Gratitude — Oliver Sacks

9 Feb

gratitudePublisher: Knopf Canada
Released: November 24th 2015
Genre: non-fiction, essays, memoir
Source: Review copy from publisher

 

 

 

A deeply moving testimony and celebration of how to embrace life.

In January 2015, Oliver Sacks was diagnosed with a recurrence of cancer, and he shared this news in a New York Times essay that inspired readers all over the world: “I cannot pretend I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude…. Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure.”

Gratitude consists of four essays that originally appeared in The New York Times, accompanied by a foreword that describes the occasion of each chapter. The foreword is written by Billy Hayes, Oliver Sacks’s partner, and Kate Edgar, his long time collaborator.

From Goodreads.

This was a slim volume with so much depth and weight to it. It’s only sixty-four pages, but when I finished I felt like I was a better person for reading it.

Non-fiction memoir pieces always feel like an intimate read, but Gratitude had the added layer that it was written about Sacks dying and I read it after he was dead. That’s a bit of a loaded gun for a book, no matter the length. But the essays never felt like they were over the top or self-indulgence. They were simply a telling by a man who knew that pretty soon there would be no more tales for him, real or not.

Sacks approaches his illness and the fact that it has lessened his time on earth with such honesty that sometimes it made my breath catch. Death isn’t an easy subject for most of us, regardless of our age or health. But Sacks tackles it head on, and in such a way that I didn’t feel sorry for him. These essays definitely weren’t a pity-party.

The theme of gratitude that runs through all four essays wasn’t done in a way that hit me over the head. Gratitude was written about as a way you can chose to live your life, and that’s what Sacks did.

Despite the topic and the themes in Gratitude, this was a quiet read. As I’ve already said, nothing was over the top or grandiose about the writing style or the way that the themes were approached. And because of this, I know it’s a book that will stay with me for a long, long time.

 

Molly Miranda: Thick as Thieves cover reveal!!!!

6 Feb

OMG LOOK AT THIS FREAKING COVER!!!!!!

MM2-TAT-web copy

 

How completely awesome is it? And it’s going to look AMAZING next to the cover for book 1. I mean, seriously.

If you love funny, snarky, sometimes (okay A LOT of the time) awkward heroines who also kick ass, then you need to check out Molly Miranda: Thief for Hire. Then, when Thick as Thieves come out later this year (squeeeee!) you can get your grubbies on it, too.

Eulogy — Ken Murray

27 Jan

eulogyPublisher: Tightrope Books, Inc
Released: July 1st, 2015
Genre: Adult contemp
Source: Paperback review copy from publicist

 

 

 

The controlled and calm life of William Oaks is shattered when his parents die suddenly in a car crash. A reclusive paper conservator at a renowned Toronto museum, William must face the obsessions and denials that have formed him: delusional family history, religious fundamentalism, living with unhappy parents who are constantly bickering, forced starvation, secrets and get-rich-quick schemes. Memory and facts collide, threatening to derail his life and career as William feverishly prepares for an important exhibition on the Egyptian Book of the Dead.

I have to admit when the request to review Eulogy popped into my email, my first impulse was to say no. While the description was interesting, it really didn’t seem like my cup of tea at all. But I decided to take a chance on it. After all it was by a debut Canadian author, and you know I am all about supporting our writers.

Holy Lord frigging Jesus am I ever glad I decided to review it. Eulogy is a heart-wrenching book about love, family, self-doubt and dealing with all the shit that life and relatives can put you through.

I love books where there are no “good” or “bad” characters. Where there’s just people trying to do what’s best with what they have. Sometimes they succeed and sometimes they fail. And sometimes it can be really hard to tell the difference. That’s what I loved so much about Eulogy. All of the characters are damaged in some way or another and it’s just heartbreaking.  And it’s real. So goddamn REAL.

The voice of the main character, William Oaks, describes his current life and the events leading up to it in such a way that it seems very non-judgmental. This lends itself a lot to Murray’s writing, which is beautifully descriptive and never delves into the cliche. Also, Oaks never dips into self pity, although there would be plenty of reason to. Because of this, Murray wrote a believable narrative through the eyes of a character that could be very skewed due to who he is and how he was brought up.

Eulogy was a fascinating read and a quick one for me. Once I started it I felt compelled to finish it. If you like books that tell an amazing story (but a difficult story to read sometimes due to the nature of the content) then Eulogy is right up your alley.

Music Monday — Gorgeous Morning

25 Jan

The first time I heard this song was years ago at an east coast music event when Meaghan Blanchard did a cover of it. I remember sitting there, my heart in my throat. And then I started crying. And I continued to cried. Because it was telling me exactly what I was feeling. And I didn’t even realize I felt like that until I heard the song.

To me, that’s the beauty of an amazing song. It can show you a truth about yourself that you didn’t even realize existed.

The Creeping — Alexandra Sirowy

22 Jan

thecreepingPublisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Released: August 18th, 2015
Genre: YA horror
Source: Paperback review copy from publisher

 

 

 

Eleven years ago, Stella and Jeanie disappeared. Stella came back. Jeanie never did.

Now all she wants is a summer full of cove days, friends, and her gorgeous crush—until a fresh corpse leads Stella down a path of ancient evil and secrets.

Stella believes remembering what happened to Jeanie will save her. It won’t.

She used to know better than to believe in what slinks through the shadows. Not anymore.

From Goodreads

 

Do I ever love me a good creepy story! And the main plot of this book was just the right level of creepy for me. I really loved how Stella had no idea what had happened the day Jeanie disappeared and that as a reader I also had no idea. I’m not a fan of scary books where the reader knows more than the main character. So the telling of this story was perfect for me.

I also loved that there was no clear path to what had happened to Jeanie. I never really had a moment where I went “Ah I know what happened!” There were enough possibilities that I was pleasantly surprised at the end.

I enjoyed the romancy stuff somewhat. I think the book would have been just as strong without it. It didn’t take away from the story, I’m just not 100% convinced it was needed.

One thing I really didn’t like was Zoey. She was, quite possibly, one of the worst best friends I’ve ever read. I’m not sure if that’s how the author meant for her to come across, but she has some truly cringe-worthy moments.

The tone of the book was spot on and the descriptions were delicious. I loved the feel of The Creeping and was creeped out plenty.

We Are All Made of Molecules — Susin Nielsen

19 Jan

molecules

Publisher:Wendy Lamb Books
Released: May 12th, 2015
Genre: Young Adult
Source: Paperback review copy from publisher

 

 

Thirteen-year-old Stewart is academically brilliant but socially clueless.

Fourteen-year-old Ashley is the undisputed “It” girl in her class, but her grades stink.

Their worlds are about to collide when Stewart and his dad move in with Ashley and her mom. Stewart is trying to be 89.9 percent happy about it, but Ashley is 110 percent horrified. She already has to hide the real reason her dad moved out; “Spewart” could further threaten her position at the top of the social ladder.

They are complete opposites. And yet, they have one thing in common: they—like everyone else—are made of molecules.

From Goodreads

It’s no secret that I am deeply in love with everything that Susin Nielsen has written. I mean completely smitten. Her books make me feel ALL THE FEELS: happy, excited, giddy, sad, heart-broken and just amazed at the story and the way she strings together words and thoughts and feeling so perfectly.

We Are All Made of Molecules is no different. This book was amazing and wonderful and just AHHHHHH. Susin once again writes imperfect characters perfectly. I love how real each and everyone of them are. Awkward and unsure and doing their best to manoeuvre through life. And the relationships are bumpy and weird and cringe-worthy and so much like real life it sometimes took my breath away.

I’m not sure what else I can say about this book. I know this is a short review but I feel that my gushing will just get annoying after a bit.

Basically, just read this book. And all of Susin’s other books.  Then, after you are finished, put them on your bookshelf and every once in a while, take them out and hug them. And reread them. And then hug them some more.

That’s what I do, anyway.

Black Bottle Man — Craig Russell

13 Jan

blackbottlePublisher: Great Plains Publications
Released: April 15th 2010
Genre: fiction, historical fiction
Source: Review copy from author

 

 

 

Forced to move every twelve days, what would happen to your life? 1927. Rembrandt is the only child in the tiny community of Three Farms. Soon his two aunts grow desperate for babies of their own. A man wearing a black top—coat and a ’glad—ta—meet—ya’ smile arrives with a magic bottle and a deadly deal is made. Determined to undo the wager, Rembrandt, Pa, and Uncle Thompson embark on the journey of their lives, for if they stay in one place for more than twelve days terrible things happen. But where and when will they find a champion capable of defeating the Black Bottle Man? Time ticks. Lives change. Every twelve days. . .

I am woefully late in writing this review. Several times over the past few months I sat down and tried to write it but I couldn’t. I enjoyed this book so much that I wasn’t sure what to say about it. It happens sometimes. I always find the reviews for books that blew me away are the hardest ones to write. And this book did blow me away.

I was actually surprised by how much I liked this book. The premise sounded interesting, but I wasn’t really sure it was going to be my thing. Well, it was. I read it in one sitting and did that happy sigh I do when I finish one of those books that I know I’ll read again and again.

The plot and the writing style work together beautifully and remind me of stories like Stephen King’s The Stand, but without being derivative of them. The themes and the feel of the writing are reminiscent, which is a good thing in my books. The Stand is one of my favourite novels, and I loved the similar good vs bad threads.

I was also surprised how much I enjoyed the religious aspects of the book and how well they worked with the plot. I am in no way a religious person and religion and religious themes are sprinkled throughout Black Bottle Man. But never once was religion used in a preachy way.

The fact that they have to move every twelve days is a cool way to have the story move forward both figuratively and literally. Think of those novels and movies where secondary characters weave in and out (I’m thinking Cold Mountain). They only appear for a little bit, but they have an affect on the plot.

My only complaint is that I felt things were wrapped up a bit too quickly in the end. Of course, that could be in part due to the fact that I didn’t want the book to end. :)

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