood so when I saw D J MacHale’s name on Sylo I knew I had to read it.
Sylo is a fascinating read. A mysterious virus. A quarantined island. A secret branch of the navy. It would be hard not to get into this story. And of course, with a set up like that, there are going to be some secrets. Sylo has a lot of great twists. You never know quite who to trust. Those who seemed like the “good guys” end up doing something unexpected. Same goes for the “bad guys.” No one is who they appear to be and you have no idea what direction the story is going to go in next.
I also liked that Sylo revolved around a whole cast of characters rather than I single ultra-brave protagonist. It kind of reminded me of Teen Wolf – there may be a main character but every single character is important and you grow attached to all of them in their own special ways. The writing style is very simple and easy to follow. There was nothing flowery or fancy about it. All very straight forward.
I had a few small issues. Nothing major, and nothing that would really keeping me from recommending this book to the right audience. Tucker – our main protagonist – felt a little naive to me. It always seemed to take him a little too catch up with what was going on. To be fair he’s a young boy who’s spent most of time life on an island but still…
Second issue – Cliffhanger! *shakes fist* I am not a fan of the cliffhanger ending. I think even in a series each book should have a self contained arc. Sylo does not. Very few answers are provided by the end of the book, which I personally find frustrating. However, I know others don’t feel this way about cliffhangers. Just a matter of personal preference.
Recommendation: The straight forward writing style and male point-of-view will make this a great read for younger, male teens. Sylo is a fun read that will leave you asking questions and wanting more....more
If my reviews were only one sentence that would be the sentence for thOriginally reviewed at Hooked on Books
What a gorgeous and heart wrenching novel.
If my reviews were only one sentence that would be the sentence for this book.
But my reviews are more than one sentence, so let me elaborate.
For Darkness Shows the Stars, a post apocalyptic adaptation of Persuasion, was a book I was expecting to like. It sounded fun and interesting and right up my alley. I was not, however, expecting to love this book (probably because I’m not a huge Austen fan). But as my recent re-watch of Grey’s Anatomy has taught me – you can’t choose who (or in this case what) you fall in love with.
For Darkness Shows the Stars starts off strong with a unique take on the future. Human beings, obsessed with technology, pushed the limits of our species too far, resulting in catastrophe. In response, they reverted back to an almost pre-industrial state of living. They still have tractors and some other basic equipment, but there are now inventors, great scientists, or even musicians or artists. Life has basically stalled. I thought this was really interesting for two reasons. 1) It was a fantastic comment on both our addiction to technology and our fear of it and 2) though this world was completely imaginary it did not seem like a huge stretch of the imagination. Her world building was smart and believable and I was completely immersed in it.
And then there was the romance – or maybe I should say lack of romance? Suspension of romance? Whatever the correct terminology, the story of Elliot and Kai made my heart beat faster and tears well up in my eyes. It was just so tragic! When presented with the opportunity to run away with the boy she loves, Elliot turns him down out of a sense of responsibility. Four years later, Kai returns, successful and proud and determined to make Elliot feel sorry for her decision. They were both hurt and cruel, and neither was truly an innocent party. And best of all (for us the readers) is that there weren’t any easy answers. Their problems didn’t magically disappear and the obstacles keeping them apart were real things they needed to confront. I truly didn’t know what would happen until the very last pages of the novel.
So between the genius setting and the heart breaking romance, this novel had me hook, line and sinker. Though I can’t say I loved all the characters or approved of all their choices, it didn’t seem to matter. This is story telling at it’s best. And to top it all off, it’s even convinced me to give Miss Austen another chance.
Final recommendation: Recommended for fans of romance and those who enjoy writers like the Brontes, Jane Austen etc. Not recommended for those looking for just another YA dystopia/post apocalyptic novel....more
This is a story of one woman’s love affair with food. Definitely a story I could relate to, a story most people should be able to relate to. Relish is a book that will inspire you to revisit your own journey with one of our most basic, and necessary activities and I believe all reviews/conversations about this book should start with people sharing their own experiences.
My parent weren’t foodies by any means but I loved food growing up. From my mother’s spaghetti sauce to my grandmother’s lime velvet salad, there were (and still are) dishes that always bring up certain memories. Ravioli makes me think of the French baby sitter we had one summer, maple flavoured anything calls to mind trips to my family’s sugar bush and corn on the cobb brings me right back to the scattering on farms that surrounded my childhood home. I went vegetarian as a teenager had to start cooking for myself – my mom refusing after a long work day to prepare two separate meals. I fell in love with cooking and trying new things and seeing what different flavours tasted like together.
When I went off to university I began waiting tables at a number of different restaurants to pay the rent. I served everything from Asian fusion, to lunch buffets, to 5 star dining. Since I staying in town for the summers as well, when all the students were gone, many of my friends were food industry people as well. When all of your friends are waiters, chefs and bartenders good food and drink are always part of the equation. I have never ate so well in my life and have not since leaving the food industry when I moved to Toronto. Although Toronto has provided a whole new chapter in my relationship with food (there is a whole restaurant that is based around meatballs!)
In Relish, Lucy Knisley tells her own story beautifully. Drawing on all the senses. I really felt like I could smell and taste the food she was describing. Her early years with food were very different then mine but she makes them feel incredibly easy to relate to. And the stuff I could recognize later on put a smile on my face as it brought to mind my own memories. Food is a very personal and sensual thing and Relish reminds us of all the good times we’ve had with it.
The whole book is filled with beautiful artwork. It’s very colourful and full of life and the style is very accessible for all ages.The recipes especially were a fun touch. I wanted to try everything! I’m still working my way through them but I can definitely vouch for the chai tea – it was especially tasty.
I highly recommend you pick up Relish and take a trip down memory lane. But be warned – this story will leave you hungry and ready for a food adventure!...more
Caught first hit my radar when it was nominated for the 2013 Giller prize and if I was one of theThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
Caught first hit my radar when it was nominated for the 2013 Giller prize and if I was one of the judges it would have won.
The novel centres about David Slaney. He is a fabulous complex character. He’s an escaped prison convict and an international drug smuggler yet he’s extremely personable and his story is quite engrossing. You almost find yourself wanting him to succeed in breaking a ton of laws. On the other side of the coin, however, is Patterson, the cop assigned to Slaney’s case. Though the novel spends less time on Patterson, he feels no less developed than Slaney. A testament to Moore’s eye for detail. As the narrative switches back and forth between them you find yourself rooting for each one to succeed, even though they have such opposing goals.
Lisa Moore’s writing is quick, clever and insightful. You could almost miss how brilliant it is because it flows so smoothly. For example: “He could feel luck like an animal presence, feral and watchful. He would have to coax it into the open. Grab it by the throat.” Her descriptions were spot on and conjured up incredibly detailed scenes in my mind while reading. Strong characters, great writing, Caught is yet another example of why Canadian literature rocks....more
“All monsters are scared. That’s why they’re monsters.”
Here is another fantastic example of an author who should always narrate his own work. It was sort of like listening to the Doctor mixed with Alan Rickman. Both creepy and almost melodic. Which is kind of the tone of this entire book. It was actually a lot creepier than I expected. From the description it sounded like a pleasant story about a young boy but since it’s Neil Gaiman I should have known better. In particular there’s this bit with a worm *shudders* If you’ve read it you know what I’m talking about – if you haven’t you’ll understand as soon as you get to it.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a very imaginative, creepy book. My only complaint is that it was too short. I wanted to go deeper and explore the characters more and the magic of the Hemstocks. It was still brilliantly told, I just didn’t want it to be over so quickly....more
One weekend I took this book with me to the cottage. I only really pick up contemporaries in theThis 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....more
It doesn’t matter how often you read these stories. They get me every time. The horror of it allThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
It doesn’t matter how often you read these stories. They get me every time. The horror of it all is unspeakable. Prisoner B-3087 is a powerful and moving story. We’re all familiar with the concentration camps in World War II. I can’t even begin to imagine how horrible it would have been to be in one. Let alone ten different ones like our protagonist, Yanek. I have read a lot of books on WWII but I’ve never read such an incredible survey of so many different camps. It seems like Yanek has seen it all. The Polish ghettos, Auschwitz, Dachau, the salt mines, not one but two death marches. He even came to face to face with Amon Goeth and Joseph Mengele. This is a true story of survival despite all odds.
One thing that really stands out about Prisoner B-3087 is the simple writing style. This book is aimed at 10-14 years old and I think it is perfect for the age group. It’s never overly explicit in the details – but it doesn’t need to be. The reader doesn’t need a play by play of every violent act to understand how horrific the story is. I also appreciated that the author didn’t add any fancy frills or turn of phrase to the account. I think this kind of story works best when it is straight forward and honest and I think young readers will appreciate that.
Prisoner B-3087 is the kind of book that makes you sit back and think. It made me thankful for everything I have. And it served as a much needed reminder that we can’t ever forget. This should never happen again and yet similar crimes and genocides keep cropping up all over the world. We still need books like Prisoner B-3087 to help get that point across to new generations.
Recommendation: A great book for those just learning about the Holocaust. Highly recommended for middle grade classrooms and libraries....more
Full disclosure – I am not a soccer fan. I played it as a young child like everyone else in my hoThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
Full disclosure – I am not a soccer fan. I played it as a young child like everyone else in my hometown but after a certain age I’d say about 80% of us quit (what can I say we’re Canadian). It just wasn’t a thing. Now that I’m older and not athletic in anyway I’ve grown even further apart from soccer. I don’t get into World Cup, I couldn’t tell you the rules and if you put a ball in front of me my attempts to kick it would be laughable.
Why am I telling you this? Because soccer bleeds into every nook and cranny of this novel.
And for the first half of this story this had me a tad worried. It felt like every character Etto came into contact with was obsessed with soccer. And like Etto it made me feel removed from the world Pasulka has built with such incredible detail. I wasn’t invested in the characters because as far as I could tell they only cared about soccer. They were incredibly one dimensional. The only person who didn’t care about soccer was Etto but he was so mopey and despondent I became just as frustrated with him as I did everyone else. But I hung on and kept reading because the writing was good and I thought for sure there had to be more to the book than just a soccer obsessed town and a sullen twenty-something boy.
And I’m so happy I did hang on because at a certain point everything starts falling into place. The spider-web that connects this town starts lining up. Sure it all spirals out of soccer but soccer is just the catalyst. It brings everyone together. San Bendetteo used to be a huge tourist hot spot but times have changed and the local economy has suffered. This makes the people of the town feel lost. I think Pasulka could have written this book about any member(s) of the town and it would have been just as compelling. They’re all going through there own stuff and as you get to know them better you become more and more curious about their stories as well. They go from one dimensional to stealing the show.
Be that as it may, this particular story is about Etto and his father. They are both reeling from the death of Etto’s twin brother (the soccer star of the family) and the suicide of their mother/wife a year later. It’s clear they are both grieving and end up growing more and more distant as they try and deal with it. I had a hard time with Etto’s father. I understood he was in mourning but he was the parent and I thought he was overly harsh with his son. As I mentioned before I also had a bit of a hard time with Etto but I think you’re supposed to at first. He really grows throughout the story – through his secret soccer matches with Urkanian superstar Yuri Fil, to his falling for Zhuki, to his art - he learns a lot about himself and his place in the world throughout the course of the book. He went from being someone who annoyed me to someone I respected.
The Sun and Other Stars may be a difficult sell to non-soccer fans but I think everyone – no matter what your sport -will fall in love with San Bandetteo and the people with in it. It’s a story about community, grief, fathers, sons and finding your place in the world. Despite my initial reservations, I found it quite heart warming and closed the book thoroughly satisfied with the way things turned out. Recommended to fans of Italy, soccer, and coming-of-age stories....more