Archive | August, 2009

Likewise: The High School Chronicles of Ariel Schrag by Ariel Schrag

27 Aug

Published by Touchstone, 2008
Reviewed by Colleen McKie

In Likewise, author Ariel Schrag completes the telling of her years in high school, a story that was started in Awkward and Definition and Potential. Likewise explores Arial’s final year of high school.

The awkwardness of high school is captured beautifully in LikewiseLikewise, and at times I felt somewhat awkward reading it.  I also thought that the main character was very whiny at times, but then I remembered back to what high school was like and I realized that she captured those agonizing feelings of desperate crushes, not fitting in and trying to decide who you are perfectly.

Likewise was my first foray into the world of graphic novels, and I think that I may not have enjoyed the telling of the story as much as I could have due to the fact that I wasn’t used to the medium.  I have a feeling that as I read more graphic novels, I will be coming back to Likewise to give it another read.

Check out Likewise.

Come, Thou Tortoise by Jessica Grant

27 Aug

Published by Knopf Canada, 2009
Reviewed by Colleen McKie

As a Canadian, I am a wee bit partial to books that are not only written by Canadians, but that take place in Canada.  I am also a fan of weird, quirky characters and stories.  Thankfully Come, Thou tortoise, written by Canadian Jessica Grant, taking place in St. John’s, NFLD and featuring a tortoise as a main character meets all of these prerequisites.

The book centers around Audrey and her tortoise, Winnifred. The two areCome_Thou_Tortoise temporality separated when Audrey has to leave her Portland, Oregon apartment to head back to her hometown of St. John’s NFLD after her father receives a blow to the head and ends up in a coma.  Unfortunately her dad succumbs to his injuries before her plane even lands. Her uncle Thoby takes off for England shortly after, leaving Audrey alone to deal with things like clearing out the house and a set of faulty Christmas lights.  To cope with the situation, Audrey throws herself into solving a mystery she has stumbled across, using that as a way to avoid dealing with her father’s death.

Interspersed with Audrey’s story is that of Winnifred, who reflects on her life thus far and spends a lot of time wondering if Audrey has abandoned her. While at first the idea of reading the musings of a tortoise was a bit weird, a quarter of the way into the book, I was loving Winnifred and her unique take on things.

I also loved all of the play on words (Audrey often referred to her father as being in a “comma”) that Grant includes throughout the book. Audrey’s thoughts are often jumbled, but Grant writes them so that they appear to flow from one another. The only issue I had with the language in the book is really a technicality and an issue I have had with many other “literary” books: the avoidance of using quotation marks for dialogue.  I found it very confusing and distracting at first, but once I got into the characters and the story, it became less of an issue, although I always remained aware of it.

And speaking of the story, it kept me hooked throughout and the ending, while somewhat open (which I LOVE) was a bit of a surprise for me, but in a good way.

Jessica Grant is definitely a writer to read and watch out for and for me Come, Thou Tortoise is up there with Miriam Toews The Flying Troutmans and a Complicated Kindness.

Take a peek inside Come, Thou Tortoise.

Dust to Dust: Stories by Timothy Findley

26 Aug

Published by HarperPerenial Canada, 1997

In Timothy Findley’s collection of short stories, Dust to Dust, the theme of death flow through each story, intertwining with the theme of creativity. While these are two very contrasting themes, Findley presents them in such a way that they end up Dust_to_Dustcomplementing each other and often switching places, with death representing life and creativity representing an end.

Findley is my favorite writer and what I love most about his writing is its diversity. Even though the short stories in this collection all had common themes, each one was uniquely written. The volume also includes stories in several different genres, including murder mystery (Abracadaver, The Madonna of the Cherry Trees), love (A Bag of Bones) and horror (Hilton Agonistes, Americana).

While most of the characters were flawed, they were flawlessly written, their love and hate and lives jumping off the pages. There wasn’t one story in this collection that I didn’t enjoy, and quite often I was left wanting to know more about the places and people and situations Findley wrote about.

This was a great read, as all of Findley’s books are. If you haven’t read any of his books, Dust to Dust is a great place to start.

Click here to find out more about Dust to Dust.