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.

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Review: Sophrosyne by Marianne Apostolides

22225751Title: Sophrosyne

Author: Marianne Apostolides

Published by: BookThug

Publication Date: September 2014

ISBN: 9781771660501

Sophrosyne

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Sophrosyne is one of only four virtues identified by Socrates – four traits which, if lived deeply, define who we are as human beings. But sophrosyne is a concept our culture has long forgotten. “”Self-restraint, ‘ ‘self-control, ‘ ‘modesty, ‘ ‘temperance’ – none of these terms expresses the essence of the word.
In this provocative new novel about desire and restraint in a digital age by acclaimed author Marianne Apostolides, 21-year-old Alex is consumed by the elusive problem of sophrosyne for reasons he cannot share with others. While Alex’s philosophy professor believes studying it will help shed light on the malaise of our era, Alex hopes it will release him from his darkly disturbing relationship with his mother. As he attempts to uncover his mother’s truth, Alex is drawn inside an amorphous, indefinable undercurrent of love and violation. Only through his lover, Meiko, does Alex open into a new understanding of sophrosyne, with all its implications.

This book is the most complex story that I’ve come across this year. It is a book, not simply to be read, but to be studied. Apostolides’ writing invites in-depth conversation with her disturbing, yet fresh and thoughtful prose. This story has unsettled me. It’s stopped me in my tracks and forced me to reconsider my thoughts on humanity,  on romance, on academia, on intimacy. Alexandros is haunted by his awfully dark relationship with his mother. He struggles to free himself from the impotence that plagues him, both sexually and intellectually. Through his academics and with the help of his lover, Meiko, he begins to cast aside the chains imposed upon him by the relationship he and his mother had.

We never directly see Sophia, Alex’s mother, yet she is a constant and imposing presence. She is always there, pushing and taking from Alex. She is presented through his thoughts, perceptions, and memories. Everything he is and everything he becomes is influenced by her. She is as much alive to him when she is absent as when she is present. She pushes him to better him, she says. But she holds him back, restraining him and isolating him from his peers. He questions, and thus the reader questions, what it means to be human, what it means to be a man, what it means to love.

Sophrosyne is a novel that cannot be read just once. There is no way to completely understand to fully absorb this story after just one read because it pushes you to think further and to delve deeper. It’s challenging in a way that most stories are not, but Apostolides coaxes you through with eloquent and poetic prose. Despite such disturbing subjects, her writing is beautiful.

This story is unlike anything I’ve ever read. It’s unsettling, it’s contemplative, and it’s vast. Apsotlides’ reader must be smart and thoughtful, willing to contemplate on the statements her characters make. For now, I will be setting Sophrosyne aside, with every intention of returning to dwell on this prose again soon.

 

Review: The Lunar Chronicles, Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

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Title: Scarlet

Author: Marissa Meyer

Published by: Square Fish, imprint of Macmillan

Date Published: 2013

ISBN: 978-1-250-00721-6

In the second book of The Lunar Chronicles series, we meet Scarlet Benoit, a fiery, red-haired farm-grow girl, who’s opinionated and stubborn. Scarlet’s grandmother has been missing for two weeks when Scarlet meets Wolf, the strangely strong and violent, yet reserved and shy, street fighter with a mysterious tattoo. Their introduction leads Scarlet on the search for her grandmother during which she discovers dangerous secrets her grandmother has kept hidden for years. Scarlet finds herself caught up in the violent scheme of the Lunar Queen, Levana – a hidden hoard of hybrid Lunar males and wolves created to search for the lost Princess Selene and kill any who get in their way. Simultaneously, the story follows Cinder in her escape from the Commonwealth prison, her introduction to Captain Thorne, and her desperate search for Scarlet’s grandmother. 

What an exciting continuation from the first novel in this series. Scarlet neatly ties in the plots introduced in book one, throughout book two. The story focuses on two new characters whose lives are integrally tied in with Cinder’s story. The world Meyer has created, now expands while effectively maintaining detail and believability as a detailed sci-fi universe. Meyer takes the reader out of the Commonwealth (the main setting for book one), into France, and right out of Earth altogether. We get a sense of how their world works and how countries and nations are perceived as the characters view world news on their netscreens. Despite providing us a window into the entire world, the story remains clear and focused on the main plot. 

Scarlet, as stated above, is a stubborn and hot-headed character. Her passion and love for her grand-mere is extremely evident, and she will do anything for her beloved familiar to the point where she appears as reckless. Scarlet’s fierce determination to save her grandmother is admirable, but her disregard for her own life is concerning. I would have liked her to think things through a little more before rushing off without a second thought. I do understand that she’s consumed by her fear and not thinking clearly, but a little more rationality on her part would have made her a more likely character. 

I liked that Scarlet doubts Wolf from the beginning, but isn’t completely immune to the attraction that is obvious between them. I thought that her struggle to like this man who has this barely-restrained animalistic side to him differentiates Scarlet than other traditional YA protagonists. She is one of a rare few who hesitates before diving into a relationship. I feel that as a young woman (about 18) she would be drawn to this strong, attractive figure who takes the role of a dominant male figure that was previously lacking in her life, but his association to the gang that’s captured her grandmother keeps Scarlet wary, and rightly so. Their relationship is somewhat unconventional. I couldn’t understand her attraction to Wolf at the start. Her fear of him seems to be overtaken by her attraction, which, in the beginning, made me very skeptical of the believability of their relationship. But Wolf won me over in the end. And he had me swooning. “I think I realized that I would rather die because I betrayed them, than live because I betrayed you” (444).  The fact that they refer to Scarlet as his “alpha female” had that cheese factor, but it was cute, if a little sickly sweet. 

Wolf is a character that I found gained a lot of sympathy from me. There’s a lot of mystery that surrounds him and his story throughout the novel. This intrigue has the reader turning pages faster to see what he’s going to do next. Wolf reaches all ranges in this novel, from the victim to the protector, from the hero to the villain. He’s a bit difficult as a character to pin down in this novel as the story progresses. I would have liked to see more information and backstory provided for Wolf and his brother Ran. We don’t learn much about them and where they come from in this book, but perhaps Cress will give us more insight. 

One thing that had me stumbling throughout the novel was the use of the word “thaumaturge.” I found that in the context of the novel (and the reading level at which the book is written) this word really stood out. I’m a university graduate about to complete post-graduate studies and I had to look this word up. 16-year-old me would have been clueless. I only point this out because thaumaturge is used constantly in this book and it caused a huge roadblock for me while I was reading. It made my experience a somewhat halting one. 

My only other criticism would be surrounding Captain Thorne. He didn’t have much of a strong role in this novel. His presence for me was mere comic relief. Meyer seems to be setting him up for more in coming books, but after reading Scarlet, I didn’t think he was especially necessary as a character. 

Overall, 5 stars for this one. For Meyer’s second novel, this one really held its own and is a strong continuation to the series. There’s lots of positive feedback surrounding Cress so I will be making my way onto the third instalment in The Lunar Chronicles ASAP. And if you haven’t read this series, I strongly suggest you do so soon!

Review of Veronica Roth’s “Insurgent”

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Title: Insurgent

Author: Veronica Roth

Publisher: HarperCollins 

Published: 2012

ISBN: 9780062024046

As promised, I’m continuing on my venture into the land of YA. And it hasn’t been all sunshine and happiness. Prepare yourself because my thoughts on this novel are not as pleasant as I’d like them to be. I have never been so disappointed making my way through a book as I was while reading Insurgent. The first book in this trilogy, Divergent, was strong (although Tris was never the most likeable character) and promised an exciting and thrilling continuation in its sequels. Reading the second in the series, I found it to be completely needless. Eliminating this book could have save a lot of people a whole lot of time. The plot felt like filler and had little substance to it. I’m not going to bother giving you a plot summary because there really was not much plot to sum up. I felt as though while writing Insurgent, Roth was bidding her time, for what I don’t know. 

Tris was a badass chick in Book One. I wasn’t a fan of her personality, but she was a risk taker. She fought for what she wanted and was everything you’d want of a strong female protagonist in an intelligent and thoughtful YA. In Book Two, however, she falls to pieces. Not once do we see even a glimmer of the girl we as readers are introduced to previously. I found her to suddenly to recede into a weak, useless, dependent girl who relies on everyone else to save her. She becomes a lot of talk, but little effective action. 

The first thing that troubled me about this book was the never-healing wound in Tris’ shoulder. She is wounded–shot in the shoulder–and this wound remains throughout the second book. Her wound becomes her downfall in every fight. Each opponent she faces seems to conveniently know that her affliction is her and each takes advantage of this, making sure to squeeze, punch, or whack the affected area. Tris always, in response, blacks out or collapses, becoming completely ineffective in the many repetitive rebellions. I don’t know why, when she is waiting in safety at many point throughout the book, she doesn’t have it looked at or properly treated and dressed so it can heal. 

The next thing that got to me was Tris’ sudden and constant desire to act thoughtlessly and recklessly. She is often running off to give herself to the enemy or lashing out at the Dauntless rebels. As a result, she usually ends up captured and confined or injured even further. And no matter how many times she hands herself over to the enemy, her friends, and inevitably Four…ahem, Tobias (I can’t say his name without thinking of Arrested Development) comes to rescue this perpetual damsel in distress. 

And I, of course, have to address the relationship between Tris and Four (I’m going to continue to call him Four. I like it better). I know they’re young and their relationship has been put under a lot of strain with the constant battling and the ever-present danger, but communication deteriorates completely in this novel. They fight at the drop of a hat and their fights consist of silence and mind games. “I want to kiss him, but I don’t.” “He looks as if he wants to stroke my cheek, but he seems to think better of it and turns away.” (These are not verbatim quotes). They both clearly want to make up, but refuse to throughout the novel. 

One strong point in the novel that I will point out is the believability of Tris’ torment over killing Will and they way in which she is haunted by the loss of her family. I felt a lot of compassion for Tris in these moments throughout the book, and I really feel that it is her internal struggle that adds interest and carries the plot. It is here where she gained my sympathy. I wanted to see her succeed in overcoming her pain. 

Alas, after reading Insurgent, I am not scrambling to pick up my copy of the third instalment. I’ll most likely pick it up eventually because I cannot leave a trilogy two thirds completed. But it is begrudgingly that I’ll make my way to the third book.