Archive | July, 2012

Above His Station by Darren Craske

9 Jul

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The Station Guard of Regal Street is running away from his past.

With his wife gone and his children having lives of their own, he lives at home in a bungalow, filled with memories of his late wife. Wanting to escape his past and the memory of Molly where ever he goes, he accepts a new post.

The only thing is, he can’t tell anyone where the new post is, what the station is for or for whom he is working. This suits him fine as all he wants to do is hide from himself and enjoy his life underground.

The problems begin when the Station Guard hears a voice belonging to someone he can’t see tells him that he’s in trouble and that the tiger has scented him. The Station Guard looks around but is told to look down.

Looking down, the Station Guard takes in the presence of a rather foul mouthed talking rat. As if that weren’t enough, the rat tells the station guard that something has happened above ground, something to which he is oblivious to, being so far below ground.

The Station Guard knows that he must head above his station, but the rat reminds him of the tiger, the tiger that has scented him and is coming for the Station Guard, with no hope of escape in sight.

Well, that’s not strictly true. The problems really begin when the Station Guard tries to get above ground and has to confront a pack of wild wolves, flamingo car drivers, armadillo and tree frog policeman, a musical number with back up singers and a whole host of other problems.

Least of which is a musical number, a trip out of this world and the fate of humanity hanging in the balance. Now would be a good time for a chocolate digestive biscuit if you have any…

My meager plot summary does not really cover the whole plot of Above His Station. It only really scratches the surface. Why is that? Well, that’s because Above His Station is one of those rare gems, one of those lovely, incredible books that you can no way summarize without giving everything away.

Instead, it is meant to be delved into, head first, until you can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I read Above His Station twice in three days. I finished it in a day and a half and enjoyed it so much that I immediately went back to page one and started all over again.

I love Darren Craske’s work quite a lot but with Above His Station he has outdone himself not only in characters (at which he excels) but also with plot (at which he is also ace). What sets Above His Station apart is that it is unlike anything you will ever read or will ever read again.

During the first chapter, I thought I was in for a right treat of a mystery of sorts…until I got to the talking rat. Then things went woky, went more wonky still and by that point, I was having a grand old time. I laughed out loud on the bus, laughed out loud in public and just kept flipping pages madly, engrossed completely in the world that Craske has created.

Though books of this sort normally require a huge suspension of disbelief, Craske eased me into the world so slowly that I didn’t really notice things had gone completely crazy until it was too late. Or not late enough. Either way, I haven’t enjoyed a book this much in years. The only other book I have read twice in a row is Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone. That ought to tell you something.

Craske has really outdone himself with Above His Station. His Cornelius Quaint Series is amazing, his novel The Lantern Menace incredible, but I feel as if all of his writing, all his work, has been leading up to this book, Above His Station.

It is quite simply the best time I have had reading a novel in years. To read Above His Station is to let yourself be taken on an incredible journey.

The problem is, you might not want to come back. An awesome read from start to finish and back again, Above His Station is required reading for anyone who loves a good book, period. 

11/22/63 by Stephen King

8 Jul

 

 

 

 

I was truly surprised by King’s new novel. And I didn’t have high hopes for it.

After finishing (and greatly disliking) Under the Dome, I debated whether I was done with King. After reading the disappointing Mile 81, I was sure I was done with King. But decided to give him one more change.

Boy am I ever glad I did!

Jake Epping, an English teacher from 2011, is given the chance to go back in time. His friend Al Templeton has a supply closet in his diner that also happens to be a rabbit hole to September of 1958. Al is dying and leaves Jake with an important task: go back in time and stop the assassination of JFK.

This is easy feat. Because the past is obdurate; it moves against Jake and doesn’t want to be changed. But there are also other distractions.

One is: Did Oswald do the deed alone? Jake must determine this before he acts. The second? A woman named Sadie who Jake falls in love with. Will he risk everything, even the love of his past life, to save another?

At 850 pages, my meagre summary of the plot doesn’t come close to covering everything that happens in 11/22/63. But that’s okay. No plot summary would come close because there is so much life in this novel. The parts where Jake is living through the fifties and sixties really come to life in King’s writing and the stories contained within are ones that are at once timeless and essential.

It’s a novel that you want to live in. Rarely have I been so affected by a novel. It really wasn’t about the assassination, but about the characters and that is where King really shines. He made an 850 page novel seem like it was 300 pages; that is how good the writing is.

There are no supernatural elements to the novel, but that isn’t a downside. King has tried something different by writing what could be loosely described as historical romantic fiction. The good thing is that he succeeds on every level.

I loved this book so much that I didn’t want it to end. When I did finish it, I was left breathless, teary eyed and wanting more. That is the mark of a great book and this is Stephen King’s best work to date, hands down.

There Is No Dog by Meg Rosoff

8 Jul

The premise is a simple one: What if God were a teenage boy?

In the hands of any other author, the book would have been gimmicky, silly and slapstickish. But There Is No Dog is by the amazing, surprising and delightful Meg Rosoff, so we know that we’re in for a treat.

In There Is No Dog, God is indeed a teenage boy. He watches over Earth with the help of Mr. B, his tired and somewhat frustrated by his assistant. Mr. B. Has reason to be frustrated, for there are many things wrong with the way God has been running things.

After winning Earth in a poker game, Mona (a Goddess of some renown) hands the job of God over to her son who is insolent, spoiled and not all that brilliant. He created the earth in six days because he was too tired and lazy to take any longer with it.

Mr. B has been left to clean up the mess, one prayer at a time. But there is only so much he can do. For answering one prayer might affect the schism of things in another way. Cure one child of rabies and perhaps the stock markets crash? Help one girl’s dying mother and maybe the polar ice caps dry up? And the fact that God (whose name is Bob) created mortals in his own image is most troubling to Mr. B. How can a planet filled with insolent, greedy, intolerant boobs like Bob possibly survive?

However survive it must, even if God doesn’t want anything to do with it. He is currently obsessed with a young mortal girl named Lucy, an assistant at the zoo. He loves her. He wants to marry her. He wants to have sex with her; and preferably not in the form of a swan this time. God isn’t too sure what he was thinking when he did that.

When their courtship begins, strange things begin to happen. Driven by the lusts and feelings of a teenage boy, the weather starts to be affected by Bob’s wants and desires. Snow falls one day to be replaced by floods the next only to be replaced by sunshine. And then the rain begins to fall.

Earth is under siege by the weather and by Gods emotions. Mr. B is desperate. As floods begin to sweep across Earth, he begins to wonder, if he doesn’t fix this mess, who will? While God is off following is pecker to prettier pastures, who will look after those that are on Earth?

Told with a deft hand and a keen eye for detail, Meg Rosoff has written her best book yet. It is also her funniest. I never thought a novel about God, religion, the fate of the human race, beliefs, creationism and love could be funny, but There Is No Dog is downright hilarious.

The joy of a Meg Rosoff novel is that you never really know what kind of story you’re going to get. In How I Live Now, three young children must survive an apocalyptic world. In Just In Case, a young boy creates a new image and changes his name from David to Justin but is deterred by Fate. What I Was, we are treated to a love story of sorts that takes place at a boys boarding school where no one and nothing is as it seems. In The Bride’s Farewell, a historical novel, Pell leaves on the day of her wedding to discover herself, only to discover that some things about herself she already knew. In Vamoose, a young girl gives birth to a moose baby and has to come to terms with her non-human child.

Rosoff never writes the same thing twice and is constantly surprising and constantly delightful. The surprises and delight are even more so in There Is No Dog. And though the novels that came before it are all gems of particular hues, There Is No Dog shines brightest for me. It’s funny, ingenious, captivating and wonderful.

What is truly captivating about the novel is how human the immortal characters are. Rosoff shows us through plight, clever word play and everyday situations that even the divine can be human. Is it a commentary on religion and spirituality? Is it a commentary on what humans do to the world, the plight of the environment and the animals that live within the world? Perhaps.

But even more so, it is about the faith that we must have in each other and the belief in miracles that keeps us whole and positively brimming with life.

Now that is something worth reading about. All I can say is: Read this book. It is beautiful, witty, funny, delightful and wonderful in every way. Read this book and believe in the possibility of miracles.

Circle of Fire by Michelle Zink

8 Jul

 

Dear Michelle,

I’m about to start your finish your Prophecy of the Sisters trilogy for the forth time.

By now, I’ve also read the new Prophecy of the Sisters trilogy and reading the original trilogy after the information of the three novellas has given the trilogy a different and incredible vibrant intensity for me.

When Circle of Fire came out in 2011 year, I bought all three ebooks. I wanted to read the first two books in the trilogy (Prophecy of the Sisters and Guardian of the Gate) first, before reading Circle of Fire.

Even though it was sitting there, inside my ebook reader, I waited to read Circle of Fire. I wanted the story fresh in my head. I’m so glad I did! The story, the world, the characters you created came alive in Circle of Fire and burned the page right up.

I really wasn’t sure how you were going to do it, end a trilogy that I have become (like so many others) so emotionally invested in. What would happen to Alice? Dear god, what would happen to Lia? How would so many plot threads resolve themselves? Would the victors be victorious?

You blew all my expectations out of the water. Circle of Fire was more than I could have hoped for in the ending of a trilogy. It was thrilling, captivating, riveting and amazing. I loved every word, even though I knew that the end would soon come.

I’ve tried to think of how to tell you how much I enjoyed your book; so I decided just to tell you. I looked at the signed Circle of Fire bookplate this evening and it reminded me just how wonderful your books are (that and the postcard, thanks so MUCH for that! I collect them!).

I have now ordered my hard cover copy of Circle of Fire (to put beside my hardcover copies of Prophecy of the Sisters and Guardian of the Gate) so that I can put my bookplate in it. I can’t wait for the order to come in so I can put Circle of Fire right next to your new novel, A Temptation of Angels, giving me a complete set of your books (eBook and Print). I can tell I’m a book geek when having the whole set excites me beyond words.

Thank you for giving me such a thrilling ride, such real characters, such an incredible adventure.

I loved every word of it.

Cheers,

Jamieson

The Iron Knight by Julie Kagawa

8 Jul

 

I will admit that I had high hopes for The Iron Knight.

The Iron King, The Iron Daughter and The Iron Queen (as well as Winters Passage and Summers Crossing) all blew me out of the water. But I wondered how well Kagawa would do changing narrators. We knew Meghan so well, we had seen the characters (cool and beautiful Ash, delightful Puck, sly Grim) only through her eyes.

How would Ash’s story, told in his own words, measure up? Would it be as good as the previous books? The answer is no.

It was better. In fact, I would go so far to say that it was the best in the series.

Not only did Ash finally get to tell his own story, his words added depth to all that had come before it. No longer the elusive love interest, Ash became a true hero, a true Iron Knight.

I thought I knew what to expect when I delved into the Iron Knight. Julie Kagawa thankfully blew all those expectations out of the water. Not only did she deliver a compelling plot, amazing characters, a thrilling story; she also gave us a depth to a character that I already thought I knew.

Though there is little romance in The Iron Knight, don’t let that deter you. Ash is on a quest to become mortal so that he can be with the one woman he truly loves. He is willing to give up everything he is to become something he is not so that he can be with her. If that isn’t love, I don’t know what is.

The Iron Knight, frankly, is the best YA fantasy novel I have read in years and that includes the previous books in the series. Somehow, Kagawa keeps getting better and keeps topping herself.

I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next!

But here’s the truth of it: any book in The Iron Fey Series totally kicks and awesomely rocks. I know, that sounds funny, but it’s true. It was so hard for me to pick the best book in this series. The Iron Queen, Summers Crossing and The Iron Knight were all published this year.

So any book in this series is an amazing read. But The Iron Knight ended up being my favourite this year. Because it was the end.

And it was oh so wonderful.

Blood Bound by Rachel Vincent

8 Jul

 

I have just recently finished reading this book for a second time and enjoyed it even more than the first read through. And the book only came out on August 23rd. I got my copy as a birthday present for myself (what with my birthday being on the 22nd of August, after all). So why have I read a book twice in less than six months?

The book is just THAT good, THAT amazing, THAT thrilling. I have always loved Vincent’s work (her Shifter series rocks and her Soul Screamers series is top notch) but she’s gone above and beyond with Blood Bound. In fact, she’s come up with a storyline so incredible that it could almost redefine paranormal romance.

Liv Warren is a Tracker. And not an ordinary Tracker, she tracks by blood. She is one of the Skilled, one of those with an ability that makes her more than human. Set in a time not unlike our own, this world comes with a whole new set of rules.

Bound to four friends when she was a young girl, Liv is surprised by a visit from her childhood friend Anne. Her husband Shen has been killed and Anne wants Liv to track the killer…and then kill him. Though Liv wants to refuse, the oath they swore as children was Bound by blood. Liv has no choice but to obey.

Anne brings along another Tracker, Cam Caballero. Compelled to work with him against her will, Liv all too well remembers the touch of Cam’s lips against hers, the touch of his hands along her body and the heart she broke six years ago. She left Cam to protect him. But who will protect her heart?

The two must work together to find Shen’s killer. But they are working against the clock and there are those out there that are working against them.

There are more than just other Trackers to worry about, however. There are Travellers, Binders, Jammers, and those that know the truth. It is a world where nothing is safe, where blood is sacred and the game is on a whole other kind of playing field.

In a world with crime syndicates, oaths and blood, is anyone truly safe?

Rachel Vincent has REALLY outdone herself with Blood Bound. Nothing is what you think it is and no one’s secrets are safe. The book is so awesome, I may have to read it again before Shadow Bound comes out next year.

If you want a thrill ride that will suck you in from page one and not let you go till the very last page, this is the book you want to read.

Anna’s Tears by Nathalie M. Holmes

8 Jul

 

I’ve been trying for some time to sum up how I reacted to this book. How do you review something when you have a reaction to something so moving and powerful. Someone recently asked me what the literary themes of the novel would be.

My mind drew a blank. Not because Anna’s Teas is a forgettable book. Quite the opposite, in fact; but how do you sum up such a literary jewel in a few words? I had to take a moment to think about that. However, before we begin, here’s the book blurb:

 

How deep do the scars on one family run, and can the wounded dare hope for healing?

Anna’s Tears, the stirring, starkly honest work of fiction by Nathalie M. Holmes, mines the inherited anguish of one family, which spans generations and countries. Throughout, the road to redemption is as hard-won as its matriarch Anna’s painfully absent tears. This elegant, hard-edged work is certain to resonate with readers seeking a masterfully written journey deep into the heart, which illuminates the tender mercies that emerge from the long-hidden damages of life.

In a cold stretch of Canada, Helene desperately tries to both overcome and suppress a childhood of trauma, alcoholism and sexual abuse. Through booze-fueled, foggy nights of high risk and deep regret, Helene leers through her early adulthood, fighting flashes of early memories that are too horrible to bear, and instead inflicting her own fresh pain. Beyond the painful miasma of her childhood, Helene is convinced that there is something even more disturbing in her family’s furtive past.

Helene seeks cold comfort in her paternal grandmother, Anna, whose taciturn, inarticulate sadness offers her a curious refuge. Anna’s tragic story starts before the Second World War in Holland and ends when she moves to Canada after having endured some of the most unimaginable ravages of war. Ernst, who is Helene’s father, is tormented by his own legacy of ghosts, which manifest themselves in a dysfunctional marriage to his wife Jolie, whose blatant narcissism and alcoholism submerge her own self-hatred. The die is cast to propagate an inherited despair, which only the fiercest of reckonings can combat.

A visceral, gripping foray into rough psychological terrain, Anna’s Tears travels to the heart of a family’s darkness to find its way toward the light of hope. With evocative detail of events both past and present, this stunning work guides readers through time and psyche, and ensures they emerge with transformative hope.

 

I should say two things before I forget: The book blurb doesn’t even come CLOSE to describing how amazing this book is; it doesn’t capture the realness of the characters or the beauty of the story. It also describes the story better than I could ever dream possible. I don’t have enough words to describe how incredible this book is.

If I were to come close, I would describe it as a patchwork quilt of time and secrets. However, that doesn’t talk about the depth of the characters, the quality of the novel nor the talent of first time author Nathalie M. Holmes.

I find it difficult to believe that it is her first book; she paints with words, rather than write with them; the result is a lovely kind of liquid poetry that plays with time, shadow and shared grief. Holmes has covered some dark territory in her novel, but ends up writing with an aplomb that many writers achieve. Time flows like water over the page and all you can do is keep reading, needing to know what happens.

I think that’s pretty close, but it does little to encapsulate my emotional response to Anna’s Tears. Anna may have not cried any tears, but I sure did. With grace and stark honesty, Holmes pens a story that will touch everyone that reads it and haunt them long after the last page has been turned.

Though the plights of Anna, Helen, Jolie and Ernst and their connections to each other, are difficult to read at times, it is only because the people that fill these pages are so real. You feel as if you know them (or at least I did) and grow to know them as you fall into their lives.

Anna’s Tears is a moving, emotionally provoking tale that is right up there with Ordinary People by Judith Guest, In Search of Adam by Caroline Smailes and The Road by Cormac McCarthy. Stark, brilliant and honest, Holmes uses multiple narrators and multiple times to weave her story.

The results are absolutely amazing. I only hope it’s not too long till the release of Holme’s next novel.

I can hardly wait to take another journey with her.