Review: The Universal Bureau of Copyrights

22225753Title: The Universal Bureau of Copyrights

Author: Bertrand Laverdure

Translator: Oana Avasilichioaei

Publisher: BookThug

Publication Date: October 2014

ISBN: 9781771660525

Universal Bureau of Copyrights

 

Synopsis from Goodreads:

From multidisciplinary artist Bertrand Laverdure comes UNIVERSAL BUREAU OF COPYRIGHTS, a bold, strange, and addictive story that envisions a world where free will doesn’t exist, and an unnameable global corporation buys and sells the copyrights for all things that exist on the earth, including real and fictional characters. Part narrative-poetry, part sci-fi-dystopian fantasy, readers become acquainted with the main character, a man who deconstructs himself as he navigates the mystifying passages of the story. Having no control over his environment, time continuum, or body, he is a puppet on strings, an icon in a video game and, as he eventually discovers with the bowels of the UNIVERSAL BUREAU OF COPYRIGHTS, the object of countless copyrights.

I’m finding this a difficult book to review because it is unlike anything I’ve ever encountered outside of academic study. I enjoyed it in its absurdity, it’s shockingness, and it’s willingness to challenge traditional narratives. Bertrand’s translated voices pulls, no coaxes, you along through the unfortunate tale of the main character. His limbs and digits are taken from him and we realize he lives in a world where he has no control, not of his body, his life, or even his death. He ends up with a mesmerizing, singing, wooden leg and a fully functioning arm made of chocolate. He loses his fingers and eventually loses control of his body and his sensory ability.

This book will push you to challenge your notion of what a novel is and of what storytelling is. The story is poetic in its unfolding, often disjointed in a way that mirrors the content of the story. The reader is put into the character’s place, feeling lost, uncertain, tentative, or afraid, as the story carries you along.

One of the things I really loved about this story is that it is metafictive. It is a story that knows it is a story. The tale often refers to the main character. A “literary tourist” challenges the main character: “What are you doing to the fictions original ecology? You’re nothing but a mediocre patch-it-upper!” (111), as if the main character is ruining the story as he plunders along through this unfamiliar world. Chapter 7 is where we can really see this book introducing itself as a work of metafiction. In Chapter 7, we meet all of the “literary tourists” who are described as people “who haven’t necessarily read the book, but who have followed, with guide and road maps, our hero’s adventure” (44). The book here directly acknowledges itself as a book and it’s main character as a character. It is not parading around as fiction disguises as reality. It understands its fictiveness. Having studied metafiction in detail in university, I find this book fascinating and would definitely recommend it for any metafiction course.

Overall, a very unique story. A challenging, but enjoyable read.

Review: Doomboy by Tony Sandoval

*I received this book on NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*

12724844Title: Doomboy

Author: Tony Sandoval

Publisher: Magnetic Press

Publication Date: October 2014

ISBN: 9782888904380

Doomboy

Synopsis from NetGalley:

A lonely, metal-obsessed teen sends a heartfelt song to his missing beloved, only to find out that his music has traveled to the beyond, and re-broadcast to the entire city. Only his best friend knows that he is really the mysterious rock god and anonymous legend known as “Doomboy.”

Doomboy is a story of loss, recovery, and inspiration. ID is the mysterious “Doomboy.” Through his music, he speaks to his recently departed girlfriend, Annie, in an attempt to apologize to her. He has a literal hole in his chest, a whole that formed when his heart broke at the news of her passing. The artwork is a contrast of beautiful backgrounds mixed with grunge inspired, harsh ink drawings. The art makes you cringe sometimes and swoon at others, vibrant in its own mood and feeling. Combined with ID’s story, it makes for an emotional comic about a boy learning to cope with death.

Screen Shot 2014-11-24 at 9.10.17 PMThe music and sound in this story is often conveyed through the movement of animals (see above) in the sky or visible swirls (much like the wind). The image above is one of my favourites. ID hears a sound over the radio frequency, an etherial noise depicted as sea creatures rising up from the ocean. It is beautiful, mystical, and magical. The contrast between the two artist styles is clear in images like this one. You can see the soft, dreamlike quality of the music in the sky, contrasted against the solid, hard-lined in drawings of reality. You can see the sound and contrast again portrayed in the image below. ID is on the beach during a thunderstorm.

Screen Shot 2014-11-24 at 9.21.51 PM

 

 

ID’s inspiration for his music is Annie, but I wonder too if he saw Annie and his feelings reflected in the world around him, drawing on this too for creative inspiration.

Overall, I really enjoyed this comic. It took me a few pages to get into it as I was reading it on my computer, but I would love to see a physical copy of this book. The art is beautiful, and Sandoval’s portrayal of loss and recovery really struck a cord with me. I understand “Doomboy.” I think that a lot of readers will be able to connect with him.

*I acknowledge that the images used in this post are property solely of Tony Sandoval and Magnetic Press and have only been replicated here for example and review purposes.*

 

Review: The Here and Now by Ann Brashares

18242896Title: The Here and Now

Author: Ann Brashares

Publisher:Hachette Children’s Books

Publication Date: Paperback, January 2015

ISBN:9780385736800

The Here and Now

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Seventeen-year-old Prenna James emigrated to New York when she was twelve. But Prenna didn’t come from a different country, she came from a different time – a future where a mosquito-borne illness has mutated into a pandemic, killing millions and leaving the world in ruins.
Prenna and the others who escaped to the present day must follow a strict set of rules. Prenna does as she’s told, believing she can help prevent the plague that will one day ravage the earth and take the lives of her younger brothers. But everything changes when she falls for Ethan. She might be able to save the world … if she lets go of the one thing she’s found to hold on to.

The Here and Now did not live up to the expectations I had of Ann Brashares, being a huge fan of the Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants series. I hate giving bad reviews, but unfortunately, there was little in this book to redeem it’s faults. I can’t say that I enjoyed it.

First of all, the protagonist, Prenna, is a bit of an idiot. There’s a scene in the book after she’s rebelled and fled from home and the time immigrants’ governing body, but instead of keeping her distance to protect herself like any thinking human would, she thinks, “I need to go home and have a shower to freshen up.” Despite being warned by her travelling companion, she returns home. Of course, there are people waiting to arrest her and detain her. Like really? Honestly, you can’t even call this a rookie mistake, because it’s just plain stupid.

Secondly, there’s absolutely nothing at all to the romance. They’re friends first and that is quite adorable, but it goes from nothing to all instantly. There’s no real discussion, and suddenly they’re sleeping together, making out, and seriously talking about having sex. They don’t even take the time to establish themselves as a couple before they’re fooling around. On top of that, they’re in the middle of a mission to save all of Earth, but they take a break from that mission to take a little vacation at some Myrtle Beach-esque location where they frolic in the waves and mack on one another as if Earth can wait to be saved. Let’s just leave everything to the very last second and hope that things turn out okay.

I had to question Ethan as well. He sees this girl appear out of thing air when he’s approximately 14, but he never once mentions anything to Prenna. Not in the 4 or so years that they’re friends. It’s only when things begin to fall apart that he’s mentions, ‘actually, I know you’re from the future, and I’ve known all this time, so you don’t have to waste any more time lying to me and even though you hardly said 2 words to me before now because you were trying so hard to keep your secret, I actually love you and will risk my life and everything I know to save you and these people who have done their best to ensure that you remain passive and under control.’ I can’t see what about her draws him in, but he can’t help but falling in love with her. Why, I don’t know.

I couldn’t pin down how old these characters were supposed to be. I think they’re supposed to be 18? But on the one hand, Prenna can’t seem to function without everyone telling her what to do (i.e. take off your glasses because they’re tools to spy on you, or, make sure you so something to stop the future we lived from happening, or, don’t go back home or they’ll capture you), but on the other hand, she and Ethan are served alcohol and look old enough to pass for university aged students. Honestly if Ethan wasn’t around, Prenna would have been dead right around page 2.

Lastly, the villain. He’s a murderous, unrelenting felon one second, and the next he’s everyone’s best friend in the hospital. He’s hardly in the story, thus his presence doesn’t really appear to be much of a threat to the reader. He’s there, but he’s not really there until the very end of the story. And then conveniently, he offs himself at the end.

I didn’t mind the way that time travel was dealt with. I liked the idea of it as a means of escape from the horrendous future, but as I’ve said before, time travel is always problematic. Brashares does discuss how their interaction with the “time natives” can influence how things turn out in the future, and she does open up the door for the world to have a new and hopefully better future, but ultimately, because of the weak characters and lack of strong plot, the time travel topic was just too much for this novel.

I wouldn’t recommend this, I’m sorry to say. If you have read it, I hope you had better luck with it than I did.

 

Review: Earth & Sky by Megan Crewe

17875055Title: Earth & Sky

Author: Megan Crewe

Publisher: Razorbill Canada

Publication Date: October 2014

ISBN: 9780670068128

Earth & Sky (Earth & Sky, #1)

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Seventeen-year-old Skylar has been haunted for as long as she can remember by fleeting yet powerful sensations that something is horribly wrong. But despite the panic attacks tormenting her, nothing ever happens, and Sky’s beginning to think she’s crazy. Then she meets a mysterious, otherworldly boy named Win and discovers the shocking truth her premonitions have tapped into: our world no longer belongs to us. For thousands of years, Earth has been at the mercy of alien scientists who care nothing for its inhabitants and are using us as the unwitting subjects of their time-manipulating experiments. Win belongs to a rebel faction seeking to put a stop to it, and he needs Skylar’s help–but with each shift in the past, the very fabric of reality is unraveling, and soon there may be no Earth left to save.

I just finished reading Earth & Sky and I really like the take on aliens and time travel that Megan Crewe takes. It’s a fresh perspective on a literary trope that can often be problematic. Time travel is a difficult idea to tackle in a novel, well in any conversation ever, really. But using a futuristic cloak, characters Skylar and Win, can move between times, popping in and out, trying to influence the “present” as little as possible. Crewe addresses any changes made in the past as “shifts” that affect the future. Actions to change the past are not without repercussions in the future. I’m glad to have stumbled upon this series, purely by accident.

Skylar has her quirks. At first glance, one might call her obsessive compulsive. But her stress stems from her ability to see where “shifts” in time have occurred, where the present has been changed by some event in the past, almost as if there’s a rip in the fabric of reality that provides her a glimpse of what the present should have been. These shifts are not without consequence. Not only can they change the outcome of the future, they also have dire consequences on the atomic make up of the Earth at the present. Crewe covers most of her bases with the time travel concept. Her interpretation is so interesting and really unique (compared to any time travel stories I’ve encountered, at least).

I picked up my copy of Earth & Sky at a small book launch in Toronto. Me and Mr. Matthew at the launch (below).

IMG_20141102_134445

 

 

We all got delicious cupcakes with different coloured candy stars.
IMG_20141102_134423And lastly, I got to meet Megan Crewe and get my book signed! All in all, a pretty good day!

WP_000795

Review: Emancipation Day by Wayne Grady

21532128

*I received this copy from Random House Canada in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: Emancipation Day

Author: Wayne Grady

Publisher: Anchor Canada

Publication Date: paperback, November 2014

ISBN: 9780385677684

Emancipation Day

Synopsis from Goodreads:

With his curly black hair and his wicked grin, everyone swoons and thinks of Frank Sinatra when Navy musician Jackson Lewis takes the stage. It’s World War II, and while stationed in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Jack meets the well-heeled Vivian Clift, a local girl who has never stepped off the Rock and longs to see the world. They marry against Vivian’s family’s wishes–there’s something about Jack that they just don’t like–and as the war draws to a close, the couple travels to Windsor to meet Jack’s family.
     But when Vivian meets Jack’s mother and brother, everything she thought she knew about her husband gets called into question. They don’t live in the dream home Jack depicted, they all look different from one another–different from anyone Vivian has ever seen–and after weeks of waiting to meet Jack’s father, he never materializes.
     Steeped in jazz and big-band music, spanning pre- and post-war Windsor-Detroit, St. John’s, Newfoundland, and 1950s Toronto, this is an arresting, heart-wrenching novel about fathers and sons, love and sacrifice, race relations and a time in our history when the world was on the cusp of momentous change.

Emancipation Day explores race and identity in Canadian cities in the years pre and post-WWII. It’s so interesting to hear a family story that is so truly Canadian, but a story that addresses Canada’s racial history and the conflicts that arose at home, paralleled with the conflicts of the second World War. It exposes the animosity between races, where anyone of colour is limited, and having pale skin is advantageous. Race is a point of high tension and violent conflict. Intimate interracial relationships do occur, but they are secret and as one character explains, are not long term.

Jack secret is revealed early on, a black man born with skin so light that he is identified as a white man. His hatred for his family runs so deep at an early age. He is ashamed of them and of their station in life. He goes as far as running from home and claiming that he in an orphan and that the dark skinned man who calls himself his father, killed his “parents.” Jack discards his own name: “Jackson.” He tells half-truths about them to his own wife, letting her realize their skin colour on her own after years of marriage. Jack is a character who is filled with self-doubt, anger, and fear of who he really is.

I can’t say that I connected with any of the characters in Emancipation Day and that’s why I’ve given it 3 stars. I found Jack charming at first, but he quickly becomes sullen, withdrawn, isolated, and all around unlikable. His story is certainly hard to stomach sometimes, but it’s difficult to feeling any sympathy for him. I do feel some compassion to his wife Vivian, because she ends up marrying a man who she really doesn’t know, but she too falls flat. It was hard to really connect with her. It felt as though there was always some sort of barrier up between her and the reader. Vivian is a suffer in silence type of person who seemingly accepts the lot she is given in life. I wanted her to be stronger and braver, but she remains quiet and complacent.

We get to know Jack’s family a little more than Vivian’s as there are a few chapters from the perspective of Jack’s father. But William Henry’s chapters are really just discussions about his anger at his son, but his lack of willingness to do anything to reprimand the boy who rejects him and his family so fully. William Henry is a drunk, a slacker, and a theif. He does nothing to better his image in both his son and the reader’s eyes. He slots himself right into the negative image that surrounds anyone of colour in the story. William Henry, though, is the only character who I felt had some redeeming qualities. I could forgive many of his transgressions because he owns up to his short comings in the end. He recognizes that he rejected Jack in much the same way that Jack rejects him. He sees that he fail to punish his son for his blatant dismissal of his family. He makes a vow to right his wrongs. In my opinion, he’s the only character in which we see any kind of growth.

This book fell a bit short of my initial expectations, but it was still a very interesting read. Emancipation Day reveals a time and a place in Canada that is often forgotten about. Set in Windsor, it reveals a violence and hatred that occurred right here at home. As Jack puts it during the riots in Detroit, “we are at war.” They came from World War II into a war of the races. Grady addresses this conflict honestly and without reserve. He is not afraid to confront the struggle of self-identity–of not knowing who one is when one doesn’t fulling below to one race or another. Perhaps that’s why we can’t really connect with Jack, because he himself doesn’t fully know and understand who he is. He is inhibited by anger and lets no one, not even the reader, in. Emancipation Day is definitely worth the read, but I hope you’re reading experience is a little better than mine.

Review: Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater

17378508Title: Blue Lily, Lily Blue

Author: Maggie Stiefvater

Publisher: Scholastic Press

Publication Date: November 1, 2014

ISBN: 9780545424967

Blue Lily, Lily Blue (The Raven Cycle, #3)

Synopsis from Goodreads:

There is danger in dreaming. But there is even more danger in waking up.
Blue Sargent has found things. For the first time in her life, she has friends she can trust, a group to which she can belong. The Raven Boys have taken her in as one of their own. Their problems have become hers, and her problems have become theirs.
The trick with found things though, is how easily they can be lost.

Stop. Can we talk about this for just a sec. Because my mind is blown. My heart is pounding. Maggie, can this series get any better?! Ah! Yes, I know I’ve been talking about this book since the cover was revealed months ago. But honestly, any one who hasn’t read it, go out now and BUY IT! Maggie Stiefvater brings this paranormal world to life, making you fall in love with each of her characters again and again with every page. I could only put this book down when it was too late at night and the story got to creepy for me to read with the wind howling outside and the ghostly emptiness of the house. And even then, it was difficult to detach from the story.

One word for you: Gansey. Sigh. Let’s all fangirl together because he’s epically cute in this. It’s been a long time since I’ve had such a major crush on a fictional character, but Gaaaanseeeyyy! <3! We’ve had 3 books so far in the Raven Cycle: Adam, Ronan, and Blue. So I’d say it’s pretty safe to assume that book 4 will have Gansey as the star of the show (but between us, when is he not?). Things are really starting to heat up in Blue Lily. It’s packed full of suspense. People die. And of course, we’re one step closer to Gansey’s inevitable fate. There are some pretty major revelations. There were a few times that I had to pause. I couldn’t take the suspense nor the surprise. It’s intense people.

I don’t want to say too much because I don’t want to ruin things for those of you who haven’t read it. It’s wonderful. That’s all you need to know.

Review: Sophrosyne by Marianne Apostolides

22225751Title: Sophrosyne

Author: Marianne Apostolides

Published by: BookThug

Publication Date: September 2014

ISBN: 9781771660501

Sophrosyne

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Sophrosyne is one of only four virtues identified by Socrates – four traits which, if lived deeply, define who we are as human beings. But sophrosyne is a concept our culture has long forgotten. “”Self-restraint, ‘ ‘self-control, ‘ ‘modesty, ‘ ‘temperance’ – none of these terms expresses the essence of the word.
In this provocative new novel about desire and restraint in a digital age by acclaimed author Marianne Apostolides, 21-year-old Alex is consumed by the elusive problem of sophrosyne for reasons he cannot share with others. While Alex’s philosophy professor believes studying it will help shed light on the malaise of our era, Alex hopes it will release him from his darkly disturbing relationship with his mother. As he attempts to uncover his mother’s truth, Alex is drawn inside an amorphous, indefinable undercurrent of love and violation. Only through his lover, Meiko, does Alex open into a new understanding of sophrosyne, with all its implications.

This book is the most complex story that I’ve come across this year. It is a book, not simply to be read, but to be studied. Apostolides’ writing invites in-depth conversation with her disturbing, yet fresh and thoughtful prose. This story has unsettled me. It’s stopped me in my tracks and forced me to reconsider my thoughts on humanity,  on romance, on academia, on intimacy. Alexandros is haunted by his awfully dark relationship with his mother. He struggles to free himself from the impotence that plagues him, both sexually and intellectually. Through his academics and with the help of his lover, Meiko, he begins to cast aside the chains imposed upon him by the relationship he and his mother had.

We never directly see Sophia, Alex’s mother, yet she is a constant and imposing presence. She is always there, pushing and taking from Alex. She is presented through his thoughts, perceptions, and memories. Everything he is and everything he becomes is influenced by her. She is as much alive to him when she is absent as when she is present. She pushes him to better him, she says. But she holds him back, restraining him and isolating him from his peers. He questions, and thus the reader questions, what it means to be human, what it means to be a man, what it means to love.

Sophrosyne is a novel that cannot be read just once. There is no way to completely understand to fully absorb this story after just one read because it pushes you to think further and to delve deeper. It’s challenging in a way that most stories are not, but Apostolides coaxes you through with eloquent and poetic prose. Despite such disturbing subjects, her writing is beautiful.

This story is unlike anything I’ve ever read. It’s unsettling, it’s contemplative, and it’s vast. Apsotlides’ reader must be smart and thoughtful, willing to contemplate on the statements her characters make. For now, I will be setting Sophrosyne aside, with every intention of returning to dwell on this prose again soon.