Thursday, June 22, 2017

Book Review: Mapping the Interior

 

Title: Mapping the Interior

Author: Stephen Graham Jones 

Genre: Native American, literature, themes of death & loss

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars



You know when you read a book and you know that at least 50% of the symbolism, comparisons, philosophy and psychology went over your head? That's what Mapping the Interior felt like to me. I know there is obviously a lot of importance and density to this novella but ask me to explain it or pull out snippets and I struggle knowing I missed a lot of somethings I can't articulate. 


"There are rules, I know. Not knowing them doesn't mean they don't apply to you."


This is a story of a Native American boy whose mourning a lost father, coping with leaving the reserve, trying to protect his damaged little brother and be the man of the house for his mom. It's a sad story and one I have heard variations of from other Natives in Canada many times. Having attended a junior high school where we had reserve kids it was always obvious that us "city kids" (as they called us) had it pretty darn good. Even those who didn't have it so good we're still better off in comparison. So very sad and yet so true. 


"...like the same stupid person is trying life after life until he gets it right at last."

Mapping the Interior is about the cycle of shame, loss and how you are destined to be your fathers son whether you want to be or not. 


And while, again, I'm not sure I understood all the nuances of the book I'm glad I read it. If only for a reminder, in the year that Canada celebrates 150 years as a nation, that we built this nation on top of others existing culture and life. Be it right or wrong at the time it happened, and given we can't change that, we should at least remember and reach a hand out to help break the cycle and provide opportunities for those children and adults who are stuck in a life of poverty and helplessness. 


It's difficult to give literature like this a rating. It almost feels inappropriate to rate it. Like I can't put a value on something I can't entirely understand. So I will give four stars because it's an important story told in this novella, but the deep metaphorical overlay of the story leaves me feeling inadequate and therefore is not going to be good for everyone; nor does it make its point in an easily accessible way. 

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Book Review: The Suffering Tree

 Title: The Suffering Tree 
Author: Elle Cosimano
Genre: Teen, Magic
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I have lots to say about this book so I'm going to try and break it all down for everyone. Starting with the aversion many have with this book. 


Cutting

Yes it is true our lead gal is a cutter. She self harms herself in about 8 described incidents (though I would argue that ones done for a spell are different), 4 of which are possibly graphic. I didn't think so but then again I dabbled with cutting as a teen myself and my husband had larger issues with it as a teenager. I think it's a really important issue that most writers shy away from. I've never read a novel where the lead character is a cutter and, given how widespread of a teen issue it is, it's occurred to me that we should probably be more concerned than we are. 


So, why is this such a taboo subject? 

I personally feel like those who have DNF'd or given 1 star because of the cutting content are incorrect. You can still dislike the overall book of course; and choose to say the book is not for you, but that doesn't mean it's bad or inappropriate. Especially if you DNF and don't witness the progression of the cutting issue. Right from page 1 it is not glorified or made out to be right. In fact the shame and fear our gal has over the issue, I think, sends a very good message to teens. 

I'm not interested in arguing about this at length. This is merely my opinion. But as a previous cutter and having witnessed those who struggle with it even worse I think this is a really important, rarely discussed issue. 


Plot

There is a lot of great content here. Between moving to a new town, dealing with death, stigma and corruption it has a good base. Then add in the historical context discussion indentured folks, slaves and witch trials: you suddenly have a well thought out book. There was more magic than I expected and I really enjoyed the jump between dreams of the past, and the past and present perspectives. 

It's quite intricate and the overall family tree and past element felt a lot like Girl With the Dragon Tattoo for me. Add in our damaged cutting lead gal and you suddenly start to have a bunch of themes that crossover. 

That said it's a teen book. While it's definitely not appropriate for less than 14 or 15 due to content, it is still not an adult novel. 


Writing

The overall writing is quite good. There are some really annoying issues at times where someone has the answer to a crisis when they couldn't have had time to make a call and plan in the span of the two minutes between incident and telling others of a confirmed plan. So some holes. But for the most part they are not too hard to overlook.


Overall

I'd say on principle this book is 3.5 stars for me, but I bump it to 4 stars for being willing to tackle self harm and mutilation issues with teens. 

Could it trigger someone? Sure. 

Should it have mentioned self harm in the blurb... I dunno... maybe...

Ironically I felt the scenes in the past including whipping, switches and other torture methods was far more graphic and disturbing. I have noticed a tendency as a society to be okay with past violence as we believe it no longer happens today, so it's not as disturbing or something... there's a psychology paper in there somewhere. 


Recommend?

I would recommend this book for adults who love magic that happens or is set in present day, those who enjoy a complex family tree and conspiracy, or anyone interested in a well done take on why teens (or others for that matter) inflict injuries upon themselves by choice. 

I think any teen over 14 would be entranced by this novel. 

Oh and I shouldn't forget to mention that the love interest is very unique. I liked it a lot. I especially appreciated he lack of love triangle, gushing about cuteness or hotness and that there is zero slut shaming. All things I'm more than tired of. 

Overall I would recommend The Suffering Tree and I commend Elle Cosimano for tackling a hidden issue that needs to be brought to the surface even if it makes folks uncomfortable. In fact the more uncomfortable you are the more likely it is that the issue needs to be discussed! 



Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Book Review: Zenn Diagram

Title: Zenn Diagram
Author: Wendy Brant
Genre: Young Adult, Coming of Age
Rating: 3.5 out of five stars

3.5 stars... I'm rounding up to four stars as I think there are a lot of people who would really enjoy this book. 

It's not an amazing book in my opinion, there isn't anything here that hasn't been done before. Essentially girl has issues, boy has issues, girl meets boy, they fall for each other, maybe they can fix each others issues, random twist related to issues, boy and girl learn something about each other and themselves. See how it's pretty much every coming of age story ever? 
But there are some super cute quadruplets in the story that are only three years old. :)

The uniqueness here is in the idea that our lead gal cannot touch anyone without being bombarded with their feelings. This leads into a whole series of odd events that drive the story forward. 

I don't want to give anything away because the 'reveals' are interesting and I think knowing things in advance would ruin the book for most. But essentially there are a lot of stereotypes that are broken down (bare with the first couple chapters because they set-up why nothing she thinks is right in them later on). Overall Zenn Diagram is an excellent commentary on how everyone deserves a chance to be happy and no one person's pain, grief or hardship is bigger than another's. 

I think this book would be interesting for many teens to read. They are likely to learn something from it about the nature of sacrifice and that no one person's 'horrible' events in their life trumps someone else's. I guess that's why I'm rounding up to 4 stars, the reality is that everyone has issues and no one person's issues are more dramatic, painful or bigger than others. I do really like this main point that Wendy Brant makes. I like it because I believe it's true. Your pain or grief is relevant to you in it's size, not in how large it appears to others. Hardship is not quantifiable, it is individual to each person and cannot be put on a mathematical scale and measured. 


I would recommend this book for anyone who needs a reminder that it's not a game or contest to try and one-up one another in bad things that have happened to us. Alternatively it's not about one-upping good things either. It's just about living and being happy. 

Any other issues aside, that may have to do with the writing or overall story, Brant portrays the message that everyone deserves to be happy very, very well.

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Book Review: The Enchanted

 

Title: The Enchanted 

Author: Rene Denfeld

Genre: Contemporary Literature

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars 


What a wondrously different book. 

First I think it's important to know that this book is about death. The main setting is death row of a prison. Second it's interesting to note that author Rene Denfeld has worked on death row. There is an obvious link between Denfeld's own experience on death row and the characters in this book. 


While this book is about death it is not gruesome. It is instead a beautifully written study of how many of the injustices in our society land people in bad situations that just snowball into worse. 


You could easily write an English thesis, maybe even a doctorate, on the symbolism and what it all means in The Enchanted. I can honestly say I probably didn't get all the nuances of this book. Yet I did still enjoy it. 


This was a hard book for me to get into. I had to start it three times and was only successful when I was at home alone with zero distractions. Once I was in it however I didn't want to let go. So I rank it at 4 stars only because it's a bit pretentious and maybe more difficult to read than it needed to be. However it is without a doubt a unique format to try and expose some of our worlds injustices.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Book Review: Mormama

  

Title: Mormama

Author: Kit Reed

Genre: Horror

Rating: 1 out of 5 stars


DNF at 50% 

DNF = did not finish


This book is written from the perspective of many different voices. Something which I usually enjoy. It's also written in a disjointed way as it's characters random thoughts that aren't even always complete sentences. Generally I don't mind this type of writing, in some cases I love it (see Wink. Poppy. Midnight.). However in the case of Mormama there's not enough immediate character development (if any) to make me feel like I know the people talking. Especially from Mormama. 


I totally get what Kid Reed was going for here and I'm not 100% sure I can even pinpoint the problem except to say that it just doesn't work. 

Additionally there is very scarce plot, and some characters that don't make any sense. Yes I know if I had kept reading I'm sure it would have all tied together and been a beautiful reveal but at the halfway point of the book I can honestly say I just don't care. None of these characters are likeable (even the twelve year old boy) and they all just natter about this, that or the other. 


Mormama did remind me of a wonderful movie, and has made me want to rewatch it again, called Crimson Peak (starring Tom Hiddleston). I usually don't watch "horror" movies but my husband convinced me I'd love this one and he was right. It's not horror like you think... you have to watch it as I don't want to spoil anything


So if you want a helpful but unsure Mother Ghost story watch Crimson Peak. If you don't mind a lot of nonsense, history about people you can't keep track of, and boring points of view along with a Mother Ghost read Mormama. 



Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Book Review: Perfect

 Title: Perfect

Author: Cecelia Ahern

Series: Flawed, 

Book 2

Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian

Rating: 1 out of 5 stars


DNF @ 30% (did not finish)


I just can't do it anymore. Book 1 was so good for the first 40% and then sooo bad; and here's book 2 with even worse writing than the last half of book 1. If I didn't know any better I'd say that someone wrote the first half of book 1 and a totally different person wrote the rest and has carried into book 2. 

This is book 2 in a series that has a brilliant dystopian premise. Right up there with Divergent and Hinger Games for creativity and impact. Unfortunately the rest of it is painful. 


This series/book suffers from the very typical YA pitfalls: 

- the main love interest thinks he's better than everyone 

- the lead gal is whiny and annoying; except when it's convenient for her to be a strong leader, then she's suddenly super smart

- the interactions between characters are wooden and dull

- the handling of loosing a gal loosing her virginity is really, really poorly handled (as in mentioned but no emotional depth at all!!) 

- the adults are so dumb and easily played by this wussy lead teenager


It's like someone wrote down a list of all of the typical issues in YA books and incorporated them in. 


Did I mention that I'm truly disappointed as I really love, love, LOVE the premise of this world and I think there are some amazing, deep and philosophical things that could be done with the dystopian construct. A huge opportunity missed in my opinion. 



<i>Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.</i>

Monday, June 12, 2017

Stitching: Mirabilla Mermaid

So, I've been casually picking up this pretty Mirabilla Mermaid for the last... 5 or 6 years. I was kind of embarrassed with myself the other day when I realized how long it has been... but what can you do. Time passes as it does. Lol! 

So here's the middle section of her tail I have been working on. No overall pic as I am too lazy to take her off the scrolls... more lols! 

 


The first picture has the best colour in it. The fabric is a wonderfully soft old Silkweavers 28ct hand dyed green fabric. 
There is a lot of Krenik in this girly and that may be why I left her for long periods of time. I'd like to make some decent progress on her this year. 

It's been a year of a major start with the Alice HAED and so maybe that also makes it a year of finishing up other stuff! :) 

Thanks for dropping by and Happy Stitching! 

Book Reviews: Flawed

 

Title: Flawed

Series: Flawed, Book 1

Author: Cecelia Ahern

Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian Fiction

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars


I've been thinking for hours on what to say about Flawed. Maybe the simplest way to describe this book is that it's a wonderful dystopian set-up and world with major flaws in the actual story. 


The first 40% of this book is spectacular! Right up there with Hunger Games. The writing is snappy, clever, gruesome and paced so that you can't even breathe. And then things settle down which is okay except that it's like Cecelia Ahern forgot that she was writing a deeply moving dystopian book. Where's the self reflection? Where's the depression? Where's the pages of defeat? 

All missing. 

And that is where this book goes all wrong. 

Instead of following in Mockingjay's footsteps and making our lead gal a real person; we suddenly have a shallow, dumb little girl whose in over her head and yet too stupid to know it. 


And with all that the poor hits just keep on coming...

- the love interests are both blah and never developed

- the end isn't an end at all but instead a cliffhanger to force you into book 2 (why can't we ever have some small ending and then a cliffhanger)

- the family members are no more than mother, father, sister. I seriously couldn't remember their names they were that one dimensional 


It's really tragic to see a book that had my heart racing, my interest at 110% and some amazing ideas in it fall so fast. :(

Book Review: The Key to Creation

 Title: The Key to Creation

Series: Terra Incognita, Book 3

Author: Kevin J. Anderson 

Genre: Epic Fantasy 

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars


It's hard to judge the last book in an epic trilogy such as this on its own. Because the reality is that this book stands on the shoulders of what came before. 

So let me say this first about the whole series. I loved it! 


Loved the characters, loved the religions, loved the cultures and adored the setting. Kevin J. Anderson has clearly poured his heart into this trilogy and it's magnificent. 

That said this series is not for the faint of heart... it's long and intense. There are many characters and storylines to follow that criss cross each other.


There is no way anyone can miss the parallels between Ishalem and Jerusalem; and the battle for 'whose religion is correct'. I love the way Anderson brings this debate to a close. 

Overall this last book had two flaws for me... there is a cheap-ish use of magic to hurry a situation along and even cheaper us of magic in one instance near the end. Even though it's totally within the viability of the world and magical rules it still feels cheap. But I can forgive Anderson for wanting certain things to happen at the same time. 


Endings are hard, as many of us know. They are especially hard when you have a cast of characters that people love whom if one is happy another is not. There was no possible way for everyone to be content at the end of this book. I appreciate that it's not "happily ever after" and instead some hard choices are made. Overall Anderson does give us a lot of satisfaction in where our characters end up. 

I am not a crier and yet I was slightly misty eyed as I read about the next steps in their journeys for our characters. I have come to know and love these people and all their imperfections.


I can't say much else except start at the beginning and be prepared for immersion into a realm that is built off core fantasy literature ideals, with a heaping helping of Anderson's brilliant imagination. 

Truly I thank Kevin J. Anderson for providing me with such a glorious journey I will not soon forget.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Book Review: Geekerella

Title: Geekerella
Author: Ashley Poston
Genre: Teen, YA, Fairytale Retelling
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

It's always difficult when you read a book that is very similar to one you read recently. The immediate reaction is usually that the first book is better; only because it came first. The comparisons between Queens of Geek and Geekerella are so obvious they are not even worth listing. But in case you don't know here's the gist: teen geek girl with nothing decides to attend a con, do cosplay to try and win a contest and makes a friend and/or boyfriend along the way. And while I did like Queens of Geek better I don't think it's because it came first, instead it's for all of the following reasons... 

Let's start with a quick list of things that drove me crazy:
- If you have a brick of a phone then it probably doesn't text
- 5'3 is not that short!! In fact it's usually considered the starting height for normal (take it from someone barely 5'1)
- Both characters start out whiny and annoying. I realize this is part of the point but I was very tired of it by 35% into the story
- Every teen in the history of the world knows that clothing drawers and behind pictures are the worst hiding place ever 
- If you're going to correct everyone that it's not a costume but a cosplay (all the time) then don't call it a costume in your own narrative!! Ashley Poston needed a geek editor to pick this one up
- The legal lesson every single YA author needs to be told (it seems); if something is held in trust for someone until they are of a certain age then that item CANNOT BE SOLD by the person holding it in trust. This is law 101 and I can't believe how often this is screwed up in YA books
- Our lead man Darien is of a non-white skin colour. I wish I could tell you what skin tone but for some reason Poston decides to rarely reference his skin colour. This bugs me because I like to be able to picture characters and let's face it skin tone is an important part of seeing characters in your mind the way the author intended (just like you'd give them a specific hair colour, gender, height, weight, etc.). I did however appreciate that the focus isn't his skin tone just because. Yes, I get I've just contradicted myself and I'm sure I'll get torn to bits by SJW's... I just wish I had a better picture in my mind of what Darien looked like, that's all. 

The really great things: 
- The rich sci-fi world created as the geek culture for the book. Clearly Poston has thought this world through. It's so good that I want someone to write a book or create a TV show based on the fake geek-verse. I think I would enjoy it a lot more than the actual story in Geekerella
- The Pumpkin, dress and shoe are included and it doesn't feel lame or silly at all. Taking these very cliche things and making them feel like they bit in and are not forced is a hard thing to do. Props to Poston for incorporating them in a way that I didn't roll my eyes at 
- Sage is awesome (the character, not the herb). I adore her and would totally bring her home and love her if she was real (my husband will have to learn to share because I really love her that much in every way you can imagine)
- The overall story of friendship is well put together. There is no insta-love, love triangle or any other ridiculous pretenses in this book. 
- And this quote is just so amazing "So everyone who tries something for the first time's a poser? Come on Elle, that's crazy." Because the only way you become fan is by starting somewhere

Overall this book was just okay. It has some lovely little messages and tidbits to take away. I can totally appreciate girls between 11-15 swooning for this book and in 20 years talking about how it's a book that changed their life. There's something here, but it's just a bit too obvious for my reading tastes. I think this because as a geek child, when being a geek was not cool, I wish I had had this book. Maybe I would have stood up for myself more, had more confidence or not tried to blend in with everyone else even when I knew I didn't like what they liked. If this book helps even one teen having those thoughts then it's well worth being sold. 
That said, there were a large number of pitfalls in this book. Overall my biggest issue is how very unrealistic the entire premise and main love story are. I know, I know, Cinderella is all about the nobody becoming a princess and I shouldn't be surprised; but it's all just very farfetched. This is where Queens of Geek and it's realness soar above Geekerella for me. 

I would definitely buy this book for a geeky girl of 11-15 and would be very confident recommending it to someone that loves Cinderella (I may be the only geek girl in the world that doesn't like Cinderella that much...) and her rags to riches story. Without a doubt Poston takes us on a journey of a girl going from being afraid of everyone and everything to being a woman who is ready to tackle life no matter what it throws in front of her. 

Monday, June 5, 2017

Book Review: The Hidden Thread

Title: The Hidden Thread
Author: Liz Trenow
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars! 

This book is described as breathtaking in its blurb and I cannot think of a better word. Breathtaking indeed! So needless to say I loved it. I loved that it was about silk, threads and weaving. I loved the richness of London in the 1700's and the little quotes from 'manual's' and other books that were the 1700 equivalent to today's self-help books. 

Not unlike Pride and Prejudice this book is about a woman whom is not happy being a part of the 'typical' high society she could be immersed in. Instead our lead gal, Anna, is a bit of a romantic; a painter/artist that is looking for real love, not just a good match to a wealthy man. The love story here is poignant, honest and unbelievably adorable. I'm not a crier but I will admit to at a few moments being choked up by the sweetness of it all. 

There is one thing that The Hidden Thread is not, it's not an action book, not a thriller, has no magic or intrigue in it, and isn't about anything more complex than two people and their stories that collide. Going in with clear expectations that you will learn a lot about weaving and silk; and knowing that it's well researched and written will go a long ways to your enjoyment. 

Even though the writing is not overly flowery, nor is the story anything particularly original, I still adored this book. It was breathtaking in that Liz Trenow clearly knows how to tell a story with depth that evicts emotions for average people in believable and realistic situations. It's in the vein of Gone with the Wind, Pride & Prejudice or more recently The Minaturist or The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane. Just a story about people and the time they lived (and loved) in. 

The Hidden Thread is historical fiction at it's finest and I can't imagine changing anything in it that would improve it. Finding out the authors connection to the people and time period at the end of the novel just re-enforced for me how much time and effort clearly went into researching the time period and silk industry. And how can you possibly fault an author who admits to their fictional liberties taken!! It's a rare treat that I can walk away from a historical novel and not feel the need to wiki the real details. I look forward to much more of Trenow's literature in the future. 

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.