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Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine — Gail Honeyman

7 Oct

 

Publisher: Viking
Released: May 9th, 2017
Genre: Adult contemp
Source: ARC from publisher

 

Meet Eleanor Oliphant. She struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she’s thinking. Nothing is missing in her carefully time-tabled life of avoiding social interactions, where weekends are punctuated by frozen pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy.

Then everything changes when Eleanor meets Raymond, the bumbling and deeply unhygienic IT guy from her office. When she and Raymond together save Sammy, an elderly gentleman who has fallen on the sidewalk, the three become the kinds of friends who rescue one another from the lives of isolation they have each been living–and it is Raymond’s big heart that will ultimately help Eleanor find the way to repair her own profoundly damaged one.

From Goodreads

OMG this book. The writing. Holy crap. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is one of the strongest cases of show don’t tell that I’ve read in a long, long time.

Everything about this book was spot on amazing. The way the author tackles Eleanor’s lack of social skills and her past is to the point and the emotions of the reader comes from the fact that Eleanor is a broken soul but isn’t fully aware of it. Her becoming self-aware is a key theme of the book and one that is handled without any kind of preaching or talking down to the readers.

If you’ve been to this blog before, then you know the damaged, imperfect character is one of my favourite kinds. I am also a huge fan of the everyday character. Both are strongly represented in this book and while all the characters aren’t necessarily always likeable, they are relatable and I really felt for them. (Probably because I saw myself in them.)

There is nothing fluffy about this book at all. It deals with some hard and relatable issues and I think a lot of readers will fall in love with this book. I know I did.

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Fragment — Craig Russell

6 Dec

fragment

 

Publisher: Thistledown Press
Released: Oct 1st, 2016
Genre: General fiction
Source: eARC from publisher

 

When avalanching glaciers thrust a massive Antarctic ice sheet into the open ocean, the captain of an atomic submarine must risk his vessel to rescue the survivors of a smashed polar research station; in Washington the President’s top advisor scrambles to spin the disaster to suit his master’s political aims; and meanwhile two intrepid newsmen sail south into the storm-lashed Drake Passage to discover the truth.

Onboard the submarine, as the colossal ice sheet begins its drift toward South America and the world begins to take notice, scientists uncover a secret that will threaten the future of America’s military power and change the fate of humanity.

And beneath the human chaos one brave Blue Whale fights for the survival of his species.

From Goodreads

 

This was a different kind of read than I usually delve into, but I just LOVED Russell’s Black Bottle Man so much that as soon as I heard he was publishing another novel, I wanted in. And I am so glad that I did. Fragment took me by surprise and I was engaged from the opening.

This book reads like one of those blockbuster disaster movies (think Day After Tomorrow) and for some reason I can’t get enough of those movies. From the beginning the tension and peril is clear. There’s no lazy build up to the action and I love that. Russell pretty much just jumps into an “Oh shit” moment. This sets the pacing for the book and while it was tight and fast-moving it never felt rushed or overdone.

But Fragment goes beyond the basic disaster plot. There’s depth here and a message and thankfully we aren’t hit over the head with it. There’s a subplot having to do with whales that’s really really cool. And speaking of cool, how cool is it that one of the main characters is a whale? Pretty freaking cool.

There’s a lot of science in this book, but it isn’t written about in a way that is dumbed down or will make non-science peeps’ eyes glaze over. I’m not overly sciencey and I didn’t have any issues following along. This can be tough to do, but Russell handles it well.

There’s a lot going on, plot wise, with different storylines all coming together towards the end. There’s also a bit of a cheesy moment or two, but I feel that it works with the story.

I really enjoyed Fragment and can’t wait to see what Russell puts out next.

No Escape from Greatness — Jeffery John Eyamie

22 Nov

greatness

 

Publisher: Turnstone Press
Released: March 28th, 2016
Genre: contemp, humour
Source: Review copy from publisher

 

Fame can be fickle. Nobody knows that better than overnight sensation Gabriel Pegg . . . you know, Port-o-Potty Guy . . . from Erratic Automatic. Remember him? He went from the penthouse to the outhouse, and now Gabriel is persona non grata in the entertainment biz. Broke, behind on his child support payments, and a wanted man, Gabriel heads to the only place he has left: Greatness, Manitoba, population…I don’t know, but there’s one traffic light. Gabriel believes his destiny as a serious auteur awaits him, once he can rid himself of those pesky parental commitments. When Gabriel unwittingly signs himself up for six-days-a-week custody of his 11 year old daughter, Gabriel realizes there might just be No Escape from Greatness.

From Goodreads

Not all funny books are created equal. Some try too hard to be funny and really miss the mark. Some don’t try hard enough. And some, like No Escape from Greatness hit the mark perfectly.

Folks, this is a FUNNY read. One of the funniest I’ve read. I love the plot and the cast of characters and the fact that this is a book that actually has some character growth and a message but doesn’t take itself to seriously.

Gabriel Pegg. Jesus he is one unlikeable character. I mean, this guy is such a douche. Yet I couldn’t stop reading about him and wanting to read about him. It’s hard to write an unlikeable character that keeps readers engaged, but Eyamie accomplishes that. Gabriel has his head so far up his own ass that you kinda have to feel a bit bad for him.

This book reads like an awesome, funny, quirky Canadian indie movie. It’s just so unbelievable that it’s believable. And I LOVED it.

The Love that Split the World — Emily Henry

19 Sep

split

 

Publisher: Razorbill
Released: Jan 26th, 2016
Genre: Young Adult
Source: Review copy from publisher

 

Natalie Cleary must risk her future and leap blindly into a vast unknown for the chance to build a new world with the boy she loves.

Natalie’s last summer in her small Kentucky hometown is off to a magical start… until she starts seeing the “wrong things.” They’re just momentary glimpses at first—her front door is red instead of its usual green, there’s a pre-school where the garden store should be. But then her whole town disappears for hours, fading away into rolling hills and grazing buffalo, and Nat knows something isn’t right.

That’s when she gets a visit from the kind but mysterious apparition she calls “Grandmother,” who tells her: “You have three months to save him.” The next night, under the stadium lights of the high school football field, she meets a beautiful boy named Beau, and it’s as if time just stops and nothing exists. Nothing, except Natalie and Beau.

Emily Henry’s stunning debut novel is Friday Night Lights meets The Time Traveler’s Wife, and perfectly captures those bittersweet months after high school, when we dream not only of the future, but of all the roads and paths we’ve left untaken.

From Goodreads

I love, love, LOVE how this book starts. Right in the middle of the story, no preamble or backstory or lead in. Just BAM! there you are. Why this works so well is that it really gave me a sense of being off balanced, which is how Natalie feels for a large part of the book. Things are going on, weird things, and she isn’t sure why. Or even what sometimes. So the opening really put me in the middle of her feelings, and I just loved that.

The friendship between Natalie and her best friend Megan was spot on. As was the dialogue. So realistic and snappy and fun. But these two had a deep bond and that came across strongly, even during the moments of banter.

The timey wimey stuff was cool, too, although I have to admit I didn’t 100% understand it. And I’m not sure what happens at the end of the book. But I think that is more about me than the story or the writing. I tend to have a hard time wrapping my brain around that kind of thing.

Even though I was a bit unsure about the ending, I really, really enjoyed this book.

 

Dime — E.R.Frank

24 Nov

dimePublisher: Simon & Schuster
Released:May 26th, 2015
Genre: YA contemporary
Source: Review copy from publisher

 

 

 

The realities of teen prostitution are revealed in this eye-opening, heartbreaking story from the author of America, which Booklist called “a piercing, unforgettable novel” and Kirkus Reviews deemed “a work of sublime humanity.”

As a teen girl in Newark, New Jersey, lost in the foster care system, Dime just wants someone to care about her, to love her. A family. And that is exactly what she gets-a daddy and two “wifeys.” So what if she has to go out and earn some coins to keep her place? It seems a fair enough exchange for love.

Dime never meant to become a prostitute. It happened so gradually, she pretty much didn’t realize it was happening until it was too late.

But when a new “wifey” joins the family and Dime finds out that Daddy doesn’t love her the way she thought he did, will Dime have the strength to leave? And will Daddy let her?

From Goodreads.

This is going to be a short review, because honestly, I’m not sure what to say about Dime besides the fact that I really, really, really liked it.

This was an intense read. And heart-breaking. And it made me ANGRY. And I wanted to jump through the pages and hug Dime and take her home with me.

It almost feels wrong to say I was riveted from the open paragraph, but I was. Dime’s voice and story drew me in and it was like I was addicted to the book while I was reading it. It was one of those books that I ignored life for a few hours in order to read.

If you are all about happy, light stories, then this may not be the best choice for you. But, if like me, you LOVE realistic books that aren’t always easy to read but make you feel all kinds of things then you will absolutely love this novel.

Between — Angie Abdou

19 Feb

betweenPublisher: Arsenal Pulp Press
Released: October, 2014
Genre: adult, literary, Canadian fiction
Source: paperback copy from author for review

 

 

 

Vero and her husband Shane have moved out of the sweet suite above his parents’ garage and found themselves smack in the middle of adulthood―two kids, two cars, two jobs. They are not coping well. In response to their looming domestic breakdown, Vero and Shane get live-in help with their sons―a woman from the Philippines named Ligaya (which means happiness), whom the boys call LiLi. Vero justifies LiLi’s role in their home by insisting that she is part of their family, and she goes to great lengths in order to ease her conscience. But differences persist; Vero grapples with her overextended role as a mother and struggles to keep her marriage passionate, while LiLi silently bears the burden of a secret she left behind at home.

Between offers readers an intriguing, searing portrait of two women from two different cultures. At the same time, it satirizes contemporary love, marriage, and parenthood by exposing the sense of entitlement and superiority at the heart of upper-middle-class North American existence through a ubiquitous presence in it: the foreign nanny. Angie Abdou comically and tragically tackles the issue of international nannies by providing a window on motherhood where it is tangled up with class, career, labour, and desire.

From Goodreads.

 

This book. OMG THIS BOOK! I loved it SO HARD. It was beautiful and awkward and messy and real.

Okay, Vero: I don’t think I’ve ever read such an unlikeable yet completely sympathetic character. I mean, I spent most of the book not really liking her but at the same time I felt so goddamn bad for her and wanted to take her out for a tea or buy her some lavender essence oil or something. And I love when I’m conflicted about a character. Purely good or purely bad characters just don’t do it for me.

Ligaya was also a well-written, complicated character who really comes into her own by the end of the book. There’s one scene at the end with Ligaya, Vero and Shane and I was all like, “You go LiLI! You tell them how it is!” It was cool to watch her gain confidence in a very unexpected way.

Seriously, guys, the imperfections of all the characters are described perfectly.

Abdou’s use of language is exquisite and if I were to quote all of my favourite lines this review would be, well, pretty much the whole book. I rarely ever include direct quotes in my reviews, but here are two that took my breath away:

“The smile let Vero feel the earth under her feet.” — page 272

“The silence that follows is palatable, the air heavy with it. Vero imagines scooping it into her mouth, eating it like ice cream.” — page 293

I really can’t recommend this book enough. As with Abdou’s other books, Between will take its place on my favourite reads bookcase.

13 Little Blue Envelopes – Maureen Johnson

20 Feb

Inside little blue envelope 1 are $1,000 and instructions to buy a plane ticket.

In envelope 2 are directions to a specific London flat.

The note in envelope 3 tells Ginny: Find a starving artist.

Because of envelope 4, Ginny and a playwright/thief/ bloke–about–town called Keith go to Scotland together, with somewhat disastrous–though utterly romantic–results. But will she ever see him again?

Everything about Ginny will change this summer, and it’s all because of the 13 little blue envelopes.

13 Little Blue Envelopes was just a wonderfully fun book. FUN! I mean, there’s more to it than that, but fun is the first word that comes to mind when I think of 13 Little Blue Envelopes. But under the fun of watching Ginny follow the path of the envelopes there were themes of love, family, accepting and forgiving. And in the end it was all about Ginny find her way and her place in life.

For me, this was like one of those old English tales where the hero or heroine went off on a quest and met up with not only obstacles, but also friendly and interesting characters along the way. The envelopes were in a way like Ginny’s yellow brick road and she had no choice but to follow them.

There were also lessons to be learned, but the reader wasn’t smashed over the head with them. They were there, but they were well placed and interwoven within the story.

I know I’m not being as articulate as I should, but I really liked this book.