Weirdo

WeirdoWeirdo by Cathi Unsworth
Published by House of Anansi Press (Canada) on September 30th 2013
Pages: 408
Goodreads

Corinne Woodrow was fifteen when she was convicted of the ritualistic murder of her classmate in a quaint seaside town. It was 1984, a year when teenagers ran wild, dressed in black, stayed out all night, and listened to music that terrified their parents. Rumours of Satanism surrounded Corinne and she was locked up indefinitely, a chilling reminder to the parents of Ernemouth to keep a watchful eye on their children.

Twenty years later, private investigator Sean Ward — whose promising career as a detective with the Metropolitan Police was cut short by a teenager with a gun — reopens the case after new forensic evidence suggests that Corinne didn’t act alone. His investigation uncovers a town full of secrets, and a community that has always looked after its own.

I wanted Weirdo sooooo bad when I first saw it on Chapters. That cover, that synopsis. I had to have it!

(A bit of backstory: I have a slightly unhealthy obsession with anything murder related. The psychology of different people, especially criminals, hits all of my interest buttons.)

It’s October and I figured it was the perfect time to pick this darling up. Sadly, I was not as thrilled by it as I thought I was going to be.

The story itself is pretty interesting. The two different timelines (in the 80s leading up to the murder and in the 2000s when it’s being re-investigated) are interesting and insightful, but I think they make the book longer than it needs to be. You get to know the main people that were involved in the murder, while also kind of sort of learning about Sean Ward and his investigation into the murder. But there’s so much backstory with both that it I just felt like I was learning about people and completely forgot it had to do with a murder half the time.

Maybe I was just expecting something else, as I don’t really read much mystery, but it didn’t feel very mysterious to me. The plot-ish twist at the ending got a “huh, alright” from me, but that’s about it. And the ending after that felt super rushed. It’s like you received this nugget of information and the characters went “well, that’s that” and went home for the night. The entire build-up of the book is figuring out if Corinne did the murder herself and I feel like it wasn’t treated as the climax it should have been.

I guess overall I was just meh with the entire thing. I read it, though, so there’s that.

The Bees

The BeesThe Bees by Laline Paull
Published by HarperCollins Canada on May 6th 2014
Pages: 344
Goodreads

Born into the lowest class of an ancient hierarchical society, Flora 717 is a sanitation worker, an Untouchable, whose labour is at her ancient orchard hive's command. As part of the collective, she is taught to accept, obey and serve. Altruism is the highest virtue, and worship of her beloved Queen, the only religion. Her society is governed by the priestess class, questions are forbidden and all thoughts belong to the Hive Mind.But Flora is not like other bees. Her curiosity is a dangerous flaw, especially once she is exposed to the mysteries of the Queen's Library. But her courage and strength are assets, and Flora finds herself promoted up the social echelons. From sanitation to feeding the newborns in the royal nursery to becoming an elite forager, Flora revels in service to her hive.

When Flora breaks the most sacred law of all-daring to challenge the Queen's fertility-enemies abound, from the fearsome fertility police who enforce the strict social hierarchy to the high priestesses who are jealously wed to power. Her deepest instinct to serve and sacrifice is now overshadowed by an even deeper desire, a fierce maternal love that will bring her into conflict with her conscience, her heart and her society, and lead her to commit unthinkable deeds . . .

In the beginning, I really liked The Bees. It was interesting, seemingly unique, and I wanted to know where it was going. I held on for about as long as I could.

First, I don’t know WHY but for some reason I didn’t think this was actually about bees. Pretty dense of me since it’s literally in the title and the entire cover is bees. But I figured it was a nickname for whatever faction Flora was from. Nope. She’s a bee. Which I actually thought was pretty cool. When’s the last time you read about a bee?! I like that aspects of Flora were slightly human (feelings, thoughts, etc) but she still had a somewhat bee-sque mentality. It worked for me!

The setting was wonderful, and the way Paull writes is superb. It didn’t feel like a hive at all for me. It was some robust, living, richly exotic world that I found myself wanting to visit. I loooved it.

What fell flat for me was the story. The beginning of it was great. Exploring the hive with Flora was tense and exciting. But about half way through the book I kind of knew what was going to happen and it made me care less about reading it. I think if the entire thing had been shorter, I would have been able to hold on. But 200-ish pages of a story I’ve already guessed isn’t fun.

So, unfortunately, I DNF’d this half way through. It was wonderful though, and I’m sure many people will enjoy it! I did sneak to the end to figure out what happened, so it’s not like I didn’t care. Tehehe.

-M

The Conjoined

The ConjoinedThe Conjoined by Jen Sookfong Lee
Published by ECW on September 13th 2016
Goodreads

On a sunny May morning, social worker Jessica Campbell sorts through her mother’s belongings after her recent funeral. In the basement, she makes a shocking discovery — two dead girls curled into the bottom of her mother’s chest freezers. She remembers a pair of foster children who lived with the family in 1988: Casey and Jamie Cheng — troubled, beautiful, and wild teenaged sisters from Vancouver’s Chinatown. After six weeks, they disappeared; social workers, police officers, and Jessica herself assumed they had run away.

As Jessica learns more about Casey, Jamie, and their troubled immigrant Chinese parents, she also unearths dark stories about Donna, whom she had always thought of as the perfect mother. The complicated truths she uncovers force her to take stock of own life.

Moving between present and past, this riveting novel unflinchingly examines the myth of social heroism and traces the often-hidden fractures that divide our diverse cities.

I read The Conjoined last year, as I was so kindly given a review copy from ECW Press (thanks guys!). Unfortunately, since I was silly enough to let my hosting lapse, that review is no longer up. Why past Mackenzie, why?! Luckily for me I really loved this book and still have my notes.

Going into The Conjoined, I assumed it was going to be some sort of psychological thriller. You know from the synopsis that Jessica finds two bodies in her mom’s freezer when she’s sorting through her mom’s belongings after her funeral. You read that and you’re like but why?! That’s certainly something I wanted to know! I’d be curious as hell if I found evidence to what I can only assume is my mother murdering two people.

The thing is, this book is more than just a thriller. It’s a heart-wrencher. It’s less so about figuring out who did it, and more about finding out what lead up to Casey and Jamie ending up in that freezer. It’s quite a sad story. The atmosphere surrounding these two kids is HEAVY. I wanted to reach through the pages and fix their lives, to tell the people surrounding them what was going on and save them the fate they end up with. I so badly didn’t want them to end up the way they did, but I was absolutely powerless to stop it. And that just made it worse.

Although we shift between different timelines, stories, and characters, it’s all done with ease. Not once did I forget who was who, or what I’d read about them previously. Jen did a wonderful job of weaving everything together, and I never once got bored.

I didn’t get the ending I wanted, but I’m okay with that. I think it was better that way.

Thanks again ECW Press! You’ve published a great book.

One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

Tastes Are Changing

A very wise woman (hi Grandma!) recently had a discussion with me regarding my last post about being in a reading slump, and brought up a very good point.

It’s very possible that the reason I’m in a slump is because my tastes are changing. And if I’m trying to read the same old thing while simultaneously growing away from those topics, it makes sense that they no longer resonate with me!

See, very wise.

This brought up a question for me, though. What do you do when the books/genre you used to rely on so heavily no longer feel comfortable to you? How do you go about finding your new comfort zone?

I honestly have no idea yet, as I’m just starting this journey. But it’s a good question to ask. I’m finding myself more and more drawn to immersive literature – things that I can lose myself in.

I’m less and less attracted to YA. I’m starting to find it very surface deep and I just can’t connect to it in the same way. I want rich characters, thorough plots, heightened emotions. I don’t need everything to be happy at the end. Reality is messy and I’m okay with my fiction being messy as well. (I’m not bashing on YA as a whole, just what I’ve been drawn to in the past.)

So, if you’ve got any recommendations on some good books to check out, leave them below. And if you’ve gone through similar growing pains, let me know!

-M

2017 Has Been a Slump

I honestly don’t think I’ve ever been in this big of a reading slump. At least not that I can remember.

I’ve started and stopped probably close to 10 books this year. Which might not seem like a lot, but that’s only because I haven’t actually been reading enough to DNF more. In 2016, I think I read a total of around 70 books. We are 8 months into 2017 and if I’m lucky, I’ve finished 20.

To be fair, from April until December of last year, I had a lot more time on my hands. Starting in January of this year, not only did I start working, but I started a job that involves an hour commute each way. So that’s taking up a good chunk of time.

But even when I do have time to read, I don’t. I normally set aside an hour before bed each night to pick up a book. For most of 2017 that hour has felt like a chore. I at one point was forcing myself to continue doing it, but now I’ve just stopped.

My weekends usually involved sitting and reading a book for at least an entire afternoon. And now they don’t.

And I don’t think it’s the books. I 100% think it’s me. I just can’t get into the mindset I normally have with books. I can’t lose myself long enough to get wrapped in whatever world I’m reading about. I’m finding it easier to give in and watch YouTube videos than to push my way through a book.

Not only is this annoying on a recreational reading level, but it also means my book reviews have suffered. Can’t really do a review if I haven’t read any books!

There really isn’t a point to this post, other to let you guys know what’s going on in my head. And why there’s more writing on here instead of reviews. Eventually that will change. I hope. I’ll aim for a healthy 50/50 balance at some point.

On the plus side, my wallet is happy because I’ve also been spending less on books! I’m utilizing the library instead since I can’t guarantee that I’ll make it through any of the books. Silver linings, always.

-M

Confession Time

I haven’t actually sat (for some reason, my brain really wanted to put sitten here) down and written for awhile. Sitten/written, I now understand why my brain chose that word.

I’ve had that weird finger tingly, adrenaline pumping, I-need-to-write feeling for awhile now. Writing constipation, in other words. The only way to release this feeling is to poop out the words onto a piece of paper or screen.

But I have no done that.

And I was questioning why I have not done it, when I came to a realization.

Fear. Fear is holding me back.

Not fear of failure, or even fear of success, but fear of letting someone see what goes on in my head. Fear of letting those thoughts out and someone judging me for them. Fear of realizing that I might just be that crazy. Maybe even a fear that I’m not messed up at all, and therefore not the individual I thought I was.

Even if no one ever reads the words I put down, it’s the possibility that they could that scares the crap out of me. I’ve never quite realized how absolutely vulnerable writers, and artists in general, have to be in order to put their work out into the world.

You have to be willing to put your heart and soul out there for someone else to judge, interpret, comment on.

So I sat on this. And I thought. And I thought some more. And then I thought about how utterly stupid that was. Fear is healthy, but it’s also stopping me from doing the thing I most want to do in the world. And why should I let one emotion rule my life?

I’m going to hold myself accountable somehow. I need to. I should. Not for anyone else, but for me.

I’ll update this post with how I decide to do it, but it’ll happen. I may even make it interactive so others can follow along too. Keep each other accountable and what not.

-M

In My Head

I’m struggling with some things at the moment. As much as talking to other people helps a bit, writing has always been my outlet. So below you’ll find a piece that I wrote this morning when I woke up. It’s short, but it expresses (generally) how I feel when I’m in one of these “moods”.


I’ve always wondered what it would be like to be in someone else’s head.

Not to have them explain it to me, but to actually be in there. Watching through their eyes as they go about their day to day life, aware of their thoughts and feelings but knowing that they are separate from mine.

I feel like that sometimes in my own head, but I know that the person acting and the person thinking are the same. Two separate entities, but also the same entity. An outside me and an inside me.

Sometimes they act as one whole person and everything is right with the world.

Sometimes I’m the inside me sitting back and watching the outside me interact with the world. I’m aware of what is going on, but I can also tune out while the outside me continues to function. I don’t feel the world the same. I don’t see the world the same.

I know they are both me. What I don’t know is why the split. What I don’t know is the cause, or the reason they decide to join back up.

My fear is that one day they won’t, and I’ll be stuck as the two versions of the same person, slightly broken, inhabiting the same body. And there won’t be a thing I can do.


The ironic part of this piece is that this is a glimpse into my head.

-M

By Gaslight

By GaslightBy Gaslight by Steven Price
Published by McClelland & Stewart on August 23rd 2016
Pages: 731
Goodreads

London, 1885. In a city of fog and darkness, the notorious thief Edward Shade exists only as a ghost, a fabled con, a thief of other men's futures -- a man of smoke. William Pinkerton is already famous, the son of a brutal detective, when he descends into the underworld of Victorian London in pursuit of a new lead. His father died without ever tracing Shade; William, still reeling from his loss, is determined to drag the thief out of the shadows. Adam Foole is a gentleman without a past, haunted by a love affair ten years gone. When he receives a letter from his lost beloved, he returns to London in search of her; what he learns of her fate, and its connection to the man known as Shade, will force him to confront a grief he thought long-buried. What follows is a fog-enshrouded hunt through sewers, opium dens, drawing rooms, and seance halls. Above all, it is the story of the most unlikely of bonds: between William Pinkerton, the greatest detective of his age, and Adam Foole, the one man who may hold the key to finding Edward Shade.

I dnf’d it.

If you’re wondering, earlier this month (last week? Time is a thing I can no longer keep track of) I didn’t know if I should continue By Gaslight or not.

Reasoning: pacing was slow, writing style (no quotations and a TON of run on sentences) were annoying the poop out of me.

Funny thing is, I actually continued reading it after I posted. I’d rented it from the library, so why not?

A couple of days before it was set to go back from the library, I went to renew it online and found out I couldn’t. I looked at the book, looked back at the notice saying I couldn’t renew it, looked at how many pages I had left, and then flipped to the end of the book and read the ending.

It seemed like an okay book, but again, had it been half the length, it probably would have been much better.

Oh well. Moving on.

-M

The Psychopath Test

The Psychopath TestThe Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry by Jon Ronson
on May 1st 2011
Pages: 288
Goodreads

In this madcap journey, a bestselling journalist investigates psychopaths and the industry of doctors, scientists, and everyone else who studies them.

The Psychopath Test is a fascinating journey through the minds of madness. Jon Ronson's exploration of a potential hoax being played on the world's top neurologists takes him, unexpectedly, into the heart of the madness industry. An influential psychologist who is convinced that many important CEOs and politicians are, in fact, psychopaths teaches Ronson how to spot these high-flying individuals by looking out for little telltale verbal and nonverbal clues. And so Ronson, armed with his new psychopath-spotting abilities, enters the corridors of power. He spends time with a death-squad leader institutionalized for mortgage fraud in Coxsackie, New York; a legendary CEO whose psychopathy has been speculated about in the press; and a patient in an asylum for the criminally insane who insists he's sane and certainly not a psychopath.

Ronson not only solves the mystery of the hoax but also discovers, disturbingly, that sometimes the personalities at the helm of the madness industry are, with their drives and obsessions, as mad in their own way as those they study. And that relatively ordinary people are, more and more, defined by their maddest edges.

I’m not usually a non-fiction reader, but I love anything that has to do with the human brain. I love when people try to analyze the way people tick. It’s just so fascinating to me.

I think I originally saw this book on someone’s YouTube channel (don’t remember who, sadly) and I immediately marked it as a to-read. But because it’s a nonfic, I wasn’t entirely sure if I wanted to buy it. And then a couple of weeks ago I refound my love for my local library and they had The Psychopath Test. Score!

Although this book doesn’t delve too deeply into exactly why psychopaths are the way they are, it was interesting to see the different thought patterns behind labeling someone a psychopath. And reading the reactions of those who are labelled that way. It was a very surface level dig into the madness industry, but it was incredibly fascinating. Especially if you don’t know all the lingo, as it doesn’t take too much outside knowledge to understand.

If you want a light, fun read about what possibly makes a psychopath a psychopath, definitely give this a try. If you’re looking for a book to tell you whether or not you’re a psychopath, this isn’t it.

And if you are looking for something to tell you whether you are or aren’t one, chances are you aren’t. If you were, you wouldn’t care. This was pointed out in the book and made me laugh.

“But isn’t Tony kind of a semi-psychopath? A gray area? Doesn’t his story prove that people in the middle shouldn’t necessarily be defined by their maddest edges?

To DNF or Not to DNF

At what point in a book do you decide to close it and put it down for good?

I am having issues with this question right now. I don’t know at what point I should stop trudging through a book.

Here’s the scenario. I’m reading By Gaslight, which I was so excited to read when it first came out. I will admit, mostly because of the cover. But the premise sounded fantastic as well. It’s set in Victorian London and I’m a sucker for some good historical fiction.

There are a couple of things that bother me.

  1. The pacing is slow AF. By Gaslight taps out at 600 pages and it could easily be half that while still retaining 90% of the story, in my opinion. I think it’s so long because there’s two narrators (so far) and there’s a lot of flashbacks.
  2. THERE ARE NO QUOTATION MARKS. Why is this a style?? I find it hard to figure out who is talking sometimes. I especially find it hard to figure out which portions are talking portions and which are internal monologue portions since both can be in one sentence. It may not seem like a huge problem, but it irks me. And it means I have to reread some passages.
  3. There are a ton of run on sentences. While this is probably lends itself to the style of Victorian London, the content editor in me is silently screaming.
  4. I’m no longer super invested in what is happening.

Despite all of the above, a part of me is still curious as to where it goes. I may not be invested in the characters, but I still find myself wondering what happens next. I’m standing alongside Pinkerton or Foole and experiencing things as they are; finding out pieces of the puzzle as they do. It’s a slow burn, but I don’t know if it’ll be a good pay off at the end.

Is this just me being very impatient? Should I wait it out? I have no idea.

Let me know how you decide to DNF things!

-M