Review: Nightfall by Richard B. Wright

26113983 (1)*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: Nightfall

Author: Richard B. Wright

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Canada

Publication Date: May 3, 2016

ISBN: 9781476785370

Nightfall

Synopsis from Goodreads:
James Hillyer, a retired university professor whose life was evocatively described in Wright’s novel October, is now barely existing after the death of his beloved daughter in her forties. On a whim, he tries to locate the woman he fell in love with so many years ago on a summer trip to Quebec and through the magic of the Internet he is able to find her. But Odette’s present existence seems to be haunted by ghosts from her own past, in particular, the tough ex-con Raoul, with his long-standing grievances and the beginnings of dementia. The collision of past and present leads to violence nobody could have predicted and alters the lives of James and Odette forever. Nightfall skillfully captures the way in which our past is ever-present in our minds as we grow older, casting its spell of lost loves and the innocent joys of youth over the realities of aging and death. The novel is skillfully grounded in observation, propelled by unforgettable characters, and filled with wisdom about young love and old love. Drawing on the author’s profound understanding of the intimate bonds between men and women, Nightfall is classic Richard B. Wright.

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LOVE! Love, love, love, love, I am in love. This book was absolutely fantastic. Although short, this is one of the most touching books that I’ve read if a very long while. It’s like a breath of fresh air. Wright perfectly encapsulates the essence of humanness in his brief but breathtaking tale. Plus, it’s completely caused me to fall in love with the name Odette.

This is a story of the past, the present, and the future. It is about how our history informs us, but does not make who we are and who we become. It’s a story of love lost and found. Wright brings to light the realities of age, often violent, angry, or sad, but also in many case beautiful and full of love. His characters are stark, honest, and moving. They have not lived easy lives, but they are able to return to a simpler and more innocent time through shared memories and a desire to find happiness.

Wright proves that one does not need to be long winded to weave a thrilling and passionate tale and one does not need to be verbose to construct compelling and so fully alive characters. His skill at characterizations will have your heart aching for James and cringing at Raoul. In fewer than 200 pages, we learn the essence of each character, where they’ve been throughout their lifelong journeys, and who they’ve become in the present. Each is complex and interesting.

I hope you’ll read this lovely, beautiful book. It’s definitely a new favourite of mine.

Review: The Red Star Tattoo by Sonja Larsen

25387321*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: Red Star Tattoo

Author: Sonja Larsen

Publisher: Random House Canada

Publication Date: January 12, 2016

ISBN: 9780345815279

Red Star Tattoo: My Life as a Girl Revolutionary

Synopsis from Goodreads:
From hardscrabble Milwaukee to dreamy Hawaii, from turbulent Montreal to free-spirited California, Red Star Tattoo is Sonja Larsen’s unforgettable memoir of a young life spent on the move. By the age of 16, Sonja joins a cult-like communist organization in Brooklyn–unaware of the dark nature of what awaits her.

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Sonja Larsen’s memoir is a story of a girl growing up in a life far removed from that of the “nuclear family.” From hitchhiking at age 8 to joining a communist-like cult in her mid-teens, Sonja’s life is anything but normal. With a mother who lives a counter cultural life supporting the revolution, and little structure and adult influence in her life, Sonja grows up knowing she can only rely on herself and her abilities.

Her story is an interesting one, as she spends time moving from commune to school, to communist community. Her life has little direction, but she knows that she wants to be a part of something. I feel like throughout her journey, Sonja is really searching for herself, trying to understand who she is and what she stands for. Just like any one of us. Her path is full of roadblocks: rape, death, lack of parental support. She is forced to grow up too quickly. Her story is tragic, but interesting. She is often confused and doesn’t understand her world in full, but as the reader, we have a greater grasp on the elements that are wrong and disturbing. It kind of makes you want to reach out and take the hand of her 16-year-old self to let her know that things will work out.

I liked the inclusion of photos from Sonja’s childhood, giving us brief glimpses into her life, but I found their placement to be a little less than ideal. They break up the paragraphs and extend past the text to the edges of the pages. Although in some contexts, this placement of visual elements can be appealing (mostly in full colour artistic books) I found in this case, it did nothing to aid in the telling of the story. Additionally, none of the photos are captioned or labelled so it makes it a bit difficult to tie them into each chapter.

Very interesting as a whole!

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Review: Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl

12700353Title: Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl

Author: Jesse Andrews

Publisher: Amulet Books

Publication Date: 2012

ISBN: 9781419701764

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

 

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Greg Gaines is the last master of high school espionage, able to disappear at will into any social environment. He has only one friend, Earl, and together they spend their time making movies, their own incomprehensible versions of Coppola and Herzog cult classics. Until Greg’s mother forces him to rekindle his childhood friendship with Rachel. Rachel has been diagnosed with leukemia—-cue extreme adolescent awkwardness—-but a parental mandate has been issued and must be obeyed. When Rachel stops treatment, Greg and Earl decide the thing to do is to make a film for her, which turns into the Worst Film Ever Made and becomes a turning point in each of their lives. And all at once Greg must abandon invisibility and stand in the spotlight.

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This is easily one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. Normally I can’t read a book after I’ve seen the movie. I’m a solid book first kind of girl. But in this case, the book was an absolute delight to read even though I already knew the plot. It reminded me of all the things I love about this story. Greg Gaines is a self-deprecating, comedic teenage boy who befriends Rachel, a girl in his grade who has recently been diagnosed with Leukemia. Their friendship, along with Greg’s friendship with his film-making buddy (his “colleague”) Earl, is unconventional. They get to know each other extraordinary circumstances. Greg’s lack of confidence and his self-absorption leads him to believe he is a terrible friend, but in fact, in being his weird self, he’s been the best friend he could have been. This is a story about self-discovery. These friends face a terrible struggle during the tumultuous teen years. During a time when one is trying to understand oneself, they are faced with choices of life or death. In their friendship, they find support in understanding in each other.

This book is full of the witty sarcasm of Greg Gaines, narrator. The people in his life are the most ridiculous characters is a way that will have you bent over with side-splitting laughter. What’s great about the humour in this book is that none of the characters are trying to mask their weirdness or pretending to be anything other than what they are. They’re amazingly hilarious in their strange fascinations, their weird interests, and their creative genius. In their humour they are incredibly real and truthful, and they come to understand themselves and each other on a deeper level.

I loved this book (if you can’t already tell). If you haven’t read it, you should!

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Review: The Flood Girls by Richard Fifield

25814284*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: The Flood Girls

Author: Richard Fiflield

Publisher: Gallery Books

Publication Date: February 2, 2016

ISBN: 9781476797380

The Flood Girls
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Welcome to Quinn, Montana, population: 956. A town where nearly all of the volunteer firemen are named Jim, where The Dirty Shame—the only bar in town—refuses to serve mixed drinks (too much work), where the locals hate the newcomers (then again, they hate the locals, too), and where the town softball team has never even come close to having a winning season. Until now. Rachel Flood has snuck back into town after leaving behind a trail of chaos nine years prior. She’s here to make amends, but nobody wants to hear it, especially her mother, Laverna. But with the help of a local boy named Jake and a little soul-searching, she just might make things right. In the spirit of Empire Falls and A League of Their Own, with the caustic wit of Where’d You Go, Bernadette thrown in for good measure, Richard Fifield’s hilarious and heartwarming debut will have you laughing through tears.

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What caught me most about this book right off the back was not the synopsis. It was the cover. I love this cover. The retro vibe made me instantly want to open the book and it set the tone for the story inside.This wonderful cover prefaces a story full of colourful characters in a town that is far removed from metropolitan life, but is full of family drama, long-held grudges, but also lifelong friendships. It’s a funny story with a touching arc and great character development.

The story isn’t normally the kind of story I’m into, but it was a nice change. The characters are pretty rough-and-tumble. They don’t take crap from anyone. They’re crass, dirty, raw, and unfiltered. But they never apologies for they who they are and that’s what binds them together. Fifield captures the essence of a small American town where glitz and glam are the furthest thing from everyone’s mind, but what matters deep down are the relationships that people form with each other. Beneath the tough exterior lies true acceptance and loyalty that one won’t find anywhere else.

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