Moving Picture Show

•February 16, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Music has been a major influence on my life for as long as I can remember. So, when it presented itself, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see a dear friend of mine, Matt Sellick, perform while backed by the Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra. It was an experience I will never forget! Somewhere between his original pieces, an homage to The Beatles, and the ending duel with another guitarist, I got very lost in my own head – due to both overwhelming emotions, and sheer inspiration. (Prepare for emotional overload – this isn’t a review piece, this is a personal exclamation of admiration and respect.)

 

I can see music in my head. Not in notes, chords, keys, or staff notations (otherwise colloquially known as sheet music), but in pictures. I see music like one would see a movie – moving pictures trying to tell a story. On this night, stories were definitely being told – whether the musicians themselves knew it or not. (These stories have now become inspiration for my ongoing anthology project – stay tuned!)

 

The emotions I felt from the entire performance is something I will likely not forget for a very, very long time. It was overwhelming. I’ve known this talented, amazing musician for years, but I’d never heard him quite like this. Over the years, I took for granted how talented Matt is – I’ve been listening to him play, practice, record, and perform in local coffee shops for almost a decade. Nothing could have prepared me for this. With single-minded focus, Matt sucked me into a vortex of sounds, images, and feelings I did not prepare myself for. And that, my friends, is a sign of a passionate musician, keen on perfecting his craft.

 

Matt doesn’t play flamenco guitar for the fame and fortune. No, Matt plays to make the audience feel something – anything. Whatever it is that we feel when listening to his music is completely subjective. Throughout the performance, I ran through so many different emotions and images that my head felt like it was swirling. And that is exactly what makes Matt so good, and so unequivocally talented.

 

Through the bitterness and angst of his first piece, and well into the calming and giddy effects of his second piece, I never stopped feeling something. Most noticeably, I felt the fire and the passion flow through his playing. Fire and passion – two words I would not have used to describe Matt ten years ago. Now, those two words are the most fitting of descriptors – Matt is the embodiment of fire and passion, and his playing is how he shows the world.

 

I feel so lucky, so privileged, to have seen this person grow into himself – I’ve seen, first hand, what driven determination can do. I’ve had a front-row centre seat to the showing of progress, growth, maturity, and success. And I am completely, and utterly, overcome with emotion – I am elated, grateful, excited, and proud to see Matt excell. He’s spent his entire life fine-tuning his craft – and it shows. Matt is a musician whom I respect unconditionally – he’s also a musician whom I adore eternally.

 

No amount of technical musical knowledge can replace the overwhelming and incredible emotionality of Matt’s performance. There is nothing I can say other than this: Matt, it has been an incredible journey you’ve been on – and it’s just beginning. I have been extremely lucky to have been a part of it. I cannot wait to see where you go next, and which new heights you’ll reach. You’ve poured your entire essence into what you do – and you are meant for greatness. Keep playing, keep giving us that passion so many of us are lacking. Keep making us feel what we feel. And, of course, keep kicking musical ass. On to the next adventure. Allons-y!

 

The Dead House – Dawn Kurtagich

•January 31, 2017 • Leave a Comment

the-dead-house

Synopsis

Part-psychological thriller, part-urban legend, this is an unsettling narrative made up of diary entries, interview transcripts, film footage transcripts and medical notes. Twenty-five years ago, Elmbridge High burned down. Three people were killed and one pupil, Carly Johnson, disappeared. Now a diary has been found in the ruins of the school. The diary belongs to Kaitlyn Johnson, Carly’s identical twin sister. But Carly didn’t have a twin . . .

Re-opened police records, psychiatric reports, transcripts of video footage and fragments of diary reveal a web of deceit and intrigue, violence and murder, raising a whole lot more questions than it answers.

Who was Kaitlyn and why did she only appear at night? Did she really exist or was she a figment of a disturbed mind? What were the illicit rituals taking place at the school? And just what did happen at Elmbridge in the events leading up to ‘the Johnson Incident’?

Chilling, creepy and utterly compelling, THE DEAD HOUSE is one of those very special books that finds all the dark places in your imagination, and haunts you long after you’ve finished reading.

My Thoughts

The Dead House threw me. It just… threw me. I did not solve the mysteries of this book by myself – even when I thought I may have figured something out, one tiny detail, I was proven so very wrong. I couldn’t have been any further from the mark.

This book had me grasping at straws, holding my breath, and sitting on the edge of my seat. The creep factor kept me up for a couple days – my mind would just go over the details in constant rotation, trying to see if I’d missed anything. I so wanted to solve it before it all came crashing down!

I’m rather glad that my sleep schedule is so thrown off by my unusual work hours, otherwise I definitely would not have been able to sleep during nighttime hours after reading this book. There is no way I would have been able to turn off the light without being uncomfortable or anxious. Thankfully, I seem to sleep as the sun rises – something Kaitlyn and I have in common.

The format makes for a very interesting, and different, reading experience. It really reminded me of watching a true crime programme, or some sort of found-footage type documentary. We do not have any more information than what is a matter of public record due to criminal investigations and journalism. And I like that – we know as much as anyone else investigating the case, and no one is any closer to solving the weirdness and the mystery of the Johnson Incident.

While chronological, it isn’t a strictly timed narrative – sometimes we jump around and miss some days. But one thing remains constant – something happened at Elmridge, something that can barely be explained, and it seems that no one can solve the mystery.

Right from the start, readers are led to think it’s going to go in a very predictable manner. That sense of comfort is very quickly dismantled, thrown into a ditch, and set on fire. Carly and Kaitlyn are headed for disaster – and those who set them on that course are the most unlikely suspects. The events leading up to the Johnson Incident are intense, bizarre, and extremely unbelievable. And yet – they happened, there is evidence, proof, of what happened.

With a lot of unusual details, and few clues, we’re left with so many more questions than answers by the end of the case. It seems that the investigation isn’t quite over – there are so many people who are morbidly curious. But I highly doubt we’ll ever know the full, and real, truth.

The Dead House is a work of fiction – but it has you believing that the incidents, the case, and the events are completely real. I even did some curious googling while reading, just to ease my own mind. This is a story that has seeped into the depths of my bones. I have a feeling that’s where it’ll stay.

Fragile Eternity – Melissa Marr

•January 26, 2017 • Leave a Comment

fragile-eternity

Synopsis

Seth never expected he would want to settle down with anyone – but that was before Aislinn. She is everything he’d ever dreamed of, and he wants to be with her forever. Forever takes on new meaning, though, when your girlfriend is an immortal faery queen.

Aislinn never expected to rule the very creatures who’d always terrified her – but that was before Keenan. He stole her mortality to make her a monarch, and now she faces challenges and enticements beyond any she’d ever imagined.

In Melissa Marr’s third mesmerizing tale of Faerie, Seth and Aislinn struggle to stay true to themselves and each other in a milieu of shadowy rules and shifting allegiances, where old friends become new enemies and one wrong move could plunge the Earth into chaos.

My Thoughts

As seems to be the pattern, this third book in the series seems to be the game changer. Seth, Ash, and Keenan all have decisions to make. It’s time to stop playing teenager, and take full responsibility for what they are – fart of the feary world.

There is one thing I need to get out of the way immediately – Keenan is not the “good guy”. He is knowingly ruthless, manipulative, conniving, selfish, and disrespectful. Time, and time again he twists things to get what he wants. Part of that is the faery way – they cannot lie. As such, they must find ways to elude the truth, to twist and play words in very deliberate and specific ways. At first, this drove me absolutely crazy – the use of miscommunication as a plot device isn’t my favourite – but I adapted quickly. Because they can’t help it – it is inherent in who they are as entities.

Keenan has a way of getting Ash exactly where he wants her – wanting him just so, but not enough, so he can continue to court his Winter Queen, Donia, for a while longer. Eventually, he will have Ash. And he promises never to harm her – quite literally, harm her physically – but he never desists in harming her both psychologically and emotionally. Ash cannot see this for herself, despite warnings from her loved ones. But she is the Summer Queen, and is both drawn and tied to Keenan eternally.

And it’s the eternally part that sets Seth’s teeth on edge. Seth is the power player in this book. He sees where his future could be headed, and hates how powerless he is. In this book, Seth does everything to take back his life, and his future. He’s made an odd friend in Niall, the Dark King, but it’s an ally that is so very needed, and so very appreciated. I’m enjoying where Seth and Niall’s friendship is headed, and I’m sure there are very interesting things to come.

Ultimately, Seth’s decisions flips everything right around. The world of Faerie is changing – and no one is sure whether it’s for better, or for worse. The only sure thing at the moment is that change is imminent. Whether that be war and chaos, or alliance and peace. Nothing will be the same, and I cannot wait to see the Summer Court fall from its fickle graces.

Dawn’s Early Light – Pip Ballantine & Tee Morris

•January 17, 2017 • Leave a Comment

dawns-early-light

Synopsis

Working for the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences, one sees innumerable technological wonders. But even veteran agents Braun and Books are unprepared for what the electrifying future holds…

After being ignominiously shipped out of England following their participation in the Janus affair, Braun and Books are ready to prove their worth as agents. But what starts as a simple mission in the States—intended to keep them out of trouble—suddenly turns into a scandalous and convoluted case that has connections reaching as far as Her Majesty the Queen.

Even with the help of two American agents from the Office of the Supernatural and the Metaphysical, Braun and Books have their work cut out for them as their chief suspect in a rash of nautical and aerial disasters is none other than Thomas Edison. Between the fantastic electric machines of Edison, the eccentricities of MoPO consultant Nikola Tesla, and the mysterious machinations of a new threat known only as the Maestro, they may find themselves in far worse danger than they ever have been in before…

My Thoughts

The third installment of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences changes everything. The continuation is going to be one hell of a ride! Good thing we have a handy motorcar at the ready for the adventure.

Dawn’s Early Light takes our duo across the Atlantic, on quite the adventurous tour of the United States, in order to help their American counterparts solve one hell of a convoluted mystery. Of course, Eliza is never one to pass on the action and adventure – being in the field is what suits her best.

Still the same as ever, she tends to solve her problems with bullets, and fists. I was absolutely giddy when she knocked one particular American cowboy flat on his arse in the middle of a pub (a woman after my own heart, she is). However, emotions are running high.

I recall being very excited at the end of the last book that the romantic undertones between Books and Braun were finally coming to a conclusion. Well, I was wrong. It takes a few thwarted conversations, a few misguided flirtations, and a lot of frustration before Eliza and Wellington see fit to resolve their unspoken feelings for each other. While disarming a bomb. Because when else are you supposed to confess your undying love for your partner?

As we come to our climax and conclusion, everything changes, and everything we thought we knew turns on a dime. There is, undoubtedly, a distinct feeling of being punched in the gut.

The first two books of this series, and a good portion of this third book, do a fantastic job of setting us up for what’s to come. We have fully established the world, the technologies, and how everything works. We’ve meshed technology, science, and clockwork into the mechanics of what keeps this world going. We’ve met our main cast, and we know them very well (with a few mysteries left to solve, but that’s all in the character development).

We are now set for what’s to come – and it’s going to be on hell of a hair-raising adventure. Eliza and Wellington definitely have their work cut out for them.

2016 Reading Roundup

•January 1, 2017 • 1 Comment

Well. This was a year…. and I will leave that at that!

This year, I embarked, once again, on the great educational adventure, and began my studies for a third undergrad degree. While I’ve heard a lot of negativity about yet another undergrad degree, all I have to say is: stuff it. I’m doing this because I want to, and because it will help me get further in a career I kind of stumbled into (almost literally – there was some flailing involved).

Thankfully, this time around, I have a MUCH better grasp of time management, and scheduling. This allows me to both go to school full-time, as well as work full-time. I am pleased with where these two things are bringing me in the future, and I am very, very proud of myself. It’s not easy to pack it in and restart your career path in your mid-twenties. But I’m doing it, and I think I’m doing just fine.

I also accomplished a lot of personal goals, and started a lengthy personal project that I’ve shared snippets of over on ye olde Tumblr. Much of this was thanks to the help of my dearest friend, and platonic life-partner, Sir Sassy Pants (who has asked to remain relatively anonymous, but trust me, the nickname is spot on).

Somewhere between the sassing and the frustrated head-desking, we managed to get through this year together. We even plotted our way into taking over an alternate realm, becoming royalty, and drinking our combined weight in tea and wine while we commiserate and watch anime. It will be brilliant. My husband looked on both fondly, and bemused (then gave me glass upon glass of wine so as not to burn out in an anxious cycle of overthinking and flailing).

Now, onto the books!

My goal for 2016 was to read 50 books. I nearly made it! I read a total of 32 books – 64% of my original goal. Which is absolutely fantastic, compared to previous years! As I said, I’ve become much more skilled in managing my time, and finding time to relax, read, and review. Once again, I am quite proud of myself!

In previous years, I would usually do a run through of my ratings, and what not. I won’t be doing that. Instead, take a look at my Goodreads profile and see for yourselves what I’ve been up to. I can say, with absolute certainty, that Carry On stole the show this year. It is, by far, my favourite read of 2016.

I also started a new series, The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences, which has stolen my heart, and my attention. I am so very, very smitten. I never would have considered the series had it not been recommended to me by a dear friend. Ben, if you’re reading this, you are Book Recommendation Royalty. I appreciate your thoughtfulness, and your sheer love and excitement for books! I have a list of everything you’ve ever recommended to me, and I am slowly making my way through! So, thank you! I am ever so grateful to have you as both a friend, and an avid book lover and reader.

Moving onto to 2017, I’ve downsized my goal to 40 books for the year. I feel that, with my academic work load, as well as my employment commitments, this is much more realistic and feasible. I started three different series of books last year, and I plan to get them all caught up to new releases. I also hope to expand my tastes, and try out new things.

I have also amassed a collection of trilogies, thanks to the generous gifts of gift cards from both Chapters and Amazon this year. Hopefully, I’ll be able to tackle a trilogy or two – that would be great fun!

As this year begins, I am optimistic, and energized. I haven’t felt this content in a long time. I’ve made some changes this last year, I’ve learned a lot, and I’ve grown a lot. And I hope that these changes – for the better – are reflected in the year to come.

Here’s to a happy, and safe 2017, dear readers! Cheers!

The Revenge Playbook – Rachael Allen

•December 29, 2016 • Leave a Comment

the-revenge-playbook

Synopsis

In this poignant and hilarious novel, Rachael Allen brilliantly explores the nuances of high school hierarchies, the traumas sustained on the path to finding true love, and the joy of discovering a friend where you least expect.

In the small town of Ranburne, high school football rules and the players are treated like kings. How they treat the girls they go to school with? That’s a completely different story. Liv, Peyton, Melanie Jane, and Ana each have their own reason for wanting to teach the team a lesson—but it’s only when circumstances bring them together that they come up with the plan to steal the one thing the boys hold sacred. All they have to do is beat them at their own game.

My Thoughts

This book gave me my new favourite word – Backpfeifengesicht – a German word meaning a face that desperately needs to get punched. I know a lot of people like this. Within the first chapter of this book, the entire football team fit this description exceptionally well. Even as I write this, I am still seething with rage. This review is going to be more of a discussion – because this is a discussion that NEEDS to happen. Yes, I will talk about the book, but this will not be objective by any means. I need to talk about this, and I need to talk about this now.

The Revenge Playbook is a perfect YA novel for laying out the groundwork of feminist anit-rape culture theory for young teens – any young teens. The language used by the football team to discuss the young women, who are our main characters, makes me absolutely sick. And yet, this is the norm. Not only in high school, or in sports culture, but this is the norm everywhere – I see it every day – and this needs to stop. NOW. Immediately.

The girls in this book take on quite the task – they want to take the football team down a peg. They want an end to the preferential treatment, to the absolute horrendous hazing and bullying, and to their abhorrent treatment of women. The message is a strong one – what these boys do, and how they act and speak, is not okay, it is not normal, and it should never be perceived as such. Ever.

How these boys act and speak doesn’t end after high school – trust me. It isn’t okay then, and it certainly isn’t okay in adulthood. The young women in this book know this – they know themselves. And they will not stand by and watch it happen. Now, I could go on a rant here about how everyone, everywhere, should be like these young women and stand up to patriarchal notions of sexism and misogyny. But I won’t do that. Because we already know this.

However, I didn’t learn this until my mid-twenties. Had I read a book like this when I was a teenager navigating the extremely unpleasant hallways of my three high schools (yeah, I went to three, and they all sucked), maybe I would have learned that I wasn’t inferior earlier in life. That would have been absolutely bloody fantastic.

The Revenge Playbook handles themes of feminism, rape culture, “Locker room talk” (even typing that made me feel ill), misogyny and sexism with grace. These women never once doubt themselves – which is super important – in their mission to try to change culturally appropriated norms and behaviour that are inherently dehumanizing and, well, just plain disgusting.

This is a brilliant book, with a range of characters that can appeal to just about anyone. For me, most importantly, this book is unapologetic about how disturbing, disgusting, and toxic misogyny is. And that gives it an A+ in my books.

The Fill-In Boyfriend – Kasie West

•December 22, 2016 • 3 Comments

the-fill-in-boyfriend

Synopsis

When Gia Montgomery’s boyfriend, Bradley, dumps her in the parking lot of her high school prom, she has to think fast. After all, she’d been telling her friends about him for months now. This was supposed to be the night she proved he existed. So when she sees a cute guy waiting to pick up his sister, she enlists his help. The task is simple: be her fill-in boyfriend—two hours, zero commitment, a few white lies. After that, she can win back the real Bradley.

The problem is that days after prom, it’s not the real Bradley she’s thinking about, but the stand-in. The one whose name she doesn’t even know. But tracking him down doesn’t mean they’re done faking a relationship. Gia owes him a favor and his sister intends to see that he collects: his ex-girlfriend’s graduation party—three hours, zero commitment, a few white lies.

Just when Gia begins to wonder if she could turn her fake boyfriend into a real one, Bradley comes waltzing back into her life, exposing her lie, and threatening to destroy her friendships and her new-found relationship.

My Thoughts

I haven’t read YA romance in a while. A long while. The Fill-In Boyfriend did not disappoint.

Our main character, Gia, is very relatable. She is absolutely terrified of conflict (preaching to the choir, there), and tries to avoid it at all costs. That was all too real for me, as that is how I had lived my life until quite recently.

Gia is trying to figure herself out, during her last weeks of high school, while trying to navigate a recent breakup, and friends who seem perfectly content with shallow, surface-only relationships. Gia wants to change, to grow up, and be a better person. Some of the people around her don’t like that. And if that isn’t the most relatable thing about high school, then I don’t know what is.

By meeting new people, and a new boy (who’s sheer sincerity and snark mark him as Bloody Brilliant in my books), Gia realizes a lot more about herself in the span of a few weeks than most people do their entire lives – and I think that is fantastic.

Realistically, people do not change that drastically, that fast. However, it is possible.

The Fill-In Boyfriend isn’t necessarily a coming of age story, but it’s definitely a story of growth and development. It’s a story full of heart, that will not only break yours from time to time, but will fill it to the brim, too.