Book Review: Magic of Unlucky Girls by A. A. Balaskovits

josie review

 

Book review by: Josie

Magic for Unlucky Girls

By: A.A Balaskovits

☆☆☆ / ☆☆☆☆☆

Rated: W for Whoa

 

 

“The fourteen fantastical stories in Magic For Unlucky Girls take the familiar tropes of fairy tales and twist them into new and surprising shapes. These unlucky girls, struggling against a society that all too often oppresses them, are forced to navigate strange worlds as they try to survive. From carnivorous husbands to a bath of lemons to whirling basements that drive people mad, these stories are about the demons that lurk in the corners and the women who refuse to submit to them, instead fighting back — sometimes with their wit, sometimes with their beauty, and sometimes with shotguns in the dead of night.” –Back cover

Being honest, this book isn’t quiet what I expected it to be. In a way, it was more and, it was less. I don’t typically read collections, but this one caught my attention one day. The description for one pulls you in, which is why I decided the quote the entirety of it word for word rather than paraphrase it.

The first story is a very interesting take of humpty dumpty- rather than have a person prone to breaking; we have a city, and a man who is unbreakable. Another story is based vaguely on Little Red Riding Hood. But rather than being saved by the huntsman, dear little Red is taken in and raised by the wolf. One other story, which I personally can’t figure out what story it’s based on, is about a father alchemist, who is determined to bring his dead wife back to life, but in turn neglects his daughter.

The array of stories leaves me in a tricky spot to write a review, so for the review I’m trying to convey how the book as a whole made me feel. Each story left me feeling a different emotion, the manner they’re written in is truly something else- and after finishing each story, I was left wanting more. Some stories left me wondering, others, left me on the verge of tears, while some- left me baffled. I overall am left feeling very neutral about this book, and am struggling to find the words to describe this book properly. One thing I have to admit, is that this book isn’t for everyone. Some stories are very dark, depressing, and gory, and in other words, certainly aren’t suitable for everyone. Most of the stories are written to reflect the original morals of fairy tales, leaning towards the Brothers Grimm tellings, rather than the Disney ones most of us know and love. And honestly, if you go into this book expecting Disney, you are going to be slapped in the face. So reader beware.

But please don’t be daunted. This book is truly an experience, and is definitely worth your time and effort. I’d recommend this to people who love fantasy, tragedies, and stories that don’t always end with happily ever after.

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Book Review: Next Year For Sure by Zoey Leigh Peterson

Reviewed by: Jen
Genre: Fiction
Format: Soft cover

30201150

Page count: 272 pages
Rating: 4.5/5 stars
In stock: Yes

**Longlisted for the 2017 Scotiabank Giller Prize
**A Globe and Mail Best Book of 2017
**A Quill & Quire Reviewers’ Book of the Year

I don’t always Instagram the books I’m reading, but when I do it’s because I’m compelled by the need to express, by caption, such sentiments as: But it’s just so exciting when you’re only a few pages in and you feel like you know the characters intimately already and the author’s tone flows like the voice in your head and you have butterflies that this read will be full of ease and enjoyment and not effort, though.

I was only a few pages in when Next Year For Sure made me ‘that girl’, the cliché Insta-reader, but the sentiment held up throughout and following my time with this book. It was a quick time, because I was keen whenever the opportunity arose to quickly get back to my ‘old pals’, the protagonists, Kathryn and Chris.

Here’s what the inside cover will tell you about the book: After nine years together, Kathryn and Chris have the sort of relationship most would envy. They speak in the shorthand they have invented, complete one another’s sentences and help each other through every daily and existential dilemma. When Chris tells Kathryn about his attraction to Emily, a vivacious young woman he sees often at the laundromat, Kathryn encourages him to ask her out on a date — certain that her bond with Chris is strong enough to weather whatever may come.

Was I out specifically to read about open relationships? NO! (Seriously). But did I really want to know more. I liked visualizing the story unfold in its setting I know very well: Vancouver. I loved hearing the characters’ thoughts on modern relationships, the good parts, the challenging parts, the comfortable and familiar parts, the scary parts. All of it spoke to me deeply; the fact that the experiential parts of Kathryn and Chris’s delving into polyamory was foreign to me was totally irrelevant. In fact, Peterson spoke to CBC Books about exactly that, saying I feel like my book is about polyamory the way Moby-Dick is about a whale. What I was really drawn to is identifying that something isn’t working and being willing to experiment and invent. I feel like we’re given these ideas about what a romantic relationship is or what a partnership is and what it’s supposed to look like. Sometimes those things are helpful or aspirational or informative. But sometimes they’re just limiting and result in people going through the motions, rather than identifying how they want to organize their life and their family and their love. That’s what really appealed to me. Not so much the open relationship, but the being willing to throw out the blueprint that they’ve been given and try something.

That this is Zoey Leigh Peterson’s debut novel is truly impressive to me. I will be quick to grab whatever she puts out next.

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Book Review: We Were Eight Years In Power by Ta-Nehisi Coates

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Reviewed by: Savannah
Genre: Non-fiction
Format: Hardcover

Page count: 400 pages
Rating: 5/5 stars
In stock: Yes

This book was a really strange read emotionally, as I simultaneously didn’t want to put it down and also got so bummed out reading it that I wanted to stop. It’s basically just a collection of essays originally published in The Atlantic that also include new essays written after the fact about the Obama administration. I’ll still give you some of the Goodreads synopsis:

But the story of these present-day eight years is not just about presidential politics. This book also examines the new voices, ideas, and movements for justice that emerged over this period–and the effects of the persistent, haunting shadow of our nation’s old and unreconciled history. Coates powerfully examines the events of the Obama era from his intimate and revealing perspective–the point of view of a young writer who begins the journey in an unemployment office in Harlem and ends it in the Oval Office, interviewing a president.”

This was my first time reading anything by Ta-Nehisi Coates and his work lived up to all of the hype that’s for sure! I had actually been contemplating reading this book for a couple weeks and then I saw video of him giving a talk at a school and then suddenly I HAD to read it. I honestly didn’t know a lot of the facts in this book, such as the racism in the housing market and the scams that happened. I learned a lot reading this book, which in my opinion is the point of reading nonfiction. #getwoke. I don’t really know what to say about this book other than you should read it because it was really good but it was also a major bummer and be prepared to be sad about how history has played out and racism. (WE ALL KNEW IT WAS BAD I DON’T HAVE TO REMIND YOU). Even if you have read all of the previously published essays that are put in this book I still highly recommend reading it. The combination of introduction essays and well researched essays are a perfect ‘taste’ of the last eight years. Overall, it was a really powerful and moving book that will teach you some things and make you feel some things. I highly suggest this to anyone and everyone.

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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.
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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 is ‘a 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 with The Room.

 

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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!

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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.

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