Archive | April, 2012

A Certain Grace – Binnie Brennan

30 Apr

In the tradition of short story writers Alice Munro and Carol Shields, Binnie Brennan examines the minutiae of ordinary life. During a tipsy night out escaping the frustrations of daily routines, two middle-aged school teachers try their luck at scoring a joint. A long-haul trucker drives an injured butterfly to its breeding ground in Florida, giving them both a much-needed migration. And while struggling with the death of her ex-husband, a single mother questions her place in her family’s lives. A Certain Grace is richly told in spare prose and woven with vignettes of a much-loved grandfather’s life. 

Binnie Brennan’s pitch-perfect stories chart with a musician’s precision the beats between tenderness and cruelty, between innocence and understanding, in the gulf between what we long for and what is. Centred on the rifts between partner and partner, parents and children, acquaintances and strangers, they hover on the cusp of loss and the quiet deliverance of words themselves, to pinpoint the moment, brimming with possibility, when everything changes. 

— Carol Bruneau, author of Glass Voices

I met Binnie last September and bought her first collection, Harbour View, from her at Word on the Street. I pretty much bought it because Binnie is one of the sweetest people I’ve ever met and I love supporting local authors.  And if you’ve read my review of Harbour View, then you know I fell in love with Binnie’s writing and imagination. So I was a happy little booknerd when Quattro Books sent me her latest book, A Certain Grace.

The stories in A Certain Grace are wonderful little snippets of people and of life, in general. I think my favorite thing about this collection is that most of the stories don’t end. Well, they obviously end, but there isn’t a lot of closure. Things aren’t wrapped up all nice and neat.  They are truly snippets. Kinda like going to a cafe by yourself and eavesdropping in on the tables around you. You get some beginnings, some middles and maybe some ends, but usually not all three. And that’s how Binnie’s stories are. And it made me happy, guys. So happy. I loved that I didn’t know how things ended. I could imagine what happened next, play around with endings on my own. I find that I often gravitate towards this writing style. I know it ticks some people off, but for me it’s wonderful.

Something else that’s wonderful is the Five Miniatures at the end of the collection. I loved the tone and voice of these mini stories and they were written in such a personal manner that they seem like diary entries or memories.

A Certain Grace was just a lovely collection of short stories. I enjoyed them all.

Emily for Real – Sylvia Gunnery

26 Apr

If it’s just him, I cut a clean diagonal right across the middle, letting one half fall dead on the bed and throwing the other half on top of the pile. If it’s a picture of him with me, I carefully slice him off, and for some reason I save the piece with me in it. After a while, there’s a pile of Brian corpses lying there staring at nothing, and the pages of my album are all patched up with slices and triangles and scraps of pictures of me.

In every one of these sliced-up pictures, I look stranded.

Seventeen-year-old Emily’s world crumbles when her boy friend dumps her, and when she thinks her life can’t possibly get any worse, a series of secrets are revealed that threaten to tear her beloved family apart. Emily’s heart has been broken into a hundred pieces and she feels like there is no one to turn to, until an unexpected friendship blossoms with a troubled classmate named Leo. Sometimes moody but always supportive, Leo is Emily’s rock in an ocean of confusion and disbelief.

But Leo doesn’t have an easy life either. He struggles to be both mother and father to his little sister while his mom battles her alcohol addiction. His deadbeat dad darts in and out of the picture, and Leo would rather he stay away, permanently. The two friends lean on each other, and in the end discover the inner strength to face whatever life throws at them.

I don’t think I can quite capture my love for the relationship between Emily and Leo. I found it absolutely refreshing to read about a friendship between a boy and girl that stays just that: a friendship. When I was a teen, most of my best friends were boys, so I really identified with it. It was so realistic and honest and I just loved it. I also loved how they were both pretty messed up and damaged and didn’t really like each other at first, but slowly became close and trusted each other.

While I loved their relationship, I was a bit overwhelmed with Emily’s family secrets. The revelations, to me, seemed a bit forced and really came at a pretty fast pace. I realize that it’s possible for family stuff to go down that way, but I just felt that it was a bit rushed. But despite this, I really loved Emily for Real and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys YA contemp with strong themes of friendship.

Thanks to Pajama Press for the review copy. 🙂

172 Hours on the Moon – Johan Harstad

24 Apr

Everyone said sending teenagers into space would be their opportunity of a lifetime…

It’s been decades since anyone last set foot on the moon. But three ordinary teens are about to change that–and their lives–forever. Mia knows this will be her punk band’s ticket to fame and fortune. Midori believes it’s her way out of her restrictive lifestyle in Japan. And Antoine just wants to get as far away from his ex-girlfriend as possible. But little do they know that something sinister is waiting for them on the dark side of the moon. And in the black vastness of space, no one is coming to save them…

I love the premise of this book. I don’t read a lot of sci-fi and I dig the idea of crossing sci-fi with horror. I just, well, I wish the execution of the idea was a bit better. Now, this was a translated work, so maybe something got lost during the translation, but 172 Hours on the Moon left me feeling a bit cold and definitely wanting more (and sometimes less) from the story.

Overall the book wasn’t bad. I really enjoyed the diversity of the three teens that were chosen to go to the moon. I just didn’t necessarily need as much background information about them. As I was reading about them before they were chosen, I couldn’t help wishing that the author had cut out some of that part of the book and had concentrated more on the actual time on the moon. I already knew from the blurb that they were chosen, so I didn’t really need a lot of lead up to it.

I loved the space training part and also when they actually go to the moon. I just wish it had been a bit more detailed and that the author would have spend more time there. I would have been perfectly happy if the book had started with them at the training base or even with the shuttle launching.

The story is told in third person from the point of view of the three teens and some other secondary characters. I really, really didn’t get the point of some of these secondary characters. For me they didn’t add a thing to the main story. Antoine’s ex-girlfriend gets a couple of chapters as does a former janitor with NASA. I honestly think that if these sections had been cut out, the book wouldn’t have suffered and would have been a lot tighter.

But I absolutely LOVED the tone of 172 Hours on the Moon. The whole feel of the writing and the story reminded me of The Thing, one of my favorite horror movies. I also whipped through the latter part of the book when they’re on the moon. Shit goes down and it was awesome, in a scary way. And I also loved the fact that the author didn’t wimp out at the ending. At all. It was horrific and as far as I’m concerned, perfect.

So while I had a lot of issues with this book, there were also some things I loved about it. Would I recommend it? I’m not sure. I think this one is going to appeal to some and not others.

Thanks to Hachette Group Canada for the review copy.

Readathon!!!!!

21 Apr

8:24 am
It’s almost starting time and I am ready to go! I have all my snacks ready for the day, books picked out and animals are all cleaned and fed. All I have to do is read!

I’m starting off with Jackson Pearce’s Purity. I’ve heard mixed reviews about this one, so I’m pretty curious about what I’ll think about it. First readathon snackie-poo of the day shall be irish cream tea and some strawberries. YUMMY!

11:35am

About a hundred pages into Jackson Pearce’s Purity and really enjoying it so far. I’ve nommed on strawberries, trailmix and pepperoni so far, along with a couple of cups of tea. I’m getting a bit drowsy (I was up late last night) so I’m going to switch from the couch to a chair. Also going to have a cup of David’s tea chocolate rocket for a boost of energy.

1:30pm

I finished my first book! LOVED Purity by Jackson Pearce. Loved it! Next up is While He was Away by Karen Schreck. This one’s an YA romance, a genre I rarely delve into. But I’m trying to broaden my reading horizons and not be as snooty about romance novels. 🙂 And I believe it’s time for some Earl Gray tea and dark chocolate, almond coconut treats!

4:30pm

I’m about half way through While He was Away. Holy emotional read! I’m definitely going to need to read something light next. I also took a 20 minute break to cut down some of the shrubs in front of my house. It’s supper time here, so I’m nomming on some bologna with avocado. The tea of the hour is Tweed and Hickory cookies & cream which doesn’t taste anything like cookies & cream but is still delish.

12:00am

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

9:20am

So, as you can see from the above update, I zonked out at around midnight. I knew I wouldn’t be able to stay up all night, because I have a houseful of animals that require my attention and usually start asking for it around 7am. I managed to finish another book (Bad Kitty Meets Baby) and start a fourth (The Last Song) before I dozed off. I’m taking today, which is all kinds of dreary, as another reading day and hope to finish a few more books. AND, since I had enough snacks for an army, I’m good for nommies for the rest of the week. 🙂

In which I tempt fate……

20 Apr

Yes, folks, I’m signing up for the readathon this weekend. Can’t wait to spend 24 hours just READING and, of course, snacking on nommy goodness.  My stack-o-books isn’t everything I hope to read (I’m not THAT ambitious or stupid) but rather the books I’ll be choosing from. Unless something else catches my eye. I have a nice mix of YA, graphic novels, poetry and short stories. I will be updating one main post Saturday so as not to clog anyone’s feed reader.

Oh, and I’m also taking bets in the comment section for what animal will land on my doorstep Saturday and what time. 😀

Real Mermaids Don’t Hold Their Breath – Helene Boudreau

19 Apr

Normal is Never Coming Back

Jade is totally confused. As in, “will this be a leg-day or a tail-day?” kind of confused. Even worse, it’s been forever since her first kiss with Luke and now—nothing. Not even a text message.

Sigh.

But Jade doesn’t have time to figure out the weirdness of boys and how to use her shiny new tail. (Seriously, being a mermaid should come with a handbook.) She has to come up with a plan to get her missing mermaid mom back on dry land.

The only problem is…Jade is afraid of the ocean. But even aqua-phobic mer-girls have to take the plunge sometime…

I don’t know about you, but when I read the first book in a series and absofreakinglutely love it, I’m always nervous reading the second book. What if I don’t like it? What if it isn’t as addicting as the first book? What if it totally sucks? This was so not the case with Real Mermaids Don’t Hold Their Breath. It was as funny, charming, addicting and well written as the first book. I fell in love with it from the first page and continued loving it until it was over. Then I hugged my ARC whispering to the book gods “Please bring me the next book SOON”.

I just love Jade. She’s so cute and awkward and smart and dorky that I just want to put her in my pocket and take her home. Boudreau writes her in a such a way that Jade never becomes a caricature of herself, even when she’s at her goofiest. That’s a fine line to walk and it’s done beautifully. She’s one of my favorite YA characters.

I also love the tone of Real Mermaids Don’t Hold Their Breath. It was light and airy and funny and snarky and just wonderful. The pacing was also top-notch. Boudreau kept things moving, but not at a breakneck speed. It was a super balance of action, mystery and character development.

*Slight spoiler, but a good one*

THERE’S NO LOVE TRIANGLE!!!!!!!!!! For this alone I could fly out to Boudreau’s home and hug her. Or bring her cookies if she’s not the touchy-feely type. While love triangles done right are super, it was refreshing to have some romance-y stuff in a YA book and not have more than two people involved. Cuz in real life? Most teens are lucky to have one love interest.

*End of spoiler*

I really could go on and on and on and on about how much love I have for this book and for Boudreau’s writing and how happy this series makes me. But I want you to experience it for yourself. So if you haven’t read Boudreau’s Real Mermaids books, please do. Your book-loving heart will be all the happier for it.

Thanks an unbelievable amount to the folks at Source Books for the review copy.

Ring Around the Rosie – Jen Wylie

18 Apr

Aaron is a normal boy fascinated with music. He loves playing his flute so much he doesn’t even mind lessons over summer break. When he meets a strange boy at the park who seems to be just as obsessed they spend summer days entertaining children in the parks woods. But friends often have secrets, music can be magical, and even the most innocent of children’s games can be more than they appear.

Ah, the creepiness! The mystery! The spine-tingling GOODNESS of this short story. I mean, from the beginning I was all like, “WHAT the heck is going on?” I knew it was something devilishly good, I had a sneaking suspicion, and I was kinda right, but I was also way, way off. Which I LOVE when reading creepy stories like Ring Around the Rosie.

I loved how right from the get-go I had an uneasy feeling about the boy in the park and I wanted to scream at Aaron to STAY AWAY! Not that he would have listened, though. He was as entranced with the boy as the children in the park were. Have a mentioned how creepy this story was? I have? Okay, I just wanted to make sure. Cuz it was CREEEEEEEPY.

And the ending! Oh, it’s one of my favorite endings, I think. I won’t ruin it for anyone, but it was pretty cool. And like the rest of the story, there wasn’t any over explaining or filler. That’s the thing I liked most about Jen’s writing. It was tight.

This was just a great YA short story. I rarely ever read YA short stories, but I think I need to start delving into this genre more.

Thanks so much to Jen for the review copy.