Book Review: Bellevue Square by Michael Redhill

bellevue

Reviewed by: Bethany
Genre: Fiction
Format: Hardcover (25% off tho)
Page count: 272 pages
Rating: 4/5 stars
In stock: Yes…for now.

 I think this is my first time reading a Giller Prize winning book, so get ready for a new, fancy version of me where I eat caviar, wear pastels and talk down to you. I’m literary now.  (You can be too by heading to your local indie bookstore.)

Copy and paste description from the dust jacket:

Jean Mason has a doppelganger. She’s never seen her, but others swear they have. Apparently, her identical twin hangs out in Kensington Market, where she sometimes buys churros and drags an empty shopping cart down the streets, like she’s looking for something to put in it. Jean’s a grown woman with a husband and two kids, as well as a thriving bookstore in downtown Toronto, and she doesn’t rattle easily—not like she used to. But after two customers insist they’ve seen her double, Jean decides to investigate.

Wow. Doesn’t that sound like it deserves some awards? Totally.

I spent nearly the entire book flip-flopping over whether or not I believed what the narrator was telling me. Here’s an excerpt from my internal monologue:

“Oooh, it’s this.”

*five minutes later”

“Nope, it’s this.”

*ten minutes later*

“Who am I even?”

I did a little bit of googling about this book and it says that the author has actually published several titles under the pseudonym Inger Ash Wolfe, the same pseudonym Jean’s doppelganger uses in Bellevue Square! If that isn’t mind-blowing, then you need to lower your standards.

Apparently, Bellevue Square is the first of a three book series called Modern Ghosts. I’ll be very excited to read these as they become available!

As an unimportant side note, I really enjoyed the first bit of the book where Jean is actively working in the bookstore. It really stirred something in this bookseller’s soul, meaning that I nodded my head a lot and said “yes” more than twice.

Another thing I have to share! I learned a new word!

Solipsism

[sol-ip-siz-uh m]

noun

  1. the theory that only the self exists, orcan be proved to exist.
Advertisements
Posted in Bethany's Reviews, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Book Review: The Wonder by Emma Donoghue

wonder

Reviewed by: Jen
Genre: Fiction
Format: Paperback
Page count: 304 Pages
Rating: 3/5 stars
In stock: Available for order

This is very likely a great read for lovers of period pieces and tales from far-away places. Full disclosure: I’m not one of those. Whereas books taking place in Canadian towns in present day are my usual go-to, The Wonder takes place in 1850’s Ireland. Characters that typically capture me best are those that I can relate to, close in age and style of humor. I didn’t find those in The Wonder, but a testament to Emma Donoghue’s writing is that despite these gaps in my usual reading interests, I kept reading to discover just what would happen in this baffling story.

The Irish midlands village that sets the stage for this book is home to Anna O’Donnell, an eleven year old girl who claims to not have eaten in a full four months when we first meet her. Drawing inspiration from real life events in Wales in the 1860’s, Donoghue’s The Wonder tells the story of Anna, her family, the flocks of people who come to witness the miracle of Anna’s survival, and of Lib, the book’s protagonist and the English nurse who is charged with keeping watch over Anna as part of an inquiry attempting to determine the validity of Anna’s claim. Lib herself is a skeptic, and unfamiliar with the Catholic prayers, hymns and versus Anna repeats daily.

Lib’s voice takes us on a journey of doubt and, aptly, of wonder, as we move with her in sorting out just exactly what is happening with, or to, Anna. It isa simple tale of two strangers who will transform each other’s lives, as a powerful psychological thriller and as a story of love pitted against evil in its many masks.’ It is no surprise that Donoghue crafted another gripping story, given the popularity of her hit book-turned-Oscar-winning-movie, Room. Nominated for Canada’s 2016 Scotiabank Giller Prize, Donoghue has once again captured the hearts of readers world-wide.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Book Review: The Girl Who Was Saturday Night by Heather O’Neill

girl saturday

Reviewed by: Jen
Genre: Fiction
Format: Paperback
Page count: 416 Pages
Rating: 4.5/5 stars
In stock: Yes (in bargain and everything!)

My husband came out of his home office as I was reading this book over breakfast at the kitchen table to see what was causing so much outward laughter. In this particular instance, it was a scene between The Girl Who Was Saturday Night’s protagonist Noushka and her grandfather Loulou, while they were visiting Loulou’s deceased wife’s grave. It is one of many laugh-out-loud moments I cherished throughout the entire book’s read – and not the only one that brought humour to life situations not typically considered funny.

In The Girl Who Was Saturday Night, Heather O’Neill writes about family, life, death, abandonment, strife, love, sex in a way that is at once endlessly deep but also plain like one might about such daily things as getting groceries or walking the dog. Her use of metaphor slaps you in the face, surprising and provocative. Montreal native O’Neill uses the gritty side of her hometown as the novel’s backdrop for this coming of age story about twin siblings Noushka and Nicolas Tremblay. The twins live with Loulou in a small flat on St. Laurent Blvd, and are the children of a legendary Quebecois folksinger who darts in and out of their lives, and of the story. We, the reader, root for Noushka as she tries to free herself of the confines of the apartment she’s been in her whole life, and start a new path, independent of Nicolas, Loulou and her father.

This read enchanted me with exceptionally memorable lines, such asYou should beware of motherless children. They will eat you alive. You will never be loved by anyone the way that you will be loved by a motherless child.’ and ‘We confused the indoors with intimacy and electric heating with connection. Every night seemed like the last night because we would all freeze to death shortly.’ Such writing garnered the book and O’Neill a place on the 2014 Scotiabank Giller Prize shortlist. It’s the kind of unique voice that sticks with you long after you’ve finished reading.

If you’re a fan of irreverent Canadian fiction that melds humor and heartbreak in a fresh and captivating way, this book can currently be found on our discount fiction table – a refreshing read and a great deal!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Book Review: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

lit

Reviewed by: Savannah
Genre: Fiction
Format: Hardcover
Page count: 368 Pages
Rating: 5/5 stars
In stock: Yes

I had been so excited to finally read this book FOR MONTHS! As soon as I learned that Celeste Ng was releasing a new book, her last one Everything I Never Told You was one of my absolute favourite books that I read last year. I’ll give you the synopsis from Goodreads before I go any further,

In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned – from the layout of the winding roads, to the colors of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.
Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother – who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenaged daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.
When old family friends of the Richardsons attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town–and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs.”

I found that this book was an extremely quick read and I didn’t want to put it down. All of the characters intrigued me and made me want to read more. It is one of those books that ‘exposes’ those seemingly perfect families for how imperfect they really are but does it in such an amazing way. Even though the premise of it is very common I found that this book was still unlike anything else I have ever read. I became so engrossed in all of the characters lives and what would happen to them.

There are so many amazing elements and themes found in this book as well, such as family dynamics, friendships, relationships, belonging, and racial dynamics. It is crazy that such a small book can tackle so many large themes in such an eloquent way without feeling rushed. All of the ideas in this book are fully developed and presented wonderfully.

You should all go read this if you want a fun and fast read that takes a very typical premise of ‘perfect people in perfect places’ and flips it on its head, but different than how it is usually done.

Posted in Savannah's Reviews | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Game Review: Forbidden Island

 

pic646458

Adventure…if you dare.

Dare to discover Forbidden Island! Join a team of fearless adventurers on a do-or-die mission to capture four sacred treasures from the ruins of a perilous paradise. Your team will have to work together and make some pulse-pounding maneuvers, as the island will sink beneath every step! Race to collect the treasures and make a triumphant escape before you are swallowed into the watery abyss!

I’ve never been a huge fan of games of chance – I prefer something that allows me to be conniving and lose friends (ex. Monopoly). However, what’s great about Forbidden Island is that it lets you use your brain, but also lets you keep your friends because you have to work as a team! #teambuildingexercise

Another wonderful thing is that the board is different every time you play. The game comes with a set of tiles that get shuffled and laid out differently – like you’re on a new sinking island! Why are they always sinking?! Maybe consider adventuring somewhere safer, like Idaho or something?

You can play with up to four players (or cats) with each player assuming the role of a unique adventurer. Each adventurer card enables the player to use a specific set of skills that benefit the whole team. For example, the player with the Diver adventurer card can move through parts of the island that have been flooded.

22532057_10155503153171187_83527955_o

Basically, after each turn another part of the island will start to sink. As the game progresses, the water levels rise and more tiles will become submerged. You need to collect the four fun special items before you can leave the island, which can be hard to do if you can’t swim.

Forbidden Island is lots of fun, easy to learn, and a great excuse to listen to your epic instrumental music.

Don’t drown!

Reviewed by: Bethany

Posted in Bethany's Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Book Review: The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur

the-sun-and-her-flowers-9781501175268_lg

Reviewed by: Elise
Genre: Poetry
Format: Paperback

 Page count: 256 Pages
Rating: 4/5 stars
In stock: Yes

this is the recipe of life

said my mother

as she held me in her arms as I wept

think of those flowers you plant

in the garden each year

they will teach you

that people too

must wilt

fall

root

rise

in order to bloom.”

You know when you find a book that you swear was written just for you?  Well for me this was Rupi Kaur’s newest collection of poems The Sun and Her Flowers. Despite never having read Kaur’s first collection of poems, Milk and Honey, the book caught my eye right away as I was putting it on the shelf and as I turned it over to briefly read the back cover I knew automatically that it would be coming home with me. The first thing I did when I got home was jump right into it and I didn’t put it down until I had soaked in every last word it had to offer.

The Sun and Her Flowers is divided into five chapters following the journey of a flower wilting, falling, rooting, rising, and finally blooming as Kaur compares this with “the recipe of life” and pairs it with her beautiful illustrations bringing each word alive. This collection of poems is a journey of growth and healing that fills you with hope for new beginnings and finding love and acceptance in yourself.

Kaur does an excellent job capturing your attention with her bold and daring honesty throughout as she explores ideas of self love and hate, body image, heartbreak, feminism, a mothers love, and sexual assault. Often times these can be tough subjects to dive into but by the end of the book Kaur still manages to leave you with a sense of pride and hope for the future and all that it could be.

I would highly recommend this book if you are looking for a quick read that despite being disguised as a possibly light and fluffy book about flowers is full of deep and meaningful insight on heartbreak, growing up, and the way the world works. Rupi Kaur’s The Sun and Her Flowers has much to offer its readers and will not disappoint.

“the year is done. I spread the past three hundred

sixty-five days before me on the living room carpet.

here is the month i decided to shed everything not

deeply committed to my dreams. the day i refused to be

a victim of self-pity. here is the week i slept in the

garden. the spring i wrung the self-doubt by its neck.

hung your kindness up. took down the calendar. the

week i danced so hard my heart learned to float above

water again. the summer i unscrewed all the mirrors

from their walls. no longer needed to see myself to feel

seen. combed the weight out of my hair.

I fold the good days up and place them in my back

pocket for safekeeping. draw the match. cremate the

unnecessary. the light of the fire warms my toes.

i pour myself a glass of warm water to cleanse myself

for january. here i go. stronger and wiser into the new.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Book Review: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

handmaidz

 

Reviewed by: Bethany
Genre: Fiction
Format: Softcover
Page count: 368 Pages
Rating: 5/5 stars
In stock: Yes, and it’s 25% off. 😉

 

You know when you sit down to write a book and then end up accidentally predicting the future? Well, Margaret Atwood does. Read this cool article written by Atwood on the relevance of The Handmaid’s Tale in present day.

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/10/books/review/margaret-atwood-handmaids-tale-age-of-trump.html

Gilead is a cool place where you can wear a weird cone and lots of layers for the low, low price of your freedom. It’s also a place where religion and government have melded into one neat totalitarian blob of sexism. The story’s protagonist, who I guess we have to call Offred even though it bums me out, is living in The Republic of Gilead as a handmaid to an unnamed Commander. She’s pretty much just there to reproduce because she’s one of the privileged few whose ovaries are in business. Yay! If you don’t want to be a handmaid, you can always head to The Colonies and clean up nuclear waste until the radiation gets you. A real Sophie’s choice.

There are a lot of flashbacks to the old days – Offred’s life before she became a handmaid and could still walk to the store without supervision. She seems torn between her old life and her life in Gilead. I kept wondering if her memories were enough to inspire her to resist or if the inevitability of this new world would dampen her spirits.

I think one of the scariest things about this book is how complacent a lot of these characters become. From an outside perspective, it’s so strange to watch Offred get used to and eventually find a sense of contentment in this new world. There are a lot of parallels between the story and what’s happening in the news and it’s a great reminder never to acclimate to sinister circumstances.

I’ve also started watching the show and it’s looking like the TV handmaids are going to be a lot more proactive about their futures and I am 100% here for it. I’m also here for the show’s soundtrack, but that’s another matter entirely.

Blessed be the fruit and whatnot. Read this book if you feel like being angry!

Posted in Bethany's Reviews, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments