Review: The Way the Light Bends

35628592*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: The Way the Light Bends

Author: Cordelia Jensen

Publisher: Philomel Books

Publication Date: March 27, 2018

ISBN: 9780399547447

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Virtual twins Linc and Holly were once extremely close. But while artistic, creative Linc is her parents’ daughter biologically, it’s smart, popular Holly, adopted from Ghana as a baby, who exemplifies the family’s high-achieving model of academic success. Linc is desperate to pursue photography, to find a place of belonging, and for her family to accept her for who she is, despite her surgeon mother’s constant disapproval and her growing distance from Holly. So when she comes up with a plan to use her photography interests and skills to do better in school–via a project based on Seneca Village, a long-gone village in the space that now holds Central Park, where all inhabitants, regardless of race, lived together harmoniously–Linc is excited and determined to prove that her differences are assets, that she has what it takes to make her mother proud. But when a long-buried family secret comes to light, Linc must decide whether her mother’s love is worth obtaining.

I should start of by prefacing this review with a fact: I don’t enjoy poetry and I actively avoid it. BUT I really LOVED Jensen’s free-verse poems that tell the story of a teen girl, her family, and the life she desperately wants to live. I didn’t realize this book was entirely written in free-verse when I picked it up, and then when I did it took me days to work up the oomph to actually open it. However, Jensen’s story that she weaves through the brief lines of each poem is so charged with emotion that you can’t help but get caught along in the story’s grip. This is a coming-of-age story of self-discovery and exploration.

The speaker, Linc, seems to pale in the shadow of her adopted sister, Holly. Or at least, that’s how she feels. She’s not as smart or as athletic. She’s not as popular and it seems like she can never do anything right. But she finds herself in her art, something that isn’t understood by anyone except for a few of her closest friends. Linc knows deep down that she needs to pursue this passion, but she faces road blocks at every turn. Linc is this amazing character who I really deeply related to. I felt a kinship with her as well as this immense amount of sympathy and desire for her to succeed.

Poetry really was the perfect platform to share Linc’s story. Like her love of photography, each poem is a snapshot of a moment in time in her life. Poetry also allows for the tumultuous feelings of teenage-hood to emerge. It’s such a charged time in everyone’s life and these poems so eloquently express these feelings in an elegant way.

What I didn’t like about this story is the incredibly drastic and unaccepting stance that Linc’s parents take throughout the book. It was completely unfathomable to me that her parents continually tried to pressure her into fitting into this idea they had of the best way to succeed when she is so clearly struggling to meet their expectations while vocalizing her own desires as best she can. I am fortunate to have grown up in a home with a mother who encouraged me to do whatever I chose to do and who lifted me up to succeed where I felt I was talented. So, it was difficult to connect with the overall story in this book when I couldn’t fathom such extremely stubborn parents.

Overall though, it is a beautful book and I’d highly recommend. It’s quick and enjoyable.

Happy reading!



Review: My True and Complete Adventure as a Wannabe Voyageur

34696504*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: My True and Complete Adventure as a Wannabe Voyageur

Author: Phyllis Rudin

Publisher: NeWest Press

Publication Date: October 15, 2017

ISBN: 9781988732121

Synopsis from Goodreads:
In this coming-of-age story, Benjie Gabai is convinced he’s been the victim of a terrible cosmic hoax. Instead of being born in the 18th century as a French-Canadian voyageur, God has plunked him down in present-day Montreal, into a family that views his fur trade obsession as proof that their Benjie, once so bursting with promise, has well and truly lost it. Benjie serves out his days as caretaker of The Bay’s poky in-store fur trade museum, dusting and polishing the artifacts that fuel his imagination. When he learns his museum is about to be closed down, scattering his precious collection to the four winds, he hatches a plan that risks bringing his voyageur illusions lapping dangerously up against reality.

Calling all Canadian fiction lovers, if you’re looking for a light-hearted and very endearing book full of Canadiana and absurd storylines, then this book will tickle your fancy. It’s such a silly and warm story, you can’t help but love it. Benjie Gabai is a Jewish Canadian living in Montreal who becomes the caretakers of The Bay’s in-store museum where he becomes a self-taught expert on the Canadian fur trade and meets possibly the only other human who shares such an impassioned affinity for all thing voyageur.

Benjie, who has really lost his direction and his passion, is rooted in his new job as the world of Canadian history unfolds before him. The museum becomes his life. It’s absolutely adorable to watch his knowledge blossom and his love of Canadian history grow. He wants nothing more than to share it with others, although he is so often alone in the museum. He unexpectedly meets a friend here who shares his love and helps him take it to the next level. This is not only a story of Canadian history, it is a coming of age tale about family and true friendships. It’s about finding and pursuing happiness and learning to make tough choices when sacrifices need to be made.

My one criticism is that while the main characters are really in depth and tangible characters, Benjie has a few friends with recurring roles throughout the book who are extremely flat. Their names are mentioned a few times and they are regular kayaking partners for him. They truly support him in his pursuit as a modern day voyageur, however they have no personalities and no real contribution to the story beyond their names added in a line or two. It really makes them totally nonessential to the story as a whole, but I think adding more detail to these characters could have really added an additional layer of depth to Benjie and the story as a whole.

Overall however, My True and Complete Adventure as a Wannabe Voyageur, is an entertaining piece of CanLit that I’m happy to share with you. It’s one of those books that I envision being a staple at the family cottage, perfect to pull out on a rainy day.

Happy reading!


Review: Chaotic Good by Whitney Gardner

Chaotic Good Comps14.indd*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: Chaotic Good

Author: Whitney Gardner

Publisher: Knopf

Publication Date: March 13, 2018

ISBN: 9781524720803

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Cameron’s cosplay–dressing like a fictional character–is finally starting to earn her attention–attention she hopes to use to get into the CalTech costume department for college. But when she wins a major competition, she inadvertently sets off a firestorm of angry comments from male fans. When Cameron’s family moves the summer before her senior year, she hopes to complete her costume portfolio in peace and quiet away from the abuse. Unfortunately, the only comic shop in town–her main destination for character reference–is staffed by a dudebro owner who challenges every woman who comes into the shop. At her twin brother’s suggestion, Cameron borrows a set of his clothes and uses her costuming expertise to waltz into the shop as Boy Cameron, where she’s shocked at how easily she’s accepted into the nerd inner sanctum. Soon, Cameron finds herself drafted into a D&D campaign alongside the jerky shop-owner Brody, friendly (almost flirtatiously so) clerk Wyatt, handsome Lincoln, and her bro Cooper, dragged along for good measure. But as her “secret identity” gets more and more entrenched, Cameron’s portfolio falls by the wayside–and her feelings for Lincoln threaten to make a complicated situation even more precarious.

This book was an excellent read with a feisty and talented protagonist who experiences a sort of coming of age over the course of the story as she learns more about who she is and what she wants. Cameron lives and breaths for clothing design, especially costume design. She loves to nerd out and make costumes of her favourite characters and her friends’ favourite characters. Things go awry on her sewing blog around the same time that her family moves to a new town. Cameron faces overwhelming sexist harassment through cyberbullying on her blog. At the same time, in person, she faces sexism from the guy down at the new local comic bookstore. To make things a bit easier for herself, she decides to conduct a social experiment and borrow her brothers clothes. This opens her up to a whole new world as she really experiences first hand how differently that men and women are treated, especially in the realm of fandoms.

The best thing about this book is that so many of the characters were NORMAL diverse people and not some fantasy or ideal of what teens should be. They vary in race, gender, and sexual orientation. Cam’s love interest is an “average” guy with a bit of extra weight and it’s absolutely endearing that she refers to him as “soft.” Cam herself is so vibrant and really finds comfort as both a dressy girly girl, in more typically male clothing, and especially dressed in cosplay.

As a lover of many things geek myself, as well as a budding D&D player, so many things in this book spoke to me on a level of personal interest. Although I have never come up against the same gender walls that Cameron does within my love of nerdy things and geek culture, I don’t doubt that it exists and is often a huge deterrent for many women. Gardner is ready to drop so many truth bombs with her novel. This book blows the conversations surrounding sexism and cyber bullying wide open. It’s incredibly awful knowing that this kind of stuff happens on the Internet everyday, but it’s so eye-opening and honest about the negative and potentially life-altering effect that Internet Trolls can have as they hide behind the safety of anonymity before tearing down others for no good reason beyond entertainment. Gardner also dives into sexual identity, romance, family, and friendships. She starkly contrasts male and female friendships and bases her story’s commentary about gender expectations and the subversion of gender norms.

What I didn’t like about this story was that the central drama is focused on Cam’s deception in dressing as a guy. The suggestion is brought up by her brother, but he is also the one who seems to take the most offence to it when it lasts too long, yet he does nothing to really help her out her secret. And really, all of this drama could have been avoided if Cameron just told the truth sooner rather than later. A lot of books these days seem to be relying on this trop and really if everyone just TOLD THE TRUTH, then all would be ok. Despite this though, my only qualm with this book, I really enjoyed this story. I think it needs to be getting more attention and I hope people will give it a chance.

Happy reading!


Review: The Hunger by Alma Katsu

30285766.jpg*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: The Hunger

Author: Alma Katsu

Publisher: J. P. Puntam’s Sons

Publication Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 9780735212510

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Evil is invisible, and it is everywhere.  Tamsen Donner must be a witch. That is the only way to explain the series of misfortunes that have plagued the wagon train known as the Donner Party. Depleted rations, bitter quarrels, and the mysterious death of a little boy have driven the pioneers to the brink of madness. They cannot escape the feeling that someone–or something–is stalking them. Whether it was a curse from the beautiful Tamsen, the choice to follow a disastrous experimental route West, or just plain bad luck–the 90 men, women, and children of the Donner Party are at the brink of one of the deadliest and most disastrous western adventures in American history. While the ill-fated group struggles to survive in the treacherous mountain conditions–searing heat that turns the sand into bubbling stew; snows that freeze the oxen where they stand–evil begins to grow around them, and within them. As members of the party begin to disappear, they must ask themselves “What if there is something waiting in the mountains? Something disturbing and diseased…and very hungry?”

This book is really out of the realm of what I usually read. It’s a historical fiction meets supernatural thriller–a retelling of the story of the Donner party who made the trek across the United States in the 1840s with their hopeful sights set on California as a new land of prosperity. Historically speaking, along the way the party met a series of unfortunate mishaps and ended up stranded through the winter months. A large number of the group died and the remaining members survived by eating their dead. Katsu’s story takes this tragic tale and re-imagines it with a sinister and supernatural twist.

I gave this book 4 stars on Goodreads. I really enjoyed the story and it was very well written. Katsu is an imaginative and talented writer and she definitely had me spooked on more than one occasion. I enjoyed that the story was told from the perspectives of multiple characters, giving the reader various voices and a variety of outlooks on the tale as it unfolded. It’s certainly a good ghost story. Characters like George Donner’s wife, Tamsen, and his daughter, Elitha, were incredible intriguing and I would have really loved this book to be told in just their two perspectives. Tamsen is feared for being a witch and Elitha, although she hasn’t told anyone, can hear the voices of the dead.  The book blends the characterization with the supernatural plot very well.

What I didn’t love about this story is that I felt that there was so much going on. I know that added plot lines can add to the complexity of the story, but sometimes I did feel like The Hunger did get off track a bit. There’s a lot to take away from the main plot. I felt this to be a bit superfluous and it felt more like a plot device to add to the overall sinister nature of the book. The reader already knows there’s something creepy and sub-human going on that we’re slowly finding out, but adding in more sinister human behaviours–at least to the extent that this book did–was distracting. I do realize it’s meant to lead the reader to believe that the danger could be internal or external to the group, and it’s used to make you question if it’s human or not. I think that this element could have been refined a bit. I don’t want to give away too much but perhaps you’ll see what I mean when you read it.

Anyways, I hope you’ll give it a try. Overall it was an entertaining read and I would recommend this one for sure.

Happy reading!


Review: #GIRLBOSS by Sophia Amoruso

18667945Title: #GIRLBOSS

Author: Sophial Amoruso

Publisher: Portfolio

Publication Date: 2015

ISBN: 9781591847939

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Sophia Amoruso spent her teens hitchhiking, committing petty theft, and scrounging in dumpsters for leftover bagels. By age twenty-two she had dropped out of school, and was broke, directionless, and checking IDs in the lobby of an art school—a job she’d taken for the health insurance. It was in that lobby that Sophia decided to start selling vintage clothes on eBay. Flash forward ten years to today, and she’s the founder and executive chairman of Nasty Gal, a $250-million-plus fashion retailer with more than four hundred employees. Sophia was never a typical CEO, or a typical anything, and she’s written #GIRLBOSS for other girls like her: outsiders (and insiders) seeking a unique path to success, even when that path is windy as all hell and lined with naysayers.  #GIRLBOSS proves that being successful isn’t about where you went to college or how popular you were in high school. It’s about trusting your instincts and following your gut; knowing which rules to follow and which to break; when to button up and when to let your freak flag fly.

This was one I listened to on audiobook, just out of curiosity. I didn’t know much about Sophia Amoruso or Nasty Girl, but as I was reading this book and talking about it, I’d heard about Nasty Girl’s downfall and it really put this book into a new light. I think Amoruso has a lot of really inspiring and interesting things to say in this memoir, so I’m very glad I took the time to listen. But it’s too bad that her company isn’t really much of a thing any more. I love books by inspiring women, written in order to inspire others. A story like this can really show that with the right idea and the right angle, anyone can find success.

Perhaps I missed something with this book (audiobook is not the best way to take in a work like this if you don’t want to miss a lot of details), and a lot of reviews for this book are negative, but I think that it’s a great personal story of growth, experimentation, struggle and eventually triumph. Again, a lot is taken away from this story knowing that Nasty Girl declared bankruptcy, but to be honest, you can see it coming a bit in this book. This company rose at a rate of such incredible and unsustainable growth, it really is no surprise that it failed. But Amoruso, through it all, seems like a hardworking, non-nonsense, strong woman. I found her story to be super accessible and I could picture my dream self in her shoes. I hope that I’m able to one day be as successful as she’s been. Even if things don’t always work out, that’s how life goes. Amoruso is very motivated and driven, so I’m sure there’ll be plenty more achievements in her future.

I would read another Amoruso memoir in a heartbeat. I’d be curious to know more about her learning experience and I appreciate her writing style and delivery as an author. She sounds like someone to learn from and take inspiration from. I hope you’ll give this book a shot. She’s got an interesting story, if nothing else.

Happy reading!


Review: Landwhale by Jes Baker

35605491.jpg*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: Landwhale

Author: Jes Baker

Publisher: Seal Press

Publication Date: May 8, 2018

ISBN: 9781580056816

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Jes Baker burst onto the body positivity scene when she created her own ads mocking Abercrombie & Fitch for discriminating against all body types–a move that landed her on the TodayShow and garnered a loyal following for her raw, honest, and attitude-filled blog missives. Building on the manifesta power of Things, this memoir goes deeply into Jes’s inner life, from growing up a fat girl to dating while fat. With material that will have readers laughing and crying along with Jes’s experience, this new book is a natural fit with her irreverent, open-book style. A deeply personal take, Landwhale is a glimpse at life as a fat woman today, but it’s also a reflection of the unforgiving ways our culture still treats fatness, all with Jes’s biting voice as the guide.

This memoir is a personal look of Jes Baker’s inner monologue and her experience with her perception in the world as someone who’s overweight, and who continues to gain more and more weight the older she gets. She struggles with diets from a young age and seeks love and acceptance as a young woman, finding it least of all with herself. Her stories hone in on what society says she should be and how she should appear, and despite many efforts to conform to that standard, she learns to love herself just as she is. She learns to see that she is beautiful and worthy of love and acceptance. What I really loved about Landwhale is it’s loud cry for body positivity and self acceptance. Jes is snarky and blunt in her delivery of her memories.

This book didn’t make me laugh, but it was certainly amusing as well as moving in it’s perception of others’ judgements and assumptions about Jes, her life, and her body. She dives into her relationship with Mormonism and a father that held her to such high standards in terms of her physique that it created a body dysmorphic-esque perception of herself. She also confronts her sexual encounters in a humorous, but up-front manner.  Her stories about her current kind and loving partner are hilarious! She doesn’t shy away from the nitty gritty details, because it’s exactly those details that outline how someone who is considered “fat” is perceived. We live in a world where fat shaming is a common occurrence, and men and women alike are taught to shame their bodies if they don’t fit into this cultural standard of beauty.  Jes’s story is one of liberation and self-assurance. Her message to the reader is that it’s ok to love your body and to be happy with how you are.

What I did struggle with in this book is that I absolutely loved the message of loving yourself at any size–everyone is beautiful, but I also feel strongly about the importance of working to take care of yourself. I’ve struggled with my weight and my body image for most of my life, but I’ve always strived to take care of my body. I will never be tall or thin–curves are a very real part of my life–but I try to remain healthy above all; to splurge and treat myself and to enjoy life, but also to make decisions that will hopefully help me health-wise later on. I admire Jes’s courage and her confidence. I wish I could be have the same level of direct bravery that she conveys. And I love that she preaches to embrace kindness and love for oneself. I don’t believe that self-acceptance and healthy living are mutually exclusive. They can co-exist together and it’s ok to love yourself and make decisions that honour your body.


Review: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

32622051Title: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

Author: Gail Honeyman

Publisher: Viking Canada

Publication Date: May 9, 2017

ISBN: 9780143199090

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Meet Eleanor Oliphant: She struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she’s thinking. Nothing is missing in her carefully timetabled life of avoiding social interactions, where weekends are punctuated by frozen pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy. All this means that Eleanor has become a creature of habit (to say the least) and a bit of a loner. But everything changes when Eleanor meets Raymond, the bumbling and deeply unhygienic IT guy from her office. When she and Raymond together save Sammy, an elderly gentleman who has fallen on the sidewalk, the three become the kinds of friends who rescue one another from the lives of isolation they have each been living. And it is Raymond’s big heart that will ultimately help Eleanor find the way to repair her own profoundly damaged one.

What a fantastic book! I borrowed this book from a friend and it came highly recommended. It definitely lived up to the hype. Eleanor is this socially awkward, unconventional, and quite strange individual. She doesn’t really relate to those around her, assuming they don’t understand the nuances of social convention when in actuality, she’s the only who doesn’t quite get it. She’s often the odd man out and holds her self to an incredibly high standard of intellect and social conduct, even if that doesn’t necessarily fit in with what the rest of the world would consider usual behaviour. She’s almost obsessive about it, but as the book unfolds she experiences significant change, awareness, and growth. Eleanor struggles with mental illness and grief throughout the book, although she herself is not fully aware of it until later in the plot.

I really hated Eleanor in the beginning. She comes off as abrasive and overwhelming. She seems pretty unapproachable and for the reader, it’s tough to get to know her. But, there’s something about her that keeps you hooked. I grew to love Eleanor as this story progressed. She’s witty and smart, even if she has trouble relating to those around her. She makes incredibly interesting and astute observations about her world–although she’s not quite as good at recognizing struggles in herself. Eleanor is working through the unimaginable in this story and she comes to know herself in such a beautiful, heartbreaking, and healing way. There is so much transformation in this book–it’s like watching a caterpillar form a chrysalis and emerge as a butterfly.

This book is the perfect blend of quirking and amusing, but also heart-wrenching and sad. It’s beautiful in its exploration of family, tragedy, and mental illness. It’s got ALL THE FEELS, guys! It’s one woman’s journey of growth and learning, of healing and acceptance, and of learning to overcome and emerge stronger on the other side. I really loved this story and I would recommend it to anyone again and again.

Happy reading!