Review: River Talk by CB Anderson

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*I received my copy of River Talk from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: River Talk

Author: CB Anderson

Publisher: C&R Press

Date Published: March 2014

ISBN: 9781936196463

River Talk

 Synopsis from Goodreads:

Surefooted and emotionally deft, the stories in River Talk introduce an unforgettable array of characters. A woman reconsiders her decision to join a fundamentalist compound and enter a polygamous marriage; a Somali refugee takes a job at the local mill to support her family; a college student attempts to right her world through the lens of mathematics; an Iraq War vet struggles to regain his compromised relationships. In spare yet vivid prose, Anderson explores loss and desire, regret and hope. Everywhere we are reminded of all that a single life contains.

I’m not a short story and this collection really proved that to me again. Although Anderson’s stories are a thorough and unique observation of the human experience in a small town, the art of the short story escapes me. I struggled with this book only because I felt as though I couldn’t connect to the stories and the characters. I read this book during the morning commute, but I will have to attempt it again another time in a more peaceful and relaxed setting. These stories are perfect for sitting at the end of a dock overlooking a serene lake with a mug of coffee. I hope I will have better success when reading without distraction.

Overall, Anderson’s writing is beautiful and intimate, I just couldn’t get into it. I wanted to enjoy it, but I will not be attempting any more short stories any time soon. I’m a novel girl, through and through. I hope you enjoy these stories more than I did. I’d love to hear about your experience reading Anderson’s River Talk.

Funky Cover Friday

 

 

 

 

Here by Richard McGuire is a comic that shows the history of one space, from the age of the dinosaurs, through the present, and into the future. But it’s always the same space. I love this cover of a nondescript window. It could be any window, but each window will have it’s own story, it’s own version of Here. The window invites us to open the book and to peek into the space. The curtain is pulled back, not allowing total access because we are not occupant of this place, merely observers. We can read and watch the way this place develops, changes, and is altered by it’s occupants. This cover is an invitation.
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Here / Richard McGuire / Pantheon / December 2014 / 9780375406508

Review: Ghosting by Edith Pattou

21558973 *I received this ePUB from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: Ghosting

Author: Edith Pattou

Publisher: Skyscape, an imprint of AmazonPublishing

Date Published: August 19, 2014

ISBN: 9781477847749

Ghosting

 Synopsis from Goodreads:

On a hot summer night in a Midwestern town, a high school teenage prank goes horrifically awry. Alcohol, guns, and a dare. Within minutes, as events collide, innocents becomes victims—with tragic outcomes altering lives forever, a grisly and unfortunate scenario all too familiar from current real-life headlines. But victims can also become survivors, and as we come to know each character through his/her own distinctive voice and their interactions with one another, we see how, despite pain and guilt, they can reach out to one another, find a new equilibrium, and survive.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect when I first downloaded the ePUB of Ghosting. I recognized Edith Pattou’s name from her novel East, a story that I loved as a child and I’ve read over and over again. I figured Ghosting would be a tragic story based on it’s description, but the synopsis sheds little light on the terrible and powerful story that’s within.

I was drawn to the character of Maxine. She is one of those people who follows her passion (photography) and although she wants to make friends, she doesn’t succumb to peer pressure to do anything too far out of her comfort zone. She is sensitive and perceptive to the emotions and needs of those around her. She seems to have a very natural openness to her that draws not only the characters to her, but the reader as well. She’s a beacon of hope throughout the story and when she struggles, it really touches your heart. I found myself cheering for her to find away to fit in and to survive her situation.

It’s a night of fun gone awry. New friends and old get together for a party, but when drugs and alcohol mix with irrationality and mischief-making, a simple night of blowing off steam turns to tragedy. While I felt that the story itself was a little bit didactic (“Hey kids, drugs and alcohol are bad. You know what happened to the teens who did things they weren’t supposed to? They died.”), Pattou turns it into a fast paced, stylized narrative through the text’s form. Written as a free verse, the story is imbued with a rhythm almost like a heartbeat racing with adrenaline. Her sentence structure pulls you through the story, not letting you pause for a second. Her writing style thrusts you into the story, as though you, the reader, are right there in the van. Her choice of form brings the story to life. While it rushes you through the story, it also causes you to pause to really take in what each character is saying. The sentences are deliberate and pointed, each holding a significant meaning to the overall plot. It is because of the story’s free verse structure that I’ve given it 4 stars, because without it, I don’t think the story would have come alive for me in the same way.

It’s definitely a book worth looking into. And it’s a book that could have a huge impact on a lot of young readers. It’s a very heavy YA that makes bold statements about substance abuse, violence, friendship, relationships, and more.

 

 

Review: The Girl Who Was Saturday Night

21461015 Title: The Girl Who Was Saturday Night

Author: Heather O’Neill

Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Ltd.

Publication Date: May 2014

ISBN: 9780374162665

The Girl Who Was Saturday Night

 Synopsis from Goodreads:

Nineteen years old, free of prospects, and inescapably famous, the twins Nicholas and Nouschka Tremblay are trying to outrun the notoriety of their father, a French-Canadian Serge Gainsbourg with a genius for the absurd and for winding up in prison. “Back in the day, he could come home from a show with a paper bag filled with women’s underwear. Outside of Québec nobody had even heard of him, naturally. Québec needed stars badly.”
     Since the twins were little, Étienne has made them part of his unashamed seduction of the province, parading them on talk shows and then dumping them with their decrepit grandfather while he disappeared into some festive squalor. Now Étienne is washed up and the twins are making their own almost-grown-up messes, with every misstep landing on the front pages of the tabloid Allo Police. Nouschka not only needs to leave her childhood behind; she also has to leave her brother, whose increasingly erratic decisions might take her down with him.

I really enjoyed Heather O’Neill’s newest novel. O’Neill has such a distinct voice and style as an author, when you read this book it’s so apparent that this is the same author as Lullabies for Little Criminals. And just as in Lullabies, O’Neill hits it out of the park with her complex characterization, her often brutal openness, and her intimate exploration of self-discovery.  Narrated by Noushka Trembley, it’s a story of growing up, finding individuality, and the struggles of family.

Noushka is very reminiscent of Lullabies‘ Baby, although quite a few years older. It was hard not to draw comparisons between the two because both come from difficult/broken families, both are growing up in a world that favours the wealthy and educated, and both are trying to understand themselves as they transition into adulthood. If you connected with Lullabies, you’ll connect with this one as well.

Noushka, I haven’t mentioned yet, is a twin. She and Nicolas, her brother, have an almost too intimate relationship. They perceive themselves one and the same, at least in the beginning. But as they grow, they find love and drift apart. How does one come to know one’s place in the world growing up with a second half? Time and time again, they cannot find their way alone. Their relationship is both loving and hostile as they try to find a balance between loving one another so completely and hating one another so fully. They are attached as brother and sister, as twins, and as abandoned siblings finding a mentor and companion in the each other. Their relationship is endearing, frightening, and heart-wrenching. They are two people seeking love with a desire not to be alone in a harsh and cruel world.

It is a story of growing up and of finding happiness in life, even if life doesn’t always deal you the best cards. It’s about finding those you can trust and count on, and letting go of those you can’t. And it’s about responsibility and about taking control of your life to get where you want to be.

I want to share a quote with you so you can get a glimpse of O’Neill’s beautiful writing style. It’s these magical passages along the way that have you head over heals for her work.

” The neighbour was beating her Indian carpet violently with a broom. One of the birds burst off the pattern adn flew into the air. It circled around my head and went down the street toward the rive. I followed after it and the  crew went sadly back to their van.” (55)

I definitely recommend this one. Do you have a favourite line or paragraph from The Girl Who Was Saturday Night? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Funky Cover Friday

I recently reviewed The House I Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell (read review here) and I adore the cover. It’s a perfect representation of the fragility of life and of the balance between contentment and devastation.The egg is the perfect symbol for the Bird family. Death and anger (at oneself and others) threaten to overwhelm the family. The lives that they create are strong until devastation occurs. Then their lives become easily shattered and pulled apart at the slightest crack. Set against the welcoming backdrop of homely floral wall paper, this cover represents the expectations  that the family strives for, but cannot meet.

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What do you think of Jewell’s cover? Is there an image that you think better represents the story?

Review: We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas

17830123*I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: We Are Not Ourselves

Author: Matthew Thomas

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Publication Date: August 19, 2014

ISBN: 9781476756660

We Are Not Ourselves

 Synopsis from Goodreads:

Born in 1941, Eileen Tumulty is raised by her Irish immigrant parents in Woodside, Queens, in an apartment where the mood swings between heartbreak and hilarity, depending on whether guests are over and how much alcohol has been consumed.

When Eileen meets Ed Leary, a scientist whose bearing is nothing like those of the men she grew up with, she thinks she’s found the perfect partner to deliver her to the cosmopolitan world she longs to inhabit. They marry, and Eileen quickly discovers Ed doesn’t aspire to the same, ever bigger, stakes in the American Dream.

Eileen encourages her husband to want more: a better job, better friends, a better house, but as years pass it becomes clear that his growing reluctance is part of a deeper psychological shift. An inescapable darkness enters their lives, and Eileen and Ed and their son Connell try desperately to hold together a semblance of the reality they have known, and to preserve, against long odds, an idea they have cherished of the future.

This was a story of unparalleled sadness: the dream of a better life unfulfilled by the inescapable challenges of aging and a breaking of the mind. It’s a story of a lost future, or a changed future. Although the Leary family strives for one life, it is not in their hands for them to end up the way that they dream. They are a family out of sink with one another, a divide that grows greater as they struggle to cope with incurable illness and mental deterioration.

I found the son, Connell, to be the most interesting character. His thoughts and perceptions through childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood are extraordinarily complex. As a teen, he struggles between his love of learning and his desire to fit in. He struggles mentally and physically under the weight of peer pressure. He is exposed to drugs and sexuality, neither of which he is ready for or comfortable with, but he craves belonging and so he doesn’t run from it. He drifts further and further from his parents, feeling shame at close, familial contact and affection, but unable to find affection in romantic relationships. As Connell develops, his perception of relationships continues to skew. He doesn’t understand how to relate to his struggling family and he can’t bridge the barrier to demonstrate his love for them. The same goes for his romantic relationships. He proposes to one of his first serious girlfriends at the age of nineteen, not fully comprehending the “normal” (if such a thing can be said) progression of a romantic relationship. He suffers from a lack of intimacy and cannot fathom a way to demonstrate his feelings of love and attachment.

The story of these characters swept me away completely. Thomas’ style opens the Leary’s lives raw for the reader, exposing the ugly truths of family relationships, the contemplations of love, and the devastation of disease. The story itself does run long after a while. I felt as though there were some issues with pacing. The early parts of the story take us through Eileen’s childhood and her first interactions with her husband, Ed. I felt so rushed during these chapters. Although it’s important to know about where these characters come from in order to know why they want what they want later in life, these earlier chapters didn’t really affect the overall plot. Because of this rushed feeling, I could never understand why Eileen and Ed loved one another. Their relationship in the beginning felt quite glossed over and so their marriage to me didn’t fully make sense. The pacing evens out later on as the characters reach middle age and it was smooth sailing from there in terms of plot and character development.

A very moving story overall. It tackles difficult and depressing topics, so be forewarned. It’s left me feeling pretty melancholic for the moment, but I thoroughly enjoyed it overall. We Are Not Ourselves is an honest and open story with compelling and complex characters. I definitely recommend it!

Top Ten Tuesday

Hello all! I’ve been away camping for the past few days and it’s nice to be back again. And this means I’m back again to share with you my favourite top tens. I do miss the sun and the beach and the sand, but this week I’ve got an exciting topic to share with you: top ten book I’d give to readers who have never read graphic novels!

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10. Maus by Art Spiegelman is a staple in any graphic novel collection. What I loved about this book is that it makes learning about the cruelties of the Holocaust accessible. It shares a very personal and tragic story in a way that a vast audience can understand and relate to.

 

 

9. My Most Secret Desire by Julie Doucet was a shocker for me. I’d never read such stark and honest comics before this one. Doucet doesn’t hide or gloss over her thoughts as she explores sexuality, the body, and self-identity.

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8. Swallow Me Whole by Nate Powell is a stunning representation of a teenager struggling not only with the transitions of adolescence, but also with the onset of schizophrenia. Again, this is one that deals with tough topics in a way that reaches out to people of all ages and backgrounds. I loved it’s accessibility. It helped me to understand the harsh realities of living and dealing with schizophrenia.

 

7. Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli is coloured in pink and blue against stark white and the colours represent an exploration of duality and opposites. Asterios is a twin, but his twin passed away at birth and his whole life he struggles with a lost sense of self. It explores his understanding of fate versus free will, love, and the past and present.

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6. Epileptic by David B. is an autobiographical comic about the author’s life growing up with an epileptic brother. Through his drawing his copes with his anger and his isolation, making his way through his adolescence and adulthood trying to discover who he is apart from the epilepsy that affects their entire family.

 

5. This One Summer by Mariko and Jullian Tamaki is a beautiful new comic. You can read my original review here. I loved this book because it perfectly encapsulates the transition from childhood to adulthood and explores the isolation and loneliness that this can lead to when one feels as though they no longer relate to anyone.

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4. Fables – I’ve been reading though this entire series and I’m just over halfway through. I’m in love. this series is a must read for anyone who’s ever read and enjoyed a fairy tale. It takes our favourite and beloved fairy tale characters and places them in an alternate reality where they must fight for their freedom.

 

3. Blankets by Craig Thompson is another autobiographical comic (I definitely have a soft spot for the autobiographies). This book is just beautiful all around: beautiful story and images.

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2. Peter Panzerfaust is a stunning representation of Peter Pan retold amidst the horrors of World War Two. If you love either Peter Pan’s story or history, this is a great graphic portrayal of a classic story. It’s both heart wrenching and beautiful.

 

 

1. Daytripper by Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon is my favourite graphic novel, as I’m sure you know at this point. I’ve gone on about this one so many times already, so I won’t bore you again here. But I have to insist, if you haven’t read it, go READ IT! It’s awesome! And let me know what you think! ;)