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

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?

Slaughterhouse 5

Slaughterhouse 5Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
Published by Vintage Classics on January 1st 1970
Pages: 177
Goodreads

Prisoner of war, optometrist, time-traveller - these are the life roles of Billy Pilgrim, hero of this miraculously moving, bitter and funny story of innocence faced with apocalypse. Slaughterhouse 5 is one of the world's great anti-war books. Centering on the infamous fire-bombing of Dresden in the Second World War, Billy Pilgrim's odyssey through time reflects the journey of our own fractured lives as we search for meaning in what we are afraid to know.

Oh man. I don’t know, entirely, what I was expecting when I went into Slaughterhouse 5. I can’t quite tell you if I had any expectations whatsoever.

What I came out of with, though, was a great appreciation for Mr. Vonnegut. Man, can he write. I’ve never read something so pointless and so entertaining all at once.

But, I gather that’s the point.

I love that there is no backstory, no trying to explain events, no fluff. You’re simply reading about a man who comes unstuck in time. You don’t even question it, because…well, I’m not entirely sure why. Just because. Because that’s the way it was written and don’t try to go figuring it out. Just enjoy the ride while you’re on it.

It was a great departure for me. I tend to read a lot of fantasy, where half the book is spent explaining the who and the what of a scenario, so you can understand everything that is going on. Sometimes I don’t need to know all that. It just needs to be written in a way that allows me to lean in and enjoy it.

It’s also helped me realize that there are great novels out there like this. When I write, I don’t explain a lot of my backstory. It just is. It’s good to know it can work that way.

I will read more Vonnegut.

Poo-tee-weet.

 

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