Review: Tin Man by Sarah Winman

36875322.jpg*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: Tin Man

Author: Sarah Winman

Publisher: Viking Canada

Publication Date: July 27, 2017

ISBN: 9780735235151

Synopsis from Goodreads:
4 hours, 33 minutes

This is almost a love story.

Ellis and Michael are twelve when they first become friends, and for a long time it is just the two of them, cycling the streets of Oxford, teaching themselves how to swim, discovering poetry, and dodging the fists of overbearing fathers. And then one day this closest of friendships grows into something more.

But then we fast forward a decade or so, to find that Ellis is married to Annie, and Michael is nowhere in sight. Which leads to the question, what happened in the years between?

This is almost a love story. But it’s not as simple as that.


Wow! If ever there was a book to take your breath away, Tin Man is the one. It’s not often that a beautiful book comes into being and moves you so completely. Winman’s story is an absolutely must-read. No joke. Go get a copy RIGHT NOW! I knew I was going to like this book the second I read the synopsis, but I didn’t realize how much I would like it. It’s safe to say that Tin Man is the best book that I’ve read in 2018, hands down. Ok, now that I’ve gushed enough, let me tell you a bit about what I L.O.V.E.D.

First off, Winman’s writing. Let’s talk about that. You know someone has boatloads of talent when you start on page one and then it’s been 3 hours and your done the book without even realizing it. The writing is so elegant and delicate and breathtaking. Every sentence holds so much power, I would have to pause and re-read, then re-read again, just to savour the words on the page. I was enchanted right from the get go. This is a story about love, written so lovingly and with such detail that it unfolds like a painting in front of you. Central to the book’s plot is the Van Gogh painting, Sunflowers. It is like it’s own character throughout the book, captivating many of the characters for the power it held over another. Like the painting, this story holds that same kind of power, bringing you back to it again and again to study, appreciate, be swept away by, and enjoy. There’s so much to be gained in these pages, one read just won’t suffice.

Next, this is a love story on so many levels. Friendship, romance, lust, companionship, family–these are the themes that run deeply through this book, highlighting what it means to be human and to love and have lost. This book will give you ALL the feels. I was crying by the end of the first section, and then for 200 pages thereafter. As someone who’s more emotional, and quite empathetic, I was swept away in the emotions of the characters, relating to them on so many levels and connecting with them in ways that I rarely connect with characters. Winman is an artist, I swear. Ellis and Michael’s story is just so heart-breaking but also heart-warming. As is each of their relationship with Ellis’s wife, Annie. There is nothing but pure love and kindness between these three, despite time and differences, they still manage to make it through, forgiving faults, overcoming difficult pasts, enduring unbearable presents.

Winman presents the true essence of humanity with this lovely, powerful novel. She reminds the reader what is worth living for and to endure against even the darkest of trials. This novel is a beacon of hope and peace, of overcoming grief and loss, of the purest forms of love. It’s a love story, but it’s about so much more than love.

If you choose not to read this one, I promise you, you’re missing out on something great. So read it and share your thoughts!

Happy reading!

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Review: What is Going to Happen Next by Karen Hofmann

34696502*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: What is Going to Happen Next

Author: Karen Hofmann

Publisher: NeWest Press

Publication Date: September 15, 2017

ISBN: 9781988732060

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Karen Hofmann’s empathetic and cathartic novel, What is Going to Happen Next, pieces together the lives of five members of the Lund family following their enforced dispersal after the death of the father and the hospitalization of the mother in the remote West Coast community of Butterfly Lake. It explores their self-doubts and aspirations in the ways they cope with their separation and reunion through their work and personal relationships, and reveals the ways in which their past is filtered through memory and desire. It also skillfully exposes a Vancouver class system from the perspectives of diverse socio-economic conditions and lifestyles. 


What is Going to Happen Next is a story of family and self-hood as it explores the details of a family torn apart early on in the characters’ childhoods and their attempts to reconcile their pasts with who they’ve become as adults. This story explores what happened to the children after their father died and their family fell apart. It follows them through adulthood as they cope with the struggles of their pasts and look to find connection and meaning in their present and future. Their current lives are so thoroughly shaped by the different situations they ended up in as children, informing who they became as adults.

This novel is actually falls into a coming-of-age category, even though many of the siblings are already adults. Each sibling is working to come to terms with where they’ve come from and where their siblings each ended up. They are mourning a lost past and seeking to create a renewed future. Mandalay, the eldest, seems to have it all together, but when you dive into her live, things are held tenuously together with the slightest of strings. She struggles with anger and jealousy, and doesn’t quite seem to know herself as well as she portrays. Cleo, next in line, has it all from the outside. She’s always taken a mothering role and that has defined her for so long, however she’s lost a bit of herself in that role, caring for others with no one left to care for her. Cliff, we learn, has struggled with injury both mental and physical, and that has left him as almost a shell, timid, afraid, and full of anxieties. He’s seeking happiness, but doesn’t have the understand to be able to attain that on his own. And Bodhi/Ben was adopted and raised in privilege. His return signals a significant difference in class between the family he’s always known and the family he’s just discovered. His innocence and youth leaves him open to discovering love and acceptance.

The characters as so unique from one another, each with a distinct voice and personality. Hofmann has written truly individual characters, so well-formed with their own voices. The risk with so many perspectives is that it’s a struggle to maintain difference between the characters, but that’s not been a problem for Hofmann. She entwines these characters’ stories so that the reader can see how these lives run parallel to one another, so different yet so similar at the same time. The children may have been raised in different homes with different insights and values, however as adults they come together to build anew.

I would highly recommend this wonderful piece of Canadian fiction. It’s always a delight to discover a new Canadian voice that I had not read before.

Happy reading!

Review: Wonderblood by Julia Whicker

34964829.jpg*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: Wonderblood

Author: Julia Whicker

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Publication Date: April 3, 2018

ISBN: 9781250066060

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Wonderblood is Julia Whicker’s fascinating literary debut, set in a barren United States, an apocalyptic wasteland where warring factions compete for control of the land in strange and dangerous carnivals. A mad cow-like disease called “Bent Head” has killed off millions. Those who remain worship the ruins of NASA’s space shuttles, and Cape Canaveral is their Mecca. Medicine and science have been rejected in favor of magic, prophecy, and blood sacrifice. When traveling marauders led by the bloodthirsty Mr. Capulatio invade her camp, a young girl named Aurora is taken captive as his bride and forced to join his band on their journey to Cape Canaveral. As war nears, she must decide if she is willing to become her captor’s queen. But then other queens emerge, some grotesque and others aggrieved, and not all are pleased with the girl’s ascent. Politics and survival are at the centre of this ravishing novel.


Wonderblood is the next book to come out in the post-apocalypse genre, but with a slightly different take. Set a thousand years after civilization as we know it, in a world still threatened by the disease that killed off the majority of the population and ravaged the land, the characters in this novel inhabit a violent and mystical world. Science and fact has been rejected in favour of magic and prophecy, built around a worship of the astronauts of an age previous. What I loved about this book was it’s unique take on a genre that is beginning to become a bit tired. Post-apocalypse tales are becoming wide spread–which I do enjoy–however, it’s refreshing to see something a bit new and different.

The characters and plot have a deep-rooted history that informs how Whicker’s world functions. The world has reverted to a more primitive state and knowledge and power is passed down through bloodlines, or is stolen in violent conflict. The characters, although more simple in their thought process and understanding of the world, are cunning and manipulative. No one is to be trusted and few are redeemable. They are products of their violent and mistrustful world. Whicker is a masterful world builder, drawing you in and surrounding you with this rough and crude world.

What I found absolutely intriguing was the rejection of science in favour of mysticism and magic practices. As well, many of the characters have a strong faith in the astronauts and the celestial, creating a religious commentary that centres around Cape Canaveral as a pseudo-Jerusalem–a homeland to pilgrimage to. The people await The Return of the space shuttles where only the True King of the land will be exalted. It’s a fascinating concept and Whicker goes into great detail to outline the practices of individual groups throughout the novel, exploring a concept wherein our current texts and understanding is distorted through history to become something else entirely in the future.

What left me torn about this novel was that I just couldn’t get hooked to the story. I can’t place my finger on what felt lacking to me, but I just wasn’t driven to pick this story up. Anyone who reads Worn Pages regularly knows that I’m one who likes to connect with the characters and that can make or break a book for me. Well, in the case of Wonderblood, while I enjoyed the world and very much appreciated Whicker’s writing, I couldn’t connect with the story on a page-turning kind of level. It’s left me undecided on this book as a whole.

I would encourage you to read, and I truly hope you do. Anyone who does, please feel free to share a comment letting me, and others, know your thoughts.

Happy reading!

Review: Warlight by Michael Ondaatje

36701380.jpg*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: Warlight

Author: Michael Ondaatje

Publisher: McClelland & Stewart

Publication Date: May 8, 2018

ISBN: 9780771073786

Synopsis from Goodreads:
In a narrative as beguiling and mysterious as memory itself–shadowed and luminous at once–we read the story of fourteen-year-old Nathaniel, and his older sister, Rachel. In 1945, just after World War II, they stay behind in London when their parents move to Singapore, leaving them in the care of a mysterious figure named The Moth. They suspect he might be a criminal, and they grow both more convinced and less concerned as they come to know his eccentric crew of friends: men and women joined by a shared history of unspecified service during the war, all of whom seem, in some way, determined now to protect, and educate (in rather unusual ways) Rachel and Nathaniel. But are they really what and who they claim to be? And what does it mean when the siblings’ mother returns after months of silence without their father, explaining nothing, excusing nothing? A dozen years later, Nathaniel begins to uncover all that he didn’t know and understand in that time, and it is this journey–through facts, recollection, and imagination–that he narrates in this masterwork from one of the great writers of our time. 


I’m really iffy about how I’m feeling about this book. This is my first time reading Ondaatje and I’m not sure if it was the best introduction to his story telling. Ondaatje is an excellent and masterful writer. His artfulness with a pen is apparent in his writing. He creates a beautiful world, so carefully crafted and fleshed out. However, I just couldn’t connect with this story, no matter how hard I wanted to. As beautiful as the writing was, I wasn’t swept away from the story and I left feeling a bit undecided and unsatisfied with the book as a whole. I felt it hard to stay focused and to actually get swept away by the narrative.

I really enjoyed Ondaatje’s style. I think that he really brought the story together, moving between points in time and from various characters’ points of view, connecting it all together as the story comes to a close. You gain more understanding and more is revealed as you travel through the pages. His plot meanders, but it reflects a lost and confused childhood and young adulthood. The plot is confused in the way the protagonist is confused–but it’s not confusing. It’s reflective. But for whatever reason, I felt like there was a wall up between me and some of the characters.

I always am disappointed when I can’t connect with a story. This particular book requires a quite space and no hurry to read and really delve into the pages. Unfortunately, I haven’t had the luxury of this kind of time lately, so my read was broken and piecemeal. It made the story drag for me and that made me anxious to just be finished. It’s a story I do really want to revisit when I have more time and patience to sit and really dig in. I do think that Ondaatje’s talent shines through, and this story does seem to connect with many others.

I hope you’ll read and enjoy. Let me know if you liked it better than I did, and what it is you connect with.

Happy reading!

 

The Home for Wayward Parrots by Darusha Wehm

36927444*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: The Home for Wayward Parrots

Author: Darusha Wehm

Publisher: NeWest Press

Publication Date: May 1, 2018

ISBN: 9781988732275

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Accustomed to being an only child, adoptee Brian “Gumbo” Guillemot’s teenage hobby was searching for his birth parents. But when he finally finds his birth mother, Kim, he’s unprepared for the boisterous instant family that comes with her. Besides Kim, no one knows anything about Brian’s birth father. With Kim refusing to answer any questions about him, Brian must choose whether to continue the search, even if it means alienating his few friends and both his families. But the more he learns, the more he wonders whether some things are better left unknown.


The Home for Wayward Parents is the endearing coming of age story that takes place across time in a journey of one man as he seeks to discover himself, his past, and the birth parents that he’s never known. Brian (Gumbo–although he has a silly nickname) is an ordinary guy who’s a bit of a geek, is a bit of a softy, and is just an overall goofball. He’s always known he’s adopted and that he wants to find his birth parents, although he’s not quite sure how to tell his adoptive parents, especially once the search is well underway. Throughout his search, Gumbo reflects back on his past, his own thoughts on teenage parenthood, his relationships–both familial and romantic, and his growth from boy to adulthood. He’s not sure what to expect when he meets his birth mom, but what he finds is more than he could have ever hoped.

This story really warmed my heart. Brian (Gumbo) is relatable and is a bit of a big softy, which makes him completely adorable. He’s an idiot at times, but you can’t help but want to give him a hug. It’s easy to picture yourself in his shoes as he bumbles along his young adult life. Like any teen, he’s a bit of a wayward soul with little to no direction. As an adult, his life really starts to take a tangible shape as he begins to discover himself and the secrets of his past that not even he was aware of. Brian learns what the true meanings of family and love really are. His reality becomes more concrete the more he discovers and he begins to form unbreakable bonds with those around him.

Wehm’s writing is really open in this novel. She writes with clarity, understanding, and great wit and humour. Her characters are so lifelike and moving, creating a story that will tug at your heartstrings and bring a smile to your face. I recommend this book to any reader looking for a journey of love, family, friendship, and so much more.

 

Review: Motherhood by Sheila Heti

36867983.jpg*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: Motherhood

Author: Sheila Heti

Publisher: Knopf Canada

Publication Date: May 1, 2018

ISBN: 9780345810540

Synopsis from Goodreads:
After the tumult of her 20s, the narrator of Sheila Heti’s new novel finds herself living a life into which she could bring a child. She’s with a man who has promised his support if she decides she wants to be a mother, “but you have to be sure.” Motherhood chronicles her struggle, under pressure from friends, culture and time, and seeking answers from family, strangers, mysticism and chance, to make a wise and moral choice, and to truly understand what is gained, and what is lost, when a woman becomes a mother. Heti treats the most universal and consequential decision of early to mid-adulthood–whether to have kids–with the candour and originality that have won her international acclaim, and that made How Should a Person Be? required reading for a generation of young women. The result is a courageous, funny and ultimately moving novel about motherhood, selfhood, and how–and for whom–to live.


Motherhood is an intense journey and rumination on what it means to be a mother and how that affects one’s relationships with friends, family, romantic partners, and even with oneself. The narrator explores her own thoughts and feelings versus the expectations that society and other outside forces impose on her. She shares her findings and her experiences with herself in a sort of journal/chronicle on womanhood and becoming a mother, but she also shares with the reader in an almost autobiographical way. The book is not super plot driven, however it presents more of an intellectual discussion, creating more of a conversational presentation rather than a story. We still get a glimpse into the window of the narrator’s life, her relationship troubles and triumphs, her friendships as they change over time as others choose the path of motherhood.

What I really enjoyed about this book was the very real confrontation that motherhood is not always an easy choice–that although one might feel a strong pull to become a mother sometimes, it is not always the right choice for that person. It is a decision that only each individual can make fore themselves. It’s not an easy choice and there is a lot of hope, anger, pain, fear, and excitement associated with either option. The narrator gets into the fine details of her feelings and her emotional highs and lows. She seeks out all options and confronts them, despite her own deep seeded anxieties, imagining what her life would be like in each scenario and if that outcome would really bring her life changing joy. She often avoids responsibility for her decisions by using fate and mysticism to address particular outcomes. The toss of a coin results in a yes or no answer as she navigates through series of questions about both really important and more mundane aspects of her life.

Ultimately, the narrator is on a voyage of self-discovery and self-learning. She is seeking out an understanding of meaning and motivation in her life. This book is cyclical, reflecting the essence of what it means to be a woman. Heti writes a beautiful and very feminine narration that I think many women will relate to. The narrator of this book could be any woman. She is so open and honest that I did feel like it was so easy to insert myself into her position, to understand her fears and frustrations, and to think that I myself have also had similar thoughts. It’s a wonderful introduction to starting a conversation about motherhood and where society places value (or doesn’t) on women and reproduction. An excellent read if you’re looking for something to get the wheels turning.

Happy reading!

Review: Invisible Ghosts by Robyn Schneider

35230429.jpg*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: Invisible Ghosts

Author: Robyn Schneider

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books

Publication Date: June 5, 2018

ISBN: 9780062568106

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Rose Asher believes in ghosts. She should, since she has one for a best friend: Logan, her annoying, Netflix-addicted brother, who is forever stuck at fifteen. But Rose is growing up, and when an old friend moves back to Laguna Canyon and appears in her drama class, things get complicated. Jamie Aldridge is charming, confident, and a painful reminder of the life Rose has been missing out on since her brother’s death. She watches as Jamie easily rejoins their former friends–a group of magnificently silly theater nerds–while avoiding her so intensely that it must be deliberate. Yet when the two of them unexpectedly cross paths, Rose learns that Jamie has a secret of his own, one that changes everything. Rose finds herself drawn back into her old life–and to Jamie. But she quickly starts to suspect that he isn’t telling her the whole truth. All Rose knows is that it’s becoming harder to choose between the boy who makes her feel alive and the brother she isn’t ready to lose.


Invisible Ghosts is the perfect, quick, and relatively light summer read that you’re looking for this year. It’s a story that takes place a few years after the death of a young boy, Rose Asher’s brother, Logan. A terrible tragedy befell Logan and left Rose an only child. Life stopped for her at that point of his death and she retreated into herself. What she didn’t account for is Logan’s ghost sticking around to keep her company. Rose is now in high school and has caught the attention of an old friend and classmate of hers. As Jamie and Rose become closer, more strain is put on Rose’s relationship with her brother’s spirit.

This story is at times a little silly, however I found the characters to be really sweet and endearing. There was no crazy relationship drama, just kids falling for one another in an innocent and quite lovely way. The ghost aspect was a bit cutesy and was the source of the main drama, but I think it was an excellent vehicle for issues such as growing up, grief, mourning, letting go, coming-of-age, and conflict resolution. Rose is at a pivotal moment in her life where she can choose to remain where she is, or she can make decisions for her future. She can hold onto the past and reject growth and recovery, or she can accept the past and embrace the future, all while holding tightly onto the memories of her dear loved one.

It wasn’t an absolutely mind-blowing story, but it was an enjoyable bit of teenage fluff. It’s not too serious and not too heavy boots. The characters are all sweet and entertaining without getting too intense. If you need an easy pool/beach-side read, this is the one.

Happy reading!