29 February 2016

Review: Room

Reviewer: Kelsey
Author: Emma Donoghue
Format: Paperback
Pages: 321
Rating: 8 out of 10

Summary (Couldn't live without Goodreads: To five-year-old Jack, Room is the entire world. It is where he was born and grew up; it's where he lives with his Ma as they learn and read and eat and sleep and play. At night, his Ma shuts him safely in the wardrobe, where he is meant to be asleep when Old Nick visits.

Room is home to Jack, but to Ma, it is the prison where Old Nick has held her captive for seven years. Through determination, ingenuity, and fierce motherly love, Ma has created a life for Jack. But she knows it's not enough...not for her or for him. She devises a bold escape plan, one that relies on her young son's bravery and a lot of luck. What she does not realize is just how unprepared she is for the plan to actually work.

Told entirely in the language of the energetic, pragmatic five-year-old Jack, Room is a celebration of resilience and the limitless bond between parent and child, a brilliantly executed novel about what it means to journey from one world to another.

What I Think: I past this book on the shelves many times before I actually got around to buying it but I'm glad I did. It was not exactly how I imagined. There is a lot of focus on what happens after. I wasn't expecting that but, once I read it, it made sense. Of course the transition wouldn't be easy. I just didn't know how upsetting it would be.

It was interesting to get the story from Jack's perspective. Of course, this means that some of the language is a little off (he's a kid, give him a break). Sometimes he would say things that a young child wouldn't know to use and others it would be very childish. However, this can be overlooked due to content. If this had been written from his mother's perspective it would have been a very different book. It might have become almost unreadable for the pain she must have gone through. I'm glad that it was Jack telling the reader what happened, even if I had to work a little harder to understand what he was trying to tell me at some points. Then again, maybe I'm just slow and my reading comprehension was lacking. Either way, I managed to figure everything out.

It is a very sad story and not to be read by the faint of heart. I didn't cry exactly but I was very upset and felt strongly for the characters. This story is, thankfully, just something so outside of my realm of experience that, for a lot of the story, I wasn't sure how to respond. That said, I came to care about the characters and wanted them to end up alright. I equally had to remind myself that it was a made up story while, also, reminding myself that this happens to people more than we like to believe.

I haven't seen the movie but the awards speak for itself. I think that it reflects how good the book really is. I thought that it was outstanding and well written. It doesn't seem like a book that one might reread over and over again, and it wouldn't be because of the depressing content, but it was so good that I just might reread it anyway.

Basically, I've wanted to read this book for a while and I'm glad I did. It's definitely and adult book and be warned that the content can get pretty upsetting at times. It was worth the read though and I'm looking forward to seeing the movie now.

22 February 2016

Review: November 9

Reviewer: Kelsey
Author: Colleen Hoover
Format: ARC, paperback (Which Kristen stole back from me)
Pages: 310
Rating: 7.5 out of 10

Summary (Thank you, Goodreads): Fallon meets Ben, an aspiring novelist, the day before her scheduled cross-country move. Their untimely attraction leads them to spend Fallon’s last day in L.A. together, and her eventful life becomes the creative inspiration Ben has always sought for his novel. Over time and amidst the various relationships and tribulations of their own separate lives, they continue to meet on the same date every year. Until one day Fallon becomes unsure if Ben has been telling her the truth or fabricating a perfect reality for the sake of the ultimate plot twist.

My Thoughts: I almost feel the need to apologize to every Colleen Hoover book because after Maybe Someday they really don't stand a chance. I get so excited about CoHo books that they have to do a lot to make me happy. It's an accident, I swear. 

I thought that this was a very well executed book. I was concerned that the time gaps would make me judge the characters but I really didn't. The idea intrigued me. How would people changed if they only met on day a year. Would they stay close when they were together? This part of the book required a slight suspension of disbelief because I've had friends I could keep in contact move and we weren't able to stay friends. These two must have romanticized the idea of the other so much that they could overlook a lot. That's not to say they didn't have really struggles. The whole point of the story was to see how they overcame their problems (the main one being that they only saw each other once a year). I thought that the book did a great job covering this. 

The first time the two main characters met was pretty weird. It was too much for Kristen. For me, however, it could have been worse, I guess. I guess I overlooked the fast that this situation wouldn't have happened in real or, if it did, he would have met a great deal more resistance. Either way, I was able to look past it because it was a romance novel. You will probably be able to look past it too. 

The problems these two had to overcome fascinated me but the back and forth of "can we be friends?" "yes" "no" "yes" just isn't for me and bothers me in any novel.

Whatever, basically, what I'm saying is that I liked this novel but it still isn't my favourite. I still liked in more than Confess though if that helps you understand the train wreck that is this book review. If you have any specific questions, please ask away!

Note from Kristen: I didn't steal the ARC from Kelsey, it's my ARC okay

19 February 2016

Review: The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë

Reviewer: Kayla
Author: Anne Brontë
Pages: 488
Format: Paperback
My Rating: 8/10

Summary (Goodreads. Da real MVP):

Gilbert Markham is deeply intrigued by Helen Graham, a beautiful and secretive young widow who has moved into nearby Wildfell Hall with her young son. He is quick to offer Helen his friendship, but when her reclusive behavior becomes the subject of local gossip and speculation, Gilbert begins to wonder whether his trust in her has been misplaced. It is only when she allows Gilbert to read her diary that the truth is revealed and the shocking details of her past.

Told with great immediacy, combined with wit and irony, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is a powerfully involving read.

My Thoughts:

"First study, then approve; then love. Let your eyes be blind to all external attractions, your ears deaf to all the fascinations of flattery and light discourse"

I read this novel for my seminar class (and I have to do a seminar presentation on it please help me), but overall I actually enjoyed this book, which I was surprised about.

When I first started it, I got the old school, classic Nicholas Sparks vibe - romance, child in the mix, tragic history, something keeping them apart but they end up getting together anyway, death. You know all that good stuff. The storyline was interesting and I was really intrigued at the glimpse of the Victorian era we get through the characters. The writing was beautiful and I seem to like Anne Brontë's style better than Emily's (only having read Wuthering Heights). I found this novel much easier to follow and less dense. While there were some parts of Wuthering Heights that I enjoyed better than Tenant, I overall enjoyed the experience and writing of Tenant better.

To sum up the book, a woman and her child come to Wildfell Hall, which have the neighbouring residents curious and nosy. Our main fellow, Gilbert Markham, is the less sinister of the bunch, and rather than being suspicious and extremely negative toward the newcomer, he comes to fall deeply in love with her. The middle of the novel embodies Helen's story and how she ended up coming to tenancy of Wildfell. We learn about the injustices that have been against her, as well as her selfish, rude, drunk husband Arthur Huntingdon. We learn of her story, digression, and how she stood up for herself and her son and got out of the situation. I'll leave the ending to your imagination -- or for those of you who want to pick this book up, I will not spoil it.

As a feminist, I read this with a feminist lens and critical point of view. Helen was unlike any of the other female characters in the novel. She was stubborn (in a good way) and held firm in her thoughts, opinions, and beliefs among all things including patriarchy, child-bearing, religion, etc. She was the voice of reason for many characters, as well as a woman who did not deserve any of the misfortunes that befell her (unlike Catherine from W.H but that's another review/discussion in itself). I loved the relationships she made with almost all the characters, (except Arthur, I have some disagreements about that one, especially toward the end of the book) and she stayed true to herself throughout the entirety of the novel. Though she had to drastically change herself in order to fulfill the duties of her newfound roles she has been introduced to, her overall demeanour and character did not change, which I truly admired.

Arthur Huntingdon, while we were supposed to despise, I actually liked as an antagonist. He knew just the right buttons to push and the right things to say to set Helen off. I feel like there is more to his character than just an uncaring drunk who imprisoned his wife and child, as though there is something beneath his tough exterior that made him be this way. I wish we would have gotten a sense of his past, from childhood to adolescence, to see what influenced him to become this sort of monster. If reading a multitude of books has proven anything to me about evil people, is that there is always an underlying cause to their torment and acting out. This may just be the psychoanalyst perspective I'm putting into play here, but this could be interesting for my seminar.

From start to finish, I wasn't entirely sure what to make of Gilbert Markham. He seemed innocent enough, but he does do some things that makes me question his character and the goodness in him (aka he almost killed someone out of jealousy like ok relax). He seemed creepily obsessed with Helen and always asked about her and what she was doing, how she was feeling. I can understand that his being in love with her would make these questions rise, but it got exceedingly annoying and borderline stalkerish. Especially the one of the last scenes (aka where he goes to her house and literally stands there watching it but refuses to go inside?). Either way, he was the best option for Helen in the end, giving her the happy ending she's always wanted and deserved.

Final Thoughts: Overall, I enjoyed this book and can appreciate all opinions of it. I know there is a deeper rooted meaning, symbolism, and analysis to this novel that I am going to have to explore. I feel like if I did not have to pay such close attention, make notes, and think about a seminar presentation while reading this book, I would have given it a five stars. That may not be entirely fair, since I know if I read this for pleasure it would have gotten 5/5, but that's the way the cookie crumbles.

15 February 2016

Review: Just One Day and Just One Year

I'm going to have a two for one special today on review. Let's take a look at the Just One Day series!

Reviewer: Kelsey
Author: Gayle Forman
Format: Paperback
Pages: 369 and 336
Ratings for each 
(Just One Day): 8 out of 10
(Just One Year): 8 out of 10

Summary (For Just One Day): Allyson Healey's life is exactly like her suitcase—packed, planned, ordered. Then on the last day of her three-week post-graduation European tour, she meets Willem. A free-spirited, roving actor, Willem is everything she’s not, and when he invites her to abandon her plans and come to Paris with him, Allyson says yes. This uncharacteristic decision leads to a day of risk and romance, liberation and intimacy: 24 hours that will transform Allyson’s life.

A book about love, heartbreak, travel, identity, and the “accidents” of fate, Just One Day shows us how sometimes in order to get found, you first have to get lost. . . and how often the people we are seeking are much closer than we know.

The first in a sweepingly romantic duet of novels. Willem’s story—Just One Year—is coming soon!

My Thoughts: I absolutely loved this series. I loved being able to travel (in my mind sadly) back to places that I had been in real life (that Europe trip was totally worth it). It was incredible to see those places again but through somebody else's eyes. I was interested in the idea that a girl who never did anything could strike out on her own and do something wild. I was fascinated by Allyson and the interesting people she met along the way.

I was very passionate about Allyson's mother...as in, I really hated Allyson's mother. I didn't think that a book would be able to make my hate anybody or anything as much as this book did. I didn't think that she had any right to treat her daughter the way she did. I actually swore at her out loud (of course, this drew a lot of attention so I really worked hard to repress the desire). My mom, while reading this series, felt the same way. She used it as a reason why she was a good mother, if that convinces you to read this at all...

I enjoyed the strange characters in the diner and at the school. I think the variety of people in the world was really captured in this story. It made for many interesting scenarios. Also, her grandmother is hilarious. 

I think that I might have enjoyed Just One Year a little bit more. I was already in love with the characters and I was dying to know what happened to Willem. Even when my mom was reading Just One Day she kept asking about him. The audience really needed the second in order to understand how we felt about him. It may have changed your perspective a little bit. It was a great book too. If you read or have read Just One Day, you really need to read Just One Year. It's important to get the whole picture.

Both Just One Day and Just One Year are full of wild adventures and moments that capture your heart. The characters are funny and hold nothing back. You will be happy with Allyson and you will be sad with her too. You will find yourself wanting to do something crazy, to travel the world, to try something new. I already suffered from all of these sad conditions and these books just made it all worse...but a good idea of worse. I mean, if Allyson can do all that she did, you can sign up for that race or say hi to someone new or apply for that job, whatever it was. Maybe I'm making up inspiration where it doesn't exist but I guess you will just have to read the series and find out if I'm crazy or not. 

So, basically, I think that if you like love stories, adventure stories, or stories that you can relate to than you should read this series. You will cheer on the characters and groan at their embarrassing moments but you will want to be right there in the action with them. I related to this series, especially Just One Day, too much. I already want to reread them.

12 February 2016

Review: The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket

Reviewer: Kayla
Author: Lemony Snicket
Pages: 162
Format: Hardcover
My Rating: 8/10

Summary (Goodreads. Da real MVP):

Dear Reader,

I'm sorry to say that the book you are holding in your hands is extremely unpleasant. It tells an unhappy tale about three very unlucky children. Even though they are charming and clever, the Baudelaire siblings lead lives filled with misery and woe. From the very first page of this book when the children are at the beach and receive terrible news, continuing on through the entire story, disaster lurks at their heels. One might say they are magnets for misfortune.

In this short book alone, the three youngsters encounter a greedy and repulsive villain, itchy clothing, a disastrous fire, a plot to steal their fortune, and cold porridge for breakfast.

It is my sad duty to write down these unpleasant tales, but there is nothing stopping you from putting this book down at once and reading something happy, if you prefer that sort of thing.

With all due respect,

Lemony Snicket

My Thoughts:

Rereading this series while I eagerly await the Netflix show!

I remember absolutely loving these books as a kid, and these books definitely played a vital role in igniting my love of reading. Having read so many more books since my first time reading this one, it's clear that this is a middle grade novel and not the best piece of literary fiction I've ever come across. But the nostalgia, and honestly the story itself, still had me enjoying every page.

The writing was decent, if I must be honest. I got kind of annoyed with the constant defining of words, but I know, as a middle grade novel, it helps broaden the vocabulary, so while it was kind of redundant to see it as a 21 year old, I remember 12 year old me really appreciating it. Also, there were a lot of small, sarcastic comments throughout the narrative that I caught on to this time around and I actually quite liked.

A lot of what happened in the book I pictured perfectly in my head from the movie, therefore Count Olaf, Violet, Klaus, and Sunny were all, in my head, the actors that played in the 2004 depiction of the books, and that was fine with me since I thought Jim Carrey did great with it and I loved Liam Aiken since his outstanding role as Owen in "Good Boy" (I'm not going to clarify whether that was sarcasm or not). This book was extremely fast paced, and since I watched the movie over 50 times, it was nice to see how the book to movie adaptation stayed true to Lemony Snicket's depiction and what small details they changed for cinematic purposes. All in all, this was not the best book ever, but I still enjoyed it genuinely for its content, and even more so for the nostalgic element. I highly recommend this series for a book lover of any age. Guarantee you will enjoy it nonetheless.

6 February 2016

The Look Book by Simon & Schuster

From the Simon & Schuster CA websiteComplete with new beginnings and the promise of satisfying endings, The Look Book sampler offers the best in fiction from across the Simon & Schuster Canada Spring 2016 list. This array of debut authors and perennial favourites will allow you to step back in time with our historical fiction, time travel with our fantasy writers, fall in love with our inspirational romance, marvel at our literary stylists, and be enthralled by our dark thrillers. 
With chapter excerpts from the following Spring 2016 new releases:
Dark Territory, by Susan Philpott
He Will Be My Ruin, by K.A. Tucker 
Owl and the City of Angels, by Kristi Charish 
Black Apple, by Joan Crate 
Still Mine, by Amy Stuart 
Glory Over Everything, by Kathleen Grissom 
The Rivals of Versailles, by Sally Christie 
Kay’s Lucky Coin Variety, by Ann Y.K. Choi 
Nightfall, by Richard B. Wright 
Mannheim Rex, by Rob Pobi 
Umbrella Man, by Peggy Blair

This comes as a free to download e-book, and I think it's a fantastic idea! It's a great way to learn about books you may not have heard of otherwise, and it's basically a catalogue for books. Who else remembers the grade school days? You guys should definitely check this out, S&S have a bunch of great releases this year! 

5 February 2016

Review: The Flood Girls

Reviewer: Kristen
Author: Richard Fifield
Pages: 336
Format: ARC - thank you so so much Simon & Schuster Canada! 
My Rating: 9 out of 10

Summary (you da best, Goodreads): This snappy, sassy redemption story set in small-town Montana is “a wild and crazy debut novel by a talented young writer” (Jackie Collins), filled with an uproarious and unforgettable cast of characters you won’t want to leave behind.

Welcome to Quinn, Montana, population: 956. A town where nearly all of the volunteer firemen are named Jim, where The Dirty Shame—the only bar in town—refuses to serve mixed drinks (too much work), where the locals hate the newcomers (then again, they hate the locals, too), and where the town softball team has never even come close to having a winning season. Until now.

Rachel Flood has snuck back into town after leaving behind a trail of chaos nine years prior. She’s here to make amends, but nobody wants to hear it, especially her mother, Laverna. But with the help of a local boy named Jake and a little soul-searching, she just might make things right.

In the spirit of Empire Falls and A League of Their Own, with the caustic wit of Where’d You Go, Bernadette thrown in for good measure, Richard Fifield’s hilarious and heartwarming debut will have you laughing through tears.

My Thoughts: I've literally just finished this novel, and I'm a little scatter-brained because it made me feel all the things, so I'm just going to tell you whatever comes to mind. The gist: I freaking loved this book. So much. It was honest and powerful and funny. It was unexpected and relatable and I can't say good enough things about it.  I've decided that going into books blindly is the best way to go. I honestly didn't know much about this book before I dived in - and I'm so glad that I read it this way. It dealt with some pretty big issues (like alcoholism) in such a smart way, and it really illuminated the lives of everyone in Quinn. A super small town, where everyone knows everyone, and Richard Fifield made me feel like I lived there too. I could totally be a fly on the wall of The Dirty Shame - the bar that one of the main characters own.  

The characters were so rich and, I don't want to be cheesy, but three dimensional, that you felt like you literally knew them. I would absolutely love it if the author did little spin offs of other characters that we are briefly introduced to in The Flood Girls. These characters take on everything. They are so realistic and fascinating that you literally cannot put the book down once you've started it - believe me. I neglected my school readings to finish this because I just could not get the story out of my head. 

That ending, by the way? Yeah. It killed me. I'm writing this from beyond the grave. The wi-fi here is surprisingly fantastic.

Final Thoughts: This book is definitely going to be one of my favourite books of the year. It's a small town populated by bad-ass women who continually took me by surprise. I need you to go pick this bad boy up so I can talk about it with someone! 

Annnnnd, because I read #KickAssWomen, I thought that I should introduce you, Bad-Blood style, to Red Mabel! 

She was one of my favourite characters to read in The Flood Girls! She is definitely bad-ass, and you should get to know her better! Flood girls was a fantastic read, and you should definitely definitely definitely check it out! 

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