The Perfect Stranger – Megan Miranda

31443398._UY2113_SS2113_.jpg

“All things return with time. But you have to go looking for them. You have to be ready for them. You’ve got to be willing to take the risk over and over again.” – Megan Miranda, The Perfect Stranger

This marks the second Megan Miranda novel that I’ve read. The first was the widely popular All the Missing Girls which you can read my review for here. This second book has a stunning cover page that matches the style of Miranda’s previous novel but The Perfect Stranger is not a sequel to All the Missing Girls. You can read this one without having read the other. Let’s lay this book out on the chopping block.

Leah Stevens is forced to leave her old life behind when she loses her big city job. Having once been a reporter at the top of her career, Leah finds herself wrapped up in a scandal that forever leaves an imprint on her reputation. Enter Emmy Grey, Leah’s saving grace. A girl that she’d connected with long ago reappears in her life, and this time, she’s looking to get out of the city. The pair starts a new life together in a small Pennsylvania town where they hope to leave the past in the past.

When Emmy goes missing, Leah’s new life comes to a standstill. What’s more, it begins to look like Emmy never existed at all. The police are unable to find any information about her past. Leah takes it upon herself to track her roommate down, but the small town starts to show its claws. People she thought she could trust change their stripes, two attacks happen near her home, and every moment without Emmy makes her realize how little she knew her. Leah’s situation is made all the worse because of her scandalous past, and she struggles to find the truth while keeping hers under wraps.

If you have read All the Missing Girls, you may have noticed a few parallels between it and this novel. Big city girl moves to small town, a girl that went missing, etc. It almost felt like Leah and Nic (the protagonist from All the Missing Girls) shared quite a few personality traits. Both are inquisitive beyond belief and both are very self-reflective, in that they pretty much analyze all of their own actions. This novel is written in first-person limited tense, so we’re stuck inside Leah’s head for the duration of the story. This does work, because it allows for suspense to be carried from scene to scene, and we discover secrets as Leah does.  However, as with any first-person novel, being trapped in the mind of one character can kind of grate on your nerves. At least, it did for me. Leah turned into a repetitive, rambling character towards the end. It felt like I was reading Megan Miranda’s thought process because Leah would constantly repeat things that we already knew about just to comment on them. My complaint about the last novel was that there was no real synthesis to the end, no denouement, which was not really something that it needed, it was just something I missed and that I like to see. One complaint I have this time around is that there was far too much denouement. Once the reader knows everything that Leah knows, there are still a few chapters left for Leah to reiterate her points and wrap everything up. I think it would be fair to say that I was dissatisfied with the ending because, in my opinion, the author built up the suspense only to leave me with an ending that I expected.

One more element that I was disappointed with was characterization, specifically within the fairly large cast of supporting characters. Leah is a teacher, and so she has a few colleagues that she interacts with, but nothing goes beyond face value. She goes out for drinks with her colleague Kate Turner, who then proceeds to ask her to go again a few more times, but nothing comes of it. It is mentioned that the principal of the school has a bit of a crush on Leah, but again, this is never brought up again as an interesting story point. There’s a “romance” (if you can call it romantic) for Leah that lacks any real substance, it’s all surface level stuff. What’s more, we don’t really get any background information for any of the characters besides Emmy, Leah, and a woman named Bethany Jarvitz who is involved in an attack. Of course, it isn’t necessary for supporting characters to be illustrated in detail, but there were a few characters that I would have liked to see the motives and thoughts of.

To be honest with you, the ending of this novel did kind of confuse me. It’s not that I didn’t understand what was happening– well, ok, it is like that. The motives of certain characters were so unclear, and it felt like Leah just sort of gave up on everything and rushed to her own conclusion. I did enjoy part of the ending, where Leah heads back into the city. The story takes place in the same three or four locations for the entire time, and so this was a welcome change. For about a page or two, the story picks up again and is more fast-paced, but then it slips back into its comfort zone and remains pretty safe for the remainder of the novel.

Now, I don’t want this to end on a sour note so I’ll go over some of the things that I really did enjoy about this book. I read the novel in stages, and during the first stage, I couldn’t put the book down. I really enjoyed the idea of “a person who never existed” and I was asking a lot of questions, theorizing, etc. The glimpses we get into Leah’s past are intriguing, and I liked seeing her put together the lost elements of Emmy’s life.

To be fair, I did have high expectations for this read as I was quite impressed with Megan Miranda’s previous novel. No, the book did not live up to my expectations and yes, I was left with a lot of questions and loose threads. I would recommend it, on the pretense that you’re looking for something quick, and that you aren’t too interested in complex character development. Megan Miranda does have a talent for writing suspense, and I will probably read anything she puts out in the future.

Thanks for checking out this review! Happy reading.

 

Atonement – Ian McEwan – Book Talk #1

6867.jpg

“I like to think that it isn’t weakness or evasion, but a final act of kindness, a stand against oblivion and despair, to let my lovers live and to unite them at the end.” – Ian McEwan, Atonement

I’m sure many of you are familiar with Ian McEwan’s novel, Atonement. Perhaps you’re like I was, and you’ve either heard very good things or not so good things about it. Maybe you’ve seen the popular movie adaptation. Today I will share five different perspectives on this novel. But before that, let’s cover the basics.

I was drawn to this novel because of its protagonist, a young girl named Briony Tallis who dreams of becoming a writer. This was something that I could connect to, and maybe you can too. The fact that it is a historical fiction novel also sweetened the deal for me, though if you are not too keen on the genre, this one may not be for you.

Atonement dives deep into Briony’s life and her connection to her family. As a child, she witnessed the changing relationship between her older sister Cecilia, and Robbie Turner – a close family friend. Briony eventually commits an unforgivable act, betraying both her sister and Robbie in the process. For the rest of the novel, Briony must come to terms with the mistake she has made and suffer the consequences.

This novel is a classic example of the scandalous family drama, complete with romance, crime, and treachery. Because of its 1930s-1940s setting, the novel also delves into the realities of World War II, and the effects it has on Briony and her family. What’s more, it provides a striking, in-depth look at one girl’s journey from childhood to adulthood. Ian McEwan writes skillfully about the trials and tribulations of the human mind. But, I guess I should move on to the “howevers”.

Atonement is written largely through the eyes of our beloved protagonist Briony, whom we meet at age thirteen. It did take me a while to get into this novel (which you hear quite often, I know) because of its sugary prose and drawn out narrative. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of a bit of floral language from time to time, but the beginning of this book actually made me hate Briony, just a little. To me, it was worth it to get past that and finish the book. As you’ll see soon, however (see, there’s the word!), not all of my friends agreed with that. It was hard to follow, and frankly a bit ridiculous at times, but the middle and end of the novel made up for that. My friends and I found ourselves having so much to talk about, from the complex themes and symbols to the development of our favourite characters, there was never a dull moment. Atonement provides a unique perspective on class differences in wartime England, a look at the life of a soldier in love, and of two sisters who struggle to look past each others’ faults. Atonement will surprise you, spark your curiosity, and it might make you a little bit bored (hey, I’m being honest! That’s what I’m here for, right?).

And with that, let’s go on to the discussion. Of course, if you haven’t read the novel and would like to, I will warn you that there are spoilers galore below. If you have read the novel, or know you aren’t interested or are interested but you’re one of those people that don’t mind spoilers (what’s wrong with you??), read on.


Our characters in today’s play are: myself (Mackenzie), Michael, Sarah, Emily, and Mira. Everything written here is transcribed from a recording of the discussion. Warning: It’s a bit ridiculous, we tend to get off-topic.

We began by having a discussion about how much of the story was actually real. There were a few conflicting opinions on this. As you know if you’ve read the novel, the entire book is written by our main character, Briony Tallis. This led us to the question…

Michael: Was Briony an unreliable narrator?

Sarah: Yes, she could have said anything and we wouldn’t know whether it was true or not. You can’t really tell whether Briony told the truth or not. She’s the only one whose perspective we see.

Mira: It has to have some kind of conclusion, it can’t just be that she made it all up.

Emily: But that’s something that I think makes it really good, the fact that you don’t know if it’s real or not.

Mackenzie: That was something we were talking about throughout the whole novel, we kept wondering whose point of view we were in, but it turned out to be Briony’s all along, which was a nice surprise.

Michael: What did you think about Lola’s ending?

Emily: I looked into this quote that said: “This, as they used to say, was the side on which her bread was buttered.” So Lola thought that it was in her best interest to stay with Paul Marshall. Do you think he still abuses her?

Mira: [quoting Mean Girls] “Is your muffin buttered? Would you like us to assign someone to butter your muffin?”

Sarah: Maybe that’s why Briony made a point of describing that she wears a lot of makeup when she’s older, maybe she’s trying to hide something.

Mackenzie: Do you think she knows [that Paul Marshall was the one who raped her as a child]?

Everyone: Of course she knows!!

Mackenzie: I don’t know, maybe she doesn’t have a clue. Maybe she’s repressed it. People can change their own memories; they start thinking of something one way and they believe that that’s what happened.

Mira: I can see that. She probably convinced herself that it was Robbie.

Sarah: I definitely think she knows, but she’s too scared to say anything. She’s doing it to protect herself.

Emily: I was thinking about how this relates to Life of Pi, actually. He [Pi] compares his family members to animals, and he does that as a coping mechanism to deal with the fact that he killed some of them.

Mackenzie: Yes! I like that. At the end of Life of Pi there’s the reveal [that they weren’t really animals], and in Atonement, there’s also a reveal [that Briony wrote the whole book].

Mira: I’m sorry, what? He killed his family?

Emily: I’m not sure, I think it was actually the cook or someone that killed his mom, and then he acted out to get revenge.

Mira: Oh ok, I mean that’s perfectly justifiable, I thought he killed his mom.

Emily: Yeah, well, people kill their moms, ok?

Everyone: -laughs

Mackenzie: That’s definitely going in the blog post.

Michael: What did you think of Leon’s ending?

Emily: Yeah, can we talk about how he had like four marriages?

Sarah: Did he go to war too?

Everyone: (that high pitched sound that people make when they don’t know the answer to something)

Emily: I liked it, I thought it was a nice ending for him. She was talking about how her family was so surprised that he was so dedicated to his kids.

Sarah: Because he had an absentee father! So maybe he wanted to make up for that.

Emily: And mother, pretty much. Neither of them was really involved with their kids from what we saw.

Michael: (seemingly out of nowhere, but we were all very intrigued) You know that when you recall a memory, you’re just remembering the last time you remembered it, not the memory itself.

Mackenzie: That’s one of the themes I picked up on, can you really trust your memory?

(Now we shift into talking about themes and symbols. One of the symbols we kept trying to decipher was water, and water imagery).

Emily: I looked into the water thing, guys, get ready. It symbolizes… atonement, washing yourself of your grief, cleansing your sins.

Mackenzie: Oh my god! How did I not think of that! (Earlier in that week, I thought that the water could symbolize the sort of middle ground that Briony always found herself in).

Emily: It can also mean destruction, like how water washes things away. And also, the vase symbolizes Robbie and Cecilia’s love, and how they were in love that whole time [before the story began], and on the first day that they came together, it broke apart. That’s why a piece of the vase broke!

Everyone: Ohhhhh!

Emily: And then in 1940, when Betty dropped the vase and it shattered, that’s when-

Mackenzie: They died!

Emily: Exactly.

Michael: Wow!!

Emily: And there was one line that I loved at the end, it was “like policemen in a search team, we go on hands and knees and crawl our way towards the truth,” and that’s what I think Briony was trying to do throughout the whole novel.

Sarah: So the reason she wrote this book is to atone for everything that happened in her life, the mistakes she made.

Mackenzie: I loved that scene near the end at the apartment, when they were all going head to head. It was really intense.

Emily: But then Robbie just showed up, and it was kind of anti-climactic.

Sarah: I agree, Briony was relieved that he was alive, which was pretty ironic because he actually was dead.

Mackenzie: Hold on, what?! He was dead? That scene never happened?

Sarah: Yes.

Mackenzie: She made that up?!

Sarah: Yeah.

Emily: That’s the first thing she said was that “If I had courage, I would have gone and done this.”

Mackenzie: No way!! (Way to be observant there, mate)

Emily: She lied about that, and like, the whole thing she wrote.

Mackenzie: I’m sorry, the whole book?

Emily: Yeah!

Mackenzie: (the world’s loudest laughter) Oh my god!

Sarah: That’s what we’ve been talking about!

Mackenzie: Well I knew it was her book, and her story, but I assumed there was some truth to it.

Sarah: It could all be fiction!

Emily: It did happen, but we don’t know how much of it was true.

Mackenzie: This could be way too meta for me.

Sarah: So that whole apartment scene is the atonement she wished she could have had, but never got.

Mackenzie: The book pretty much ends after Lola and Paul Marshall’s wedding then, when Briony returns to the hospital but the hospital blows up or something?

Emily: Right, the hospital had an explosion.

Mackenzie: What if she died! What if this is her ghost?

Sarah: That’s too meta for me.

Emily: And the book ends with this quote, “I like to think that it isn’t weakness or evasion, but a final act of kindness, a stand against oblivion and despair, to let my lovers like and to unite them at the end.” So some people may read this book and ask “How did it really end?” Well, it ended like this, and her lovers got to be together.

Sarah: Well that’s nice, but that’s how her book ended, not how real life ended.

Emily: I love this part: “No one will care what events and which individuals were misrepresented to make a novel.”

Mackenzie: It’s like we can’t even trust ourselves.

Sarah: And that’s why I think the crime with Robbie never even happened! Maybe it’s something else that happened.

Mira: But the whole book revolved around that, and it was all about Briony trying to make up for her mistakes.

Sarah: But you don’t know if it was really that or if it was something else. Something worse.

(Little interlude here, Sarah hates Briony’s character.)

Sarah: I hated that part where she was talking to the other nurse about “the horrors she’s seen” in the hospital. It’s not even close to an actual war! Briony’s always trying to play the victim!

Mackenzie: But you never see anyone happy. The only thing you ever see [when you’re a nurse] is people who are sick and dying, while in the war you still might see people who are holding onto their happiness.

Michael: How did you see Briony’s character change?

Mackenzie: Well one of the big themes of the novel is growing up, and we get to see the process of growing up with Briony. I definitely think her voice changed, I noticed a huge difference between her child self and her teenage self. It was more flowery and open language at first and then she became more sophisticated but harder to read.

Emily: When she was in the hospital she was just trying to keep busy and she was always washing her hands, trying to get rid of the guilt.

Mackenzie: Lady Macbeth!

Michael: What do you think was in the notebook from the beginning? She talked about how she had this one locked notebook full of her secrets.

Everyone: (stumped by that question)

Mackenzie: Maybe there was nothing in it, maybe she just kept it so she could feel like she had secrets.

Sarah: Do you think this [the novel] was written in the locked notebook?

Everyone: -laughs

Emily: Also what I’m confused about is the Trials of Arabella.

Sarah: Why was it relevant?

Emily: I looked it up and found that the Trials of Arabella is a mirror for the book, Atonement.

(The conversation continues while I look up this analogy, the topic is pretty much focused on how sad Sarah and Mira were that one of the twins died).

Emily: But I don’t trust it now. What if Briony misrepresented everyone in her book?

Sarah: Jackson and Pierrot were the only characters I liked in this book.

Mackenzie: Yeah, who was your favourite character?

Sarah: Jackson and Pierrot.

Michael: I think mine is Cecilia. She’s mysterious, she has this hidden part of herself, she has a different feeling to her.

Mira: …Not Briony. I like Cecilia as well. I was going to say Robbie, but, no, I didn’t really like his part- it was kind of boring to me. I didn’t like how fast it was going. It felt out of place. I feel kind of bad for him [Robbie] though, and that whole war part developed his character. Cecilia is good, she’s pretty cool.

(Emily having a nervous breakdown in her seat)

Mira: What?

Emily: I just, don’t even know what to think anymore, because you don’t know any of these characters! It would be like me writing a book about Sarah, and I hardly know anything about her. You would just know my perspective of her!

Sarah: If you want to write a book about me, it’ll be a lot worse than this one.

Emily: The only character we can really talk about is Briony! Because she’s the only one!

Mackenzie: I was going to say that she’s my favourite character because, without her, this wouldn’t exist.

(I told you about how Sarah hates Briony; Emily will defend her anytime).

Emily: But guys, she was so young and she made one mistake that haunted her for the rest of her life and she couldn’t even be forgiven for it!

Sarah: Yeah, but how long can you use that excuse for?

Mira: You’re Briony-biased, ok?!

Mackenzie: Brib-ased.

Mira: Briased.

Sarah: But she had so much time to make up for it and she didn’t!

Emily: Don’t you feel bad for her?

Sarah and Mira: No!

Mackenzie: What would you do? If you were in a similar situation?

Sarah: I would tell the police! Right away.

Mackenzie: Ok, think of yourself at age thirteen. I knew you at age thirteen and it was rough. What would you have done? You saw your cousin, and some guy that owns a chocolate factory attacked her. And then your sister, your hypothetical sister, you see a letter from some dude addressed to her saying that he wants to kiss her… What would you do?

Sarah: I would hold no grudges, I would tell them what I saw! That it was Paul Marshall.

Mira: Right, because Briony had no affiliation with Paul Marshall, no reason to protect him. She just wanted to spite Robbie.

Mackenzie: It was a rash decision.

Emily: But at the same time, she didn’t actually see that it was Paul Marshall. She just saw it was some guy and she thought she’d pin it on the guy she happened to have a grudge against.

Mackenzie: Briony, at age 77, sees the play that she wrote as a child, and she sees the parallels between it and the novel that she’s written. I think she realizes that she hasn’t come very far from where she began. And that’s true for everyone. We can push past our boundaries and grow from where we came, but we can’t forget where we started.


Thank you for reading my very first Book Talk! I hope you enjoyed it; we all had a lot of fun discussing this together. As always, happy reading!

Update

Welcome back!

Today’s post is a bit of a general update, about my life and the future of this blog. It’s a quick one, but I have lots of ideas to share.

First, I just wanted to say a big thanks from the bottom of my cold little heart for sticking around. This year has been one of the busiest of my life (and I mean it- no hyperbolic excuses here), and I’ve taken on a lot of new responsibilities. One of my responsibilities, though, is to this blog. And I’m hoping to get out more content, hopefully (don’t hold me on this! I don’t want angry mobs at my door if it doesn’t happen- save the pitchfork sharpening for another day) on a weekly or bi-weekly basis.

I have a new short story in the works, and I’m looking to have that one up very soon! In the cover photo above there are three books: The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith; Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi, and the one that I’m working on now; The Wonder by Emma Donoghue. Though it may take me a while, I’m set on finishing these three and writing up some reviews, so stay tuned.

In other exciting news, I just finished a classic novel- Atonement by Ian McEwan (which I’m sure many of you are familiar with, and if not, all the better) which I read with a group of friends. Coming up in the more immediate future, I’ll be writing a piece which will involve all of their perspectives on this same novel. I can’t wait to see how it turns out.

Well, that’s all from me. For now. Again, I want to say a huge great big astronomical thank you to you – yes, you- reading this now. I’m anxious to see these plans pan out; so until we meet again, happy reading!

– Mackenzie

All The Missing Girls – Megan Miranda

23212667.jpg

“The woods have eyes and monsters and stories. We are them as much as they are us.” – Megan Miranda, All The Missing Girls

Megan Miranda’s debut adult novel All The Missing Girls is a story that will take charge of your senses and lead you down a rabbit hole of secrets. We’ll follow the story of a young woman and her tumultuous past; from end to beginning.

Nicolette Farrell left her hometown 10 years ago and has begun a new life in Philadelphia – which includes a new fiancé and job, among other things. Just when Nic feels like she is finally letting go of her past and beginning anew, complications back home arise. She is forced to make the trek back to Cooley Ridge, North Carolina to fix up and sell her father’s house as his illness and memory worsens, and with that comes an onslaught of memories she hoped she had forgotten.

10 years ago, Cooley Ridge had been Nic’s beloved home. She and her friends knew every corner, every secret. When her best friend; Corinne Prescott, went missing, everything spiralled downhill. Upon returning home Nic learns that Annaliese Carter, the young girl that never stood out to anyone, went missing under similar circumstances. But Corinne was never found. And Annaliese still has a chance.

This book was, for lack of a better word, shocking. The story is told backwards, starting at Day 15 and ending at Day 1. As the reader, I would uncover a new bit of information with each chapter and have to piece it together myself- which I absolutely loved. However, this is not a book that you can put down for a while and come back to – unless you have a spectacular memory. I found myself going back to refresh my memory on what had already happened. The middle of the book felt like it was slowing down a bit, but once I got near the end, I really couldn’t put it down. I had to finish it in one sitting, because the twists and turns were so surprising. The ending left me satisfied, although I was hoping for one of those “all-is-revealed” chapters like you find at the end of some crime fiction books and films. I was left to figure out some of the connections myself, which did make me feel closer to the story.

There are plenty of tropes in this book; it has the typical small town feel where everybody knows each other inside and out, Corinne Prescott- the original missing girl- is the beloved “manic pixie dream girl”, though she does stray from the norm with her own background of dark secrets. Our protagonist, Nicolette Farrell, LOVES to say the word “damn”! (A lot!) who has trouble leaving her childhood behind, and Annaliese Carter is a sort of “loner-turned-villain” which we learn more about as the story progresses. I found that my opinions of different characters could change from chapter to chapter, especially since it was unfolding backwards. One thing in particular that I enjoyed about the character development was the exploration of depression and mental illness. The characters felt very real and down-to-earth, each with their own inward struggles and problems.  I probably would have believed that it was based on a true story, that’s how plausible the situations were to me. The men in the story play a huge role, and Megan Miranda includes very interesting insight on how they differ from their female counterparts.

I picked up All The Missing Girls after reading that it was a perfect summer read, and it really was. Even though I was reading it between busy days, I still found the time to come back to it because it really drew me in and made me think about human nature. If you want a story that will shock and delight you, Megan Miranda’s All The Missing Girls may be the right fit. I could even draw some parallels to other crime fiction novels such as The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith; which also deals with a mysterious situation and a whole host of suspects surrounding it. It challenges the ideas that you already have about human nature and family secrets, and will leave you thinking about how you would have reacted had you been in the same position.

Happy reading.


Thank you so much for reading my newest blog post after 10 whole months of silence!! The last year was a very busy one for me, and I was experiencing a lot of new challenges and stress. I’ve finally found my footing again and I’m ready to give this blog a new chance. It was created out of a whirlwind idea, and I was overwhelmed with the positive response I was getting, as well as the support for my friends. I’m ready to put even more effort into it and I will be alternating book reviews and short stories. I want to thank you personally for sticking around.

Mackenzie

Room- Emma Donoghue

Room

“People move around so much in the world, things get lost.”– Emma Donoghue, Room

Room by Emma Donoghue is a 2010 novel that recounts the story of a young family; torn apart and tossed aside by one horrific man. It tests the ideals of perfection and family bonds, but ultimately leaves the reader in a more refreshed and receptive state of mind.

Room is about a 5-year old boy named Jack. Jack and his Ma live in Room, a converted shed with a password-guarded metal door.  It may not seem so luxurious, but it’s home. In Jack’s case, now that he’s 5, he knows everything there is to know about Room, from its weathered bed, to the snake made of eggshells that resides beneath it, to the single source of natural light, Skylight, and so on. From a distance, he may seem like an average kid. He loves to draw, sing, watch Dora the Explorer and do gymnastics. But despite his mother’s best efforts, he’s been deprived of a real childhood. Jack’s five years of wisdom come from inside the four walls of the shed, and he’s hit with a ton of bricks when he realizes that there is a whole world outside. Dora and Boots alone can’t teach him about the world. As far as he’s concerned, the only real, tangible things exist in Room. When he finally escapes the clutches of Old Nick, his captor, Jack has a lot of trouble figuring out the real world. It’s the essence of a self-discovery novel and it’s thrilling and beautiful.

Jack’s perspective is emotionally draining and absolutely enlightening. The story is somehow innocent and painstakingly profound all at once, and it is the inseparable bond between Jack and his Ma that holds the whole story together. Reading this novel I felt myself transforming as I flipped each page. After finishing, I noticed myself thinking in a different, more open-minded fashion. Everything that I couldn’t see before; the way the light catches on certain things, the dynamics of peoples’ laughter, suddenly became clear. I am entirely grateful for this experience of a story, because that’s what it truly is, and I would recommend it, hand over heart, to anyone and everyone. I truly hope that this novel goes down in history as an inspirational, heartbreaking work of art. The characters are so well-developed and as the reader I became completely invested in their growth, struggle and pain. It’s an awe-inspiring story of self-discovery, self-hatred, self-confidence and self-everything else.

This book impressed me, as it is clear to see, with its extremely well-executed plot and detailed descriptions. It’s very hard to visualise something so small, such as Room, when you’re used to thinking big all of the time. We are (or at least I am) always told to think outside the box. But when it comes to Room by Emma Donoghue, we have to revert back to small ways of thinking, in order to understand the characters (especially Jack), and to learn along with them. This story is also very loosely inspired by the Fritzl case, a real-life event where a father held captive and sexually abused his daughter for 24 years. Room is not nearly as tragic as this case whatsoever, but the parallels between the two are absolutely evident. Emma Donoghue has expressed that saying Room is based off of the Fritzl case is far too strong, but of course the reader can see how she may have been inspired.

I was also very excited to find out that a film has been made based on this story. I am thrilled and cannot wait to see it, I have faith that it will look excellent as a movie. If you’re someone who likes to read a book and then watch a movie about it, or vice versa, go pick up Room as soon as you can. Even if you cannot see the movie (if it’s not available where you live), I strongly suggest giving this one a try. Even if you’re usually not a big reader, although I don’t know why you’d be here if you weren’t, no judgement, this story has taught me a plethora of unforgettable lessons, through Emma Donoghue’s masterful character voice and touching character relationships. Thank you for stopping by, and happy reading. xoxx

The Magician’s Lie – Greer Macallister

The-Magicians-Lie-book-cover

“But this is life, and when bad things come to us, there isn’t much choice. You survive them or you don’t.” – Greer Macallister, The Magician’s Lie

Greer Macallister’s The Magician’s Lie will tempt and hypnotize you by the way of its charming characters. These characters cheat, lie and deceive, but ultimately grab our attention and keep it locked down until the last page is turned.

In The Magician’s Lie we first meet The Amazing Arden, a promising young illusionist who is working in the small town of Janesville. After her show, her husband is found, dead in the box used for her coveted ‘Halved Man’ illusion. Arden is nowhere to be found. That is, until Officer Virgil Holt stumbles across her in a small restaurant, taking her back to the station for questioning. Arden launches into the story of her past, a devastating, spine-chilling tale of love, loss and woe. Officer Holt soon realizes he’s gotten himself into something a lot more complicated than a crime of passion.

The Magician’s Lie takes place over one night, somewhere in the 1900s I believe, which I found to be very effective. Chapters would start in the office, with a bit of tension and dialogue between Officer Holt and Arden, and then she would continue her story. The story aspect was most intriguing to me, the suspense really worked and the recurring character that is supposed to be a bit frightening really was. I found that once I sat down and began reading, I couldn’t stop for a while, but I must tell you what this story is. It’s a love story. I should have known that when I saw its comparisons to Water for Elephants, but, I found out the hard way. Now, that, of course, isn’t such a terrible thing if, unlike me, you usually enjoy love stories or the romance genre. But what I was hoping for was some shocking twist, a lie perhaps or a great deceit. Don’t get me wrong, the book was enjoyable, in the sense that it was a well-written tale with a good strong conflict, and all the loose ends were tied together in the final chapters. I just wouldn’t recommend it to anyone who disliked stories such as Water for Elephants or The Night Circus, as there are many similarities between these three stories.

Aside from my initial disappointment with the novel’s ulterior motives, I noticed myself reflecting on some of the themes. The novel deals with heavy subjects, such as sexual and physical abuse, poverty, and manipulation. I’d like to thank Miss Macallister on that respect, for creating a headstrong female character who does not submit to the abuse like I’ve seen so many times before. Please enjoy this book for what it is; a love story, but a refreshing one, with an ambitious, strapping young woman at its helm. Thank you for stopping to check out this review!

Happy reading! xoxo

A Darker Shade of Magic – V. E. Schwab

A Darker Shade final for Irene

“I’d rather die on an adventure than live standing still.” – V.E. Schwab, A Darker Shade of Magic

What do you get when you cross aspiring pirates with black-eyed magicians who can travel through multiple universes? A mess. A huge, tangled web of a mess, but a beautiful mess at that. That’s  A Darker Shade of Magic in a nutshell for you. Let’s cut this apart, shall we?

V.E. Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic is a heavy multiversal fantasy novel. It is set in four Londons, all separated by magic. The first, Grey London, is essentially the plagued, dull Victorian London we all know of. The second, Red London, thrives on magic, is teeming with life and is what our protagonist, Kell, calls home. The third and most eerie London of all, White London, is starving, desperate for magic. It is governed by the bloodthirsty, all-powerful Dane twins; Athos and Astrid. It is also the home of Holland, another central character. Finally, Black London. A forgotten land which let magic consume everyone and everything within it.

Now that I’ve mapped everything out a bit for you (because let’s face it, I was hopelessly confused all throughout the beginning of this novel), let’s dive straight into the heart. Kell, the main character of this novel, is a multi-faceted magician or Antari, as it’s known by some members of the magical community. In other words, he was born with a bit of magic already coursing through his veins, and can still travel through the closed doors between the Londons by the use of his blood magic powers. The only thing is, he is one of two Antari left, who weren’t killed in the purging of magic. He and Holland, an Antari from White London, can travel through these worlds nearly effortlessly, but it just so happens that they definitely do not get along.

One night, in a special tavern that exists in all three Londons, Kell receives a package from a frenzied patron. The package contains a stone. A jagged black stone that seems to come alive in his hand. Kell soon realizes the danger attached to this stone. After all, what damage could one do if it were to fall into the wrong hands? A stone of pure, unadultered magic lies pulsing in Kell’s pocket. Then, Kell meets Lila. Lila is a young girl who disguises herself as a man so that she may freely roam the streets of Grey London without a care in the world, and possibly pick a pocket… or several, on the way. Simply acting in character, Lila steals a magical stone off of Kell’s person and disappears, causing Kell to, understandably, panic. After tracking her down it becomes clear that Kell will not be able to get rid of her. Their meeting also comes with a test of the stone’s real power. When Lila can make something appear out of thin air just by holding the stone and thinking even in Grey London, a world where magic is dead, Kell knows that this stone is a part of the ruthless Black London, and that he’ll have to risk everything to get it back where it belongs.

That summary didn’t nearly do the book justice, but admittedly it’s very hard to talk about without spoiling some key details, conflicts and relationships between characters. I was elated to read this one, as I’ve already read Vicious by V.E. Schwab, and if you read my review for that, you know that I was utterly blown away by her writing. Soon after picking this book up, I realized that it was an extremely indepth fantasy book, and I wondered whether I would be comfortable with it, or if I would just get confused and lose track of all the characters, like I did when attempting to read Lord of the Rings. The only fantasy books that I’ve read that are comparable to this, would be the Harry Potter series, of course, which is my favourite book series ever but a lot less sophisticated than A Darker Shade, when it comes to the magic element. So if you’re like me and you usually turn your nose up at this kind of sorcery and trickery in a novel, give A Darker Shade of Magic a second chance.

A Darker Shade of Magic started slow, with the obligatory introductions to all of the settings and characters, but once I got halfway through, I finished it in a day. It’s very gripping and exciting, with a cliffhanger at the end of nearly every chapter. I was interested in seeing how the writing in this book compared to that in Vicious and I came to realize that V.E. Schwab is an incredibly versatile author. Aside from the punches of witty humour present in both books, I couldn’t tell that they were written by the same person. Vicious deals with a myriad of social and political topics, while A Darker Shade is much simpler (and has a lot more gore, I might add).  I loved most of all that gender stereotypes were disregarded in A Darker Shade of Magic. There are two main female characters; Astrid Dane and Lila Bard, and they both kick fictional ass. I can’t think of one instance where either of them were sexualized unnecessarily. It’s a horrible pet peeve of mine when a character is only relevant in a story for being somebody else’s significant other. That does not occur in either of V.E Schwab’s books that I have had the pleasure of reading.

A Darker Shade of Magic was a fantastical breath of fresh air, and it was wonderful to step out of my comfort zone for this book because it was well worth the read. Like I said previously, it’s a bit tiresome in the beginning, and it’s not something that I think I’ll be remembering for a long time, but in the moment, it’s a thrilling ride which I hope some of you will opt to take. The sequel, A Gathering of Shadows will be out soon. I’ll probably be reading that to see where the characters find themselves next, but I doubt that I will review it because the spoilers will be difficult to avoid. Anyway, thank you so much for reading this review! Happy reading!

Lost & Found – Brooke Davis

“A fact about the world Millie knows for sure: Everyone knows everything about being born, and no one knows anything about being dead.” – Brooke Davis, Lost & Found

Lost & Found by Brooke Davis highlights and showcases the innocence of youth, as well as the real complexity of children that everyone else seems to ignore. It’s a story of loss and hope told from several perspectives. Here are my thoughts and opinions on Lost & Found by Brooke Davis.

Lost & Found is a quirky, realistic fiction novel set in Western Australia. The protagonist, Millie Bird, is a child who is fascinated by death and keeps a journal filled with all of the dead things she’s seen. Written across two of the pages, is her very own father. After Millie’s father dies, her mother takes her to the mall, tells her to sit underneath the underwear rack, and then walks off. Millie’s mother has abandoned her, and manned only with her backpack and her dead things journal, Millie sets off on a journey to find her.

She meets on her journey two key characters; Karl the touch-typist, an elderly man who longs to be back in the past, and Agatha Pantha, a pessimistic old woman who takes every opportunity to criticize herself or others. Millie weaves her way through obstacles in a desperate attempt to find her mother. On their journey they face many consequences, which include but are not limited to, holding a funeral for a bug, stealing a bus, getting thrown in a nursing home, and getting stranded in the Australian desert. Lost & Found deals with topics that form the very skeleton of human nature. Millie learns to cope with death, loss and grief. Our secondary elderly characters learn to cope with the inevitability of time and the awkwardness of sexual attraction. It’s a story about life, love, growing up and learning from your mistakes.

liked this book. It was slow, simple and quite endearing. The only thing I loved was the uniqueness of the characters, no archetypes or stereotypes were used. Other than that, I really wanted to enjoy this book a lot more than I did. The plot had potential, and actually, occasionally it did deliver on that potential and there were a few chapters or moments which I really connected with. The thing I had the biggest problem with, however, was the ending. It felt extremely rushed to me. The ending was not final and it left me with too many questions, and not in the way that a good book should. It is all a matter of taste, though. I generally don’t go for this sort of book, but it was a gift from somebody and I am glad I read it. If you are more of a fan of realistic fiction than I am, and this sounds promising to you, go for it! It’s wonderful in the sense that it’s surprisingly cerebral. Like I said, I enjoyed a few chapters, and those were the chapters that got me thinking about life. Thank you so very much for reading this short and (albeit not so) sweet review.

The Mysterious Benedict Society – Trenton Lee Stewart

1a51af785d26f8d5a080d0be0252fe60

“One problem with being a leader, is that even among your friends you are alone, for it is you — and you alone — to whom the others look for final guidance.” – Trenton Lee Stewart, The Mysterious Benedict Society

Apparently, everyone has read this book already. Well not me, I hadn’t read it before this month. So, whether you’ve read the quirky masterpiece that is The Mysterious Benedict Society or, like me, you’ve been living under a rock for your whole life, I’d like to share my opinion with you. Onward!

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart is a “children’s” book (I use children’s very loosely, more on that later) which follows a resourceful divergent young boy known as Reynie Muldoon and a whole motley crew of other effervescent characters. At the beginning of the story, Reynie finds an opportunity (or rather, the opportunity finds him), to take a test which could subsequently lead him to some sort of special program. Reynie, being an orphan with nothing to lose, takes the strange test with gumption and determination to obtain access into whatever the mystery program may be. He is tossed into a new world of narcoleptic old men, sad, disguised bodyguards and women that look like pencils. He meets Sticky Washington; an extremely book-smart boy with millions of facts in his head, Kate Wetherall, a curiously headstrong girl who carries with her a trusty bucket filled with survival supplies, and Constance Contraire, a spunky girl who uses her razor sharp wit to outsmart even the most cunning creatures. The children are sent on a mission to stop “The Emergency” from happening. Somebody is brainwashing everyone by filling their minds with lies, broadcasting them through the televisions, radios and even the plain old air. The children encounter endless difficulties and have to come together and use each others’ strengths to stop the world’s population from being hurt.

Another fantastic read, yet again. I loved this book, and was very disappointed that I hadn’t read it earlier. I remember seeing these tempting novels in my elementary school’s library and I never thought to pick one up. That was a mistake, I assure you. Now for the reason I don’t necessarily want to call this a children’s book. I feel that I’ll turn people away if I say this is a kiddie book, it is in fact, an excellent book for children to read, but adults as well, and everyone in between. It’s exciting, interesting, fast-paced and abrupt. What I loved most about this book was the main cast of characters. There are two boys and two girls, and they were always held at an equal status. The children were also never treated as children, they were presented to be just as competent as their elder counterparts. I think that that is a wonderfully empowering message for children, but also a great reminder for adults, that all people have a voice and something to offer. The book is filled with secrets, lies, puzzles, and witty dialogue that is sure to resonate with everyone.

This novel was quite reminiscent of one of my absolute favourite book series, beginning with The Name Of This Book Is Secret by Pseudonymous Bosch. If you loved those, you’re sure to love this as it’s just as adventurous and charming. The Mysterious Benedict Society is also part of a series, so I’ll definitely be reading the rest because honestly, I can’t get enough of this adorable, diverse group of kids. You can read and enjoy this book whether you’re 7, 17, 47 or 77. It’s a perfect little pick-me-up with a quirk factor that’s irresistible. Happy Reading! x

Vicious – V.E. Schwab

vicious-by-v.e.-schwab

“Plenty of humans were monstrous, and plenty of monsters knew how to play at being human.” – V. E. Schwab, Vicious

Say hello to Vicious by V. E. Schwab, the very best and most thrilling book that I have read in a long time. Vicious is a glorious science-fiction/action/thriller novel with absolutely no dull moments, and a new surprise in every chapter. Dive in with me as I dissect this gripping story.

Vicious begins by painting a picture of Victor Vale, an angsty, morbidly curious med student and his best friend and roommate, Eli Cardale. Victor’s life seems quite routine and well-balanced when we first meet him. He consistently attends classes at his prestigious university, pouts over not having Eli’s girlfriend as his own, and engages in the strange habit of defacing his parents’ acclaimed self-help books to create pessimistic blackout poetry. An extremely unique selection of activities, but routine nonetheless. Victor slowly gains suspicion that Eli is not the good-mannered student that he appears to be. He wants to crack Eli to see what is underneath the shiny surface, and this becomes easier when Eli decides to write his thesis on “EO’s” (stands for ExtraOrdinaries, which means superheroes, essentially). It’s not only Eli that undergoes a surprising change of character, Victor suddenly abandons his routine life, his cynicism and skepticism. He believes in Eli’s theory about EO’s; that under the right circumstances, anyone could transform from an ordinary human being into a fantastic, reborn EO with powers all their own. And what’s more, that the very ordinary human beings Eli Cardale and Victor Vale could transform themselves.

The two model students take a dangerous nosedive into the unknown. They suddenly find themselves detached from society, cooly lurking under the surface of evil. They grow apart and each pursue different paths. Victor meets Mitch, a tattooed hulk of a man with the sharpest mind around, and Sydney, a teenager who is forced to grow up too fast. Just when things seem to be improving slightly, Victor’s got his new crew, Eli is long gone and can’t bother him… Victor runs into him again. This reunion sends the plot into a whirlwind of violence, excitement and fear. The once innocent Eli Cardale and Victor Vale are found questioning the validity of their own lives, and they take a fascinating journey together which has even the reader of their terrific tale wondering what it is exactly that makes people good at heart.

I cannot rave about this book enough, because WOW. Its protagonist is so problematic and conflicted that you bounce back and forth between loving and hating him. The mood of the whole story is very straightforward, it’s cunning and evil and angst-filled and I love it. Imagine a soulless, sneaky, violent protagonist trying to save the world. That’s what Vicious has to offer. V. E. Schwab takes all the stereotypes of superheroes and super-villains and science-fiction and throws them out the window in this novel. It’s unlike anything I’ve read before, and I meant it when I said it doesn’t get boring. I’ve never liked science-fiction all that much, admittedly, except maybe The Maze Runner and The 5th Wave, so I nearly skipped Vicious. Thank the book Gods I didn’t. Vicious is a masterpiece, it’s so completely wonderful. I couldn’t recommend it more if I tried.

Now. If you read my last post, you might remember that I said it’s incredibly hard for a book to become one of my favourites. Ok, yes, I’m a dirty liar. I’m about as reliable as Victor Vale is. But I got lucky, I suppose, with this treasure. Every single character (and I mean every one) gets extraordinarily described, and they all get their own thorough development. It’s stellar, V. E. Schwab’s attention and effort really shines through.

Thank you so much for reading. I hope with all my heart that this novel gets the recognition it deserves. And as a final thought, this story would make THE BEST movie, if it stayed true to the author’s vision… Somebody get on that, ok? Thanks.