Monday, March 31

Book Review: The Orenda

Title: The Orenda

Author: Joseph Boyden

Pages: 487

Summary: A visceral portrait of life at a crossroads, The Orenda opens with a brutal massacre and the kidnapping of the young Iroquois Snow Falls, a spirited girl with a special gift. Her captor, Bird, is an elder and one of the Huron Nation’s great warriors and statesmen. It has been years since the murder of his family and yet they are never far from his mind. In Snow Falls, Bird recognizes the ghost of his lost daughter and sees the girl possesses powerful magic that will be useful to him on the troubled road ahead. Bird’s people have battled the Iroquois for as long as he can remember, but both tribes now face a new, more dangerous threat from afar.

Christophe, a charismatic Jesuit missionary, has found his calling amongst the Huron and devotes himself to learning and understanding their customs and language in order to lead them to Christ. An emissary from distant lands, he brings much more than his faith to the new world.

As these three souls dance each other through intricately woven acts of duplicity, small battles erupt into bigger wars and a nation emerges from worlds in flux.

My Rating: 4/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: I'm one of the few who didn't like this book, and the more I think about it, the more I'm finding myself disliking the book. I didn't like the story at all, it started off okay for me but by the time it ended, I was just happy to be finished with the book. I liked the writing style for the most part, but this wasn't the book for me.

The three first person narratives were part of what made this book, a less than satisfactory reading experience, as I felt they were all the same. There was no distinction between the voices, when each had their own perspectives, it was which characters were also present that allowed me to know who was telling the story at the time. I didn't find the emotion or the pull other readers found, with the narrative and the story. I just couldn't connect to the narratives or the characters.

Overall didn't like this one, just wasn't the book for me.

Would I recommend it to read: I would recommend the author. I just don't like this particular book. Writing was well done, didn't like the story. But I seem to be one of the few who didn't absolutely love the book.

What to read next: I'd read the author's other books. The Three Day Road was a lovely story.

Challenges: 100+ Challenge, 2014 Category Challenge, 7th Annual Canadian Book Challenge, Chunkster Challenge, Mount TBR Challenge

Book Review: Accusation

Title: Accusation

Author: Catherine Bush

Pages: EBook 224

Summary: While in Copenhagen, Sara Wheeler, a Toronto journalist, happens upon Cirkus Mirak, a touring Ethiopian children’s circus. She later meets and is convinced to drive the circus founder, Raymond Renaud, through the night from Toronto to Montreal. Such chance beginnings lead to later fateful encounters, as renowned novelist Catherine Bush artfully confronts the destructive power of allegations. With Accusation, Bush again proves herself one of Canada’s finest authors as she examines the impossibility inherent in attempting to uncover “the truth.” After a friend of Sara’s begins work on a documentary about the circus, unsettling charges begin to float to the surface, disturbing tales of sexual and physical abuse at the hands of Raymond. Accounts and anecdotes mount, denunciations fly, and while Sara tries to untangle the narrative knots and determine what to believe, the concept of a singular “truth” becomes slippery. Her present search is simultaneously haunted by her past. Moving between Canada, Ethiopia, and Australia, Accusation follows a network of lives that intersect with life-altering consequence, painfully revealing that the best of intentions can still lead to disaster, yet from disaster spring seeds of renewal and hope.

My Rating: 6/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: Aspects of the book intrigued me, but overall it fell just a little short to make it a great read. The story and it's character came together fairly well, although I found Sara to be a bit of a Mary Sue, and she seemed to push the story around, rather than it unfold naturally. I think that's the best way to describe it. I felt that, her character had a negative effect on the entire book, with how she interfered with it. It wasn't in a way her character was suppose to do in her quest for the truth, it felt more like for the benefit of Sara and her story - something about her ad how she influenced the story felt off.

Most of my issues around the book revolve around Sara. She's very naive and ignorant person, especially considering what her job entails her to do and where it brings her. She was very flat, emotionless and at times, stupid. She was very frustrating to follow and I think I'd have like the story as a whole, a lot better if she hadn't been so prominent in it, or if she'd been toned down. Because I did like the story surrounding the circus, and the scandal around it. I think the author had something fantastic there, but I think Sara destroyed most of that initial appeal I had for the book.

Overall, it wasn't a bad read, but it wasn't exactly a good one either.

Would I recommend it to read: I'm not sure about this one, it wasn't exactly my cup of tea. Some readers might enjoy it, but it's not at the top of the list.

What to read next: I'm not sure on this one, I think I'd check out the author again, but otherwise, at a loss for this one.

Challenges: 100+ Challenge, 2014 Category Challenge, 7th Annual Canadian Book Challenge, Alphabet Challenge, EBook Challenge, New Author Challenge

Book Review: The Last of the Crazy People

Title: The Last of the Crazy People

Author: Timothy Findley

Pages: 211

Summary: While other 11-year-old boys are preoccupied with things like hockey, television and having fun, Hooker broods about his dysfunctional home-life. With a mother who refuses to leave her room, a brother in an alcoholic haze and a father who's unable to hold things together, Hooker's world is one of bewilderment and conflict. Feeling alone and unhappy, the young boy seeks to put an end to all of the confusion.

My Rating: 8/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: The book will leave you stunned, heartbroken as it's done with me, and I've had and incredibly hard time, trying to find the right words, to describe the book. The characters and story, are haunting, it touches on a lot of themes and issues, one of which is very close to my heart. It was an enjoyable read, and one I'd highly recommend. Hooker was a complex character, who I really felt for. He's difficult to truly know and understand, but I think it worked well for him, because as a reader, you move along with him, as he tries to understand the world around him, particularly his own family.

I think the author showcases mental illness, in its various forms, wonderfully in this book. He shows the raw, dark side of mental illness, in a time period where it was "crazy" and greatly ignored, until something horrific happens. Like in this book, from Hooker's mother, brother himself, and even his father, the book is filled with characters struggling with some form of mental illness. The slow narrative and look on the day to day life, creates an incredible picture for the reader. It's a difficult book to get through, especially considering the topic that's buried there, but for the time period and the setting, the author does give the reader a very haunting story. Particularly the ending, and all that leads up to it was shocking and powerful. There were definitely hints throughout the book how it would end, at times I expected certain aspects of the end to come sooner than it did, but slightly different outcome. Yet, because of the way Findley wrote it, it left me stunned and heartbroken. It's an ending that doesn't satisfy me fully, but it works for the book and the point the author made. It's not what you want for the character, but it's what is needed to show the reader the bitter end the themes of the book can lead.

In the end it was an enjoyable read, hard to believe it was the author's first published novel, with the level of writing, well worth reading in the end.

Would I recommend it to read: I would. It's a dark book, but I think it's a book that is so well written, and does a great job at telling this story, that it's a book I'd highly recommended.

What to read next: Alias Grace, More Timothy Findley

Challenges: 100+ Challenge, 2014 Category Challenge, 7th Annual Canadian Book Challenge, Mental Health Awareness Challenge, Mount TBR Challenge

Book Review: Oryx and Crake

Title: Oryx and Crake

Author: Margaret Atwood

Pages: 374

Summary: A stunning and provocative new novel by the internationally celebrated author ofThe Blind Assassin, winner of the Booker Prize Margaret Atwood's new novel is so utterly compelling, so prescient, so relevant, so terrifyingly-all-too-likely-to-be-true, that readers may find their view of the world forever changed after reading it. This is Margaret Atwood at the absolute peak of her powers. For readers of Oryx and Crake, nothing will ever look the same again. The narrator of Atwood's riveting novel calls himself Snowman. When the story opens, he is sleeping in a tree, wearing an old bedsheet, mourning the loss of his beloved Oryx and his best friend Crake, and slowly starving to death. He searches for supplies in a wasteland where insects proliferate and pigoons and wolvogs ravage the pleeblands, where ordinary people once lived, and the Compounds that sheltered the extraordinary. As he tries to piece together what has taken place, the narrative shifts to decades earlier. How did everything fall apart so quickly? Why is he left with nothing but his haunting memories? Alone except for the green-eyed Children of Crake, who think of him as a kind of monster, he explores the answers to these questions in the double journey he takes - into his own past, and back to Crake's high-tech bubble-dome, where the Paradice Project unfolded and the world came to grief.

My Rating: 10/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: This was my second reading of the book, and it was just as good, maybe even more, the second time. It's a book that almost instantly pulls me in, and is a book that has me wanting to read it, and the other two in the trilogy in a sitting, because of the excellent writing and story.

The writing in this book is solid, especially considering there's so much technical and scientific terms. I find in some books similar to this, which have heavy amounts of new technology, items, animals and basically anything futuristic, it can be bogged down with terms, names and definitions of what everything is and how it fits in. Atwood manages to bring in all of these things, both interesting, and frightening, and wove it into the story wonderfully. The amount of detail to pull the reader in, yet the amount the author allows the author to imagine was done almost flawlessly.

The story and how it brings the reader to the end was spectacular. Even knowing the end result, I was still completely drawn into the book. Surprisingly, I remembered a lot more than I originally thought and yet I was still just as engrossed into the book the second time as the first. Snowman, I think the second reading helped me a lot with getting into the mindset of Snowman and the whole psychology behind his character. He's a lot more complex than he originally seems especially after the second read, I picked up on a few things here and there. And while he's not a character I could say I loved, I do want to read more about him and his story. I also loved the conclusion of the book, and while I have to wait until the third book to find out exactly what will happen, I think it was a very fitting ending.

Overall, the book was a fantastic book, one of my favourites and now has me wanting to re-read The Year of the Flood and finally reading MaddAddam.

Would I recommend it to read: I would, highly recommend, but this book isn't for everyone. Apocalyptic, Speculative, Science Fiction, is a genre I know not everyone enjoys, but, this is one book that is well worth giving a try, even if you don't normally read it. If you don't like the genre, try the author's other fictional books, as she is one heck of an author.

What to read next: The Year of the Flood, MaddAddam

Challenges: 100+ Challenge, 2014 Category Challenge, 7th Annual Canadian Book Challenge

Book Review: Tide Road

Title: Tide Road

Author: Valerie Compton

Pages: EBook 167

Summary: When Stella disappears, leaving her toddler and husband behind, her mother Sonia, a widowed farm wife and former lighthouse keeper, struggles to face the possibility that her daughter may not have slipped through the ice. She may have been pushed. In a intensely memorable narrative with the deceptive pull of an undertow, Sonia’s past, a flotsam of lost dreams, bruised hopes, buried love, wells up to meet her. Confronted with her own history of choices and failures, Sonia is compelled to revise her perception of her daughter’s life and dramatically change the way she lives her own. Compton is a deft draughtsman of character, whose powers of description, timing, and astounding revelation coalesce into a splendidly nuanced account of the unguessed-at legacies of a life shaped by choices.

My Rating: 7/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: I enjoyed the book, not as much as I thought, but I think other external reasons also affected how I felt about the book. I do think the author did a great job at writing the story, bringing in the setting to life, as well as writing a cast of very flawed, troubled characters. They were realistic, and raw and although I couldn't say I had a favourite character but, I did appreciate just how well written they were.

I think the one of the main reasons why I didn't enjoy this book more, was I felt disconnected from the characters. I think this is a book where you need to feel close to the characters to really get under their skin. There were times I was able to do this, but for the most part, I just felt at a distance. Which is part of the story, I think the characters are all a bit disconnected from themselves in a way, but I just felt I need something to keep me more connected to them.

I did like the ending, it is a bit uncertain, but it worked well with the theme and feel of the book. I think the author tied enough up to satisfy the reader, but left a lot unsaid, a lot of uncertainty for what might happen next for the characters and I think that this aspect was one of the best parts of the book.

Would I recommend it to read: I would, even though the book didn't capture me as much as had hoped, it was a well told and well done story. And I know there are a few readers out there, who would love this book, and find it to be a great read. Overall it was a good read, excellent writing, and a book I will re-read again, as I think it's a book that you can appreciate more, after a second or third reading.

What to read next: The Diviners - Margaret Lawrence

Challenges: 100 Books Challenge, 2014 Category Challenge, 7th Annual Canadian Book Challenge, Alphabet Challenge, EBook Challenge, Mount TBR Challenge, New Author Challenge

Sunday, March 30

Book Review: Good Morning, Midnight

Title: Good Morning, Midnight

Author: Jean Rhys

Pages: 159

Summary: In 1930s Paris, where one cheap hotel room is very like another, a young woman is teaching herself indifference. She has escaped personal tragedy and has come to France to find courage and seek independence. She tells herself to expect nothing, especially not kindness, least of all from men. Tomorrow, she resolves, she will dye her hair blonde.

My Rating: 7.5/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: The book started off strong for me, I was immediately pulled in by the writing and although near the end the book began to lose me, I still found the book to be an enjoyable read.

The writing was beautiful and complex, as was the narrative and I was pulled in immediately because of this. The book deals with depression but it's very different than a lot of other books I've read, but it does show the affects depression has on a person, and the author showed what depression can do to a person through the characters actions and thought process wonderfully.

The first half of the book captured me completely, but the second half seemed off, or it was missing something to connect everything and keep me as interested as I was in the beginning. The last bit of the book felt muddled, or at least, more muddled than the rest of the story. While the whole story was written like this, which I think helps reflect the mindset of the narrator, the latter half didn't do as good as a job keeping me invested as the rest of the book. The whole book does a good job at getting into the narrator's head, her emotions, and with the exception of the last little bit, it was a great read.

Would I recommend it to read: I would. The book isn't for everyone, the writing style and stream of conscious narrative is something I know a lot of readers would be turned off. But I was an enjoyable read, well written and I know there are a lot of readers who would enjoy the book.

What to read next: Wide Sargasso Sea, The Bell Jar

Challenges: 100 Books Challenge, 2014 Category Challenge

Sunday, March 23

Book Review: The Colour of Space

Title: The Colour of Space

Author: H. P. Lovecraft

Pages: EBook 57

Summary: 'It was a monstrous constellation of unnatural light, like a glutted swarm of corpse-fed fireflies dancing hellish sarabands over an accursed marsh (...)'. H.P. Lovecraft was perhaps the greatest twentieth century practitioner of the horror story, introducing to the genre a new evil, monstrous, pervasive and unconquerable. At the heart of these three stories are terrors unthinkable and strange: a crash-landing meteorite, the wretched inhabitant of an ancient castle and a grave-robber's curse. This book includes "The Colour Out Of Space", "The Outsider" and "The Hound".

My Rating: 9/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: There were times, I was completely immersed in the book, as the atmosphere of the story just captured me, with its haunting feel to it. It wasn't scary, but the how the story was told, the setting of the stories, really drew me in, allowing me to forget everything around it.

The writing was incredible, the story was imaginative and a well balanced cross between horror and science fiction. Making for a very engaging and fun read, I ended up reading this in a sitting, partly because it was so short, and because it was just that good. In fact, it's one of those books, that make you want to immediately re-read it again.

What I liked most was how the author left a lot up to the readers own imagination, on what exactly is lurking between the pages. The atmosphere the author set up, the haunting factor of what creature is lurking around the characters, made for such a fantastic reading experience. I wouldn't say it was a scary read, but the atmosphere was set up to be haunting, to draw the reader into the whole experience with the character.

Overall, an excellent book that has be looking forward to reading more of the author's stories.

Would I recommend it to read: I would. As I said, it drew me in to the point, during my commute to work, the transit ticket guy surprised me when he asked for it. The fact I've went so long and not have read anything by the author.... well, it's why I'm now highly recommending reading anything by the author.

What to read next: More stories by the author. Frankenstein

Challenges: 100+ Challenge, 2014 Category Challenge, Alphabet Challenge, EBook Challenge, New Author Challenge

Book Review: Lilac Bus

Title: Lilac Bus

Author: Maeve Binchy

Pages: EBook 149

Summary: Each Friday, Tom Fitzgerald drives the same people home from Dublin to spend the weekend in Rathdoon. Nancy, Dee, Kev and Celia - each has their own secret story, unknown to their fellow passengers. And of course Tom himself has his own reasons for returning home so regularly...

Once again, Maeve Binchy has conjured up a cast of very human characters with real joys and real sadnesses, portrayed with her trademark wit, compassion and warmth.

My Rating: 7.75/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: This was an enjoyable short story collection from the author, it may not have been the strongest book by the author, but it is filled with her lovely storytelling and quirky characters.

I didn't like the narratives for both Nancy and Dee, which being the first two for the book, made me a little worried if the others would be the same for me, as I couldn't connect to the characters in the beginning, and I didn't like neither Nancy or Dee's story. Although I did like how the author put small glimpses of both of the two characters in other stories. The other narratives were far better than the first two, one or two also didn't appeal to me, but even those seemed to be better written and told through the characters eyes. Rupert, Cecilia and Tom's were the strongest pieces to the story, especially Tom, who I think was a very well written character, and did a good job at tying the collection together.

All of the stories in this collection give the reader a short glimpse at the lives of each of the people riding the bus, and a few dark secrets, but that's all it is. There is a little development for the characters, but a lot is left unsaid and the endings of each story are a bit abrupt. Normally I don't like this in a short story collection but, for this particular one, and the main story that links them all together - a group of bus riders commuting home for the weekend, I think it works perfectly. Enough is told to keep the story going and how each one ends is fitting for that character.

Overall it was a good read. Not my favourite of the author, but it's a great choice of read to curl up with on a cold day.

Would I recommend it to read: It wouldn't be my first choice of book to read by the author, but I would recommend it.

What to read next: I'd read one of the authors other books.

Challenges: 100+ Challenge, 2014 Category Challenge, Mount TBR Challenge

Saturday, March 22

Book Review: Before I Go To Sleep

Title: Before I go to Sleep

Author: S. J. Watson

Pages: EBook 252

Summary: As I sleep, my mind will erase everything I did today. I will wake up tomorrow as I did this morning. Thinking I'm still a child. Thinking I have a whole lifetime of choice ahead of me...

Memories define us.

So what if you lost yours every time you went to sleep?

Your name, your identity, your past, even the people you love — all forgotten overnight.

And the one person you trust may only be telling you half the story.

Every day Christine wakes up not knowing where she is. Her memories disappear every time she falls asleep. Her husband, Ben, is a stranger to her, and he's obligated to explain their life together on a daily basis — all the result of a mysterious accident that made Christine an amnesiac.

With the encouragement of her doctor, Christine starts a journal to help jog her memory every day. One morning, she opens it and sees that she's written three unexpected and terrifying words: "Don't trust Ben." Suddenly everything her husband has told her falls under suspicion.

What kind of accident caused her condition? Who can she trust? Why is Ben lying to her? And, for the reader: Can Christine’s story be trusted?

My Rating: 7.25/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: The book started off a little slow for me, and multiple times throughout the book I had a lot of ups and downs with it. While some aspects and clues pulled me in and had me gripping the pages, other times I found myself bored with the book and found it to be a little repetitive. But, by the time it ended it was well worth reading.

I enjoyed trying to guess the truth behind Christine's story and what happened to her. Parts of the book and how the plot was revealed were surprising but, I did start to predict what was going to happen in the end. The author did an excellent job at showing the reading the psychological and emotional struggle Christine goes through during the story, but I did find it hard to connect to her. I think this is partly due to her condition and basically it's a restart for her every day, and at times for the reader, but I felt there were many times where her development was stalled.

I did have a bit of an issue with the plausibility of the ending, I can't go into detail without spoiling the book, but I don't believe it could have happened the way it was explained. The would have been certain factors would have made it impossible for it to happen the way it did. But, it was still a very creepy book in the end. The ending does leave a lot of things unsettled, but I think it worked for the type of book it is, and the condition Christine has.

Overall, it was an enjoyable read. A bit creepy and disturbing at times, but it made for a fun read.

Would I recommend it to read: I would to anyone who enjoys psychological thrillers.

What to read next: I'm not sure on this one, as I don't usually read psychological thrillers.

Challenges: 100+ Challenge, 2014 Category Challenge, Alphabet Challenge, EBook Challenge, New Author Challenge, Mount TBR Challenge

Book Review: Cockroach

Title: Cockroach

Author: Rawi Hage

Pages: EBook 189

Summary: Cockroach is as urgent, unsettling, and brilliant as Rawi Hage's bestselling and critically acclaimed first book, De Niro's Game. The novel takes place during one month of a bitterly cold winter in Montreal's restless immigrant community, where a self-described thief has just tried but failed to commit suicide. Rescued against his will, the narrator is obliged to attend sessions with a well-intentioned but naive therapist. This sets the story in motion, leading us back to the narrator's violent childhood in a war-torn country, forward into his current life in the smoky émigré cafes where everyone has a tale, and out into the frozen night-time streets of Montreal, where the thief survives on the edge, imagining himself to be a cockroach invading the lives of the privileged, but wilfully blind, citizens who surround him.

My Rating: 7/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: There were aspects of the book I enjoyed, others less so, but overall I found it to be a good read. It may have been a bizarre book, but it was bizarre in good way.

The book was incredibly well written, as where the characters. I think how the protagnonist/narraotor was written was part of what drew me into the story, as he was a dark, deeply flawed character who's struggling with a lot throughout the book. I think the author captured him wonderfully, and while, he's not a character I could say I liked, he was a very memorable character and he stands out from a lot of other characters I've read recently.

I liked how the author used metaphor of the cockroach for the character, how he feels and lives his lie. I think it worked well in the story, for how the character feels, and how he feels others view him, and I think how the author chose to explore this, helped the reader get into the head of the character. Especially considering, we never learn his name, or where he comes from. Unfortunately, I do think how the author choose to use the metaphor of the cockroach, will also cause some of readers to not read or finish the book. It's very bizarre book at times in how this character thinks, feels and interacts with those around him. I found it a bit off putting at times, and I think there are some readers, who wouldn't give the book a chance, because of this.

I do wish, we could have learned more about the character, it touches on issues of mental health, and it was a major issue affecting the character, but I felt that that part of the character, wasn't addressed enough. It was touched on, especially in the beginning, but then I felt other plot aspects took over. I think the biggest issue I had with the book was the characters, I just never warmed up to them, and some of the secondary characters seemed to hurt the story, more than help it. I felt a few of them, almost took over the book and because of this, parts of the protagonists' story just were sacrificed.

Overall, it was an enjoyable read, I liked aspects of it, but other aspects just didn't appeal to me.

Would I recommend it to read: I would, overall it was good read. I'm not sure this is the best book to start with the author for the first time, but it is well worth reading.

What to read next: The Jade Peony, Under this Unbroken Sky

Challenges: 100+ Challenge, 2014 Category Challenge, 7th Annual Canadian Book Challenge, Alphabet Challenge, EBook Challenge, Mental Health Awareness Challenge, New Author Challenge

Book Review: Revolt

Title: Revolt

Author: Qaisra Shahraz

Pages: 424

Summary: A multi-layered, multi-faceted story of love and loss, finding and losing and mixed-race marriage, Revolt is the tale of three wealthy sisters and the problems that no amount of money can solve. There is a daughter, abandoned because of an impulsive marriage, an aunt who pines for love lost, and a bridegroom with the biggest problem of them all.

Set in England and the fictional village of Gulistan in Pakistan, with it's fascinating array of quirky, eccentric and unforgettable characters, Revolt centres on the forthcoming marriage of two rich cousins and the often hilarious but always deeply moving pitfalls and perils of living in a place where everyone knows everybody's business. Underpinning the action is the compulsive and pervading need to resolve the conflict between Pakistani Muslim values and those of the modern West.

My Rating: 6/10

What I liked/disliked about the book:The book was very well written, detailed in both plot and character, but I found that the book didn't exactly work for me.

I think one of the biggest issues about the book was that it felt like I was dropped in the middle of the story, rather than have a introduction and gradual development to the overall story. From the start, the characters were fairly developed, which was a good thing, but also it threw me off, because I felt like I was missing a big chunk of the story. The overall story wasn't bad, at times it was interesting for me, but I struggled with it, because I always felt like I missed the introduction to the story. Basically, it was a case where I felt like I began in the middle of the story, instead of at the beginning.

Overall, the writing was well done, the plot was very layered, there was a lot to it, and had a lot of substance to it. The author did an extraordinary job here at bringing all the plot threads together as one complex plot. There were also a lot of characters, who were all well written and well developed. But, I just didn't connect to them as much as I would have liked.

Overall, it wasn't a bad read but it wasn't exactly one I connected to as much as I would have liked.

Would I recommend it to read: I think I would, I didn't enjoy it as much as I thought, but I do think a lot of readers out there would love the book.

What to read next: I'm not sure on this one. I think, if you enjoyed the book, check out the author other books.

Challenges: 100 Books, 2014 Category Challenge, Mount TBR Challenge, New Author Challenge

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a review.