I gave it a fair shot. I was listening to the audio and was about 4 hours in. That's just over a third.I 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. ...more
The Red Phone Box story cycle is one of the most imaginative and unique stories I have read in aThis 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....more
Lauren Oliver wrote a great review of this book for the New York Times and in it she talks a bit about dualitOriginally posted at More Than Just Magic
Lauren Oliver wrote a great review of this book for the New York Times and in it she talks a bit about duality and dichotomies. Jude and Noah often feel like one half of the same whole and much of their life is overlapping. They both crave their mother’s attention. They’re both applying to the same art school etc etc. And they start their story seeing the world as something that can be easily split up – in more ways than one. Things can be divided into good and bad, but they can also be divided into Jude’s and Noah’s. The format/style of the book is a manifestation of those same themes.
I will admit however, that in the early stages of the story, I did struggle with Jude’s chapters. Her chapters take place “after” the accident that drove them apart and for the first little while there wasn’t a lot of energy behind them. Everything was reflection and vague references to what had happened. It wasn’t until she met Guillermo that things started to take off for her character.
Jude and Noah’s relationship felt incredibly honest all throughout this book, especially since it went through so many ups and downs. I think having a sibling is a bit of a double edge sword and Jude and Noah are the perfect reflection of that. No one understand Noah and Jude like they understand one another. But that also means that they can hurt each other like no one else can. But it also means they can feel incredibly close and then miles apart at the drop of the hat. Which definitely describes the relationship most people I know have with their siblings.
I think it’s easy to identify with Noah right from the start of the novel because he’s different and doesn’t fit in as easily as his sister does. A lot of people can relate to that. Which is why when he meets Brian it’s like his whole world shifts, because here’s someone he doesn’t have to pretend around, someone he can be his full self around. And not only is that other person okay with that, they want it that way. It doesn’t matter if you’re gay or straight, I think many of us can relate to that search for someone who understands you (romantically or platonically).
I also really liked that, while Noah did struggle with his sexual identity and did come out in the course of this book, that’s not what it was about. It’s more about how that aspect fits into everything else going on in his life. I think it makes Noah a much more complex character, because instead of all his emotions and drive funnelling into coming out, he’s also got to try and balance it with family drama, grief, school work etc. And that makes for a more realistic character.
I have never been a (visual) artist. Believe me I have tried. I took painting classes and pottery classes and have tried every craft imaginable. I’m not bad at knitting but I can’t do anything more than the basics. But the point is I have always wanted to be good at art and I think I keep trying everything because one day I’m hoping to stumble across a medium that works really well for me.
So I really liked that Nelson presented two different artistically inclined people with two very different approaches to their art. And that their art doesn’t always come easy to them. I think sometimes we have this glamorous idea of the artist being inspired and everything else just comes so naturally. But with Jude and Noah their art was often something that caused them a great deal of suffering.
If I take a step back from this book the reliance on destiny/coincidences can almost seem like a bit too much. But when you’re in the book you want to believe. You want to believe that things will happen for a reason and that people will find their way back to one another....more
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....more
Half Blood Blues is a heart wrenching story of survival, betrayal and how the choices we makThis review originally posted at Christa's Hooked on Books
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. ...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 f 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...more
The Valley of Amazement is the story of Violet Minturn, a half Chinese, half American girl livingThis 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....more
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....more
Every so often a book comes along that is so amazing that you want walk around thrusting itThis review originally posted at Christa's Hooked on Books
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....more
The more I read this series the more I love Alma Katsu’s writing. She is a mystery/paranormal/historical fictionOriginally 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....more
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is the story of two unique, but totallyThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is the story of two unique, but totally relatable boys. Ari. A quiet, average Mexican-American boy. His older brother is in jail and he feels the weight of the pressure from his parents to be a “good boy.” He’s reserved and isn’t a big sharer. Except when it comes to his best friend, Dante. Dante on the other hand is full of life and full of questions. Always asking why and trying to learn everything he can. Fiercely loyal and guided by his emotions. You wouldn’t think they would be friends. But they compliment each other so well!
This is a fantastic book about the power of friendship. Both boys challenge each other. Because they have different personalities and home lives they force each other to look at the world in different ways and take risks they otherwise wouldn’t. And I really appreciated that it wasn’t always easy to be friends with one another. Every friendship is going to have its ups and downs no matter how close you are. Ari and Dante have to work at maintaining their friendship but in the end I think it’s worth it. They end up better people – and better friends – on the other side.
It’s not just the friendship that makes this story special, but the role of family as well. Both Ari and Dante have strong relationships with both of their parents – though very distinctive relationships. I really liked that you could feel the love in both households. So many YA books have absent parents or neglectful parents so it was nice to see more positive familial relationships. And it was nice to see different representations of how families might interact with one another (Dante’s more affection family vs Ari’s more quiet household).
Esentially this book is about two boys in that time of life between being children and men. They’re having a bit of identity crisis, gaining more responsibility as the book goes on, but not always able to cope effectively with these changes. A lot of this books raises questions of identity. Their age. Their sexual orientation. Their ethnicity. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is a story of coming to terms with yourself and embracing love in all its forms. It’s an absolutely beautiful book with simple but touching prose. If you’re like me and you like to mark/sticky note your favourite passages make sure you have lots of Post-Its ready when you start reading. Some noteable examples:
“Words were different when they lived inside of you.”
“Another secret of the universe: Sometimes pain was like a storm that came out of nowhere. The clearest summer could end in a downpour. Could end in lightning and thunder.”
“And it seemed to me that Dante’s face was a map of the world. A world without any darkness.”
Recommendation: I highly recommend this book to all readers. Young and old alike. Beautiful prose, fantastic characters, universal themes. What’s not to love?...more
I am so tired of hearing books compared to Gone Girl. Seriously. It’s getting to the point that aThis 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....more
The Dark Days Club transports the reader back to an alternative version of 18th Century London, where we’re introduced to a young girl named Lady HeleThe Dark Days Club transports the reader back to an alternative version of 18th Century London, where we’re introduced to a young girl named Lady Helen Wrexhall. Lady Helen, like every other girl her age, is getting ready to make her début into society. Things are going rather well until one of her housemaids disappears and she finds herself pulled into a shadowy level of society she never knew existed. A world full of secrets, demons, and dark magic. Under the guidance of the mysterious Lord Carlston, she must decide whether to continue on with the life she had planned or fight the demons and embrace her family’s legacy.
The Martian is one of those books that once you get into it it is impossible to put it down. EverThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
The Martian is one of those books that once you get into it it is impossible to put it down. Everything else will seem less important than this question – “What is going to happen to Mark Watney?”
It is one intense read. Mark Watney has been (accidentally) left behind on Mars. The very first line of the book is “I’m pretty much fucked” and I can’t imagine a more accurate description of his situation. But despite the initial hopelessness of his situation Mark Watney keeps fighting to survive, keeps fighting to beat the odds. Watney was the ship’s botanist and engineer and those skills come in handy. He’s quite clever and he’s able to employ quite a bit of “back of the napkin” math to solve problems I couldn’t even begin to process. And every time I let your guard down even a little bit and allowed myself to believe he might make it, Mars would throw a new curve ball his way.
Part of the reason why you become so obsessed with what happens to this poor astronaut is Mark Watney himself. Personally, if I was stuck on Mars, I would probably curl up into a ball and cry my eyes out. But Mark Watney rises to the occasion. It’s impossible not to cheer for him. He’s clever – able to think up bizarre solutions to even the most intense problems. Think of him as a kind of space MacGyver. But he also has a great sense of humour. He is able to make jokes about his situation as easily as he makes them about his colleagues’ taste in music and television. The Martian is not the story of any old astronaut in space, it is Watney’s story and he is a very likeable guy.
Also it needs to be stated that I am not a science person. Not in the slightest. I even worked the system in high school so I could sub out Grade 11 science for “Hospitality” because it technically counts as a technology credit. My point is that I could have cared less about physics, biology and most of all chemistry. But The Martian made me care. There is a lot of science in this book – from rocket science to growing potatoes on Mars – but it was presented clearly and made me want to learn more. If there had been books like this on my shelf in high school I probably would have stayed in science.
The Martian is easily one of the best books I’ve read this year. Andy Weir has clearly done his research. Even though we haven’t reached this level of space exploration it seemed completely plausible. And he balances all this detail with so many twists and turns it will keep your heart racing. “Suspenseful” doesn’t even begin to describe it. ...more
Days that End in Y is technically the third book in a series, chronicling the experiences of oneThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
Days that End in Y is technically the third book in a series, chronicling the experiences of one girl, Clarissa. I haven’t read the other two books in the series. It’s not necessary to understand what’s going on in this book. BUT if you’re anything like me, you’re going to love these characters so much. And you will want to read the whole series in order to have more time with them.
More than anything I loved the way this novel explored the relationship between Clarissa and her parents. For most of her life it has just been Clarissa and her mom. They are quite close and it was nice to see a fictional parent so actively involved in the life of their child. But I also liked that they didn’t have a perfect wonderful relationship the whole time (because let’s face it – that’s not realistic either and perfect can be boring to read about). There is some very real strain put on their home life, when her mother’s fiance moves in with them. I think that Vikki VanSickle did a great job showing how that transition would be difficult, even if you like the person moving in with you.
Clarissa also faces an interesting situation when she decides to seek out her father for the first time in her life. I think this is where I related to Clarissa the most. And I think a lot of kids will too. An absentee parent – or a parent that isn’t around quite as often – is sadly a pretty common situation these days. And it leaves kids with a lot of questions. I think Clarissa’s mother should have been more upfront about the situation but again Vikki did a great job showing how a family would handle this kind of problem. The whole thing felt very realistic.
Since this is YA Pride, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Benji. Benji isn’t present “on page” for a lot of this book, but never the less you can tell how important he is to Clarissa. Clarissa and Benji are both at an age where they’re starting to figure things out about themselves. And for Benji that means coming out. His fear and apprehension about finally saying it out loud was touching and made me want to find him and sit with him and tell him everything was going to be fine.
Recommendation: Days That End in Y deals with a lot of sensitive topics but it does so honestly. It treats these topics seriously, but it’s also a funny book and a really enjoyable read. Clarissa and Benji are fabulous characters, the setting is relatable. All around a highly recommended middle grade story!...more
I would like to consider myself a superhero fan. Comic books make up part of my weekly – if not dThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
I would like to consider myself a superhero fan. Comic books make up part of my weekly – if not daily – reading. And I love that we’re starting to see more superhero fiction. Which is why I jumped at the chance to read Dangerous by Shannon Hale.
I was initially pulled in by the fast pace of the book. The story starts right away and it is non-stop action the whole time. From Maisie’s arrival at space camp, to the space elevator, to the alien tokens and beyond, you’ll feel like you’re reading Dangerous at a run. I also loved all the science. I always wanted to go to space camp as a kid, so I felt like I was getting to live vicariously through Maisie and her friends. Hale doesn’t skimp on the details, she gives you the full experience. And even after they leave space camp the crazy inventions and technology keep coming. I felt a bit like a kid in a futuristic candy store.
One more thing that you may not know about Maisie “Danger” Brown – she only has one arm. You don’t see a lot of characters with disabilities in YA so it’s great to see some diversity added to the landscape. I appreciated that Hale didn’t portray Maisie as someone less capable because of her disability. She keeps hoping and fighting for her dream. I only wish Hale had kept it for a little bit longer. At a certain point of the story she gains a robotic arm that is so advanced you often forget she was even missing an arm in the first place. There was an opportunity here that Hale didn’t quite grasp.
There were a few other problems I had as the story moved forward as well. The romance felt topsy turvy. Maisie is torn between two guys – her long time best friend (Luther) who she seemed to forget about most of the time, and the new, cool guy (Wilder) she meets at space camp. Her feelings seemed to change in a snap leaving me reeling and confused. I was also not a fan of how Wilder treated her – he would run hot and cold and would often talk to down her because he was the “leader” of their group. I think the whole book would have been better as a straight action story with no romance at all.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this review I am a big comic book fan. And while you think that would be an advantage, I think it ultimately worked against my enjoyment of Dangerous. Everything felt a little too familiar – like the Fantastic Four rolled together with the X-Men. As with every genre there are certain tropes and archetypes and you get tired of seeing them all the time. Dangerous embodied quite of few of these so it might be better for people not so steeped in the Marvel Universe.
Dangerous is a fun book that is not without it’s problems. It’s very different from the kind of books I’m used to to seeing from Shannon Hale and ultimately it fell short of my expectations. However, if you like science fiction but aren’t such an avid superhero fan you may have better luck....more
Where to begin when talking about One Night in Winter? It is a dark and intriguing tale of secretThis 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....more
My full review for Half Bad will be appearing in Volume 3 of Inaccurate Realities but short version is I really enjoyed it. Particularly the way SallyMy full review for Half Bad will be appearing in Volume 3 of Inaccurate Realities but short version is I really enjoyed it. Particularly the way Sally Green examined the idea of nature veruss nurture. Are we born bad? Or does society shape us?...more
Laurie Halse Anderson has a reputation for writing books about tough subjects. And it’s well earnThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
Laurie Halse Anderson has a reputation for writing books about tough subjects. And it’s well earned. Her books have always been raw, emotional and above all honest. The Impossible Knife of Memory is no exception.
This is the story of Hayley Kincaid. A young girl living with her father. Her father, an army veteran, is suffering from pretty severe post-traumatic stress disorder and as a result has a whole host of other problems as well (unemployment, alcoholism etc.) The book explores Hayley’s attempts to balance taking care of her father with having a normal life – high school, friends, boyfriend the whole deal.
I absolutely adored Hayley. She reminded me a lot of the kind of female character Courtney Summers is known for. Complicated, often quite sarcastic and not at all the perfect model of beauty and intelligence that we often see in Young Adult. Hayley is quite intelligent but she hates school, in fact she’s flunking quite a few of her classes. She’s surly and sometimes down right rude. But as you get to know her, you realize that she underneath her defensive barrier she’s actually fiercely loyal and even a little sentimental. She’s a complicated character and because of those complications it feels like she’s a real person. Like someone I would want to get to know if she would let me.
I blogged months ago about Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak, and how it was the book that changed my life. I read Speak back in high school and I found so much of myself within the pages. Now years later, reading The Impossible Knife of Memory I found myself transported right back to how Speak made me feel. I could relate to so much of what Hayley was thinking and the motivation behind her actions. And I don’t think I will be the only one – anyone who has ever lived with someone suffering from not only PTSD, but any sort of addiction is sure to feel a sense of camaraderie with Hayley.
I think Laurie Halse Anderson has conveyed something important here about how hard it is to give up on someone – not because you’re scared, or weak or threatened but because you don’t want to give up on them. Because they’re someone you love and want the best for and you can see how their demons (be they memories from the war, alcoholism, depression or whatever) are tearing them apart from the inside despite their best efforts. But I think that this book also conveys how important it is to ask for help. That no one should have to face this kind of situation alone. I liked how Laurie Halse Anderson developed Hayley’s relationship with Finn, and to a lesser extent her step mother Trish. Originally they were people Hayley tried to push away, but as she grew as a character she learned that it was ok to lean on them when she needed to.
The Impossible Knife of Memory sheds light on the reality that is PTSD and it is important topic to discuss, especially with ongoing conflict in the Middle East. But this novel also touches on family, bravery, love and growing up. There is a dark comedic edge as well that made me smile consistently, despite it’s serious themes. It’s a layered and important novel that will appeal to new and old Laurie Halse Anderson fans alike....more
I am not a werewolf person. Not for any particular reason, I have just found throughout the yearsThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
I am not a werewolf person. Not for any particular reason, I have just found throughout the years that the typical werewolf stories don’t work for me. This is why I never finished the Mercy Falls series beyond Shiver. But Sinner isn’t a typical werewolf story. In fact it’s barely a werewolf story at all. Which is perhaps a big reason why it managed to hook me when so many others have not.
Sinner is a spin off from Maggie Stiefvater’s previously released Mercy Falls series. It tells the story of Cole and Isabel, two secondary characters from the original series. Cole and Isabel are two incredibly damaged individuals. Cole is a recovering addict, former rock star werewolf and Isabel is the child of a broken home, in love with a werewolf and just about as angry as possible all of the time.
Sinner is not a complicated story plot-wise: Rock star-turned-werewolf Cole returns to LA to win back the girl he loves (Isabel) and stage a comeback for his career. But it is an extremely complex story emotionally. Cole and Isabel are such damaged characters. Cole has more demons than you can count and circumstances have made Isabel one of the angriest girls you’ll ever meet. They’ve both lost a piece of themselves and amid the tangle of relationships and fame they are trying to find that piece again. Sinner is a story of their struggle to get back to who they were as much as to get back to one another.
Since they both had a clear story to tell, Stiefvater’s use of dual narratives added depth to the novel. It gives the reader a distinct perspective into both characters. Each had a unique voice and nothing they did felt convenient or calculated, it was simply a natural extension of their character. I found the depiction of Cole as a recovering addict in particular to be very honest. He truly wants to stay on the straight and narrow path but his demons haunt him whenever and wherever he goes. Addiction is not something to be defeated once, it’s something you continually struggle with. What also rang true of his character was that he pinned all his hopes and recovery on Isabel rather than himself – a good way to avoid personal responsibility so you can have someone else to blame when/if it all goes wrong.
As I mentioned before, I wasn’t a big fan of Shiver, but Sinner felt different. It was written in the beautiful and poetic prose that I have come to love in Stiefvater’s newest series, The Raven Boys. She has a way of getting right to the heart of things. Because Cole and Isabel are so troubled once you peel back the surface this is a story with sharp edges and the writing style reflects that.
Whether you’re a Mercy Falls fan or not is irrelevant. Whether you’re a werewolf fan or not is irrelevant. If you like stories about complex individuals with high emotional stakes, Sinner is a must read....more
This is a YA book for YA readers. It takes familiar plot lines and tropes and satirizes them. It’s a book about the background characters. The charactThis is a YA book for YA readers. It takes familiar plot lines and tropes and satirizes them. It’s a book about the background characters. The characters who are just trying to live their life while the “chosen ones” are running around trying to save the world. It’s an interesting premise for a novel, and one that almost works.
If you’ve ever read anything about the gods of Ancient Greece, you know it wasn’t unusual for them to use and abuse humans. Whether they were bored, lIf you’ve ever read anything about the gods of Ancient Greece, you know it wasn’t unusual for them to use and abuse humans. Whether they were bored, looking for a sexual partner or simply trying to prove a point, humans were not much more than playthings. So when André Alexis’s newest novel opens on two gods, in this case Hermes and Apollo, sitting in a (human) bar trying to settle a bet, it’s not particularly groundbreaking. What makes this story unique, however, is that they don’t use humans to settle their dispute. Instead they use dogs.
The Accident Season is a beautifully atmospheric novel. Fowley-Doyle writes in a enchanting yet haunting style, which has an almost hypnotizing effectThe Accident Season is a beautifully atmospheric novel. Fowley-Doyle writes in a enchanting yet haunting style, which has an almost hypnotizing effect. The novel can be best described as magical realism with a touch of paranormal, so this borderline poetic style suits the story perfectly as it is also enchanting yet haunting. The question of what causes the accident season hangs overhead throughout and is compliment by other, equally puzzling questions, like why Cara’s is childhood friend Elsie in every one of her pictures? And why has no one seemed to notice that she isn’t around anymore?