The Fall of Lisa Bellow by Susan Perabo: Book Review

The Fall of Lisa Bellow

Obtained: Simon & Schuster Canada, ARC
Pages: 352
Publish date: March 14, 2017
Rating: ★★★★★

SUMMARY

When eighth grader, Meredith Oliver, walks into a local sandwich shop to grab a root beer, she has no idea the next person through the door is going to be a masked man with a gun. Meredith and her nemesis, Lisa Bellow, end up face to face on the ground as the man robs the joint. Next thing Meredith knows, the man has taken Lisa and leaves her to cower on the floor alone.

The majority of the novel focuses on the reactions to this event. Lisa’s friends creating bracelets for awareness of her abduction. Lisa’s mother dealing with the loss of her daughter. Meredith being the girl that was lucky enough to get away – but not really. And Meredith’s mother, who can’t deal with the fact that her daughter isn’t as unscathed as she appears.

WHAT I LIKED

Honestly, I was not in the mood to read when I picked up this book. But I needed to read something, and Lisa Bellow was the thing I decided to read. I literally started the book on Friday morning and didn’t put it down until I was finished Sunday morning. It was so captivating.

I loved reading about Meredith and the incident that she was witness to, and how it affected her so deeply and personally. I felt like I was there with her. The characters – every single one of them – were so three-dimensional and realistic, I didn’t find myself hating any of them. I particularly liked the fact that Meredith’s mother was so flawed, and yet she wasn’t a “Terrible Mother” character. I don’t see that a lot in media, honestly, and it was sort of heart-warming to be reading about a mother who had a lot of issues but was ultimately sympathetic.

AND WHAT I DIDN’T

The chapters alternated between the perspective of Meredith and her mother, Claire, giving us a wide perspective of their family dynamic and how everyone was affected by Lisa’s abduction. I liked getting this immensely detailed portrait of the Oliver family, but I didn’t particularly like reading Claire’s chapters. I just wanted to rush through those and learn more about Meredith and what she was going through.

*SPOILERS AHEAD*

Sort of spoilers. But okay, you’ve been warned. I love when books have open endings, especially in situations such as this one. The whole, “you’ll never know because no one would ever know. People could guess what happened, or reasons why it happened, but it’ll always be a mystery”. That kind of stuff hooks me right in. But I wish there were a few more answers at the end of this novel. I had too many questions and wish that some of them had gotten resolved. But again, I guess that was the point.

RECOMMEND IF…

  • You enjoy books about characters who have undergone a trauma;
  • You like reading about young people but you want something more mature than a “young adult” book;
  • You have a large chunk of time to be reading – because you won’t want to put this one down.

The Fall of Lisa Bellow is available online at Chapters Indigo, Book Depository, and Kobo.

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Confessions of a High School Disaster by Emma Chastain: Book Review

Confessions of a High School Disaster: Chloe Snow's Diary

Obtained: Simon & Schuster Canada, ARC
Pages: 352
Publish date: March 7, 2017
Rating: ★★★★

SUMMARY

Chloe Snow is just starting her freshman year of high school, and is still a kissing virgin. On top of joining extracurriculars, dealing with her drifting bestie, and the fact that her mom has gone to Mexico for 4 months to “work”, Chloe has a list of boys she’d like to kiss and has made it her personal mission to do so by New Year’s Eve. Because she gets so caught up with the idea of getting kissed, Chloe starts to lose sight of the other things that are going on around her.

WHAT I LIKED

Confession of a High School Disaster was one of the best young readers books I’ve read in a while on the topic of high school dating. The plot originally sounded fairly typical, but what I loved about this book was the fact that it’s so accurate. Chloe is fourteen. When a girl is just becoming a teenager, she is naive and selfish. And the way Chastain wrote from Chloe’s perspective was perfect – everything was about Chloe getting her kiss, or winning the guy, or getting a part in the school musical, that she just didn’t see anything else that was happening in her life.

I also loved the characters. There are only a handful of books where I finish and actually get sad because I feel like I can’t hang out with my friends anymore – the characters are so relatable and real to me. I feel that connection with Confessions. Not so much towards Chloe, honestly, but Tristan was my favourite, and I really loved Chloe’s dad. (I guess I relate more to the adults now, don’t I?)

AND WHAT I DIDN’T

There honestly wasn’t anything that really turned me off about this book. If there was one criticism, I’d say I felt like the antagonists could have been more dynamic, but again, the book was written from the perspective of a girl who would have thought these people to be evil, and not given them a second thought. Girls like Sienna and Bernadette do get their moments to flourish subtextually, but I wish I’d gotten to know them a little better.

RECOMMEND IF…

  • You like stories about growing up.
  • You want an easy, fun read that is also captivating.
  • You enjoy teen books about romance where the characters aren’t ridiculously mature for their age. (Pet peeve of mine – I hate when 14-year-olds talk like they’re 25).

Confessions of a High School Disaster is available online at Chapters Indigo, Book Depository, and Kobo.

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Running by Cara Hoffman: Book Review

Running

Obtained: Simon & Schuster Canada, ARC
Pages: 288
Publish date: February 21, 2017
Rating: ★★★★

Summary

Running brings together an ensemble of outsiders who get by as “runners”—hustlers who sell tourists on low-end accommodations for a small commission and a place to stay.

Bridey Sullivan, a young American woman who has fled a peculiar and traumatic upbringing in Washington State, takes up with a queer British couple, the poet Milo Rollack and Eton drop-out Jasper Lethe. Slipping in and out of homelessness, addiction, and under-the-table jobs, they create their own kind of family as they struggle to survive.

Goodreads

What I Liked

If you know me, you know that I read the summary of this book and jumped at the chance to read it. A cast of anti-hero characters in 1980s Athens? This book had me at ‘hello’! The story was so well-crafted and the poetic writing brought me directly into the setting. And honestly, I feel like the realism of the characters and the setting were my favourite things about reading this book.

As I began reading, I found it sort of hard to get into the book (because of my own reading slump, not because the writing was bad in any way), but once I started reading the dialogue written in Milo’s accent, or got a description of where the characters were, I got pulled right in. I think I read most of this book in one sitting – it was just very captivating.

And What I Didn’t

Like I said earlier, it took me a little bit of time to get into the book, so once I was finally drawn in, it took me some time to catch up. Otherwise, I didn’t really have anything I didn’t like about this book!

Recommend if…

  • You read the summary and went “this sounds right up my alley!”;
  • You enjoyed books like Trainspotting;
  • You want to read about anti-heroes and LGBT characters living in a place that isn’t North America (for once) (what, who said that).

Running is available online at Chapters Indigo, Book Depository, and Kobo.

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February: Currently Reading

Guys, I am actually so excited to share with you the books I’m reading right now. Obviously not all of them at once, but I have quite the TBR pile building up, and for the first time in a long time, I’m not intimidated by the number of books sitting on my shelf (or on my “to-buy-ASAP” list). I’m actually so excited to read everything!

So here are books you can expect me to post reviews for in the next couple of months:

Running  Optimists Die First  Confessions of a High School Disaster: Chloe Snow's Diary  The Fall of Lisa Bellow: A Novel

The Gauntlet  When Dimple Met Rishi   One Day We'll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter   Goodbye Days

  1. Running – Cara Hoffman
  2. Optimists Die First – Susin Nielsen
  3. Confessions of a High School Disaster – Emma Chastain
  4. The Fall of Lisa Bellow – Susan Perabo
  5. The Gauntlet – Karuna Riazi
  6. When Dimple Met Rishi – Sandhya Menon
  7. One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter – Scaachi Koul
  8. Goodbye Days – Jeff Zentner

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The Strays by Emily Bitto: Book Review

The Strays
Obtained: Penguin Random House Canada, ARC
Pages: 290
Publish date: January 3, 2017
Rating: ★★★

I picked up this book because it sounded very interesting to me – modern artists in 1930s Australia? I was curious to see what the characters in this book would be like, and how my love of art and the bohemian-esque lifestyle would tie in.

The Strays is told from the perspective of young Lily, who explains how she got extremely wrapped up in her best friend, Eva, whose parents were modern artists at the time. When Lily’s parents are going through a hard time, they send Lily to stay with Eva’s family for an extended period and through this, we glean what Eva’s parents’ lives are like – and the lives of their friends who have also come to live with them.

For me, the positives and negatives of this book sort of weigh equally, so I’ll start with the positives. I loved the writing style. Bitto captures the world of Eva and her artistic family very well. She “paints the picture” very vividly – pun not entirely intended – of Eva and Lily’s friendship, of Eva’s father’s career, and of all of their artist friends’ lifestyle that includes lots of drugs, alcohol, and living for their work. There were parts of this book that really captured my attention – mostly ones that included Eva and Lily spending time with Eva’s sisters, or the parts that illustrated the problematic relationship between the girls and their mother.

On the negative side, I found the protagonist to be really lacking. Lily just seems like an empty vessel through which Eva and her family’s story gets to be told. She doesn’t really seem to have a personality of her own. So when the story starts to develop and show how this artist life has affected them all differently as they grew up, I didn’t really care how it affected Lily at all.

On the whole, I did enjoy reading the book, but I definitely enjoyed reading the sections about Eva and her sisters more than I did about Lily and her family. If the summary sounded at all interesting to you, I recommend you give it a go. It’s not even 300 pages, so it’s a fairly quick read.

The Strays is available online at Chapters Indigo, Book Depository, and Kobo.

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The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon: Book Review

Image result for the sun is also a star

Obtained: Penguin Random House Canada, ARC
Pages: 384
Publish date: November 1, 2016
Rating: ★★★

Last year, I fell head over heels with Nicola Yoon’s debut book, Everything Everything. So you can imagine how excited I was to hear that she had written another YA novel. I was hoping for something just as quirky, just as unique, and just as romantic as her first book. There was definitely a good love story, but I still think I preferred her debut.

The Sun is Also a Star tells the story from two main perspectives of Daniel and Natasha – Daniel, a Korean boy meant to be going to a Yale interview, but who would much rather be a poet, and Natasha, a Jamaican illegal immigrant who is fighting to not be deported. Natasha is obsessed with science and needing facts, and Daniel is a head-over-heels kind of hopeless romantic. The entire book takes place in one day as this couple meets, falls for one another, and has to deal with their differences, and  the fact that their families would definitely not approve of this new “relationship”.

I’ll start with the things I loved about this book: I loved the writing. Yoon captured me in Everything Everything with her writing style, and the same goes for The Sun is Also a Star. It’s so mesmerizing, and it takes no time at all for me to fall face-first into the world of this story. I also loved the diversity and the topic of race that was a focus of the book. If this story was told about two white people, I would definitely not have continued with it.

Okay. Things that docked stars for me: the book took place in a day. I find it kind of sweet that these characters were able to find each other under the circumstances of the nvoel, but falling “in love” and calling each other boyfriend/girlfriend within one instance of meeting each other and having one date seemed a little ridiculous to me. I also am kind of bored of the whole “one person doesn’t believe in love and one person is a hopeless romantic and tries to convert the other one, and they end up changing each other for the better” cliche. Although I did appreciate that the girl was the scientist, in this case. I loved the romance, but the quickness of it all was a little too cheesy for me to believe in.

Overall, I’d recommend this book if you’re looking for something super light and fluffy to read, and feel the need to get sucked into a love story that will take you away from the stress of your own life.

The Sun is Also a Star is available online at Chapters Indigo, Book Depository, and Kobo.
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The Heart of Henry Quantum by Pepper Harding: Book Review

The Heart of Henry Quantum

Obtained: Simon & Schuster Canada, ARC
Pages: 288
Publish date: October 4, 2016
Rating: DNF

I was contemplating writing a “Did Not Finish” review for this book, and ultimately decided I should write at least a little something as to why I put the book down – I did think I’d like this one. I don’t typically write DNF reviews unless something particularly sets me off, but I found I did have some things to say about this one.

The Heart of Henry Quantum tells the story of Henry “Bones” Quantum (a name which in itself makes me angry – that’s like calling an optimistic character “Hope”). He decides two days before Christmas it’s time to get a bottle of perfume for his wife for Christmas, when he runs into an ex-lover and the wheels of “what if” start to turn in his head.

If anyone knows me, you know how annoyed I get with stories such as this. The “Boy is dating/married to girl. Girl gets villainized. Boy wishes he were dating/married to his best friend/ex-girlfriend/the one that got away/etc.”. It’s been done a million times, and frankly, as someone who loves love, I’m annoyed by people constantly telling this story. It’s gotten to the point where I am impressed by books where the main plot is supplemented by a couple who fight the antagonist together rather than fighting each other.

And maybe I would be less annoyed if the wife weren’t villainized so much. If this is going to be the story, at least maybe show everyone in it as rounded humans who bring both positive and negative to the table. It was 100 pages in when I gave up on this, and literally all I knew about Henry’s wife was that she was a snobby workaholic who criticized him about almost everything. Again, on the opposite end of  that spectrum, his ex-lover, Daisy. She shows up and is simultaneously one-dimensional, but she is super perfect.

Then it got to the point in Henry and Daisy’s conversation where he starts to think about his wife, and he describes her in comparison to Daisy, saying they’re both “smart, pretty, and funny”. That’s about where I gave up on this book. Those three words are pretty flat, aren’t they? It’s like a teenager describing what he likes about a girl when he doesn’t really know how he feels yet. Is there nothing else to the women in this novel besides who they are to Henry, their looks, and those three vague descriptors?

In its defense, the book does have two other parts to the novel from the two women’s points of view, which I didn’t read far enough to get into. I really hope that those sections allow Margaret and Daisy to flourish in a way that Henry’s part didn’t let them. I also quite liked the stream of consciousness narrative that the author wrote for Henry. I was just too annoyed by where the story was going to continue reading it. Maybe I just don’t like books that centre around a love conflict, I don’t know.

Nutshell by Ian McEwan: Book Review

Nutshell

Obtained: Penguin Random House Canada, ARC
Pages: 208
Publish date: September 13, 2016
Rating: ★★★★

When I heard what this book was about, I knew I had to get my hands on it. I’m into some weird stuff – experimental storytelling, if you will. And I can’t say that I’ve ever read anything from the perspective of a fetus.

Nutshell is about a woman named Trudy who is currently taking a bit of a break from her husband, and is having an affair with another man. The two of them concoct a plan to murder her husband. All seems sort of typical, until you become aware that the narrator of the story is, in fact, the baby that Trudy is carrying.

Suspend reality while you read, because obviously a baby could never know such poetic language as McEwan uses to write this tale. And once you let yourself fall into the story, you’ll stay captivated. I thought that using the baby as the narrator was a great way to turn a character that most people wouldn’t really consider part of the plot into a main player.

For me, it cast the focus onto the character that most people would forget existed while reading. The baby has stakes in this murder plot, same as any of the other characters, but by making the fetus tell the story puts emphasis on those stakes – and also puts emphasis on how little thought Trudy or her lover give to this little person inside of her.

I really enjoyed reading Nutshell, as it’s something like I’ve never read before. It’s a very short read, as well. If this review made you intrigued at all, I suggest you give the book a read.

Nutshell is available online at Chapters Indigo, Book Depository, and Kobo.

Mark of the Plague by Kevin Sands: Book Review

Mark of the Plague (The Blackthorn Key, #2)

Obtained: Simon & Schuster Canada, ARC
Pages: 544
Publish date: September 6, 2016
Rating: ★★★★★

I read and absolutely fell in love with Kevin Sands’s first book, The Blackthorn Key (click to visit my review), so when I heard there was going to be a sequel, I definitely let myself have a fangirl moment. This series for young readers is so much more than just a “kids book” – to me, I get so lost in the world and love following the characters along on their adventures, it’s almost how I felt when reading Harry Potter for the first time. Yeah, I’m going there.

Mark of the Plague continues to follow Christopher and his friend Tom on their wacky adventures in the 1600s. Christopher is an apothecary’s apprentice who is trying desperately, like everyone else during this time, to find a way to treat the plague. That’s when two new faces show up in town: one claiming to have the ability to predict who will die of the plague next, and one claiming to have the cure. Christopher,  Tom, and their old friend Sally come together to follow the clues these two leave behind in order to figure out if they’re bluffing – and hopefully they figure it all out before one of them gets sick.

What I love most about this series is the puzzles and clues – and that is the aspect that reminds me most of Harry Potter. These three young teenagers working to piece together any clues they can find, cracking word puzzles left in letters, and concocting “potions”, to understand what is going on with bad guys that seem far too intimidating to face at their age.

I also love Sands’s writing – not just the story he builds, but the fact that I can open the book and fall directly into the characters’ world. I was sort of in a reading drought recently, and Mark of the Plague made me want to read again. Like, a lot. Like, I finished a 500-page book in two days.

I could go on and on about how much I enjoyed reading this, but the best thing for you to do is pick it up yourself. Start with The Blackthorn Key, and move onto Mark of the Plague (though you don’t have to read the first book first, I recommend you do), and you’ll see how the series is only getting better.

Mark of the Plague is available online at Chapters Indigo, Book Depository, and Kobo.

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch: Book Review

Dark Matter

Obtained: Penguin Random House Canada
Pages: 353
Publish date: July 26, 2016
Rating: ★★★★★

Are you a fan of action sci-fi? Because I most definitely am. And when I saw the title of this book, it drew me in, and then the summary, even more so. When I picked up Dark Matter and started to read, I wasn’t entirely sure what kind of story this would be, but once I started reading, I could not put it down.

Dark Matter sets the stage by showing you the lovely life of Jason. Married to a wonderful woman, teenage son, decent home, and their family dynamic is magically balanced. Wife, Daniela, always wanted to be a painter, and Jason himself was on his way to fame and fortune with his scientific research, but both chose this life over one of financial success. Until this night when we meet Jason – he leaves to grab a drink with a friend and is kidnapped by a man in a mask. “Are you happy?” he asks as he drugs Jason and takes him to a world far, far away from his own.

This book asks a lot of great philosophical questions: What is real? What is imagined? What is identity? What makes you, you? What is right or wrong when all of these other lines start to get blurred and you find yourself living your weirdest nightmares?

I loved this book. It was suspenseful, fast-paced, and had me questioning my existence – everything I truly appreciate when reading a good science fiction novel. It was so tense trying to follow Jason on his journey to figure out what had happened to him, and once we figured it out, it was a roller coaster ride to the finish.

If you’re the kind of person who’s so into Philip K. Dick novels (or the film adaptations), or truly loved the witty narration in The Martian, I think you’ll love this book.

Dark Matter is available online at Chapters Indigo, Book Depository, and Kobo.