Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Mysterious Re-Appearance!

So this blog has been on unexpected hiatus for quite a while. The reason being is that I didn't have a reliable source of internet at home for the last few months until I moved. Moving itself is a huge expense not to mention that when you decide to move to one of the most expensive Metropolis' in Canada, that doesn't really help your cause.

Despite what you may think, I did live in a time where there wasn't any internet, and somehow, despite having it most of my life, I survived four months without it - bringing my laptop often to a friend's or to cafe's in the area. I mostly browsed Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and read e-mails on my mobile. In a day and age where data plans and public wifi are available, living without internet actually isn't so bad… but I'm glad to be back.

So what do I do in a lot of spare time when I'm at home, not at work and I've finished checking up on the world of social media on my phone? I read of course! Over the last little while, I admit that some of the books I read were sub-par at best but I did read, and I did read quite a bit. I have a few reviews on the back burner and an even greater reading list to tackle.

I hope those few of you who read this humble blog didn’t mind my absence too much, but coming in the New Year are more reviews and thoughts. I plan on trying to make this blog the best it can be and to read and write as humanly possible. I hope you all had an amazing, warm and safe holiday and can’t wait to catch up with you all soon!

Friday, September 20, 2013

The Internet-Less Blogger

I find it weird, calling myself a blogger, but everyone is a blogger these days. I feel that the title claims that I perhaps have a career in this, which obviously, I don't. I do however spend a lot of time dedicated to this blog - reading, writing, reviewing, taking notes, viewing other blogs and commenting on such things.

Of course this is extremely difficult when my home internet is severely lacking. How lacking? Well, I moved at the beginning of September with my friend and fellow artist, Jessica and we're both struggling with the lack of affordable internet service providers. Damn Canadian internet (which is rated third-world by Netflix, btw).

My blogs, until I have a reliable connection will be sporadic at best and I apologize profusely for this considering how long I took on my recent hiatus, but I promise that I'll have books ready to be reviewed and segments that I've plotted out in my head that I'll hopefully be able to execute soon. :)

Thanks for your patience, my gentle readers!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Review: The Silver Linings Playbook

Silver Lining's Playbook by Matthew Quick
Published September 2, 2008 by Sarah Crichton Books


Meet Pat. Pat has a theory: his life is a movie produced by God. And his God-given mission is to become physically fit and emotionally literate, whereupon God will ensure a happy ending for him -- the return of his estranged wife Nikki. (It might not come as a surprise to learn that Pat has spent time in a mental health facility.) The problem is, Pat's now home, and everything feels off. No one will talk to him about Nikki; his beloved Philadelphia Eagles keep losing; he's being pursued by the deeply odd Tiffany; his new therapist seems to recommend adultery as a form of therapy. Plus, he's being hunted by Kenny G!

In this enchanting novel, Matthew Quick takes us inside Pat's mind, showing us the world from his distorted yet endearing perspective. As the award-winning novelist Justin Cronin put it: "Tender, soulful, hilarious, and true, The Silver Linings Playbook is a wonderful debut.


I kind of admit that I had a hard time trying to write this post. I think I needed some time to sort my feelings about this book as it was a surprisingly short read. Sometimes when I read shorter stories, I feel like I don't leave myself enough time to sort out my feelings and I really ought to stop and write notes about passages and pages, but I guess I'm not that kind of reader. Anyways…

Silver Linings Playbook is what I describe as an honest story and I really appreciate Matthew Quick's very real characters. The book is a work of fiction but the characters feel like they were plucked out of our own world. These are characters that have their own issues, are flawed and lead very similar lives to our owns. Their actions are eerily real to what we see in ourselves - it's actually quite eerie.

If there's anything I really want to say, it's this: this book reveals to us what we do and don't understand about mental illness. Years back, we understood very little about the chemical imbalances that occur in our brain but now we can read this book and see the world from Pat Person's perspective… And we learn that it's quite beautiful, despite the fact that we see his mother crying all the time. Of course not everything is this book is happiness and sunshine, but of course, everyone in this book is striving for happiness of some sort and that's a superb message to convey. What I also love is that you're never really revealed to what diagnoses was given to Pat about his condition - only left to speculate. This is entirely important to the story as without that knowledge, the audience isn't given any basis for any sort of bias.

Things I didn't like about this book? I pretty much hated most of the female characters. Don't get me wrong, characters like Tiffany were written to be despised - that's what made this book so real, but despite her own hardships, I still couldn't sympathize with her. I disliked Pat's mother and her lack of backbone. Girls aside, I hated Pat's father as his entire existence revolved around football. Yes, let's be abusive because our favourite team lost. It drove me batty and was entirely ridiculous. Are football fans that crazy?!

Rant ending, I enjoyed most of this book. I think that stories like this one really gives the audience an ability to throw their ignorances about the subject matter out the door and just take a moment to go inside someone else's head. I think if you want to read something that feels incredibly real, raw and completely honest, Silver Linings Playbook is right up your alley.

Rating: 3.5/5 Bookworms

Friday, September 6, 2013

Review: The Book Thief

The Book Thief by Markus Zuzak
Published March 14, 2006 by Knopf Books for Young Readers


It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still.

Liesel Meminger is a foster girl living outside of Munich, who scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement. 


The contents of this story is written for a younger audience (younger meaning I'm turning 25 - I'm of a generation that still knows what dial-up sounds like.) Though the story itself is written for a young adult audience, the contents of it's material is heavy, so heavy... but that's to be expected when you're telling a story from the point of view of Death himself, carrying the souls of those who died in the Holocaust. This story is not about thousands dying, however. It's about a young girl living in Germany, in poverty with her foster family and the Jewish fist fighter they hide in the basement.

I think the best thing I can relate to in this book is the power of words and books and how they can influence the lives of others. A good example is Liesel, the protagonist, and her descriptive view of the use of propaganda but in another light, books and words had saved her friend Max's life. Without giving away too much of the details, this isn't just a story about survival, but family, love and friendship. This is story about beautiful and ugly things and you can take a lot away from it.

You'll read The Book Thief and you'll feel a variety of feels. You might laugh, you might (most definitely, actually) cry. Although a work of fiction, this book feels more than real, the story plays magnificently and I can't wait until the movie adaptation comes to fruition. I can't wait to see the characters that I at first hated, then grew to love. 

Despite the demographic this book is written for, it could be said that this book could span generations and everyone can really connect with this book. If you have the opportunity, pick this up and please give the characters the love they deserve.

Rating: 5/5 Bookworms

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Books You Wish Were Taught in Schools

(Click the image above to see the lovely hosts over at The Broke and The Bookish!)

It's kind of obvious how much I am an advocate for literacy - I mean, all things considered I do run this tiny spot on the internet talking about reading and books. When I found out what the TTT was for today, I jumped on board automatically. Reading is so important in schools but the worst is the attitude that's geared towards required reading. I honestly thought To Kill a Mockingbird and Animal Farm were great reads but not every student agreed with me. Sometimes I think we need to not just teach about why pieces of literature are so relevant to us but something that should be taught is how to enjoy a good book. Which brings us to this TTT. I tried to choose books that I felt that was relevant to coming-of-age, politics and social commentary, but I also tried to choose books that were not only thought-provoking but enjoyable as well.

So in no particular order...

Holes - by Louis Sachar : I read this when I was younger and as an adult, I can see the relevancy of the tale to a young mind. A story about crime, about racial discrimination, and even friendship. It's predominant role in schools is also about how history affects the present day with displaying themes of social injustice.

Never Let Me Go - by Kazuo Ishiguro : This is a book that's a love story, so perhaps it won't reach all demographics in a school setting but the message is clear - people are cloning themselves to harvest organs to live longer lives. How is that not relevant to our modern day? It questions the ethics of science, teaches us about the social alienation of specific groups, and of course, it's an interesting read... haunting, even.
World War Z - by Max Brooks : I bet you didn't even see this one coming from a mile away. The kids and adults will love this one - ZOMBIES! But more than that... this book is well composed of cultural divides, war, and personal, social and worldwide conflict. Imagine if this book didn't have zombies... I'm sure the results would be similar to what Max Brooks portrays in this novel if something else where to cause tension between countries.
A Thousand Splendid Suns - By Khaled Hosseini : I read this book earlier this year and was so moved by it and think that especially during these times, it would be one of the most relevant books to learn. This book would teach about religion, culture, domestic violence, the sacrifices of motherhood, and political uprises and downfalls. It's important for any student to know what goes on outside of the box of what they see in the media and think independently, something that this book will help them look into.
Ender's Game - By Orson Scott Card : So... OSC isn't the greatest role model there is considering how he's kind of crazy and anti-LGBT and so on. That aside, Ender's Game still delivers an incredible story, a great message about what is good, what is evil and presents a great portrayal about politics in the Internet-age. There is a lot about what it means to be child, or rather, what it's like to a be an adult when you're still just a kid. 
Oryx and Crake - By Margaret Atwood : The things that happen in this novel... it's like a foreshadow of what could possibly happen to our future. Like Never Let Me Go, it talks about the ethical practices of science and how far is too far. A great book to learn about actions and consequences, about power and the damaging effects of what we are capable of.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower - By Stephen Chbosky : A well-known YA book that I feel was incredibly relatable to me as a youth. Dealing with my first steps into high school and the underlying problems with growing up, personal issues and friendships, this is a teen book that should be required for a health class. It's important for students to know that the problems they deal with, they aren't alone in and if they could relate to a book, they could relate to someone in their life and get any help they need for any issues they have.
Maus - by Art Spiegelman : Okay, it's actually already being taught in some schools for either Social Studies or English courses, but I figure there isn't any harm in advocating this some more. Maus is a brilliant graphic novel about the author's father's survival during the Holocaust in Europe. Not just that though, but it touches on the relationship that Spiegelman also has with his father. There is tragedy, humor, allegory, symbolism... honestly a great addition to some of our classrooms.

Unfortunately, I could only think of these 8, but my mind is open for 2 more books that I could add to the collection of books that I hope students could possibly study. I want books to change lives, inspire and for people to enjoy books that make them really think and impact them.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Published June 18, 2013 by William Morrow and Company
[Goodreads][Amazon][Indigo Chapters]


Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn't thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she'd claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.

Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie—magical, comforting, wise beyond her years—promised to protect him, no matter what.


Okay, this is going to be my last review of a Gaiman book for a long while...or at least until he comes out with something new. I'm sure you're all sick of me tooting his horn but what can I say? I am a fan! In compliments to my recent adventure to see Neil Gaiman live, I felt it was necessary for my next post to be about why he was touring - his new book, of course! It has already debuted as the number one as a New York Times Bestseller and already, the rights to make this novel into a film has already been acquired by Focus Features.

So what's my impression of Ocean at the End of the Lane? Well, I admit that I was surprised about the small size of the book! I guess you could say I was used to the lengthy numbers from American Gods or Neverwhere but this didn't distract from the lovely pacing of the book. Although a short read, it didn't feel like it was too quick to pass, and it was really reminiscent of the feeling I got when I first read Coraline. It's something that I really enjoyed about reading Ocean -- how the tale could span through an array of demographics despite age or gender.

Little Red Riding Hood, Hansel and Gretel, Coraline, and now Ocean at the End of the Lane have something in common with each other - young characters facing monsters; Gaiman understands fairy tales, creatures, childlike fears and things that haunt us in the darkness. Curiosity brings us to these places and great storytelling makes us stay. The author clearly demonstrates over and over how his mind floats in wonderment and childlike imagination (which, as a creative type, I sometimes envy.)

If I were to describe this story, I would call it childhood. I would call it nostalgic. I would describe it as haunting and very, very real. How does a work of fiction become real? By the way you relate to it, by how you envisioned the adult world but also by what you thought of as terrifying. Most of all, as a child, how much did you understand about your own world? Perhaps, the adults just never understood your world.

I love Ocean at the End of the Lane. I really do. Although it was short, I felt that it was what I was looking for in a summer read - easy but emotionally linking. I particularly recommend this book to any teens and adults, either snuggled up in bed (be sure to check under it first) or out and about under the shade of a tree.

Rating: 5/5 Bookworms

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

An Evening with Neil Gaiman - My First Author Experience

It's taken me a long time to write this post as the day after I went to Neil Gaiman's event, I flew out to Edmonton from Toronto to do a job helping out some friends and seeing plenty of old and new faces. I had a great time, but now it's back to real life (or at least another week until I work at Fan Expo Canada.) 

I've never been to an author or book event in my life and my friend Coles got a pair of tickets for us to see the show. Let me tell you about how Coles was the first one who introduced me to Gaiman's novels; I had started reading Sandman a while ago but didn't realize he had such an amazing collection of books that are just some of the most fun things I've read. His child-like wonder, imagination and unique storytelling makes him one of my favourites so it was only fitting that the first book related event I would go to would be An Evening with Neil Gaiman.

This event... was COMPLETELY SOLD OUT. I had heard that this was a rare occasion that the Danforth Music Hall's waiting line was so flippin' long. No, seriously. It stretched down the end of the road and around the corner, it was long but as soon as people started to fill in, the wait was cut down tremendously. We had some seats close to the front, and had a very good view of Neil's crazy hair! That's an important detail, really.

Neil is great live (which, I think is incredibly difficult to be an author in front of a large audience - how do you be entertaining to a live crowd of readers?!) He's everything I imagined him to be in real life; witty, humorous and engaging. He read passages from his latest book, The Ocean at the End of the Lane and from his upcoming children's book, Fortunately, The Milk. I, myself, have a copy of Ocean, but unfortunately, I couldn't stick around to get anything signed as that portion, I imagine, would have ran well past midnight and I had an extremely early morning flight I needed to wake up at 5AM for. That was kind of poopy but I admit that just being able to sit in an audience full of people who admired Gaiman as much as Coles and I do was exhilarating. Speaking of an audience full of people, I also met Chandra from the Indigo Teen Blog - she was sitting in my row and after a few tweets, we met each other, said hello and she's super cute and darling! 
The reading of Fortunately, The Milk was one of the best bits, and I think I need a copy despite being in adulthood (but I have a feeling that Neil would tell me that that shouldn't stop me and really, I'm still a kid.) The Q&A portion was a lot more amusing than I expected as Neil was super funny and had some wonderful stories to share. I admit that he's one of those authors who speak exactly like they write and I think it's amazing he leaves that kind of impression.

I took home (or rather, on the plane with me) something rather unexpected from Neil. Some how, he managed to tap into the imagination that I had while I was a child, and a sort of poetic dialogue seems to be playing in my head when I see something in my mundane, every day life as enchanting. I would love to see him again in the future and y'know... actually get something signed from him and hopefully not before I leave for a trip across the country. Thank you, Neil Gaiman, for some books, a great live appearance and for inspiring a massive whole group of people worldwide!