Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Review: One More Thing by B.J. Novak

Publisher: Knopf
Pages: 288
Received: Received a copy from Random House of Canada in exchange for an honest review

Release Date: February 4, 2014
Buy From Chapters.ca / Buy From BookDepository.com

Goodreads Synopsis:

B.J. Novak's One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories is an endlessly entertaining, surprisingly sensitive, and startlingly original debut collection that signals the arrival of a welcome new voice in American fiction.

Across a dazzling range of subjects, themes, tones, and narrative voices, Novak's assured prose and expansive imagination introduce readers to people, places, and premises that are hilarious, insightful, provocative, and moving-often at the same time.

In One More Thing, a boy wins a $100,000 prize in a box of Frosted Flakes - only to discover that claiming the winnings may unravel his family. A woman sets out to seduce motivational speaker Tony Robbins - turning for help to the famed motivator himself. A school principal unveils a bold plan to permanently abolish arithmetic. An acclaimed ambulance driver seeks the courage to follow his heart and throw it all away to be a singer-songwriter. Author John Grisham contemplates a monumental typo. A new arrival in heaven, overwhelmed by infinite options, procrastinates over his long-ago promise to visit his grandmother. We meet a vengeance-minded hare, obsessed with scoring a rematch against the tortoise who ruined his life; and post-college friends who debate how to stage an intervention in the era of Facebook. We learn why wearing a red t-shirt every day is the key to finding love; how February got its name; and why the stock market is sometimes just... down.

Finding inspiration in questions from the nature of perfection to the icing on carrot cake, from the deeply familiar to the intoxicatingly imaginative, One More Thing finds its heart in the most human of phenomena: love, fear, family, ambition, and the inner stirring for the one elusive element that might make a person complete. The stories in this collection are like nothing else, but they have one thing in common: they share the playful humor, deep heart, inquisitive mind, and altogether electrifying spirit of a writer with a fierce devotion to the entertainment of the reader.

My Review:

So it has taken me a long time to get into short stories, I've never been one for short stories because I always felt that there wasn't enough to keep me interested, or that by the time I got interested it ended. But so many people have talked about this book and even other short stories that I thought I needed to give it a try, and I can say I was hooked.

Some of these stories were very intriguing and truly left me thinking about how well something can be achieved in such a short amount of words. The way B.J. Novak introduces readers to so many characters and ideas in different stories truly awed me. It is even hard for me to sit here and name off which stories were my favourites because there were so many that kept me thinking long after I read them, though I can say that one that has still stuck with me long after I read it was "No One Goes to Heaven to See Dan Fogelberg". This story just shows how easy it can be to let things slide when you think you have all the time in the world.

I do admit there were some stories that I read quickly and as soon as I went on to another one, I forgot about what I just read, though it did not happen often. B.J. Novak truly brings out stories that are moving and humorous and quite insightful at the same time. I truly see a different side of the actor B.J. Novak in his writing with these stories, and I hope to see more because this book truly helped bring me into reading more short stories. There are some great things that leave more to the mind and readers can draw their own conclusions as to what happens long after the story has ended.

Each of the stories in this collection bring out essential components of life... family, friends, fear, love, companionship and everything that makes us who we are as a person. These are stories that everyone should take a chance to read, even those stories that may not necessarily mean a lot, they will still have an impact. I am glad I got the chance to finally read this after putting it off for so long. For readers that are not fans of short stories I believe that this book can change your mind.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Review: Gwendolen by Diana Souhami

Publisher: Holt Paperbacks
Pages: 336
Received: Received a copy from the publisher through Netgalley

Release Date: March 3, 2015

Goodreads Synopsis:

Gwendolen, an exceptionally beautiful, young upper-class Englishwoman, is gambling boldly at a German resort (winning big, then losing just as soundly) when she learns from her twice-widowed mother that their fortune has been lost. The eldest in a family of sisters, Gwendolen is now responsible for all of them, and, though a fine archer and rider, she has little more than her good looks to offer. When an extraordinarily wealthy aristocrat proposes marriage, she accepts, despite her discovery of an alarming secret about his past.

This novel is Gwendolen's passionate later-life letter to the man she did not marry, and reveals what happened across the brutal and transformative years of her early twenties. That she is also the heroine of George Eliot's novel Daniel Deronda (and is writing to Deronda) will intrigue and delight legions of Eliot fans, but debut novelist Diana Souhami has brilliantly and movingly breathed fresh life into a classic in ways that will appeal to readers entirely unfamiliar with Eliot's fictions.

My Review:

This is a bit of a difficult book to review, I got through it very quickly but I am still unsure of my true feelings about what happened. I found at times I was losing interest in the characters and I just found that despite this being a quick read it was easy to lose my place and forget what had happened earlier on. The thing that had caught my attention was that Diana was bringing back to life characters from George Eliot's Daniel Deroda, and it was what made me want to read this book, but I think I need to know a bit more about that novel to really like this story.

Gwendolen was a character that I just could not connect with at all and I just did not like, I just felt that the way she was portrayed was not in the best light at all. Even though Gwendolen has fallen in love with someone else she marries a rich man to help keep her family afloat, that one thing is what is good about Gwendolen. Throughout the story she seems to look back on her mistakes and you see many of her regrets. The worst part of the story to get through was the interactions between Gwendolen and her husband Grandcourt.

Grandcourt has so many secrets that are hidden until Gwendolen actually arrives into the house and she learns that not everything is as it seems. Grandcourt seems to be sweet as he is courting Gwendolen and then learns that it is an act to get what he wants and from there he becomes a tyrant and Gwendolen is scared to be in her own home. Everything about how Grandcourt treated her was hard to read about, and it actually made me want to stop reading. Most of the novel is Gwendolen writing to Daniel and telling her about these brutal years of her life.

She does grow a bit over the course of the novel and learns how to take care of herself and not have to be dependent on others, that was one thing that I did enjoy... by the end of the novel Gwen had taken it upon herself to get out of a disaster of a marriage. This book sadly did not end up being one for me and it is one I sadly can't recommend to people, it just was not a book that catches attention easily.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Review: Dream A Little Dream by Kerstin Gier

Publisher: Henry Holt & Co.
Series: The Silver Trilogy #1
Pages: 336
Received: Received a copy from Raincoast Books in exchange for an honest review

Release Date: April 14, 2015
Buy From Chapters.ca / Buy From BookDepository.com

Goodreads Synopsis:

Mysterious doors with lizard-head knobs. Talking stone statues. A crazy girl with a hatchet. Yes, Liv's dreams have been pretty weird lately. Especially the one where she's in a graveyard at night, watching four boys conduct dark magic rituals.

The strangest part is that Liv recognizes the boys in her dream. They're classmates from her new school in London, the school where she's starting over because her mom has moved them to a new country (again). But what's really scaring Liv is that the dream boys seem to know things about her in real life, things they couldn't possibly know--unless they actually are in her dreams? Luckily, Liv never could resist a good mystery, and all four of those boys are pretty cute....

My Review:

I love the cover of this book, it really drew me into the book at first, and this was definitely an interesting story. I'm not sure where Gier was going at times but when things started to really happen, I was hooked by the characters, though I will say at times they did annoy me as well.

Liv has always had some weird dreams and now they are beginning to blend into her real life as well, her family has just moved to a new country, and she is trying to start over but it is hard when she recognizes people at school from her dreams. Liv loves mysteries and this one is the best mystery she can try to solve. The scary thing is how these guys from her dreams know what she is dreaming when she meets them in real life, and that is what makes her wonder if there is more going on in her life.

I really think Liv has a great sarcastic humour and she knows when and how to really use it. The other thing that is amazing about Liv is her relationship with her sister, they have been there for one another through a lot of tough times, and many moves and you can see that in their interactions. I kind of wish her sister showed up a little more as the story went on, but I do understand it is more about Liv and the group of guys she befriends.

Now for me, I was confused by these four guys, they just kind of all of a sudden appeared and it took me some time to really understand how Liv was connected to everything that was happening. There is still a lot to learn about the boys, they are a very close knit group but some of them are just side characters and don't seem to add too much to the story. The idea that these characters can speak to each other and meet up in their dreams really intrigued me, they get to know one another in a more intimate way in this book and it connects them a lot quicker than most people.

I think that the world that Gier has created still needs to be explained more as to how everything came to be, and I am definitely intrigued to see what will happen following the ending events of this book. It seems almost like this book could stand alone, though I think there is more mystery to come from these characters.
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