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


“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


“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.

The Palace of Curiosities – Rosie Garland


“The most astonishing aggregation of human curiosities gathered together in one place! Are these creatures animal or human? Historical or mythical? Mineral, vegetable or fantastical? Discover for yourself here, tonight, for a limited engagement only!” – Rosie Garland, The Palace of Curiosities

I’ve yet to come across a book about circuses and spectacular anomalies that I’ve resisted, and this 2013 historical supernatural fiction novel is no exception. It’s absolutely chock-full of poetic goodness, which doesn’t surprise me since the author, Rosie Garland, has previously been recognized for her poetry. She absolutely takes hold of the story and draws it out for just long enough. And, I mean, come on, the cover is absolutely lovely, if you say you don’t judge books by their covers you’re definitely lying.

The Palace of Curiosities begins by telling the two very separate stories of Eve, an insecure young girl covered in long golden fur-like tresses who is guided by her imaginary friend Donkey-Skin, and of Abel, a man who has lost all of his memory and searches incessantly within his labyrinthian mind in order to find the answers to his troubles. They both have their defining quirks which leads them to be brought together in a sideshow-like attraction, where they, amongst many other curious folks, flaunt their differences. They are both distracted from their true goals by the shiny bright lights and the continuous praise from nightly audiences. Eve comes to a point where she desires this no more, and she realizes that the answer to her prayers is within Abel, and the answer to Abel’s within her. It’s a story of self-discovery and acceptance in the oddest of forms. Our two protagonists have to cut away at the ties that have been holding them down for so long in order to find out who they really are and what they truly stand for, uninfluenced by the trances and fantasies they’ve been living in.

This story was enjoyable, but I found the first half boring, the characters lacked substance and I sometimes found myself wanting to know more about some of the secondary characters rather than the main ones. Eventually, it began to pick up near the middle and I was captivated by it for awhile, until… yep. It became predictable and I knew what was bound to happen. I have to say, though, that the writing style was impressive, but only if you’re into fluffy, adorned writing that has a poetic edge to it. To me, the style helped evoke the time period of Victorian London, and was frequently interrupted with slang and casual dialect which gave the novel a nice balance. In the end, the main characters did face some development, one of my favourite passages was a monologue of Eve’s, where she digs deep and paints an image of who she wants to be:

“I would make plans and dream of the day when I would throw away my curling pins and all feminine fripperies. I would let my beard roughen and wear it like a sailor, tugged into two greasy points, tangled with breadcrumbs and beer. I would swear out loud and not just in the tent of my head; I would have a girl in every port, and remember not one of their names. And when I was tired of mannishness I would be so voluptuous my swains would faint away at the sight of me.”

In a nutshell, this book was a nice little escape from a busy week, but it’s certainly not up there in my favourites. Don’t get me wrong, here, it is pretty difficult for a book to earn a spot on that favourites list, and I am glad I read it just to experience the style, I was just a bit bored sometimes. I think it was the flowery writing style that did it, sometimes it acted as a blindfold so I couldn’t see that the story’s spine was weak. If you like weird, circus-y books as much as I do, this may be worth the read. I found the author herself to be very interesting as well, she sings in a Goth band and is a cabaret singer, in addition to being a poet/writer. Finally, I must warn you that the book was a bit raunchy at times as well as explicit. It certainly doesn’t take away from the content, in fact it adds to it, but I just wanted to advise you all of that.

Thank you so very much for taking time to read this review, and I hope that you’ve learned something that you wanted to know. Happy reading!

Station Eleven- Emily St. John Mandel


“Hell is the absence of people you long for.” – Emily St. John Mandel, Station Eleven

An aging actor full of regret. His ex-wife, an artist who longs for a simpler life. A young man who doesn’t know himself yet. A little girl filled with unrequited fascination for a world that isn’t real. A symphony that lived on when everything else had died. I didn’t just read this book. I lived the characters’ lives, knew their secrets, thought of their wildest dreams. It’s a journey that will make the reader rethink their current situation once they’ve taken it.

‘Station Eleven’, written by Emily St. John Mandel, published in 2014 is a post-apocalyptic fiction novel dusted with dark undertones rich philosophies. The plot kicks off with the death of the most important character, Arthur Leander, an actor who seems happy on the outside, but is riddled with the weight of the decisions he’s made. It was the Georgia Flu that killed him, and it was that same flu that went on to kill the rest of the world, swiftly and efficiently, destroying all civilization.

After all of the gasoline and electricity had disappeared, even after the internet simply blinked out of existence one day, a new world was born, a world of survivors of the old earth, who knew all too well the wonders of light pollution and a lit-up screen once upon a time, as well as those who knew only their stories. One particular group of these survivors came together to form The Travelling Symphony. Manned with ancient instruments and memorized Shakespeare plays, they visit dead cities to share their art. A member of said symphony, a young girl named Kristen Raymonde, struggles to remember her connection with the late Arthur Leander throughout the book, as well as the meaning of the strange comics he gave her, all while living with the fear that a mysterious prophet may be following her.

This book was an enthralling new experience for me. I picked it up from my local library because the synopsis had compared it to ‘The Night Circus’ by Erin Morgenstern, one of my favourite novels. The two are nothing alike, aside from the facts that every character is connected in some way, and the story jumps back and forward in time, not following a straight Point A to Point B timeline. Unlike most new dystopian fiction, this novel depicted a future that seemed scarily plausible. A wicked pandemic sweeps planet earth, leaving nothing man-made in its wake. Sounds like it could happen, right? That’s what made it so philosophical for me, because it caused lots of late-night thought sprees and a lot of daydreaming, that mostly consisted of “what-if-it-were-me” ideas.

I found ‘Station Eleven’ to be a very light read, despite the fact that it really made me think. I didn’t connect with the characters as much as I usually do, it felt more like I was reading their memoirs (it’s not at all set up like a memoir, don’t let that throw you) instead of reading their feelings. As well as this, it also became quite predictable towards the end. Once I had about 50 pages left, I had already figured out what was going to happen. I did quite enjoy this read, though. I loved that it was mostly set in Canada, around the area where I live, as it was something familiar that I could relate with. I found the plot to be innovative, but I am now torn between thinking, “There’s so much more she could have done with the story!” and “I don’t think there’s anywhere else she could have gone with this.”

I definitely recommend this to anyone who is looking for something realistic, but dotted with a bit of science-fiction here and there. It’s great for all ages, and filled with fresh, quotable material, the kind that’s perfect for a school book report. If you tried ‘The Night Circus’ and liked it, but found it to be too complex, this is a wonderful story written in the same dreamy, detailed style with less complexity. It’s also a tad ‘The City of Ember’-esque, but a little darker and obviously it does not take place underground. I hope you found this to be helpful or interesting. Thank you so much for reading.

– Mackenzie

In The Woods- Tana French


“Human beings, as I know better than most, can get used to anything. Over time, even the unthinkable gradually wears a little niche for itself in your mind and becomes just something that happened.”
― Tana French, In The Woods
  What happens when you’re whisked into the middle of a murder case, that brings back haunting memories from your childhood? You may want to run away, scared, and put those memories back into their little cell in your mind, or, the sudden urge to solve this case no matter what may overtake you. It’s your choice, but once you’re in, you cannot back out.
 Featuring an Irish murder squad that includes the vivacious, no-nonsense Cassie Maddox, the politician’s nephew with an undeterred sense of commitment; Sam O’Neill, and the detective who is hiding an identity from 20 years ago; Rob Ryan, Tana French’s 2007 crime novel ‘In The Woods’ surprises, tricks, and enchants its readers.

 It’s 1984. Three children from the Dublin suburb of Knocknaree venture into the arms of the endless, dark forest. Only one comes out. The other two were searched for, but eventually abandoned for fresh meat. That’s the end of that. 20 years later, the child from the woods has changed his name and his identity. He’s joined the Dublin police, although he’s unsure why. He, like everyone else, fought the image of his lost friends, and repressed all of his memories. But, he gets pulled back to Knocknaree to find that an innocent girl was murdered near the very woods where he lost everything as a boy. The unimaginable follows. He’s drawn closer to his partners, he’s unworthily trusted with finding out this girl’s killer, and most of all, he’s taken back to his childhood.

Suspicion. Fear. Awakening. ‘In the Woods’ excites to no end.

 I recommend this book to everybody, and I can say that without hesitation. It was, as I’m sure you can guess, the first thing I’d read by Miss Tana French, and I have to say, I was impressed throughout most of the book. I was craving some crime/mystery lit after I’d watched the TV series ‘Broadchurch‘. If you liked ‘Broadchurch’, this is a fantastic book for you. It’s similar in the sense that the plot is set up the same way, but it’s a whole new story with a cast of eccentric characters.

 Contrary to my previous praise, I was quite disappointed with the ending of this book. Ok, really disappointed. I can’t really say anything without spoiling an entire plot point, but there’s something that goes unresolved and it’s been driving me crazy ever since I finished the book. Additionally, the middle of the novel was very slow to read, I was left waiting for something new to happen, so be prepared for that. On another note, the character development was stellar, as I found myself learning new things about the characters in every chapter.

Bonus time.. This book is part of a series! I’m going to be busy now, I guess I’ll just be reading the other books to find out the resolution to that aforementioned plot hole… If you want a series to read, this is my personal recommendation for the month. Even if you’re not usually interested in crime or mystery fiction, at least give it a shot. I think everyone should try this book, but I know it won’t be everybody’s cup of tea. It’s chocked full of suspense and surprises that I think everyone would appreciate.

 ‘In the Woods‘ was impeccable, unexpected and hefty. I wish I’d read more crime fiction so that I could compare it to something for you all. The best comparison I can make is to ‘Broadchurch‘, which I already mentioned, it’s also comparable to ‘The Diviners‘ by Libba Bray, but in a very loose way.

Thanks for reading! Hope you pick up a book!

The Book Thief- Markus Zusak


 “I have hated words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right.”
― Markus Zusak, The Book Thief

I will start off by saying that this book has changed my life. Markus Zusak’s writing took me right into the world of Liesel Meminger and had me hooked until the ending. This book has inspired me, made me laugh, and cry, had me furiously turning the pages, and made me not want to read another word. But, as I closed the book for that first time, I only wanted to open it up and start all over again. So, without further ado, here are my thoughts on Markus Zusak’s ‘The Book Thief’.

Set in World War II’s Germany, this story, told by none other than Death itself, follows Liesel Meminger, a young German girl who faces tragedy early in her life that leads her to the humble Himmel street where she meets her foster parents; Rosa and Hans Hubermann. Liesel brings only her sadness and a measly book that she’d stolen previously to her new home. When Hans discovers this book, along with the fact that Liesel cannot read, he helps her to understand the power of words and she develops a love of reading, as well as a thirst for more book-stealing adventure. Along Liesel’s journey living with the Hubermanns, she befriends the yellow-haired Rudy, a curious boy with a love for running, Ilsa Hermann, the mayor’s wife who shows Liesel a world that she’ll never forget, and a Jewish man named Max Vandenburg, who causes great danger to the Hubermanns by staying in their basement, but easily captures young Liesel’s heart with his bravery and passion for words. ‘The Book Thief’ is a story of love, loss, heartbreak and discovery, and is a tale that will open up the minds and the hearts of its readers. 

I loved this book with all of my heart. Markus Zusak skillfully weaves tragedy and lightheartedness together into one big quilt that is ‘The Book Thief’. It’s a story that hits so hard and with such impact that I’ve been unable to forget it since I finished it. If you’re looking to get a fresh pair of eyes on an aging situation, I recommend this wholeheartedly. ‘The Book Thief’ presents a wonderful message about the timelessness of reading, and that through anything, no matter what, words will always be there as a guiding light. This beautiful message does not present itself outright. It’s hidden beneath dark, cold fear and wondering, war and shame, loss and forgiveness, but I can assure you, that if you’re looking for it, you will find it. Thank you for reading.

P.S. After reading this, I developed a new obsession with accordions and the word “saumensch”. Seriously, it’s in my daily vocabulary now.

I Am the Messenger- Markus Zusak


 “It’s not a big thing, but I guess it’s true–big things are often just small things that are noticed.”
― Markus Zusak, I Am the Messenger

Imagine living the same life every day. You’re 19 years old, you’re a cab driver, your best friend is a nasty dog and you play cards with your boring friends every now and then. You don’t stand out. You don’t do anything out of the ordinary. When it seems as though your life will play out like this until the day you drop dead, things begin to change. Slowly, at first, but then, you’re faced with decisions of extreme measure, obligations that you’ve never had. It’s your mission. You, the 19-year-old cab driver who doesn’t see eye-to-eye with anyone, to change things. To change lives.

‘I Am the Messenger’ by Markus Zusak tells the story of 19-year-old Ed Kennedy, who lives in a slummy neighbourhood in Australia with his constantly-caffeinated dog. Ed lives routinely, without surprise or excitement, save for the times that his mother calls him to spout a stream of obscenities his way. He’s completely in love with his friend Audrey, which does him no good, and his mates Marv and Ritchie are no improvement to his life either. Let’s face it, Ed’s life is a little bit sad. But only when he gets himself caught in the middle of a heist does he realize that he’s destined for greater feats, for greater things. He receives his first playing card in the mail, upon which three names are written, and his whole world flips upside-down. His job is to deliver messages to those who need them most, but what he doesn’t realize, is that in addition to helping the helpless, he’s also helping himself. Ed gets swallowed into a whirlpool of danger, friendship, animosity, and love, so often weighted with the desire to give up. Will this task become too much for worthless cabbie Ed Kennedy? After all, things haven’t looked bright for him so far.

THIS. BOOK. I laughed, I cried a little more than I care to admit, and I thought so deeply about it. And I think that that really is the point of the book. To get you to think about where we are, and that although we may perceive ourselves as tiny specks in a world so vast, one action can play out and cause so many more in its wake. This was the second book by Markus Zusak that I’ve read, the first (of course) being ‘The Book Thief’. It was really amazing to read this completely different style, and I cannot in any way compare it to the writing of ‘The Book Thief’. It was a wonderful new experience. If you’re looking for originality, look no further.

I’m not a cab driver, I don’t have a coffee-addicted dog and I don’t get sent on dangerous missions to help others. What I’m trying to say is that I couldn’t really connect with any character in this story, but I didn’t mind that in the least. Watching these peoples’ lives play out in front of me was an experience to behold, and I was thoroughly impressed that every single character got their own arcs and were all very well developed. For example, you’ll think Marv, Ed’s friend, to be a complete idiot throughout the beginning, but his hidden storyline hits so hard near the end. I loved that so much.

I tore through this novel like there was no tomorrow. Every chapter flowed so nicely together, and there was never a dull moment. Sometimes predictable, sure, but often times I was shocked by what Markus Zusak had in store. Even though I didn’t connect with the characters, they connected with me. They made me believe their emotions, and made me think that I could do what they were doing. If you only take one thing away from the story… well you’ll know what that one thing is if you read it, I suppose.

Please, please read this book! It was the best thing I could have read at the end of the year. Ed Kennedy’s story is one of heartbreak and conflict, but also of self-discovery and new beginnings. This book had so much potential and it was definitely realized. I’m starting to think that I need to read a terrible book… all of my reviews have been overwhelmingly positive so far, but I suppose that’s a good sign. I want to thank everyone who has read any of my posts, and I sincerely hope that I persuaded you to read something new. I also want to thank the almighty Markus Zusak for writing this gorgeously executed story. If you see ‘I Am the Messenger’ on a shelf somewhere, do not skip over it. Pick it up. Flip through the pages. Be ready to take in an enlightening story. Read on.

(Depending on where you live, this book might just be called ‘The Messenger’. ‘I Am the Messenger’ is the American title.)

Fangirl- Rainbow Rowell


“I don’t trust anybody. Not anybody. And the more that I care about someone, the more sure I am they’re going to get tired of me and take off.”
― Rainbow Rowell, Fangirl

The first time I heard about Fangirl, I knew that I had to read it. Something about it seemed so hilariously relatable to me, whether it was the fact that the ‘Simon Snow’ franchise that is a huge part of the book, is so obviously inspired by J.K Rowling’s ‘Harry Potter’ series, or whether the protagonist, Cath, is a world renowned writer… of online Simon Snow fan-fiction. Either way, the story begged to be read, and I have a lot to say about it. So for anyone on the fence deciding whether or not to read this book, here are my thoughts and opinions.

‘Fangirl’ by Rainbow Rowell is a YA realistic fiction novel that follows Cather Avery, better known as Cath, who is heading off to college. The thing is, even though she’s nearing her adult life, she can’t let go of her childhood. Her world revolves around Simon Snow, a series of childrens’ books that Cath and her twin sister Wren have adored for their whole lives. To bridge the gap between the seventh and eighth book, Cath and Wren started writing online fan-fiction about Simon Snow, which soon blew up and gained millions of fans and readers. Upon entering college, Wren stops participating in the writing process and goes off on her own to explore the new world of freedom. Cath finds herself in a position where she is stuck in a rut of avoiding making new friends, staying up writing her stories, and worrying about her father, who is prone to mental breakdowns and is now on his own. Cath has to choose between shutting herself away from the world, and branching out to help herself, her sister and her dad.

This book is great fun to read. Personally, I could really relate to Cath’s socially awkward behaviours and endeavours, which made it just that much more entertaining. Rainbow Rowell captures a bit of romance, comedy and suspense in her fresh, relevant plot. Of course, whether or not you’ll enjoy this book is also partially determined by your initial pop culture knowledge. It’s definitely for people of the current generation, as it essentially tells the tale of a late-night tumblr-fanfic writer. And if you didn’t understand that sentence, the subject matter of the book could confuse you, but hey! Don’t let that stop you!

You didn’t think that this would all be positive, did you? Yes, there were a few things that bothered me about the novel. First and foremost, the ending was very rushed in my opinion. A subplot or two went without resolutions in the process of the conclusion, and the main premise itself seemed to wrap up in a hurry. I’ll leave that to you to decide, though, it could just be that I’m a picky reader. Other than that, the book was not hard to begin, but once the initial intrigue wore off, the book slowed down for awhile and was hard to get back into. Hopefully I didn’t turn you off with these perspectives. In the grand scheme of the story, those points are not overwhelmingly negative.

To sum everything up, I do recommend this to anyone with substantial knowledge of the internet and popular culture who is looking for a light, fun read. Rainbow Rowell’s ‘Fangirl’ is bright and a change from typical YA. It’s not a novel that requires a lot of thinking, but it’s relatable and realistic, whether you’re a college student, an avid fan-fiction reader, or a workaholic. Happy reading!

We Have Always Lived in the Castle – Shirley Jackson


“I can’t help it when people are frightened,” says Merricat. “I always want to frighten them more.”
― Shirley Jackson, We Have Always Lived in the Castle

Don’t let the cutesy drawings on the cover fool you… ‘We Have Always Lived in the Castle’ is a story of mischief, mystery, murder and malcontentedness, published in 1962. If you’d like to come on this journey with me, read on. If not, well, I’m sorry to say that that is not an option. Onward.

I’ve never read anything quite like this, and somehow I’d never heard of Shirley Jackson before picking up this book. I’m not big on horror, whether it’s movies, books, or anything. Ok, that’s an understatement. I really really hate the genre, but, from time to time, I’ve been known to give it a shot. This book was a fairly mild example, as in I wasn’t awake all night afraid of fictional things, but it still conveyed a unique, eerie message. Whether that message had a moral or not, I’m not sure. That may be up to you to decide.

‘We Have Always Lived in the Castle’ follows the Blackwood family, a mysterious bunch with a questionable past. To be more specific, the remaining Blackwoods are the subjects of this tale. There is Julian Blackwood, an older man who suffers from arsenic poisoning, and is struggling to remember his past by recording it on paper, Constance Blackwood, the eldest of the two female protagonists, who holds a passion for cuisine and gardening, and her sister, Mary Katherine Blackwood (affectionately known as Merricat) who is visibly disconnected from the world she is in, longing for some deeper experience in some isolated place. The Blackwoods live their lives cautiously, careful not to further damage their reputation. You see, the family holds a dark secret that everyone knows of, but wouldn’t dare mention. Hatred is constantly released onto the family because of the vicious crime. The rest of the notorious Blackwood relatives died of arsenic poisoning some time ago, an unforgettable scandal. That, of course, was blamed on Constance, the only one who wasn’t affected, but then again, was she the only one? Could it not have been someone else’s fault?

This story, as you can tell, is chocked full of mystery and confusion. The characters have an odd manner of communicating, somehow whimsical and serious all at once. Another point is that Merricat is written as an 18 year old girl, and Constance 28, but it was very difficult for me to see them in that way. I pictured Merricat at 12 or 13, whereas Constance at 18. This novel is definitely an intellectual exercise. I spent time thinking about why everything was happening, as opposed to mindlessly reading as I think we all do. If you’re looking for something new, surprising and sinister, Shirley Jackson’s ‘We Have Always Lived in the Castle’ is right for you. It’s a quick read, but don’t underestimate it. That’s all for now. Thank you for reading, and hopefully you’ll consider this book the next time you see it!