Rats Nest by Mat Laporte

29902260Title: Rats Nest

Author: Mat Laporte

Publisher: BookThug

Publication Date: October 16, 2016

ISBN: 9781771662444

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Mysterious and sometimes hallucinogenic, RATS NEST builds a narrative out of the complexity and dialectical uncertainty that many people feel about being alive in the 21st century. This first full-length book by Mat Laporte introduces readers to a protoplasmic, fantastical underworld, as navigated by a self-reproducing 3D Printed Kid made especially for this purpose. As the Kid descends the layers of a seemingly never-ending pit, its nightmares and hallucinations—recorded in stunning detail—unfold in twelve chilling chapters of unreality that will make readers think twice about what it means to be a human (or humanoid) on the planet we call home.

I am never disappointed by the books put out by Canadian publisher BookThug, and RATS NEST is no different. I picked this book up one Saturday morning and had it finished by noon. I just couldn’t put it down. It’s a story about a 3D Printed Kid who is descending into a bottomless pit and is sending recordings back to scientists of all the fantastical things it uncovers as it travels further into the ground. It’s nightmares and hallucinations become worse and more powerful the further it goes, affecting the world above ground as well. Although a fictional novel, through sci-fi and fantasy, this book reflects on the apprehension that many feel in modern society, the fears surrounding what the human race has become and where it is going. It almost reads as a series of short stories, but is in fact, a complete novel. Each chapter presents as it’s own unique experience, but is tied together in a hallucinogenic way, both real and unreal simultaneously.

It is hard to put into words what this story is about overall. It’s a very visceral book that evokes a sense of feeling throughout, rather than overarching plot. It’s incredible imaginative and moving in it’s commentary. It’s a story that provokes thought and asks the reader to ponder it’s creations and their reflections on our own reality. Laporte’s writing is so unique and beautifully crafted. I know for a fact that this is a book I’ll be returning to in the future. I’m trilled to have it in my collection.

Review: Quicksand by Malin Persson Giolito

30724110.jpg*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: Quicksand

Author: Malin Persson Giolito

Publisher: Other Press

Publication Date: March 7, 2017

ISBN: 9781590518571

Synopsis from Goodreads:
A mass shooting has taken place at a prep school in Stockholm’s wealthiest suburb. Eighteen-year-old Maja Norberg is charged for her involvement in the massacre that left her boyfriend and her best friend dead. She has spent nine months in jail awaiting trial. Now the time has come for her to enter the courtroom. How did Maja—popular, privileged, and a top student—become a cold-blooded killer in the eyes of the public? What did Maja do? Or is it what she failed to do that brought her here?

Mass shooting meets courtroom drama, meets teenage struggle. Giolito’s Quicksand is an intense and immensely moving story about Maja, the lone survivor of a school shooting who is inextricably tangled up in the deaths of her classmates. This novel tells of a troubled youth, Sebastian, who has no one in the world but Maja, and his slow unravelling and deterioration into depression. Touching on themes such as family, love, lust, substance abuse, anger, fear, and abuse, Giolito’s complex story reveals the darkness that can live within a person, and how that darkness can manifest in the world. At the same time, we are shown the sensationalization and glamourization of crime in the media, and the profound impact that journalism can have on the perception of a suspects and the victims. A lawyer herself, Giolito gives us an unhindered account of the tricks and tools lawyers employ to make and win their arguments within the confines of the courtroom.

What I love about Giolito’s writing is that you have no clue how this story is going to play out. We see the whole story from Maja’s perspective. We see her fears, anxieties, struggles. We get to know her very intimately in very many unique settings. However, even though we know her so well, we cannot known whether she is innocent or guilty. The reader may come to sympathize with her, to understand her decisions, and even to like her, but until the very end, Giolito masterfully leaves us to speculate our own outcome. She lets the reader thing for his or herself, which I absolutely adored. Her writing is incredibly skilled in this way. This book is Giolito’s English-language debut and it’s so poignant and moving. It never had me full-out devastated–which considering the topic I totally expected–but I couldn’t put it down. I stayed up much, much later than I normally do to finish it, needing to know what happens and how the story ends.

I think other readers will find this book to be a total page-turner. Giolito serves us tidbits of shocking information a bit at a time, hooking you and reeling you in. I would most definitely recommend this book to any reader. Even if you’re not into crime dramas, like myself, this story is infused with so much more character development and backstory, moving throughout time, that it creates the perfect balance. Overall, a great book!

Review: The Flying Troumans by Miriam Toews

2940207Title: The Flying Troutman

Author: Miriam Toews

Publisher: Knopf Canada

Publication Date:

ISBN: 9780307397492

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Hattie hears her sister Min has been checked into a psychiatric hospital, and finds herself flying back to Winnipeg to take care of Thebes and Logan, her niece and nephew. Not knowing what else to do, she loads the kids, a cooler, and a pile of CDs into their van and they set out on a road trip in search of the children’s long-lost father, Cherkis. Eleven-year-old Thebes spends her time making huge novelty cheques with arts and crafts supplies in the back, and won’t wash, no matter how wild and matted her purple hair gets; she forgot to pack any clothes. Four years older, Logan carves phrases like “Fear Yourself” into the dashboard, and repeatedly disappears in the middle of the night to play basketball; he’s in love, he says, with New York Times columnist Deborah Solomon. But though it might seem like an escape from crisis into chaos, this journey is also desperately necessary, a chance for an accidental family to accept, understand or at least find their way through overwhelming times.

This book was my introduction to Miriam Toews (yes I know, I’m so behind the times!) and I LOVED IT! This is a story of family, mental illness, growing up, healing, and so much more. This novel was absolutely raw in it’s emotion, confronting difficult issues head on and doing so with a touch of dark humour. The book is filled with this family’s desperation as the characters confront the reality that their lives may never be the same again, but they find strength and support in each other. They come together in a way that even they did not think could or would ever happen.

I can’t say I had a favourite character because I liked them all quite a lot. Thebes is quirky and trying to assert her independence in a world that doesn’t always accept individuality as a good thing. Logan is moody and brooding, but his heart is soft and strong. He’s learning that it’s ok to be emotionally and show his true feelings, even as a young man. Hattie is a scattered mess all around, trying to get a grip on her own life. Her heart is big and her devotion to her family is even greater, even if she struggles to know if what she’s doing is right and ok and even though she mourns the life she’s lost.

I couldn’t get enough of this book. I zipped through it in a few nights. I couldn’t get enough. I can’t wait to read even more of Toews books.

Review: The Party by Robyn Harding

32620309*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: The Party

Author: Robyn Harding

Publisher: Scout Press

Publication Date: June 6, 2017

ISBN: 9781501161247

Synopsis on Goodreads:
Sweet sixteen. It’s an exciting coming of age, a milestone, and a rite of passage. Jeff and Kim Sanders plan on throwing a party for their daughter, Hannah—a sweet girl with good grades and nice friends. Rather than an extravagant, indulgent affair, they invite four girls over for pizza, cake, movies, and a sleepover. What could possibly go wrong?But things do go wrong, horrifically so. After a tragic accident occurs, Jeff and Kim’s flawless life in a wealthy San Francisco suburb suddenly begins to come apart. In the ugly aftermath, friends become enemies, dark secrets are revealed in the Sanders’ marriage, and the truth about their perfect daughter, Hannah, is exposed.

The Party is not really the type of novel that I usually choose to read. I’m a fan of happier endings or more in depth studies of character. This novel, well while written–I can appreciate–is not really up my alley. This is a story of a night gone terribly wrong. Hannah is turning sixteen, a big year. What could go wrong?? An intensely damaging accident alters life for two separate families, calling into question everything these characters have ever known. It’s a very moving story, with incredible struggles and frustrations on all sides.

This book is well written and very fast-moving. The story builds and builds in its intensity, becoming more heart-stopping as the novel progresses. Characters change and become unpredictable in the face of tragedy. It’s a novel that highlights what happens when people face unimaginable destruction, anger, and terror. However, I can’t say that any of the characters are likeable and that made it a real struggle for me. Even the teenagers, although one may be able to redeem them and forgive them due to their age, are quite awful in general in this book. The adults act on their whims and are so detached from reality. They’re all living in their own heads, selfish to the core, and perhaps that’s why this novel unravelled for me. I couldn’t sympathize or connect with anyone. Perhaps that is not the author’s purpose, but for me, that’s what draws me into fiction. I like to feel a kinship or a connection with the characters. I like when a book moves me to my very core.

Unfortunately this was just not the book for me. Perhaps those who enjoy suspense/thriller novels more will enjoy it better than I did. Based on the Goodreads reviews, I think that it will go over very well with those who read that genre. I hope you’ll enjoy it more than I did! Happy reading!

Review: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

32075671Title: The Hate U Give

Author: Angie Thomas

Publisher: Balzer and Bray/Harperteen

Publication Date: February 28, 2017

ISBN: 9780062498533


Synopsis from Goodreads:
Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed. Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr. But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

The Hate U Give is an absolutely heart wrenching story about Starr, a sixteen-year-old girl who witnesses the killing of a lifelong friend of hers at the hands of a police office. Starr is the only witness to this devastating act, but she struggles with whether or not she should speak out. She wants her family to be kept safe, as her parents want her to be kept safe as well. Her statement would spark much controversy and could be a catalyst for (potentially negative) change in her neighbourhood and across the country.

Starr is also a young girl, still trying to know herself–who she is and where she fits in in the world. She lives an impoverished, predominantly black neighbourhood, but she attends school in an upperclass, predominantly white private school. She has friends of both races, but she finds herself pretending to be someone she is not while at school, even to her close friends and boyfriend. As the tragedy unfolds around her, Starr begins to confront who she is and who she really wants to be, even if that means losing a few people that she thought meant a lot to her.

This story addresses issues of race, conflict, police shootings, gang wars, friendship, family, love, and so much more. Each page is heavy with thought-provoking prose and intense commentary on some of the terrible crimes that are committed in our world. Thomas opens the doors for dialogue with young readers to talk about how young people especially can find a voice and take a stand against the wrong doings in our world. Starr is an excellent role model as she gains confidence and finds the words to express the crimes committed against her friend, her community, and even herself. She is able to vocalize her fear, her anger, her sadness, in a way that calls for change and a desire for things to be different.

Thomas is an excellent writer, creating a story that is both tragic and beautiful. Her prose comes to life in these pages, creating a world that is incredibly real, that parallels our own. It is honest, open, raw, and so many other incredible things. It addresses very real problems in our own world and asks readers to consider their own positions and to reflect on how we can all act to make this world a better place. It is accessible and truthful and overall, just a beautiful book.

Review: Us Conductors by Sean Michaels

23602494Title: Us Conductors

Author: Sean Michaels

Publisher: Random House of Canada

Publication Date: January 1, 2015

ISBN: 9780345815767

Synopsis from Goodreads:
In a ship steaming its way from Manhattan back to Leningrad, Lev Termen writes a letter to his “one true love”, Clara Rockmore, telling her the story of his life. Imprisoned in his cabin, he recalls his early years as a scientist, inventing the theremin and other electric marvels, and the Kremlin’s dream that these inventions could be used to infiltrate capitalism itself. Instead, New York infiltrated Termen – he fell in love with the city’s dance clubs and speakeasies, with the students learning his strange instrument, and with Clara, a beautiful young violinist. Amid ghostly sonatas, kung-fu tussles, brushes with Chaplin and Rockefeller, a mission to Alcatraz, the novel builds to a crescendo: Termen’s spy games fall apart and he is forced to return home, where he’s soon consigned to a Siberian gulag. Only his wits can save him, but they will also plunge him even deeper toward the dark heart of Stalin’s Russia.

Before reading this book, I’d never heard of the theremin, but after reading it and conducting research on YouTube, I feel much more knowledgable about this strange and unusual instrument. This story is about the inventor, Lev Termen, his experiences in New York as a spy for the USSR, and his return to Russia as a convicted criminal. What I love about this story is that it portrays an eeriness that reflect the strange sounds of his invention. It’s got this air of mystery and intrigued coupled with a sense of romance and even danger. Teremin himself is a very interesting man, obsessed with circuits and music, practitioner of kung-fu, music teach, romantic, agent for his homeland. He is a man of many facets.

Michaels’ prose is sweeping and beautiful. He constructs a detailed, historical world bringing this moment in time to life. Teremin is the most real character in the book and is the easiest to fully understand, as the novel is told from his perspective. The other characters are all perceived through his point of view and understanding so we don’t get to know them as well. Each relationship is defined and described by Teremin, which gives the whole book a very autobiographical feel to it as Teremin narrates his experiences.

I really liked the end portion of the book the best. The setting changes to Stalin’s Russia and it’s in this section that I felt like the book really came alive. It’s the most visceral part of the book. The gulags are dark and dangerous. Death is imminent and Teremin is living moment to moment. The glitz of Jazz Age New York is gone and is replaced with cold and darkness.

I do struggle a little bit to understand how Us Conductors beat out Canadian greats like Heather O’Neill and Miriam Toews as the winner of the 2014 Giller Prize, as I don’t think that the writing in this book is as strong. But it’s still an excellent and incredibly interesting read.

Review: The You I’ve Never Known

30312837.jpg* I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: The You I’ve Never Known

Author: Ellen Hopkins

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books

Publication Date: January 24, 2017

ISBN: 9781481442909

Synopsis on Goodreads:
For as long as she can remember, it’s been just Ariel and Dad. Ariel’s mom disappeared when she was a baby. Dad says home is wherever the two of them are, but Ariel is now seventeen and after years of new apartments, new schools, and new faces, all she wants is to put down some roots. Complicating things are Monica and Gabe, both of whom have stirred a different kind of desire. Maya’s a teenager who’s run from an abusive mother right into the arms of an older man she thinks she can trust. But now she’s isolated with a baby on the way, and life’s getting more complicated than Maya ever could have imagined. Ariel and Maya’s lives collide unexpectedly when Ariel’s mother shows up out of the blue with wild accusations: Ariel wasn’t abandoned. Her father kidnapped her fourteen years ago. What is Ariel supposed to believe?  How can she choose between the mother she’s been taught to mistrust and the father who has taken care of her all these years?

I’d never read an Ellen Hopkins book until I picked up The You I’ve Never Known. I didn’t mind this story, but I can’t say that I loved it. I thought it was entertaining, dealt with some tough issues, and was quite readable. What I did like were her explorations of sexuality, family, friendship, and abuse. I thought these topics were real, raw, and relevant. It’s always nice to see YA books dealing with real life tough topics, making them more accessible to young readers.

I also thought it was different that the book is written mostly in verse, in a good way. I was skeptical and a bit nervous at first. I’m really not a poetry lover and I thought that’s what I’d gotten myself into with this one. But in fact, it was SO easy to read and I actually lost myself if the stanzas as I went a long, much the way I do in a good novel. Don’t be daunted by the form. It’s very easy to adjust to.

My main criticism is that I found it to be way too long and that it drags at times. The characters do start to grate a bit on you after a while and the story would be a lot stronger had it wrapped up earlier. I also saw the twist in this book coming from a mile away. No spoilies, but it’s not that hard to spot. I do love a good surprise ending in a book, but sadly, I could see right through this story. Still worth the read, but it’s not the best book I’ve ever read.