Slaughterhouse 5

Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
Published by Vintage Classics on January 1st 1970
Genres: science fiction
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.

 

One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

Jackaby

Jackaby (Jackaby, #1) by William Ritter
Published by Algonquin Young Readers on September 16th 2014
Genres: fantasy
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.

One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

Hidden

Hidden by Catherine McKenzie
Published by HarperCollins Publishers Ltd on June 18th 2013
Genres: fiction
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.

One StarOne StarOne Star

Mistborn

Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson
on July 31st 2007
Genres: fantasy
Pages: 657
Goodreads

Where ash falls from the sky, and mist dominates the night, evil cloaks the land and stifles all life. Criminal mastermind Kelsier teaches Allomancy, the magic of metals, to another Mistborn, urchin Vin 16. The unlikely heroine is distracted by rich Venture heir Elend. Can Kelsier's thieving crew take on the tyrant Lord Ruler and bring back colour to their world?

What isn’t there to love about this book?

I love, love, loved the magic system that we’re presented with. It’s so simple but so imaginative at the same time. I guess the magic itself is simple, but what each Allomancer chooses to do with it is fascinating.

I really liked Vin’s history, with her brother and how she was treated. No matter what she does, she still hears his voice berating her for her choices. Her viewpoint on the world was interesting, and I liked her hard edge. It made her strong and her narration superb. You learn about the world of Mistborns as she does. It’s a great way to have the story unfold.

Kelsier was just a hoot. First off, love the name. Second off, he’s an ass but he doesn’t care and you have to love him for it. Even though he’s got quite a screwed up history, he’s able to put on a good face and be upbeat. Even if he is an ass.

The rest of the gang was wonderful and I liked how we got to explore the different type of Allomancy through each member. They were all vastly different but they all flowed so well.

Everything that this book stands for is amazing. I bought the second one as soon as I finished. I want nothing more than to immerse myself back into this rich world.

I understand why there are a lot of people who rave about Brandon Sanderson.

Favourite Kelsier quote:

Kelsier felt that a skaa Misting’s life wasn’t so much about surviving as it was about picking the right time to die.

One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

All The Light We Cannot See

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Published by Scribner on May 6th 2014
Genres: historical fiction
Pages: 531
Goodreads

Marie Laure lives with her father in Paris within walking distance of the Museum of Natural History where he works as the master of the locks (there are thousands of locks in the museum). When she is six, she goes blind, and her father builds her a model of their neighborhood, every house, every manhole, so she can memorize it with her fingers and navigate the real streets with her feet and cane. When the Germans occupy Paris, father and daughter flee to Saint-Malo on the Brittany coast, where Marie-Laure's agoraphobic great uncle lives in a tall, narrow house by the sea wall.

In another world in Germany, an orphan boy, Werner, grows up with his younger sister, Jutta, both enchanted by a crude radio Werner finds. He becomes a master at building and fixing radios, a talent that wins him a place at an elite and brutal military academy and, ultimately, makes him a highly specialized tracker of the Resistance. Werner travels through the heart of Hitler Youth to the far-flung outskirts of Russia, and finally into Saint-Malo, where his path converges with Marie-Laure.

I love history. I love historical fiction. When I first saw All The Light We Cannot See, I was very intrigued but also a little afraid. I wanted to love this book so much, but I wasn’t entirely sure how it would play out. Especially since one of the main characters is a blind girl; would her story come across on the page?

I picked up the book anyway. I wanted to absorb this story, I wanted to read about these people. The first couple of pages took me a bit to get through. After all, they were setting the stage for the wondrous, rich prose that would follow. And pretty much from the 10th page in, I was hooked. And I couldn’t put it down.

If I was hesitant reading a story from the point of view of a blind girl, I should not have been. Anthony Doerr does a magnificent job at explaining exactly what is going on around Marie-Laure with all of the other senses she possesses. It’s like I was in her head experiencing everything she was experiencing, but I was also outside of her and able to see what she could not. It was wonderful, it was beautiful, and it made Marie-Laure my favourite character. I was tense the entire story, waiting for something bad to happen to her, hoping it wouldn’t, and afraid if it did.

Werner was a little harder for me to fall in love with, but I did. It was hard following him through his story with all the hardships that are put in front of him, and watching him as a little boy and young man make the best decisions he can. It’s interesting to see this part of history from his point of view. The simple hobby of fixing radios gets him a spot in Hitler Youth, and propels him forward on this insane path during the war. The assurance and innocence of a young boy turn into the questioning nature of a young man, and you get to watch it all unfold.

Now, what’s interesting for me was how insignificant the mention of the radio is. You think “oh it’s just a radio, just another piece of technology.” But this simple piece of machinery has such a powerful impact on the plot, and I loved the way it ended up tying the story lines together. After all, a simple thread can unravel an entire sweater (that’s a saying, right?).

If you love historical fiction, read this book. If you love getting emotionally invested in characters, read this book. If you love to read, read this book!

One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

Thin Space

Thin Space by Jody Casella
Published by Beyond Words/Simon Pulse on September 10th 2013
Genres: young adult
Pages: 256
Goodreads

Ever since the car accident that killed his twin brother, Marshall Windsor has been consumed with guilt and crippled by secrets of that fateful night. He has only one chance to make amends, to right his wrongs and set things right. He must find a Thin Space—a mythical point where the barrier between this world and the next is thin enough for a person to step through to the other side.

But, when a new girl moves into the house next door, the same house Marsh is sure holds a thin space, she may be the key—or the unraveling of all his secrets.

As they get closer to finding a thin space—and closer to each other—Marsh must decide once and for all how far he’s willing to go to right the wrongs of the living…and the dead.

I wanted to love this book SO BAD. I mean, the concept of it is amazing. Who out there would not try and find a thin space to see a lost loved one? Unfortunately, the execution fell flat for me.

Alright, you can go now. No need to read the rest of the review. Jking.

The first issue I had was the bare feet. Does this count as a spoiler? I don’t think so. It doesn’t ruin any of the book, it’s just an integral part of the plot. In order to find a thin space, you have to be able to touch it with your bare toesies. Which makes complete sense to me. So he doesn’t miss finding a thin space, Marsh walks around bare foot. All. The. Time. To school, to the mall, in the middle of winter. All. The. Time. And I get that the adults want to let him grieve, but I don’t think in reality, people would let a kid walk around with no shoes on. I would assume the school would have had to send him home, at the very least. I know my parents wouldn’t have accepted it.

I wanted to like both Marsh and Maddie, but I didn’t feel connected to either of them. I’ve never gone through the type of grief and guilt that Marsh was experiencing, but his attitude towards life was a little much for me to handle. I liked the blooming friendship between him and Maddie (the girl who moves into the house with a thin space) but I didn’t really get a good sense of her. She was just kind of there.

Also, how Marsh knows about thin spaces just seems a little too coincidental for me. He learns about them then BAM, his brother is dead. The timing on that is just a little too perfect.

And finally, the ending. This was weird for me. I actually liked the ending, but I walked away going “that’s it?”. Maybe because I was basically done by this point, but I would have liked it if this whole part was a lot bigger. It’s twisty and I like it.

I mean overall, it wasn’t a HORRIBLE book. I read the entire thing, which is saying something since I’ve DNF’ed a couple of books lately. I’m trying not to push myself into reading things that don’t catch my full attention. So if it interests you, pick it up.

Just set your expectations low and maybe you’ll be blown away.

One StarOne Star

Nowhere To Hide

Nowhere to Hide by Tracey Lynn Tobin
Published by CreateSpace on October 3rd 2014
Genres: horror
Pages: 236
Goodreads

Nancy King's life was simple. Wake up. Go to class. Work nights at the bar. Flirt with the cute EMT. Sleep through her alarm and burn supper. Then life got complicated. Irrational news reports. Violent wanderers. Sudden attacks. Insane neighbor with a taste for flesh. Now Nancy's life is about running, staying alive, and staying human; but how can she continue to survive when there is simply nowhere to hide?

*I was given a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.*

Hm. Where to start? Nowhere To Hide had a lot of promise.

1. Zombie apocalypse
2. Zombie apocalypse
3. Zombie apocalypse

Yes, I am making a joke.

It started off pretty okay, but the more I read, the more I wanted to not read, but I had to see it through because a small part of me wanted to find out what caused the zombies. And even that part disappointed me a little bit.

Our main character, Nancy, is a bartender. She’s alright, but I never really gave a crap about her. There was nothing that made me root for her and I thought she was quite silly at times.

A lot of the dialogue and scenarios felt very forced and awkward. 0.5 seconds after meeting Greg, Nancy adopts him as an honorary brother. Huh? You just met the kid! More than one character liked referring to people as “my dear”, and Nancy liked using the term “my lover”, which was SO weird. Not once in any internal monologue have I ever called a boyfriend, a fling, whatever “my lover”.

One of the BIGGEST problems I had with Nowhere To Hide was all the telling that happened. We’d be given a scene, something would happen, and Tobin would write, “They shouldn’t have done that.” Or something along those lines, which created some of the most awkward cases of scene transition that I’ve ever read. It just did not flow.

I’m not even going to discuss the errors. Double words, names not being switched. It needs to be cleaned up a bit.

I am, however, giving it two stars for the following reasons:

1. I did finish it, without really wanting to put it down (this might have been different if the book was longer)
2. The zombies and the scenarios they created DID kinda scare me

The plot itself had a bit of promise, but it could have been worked on and expanded SO much more.

One StarOne Star

The Wishing Thread

The Wishing Thread by Lisa Van Allen
Published by Ballantine Books on September 3rd 2013
Genres: magical realism
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 Film by Marisha Pessl
Published by Bond Street Books on August 20th 2013
Genres: mystery, thriller
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.

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

Barkskins by Annie Proulx
Published by Scribner on June 14th 2016
Genres: historical fiction
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