Review: One of the Boys by Daniel Magariel

30753637*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: One of the Boys

Author: Daniel Magariel

Publisher: Scribner

Publication Date: March 14, 2017

ISBN: 9781501156168

Synopsis from Goodreads:
The three of them—a twelve-year-old boy, his older brother, their father—have won the war: the father’s term for his bitter divorce and custody battle. They leave their Kansas home and drive through the night to Albuquerque, eager to begin again, united by the thrilling possibility of carving out a new life together. The boys go to school, join basketball teams, make friends. Meanwhile their father works from home, smoking cheap cigars to hide another smell. But soon the little missteps—the dead-eyed absentmindedness, the late night noises, the comings and goings of increasingly odd characters—become sinister, and the boys find themselves watching their father change, grow erratic, then violent.


Magariel’s One of the Boys is a heartbreaking tragedy of a family torn apart by drug use, emotional manipulation, and physical abuse. It’s a tough read to swallow and I had quite a hard time digesting things as I read. The author does not shy away from the intense difficulties that the two young boys face as their father falls further and further away into his life of drugs and abuse. For him, the hits take precedents over his children. He does what he can to manipulate them to get them away from his wife, and then to pit them against each other, using them to his sick ends. It’s quite terrible to read and even more terrible when you realize that this actually occurs in our world. Thankfully, it’s not a long book and Magariel has a very readable style. It’s quick to get through, but is powerful despite is small size.

What I thought was most intelligently crafted was the fact that no names are used for the main family. They are “me”, “brother,” “father,” and “mother.” I believe it is the author’s intent to use the tactic so that this family can really be any family in America. It’s not a story about a specific family, it’s more of a comment on the terrible reality that many families face across the country and around the world. Although one cannot “enjoy” this story in the traditional sense, it definitely can be appreciated for employing writing strategies such as these.

I had a hard time rating this book, but I could only give it three stars because there was nothing in it to redeem the terrible and tragic deeds done within the plot. I’m someone who likes hope or happiness at the end of the book, and there wasn’t enough given in One of the Boys to leave me feeling better about what I’d just read. This story really traps the reader within the confines of the story, the way that the boys are trapped under their fathers quote unquote protection. In terms of composition, this book is well-written and employs strong literary devices, but because I found the content too much to handle, I don’t think I could read it again.

I wouldn’t deter you from reading. It’s a thought-provoking and devastating story. For those of you who have read it, I’d love to know what you think. 🙂

 

 

Review: A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews

356047.jpgTitle: A Complicated Kindness

Author: Miriam Toews

Publisher: Knopf Canada

Publication Date: 2004

ISBN: 9780676978568

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Sixteen-year-old Nomi Nickel longs to hang out with Lou Reed and Marianne Faithfull in New York City’s East Village. Instead she’s trapped in East Village, Manitoba, a small town whose population is Mennonite: “the most embarrassing sub-sect of people to belong to if you’re a teenager.” East Village is a town with no train and no bar whose job prospects consist of slaughtering chickens at the Happy Family Farms abattoir or churning butter for tourists at the pioneer village. Ministered with an iron fist by Nomi’s uncle Hans, a.k.a. The Mouth of Darkness, East Village is a town that’s tall on rules and short on fun: no dancing, drinking, rock ’n’ roll, recreational sex, swimming, make-up, jewellery, playing pool, going to cities or staying up past nine o’clock.
——

It’s hard to articulate how I feel about this book, so I’m struggling a bit to write this review. I can’t say I loved or hated this book. Reading it years after the fact, I feel like there was so much hype surrounding this book that when I finally got to reading it, there’s no way it could have ever lived up to my expectations. For that reason, I did not love A Complicated Kindness in the same way that I did The Flying Troutmans.

Nomi is a teen in a mennonite town ruled by it’s minister, Nomi’s uncle. There is no room for freedom and those who oppose the religion are banished. This leaves Nomi and her father without her mother and sister. They’re living an empty existence in this town. Nomi in particular is trying to reconcile the religious beliefs she’s been brought up with and the rebellious ways of her kin. Nomi is quirky and is seeking meaning her her life. She doesn’t have aspirations beyond the pre-determined life of working in the town factory, but she can’t help but wonder what it is her mother and sister saw outside of their community. Nomi is really the best part of this book. She is our eyes into this small community, showing us what it’s like and how she lives. Her perceptions are influenced by her youthful opinions and naiveté.

What I didn’t like about this book is that I found that nothing really happens. It wasn’t exciting or as engaging as it could have been. We’re really just privy to Nomi’s day-to-day life, but the conflicts aren’t fully developed and really could have been much more dramatic. I felt like there could have been stronger feelings or greater conflict between Nomi’s family and without that, I was a bit disappointed. It was an enjoyable read, but I wish I’d read this book back when there was so much buzz about it, and perhaps I could have been a part of the group of readers who were generating all that hype. Alas, reading it so many years later, I was let down a bit. Still, Toews is an excellent writer who creates interesting and well-developed characters. I will continue to make my way through her collection of writing!

 

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.