Sunday, February 26

Book Review: Wasted in Love

Title: Wasted in Love

Author: Allan Wilson

Pages: EBook 131

Summary: Set against a backdrop of menial employment, escape into alcohol and an unflinching belief that life has the potential to offer so much more, Wasted in Love explores the tragedy and humour that exists in the everyday lives we lead. Whether they are starting out in life or having a cold moment of realisation, Allan Wilson s poignant vignettes are powerful, unflinching in their honesty and full of dark humour. We see the real world of love; couples fight, break-up, make-up and fall in and out of love. Lies, suspicion and betrayal haunt them. But when they come together in love, can they escape and rise above their problems?

Contents:
A Celebration
Peaches
Dangers Far Worse Lost Than Run
Lost in the Supermarket
We Are More Than This
Black 26
Important Things to Do
After the Party
A Couple
Her Last Night
Boiler
Rats
Sharkman #1
Day 19
Life Expectancy
Swimming With the Sharks and Bungee Jumping
Thunder
The Marijuana Room
Everybody Will Be Orphans

My Rating: 7.25/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: This was an enjoyable short story collection, which I found to be well written. All the stories were quick and well developed; however, this wasn’t a short story collection I could say I loved. The entire time I was reading it, it always felt like something was missing to give it that extra push to go from good to fantastic, but it was definitely worth reading.

The stories all had an eclectic set of characters, which were well developed. Some were a bit raw and hardened, and in most cases, a rather miserable group of people. A lot of stories show them at their less than desirable qualities, I can’t say any of the came out to be likeable for me, but I think they were incredibly well written. They were realistic and fleshed out, which I always appreciate. This was a case where I could still enjoy the stories, yet not enjoy the characters in them.

The writing style was what kept me invested in the collection, although the complex, broken and sometimes miserable characters and their stories also helped factor into it. It’s a real look at people and their relationships, and it was an interesting read at times.

In the end, it was a well written collection of stories, but something was missing from it to make it a truly fantastic read.

Would I recommend it to read:  I think I would recommend this one to anyone who enjoys short story collections. It’s not my favourite collection, but it does have a uniqueness to it, compared to other short story collections I’ve read.

What to read next: More Scottish authors, I picked this one at random so I don’t have much to go by.



Saturday, February 25

Book Review: Homegoing

Title: Homegoing

Author: Yaa Gyasi

Pages: Ebook 260

Summary: A riveting kaleidoscopic debut novel and the beginning of a major career: Yaa Gyasi's Homegoing is a novel about race, history, ancestry, love and time, charting the course of two sisters torn apart in 18th century Africa through to the present day.

Two half sisters, Effia and Esi, unknown to each other, are born into two different tribal villages in 18th century Ghana. Effia will be married off to an English colonist, and will live in comfort in the sprawling, palatial rooms of Cape Coast Castle, raising "half-caste" children who will be sent abroad to be educated in England before returning to the Gold Coast to serve as administrators of the Empire. Her sister, Esi, will be imprisoned beneath Effia in the Castle's women's dungeon, before being shipped off on a boat bound for America, where she will be sold into slavery.

Stretching from the tribal wars of Ghana to slavery and Civil War in America, from the coal mines in the north to the Great Migration to the streets of 20th century Harlem, Yaa Gyasi has written a modern masterpiece, a novel that moves through histories and geographies and—with outstanding economy and force—captures the intricacies of the troubled yet hopeful human spirit.

My Rating: 7.5/10

What I liked/disliked about the book:  Wonderfully written, with a large cast of characters, this was a good read. The characters were well developed and had some powerful stories, as well as detailed backstories on how they were all connected. While I enjoyed the book, I didn’t love it like others have.

The main issue I had with this book was that it felt more like interconnected short stories than a novel. Which would have been fine, if it were a short story collection, but because it was in a novel format I felt disconnected from the story. It moved viewpoints too much which caused the characters’ stories to be left unfinished with a lot of unanswered questions. While I did enjoy how the author gave pieces of information about certain characters, and how their lives were woven in with the other characters’ points of view throughout the book, something still felt off about how the story came together. While it was a powerful and memorable book, something was missing to pull the individual chapters together as one solid story.

The writing was wonderful. I hope to read the author again because of her writing style. Even when I felt parts slowed down, or chapters I didn’t like as much as others, I still enjoyed how the book was written. I also found she was able to capture each characters’ voice within each section, that was incredibly well done, and one of my favourite aspects of the book.

Overall, a good book and I will likely read the author again – it’s definitely a book worth reading.

Would I recommend it to read:  I would, while it’s not a book I loved, it’s still an incredibly well written, powerful read.

What to read next: Daughters Who Walk this Path, The Book of Negroes, Things Fall Apart


Saturday, February 4

Book Review: The Forgotten Waltz

Title: The Forgotten Waltz

Author: Anne Enright

Pages: Ebook 184

Summary: The Forgotten Waltz is a memory of desire: a recollection of the bewildering speed of attraction, the irreparable slip into longing, that reads with breathtaking immediacy. In Terenure, a pleasant suburb of Dublin, in the winter of 2009, it has snowed. A woman recalls the trail of lust and happenstance that brought her to fall for "the love of her life." As the city outside comes to a halt, she remembers the days of their affair in one hotel room or another: long afternoons made blank by bliss and denial. Now, as the silent streets and the stillness and vertigo of the falling snow make the day luminous and full of possibility, she awaits the arrival on her doorstep of his fragile, twelve-year-old daughter, Evie.

My Rating: 6.75/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: The book started out strong, the narrator had a clear voice, which pulled me into the story, and kept my attention. Although I didn’t like the narrator much, she was honest and upfront, which made her a more reliable narrator. I also found that the story seemed to lose me at some point, and in the end, I didn’t enjoy it as much as I did in the beginning.
The writing and the narrative in this book were wonderful, it’s what initially pulled me into the book, and it’s what kept me reading until the end. Even when I found that the plot seemed to drift and become disjointed, I still enjoyed the writing style a lot.

I found the characters hard to like, and it wasn’t because of their decisions they made. I think the issue with the characters were that they were one dimensional. It could be because of how the narrator her viewed each particular person, it was her personal bias on the individual characters, but they lacked depth, making them bland and boring to read about.

I also felt that the first half of the story was well paced and moved along quickly, but halfway through the book, it seemed to lose momentum and the plot became still and at times, disjointed. I found the flow of the story didn’t have the same flow as the first half. It was almost as if something was missing from the story to connect it together.

Overall, I enjoyed the writing style and the first half of the book, but it didn’t work out for me in the end.

Would I recommend it to read:  It wouldn’t be high on my list of books to recommend, but I wouldn’t not recommend it either.

What to read next: That’s a hard one, I’d say more by the author.



Saturday, January 21

Book Review: The Blue Light Project

Title: The Blue Light Project

Author: Timothy Taylor

Pages: EBook 266

Summary: An unidentified man storms a television studio where KiddieFame, a controversial children’s talent show wherein kids who are too talented are “killed off,” is being filmed. He is armed with an explosive device, and issues only a single demand: an interview with journalist Thom Pegg. It’s a strange request, everyone agrees. A disgraced former investigative journalist, caught fabricating sources, Pegg is down on his luck and working for a lowly tabloid. The demand surprises everyone – Pegg most of all, and he is reluctant to play a role. But pressure from federal authorities leaves little choice, and so it is that Thom Pegg finds himself the envy of all the high-level journalists on hand as he makes his way into the darkened studio to uncover the truth
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Outside, as the hostage taking heads into its third day, enthralled and horrified onlookers watch the drama unfold through a constant stream of media speculation and rumours that race through the crowd. In the throes of this crisis two characters – one running from former glory and the other from corporate burnout – meet and instinctively connect. Eve is an Olympic gold medalist and much-loved local daughter who jogs the city’s streets at night and searches for her long-lost brother, Ali, in its shadowy corners. Rabbit is a secretive street artist who is just completing a massive project involving strange installations on the rooftops of hundreds of buildings throughout the city. Both carry the scars of their pasts, and seem to be searching for a way to become whole.

It’s a fearful time, when people have serious doubts about the future and about each other, yet are compelled to come together to vent their anxiety and make themselves heard. Outside the studio, chaos reigns, and Eve and Rabbit must navigate police checkpoints as they skirt the unruly masses in pursuit of the truth of what happened to Ali. Inside the studio, however, it’s all about control, as Pegg listens to the hostage taker’s story and begins to realize the terrible, violent truth about what he has planned.

My Rating: 7/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: In the beginning, the book had me captured – I couldn’t/didn’t want to put it down. It had a fantastic narrative which was what initially pulled me in in the beginning. There were individual plot pieces that had me wanting more and wanting to know how they all fit together into the story as a whole, which was also what initially had me invested in the book. I ended up reading it straight over the weekend so that I could finish it. Unfortunately, the book seemed to taper down after the first half, and while I did enjoy the book, it wasn’t as good of a story as I first thought.  

While some of the characters came together nicely, but other times, it seemed far-fetched and forced to make the plot work – it didn’t seem natural, which made the flow choppy. I felt the same way about the plot – as a whole, there’s a lot to it, a lot of good stories about personal journeys, and social commentaries, but there was too much of it. Because of that, I found a lot of the individual pieces of the plot felt forced together, and at times I felt almost overwhelmed while reading the book, trying to piece how everything should be fitting together and why.

The ending was a bit of a letdown, and somewhat unbelievable. I get the message the ending was trying to show, and the build up to it with the hints throughout the book was also well done, but in the end, it didn’t have the impact on me the author was trying to show on the reader.

In the end, it was a good book. I found it didn’t come together as well as I would have liked, but it does have little individual elements that made for a good read. It was also a bit of a different read, than what I have been reading lately.

Would I recommend it to read:  I would, while I didn’t exactly love the book in the end, I do think there’s a lot to take from it, and a lot of readers would enjoy the narrative, along with all of the plot pieces nestled within the book.

What to read next: Stanley Park, also by Timothy Taylor



Sunday, January 15

Book Review: The Tempest

Title: The Tempest

Author: William Shakespeare

Pages: EBook 234

Summary: Putting romance onstage, The Tempest gives us a magician, Prospero, a former duke of Milan who was displaced by his treacherous brother, Antonio. Prospero is exiled on an island, where his only companions are his daughter, Miranda, the spirit Ariel, and the monster Caliban. When his enemies are among those caught in a storm near the island, Prospero turns his power upon them through Ariel and other spirits.

The characters exceed the roles of villains and heroes. Prospero seems heroic, yet he enslaves Caliban and has an appetite for revenge. Caliban seems to be a monster for attacking Miranda, but appears heroic in resisting Prospero, evoking the period of colonialism during which the play was written. Miranda’s engagement to Ferdinand, the Prince of Naples and a member of the shipwrecked party, helps resolve the drama.

My Rating: 7.25/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: Most of my experience with Shakespeare has been through his tragedies, which I read in high school many, many moons ago, so I found this one to be refreshing to read because it doesn’t end with everyone dying miserably
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This one has all of Shakespeare’s typical elements, spirits, revenge, a man and woman see each other once and fall madly in love, and someone plots to kill someone else so they can have all the power. But, despite the similarities that I’ve read in his other works, I did enjoy this one. The story had something different to it, the characters were amusing at times, and the addition of the magical realism elements woven into the story was also enjoyable.

I did find that certain parts were hard to trudge through, but that happens with Shakespeare when his characters ramble on about their woes or whatever seems to be ailing them.

Overall, I enjoyed the book – which I read so I can read Margaret Atwood’s retelling, Hag-Seed.

Would I recommend it to read:  I would recommend to those who want to dip into Shakespeare, and haven’t yet, especially over the tragedies. While I enjoyed them, this one flowed better and would be a good choice for someone new to Shakespeare. It’s also a good choice for those who enjoy his plays but haven’t read this one yet, and I’d recommend this one over some of the others I’ve read.

What to read next: Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood, more Shakespeare (probably Midsummer Nights Dream



Book Review Death With Interruptions

Title: Death With Interruptions

Author: José Saramago

Pages: 238

Summary: On the first day of the new year, no one dies. This of course causes consternation among politicians, religious leaders, morticians, and doctors. Among the general public, however, there is initially celebration - flags are hung out on balconies, people dance in the streets. They have achieved the great goal of humanity: eternal life. Then reality hits home - families are left to care for the permanently dying, life insurance policies become meaningless, and funeral parlors are reduced to arranging burials for pet dogs, cats, hamsters, and parrots.

Death sits in her chilly apartment, where she lives alone with scythe and filing cabinets, and contemplates her experiment: What if no one ever died again? What if she, death with a small d, became human and fell in love?

My Rating: 8/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: There’s a lot to take from this book, I enjoyed the narrative a lot, despite the changing voice and point-of-view throughout the story, and while the grammar issues were distracting, the book ended up being an enjoyable, engaging read.

The grammar (I’m awful at it, I admit), but this threw out the conventional rules of grammar out the window, ignoring them completely. The book was filled with long, run-on sentences, a lot of commas, and no quotations or indication of who’s speaking during the parts with dialogue. It was confusing at first, but eventually, I warmed up to the writing style, and it works for the book. I think the author was trying to create a lyrical prose for his narrative, and it did work, it’s beautifully written and told, but the author’s writing style does take some time to get used to, and I can see a lot of people being turned off by the style.

The story itself was interesting, and despite the theme, it wasn’t depressing like I thought it would be. It was philosophical at times, and it showed some interesting ethical choices humans make in a situation like this one, but it wasn’t what I was expecting. Once death rolls in, the story takes a turn, and it had some interesting aspects, especially the focus on her,  daily ‘life,’ but I’m unsure how I feel about the ending. I’m not sure what it was, but something felt off about the ending, it didn’t seem fitting to me. I was left unsatisfied.

Other than the issues with grammar and the ending, it was an enjoyable read – well worth checking out.

Would I recommend it to read:  I would, while the grammar throughout the book, or lack there of, was frustrating and a bit distracting, it was a good book and I think a lot of readers would enjoy it.

What to read next: I’m not too sure about that one. I have read one of his other books, Blindness, I enjoyed it, but it was rather dark at times.



Saturday, January 14

Book Review: From the Fifteenth District

Title: From the Fifteenth District

Author: Mavis Gallant

Pages: Ebook 233

Summary: Set in Europe in the aftermath of the Second World War, the nine stories in this glittering collection reflect on the foibles and dilemmas of human relationships. An English family goes to the south of France for the sake of the father’s health, and to get away from an England of rationing and poverty. A displaced person turned French soldier in Algeria now makes a living as an actor in Paris. A group of selfish English expatriates on the Italian Riviera are incredulous that Mussolini and the Germans may affect their lives. A great writer’s quiet widow blossoms in widowhood, to the surprise and alarm of her children, who send a ten-year-old grandson to Switzerland to keep her company one Christmas. Full of wry humour and penetrating insights, this is Mavis Gallant at her most unforgettable.

Contents:
The Four Seasons
The Moslem Wife
The Remission
The Latehomecommer
Baum, Gabriel 1935- ()
From the Fifteenth District
Potter
His Mother
Irina

My Rating: 7.75/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: The collection is incredibly well written, with concrete characters and in-depth stories. The short stories themselves, have almost a sleepy feel to them, they’re slow but in a good way, because each story takes the time to explore the characters and the plots of each story.

Some stories from the collection drew me in more than others; all had a strong voice, and each story had something that had me wanting just a little bit more from the author. Some of my favourites were; The Moslem Wife, From the Fifteenth District, The Latehomecommer, and Irina. I also enjoyed The Four Seasons.

While it wasn’t necessarily a collection that I couldn’t put down, I still enjoyed the author’s writing and voice. It may not be a collection I loved, but I did enjoy it quite a lot – I think it’s one of those collections you have to read multiple times, to fully appreciate everything the author has woven into her stories.

Would I recommend it to read:  I would, it was an enjoyable collection well worth checking out.

What to read next: I’d definitely read more by the author, and if you’re looking for more Canadian short story collections, Alice Munro would also be a good choice
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Book Review: To Trade the Stars

Title: To Trade the Stars

Author: Julie Czerneda

Pages: 479

Summary: Jason and Sira - he a human telepath and independent trader, she now Speaker for the Clan Council, as well as Jason's life partner - are trying to forge a life for themselves free of the demands of both the Clan and Drapsk, a race determined to claim Sira as the long-awaited Mystic One. And as if these conflicting demands aren't making life complicated enough there are at least two other factions with far more dangerous seeking intentions seeking them out.

Any hope Sira and Jason have of charting their own course seems likely to vanish forever when they are unexpectedly caught in conflict between the Drapsk and a mysterious race that dwells in the M'Hir. With all of their energies directed toward this crisis, will they become easy prey for those among the Clan and the humans who are already mobilizing t take advantage of the conflict?

My Rating: 8.5/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: I enjoyed the conclusion to the series; it was fun, engaging, and interesting throughout the story – it was hard to put down at times. Knowing that it was the last book in the trilogy, also factored into my excitement about this book. While I do have the first book in the next trilogy in the Clan Chronicles, it will be a while before I get to it, which means a long wait before I find out what happens next.

I liked how the story played out – questions were answered about some of the background information on the characters, and other elements, including the world(s) the book is set in.  Although there is still a lot of questions I have and I always want more information, especially about all of the little creators who appear in the book. For the most part, it all came together in this book, and I was mostly happy with the results.  I’ll even miss the Drapsk – those cute, annoying, little creatures. Their involvement in this story was very entertaining at times making for an amusing read whenever they were involved.

Another aspect of the story to note, was Seymon’s involvement in this book. It was interesting, and went in a direction I wasn’t expecting. I was surprised with how things turned out for him and where his story lead in the end, and I’m unsure how I feel about it.

I enjoyed the ending to the series. While there is (now), a third trilogy set after this one, it’s an ending that is satisfying enough you wouldn’t have to read the next trilogy, but also enough room for the adventure to continue and to make you want to read the next trilogy.  But honestly, who wouldn’t want to dive into the next set of stories?

Overall, a satisfying book – I’m looking forward to Sira and Morgan’s next adventure.

Would I recommend it to read:  I would, the entire serious has been wonderful it has a unique quality to it and excellent characters – well worth checking out.

What to read next: This Gulf of Time and Stars, the Stratification trilogy if you haven’t read it yet.