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.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Review: The Queen of Bright and Shiny Things by Ann Aguirre

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Pages: 328
Received: Received a copy from Raincoast Books in exchange for an honest review

Release Date: April 7, 2015
Buy From Chapters.ca / Buy From BookDepository.com

Goodreads Synopsis:

Sage Czinski is trying really hard to be perfect. If she manages it, people won’t peer beyond the surface, or ask hard questions about her past. She’s learned to substitute causes for relationships, and it’s working just fine… until Shane Cavendish strolls into her math class. He’s a little antisocial, a lot beautiful, and everything she never knew she always wanted.

Shane Cavendish just wants to be left alone to play guitar and work on his music. He’s got heartbreak and loneliness in his rearview mirror, and this new school represents his last chance. He doesn’t expect to be happy; he only wants to graduate and move on. He never counted on a girl like Sage.

But love doesn’t mend all broken things, and sometimes life has to fall apart before it can be put back together again…

My Review:

This book has a perfect title, The Queen of Bright and Shiny Things... Sage is trying to be perfect, and yet keep her head down so that no one really looks deep into her life and find out who she really is. What I thought was adorable was how Sage trying to keep people out of her life is the one that wants to make sure everyone else around her is happy. She is always posting notes to people's lockers when she sees them having a bad day and trying to give them a pick-me-up, it's absolutely adorable to see someone wanting others to be happy.

When new student Shane Cavendish arrives at school, Sage wants to learn more about this quiet boy and her life begins to change. Sage begins to be more social and she brings Shane out of his shell as well as coming out of her own. Shane never expected to find someone like Sage, someone who wants to help everyone around her, and doesn't truly think of how things could go wrong. I really loved Sage, she tries so hard to keep up appearances and she just wants to be the best version of herself so that her old self doesn't come out.

As Sage starts to make some new friends, she also starts to learn more about herself and how she isn't afraid to stand up for those she loves no matter what is costs her. It is amazing seeing how her relationship with Shane grows, but throughout the entire thing you know she is hiding something, and when someone starts digging into her past, she tries even harder to hide it. What I loved was that when the truth did come out, I really felt for Sage and it was amazing to see people rally around her when she thought that no one really knew her that well.

This book was adorable and I loved everything that kept this story going. Sage is such a strong character, and even though she has something that brings her down a little, she fights her way back up and it makes her that much stronger.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Review: The Fall by Bethany Griffin

Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Pages: 420
Received: Received a copy from HarperCollins Canada in exchange for an honest review

Release Date: October 7, 2014
Buy From Chapters.ca / Buy From BookDepository.com

Goodreads Synopsis:

Madeline Usher is doomed.

She has spent her life fighting fate, and she thought she was succeeding. Until she woke up in a coffin.

Ushers die young. Ushers are cursed. Ushers can never leave their house, a house that haunts and is haunted, a house that almost seems to have a mind of its own. Madeline’s life—revealed through short bursts of memory—has hinged around her desperate plan to escape, to save herself and her brother. Her only chance lies in destroying the house.

In the end, can Madeline keep her own sanity and bring the house down? The Fall is a literary psychological thriller, reimagining Edgar Allan Poe’s classic The Fall of the House of Usher.

My Review:

Bethany Griffin knows how to write a creepy book and her readers are always ready for something to come jumping out. I haven't read much of Edgar Allan Poe's work, but I know of this story and I think Griffin did an amazing job re-imagining it for a younger generation. This book was hard to put down as I got to know more about Madeline and her interesting predicament.

The cover of this book really portrays the idea of the book perfectly, it is so creepy and you can see how there is something wrong with Madeline. This is definitely a creepy book, and I really loved seeing Madeline's relationships with everyone and how they affect her life. Madeline is determined to do what she can to save herself and her brother, she must bring down the house somehow.

The one thing that was really confusing about this book was how the story follows Madeline around, yet the way it is written is in a non-linear way. We see Madeline at many different ages but the story jumps around a lot so that you can truly understand how everything has changed for Madeline and her brother. I really enjoyed the relationship between Madeline and her brother and you see how as these two grow up they drift apart in ways, especially when her brother leaves, he starts to see things differently.

I found myself getting creeped out many times while reading this and I loved every minute of it because even though parts made me want to stop reading I just couldn't. Bethany Griffin does a great job bringing these old stories to life for new readers and will hopefully get them into reading the originals as well. I hope Bethany keeps up with these stories!

Monday, June 1, 2015

Review: I'll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios

Publisher: Henry Holt & Co.
Pages: 379
Received: Received a copy from Raincoast Books in exchange for an honest review

Release Date: February 3, 2015
Buy From Chapters.ca / Buy From BookDepository.com

Goodreads Synopsis:

If seventeen-year-old Skylar Evans were a typical Creek View girl, her future would involve a double-wide trailer, a baby on her hip, and the graveyard shift at Taco Bell. But after graduation, the only thing standing between straightedge Skylar and art school are three minimum-wage months of summer. Skylar can taste the freedom—that is, until her mother loses her job and everything starts coming apart. Torn between her dreams and the people she loves, Skylar realizes everything she’s ever worked for is on the line.

Nineteen-year-old Josh Mitchell had a different ticket out of Creek View: the Marines. But after his leg is blown off in Afghanistan, he returns home, a shell of the cocksure boy he used to be. What brings Skylar and Josh together is working at the Paradise—a quirky motel off California’s dusty Highway 99. Despite their differences, their shared isolation turns into an unexpected friendship and soon, something deeper.

My Review:

Okay, I have to completely admit that I didn't read much about this book before I read it, I totally judged my thoughts on it by the cover... and I went into it thinking this was going to have a bit of a creepy theme to it..... Yeah, I was really wrong on that front, but despite that error, I enjoyed what I got out of it and am glad that I got the wrong impression from the cover. I am still slowly working my way into contemporaries and I still hesitate on reading too many of them, but this one was a really cute read.

Skylar is different from everyone else in her town, she knows she wants to get out and not have to end up living in a trailer park like those around her, she has a plan and she is determined not to let anything get in her way. She just wants to get through the summer, working her job and save up money to get out and afford to go to school. When everything starts to fall apart at home, Skylar begins to question if she really should leave everyone.

Then there is Josh Mitchell who found his way out of town through the Marines, and ends up having an accident and now seems to be stuck back in Creek View. Josh coming back from the Marines truly changes Skylar's life, he shows Skylar a way of letting loose and just having some fun. What I love about their time together is how he helps her think more about herself and just forget about everything else weighing down on her.

I really liked Skylar's character in a lot of ways, she is someone that tries to put herself first but in the worst situation she thinks about everyone else around her. She needs to be the one taking care of people and she lets that get in the way of what she needs for herself sometimes. Everything about bringing these two characters together was adorable, they are both very broken and as they grow together, they each help the other in so many ways.

As disappointed as I was to find out this wasn't the type of book I thought it was, this book truly turned into a book I quickly fell in love with and I just wanted more to see where their lives would take them.I found this an adorable and at times quirky book.


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