This Is Not a Test

This is, in fact, a slump.

A reading slump. A writing slump. A motivation slump.

The warm weather has hit and I find myself less and less inclined to be in the house. Which is understandable. But it also means I spend far less time at my computer, or with my nose stuck in a book. And that kind of sucks when you actually want to blog. Or actually want to read. But the warm weather, it calls.

I have a feeling, that in about two months or so, I’ll have plenty of time to write. And plenty of time to read. So, you can probably expect the posts to pick up after that. Hopefully. We’ll see. I stopped making promises long ago.

But for now, enjoy this tiny poem.


In the end,

There is me

And only me.

The rest

You can not prove

Is real.

The others

You can not prove

Exist.

How can I believe you

When not even you are real.

When not even I exist.

-M

Rain Drops

Fiction is as fiction does. The below is an unedited piece of work. I simply sat down at the computer and wrote.
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

I listen to the rain falling on the roof. The little drops, if singular amounting to nothing, but in droves forcing us inside like they might somehow kill us. I take a drag of my cigarette.

I’m staring at the popcorn ceiling of my apartment, not entirely sure why I am doing so. I went to sleep easily enough. I awoke easily enough. It’s the why of the waking I wonder about. My breasts lay bared to the world, one leg wrapped in the cotton sheet, the other leg sprawled across the bed like it’s trying its hardest to escape from this mess. The moon highlights the tiny hairs I missed shaving.

I take another drag of my cigarette. I breathe the smoke out, watch it float slowly towards the ceiling. At this time of night, everything is fascinating. The smoke, the pitter-patter of the rain, the number of popcorn pieces on the ceiling. Life. Death. Love. Everything.

I’m the only person that exists right now, even though I’m not, and I find this isolation absolutely thrilling. To be, at once, the whole world and completely removed from the world is strange and delirious. I am the only one that matters to me, but to no one outside of this room.

The night has made me drunk. Or stoned. Perhaps a little bit of both. I smile to myself, at peace. Maybe this is the reason it is called the witching hour. It’s bewitching to anyone who happens to pay attention. To those fortunate enough to awake in its presence.

I sigh, lean over and drop the rest of the cigarette into the glass of water on my table. I could get up and do some writing. I could get up and read a book. I should roll over and go back to sleep.

Instead, I lay back against my pillow. I stare at the popcorn ceiling. I listen to the rain falling on the roof.

Jackaby

JackabyJackaby (Jackaby, #1) by William Ritter
Published by Algonquin Young Readers on September 16th 2014
Pages: 299
Goodreads

“Miss Rook, I am not an occultist,” Jackaby said. “I have a gift that allows me to see truth where others see the illusion--and there are many illusions. All the world’s a stage, as they say, and I seem to have the only seat in the house with a view behind the curtain.”

Newly arrived in New Fiddleham, New England, 1892, and in need of a job, Abigail Rook meets R. F. Jackaby, an investigator of the unexplained with a keen eye for the extraordinary--including the ability to see supernatural beings. Abigail has a gift for noticing ordinary but important details, which makes her perfect for the position of Jackaby’s assistant. On her first day, Abigail finds herself in the midst of a thrilling case: A serial killer is on the loose. The police are convinced it’s an ordinary villain, but Jackaby is certain it’s a nonhuman creature, whose existence the police--with the exception of a handsome young detective named Charlie Cane--deny.

A lot of people describe Jackaby as a sort of Sherlock….and they have every right to.

If Sherlock hunted the Supernatural, his name would definitely be R.F Jackaby.

I love how we’re showed the world through Abigail Rook, who at the beginning of the book has no idea who Jackaby is. She simply needs a job and he has a posting for an assistant. It made the story more interesting for me, because there was never any info dumping about the world and its supernatural elements. You simply find out about things as she does, which made me connect with her confusion more, but 100% in a good way.

It also made Jackaby more mysterious, sometimes frustrating, but always enjoyable to have on the page and in the story. While some might think he’s cocky or obnoxious, I liked his personality. He sees things that no one else can, so he has very little time to explain things to people. It’s a very easy way to only keep the “important” people around, in my opinion. He doesn’t have to hide himself or spend hours explaining things to people who choose not to believe what he sees. Call me crazy, but I like it. He also has a wicked sense of humour without meaning to.

The case itself was okay. Nothing mindblowing, but it kept me guessing. I’m interested to see if book numero two gets any more thrilling.

Yes, I already bought it. Have you seen those covers?? They’re just too pretty not to have.

-M

Hidden

HiddenHidden by Catherine McKenzie
Published by HarperCollins Publishers Ltd on June 18th 2013
Pages: 366
Goodreads

While walking home from work one evening, Jeff Manning is struck by a car and killed. Two women fall to pieces at the news: his wife, Claire, and his co-worker Tish. Reeling from her loss, Claire must comfort her grieving son as well as contend with funeral arrangements, well-meaning family members, and the arrival of Jeff’s estranged brother, who was her ex-boyfriend. Tish volunteers to attend the funeral on her company’s behalf, but only she knows the true risk of inserting herself into the wreckage of Jeff’s life.

Told through the three voices of Jeff, Tish, and Claire, Hidden explores the complexity of relationships, the repercussions of our personal choices, and the responsibilities we have to the ones we love.

Hidden read like I was getting little glimpses into these characters lives, which I love. I mean, I guess you are (that is the whole point of reading) but as if they were REAL people walking around and they had stopped in to tell me their story or something.

Warning: this may get spoilery.

The multi character narration was incredibly useful, and I don’t usually like more than one narrators in my stories.

Jeff I liked, although I felt a little bad for him. Especially since he, you know, dies. His relationship with Claire could have been explored a LOT more, but we got enough surface details to know they weren’t 100% happy. Their relationship just wasn’t very…meaty…for me.

Claire was okay as a character, but she wasn’t my favourite. She seemed like a good person, but she had some stuff going on that caused her to push Jeff away and I, I don’t know. She felt mopey to me. Mopey before her husband died, I can understand being mopey after he dies.

And Tish, the coworker. As you can probably guess, Tish and Jeff had something not purely work related going on. They emailed back and forth, which pissed me off. Who carries on a personal relationship via office email?? Especially someone in HR who knows they can be read at any moment!?! And who ditches their daughter’s competition to fly to a coworkers funeral who she MIGHT have been sleeping with, where she knows she’d come into contact with his family? I wanted to like Tish, but everything she did screamed fucking selfish to me. There was not one time during that entire scenario where she went “hmmm, how is this going to effect other people?” Tish, you are a fictional character, but you are also not a very nice woman.

I liked the book enough, but I wish it was a billion times better so I could justify keeping it on my shelf because THIS COVER <3 Which doesn’t actually match the story, since I don’t think either of the women are redheads. Or was Claire and I just pictured her as a blonde?

I don’t know anymore.

-M

The Wishing Thread

The Wishing ThreadThe Wishing Thread by Lisa Van Allen
Published by Ballantine Books on September 3rd 2013
Pages: 400
Goodreads

The Van Ripper women have been the talk of Tarrytown, New York, for centuries. Some say they’re angels; some say they’re crooks. In their tumbledown “Stitchery,” not far from the stomping grounds of the legendary Headless Horseman, the Van Ripper sisters—Aubrey, Bitty, and Meggie—are said to knit people’s most ardent wishes into beautiful scarves and mittens, granting them health, success, or even a blossoming romance. But for the magic to work, sacrifices must be made—and no one knows that better than the Van Rippers.

When the Stitchery matriarch, Mariah, dies, she leaves the yarn shop to her three nieces. Aubrey, shy and reliable, has dedicated her life to weaving spells for the community, though her sisters have long stayed away. Bitty, pragmatic and persistent, has always been skeptical of magic and wants her children to have a normal, nonmagical life. Meggie, restless and free-spirited, follows her own set of rules. Now, after Mariah’s death forces a reunion, the sisters must reassess the state of their lives even as they decide the fate of the Stitchery. But their relationships with one another—and their beliefs in magic—are put to the test. Will the threads hold?

I think this might be the first magical realism book I have ever read. I hadn’t even heard of the genre until a couple of months ago, but I didn’t really know what it was. I have to say, I’m quite a fan of the genre (yes this is based off of one book, but I’m allowed to make rash decisions!)

First off, the world building. Hm! Amazing. I loved the small town vibes that Tarrytown presented to me, the reader. I kept picturing Stars Hollow from Gilmore Girls, but a little more run down and less welcoming. And The Stitchery lept off the page at me. I wanted nothing more than to explore every nook and cranny of that house.

All three of the sisters were superb. They each had their own personalities, their own set of problems, and yet everything wove together wonderfully. Aubrey grew throughout the whole book (although she annoyed me consistently near the end), Bitty became less bitchy (I did not like her at the beginning) and Meggie started to find her place in the family. It was wonderful to see such different characters come together and have to interact, especially since that sister bond is there. Or was there, before everyone left years ago.

All in all, The Wishing Thread was a cute little book that I enjoyed. There were some parts of it that were meh, but it was an entertaining read. It gave me that warm, fuzzy feeling that watching Gilmore Girls used to give me.

One StarOne StarOne Star

Night Film

Night FilmNight Film by Marisha Pessl
Published by Bond Street Books on August 20th 2013
Pages: 624
Goodreads

Everybody has a Cordova story. Cult horror director Stanislas Cordova hasn't been seen in public since 1977. To his fans he is an enigma. To journalist Scott McGrath he is the enemy. To Ashley he was a father.

On a damp October night the body of young, beautiful Ashley Cordova is found in an abandoned warehouse in lower Manhattan. Her suicide appears to be the latest tragedy to hit a severely cursed dynasty.

For McGrath, another death connected to the legendary director seems more than a coincidence. Driven by revenge, curiosity and a need for the truth, he finds himself pulled into a hypnotic, disorientating world, where almost everyone seems afraid.

The last time McGrath got close to exposing Cordova, he lost his marriage and his career. This time he could lose his grip on reality.

ONCE WE FACE OUR DEEPEST FEARS, WHAT LIES ON THE OTHER SIDE?

I don’t have much to say about this book. Except that I did not sleep the entire time I read it.

The whole novel reads like one of Cordova’s horror films and I was half expecting to wake up with Ashley standing over my bed. I couldn’t wait to finish this book so I could sleep again, but I didn’t want it to end.

I loved that interspersed throughout the book were news clippings, websites, photos. Things that McGrath found in his research, we were shown, which added another fabulous layer to the story telling.

I was a tad but disappointed by the ending, but it did not deter me from loving the rest of the book. I borrowed it from the library and I am 100% contemplating going out and buying it. Also because it has amazing paper that I wish more books had.

If you like a good mystery and don’t mind sleeping with your lights on, choose this one. Please.

-M

Update: Went out and purchased this book just for the paper and the cover. I’m not sure I can bring myself to read it again, but it’s now there if I decide to.

One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

Barkskins

BarkskinsBarkskins by Annie Proulx
Published by Scribner on June 14th 2016
Pages: 717
Goodreads

In the late seventeenth century two penniless young Frenchmen, René Sel and Charles Duquet, arrive in New France. Bound to a feudal lord, a “seigneur,” for three years in exchange for land, they become wood-cutters—barkskins. René suffers extraordinary hardship, oppressed by the forest he is charged with clearing. He is forced to marry a Mi’kmaw woman and their descendants live trapped between two inimical cultures. But Duquet, crafty and ruthless, runs away from the seigneur, becomes a fur trader, then sets up a timber business. Proulx tells the stories of the descendants of Sel and Duquet over three hundred years—their travels across North America, to Europe, China, and New Zealand, under stunningly brutal conditions—the revenge of rivals, accidents, pestilence, Indian attacks, and cultural annihilation. Over and over again, they seize what they can of a presumed infinite resource, leaving the modern-day characters face to face with possible ecological collapse.

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way altered my opinion of it. Cross my heart.

Barkskins was a dousy.

It sat, monstrously, on my shelf, staring at me for a month and a half before I decided to try and tackle it.

I’m still on the fence about whether I enjoyed it or not. I mean I did, but to a degree.

It was incredibly interesting to see the story unfold, generation to generation. I love hearing about people’s history, and Barkskins definitely reached that deep down love for me. Each character was wonderful in his or her own way, and they were all very distinct. It felt like I was actually watching history unfold instead of reading a novel about it. It was cool to see the history of family as well as a more broad history at the same time.

The writing, mmm! I’ve never read anything else by Annie Proulx, but I might have to go check out her other novels now. Her writing is wonderful. The entire novel was rich with detail. I don’t even have proper words to explain how much I loved her writing. I liked that since the beginning of the story takes place in New France, she included some French in the dialogue, but worked in the explanations afterwards. My Grade 9 French is pretty rusty but I was still able to understand what was going on.

The downside to this rich writing, and why I’m not entirely sure if I enjoyed the novel or not, is because it was laborious. It takes away from the story if I’m constantly having to push myself to read a book. I normally don’t have an issue reading long books, but because it’s based more on details and less on action (the action I prefer at least), it dragged for me. I had to pay attention to so much detail, so many different characters (there are family trees in the back which are helpful some of the time), that my brain started to hurt. I didn’t know what was going to be important for later on or what wasn’t. I struggled hard, but I also enjoyed the story, so I DON’T KNOW.

My only suggestion is that if you like history and have the time to read details, pick up this book. If you’re looking for some fast paced light reading, maybe this isn’t the book you should be looking at. It’s definitely one of those novels you have to be in the mood for, but when the moods right, it’s fantastic.

One StarOne StarOne Star

The Prince of Fools

The Prince of FoolsPrince of Fools (The Red Queen's War, #1) by Mark Lawrence
Published by Ace on June 3rd 2014
Pages: 355
Goodreads

The Red Queen is old but the kings of the Broken Empire dread her like no other. For all her reign, she has fought the long war, contested in secret, against the powers that stand behind nations, for higher stakes than land or gold. Her greatest weapon is The Silent Sister—unseen by most and unspoken of by all.

The Red Queen’s grandson, Prince Jalan Kendeth—drinker, gambler, seducer of women—is one who can see The Silent Sister. Tenth in line for the throne and content with his role as a minor royal, he pretends that the hideous crone is not there. But war is coming. Witnesses claim an undead army is on the march, and the Red Queen has called on her family to defend the realm. Jal thinks it’s all a rumor—nothing that will affect him—but he is wrong.

After escaping a death trap set by the Silent Sister, Jal finds his fate magically intertwined with a fierce Norse warrior. As the two undertake a journey across the Empire to undo the spell, encountering grave dangers, willing women, and an upstart prince named Jorg Ancrath along the way, Jalan gradually catches a glimmer of the truth: he and the Norseman are but pieces in a game, part of a series of moves in the long war—and the Red Queen controls the board.

I don’t even know how to review Prince Of Fools properly. I had a hard time following the plot, but I think that has more to do with my attention span and memory rather than the story. I have a hard time reading detailed fantasy novels for this exact reason. And yet, I still enjoyed Prince Of Fools.

How do you explain Prince Jalan to someone? If you have a good way, let me know in the comments. I loved him from the first moment he entered the pages. His sense of humour was on point, and his personality just radiated. I find it hilarious that he’s such a coward, but he fully admits he’s a coward, so it gets him into some interesting scenarios. He’s that friend that you keep around because you KNOW he’s going to make everyone have a good time.

Snorri I had a hard time getting to know, although he had a good personality. I’m hoping that the more he opens up to Jal, the more inside his head we can get because by the end of the book I still wasn’t sure what was going on with him. He’s a man of few words which doesn’t really help. I just know he’s a good person and he’s looking for his family. And he’s a viking. A very big viking.

What I could follow of the plot was alright. Snorri is heading North to save his family, Prince Jalan does not want to head North at all but is forced to because of the curse the Silent Sister placed on him. I’m still not 100% sure who the bad guy from the North is (obviously since I can’t even remember his name). And the army he has is also confusing to me, but it might be because I wasn’t following the story as much as I should have been.

Because of my comprehension skills, I might not continue this series. I don’t know if it’ll be worth trying to get through the next one if I already don’t remember a good chunk of Prince Of Fools. Maybe I should start keeping notes as I go.

-M

One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarHalf a Star

Partials

PartialsPartials (Partials Sequence) by Dan Wells
on February 26th 2013
Goodreads

Humanity is all but extinguished after a war with Partials—engineered organic beings identical to humans—has decimated the population. Reduced to only tens of thousands by a weaponized virus to which only a fraction of humanity is immune, the survivors in North America have huddled together on Long Island. But sixteen-year-old Kira is determined to find a solution. As she tries desperately to save what is left of her race, she discovers that that the survival of both humans and Partials rests in her attempts to answer questions about the war's origin that she never knew to ask.

I’ve never been a fan of the dystopian genre. And by that I mean I read one, once, a couple of years ago and then never bothered to pick another one up. But this, this! I devoured.

I liked the characters, they were diverse and each had their own personality. I liked that there was a bit of romance, but it wasn’t the focal point. But what I liked the most was the plot.

Dan has given us a future that could actually happen. Army of super soldiers? We probably already have that. Virus that can wipe out 99% of the population? We probably already have that too. Whenever I’ve thought about how the world would end (that happens very little, just so we are all aware), those two things are always the first to come to mind. Both are a form of control; one causes fear and the other helps promote a sense of safety. It’s a very smart way to get humans to do what you want.

It was fun to read the story from Kira’s point of view. She isn’t just some giddy teenager caught up in a bunch of drama. She’s smart, funny and doesn’t always put her heart before her brain (but she’s also human, so sometimes the heart wins out). When Kira takes on the mission to help save what’s left of the human race, she does it for personal reasons too, which adds some depth to the very scientific research she partakes in.

Partials also explores some social themes, like a woman’s right to control her body. Because their numbers are so few, the Senate passes The Hope Act. This states that any woman over the age of 18 must become pregnant yearly (or as much as they can, I can’t quite remember). It’s their duty to the human race. I’ve always been pro-choice when it comes to your own body, but Dan writes in a way that almost had me going “okay, yeah I agree. Women of child bearing age, make babies. That makes sense.” And just as I was leaning one way, a character would voice their opinion and I’d be swayed back the other way. It made for some very interesting personal debates.

Even though I say it’s predictable, it didn’t take away from the fun of this novel at all. I loved it from start to finish, and I was very upset when I had to put it down. I will definitely be picking up the next book in the series.

One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

Glory Over Everything

Glory Over EverythingGlory over Everything: Beyond The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom
Published by Simon & Schuster on April 5th 2016
Pages: 365
Goodreads

Jamie Pyke, son of both a slave and master of Tall Oakes, has a deadly secret that compels him to take a treacherous journey through the Underground Railroad.

Published in 2010, The Kitchen House became a grassroots bestseller. Fans connected so deeply to the book’s characters that the author, Kathleen Grissom, found herself being asked over and over “what happens next?” The wait is finally over.

This new, stand-alone novel opens in 1830, and Jamie, who fled from the Virginian plantation he once called home, is passing in Philadelphia society as a wealthy white silversmith. After many years of striving, Jamie has achieved acclaim and security, only to discover that his aristocratic lover Caroline is pregnant. Before he can reveal his real identity to her, he learns that his beloved servant Pan has been captured and sold into slavery in the South. Pan’s father, to whom Jamie owes a great debt, pleads for Jamie’s help, and Jamie agrees, knowing the journey will take him perilously close to Tall Oakes and the ruthless slave hunter who is still searching for him. Meanwhile, Caroline’s father learns and exposes Jamie’s secret, and Jamie loses his home, his business, and finally Caroline.

Heartbroken and with nothing to lose, Jamie embarks on a trip to a North Carolina plantation where Pan is being held with a former Tall Oakes slave named Sukey, who is intent on getting Pan to the Underground Railroad. Soon the three of them are running through the Great Dismal Swamp, the notoriously deadly hiding place for escaped slaves. Though they have help from those in the Underground Railroad, not all of them will make it out alive.

I picked up The Kitchen House a couple of years ago on a whim from the used bookstore. I love me a good historical fiction, and it DEFINITELY falls into that category. Fast forward to this year and when Simon & Schuster reached out asking if I’d like to read Kathleen Grissom’s newest novel, Glory Over Everything, I said heck yes!

I looked up a couple of reviews of The Kitchen House to re-familiarize myself with the story, but it turns out I didn’t need to. All I had to do was look at the cover and I could remember the plot, characters and feelings I had reading it. Since I read so much, this rarely happens. It’s a testament to Grissom’s writing.

I received Glory Over Everything during the week, and made sure to clear my schedule so I could start it on the weekend. All it took me was one afternoon. ONE AFTERNOON!!! I don’t remember the last time I flew through a book like that.

Although you don’t have to read The Kitchen House to understand Glory Over Everything, I suggest you do. It helps set a backstory for Jamie, and it helps immerse you in the story so much more. I was able to feel what Jamie was feeling easier, and understand why he did certain things. At times when he was thinking back to his plantation days, I felt like we were two friends reminiscing, because I had followed him on that journey as well.

The story is told mostly from two points of view: Pan and Jamie’s. Even though I’m not normally a fan of multi-viewpoints, it worked well. They were each distinctive viewpoints, and I like that Jamie’s started a little farther back than Pan’s, so it wasn’t really overlapping. They intertwined nicely.

Pan I liked, although I found him a little annoying. Mind you he is a child, and a pretty sheltered one at that, so I can understand. But I gave him a lot of side eye throughout the novel. Other than that, I found him cute and I got really super nervous anytime I thought something bad might happen to him.

Jamie I didn’t mind at all. His growth in character was a little sudden and didn’t feel 100% genuine for me, but overall it didn’t detract from my liking of him. It was interesting to have him as a little boy in The Kitchen House, and then see him as a man in Glory Over Everything. You can definitely see how the past has shaped who he is today.

Overall, I loved Glory Over Everything, just like I loved The Kitchen House. Actually, I might have liked it more. If you’re a fan of historical fiction, pick this one up.