Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Review: NIL by Lynne Matson

Publisher: Henry Holt 
Pages: 384
Received: Received an e-copy from Raincoast Books in exchange for an honest review

Release Date: March 4, 2014
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Goodreads Synopsis:

On the mysterious island of Nil, the rules are set. You have one year. Exactly 365 days--to escape, or you die.

Seventeen-year-old Charley doesn’t know the rules. She doesn’t even know where she is. The last thing she remembers is blacking out, and when she wakes up, she’s lying naked in an empty rock field.

Lost and alone, Charley finds no sign of other people until she meets Thad, the gorgeous leader of a clan of teenage refugees. Soon Charley learns that leaving the island is harder than she thought . . . and so is falling in love. With Thad’s time running out, Charley realizes that to save their future, Charley must first save him. And on an island rife with dangers, their greatest threat is time.

My Review:

What an interesting concept this book had, I really loved the idea of teens being stuck on an island and only have so much time to escape before they die. I think Lynne had a great idea, but the whole concept was not brought out as well as I thought in the story. As much as there were great things about the story, I felt like the romance story took precedent and it wasn't what I was looking for from this book.

I liked the idea that none of the people on the island truly understand what is happening, and that Matson makes the island a character itself. Many characters refer to the island as a person, commenting on how NIL will throw anything at those staying, making it seem like a game. It's great that a happy moment can be so easily ruined, you can see that whoever is in charge plays with the characters emotions, showing them that nothing is for certain. This idea really makes the book creepy, with readers never really knowing what could happen next.

For me the biggest problem I had, was the way the romance was portrayed between Charley and Thad. I just felt like that's what the story revolved around once they met, instead of actually figuring out the island and how to beat this "game". It seems like right away these two are meant for each other, even though they know nothing about the other person, and I can see how in a way it added to the story, but I personally felt like this aspect took away from the overall feeling of how scary this island is.

I did think that Charley's character was great, she is a fighter and she learns a lot about herself while on NIL. She has this strength of fighting to stay alive in the worst conditions and she gets through some tough situations with her determination to get out of this place. I think that she is the only true one who had the determination to try and figure out the puzzle of the island, whereas the others that she meets just seem to go along with what is happening.

There were a lot of enjoyable parts of this novel for me, but in the end I just could not connect. I felt that what the story was supposed to be about just fell under the radar for another book about two people meeting and falling in love through some dire circumstances. I was enjoying the story at times but I wanted more of the island and what the point behind it was, I think the story needed to delve deeper into that. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Review: A Burnable Book by Bruce Holsinger

Publisher: William Morrow and Company
Pages: 444
Received: Received a copy from HarperCollins Canada in exchange for an honest review

Release Date: February 18, 2014
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Goodreads Synopsis:

In Chaucer’s London, betrayal, murder and intrigue swirl around the existence of a prophetic book that foretells the deaths of England’s kings.A Burnable Book is an irresistible thriller, reminiscent of classics like An Instance of the FingerpostThe Name of the Rose and The Crimson Petal and the White.

London, 1385. Surrounded by ruthless courtiers—including his powerful uncle, John of Gaunt, and Gaunt’s flamboyant mistress, Katherine Swynford—England’s young, still untested king, Richard II, is in mortal peril, and the danger is only beginning. Songs are heard across London—catchy verses said to originate from an ancient book that prophesies the end of England’s kings—and among the book’s predictions is Richard’s assassination. Only a few powerful men know that the cryptic lines derive from a “burnable book,” a seditious work that threatens the stability of the realm. To find the manuscript, wily bureaucrat Geoffrey Chaucer turns to fellow poet John Gower, a professional trader in information with connections high and low.

Gower discovers that the book and incriminating evidence about its author have fallen into the unwitting hands of innocents, who will be drawn into a labyrinthine conspiracy that reaches from the king’s court to London’s slums and stews--and potentially implicates his own son. As the intrigue deepens, it becomes clear that Gower, a man with secrets of his own, may be the last hope to save a king from a terrible fate.

Medieval scholar Bruce Holsinger draws on his vast knowledge of the period to add colorful, authentic detail—on everything from poetry and bookbinding to court intrigues and brothels—to this highly entertaining and brilliantly constructed epic literary mystery that brings medieval England gloriously to life.

My Review:

This book was an intense read, I was intrigued by the idea of one simple book being the cause of so much destruction. This one inanimate objects bring so many people together from so many different areas is amazing. This book causes so much trouble, and it's not completely understood what it is or where it came from. The story is a race to find this book before it causes more trouble.

There is a large cast of characters in this book, that in a way are all connected through this mysterious book. I enjoyed the setting and seeing the book move around and how it affects those who have come into contact with it. This book that everyone is looking for tells of prophecies that detail the deaths of past kings, as well as discusses how the current king will die. It is seen as treasonous and if it got into the wrong hands could be fatal. I thought this book was a great read, it was mysterious with some great scenes that keep you wanting to know more about how things came about.

Most of the novel is told from the point of view of John Gower, a friend of Geoffrey Chaucer who is asked to find this offensive book. Gower is the perfect person for this job because of his connections with people, he calls in many favors from some of these people and the outcome is surprising at times. Gower has his own secrets that are slowly revealed, but he is someone who tries to keep those secrets hidden. Gower knows that people are most susceptible when their secrets are known, and that is how he is able to get people to help him throughout the book.

Interspersed throughout the story is a letter, that at first is confusing to the reader and as the story comes to an end, connects everything together bringing out a surprising turn of events. I really loved how Holsinger brought out this story, really stringing things along that makes you want to keep reading to understand the mystery. I enjoyed the thrilling adventure in this book and I definitely want to read more from Holsinger if all his books are like this. 

Friday, April 11, 2014

Review: Falling Out of Time by David Grossman

Publisher: Knopf
Pages: 208
Received: Received a copy from Random House of Canada in exchange for an honest review

Release Date: March 25, 2014
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Goodreads Synopsis:

Following his magisterial To the End of the Land, the universally acclaimed Israeli author brings us an incandescent fable of parental grief––concise, elemental, a powerfully distilled experience of understanding and acceptance, and of art’s triumph over death.

In Falling Out of Time, David Grossman has created a genre-defying drama––part play, part prose, pure poetry––to tell the story of bereaved parents setting out to reach their lost children. It begins in a small village, in a kitchen, where a man announces to his wife that he is leaving, embarking on a journey in search of their dead son. The man––called simply Walking Man––paces in ever-widening circles around the town. One after another, all manner of townsfolk fall into step with him (the Net-Mender, the Midwife, the Elderly Math Teacher, even the Duke), each enduring his or her own loss. The walkers raise questions of grief and bereavement: Can death be overcome by an intensity of speech or memory? Is it possible, even for a fleeting moment, to call to the dead and free them from their death? Grossman’s answer to such questions is a hymn to these characters, who ultimately find solace and hope in their communal act of breaching death’s hermetic separateness. For the reader, the solace is in their clamorous vitality, and in the gift of Grossman’s storytelling––a realm where loss is not merely an absence but a life force of its own.

My Review:

I chose this book to read because I wanted to try something new and out of my comfort zone, and the synopsis of this book really had me interested. I have to say that the time that I chose this book was a very difficult time for me, I had just lost my grandmother and I think reading a book about death and bereavement helped me in a way. Though what the characters in this book were going through was different, it still really speaks to readers about how hard loss is.

This book is a short and can be a quick read, but I think it is the type of book that you really need to spend a lot of time going over. It makes you think and if you don't pay attention, you could get lost as to what is happening with the characters. I think that the story being written in a poetic verse added to the story, in a way the grief of these characters came out more in the writing. Each person walking in these circles is calling out to their lost one hoping for one last fleeting moment, for just a little bit of solace. I'm not completely sure how to  review this book, it's not a story for everyone (I was ready to give up once or twice) but I found myself seeing what these people were going through, and almost hoping for something to come out of what they were doing.

I can say I am glad I tried to get out of my comfort zone for once with this book. It is a story that will touch readers, and I do want to go back to it again because I believe I will find more to the story during a second and even third reading of it. I found this book interesting, even though it was difficult to understand what was happening at times. 
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