Review: The Break by Katherena Vermette

29220494.jpgTitle: The Break

Author: Katherena Vermette

Publisher: House of Anansi

Publication Date: Septemeber 2016

ISBN: 9781487001117

Synopsis from Goodreads:
When Stella, a young Métis mother, looks out her window one evening and spots someone in trouble on the Break — a barren field on an isolated strip of land outside her house — she calls the police to alert them to a possible crime. In a series of shifting narratives, people who are connected, both directly and indirectly, with the victim — police, family, and friends — tell their personal stories leading up to that fateful night. Lou, a social worker, grapples with the departure of her live-in boyfriend. Cheryl, an artist, mourns the premature death of her sister Rain. Paulina, a single mother, struggles to trust her new partner. Phoenix, a homeless teenager, is released from a youth detention centre. Officer Scott, a Métis policeman, feels caught between two worlds as he patrols the city. Through their various perspectives a larger, more comprehensive story about lives of the residents in Winnipeg’s North End is exposed.

The Break is an incredibly heart-breaking and poignant book about a Métis family in a small Canadian community who are struck by a terrible attack. I’m not sure how to do this book justice in a review, because it was so raw and beautifully sad in it’s portrayal of a young girl who survives a sexual assault and the family–especially the women–that surrounds her and do their best to protect her from further harm. The story is told from many angles, most of them women. Although this terrible act divides members of this small community, the various perspectives enlighten the reader to how they are all connected through similar experiences and tragedies.

The experiences for these women are often oppressive or violent. Vermette shares with the reader the tragic reality of what they face each and every day, yet fills the reader with hope that they can find strength and support in one another, find connection and rootedness through their tradition, and find peace in the end. These are women who are suffering and fighting the cycle of abuse, but they are also full of strength. They have fear, but they also have courage. Through it all, the main family in particular, stand by one another, offering support no matter what’s happening in each of their lives. We see the bonds of women and how it raises them up, but we also see what happens when the women turn against one another and the despair that results.

This novel addresses heavy issues such as abuse, assault, shame, fear, racism, and sexism. Vermette introduces us to a dark world, yet despite this sadness, there is so much hope. This is a book about community and family. It’s so well-written and compelling. The reader is searching for healing as much as the characters. You really can’t put it down. Vermette is an artist with her language, telling a story that needs to be heard and understood. She acknowledges that there are wounds that are difficult to heal and that the lines of justice are not always clear. Shame often impedes admitting something terrible, but forgiveness and love often know no bounds.

The Break is a beautifully written tale from a master storyteller. Vermette deserves a sport among the most talented Canadian writers. I encourage everyone to read this novel.


Review: I’ll Have What She’s Having

31932935*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: I’ll Have What She’s Having

Author: Erin Carlson

Publisher: Hachette Books

Publication Date: August 29, 2017

ISBN: 9780316353908

Synopsis from Goodreads:
In I’ll Have What She’s Having entertainment journalist Erin Carlson tells the story of the real Nora Ephron and how she reinvented the romcom through her trio of instant classics. With a cast of famous faces including Reiner, Hanks, Ryan, and Crystal, Carlson takes readers on a rollicking, revelatory trip to Ephron’s New York City, where reality took a backseat to romance and Ephron–who always knew what she wanted and how she wanted it–ruled the set with an attention to detail that made her actors feel safe but sometimes exasperated crew members.  Along the way, Carlson examines how Ephron explored in the cinema answers to the questions that plagued her own romantic life and how she regained faith in love after one broken engagement and two failed marriages. An intimate portrait of a one of America’s most iconic filmmakers and a look behind the scenes of her crowning achievements, I’ll Have What She’s Having is a vivid account of the days and nights when Ephron, along with assorted cynical collaborators, learned to show her heart on the screen.

I’ll Have What She’s Having was a lot of fun to read, though it is not in my usual pick.  It’s the story of Nora Ephron and her triumphs and failures in the show biz as she reinvented the romcom and rose to fame with stars like Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. I couldn’t resist, since When Harry Met Sally is one of my favourite movies. I found this to be an incredibly interesting book. It’s a tribute to Nora Ephron and all of her hard work and creativity. She really lived for the creation of something bigger and better, and she paved the way for women working in film to become great creators.

A lot of this book read as more of a biography of Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. We do get an in depth background into Ephron, her love life, her upbringing, and her career. But Carlson spends quite a lot of time discussing Meg’s growth as an actress across the decades, and Hank’s as well. A lot of the other people mentioned throughout the book were unfamiliar to me. I knew the big name actors, but I had a more difficult time following Carlson’s account for those that I was less familiar. Nonetheless, Carlson’s book is full of fun retellings of various anecdotes from the set of each movie discussed.

I would have really liked to see more personal interviews between Carlson and the actors directly. The majority, if not all, of the content in the book is derived from other interviews, compiled in quite the impressive bibliography at the tale of the text. I commend the author on her hard work to seek out and find such a comprehensive grouping of articles, interviews, and stories. For me though, the book was lacking that personal touch that generally accompanies biographies. It created a bit of disconnect for me while reading. This is what makes this book a tribute more than anything else. The one thing that shines through is that Carlson is deeply devoted to telling Ephron’s story. She brings this icon alive through her pages and tells a story that is fascinating and multi-faceted. For fans of those classic Nora Ephron films, you’ll find this book a delight to read, if just for the in depth exploration of the behind-the-scenes experience on these wonderful films.

Review: I Hate Everyone, Except You by Clinton Kelly

29430846.jpgTitle: I Hate Everyone, Except You

Author: Clinton Kelly

Publisher: Gallery Books

Publication Date: January 10, 2017

ISBN: 9781476776934

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Clinton Kelly is probably best known for teaching women how to make their butts look smaller. But in I Hate Everyone, Except You, he reveals some heretofore-unknown secrets about himself, like that he’s a finicky connoisseur of 1980s pornography, a disillusioned critic of New Jersey’s premier water parks, and perhaps the world’s least enthused high-school commencement speaker. Whether he’s throwing his baby sister in the air to jumpstart her cheerleading career or heroically rescuing his best friend from death by mud bath, Clinton leaps life’s social hurdles with aplomb. With his signature wit, he shares his unique ability to navigate the stickiest of situations, like deciding whether it’s acceptable to eat chicken wings with a fork on live television (spoiler: it’s not). Clinton delves into all these topics—and many more—in this thoroughly unabashedly frank and uproarious collection.

Bring on the sass!! I Hate Everyone, Except You, read on audiobook by Kelly himself, was a joyous, ultra-sassy account of Clinton Kelly’s life from his childhood to his rise to fame on What Not to Wear. His essays and anecdote, snarky but hilarious, reveal the man behind the show. I watched What Not to Wear religiously and took great amusement in Kelly’s fashion tips and often unflinching honesty. It’s always amazing to me to somewhat get to know the person behind the character on tv. Although Kelly is himself on tv, getting to know his past and how he came to be a successful tv personality is an interesting tale. Kelly doesn’t spare us his blatant thoughts and judgements, but his stories are full of comedic twists. Despite all of this, he’s a truly sweet person underneath, revealing these softer parts of himself throughout the text. I loved learning about how he came to be co-host on the TLC show, and getting an inside look at his friendship with Stacey London really warmed my heart. It made me nostalgic for all those episodes and I think I’m going to have to find some episodes to binge watch soon!

Review: Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami

26160470Title: Kafka on the Shore

Author: Haruki Murakami

Publisher: Vintage

Publication Date: First published in 2002

ISBN: 9781400079278


Synopsis from Goodreads:
Kafka on the Shore is powered by two remarkable characters: a teenage boy, Kafka Tamura, who runs away from home either to escape a gruesome oedipal prophecy or to search for his long-missing mother and sister; and an aging simpleton called Nakata, who never recovered from a wartime affliction and now is drawn toward Kafka for reasons that, like the most basic activities of daily life, he cannot fathom. As their paths converge, and the reasons for that convergence become clear, Haruki Murakami enfolds readers in a world where cats talk, fish fall from the sky, and spirits slip out of their bodies to make love or commit murder. Kafka on the Shore displays one of the world’s great storytellers at the peak of his powers.  

What an excellent book from legendary author, Murakami. I am slow to the punch with this one, but the more I read from Murakami, the more I have to read. And I’m never disappointed. Kafka on the Shore reads like a dream, but it touches ones emotions in a very real way. This is a story of coming of age, full of murder, loss, self-discovery, lust, the supernatural, the absurd. The author is a master at creating mind-bending worlds that run parallel to our own, so realistic, yet so in touch with the otherworldly.

The main characters, Kafka Tamura and Mr. Nakata, are opposites in terms of age, intelligence, and life experience, but their lives, unbeknownst to them, are intertwined. They’re realistic and almost alive. While Nakata struggles with even the simplest of tasks, he views the world and the people around him with unflinching honesty, observing life as he sees it, quite literally. Kafka is young and is embarking on a journey to truly find himself. Incredibly smart despite his desire to leave high school life behind, Kafka’s observations and musing are astute and studied. Both characters are on the hunt to discover that which is unknown. Their travels take them on adventures that they could have never predicted.

Murakami’s writing is excellent and his world, despite it’s absurd twists and turns, is accessible and not to difficult to understand. I think that many readers would relate to and connect with this particular novel. The characters are complex and truly lovely and there are so many surprises that it’s impossible to know how this book with turn out. Murakami is a true artist with the pen.

Review: The Bone Queen by Alison Croggon

32284099Title: The Bone Queen

Author: Alison Croggon

Publisher: Candlewick Press

Publication Date: June 13, 2017

ISBN: 9780763689742

Synopsis on Goodreads:
Seduced into sorcery by an agent of the Dark, the promising Bard Cadvan of Lirigon recklessly unleashed the terrible Bone Queen, bringing destruction down upon Annar. Cadvan, cast out of the Schools of Barding for his crime, now lives in exile, burdened by memories of his dealings with the Dark. At Cadvan’s former home, his mentor, Nelac, and his rival, Dernhil, begin to suspect that the Bone Queen may yet lurk in Annar, and a young Bard, Selmana, is plagued by an ominous presence and an unsettling new ability to step between worlds. With darkness gathering and Bards giving in to fear and paranoia, a guilt-ridden Cadvan must earn back the Bards’ trust and Selmana must gain control of her newfound powers to bring peace to the living and the dead. 

Alison Croggon’s Pellinor series was one of my absolute favourites throughout my teen years, so naturally, I was thrilled to hear that this prequel was coming out and I pre-ordered it as soon as I heard. It was exciting to return to a beloved series and I wasn’t disappointed. Croggon gives readers a bit more background on her character, Cadvan, giving us some insight into his past and young life. This book hints at things to come in the Pellinor series, tying Cadvan’s history to his future. We get to see younger versions of various characters that are introduced in the main series. This book serves to round out the world even further. Reading this book was like being welcomed back into the familiar. It was comfortable and exciting in the same way the main series is.

If you’re coming into this series for the first time, I would strongly suggest reading the main series first. Although this is a prequel, readers would gain a greater understanding of the characters and this world by reading the original four books first. Reading some of the review on Goodreads, many who did not realize this book was a prequel to another series were quite lost. It doesn’t seem to be a book that can be easily read as a standalone. One will need the background information that the subsequent books provide.

I rated this book 4 stars out of 5 because I didn’t feel that it was as strong as the original series, but it was still excellent. It’s sparked a need in me to re-read all the Pellinor books once again. I’m so excited by Croggon’s writing and I hope that we will get to read more from her in the future.

Review: Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick

29868610Title: Scrappy Little Nobody

Author: Anna Kendrick

Publisher: Touchstone Books

Publication Date: November 2016

ISBN: 9781501117206

Synopsis from Goodreads:
A collection of humorous autobiographical essays by the Academy Award-nominated actress and star of Up in the Air and Pitch Perfect. Even before she made a name for herself on the silver screen starring in films like Pitch Perfect, Up in the Air, Twilight, and Into the Woods, Anna Kendrick was unusually small, weird, and “10 percent defiant.” At the ripe age of thirteen, she had already resolved to “keep the crazy inside my head where it belonged. Forever. But here’s the thing about crazy: It. Wants. Out.” In Scrappy Little Nobody, she invites readers inside her brain, sharing extraordinary and charmingly ordinary stories with candor and winningly wry observations. With her razor-sharp wit, Anna recounts the absurdities she’s experienced on her way to and from the heart of pop culture as only she can—from her unusual path to the performing arts (Vanilla Ice and baggy neon pants may have played a role) to her double life as a middle-school student who also starred on Broadway to her initial “dating experiments” (including only liking boys who didn’t like her back) to reviewing a binder full of butt doubles to her struggle to live like an adult woman instead of a perpetual “man-child.” Enter Anna’s world and follow her rise from “scrappy little nobody” to somebody who dazzles on the stage, the screen, and now the page—with an electric, singular voice, at once familiar and surprising, sharp and sweet, funny and serious (well, not that serious).

After listening to Kendrick’s autobiography on audiobook, I’ve really enjoyed her retelling of her experiences growing up and entering the film business where she’s made a name for herself. The audiobook, read by Kendrick herself, is witty, smart, and had me laughing out loud on more than one occasion. Her personal vocalization of the text adds that personal level and really emphasizes her humour. She’s brutally honest at points but takes her own personal awkwardness and the reality of being a “late bloomer” to bring her reader many chuckles. She’s incredibly relatable and I’d think that many readers would really connect with her many anecdotes. She puts a voice to what everyone is thinking in any awkward situation ever. Poor Anna just happens to have faced more awkward situations than most. She is so open and honest in her stories and it’s hysterically funny. So glad I decided to give this one a listen.

Review: Zero Repeat Forever by Gabrielle Prendergast

28945665*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: Zero Repeat Forever

Author: Gabrielle Prendergast

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Publication Date: August 29, 2017

ISBN: 9781481481847

Synopsis from Goodreads:
He has no voice, or name, only a rank, Eighth. He doesn’t know the details of the mission, only the directives that hum in his mind. Dart the humans. Leave them where they fall. His job is to protect his Offside. Let her do the shooting. Until a human kills her…Sixteen year-old Raven is at summer camp when the terrifying armored Nahx invade, annihilating entire cities, taking control of the Earth. Isolated in the wilderness, Raven and her friends have only a fragment of instruction from the human resistance. Shelter in place. Which seems like good advice at first. Stay put. Await rescue. Raven doesn’t like feeling helpless but what choice does she have? Then a Nahx kills her boyfriend. Thrown together in a violent, unfamiliar world, Eighth and Raven should feel only hate and fear. But when Raven is injured, and Eighth deserts his unit, their survival comes to depend on trusting each other… 

Ah! This is actually one of the more exciting YA books that I’ve read in a long while. I’ve been thinking about this book constantly and itching to finish it. Now that I’m done, I’m sad I don’t have a second book in the series to move on to. In this world, humanity is at the mercy of a foreign, heartless invader. The Nahx shoot to kill, not discerning between man, woman, or child. Their darts are left in the victims and the bodies are left behind, completely preserved. The survivors are few and death is imminent at all times, if not by the Nahxs’ hands then by cold, illness, or starvation. Raven is fighting for her life, and faces more than her fair share of life-threatening situations. She is strong and independent. She cares deeply and feels so strongly. She’s a truly strong heroine with a big heart that she keeps closely protected. In opposition to Raven is Eighth, a Nahx who’s left his unit and found freedom filled with a sad, quiet desperation. Fate brings these two together, despite fear and hatred, but in time, they develop trust and perhaps even more.

I have one main criticism of this book, but I can’t say that it took away from my overall feelings of the book. This book starts out so strong and Prendergast is incredibly talented at world building. She paints a vivid picture of the world and the current situation, even though the characters are not right at the heart of the violence off the bat. I found the combat and violent situations to be so visceral. I couldn’t help but tense up and gasp at certain parts, totally drawn into the story. So many emotions all the time! I couldn’t put this book down.

My criticism lies in the last quarter of the book. While the intro, climbing action, and middle of the books are so thorough and descriptive, so well developed, the end in contrast is quick and somewhat unsatisfying in it’s brevity. After spending so much time in character development and world building, the conclusion to this first book in the series was too quick. Rather then spending pages building the intensity, the author spends mere paragraphs, or even mere sentences. It’s almost as if the ending is a passing thought and I don’t think it received the attention it deserved. Characters who’d previously displayed excellent potential act without reason or clear motive and in ways that are opposite to what we’d expect. Antagonistic characters behave in stock ways and are removed from the picture too quickly. It’s clear that this book is not about them, but has a deeper focus that I’m sure will be explored in books to come.

I feel like I’m being hard on this book, but my opinion is driven by the insane potential that this book has. A little extra attention at the end would have taken this book from fantastic to mind-blowing. Like the start to any good series, Prendergast takes the time to introduce us to her world and her characters, letting us explore and learn the concepts of this world at an engaging pace. I love luxuriating in the introduction to a new series and getting to know the world. It’s exciting to read something that truly has me on the edge of my seat and has me antsy to get my hands on the next book. I think that there is so much potential for the remainder of the story to be so intense, moving, heart-breaking, and full of conflict.

For anyone looking for a new YA series to read, THIS IS THE ONE! While I’ve had some tough things so say, I did absolutely LOVE this book and I’m so, so excited by it. I hope you’ll also read it and enjoy it overall as much as I did! I’d give this 4.5 stars out of 5.