Resilience

Resilience: Navigating Life, Loss, and the Road to Success by Lisa Lisson
Published by ECW Press on October 17th 2017
Genres: memoir
Pages: 240
Goodreads

Lisa Lisson’s life seemed perfect: she had married her high school sweetheart, applied her marketing degree to a position at FedEx Express Canada, and risen to become a vice president (and would ultimately become president) of the company. One night, after putting their four children to bed, her husband, Patrick, marvelled that their lives seemed perfectly happy.

Just a few hours later, everything changed.

One moment Lisa was sleeping beside Patrick, and the next, she was kneeling on the floor beside his unconscious body frantically administering CPR. Patrick had had a massive heart attack and was in a coma, and the doctors were blunt: there was no hope. But for the next two years, Lisa stood by his side and awaited a miracle, while continuing to balance life as a high-powered executive and mother of four.

Part leadership guide, part memoir of loss, and part personal empowerment primer on how to achieve your goals no matter what the universe throws at you, Resilience is an inspirational story about how to rise to the top in a man’s world, triumph over adversity, lead a fulfilling life, and live each day with purpose and gratitude.

I received this book in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. Pinky swear!

First off, Lisa Lisson, I applaud you. You are a strong, fierce, independent woman and I am sorry you’ve had to go through the things you have, although I have a feeling you’re the type to tell me it’s alright because you learned from it. I’m applauding you anyway.

Lisa really knows how to pull heart strings. The book starts off with a punch to the gut and it just continues from there. I found myself immediately drawn into the story and the issues Lisa was facing. You could almost feel the panic and sheer distraught coming off the page. Although I felt bad because I knew these were actual events that had happened to someone, I was hooked and wanted to keep reading.

Alternating with these heartbreaking chapters were chapters about Lisa’s rise to the top of FedEx. They begin with her telling us why she chose to work at FedEx and then detailed her climb up the corporate ladder. These chapters were less exciting for me but they were short enough that it didn’t bother me too much. The most insightful part of these chapters were learning that even if you’re a bigwig, you still get anxious when you’re in the process of getting promoted to bigger wig. These chapters just lacked a little bit for me. Maybe I wish there’d been more solid advice here, but I don’t think that’s what this book was trying to achieve.

The biggest downside to Resilience for me was the repetitiveness. I found that, especially near the end, a lot of thoughts and explanations of her career were repeated. It didn’t take away from the story too much, but it happened enough that I started looking forward to the book being over. Besides that little hitch, I was a little sad when the book finished.

I won’t lie, it was also pretty cool to read a book that takes place in Ontario, since that doesn’t happen very much with what I read!

The one piece of advice that I will be taking away from this is creating a list of goals as a leader for your department, with input from your employees. It seems like such a simple concept but I’d never thought of it before!

One StarOne StarOne Star

Weirdo

Weirdo by Cathi Unsworth
Published by House of Anansi Press (Canada) on September 30th 2013
Genres: mystery
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.

One StarOne StarOne Star

The Conjoined

The Conjoined by Jen Sookfong Lee
Published by ECW on September 13th 2016
Genres: mystery
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 Gaslight by Steven Price
Published by McClelland & Stewart on August 23rd 2016
Genres: historical fiction
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.

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

Y

Y by Marjorie Celona
Published by Hamish Hamilton Canada ( A H C ) on August 1st 2012
Genres: fiction
Pages: 350
Goodreads

"Y. That perfect letter. The wishbone, fork in the road, empty wineglass. The question we ask over and over. Why? . . . My life begins at the Y."

So opens Marjorie Celona's highly acclaimed and exquisitely rendered debut about a wise-beyond-her-years foster child abandoned as a newborn on the doorstep of the local YMCA. Swaddled in a dirty gray sweatshirt with nothing but a Swiss Army knife tucked between her feet, little Shannon is discovered by a man who catches only a glimpse of her troubled mother as she disappears from view. That morning, all three lives are forever changed. Bounced between foster homes, Shannon endures abuse and neglect until she finally finds stability with Miranda, a kind but no-nonsense single mother with a free-spirited daughter of her own. Yet Shannon defines life on her own terms, refusing to settle down, and never stops longing to uncover her roots — especially the stubborn question of why her mother would abandon her on the day she was born.

Brilliantly and hauntingly interwoven with Shannon's story is the tale of her mother, Yula, a girl herself who is facing a desperate fate in the hours and days leading up to Shannon's birth. As past and present converge, Y tells an unforgettable story of identity, inheritance, and, ultimately, forgiveness. Celona's ravishingly beautiful novel offers a deeply affecting look at the choices we make and what it means to be a family, and it marks the debut of a magnificent new voice in contemporary fiction.

I don’t think I have ever been so sad to see a book end. It caught me by surprise and I must have stared at the last page for 5 minutes before I finally closed the book. It was like saying goodbye to a friend that you don’t want to lose. I grew so attached to the main character that I almost cried.

One of my favourite things about this book is the way it was written. The narrative is beautiful and 150% suits how you imagine Shannon would think if she was an actual human being. She doesn’t always describe what’s going on in full sentences, but when you think about it, when does anyone in real life think to themselves in full sentences when something is going on? I sure don’t. In my opinion the narrative is pretty much what made this book exceptional.

I loved how not one character in this book was perfect. Their flaws don’t get pointed out blatantly, but you know that they have them and you know what they are for the most part. It’s like you’ve been talking to this character for a bit and you notice they have a tick or something. Their flaws are slipped in just like that. And it makes them so much more vivid and life like.

Last but not least, the plot. I only have one word for this: phenomenal. I seriously can’t explain it any other way. If I had the time and I thought someone would actually read it, I’d write two pages on just the plot alone. It flowed so smoothly and weaved together so wonderfully that I didn’t even feel like I was reading a book. No questions were left unanswered, and yet there was still a hint of mystery at the end. But I was left satisfied instead of upset with that.

I would, and have already, recommend this book to everyone I meet. Strangers walking down the street might even be told to read this book. I loved it that much.