The Book Thief – Markus Zusak

•May 9, 2018 • Leave a Comment

the book thief

Synopsis


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

By her brother’s graveside, Liesel’s life is changed when she picks up a single object, partially hidden in the snow. It is The Gravedigger’s Handbook, left behind there by accident, and it is her first act of book thievery. So begins a love affair with books and words, as Liesel, with the help of her accordian-playing foster father, learns to read. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor’s wife’s library, wherever there are books to be found.

But these are dangerous times. When Liesel’s foster family hides a Jew in their basement, Liesel’s world is both opened up, and closed down.

My Thoughts

This book completely destroyed me. In so many ways.

Death does not judge. Death does not excuse. Death does not forgive. Everyone faces death. Sometimes, Death takes an interest in you. Sometimes, Death tells your story. Sometimes, Death finds a friend. Everyone needs a friend. And Death found themselves needing a friend in little Liesel.

Liesel tries to hold on to youthful innocence for as long as she possibly can in a completely impossible situation. She’s ripped away from the life she knew and thrown into a life of desperate survival. Her one saving grace is the power of words.

This is a running theme throughout the book – the positive and negative powers words hold. Of course, in 1939 Nazi Germany words most certainly held more negative influence than positive. I could sit here and have an entire discussion on the atrocities of the genocide of the second world war, but that’s a discussion for another time.

Liesel does her level best to make the best of her situation. She falls into the rhythms of Himmel Street, makes friends, and she survives. But she’s also curious and questioning. Which is a dangerous thing to be in Nazi Germany. This doesn’t stop her. She just gets crafty at hiding her curiosity in plain sight – and then seeks her answers in the covers of books.

She finds solace, and other answers, in many places. In the books she steals. In her friendship with Max – the man hidden in the basement. In her love for her foster parents and her best friend Rudy. When her entire life falls apart around her, it’s the power of words that bring her peace in the midst of chaos and anguish.

The book’s narration is devastating. We see a perspective of despair. And yet, there is also curiosity and fascination. Fascination at the capacity with which humanity can harbour such blind hatred. Curiosity at how such a thing happened. Despair that any of it happened at all. Death, the grim reaper, what have you, doesn’t get a day off. But they do have some final words:

“I am haunted by humans.”

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Every Dead Thing – John Connolly

•May 8, 2018 • Leave a Comment

CP 1 - Every Dead Thing

Synopsis

When former New York City detective Charlie Parker is pulled into the search for a missing woman, he finds insight into the murderer responsible for the slayings of his own wife and daughter — a monster/artist/serial killer who uses the human body as his canvas and takes faces as his prize. Aided by a beautiful young psychologist and two career killers, Parker becomes the bait in a trap set in the Louisiana bayous and faces a brutal confrontation with the killer known only as the Traveling Man.

My Thoughts

**Warnings for language

Every Dead Thing is the start of the Charlie Parker series – a lengthy series about a curmudgeon of a private investigator. This checks all my boxes: No bullshit, extreme sass, suspense, and a very eccentric cast of characters. This book throws us into this universe head first. Let me tell ya, this was a fucking trip. The level of fuckery in this book is off the charts.

I won’t go into detail about where we start (trust me, you don’t want me to), but I will say that Charlie “Bird” Parker is one wreck of a man. The first half of the book is fits and starts, alternating between the case he’s currently working – reluctantly – and flashbacks of what led him here. It feels a little chaotic and disorganized, but that quite expertly describes Charlie’s current state of mind.

Little does Charlie know, the case he’s currently working is intimately connected to the murder of his wife and child. The Traveling Man has been lurking, watching, and toying with Charlie for years. And Charlie has been falling into every trap set for him.

Neither of the two cases end with a neatly tied bow calling it a day. There are repercussions and consequences that Charlie must face as a result of his actions and behaviour. Charlie is not without fault, which makes him a great narrator. He owns up to his faults and his murky morals. He does what needs to be done. “And I will live with that, too” he says.

Two other characters that stand out are Angel and Louis. They’re fantastic!! They’re some the sassiest men I’ve ever read. Angel, an expert at B&Es and Louis, a semi-retired assassin, are Charlie’s most unlikely yet most steady friends. The developing friendship between the three is fascinating. There are no illusions between them, they are all aware of what each other is capable of. In that way, it’s kind of the perfect partnership.

Through all the twists and turns of this book, I never once felt at ease. It is creep-tastic from start to finish. This case, well, these two cases are going to be very difficult to get over. If I ever do, for that matter. As I gather my own thoughts and attempt to move forward after these events, I wonder where Charlie Parker is going to lead us next.

Welcome to Night Vale – Joseph Fink & Jeffrey Cranor

•April 10, 2018 • Leave a Comment

welcome to night vale

Synopsis

From the creators of the wildly popular Welcome to Night Vale podcast comes an imaginative mystery of appearances and disappearances that is also a poignant look at the ways in which we all struggle to find ourselves…no matter where we live.

Located in a nameless desert somewhere in the great American Southwest, Night Vale is a small town where ghosts, angels, aliens, and government conspiracies are all commonplace parts of everyday life. It is here that the lives of two women, with two mysteries, will converge.

Nineteen-year-old Night Vale pawn shop owner Jackie Fierro is given a paper marked “King City” by a mysterious man in a tan jacket holding a deer skin suitcase. Everything about him and his paper unsettles her, especially the fact that she can’t seem to get the paper to leave her hand, and that no one who meets this man can remember anything about him. Jackie is determined to uncover the mystery of King City and the man in the tan jacket before she herself unravels.

Night Vale PTA treasurer Diane Crayton’s son, Josh, is moody and also a shape shifter. And lately Diane’s started to see her son’s father everywhere she goes, looking the same as the day he left years earlier, when they were both teenagers. Josh, looking different every time Diane sees him, shows a stronger and stronger interest in his estranged father, leading to a disaster Diane can see coming, even as she is helpless to prevent it.

Diane’s search to reconnect with her son and Jackie’s search for her former routine life collide as they find themselves coming back to two words: “King City”. It is King City that holds the key to both of their mysteries, and their futures…if they can ever find it.

My Thoughts

I really, really enjoyed this book. I’ve been listening to Night Vale for three years. I’d just gotten into the podcast when this book came out, and decided to take my time listening and catching up before diving into the world of Night Vale in book form.

It is written exactly as if you’re listening to Cecil’s dulcet tones narrating the latest Night Vale mystery. And what a doozy of a mystery this was.

The man in the tan jacket makes an appearance unlike any I’ve heard (well, read) before. He is at the heart of this mystery, but only Diane seems to remember him in any capacity. Which is, in fact, precisely the problem. In order to get her life back on track, she must team up with Jackie, the perpetual teenager who never ages beyond nineteen. Neither is too pleased with this situation, but both realize the necessity.

Beyond the mystery, this book explains intricate aspects of humanity in such a subtle way, you barely even notice it. Night Vale has always had a knack for doing this in their podcast. Seeing it written out and woven over the pages was mildly jarring, but also really exciting.

Diane has to come to terms with her son growing up, finding himself, and wanting to learn about his father. Jackie has to deal with growing up. These themes are woven throughout the book in such a way that their importance – and they are the most important themes, in my opinion – seem to be secondary to solving the mystery of King City. Once I realized this, I felt like I’d been punched in the gut. That is a magical feeling.

Listening to Night Vale always leaves me with a sense of whiplash – everything happens so quickly, and with such intensity. You can barely grasp the severity of the events before they’re resolved (usually involving a perfect scientist with perfect hair). The book gives us this same sense of whiplash with an ever-changing POV. In most other books, I would consider this a drawback. For Night Vale, it works if not for the very nature of what Night Vale is, and how Night Vale works.

I do not want to go into too much detail about the plot – like any Night Vale mystery, it’s a little convoluted if not downright confusing. But it works itself all out in the end in the most perfect manner possible. There’s growth, and friendship, and a little bit of found-family along the way.

This book is so quintessentially Night Vale, I’m tempted to read it all over again right away.

The Ghost Rebellion – Pip Ballantine & Tee Morris

•March 13, 2018 • 1 Comment

the ghost rebellion

Synopsis

The chase is on! After rescuing Queen Victoria from the clutches of the Maestro, Agents Eliza D Braun and Wellington Books are in hot pursuit of Dr Henry Jekyll. While he continues his experiments on the aristocracy of Europe, he leaves a trail of chaos and despair in his wake. However when Eliza and Wellington run him to ground in India, they are forced to come face to face with ghosts from the past, and the realities of empire.

Meanwhile Ministry agents Brandon Hill and Bruce Campbell travel deep into Russia hunting down a rare ingredient to save Queen Victoria’s life. Amid the cold they uncover a threat from the revitalized House of Usher that comes directly from their new Chairman.

All in the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences will find their allegiances in question, and their mettle tested as a new dastardly era of international intrigue dawns.

My Thoughts

Holy hell is this one action packed adventure. I don’t think there was a moment where I felt I could relax and catch my breath. It was a constant onslaught of fist fights, gun fights, out-witting, out-conniving, and fleeing to and fro. This was a beautiful disaster from beginning to end. And I loved (almost) every moment of it.

The Ministry is still repairing itself from last time, where just about everything was shot to hell. While Books and Braun are chasing down Dr. Jekyll in Inida, Campbell and Hill are tasked with infiltrating a Russian factory in search of a mysterious product. To say that everyone is way in over their heads is an understatement.

Where I take most issue with this book is how solid the Ministry and their counterparts in the Army believe their occupation of India is a good thing. The fighters opposing the occupation have a good point – why should they give up their resources, language, and culture to an Empire they don’t even want to belong to? But, that’s not how the Ministry see it. That was the most frustrating part of this book for me. I so desperately wanted the opposition to win that fight, stand their ground, reclaim their land. But that would have been to the detriment of the Ministry and their plan to apprehend (or kill, whatever works) Jekyll. The cognitive dissonance was quite strong with this one.

And now, onto the characters!! There wasn’t much in terms of character development, which is usually what I enjoy most in a book. But with so much going on all at the same time and being transported back and forth between Russia and India, I can definitely understand that speeding up the plot took precedence. Going back and forth made for really good pacing. It kept me on my toes, and made for quite a few chapters with cliffhangers. I quite liked it.

It was nice to see Campbell back in the throws of action – especially after acting like a royal prat. His partnership with Hill is a delight. Their banter makes me giggle continuously. Especially after they’re joined by Ryfka, who is bloody fantastic. I am so smitten with her, I will honestly be upset if she doesn’t make an appearance in the next (and final) installment of this series.

In the same manner, Books and Braun have always brought a smile to my face with this squabbles and oppositions. But damn it all if they don’t make a fabulous pair. Their romantic relationship is in full bloom, and with it comes the easy adjustment of how they communicate with each other. There are no misunderstandings. They relish in each others’ strengths and balance each other out wonderfully.

All in all, The Ghost Rebellion did a brilliant job of leading us up to what is going to be one hell of a final showdown.

The Class Project: How To Kill a Mother: The True Story of Canada’s Infamous Bathtub Girls – Bob Mitchell

•January 30, 2018 • 2 Comments

the class project

Synopsis

The Class Project investigates the incredible murder of a mother by her two teenaged daughters. Author Bob Mitchell details the murder trial and provides a troubling look at the youth culture that not only supported the two sisters but encouraged them to commit the crime and then revel in their secret for almost a year. Through interviews with witnesses, Mitchell reveals the world in which the girls lived, exploring the social and psychological elements that influenced their actions.

My Thoughts

This case, oh my goodness this case. It’s chilling. I read this book for the first time nearly ten years ago for my Intro to Criminology class. I was eighteen, a first year university student. I was idealistic. This book jaded me in ways I didn’t expect. Reading it for the second time, so much later, it hits me a little differently than it did then. But it still hits.

Ten years ago, I had little to no experience with true crime beyond what I read on CBC news or in my city’s local news outlets. These accounts are not nearly as detailed as a true crime novel.

This book horrified me back then. Now, I have a bit more experience. I have a better grasp of the atrocities humans can inflict on other humans. I am hardened by these atrocities. I may have a different perspective now than I did then, but I am not completely unaffected.

Before I get to the nitty gritty, I have to comment on the writing and style of this book. The writing is riveting. Mitchell spins the story quite well. We go through the case point by point, fact by fact, gleaning information from what must have been hundreds upon hundreds – if not thousands – of official court records and statements. That’s a painstaking task.

Where I draw most criticism is that this book reads as entirely unedited. I am not, nor have I ever been, a professional editor. I have no idea how the editing industry works. But I would hope that glaring spelling and grammatical errors would be the very first things addressed. In this book, they most certainly were not. There were needless, and constant, repetitions of phrases – often mere paragraphs apart – with the exact same wording and inflection. Whether this was done in error, for emphasis, or as filler I do not know. But it was annoying, to say the least.

I must reiterate that I am not a professional – or amateur, for that matter – editor. But trying to wade through the editing mess made for very slow, very frustrating reading.

All of that said, this case is truly fascinating. A pair of teenagers decide to kill their alcoholic mother by drugging her, plying her with alcohol, and drowning her in her own bathtub. This was a deliberately planned act. This was first degree murder.

Their downfall was months and months worth of MSN Messenger chat history between friends – friends who had known this was going to happen. Friends who had contributed their own thoughts to the plan. Friends who, at no point, ever told anyone.

That was a recurring theme throughout the book – that multiple people were aware that the sisters had planned to kill their mother, and then proceeded to do just that. It boggles my mind that these kids – and they were all kids, teenagers – didn’t say anything. The book goes through all the excuses: kids being kids; they didn’t think the girls were serious; they didn’t want to get in trouble; so on and so forth. I have a hard time believing that.

The sisters, however, certainly didn’t have a hard time gloating about getting away with murder. At one point, rumours were flying throughout the girls’ high school, people hearing that they killed their mother from second-, third-, and fourth-party sources. It sounds outrageous. It sounds surreal. And yet, somehow, no one sounds the alarm. This is the part I have the most trouble with – that no one is concerned or alarmed enough to alert an authority figure.

Until one person does. And the meticulous murder plot comes crashing down on the sisters’ heads.

This case has stuck with me for ten years, and will likely stick with me for ten more. It’s haunting and fascinating. It’s a case I truly hope I never see repeated.

2017 Reading Roundup

•January 1, 2018 • 1 Comment

We all thought last years was… something. But this year, oh boy howdy this year was internationally disastrous. We made it through, and now it’s onward and upwards! (Says the most cynical person.) Going forward, warning for explicit language.

2017 was a challenge for all of us in many, many different ways. Somewhere between the clusterfuck going on internationally and personal challenges, I am not sad to see 2017 go. It wasn’t all bad, I can admit that. But the not all bad was heavily outweighed. And this definitely showed itself in my reading.

I hit major reading slumps this year, but I managed to pull myself together for a few reading blitzes. When I was on, I was on, and I was reading at a break-neck pace to get reviews out and enjoy myself. But when I was off, picking up a book felt like carrying dead weight. I’m working towards vastly improving my mental health, and I’ve made some progress.

My goal this year was to read 40 books. I managed to read through 19. Not quite halfway, but it’s something better than nothing.

Of the four books that I gave a five-star review to on Goodreads, I think The Raven King was my personal favourite. As a whole, The Raven Cycle series was a lot of fun, and very interesting to read.

Going into 2018, I plan to finish The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences, and hop on to a few more trilogies that I have on my still ever-expanding TBR pile. I’ve set my goal at 40 books again, and I hope that, at the very least, I can make it halfway.

As I said in my piece last year, I’m not quite gutted that I didn’t make my goal but I won’t let it get me down too much, either. Something is better than nothing, and progress, however big or small, is still progress. I’m looking forward to what 2018 holds for me work wise, in my personal life, and in my bookish endeavors.

Cheers and Happy New Year!

All my love, Aubrey.

The Hating Game – Sally Thorne

•December 22, 2017 • 3 Comments

the hating game

Synopsis

Nemesis (n.)
1) An opponent or rival whom a person cannot best or overcome;
2) A person’s undoing;
3) Joshua Templeman.

Lucy Hutton and Joshua Templeman hate each other. Not dislike. Not begrudgingly tolerate. Hate. And they have no problem displaying their feelings through a series of ritualistic passive aggressive maneuvers as they sit across from each other, executive assistants to co-CEOs of a publishing company. Lucy can’t understand Joshua’s joyless, uptight, meticulous approach to his job. Joshua is clearly baffled by Lucy’s overly bright clothes, quirkiness, and Pollyanna attitude.

Now up for the same promotion, their battle of wills has come to a head and Lucy refuses to back down when their latest game could cost her her dream job…But the tension between Lucy and Joshua has also reached its boiling point, and Lucy is discovering that maybe she doesn’t hate Joshua. And maybe, he doesn’t hate her either. Or maybe this is just another game.

My Thoughts

I was very nervous about starting this book. It got a lot of hype this year. I put it off for a while, but finally decided to give it a go. The hype is well worth it, I must say.

This book draws you right in from the get-go. It’s enticing, and clever, and oh so witty. Lucy is engaging and fun and wildly passionate. The games she plays with her infuriatingly composed colleague Joshua seems petty and childish at the outset (which she admits herself), but they establish an important foundation to their relationship.

Lucy and Joshua are complimentary in their opposition. They balance each other quite wonderfully, even through heated words and nasty snark. But Lucy never backs down, not for one instant.

The dynamic between Lucy and Joshua is riveting. I loved it. I would grin through every single one of their word battles and interactions. It never got old. It was always fresh and invigorating.

I haven’t read a romance novel in a while, but I’m very glad to have come across this one! I look forward to more from Sally Thorne in 2018!