April 2018


marrowGah! This book, you guys.

Francis, though everyone calls him Frenchie, is on the run from the “recruiters”.  Pretty much every Indigenous person is because their bone marrow holds the key to dreaming, which is something white folks no longer have the ability to do.

“Dreams get caught in the webs woven in your bones. That’s where they live, in that marrow there.”

“You are born with them. Your DNA weaves them into the marrow like spinners….That’s where they pluck them from.”

It’s sometime in the not too distant future and we’ve pretty much wrecked the Earth. Because of course we have. When Cherie Dimaline’s YA novel The Marrow Thieves opens, Frenchie is holed up in a tree house with his older brother, Mitch. But then the recruiters show up, and the boys are separated, and Frenchie finds himself on the run once more.

The characters in The Marrow Thieves are all too aware of their rocky history with the Canadian government, and sharing those stories is part of what keeps them focused on getting to safety, which in this case is north where they hope they will find fresh water and clean air and freedom.  So north is the direction Frenchie heads and it isn’t long before he meets a group of travelers. Frenchie joins this ad hoc family and his adventure begins.

The dystopian nature of this novel is really only the story’s framework. It’s enough to know that these people are considered ‘other’ and useful only for what they can provide to the government. Their current plight mirrors the whole residential school debacle, a part of my country’s history, I am ashamed to admit, I was grossly ignorant of until recently.  Those places were less about assimilation (and even that is abhorrent)  and more about annihilation.

The real story, the heartbeat of Dimaline’s novel, is the characters and their stories – both individually (which they tell in their own ‘Coming-To’ stories) and collectively. Getting to know these people felt like a privilege; I fell in love with them and the way they looked out for each other. I experienced a real fear for their safety and on the few occasions they were rewarded with something good, I felt that, too.

I will not forget these people, their connection to the Earth and each other, for a long time. The Marrow Thieves should be required reading for all Canadians…and, trust me, once you start reading, you won’t want to put it down anyway.

Highly recommended.

 

 

 

 

Savage-Bonds-cover-194x300Canadian author Ana Medeiros’ The Raven Room Trilogy follows the sexcapades of Dr. Julian Reeve, a child psychologist, and journalism student Meredith Dalton. Sometimes you can jump into a series without having read the first book, but I really felt like I was at a severe disadvantage reading book two in Medeiros’ trilogy. Savage Bonds picks up where The Raven Room leaves off, but for a newbie reader, I literally had no sweet clue what was going on and I never felt as though I was sufficiently caught up.

This is what I do know:

Julian Reeves is addicted to the darker side of sex which, as a card-carrying member of The Raven Club, he has access to. He’s also addicted to drugs. And he has a troubled and complicated past which is somehow connected to Tatiana and Alana. And when Savage Bonds opens he is being questioned by the cops (one of whom just happens to be Meredith’s step-mother, Pam) because Alana is dead and Tatiana is missing.

When another woman with connections to The Raven Room (and Julian) turns up dead, Meredith decides that she needs to investigate. That’s because Julian is Meredith’s lover (or was her lover; they don’t get it on in this book although Meredith gets around and shares Julian’s predilection for rough sex, or at least sex of the non-vanilla variety.)

Many of these relationships seem to have been established in the first book – so it’s really difficult for me to give this book a fair shake considering I spent  lot of time just trying to keep these people straight; I was definitely missing backstory. Although, ultimately, I wonder if backstory would have helped me enjoy this story any more.

I have read a lot of erotica. And a fair amount of BDSM-flavoured erotica…and Savage Bonds didn’t really up the ante. I mean if  The Raven Room is supposed to be this super-sekrit underground club, shouldn’t it be special? A little bloodplay and anonymous blow jobs don’t really scream exclusivity to me. Worse, without the benefit of what came before I just didn’t care about any of these players and all their interactions with each other seemed shrill or forced. Am I supposed to be rooting for Julian because of his troubled past? Am I supposed to be shipping Julian and Meredith?

From what I could tell on the Internet, readers seemed to really enjoy The Raven Room and were quite anxious to read Savage Bonds. A few of them, though, had some of the same issues with this book that I did…and they were invested going in.

So – maybe start with The Raven Room and see how you feel. I won’t be backtracking because, honestly, the whole thing was just meh for me.

Thanks to TLC for the opportunity to review this book.

 

1001-Ways-to-Be-Creative-cover-300x300Creativity is a funny thing. I look around and see all these people who are tremendously creative. Both of my children are talented artists. My daughter spent many years studying ballet and is a beautiful dancer. Both my children are musical; my son taught himself to play guitar. I have other friends who are artists, painting with words or yarn or fabric or glass or clay. Some put their art on a plate. But I am probably not the only person on the planet who feels like they don’t have a creative bone in their body. I don’t draw or paint. I don’t dance. I can’t sing. The one thing I do like to do is write.  I love to do it and have been doing it for as long as I can remember.

In her book 1,001 Ways to Be Creative,  Barbara Ann Kipfer suggests that creativity “isn’t only about artistic skills; it is a way of seeing the world. It gives you the power to shape your life, unify and balance your interests, and emphasize your uniqueness.”

I love that Kipfer gives readers permission to explore their creativity. Honing it, she suggests, gives you “that inexplicable burst of inspiration that suddenly allows you to see from a new angle or bring something new into existence.” We might call that ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking and its value to every-day problem solving should not be under-estimated.

1,001 Ways to Be Creative offers is a lovely little book that will surely offer inspiration to people like me who probably don’t realize that they are creative (or could be) in a million different ways (or a 1,001) every single day. It’s all in how you look at it.

Kipfer’s suggestions include things like:

356. Ask a stupid question.

429. Look for the unusual in everything you do.

464. Use sealing wax as a dramatic way to end a letter.

494. Change your look for one day.

764. Observe, collect, analyze, and compare patterns.

868. Carve a face in a fruit or vegetable

Kipfer  “speaks to all who seek greater creativity in their lives.”  You can easily start your creative journey with this book.

Thanks to TLC for the opportunity to review this book.

Never-List-Blog-pictureThe Never List never really got off the ground for me, although the premise had a lot of potential. Koethi Zan’s debut novel is the story of Sarah, a reclusive young woman who is still suffering from the psychological scars of having been held captive by a sadist, Dr. Jack Derber.

There were four of us down there for the first thirty-two months and eleven days of our captivity. And then, very suddenly and without warning, there were three. Even though the fourth person hadn’t made any noise at all in several months, the room got very quiet when she was gone. For a long time after that, we sat in silence, in the dark, wondering which of us would be next in the box.

That was ten years ago. Now Sarah is living a quiet life as Caroline. She’s an actuary in New York City (specifically chosen so that there would always be a lot of people around). Her therapy is at a standstill, she doesn’t have any meaningful relationships (unless you count Jim McCordy, an FBI agent) and she rarely leaves her apartment. Every so often Jack Derber sends Sarah a letter from prison, and it’s the latest letter and the fact that Jack’s parole hearing is coming up that sends Sarah digging into her past.

The novel’s title comes from Sarah and her best friend Jennifer’s ‘never list.’  The two girls, friends since childhood, had compiled a list of all the things they should avoid in order to lead a safe life: “never go to the campus library alone at night, never park more than six spaces from your destination, never trust a stranger with a flat tire. Never, never, never.”

Sarah’s decision to speak at Jack’s parole hearing, even though the thought of facing Jack again fills her with dread, is prompted by her love for Jennifer, who was the girl in the box and whose body was never recovered from Jack’s remote house, where the girls were kept chained in the cellar.

So, the ingredients for a creepy, twisted thriller, are certainly there, but there are lots of things that didn’t work. For one, too many characters and sub plots that just all come together in a rather unsatisfying way in the end. Also, Sarah’s character development was unbelievable. Can the reader really be expected to believe that a woman who is afraid to drive alone in the dark, will actually lead her fellow survivors back to the very place where they’d been held prisoner? Without police? Cue eye roll. And these reserves of strength come out of the blue.

Jack Derber is only seen through the eyes of other characters, so he is never really a threat. Whatever he was doing to those women – none of it is described. I don’t necessarily need to hear all the graphic details – I’ve got a pretty good imagination – but other than ‘the rack’ it’s all pretty vague. Likewise, a trip to a BDSM club is pretty vanilla. And although there is clearly something going on, with Jack Derber still safely behind bars Sarah (and the reader) hardly needs to worry about him.

Some readers will probably be genuinely freaked out by The Never List. For me, it was just okay.

fallingAmy Zhang’s novel Falling Into Place tells the story of sixteen-year-old Liz Emerson’s journey from happy child to miserable teen and the drastic choice she makes in an effort to end her emotional pain.

On the day Liz Emerson tries to die, they had reviewed Newton’s Law of  Motion in physics class. Then, after school, she put them into practice by running her Mercedes off the road.

Zhang’s elliptical novel cuts back and forth through time, unraveling Liz’s story in little non-linear pieces, while also offering us insight into the lives of Liz’s friends Kennie and Julia. Adults are pretty much non-existent in this story; Liz’s widowed mother is often away on business, leaving Liz to her own devices. (This usually means she’s partying & making out with random people, drinking alone or making herself puke.)

Liz’s car accident is no accident. She meticulously plans the event to look like an accident because she can’t stand the mess of her life – some of which is beyond her control, but some of which she created for herself. She reaches out, at the last minute, to her school’s guidance counselor, but he’s an ineffective lump (of course he is) and by then Liz has really already made up her mind.

Liz and her friends are shrill and often unkind and not entirely likeable. Which was a problem for me.  An unnamed first-person character recalls when Liz was happy and full of love, but it will be relatively obvious who that person is for careful readers.

She cannot bear to catch fireflies in jars. She hates zoos. She will not let her father teach her about constellations, because she will not trap the stars. She lives in a world made entirely of sky.

Although I didn’t find Liz particularly sympathetic, the glimpses into her childhood do humanize her. Her casual cruelty and lack of empathy, although perhaps realistic enough in today’s world, just didn’t work here the way it might work in a novel by someone like Courtney Summers. None of the characters felt real to me; they felt like shells.

Whether or not Liz survives her ‘accident’ is perhaps what will keep readers turning the pages, but for me, there was no real skin in the game.