[687]: A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

22822858 A lifetime of self-inflicted cruelty, and abuse suffered in the hands of others.


A Little Life
by Hanya Yanagihara

This modern day classic was not the easiest novel to read. In fact, the author seemed determined to give her readers the most horrendous time possible while reading her book. I don’t do well with angst; so most of the time, I was taut with tension. Bracing myself for the horrible account of what made Jude, Jude. 

I read somewhere that while she was writing this book, she had a fight with her editor about just how much she’s willing to put her readers through. And I’m not gonna lie, about halfway through the novel, I didn’t think I was going to make it. Jude St. Francis’ life is far from little, as the title would suggest. He might’ve felt like he was insignificant at times, but he was the centre of his family’s and friends’ universe. You’ll never meet a more broken character than Jude. But I’m not going to enumerate all the ways this man has suffered. I don’t want to scare the pants out of you. Besides, I’ve already given you a tidbit into his life with my intro, so I don’t think you need to know more.

Let me tell you this, though: This book is brilliant, amazing, and horrible all at once. It’s the kind that will force you to take breaks because everything is horrific, yet grotesquely beautiful. It does not offer comfort or joy to anyone brave enough to read it. But what it gives you is a sense of satisfaction. Like finishing a long suffering marathon you did not train for. And even though you wanted to quit in the midst of the race, it’s physically impossible. Because it’s too late. Your body is screaming at you to cross that yellow ribbon. In as much as your heart, your soul – everything about you becomes so inevitably invested in the story that the idea of quitting hurts more than not knowing what happens next.

Jude St. Francis only ever known of unhappiness and heartbreak literally all his life. It started when he was abandoned, half-naked, by a dumpster when he was a baby. And in here, the reader would question whether or not he was better off freezing to death. Because his life of torture and abuse began when he was taken in by the “brothers” of a monastery. He eventually escaped, but he was far from saved. Things got bad to worst; so bad that at some point, he wished he could go back to the monsters in that monastery. He was only 14 when the man he thought was his saviour pimped him out. And here is where I stop. I can’t go on rehashing all the terrible things that was done to him or what he’s done to himself. Like I said, I struggled all throughout this novel. But try as I might, I couldn’t stop. And now, I’m exhausted, beaten-up and all cried out.

Blessedly, it does have its moments of joy but the angst far outweigh it all. In as much as he lacked any healthy relationships growing up, he found himself loved during his adulthood. There were his friends from college that lasted decades: Willem who looked after him all his life; JB with whom he had a difficult friendship but was there with him the longest; Malcolm who made sure he has everything he needed in his own way; Andy who knew everything that had happened to him and have cared for his medical needs till the end. The author explored all the nuances and complexities of Jude’s relationships with the people around him. Not all of them were healthy, but it highlighted the kind of character Jude was.

At times, I felt Jude’s stories of abuse seem excessive. So I would step back and take a breather to compose myself; to think of why it was wholly necessary not to gloss over facts. Yanagihara was far from exploitative. She just has this uncanny talent of flaying her characters until they’re inside out. Jude is not the easiest character to like at times. His self-flagellation was excruciating to read. I wanted to yell at him; shake him until he saw sense. I wanted him to love himself as much as he loved Willem or Andy or Harold and Julia. And yet, I also wanted to take him home and watch over him like I’d watch my own child. I know with full clarity that I share the same feelings about Jude amongst those who cared for him. They loved him whole-heartedly, yes. But nobody really understood his propensity for destruction.

 

 

[686]: Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood

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Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood
Knofp Canada | October 11th, 2016
Source: Paperback ARC from publisher
Adult Fiction
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars


When Felix is deposed as artistic director of the Makeshiweg Theatre Festival by his devious assistant and longtime enemy, his production of The Tempest is canceled and he is heartbroken. Reduced to a life of exile in rural southern Ontario—accompanied only by his fantasy daughter, Miranda, who died twelve years ago—Felix devises a plan for retribution.

Eventually he takes a job teaching Literacy Through Theatre to the prisoners at the nearby Burgess Correctional Institution, and is making a modest success of it when an auspicious star places his enemies within his reach. With the help of their own interpretations, digital effects, and the talents of a professional actress and choreographer, the Burgess Correctional Players prepare to video their Tempest. Not surprisingly, they view Caliban as the character with whom they have the most in common. However, Felix has another twist in mind, and his enemies are about to find themselves taking part in an interactive and illusion-ridden version of The Tempest that will change their lives forever. But how will Felix deal with his invisible Miranda’s decision to take a part in the play?


This is Margaret Atwood’s interpretation of The Tempest for the Hogarth Shakespeare series. I’ve been trying to keep pace with every instalment and have made it my goal to read all the books. The operative word here is “try”. As in I’ve tried reading Shylock is My Name by Howard Jacobson but I had a rough time. I had to set it aside, unfortunately. I’ve mentioned it before that the reason why I was excited about this series of books is because it allows plebian readers such as myself to appreciate Shakespeare indirectly. Kinda like osmosis. We all know Shakespeare has his own trademarked language; one that’s hard to interpret. So these books are heaven-sent.

BUT. But. Margaret Atwood’s and Howard Jacobson’s contributions left me floundering. Their writing chops went beyond my comprehension which is so depressingly bad. How am I supposed to elevate my reading and comprehension skills if I can’t follow along with their writing? Atwood and Jacobson are a couple of prolific and award-winning writers. I feel awful for not being able to enjoy their takes on Shakespeare’s The Tempest and Merchant of Venice, respectively. Gah.

In any case, Hag-Seed follows the story of Felix Phillips; the aritistic director of a Shakespeare company who suddenly found himself out of a job. He was, for the most part, a difficult person to work for. He’s eccentric, with an unorthodox method of directing a play. When he was unceremoniously relieved of his job, he goes into hiding. He bided his time for 12 years; planning, scheming until he can go back to doing what he loved.

When an opportunity arises in the form of teaching literacy to inmates, he grabbed at the chance and spun it in a way that he can teach and direct at the same time. It was brilliant, really. His chance at revenge to the same production company that wronged him.

I really wanted to like this. Ultimately, and as much as I can appreciate why Atwood is a genius, her writing went over my head. I’m embarrassed to admit that. But I have accumulated a small selection of her books.  She has a mastery of language all on her own – which was a problem of mine with Shakespeare’s work, to begin with. No matter how beautiful her prose is, I’m not the right reader for her books. It also doesn’t help that I’m not familiar with The Tempest. There is something wholly intricate about it that bears studying. Given time, I think I will be able to catch up. Unfortunately, that’s not today, and it’s not this book.

Life Lately: November

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Hey, guys.

How’s it going? This month-end recap is coming to you early.

I had the worst stretch of book buying binges in the last couple of weeks, you guys. Book Outlet, as cheap as their books are, is not a very good place for people like me. One with no self-control whatsoever. As of this writing, three boxes have shown up on my doorstep. I was able to discreetly hide the first box that came from my husband, but not so much for the second box when our post man delivered it straight to his hands. Sigh. It’s out of control. I might have to do this thing they’re doing on YouTube where they cull their collection by donating or selling it online. I’ll show you what I got one day (maybe).

So. November. I had a slow reading month on account of November 8. And if you don’t know what I’m talking about, then, good for you. I envy you for being spared from knowing what went down. I read 10 books in total. Though I should say I read 11 because A Little Life by Hanya Yanigahara clocked in at 800 pages which should really account for two books instead of one. But I digress. I tend to gravitate towards my comfort reads when I’m having a tough time so you can tell I struggled a lot this month since I read 4 Sandra Brown Books. On the night of the election, after I shut off social media and any coverage on TV, I went and re-read The Hating Game by Sally Thorne. I knew I was going to need reinforcement and that novel, though, it didn’t completely alleviate the depression, at least helped for a bit. So thank you, Sally Thorne.

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(Sorry about the formatting. I have very little patience today. Lol.)

I was relatively absent from blogging this past month because: reasons. I barely wrote any reviews and barely did my rounds. December might be a slow month as well as we head into the Holiday season. But I’m looking forward to the small break during Christmas.

I used my Instagram picture for this post because I want to give you a fair warning that you might see a vlog post here once in a while. I shot my first video yesterday (3 times) but I think I’m going to re-shoot because I look like an awkward spazzing moron. Sigh. So, you know. Get ready.

Thanks for reading!

[685]: One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid

27189194 One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Stand Alone | Adult Contemporary Romance
Washington Square Press | Paperback, 327 pp.
Publication Date: June 7th, 2016
Source: Bought
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars


In her twenties, Emma Blair marries her high school sweetheart, Jesse. They build a life for themselves, far away from the expectations of their parents and the people of their hometown in Massachusetts. They travel the world together, living life to the fullest and seizing every opportunity for adventure.

On their first wedding anniversary, Jesse is on a helicopter over the Pacific when it goes missing. Just like that, Jesse is gone forever.

Emma quits her job and moves home in an effort to put her life back together. Years later, now in her thirties, Emma runs into an old friend, Sam, and finds herself falling in love again. When Emma and Sam get engaged, it feels like Emma’s second chance at happiness.

That is, until Jesse is found. He’s alive, and he’s been trying all these years to come home to her. With a husband and a fiancé, Emma has to now figure out who she is and what she wants, while trying to protect the ones she loves.

Who is her one true love? What does it mean to love truly?

Emma knows she has to listen to her heart. She’s just not sure what it’s saying.


With incredible trepidation, I finally succumbed to the peer pressure and took this book off my TBR shelf. I was a little wary of the story, to be honest. Going in, I knew that a love triangle was in the offing. Most of you who has recommended this book probably tried to placate us in some way. That the irritation we will feel for that unfortunate relationship dynamic will be temporary, albeit heightened. Well, I’m glad y’all talked me into reading this. If you’ve ever seen someone in tears while vacuuming, then you can imagine the state I was in while listening to the audio book. I cried when one of her loves disappeared. I cried when her other love gave her the freedom to choose. It was very emotional, with a love triangle that I didn’t think I could stomach let alone appreciate.

I get it now. Taylor Jenkins Reid writes with incredible introspective into relationships. And this after only reading one book. It wasn’t just about the delicate relationships between three people who found themselves in a precarious situation. One that could spell heartbreak for a lot of people involved. She also wrote about a family with realistic dynamics. Readers will see the ever changing kinship between sisters; one that started out as fragile as sibling relationships go but would eventually strengthened with the passing of time. In this book, family is everything. Emma’s family was there to help her pick up the pieces when her husband disappeared; and they were there when her fiance decided to give her time and space.

As for the dreaded love triangle, I say hike up your skirts and just dive into it. It will hurt for a bit but the ending will be nothing short of a joyous reward.

Feed My Reader

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I need some good romance recommendations, y’all. Since my Kindle came back to life, I’ve managed to read a bunch of really good romance novels. I’ve particularly enjoyed Vi Keeland’s and Penelope Ward’s collaboration. But ever since then, the rest of the books that I’ve downloaded wasn’t really floating my boat. So I’m wondering if you can recommend something good and easy.

I’ve taken to re-reading the books that I’ve recently downloaded which sucks because I’m wasting valuable reading time. So I’m wondering if you’d recommend something good for me?

Tropes  I Like

  • Once Again, with Feelings. I suppose this is better known as second-chance romance; where one of the characters left abruptly (or not) for whatever reasons, then come back. They realize that whatever they’re searching for somewhere else was right where they were all along.
  • I Hate You but I’m not Going to Kick You Off My Bed. Ah when characters realize the hate they feel for another is directly proportionate to how much they want to sleep them. Sometimes, these characters will go through a self-hating spell that tend to get annoying. But hey, the sexy times tend to be hot when tempers are a part of the equation.
  • One Night Stand = Bun in the Oven. I looove this trope. I know some of you probably hate surprise pregnancies in romance novels but I can’t get enough of them! I love that moment when the dad sees their spawns and recognizes why the face looks familiar.
  • I Want To Take A Ride on Your Harley. Bikers. Yep. They’re cavemen and they’re infuriatingly bossy. But I love reading these books even though the feminist in me wilts every time I say that out loud.
  • I’m Julia Roberts to Your Richard Gere. Billionaires, man. Billionaires. This is one of those instances when I’m embarrassed to admit it, but, hey. We’re friends, right? And my secret is your secret. *winks*
  • Heaving Bossoms and Flowing Locks. Otherwise known as historical romance, yo. Y’all have been all over them lately and I can’t freaking keep up! Give me the bestest you can think of that has a combination of one, two, or three of the above tropes I mentioned. That would be super cool!

So let me know if you have some good recommendations for me because goodness knows I need something to be happy about these days. Sigh. 

Morsels [18]: The Protector and Trust

27860802 The Protector by Jodi Ellen Malpas
Forever | September 6th, 2016
Paperback, 384 pp.
Source: Bought
Adult Fiction | Romance | Suspense
Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars


This is one of those many occasions when I let the cover duped me into thinking I’m in for a great read. Bodyguard romances come once in a blue moon that when I see one, I’m instantly chomping at he bits to read it.

Unfortunately, The Protector was a disappointing read. The plot was a slog and the romance was lacklustre. Aside from the attractiveness of the two characters, there wasn’t much there – no chemistry to speak of or any personality developments to make it worth my while. The writing was passable, if a little plebian. It tried so hard to create a sexual tension but I saw through the frail attempt.

When you’re able to judge a book midway through and know that there’s nothing else it could offer, you know the pretty cover led you astray again. Don’t get me wrong, I finished it cover to cover and gave it fair chance but when you can’t even pretend to care about the characters in the slightest bit, you know you’re beating a dead horse.

Don’t expect too much.

♥♥♥♥♥♥

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Goodreads Summary
Trust by Jana Aston
Series: Wrong, #3 | Kindle Edition
Self Published | November 8th, 3016
Source: Bought
Adult Fiction | Romance
Rating 4 out of 5 Stars


I have read the first two books from this series and skipped the litte novella in between. I will probably read that at some point, but I found this book while browsing through Amazon a couple of days ago and couldn’t resist. Wrong series is a lot of fun. It’s a funny, no-holds barred sexy read. I was looking forward to reading Chloe’s story because she’s one of those awkward women I love reading about. The idea that we might kindred spirits occur to me in more ways than one.

Anyway, this is her story and how she kept finding herself in awkward, humorous situations in the most unintentional way. She’s ridiculous sometimes which makes her all the more adorable! She has a thing for federal agents in suits. Enter Boyd Gallagher, Sophie’s half brother. In as much as the book above left me feeling cold, Trust by Jana Aston left me hot and bothered. Chloe and Boyd has a natural chemistry that’s very convincing.

My only complaint is that for a full lenght novel, this sure feels very short. Regardless, this was a solid romance meant to whisk you away from the miseries of your day.

 

Hot Off the Press [24]: November 22nd, 2016

November 22nd, 2016 New Releases

Hello. Here’s a short list of books coming out today to help you while you’re out there trying to decide what to buy. Don’t say I never did anything for y’all. 🙂


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The Spy by Paulo Coelho | Over the Edge by Meredith Wild | I’ll Take You There by Wally Lamb | Fate of Flames by Sarah Raughley

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Trouble Makes a Comeback by Stephanie Tromly | Dying for Christmas by Tammy Cohen | Of Fireand Stars by audry Coulthurst | Kadence by Anne Mercier 

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Conclave by Robert Harris | Shadow Fall by Audrey Grey | Out of Bounds by Lauren Blakely | I call Myself A Feminist by Various Authors

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Moonglow by Michael Chabon | Arcanum Unbounded by Brandon Sanderson | Scythe by Neal Shusterman | Victoria by Daisy Goodwin

So what’s it gonna be?

Life Lately

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When We Rise: My Life in the Movement by Cleve Jones | Born a Crime by Trevor Noah | The Dark Days Pact by Alison Goodman | I See You by Clare Mackintosh | The Chemist by Stephenie Meyer | Up Close and Dangerous by Linda Howard | Open Season by Linda Howard | Heartless by Marissa Meyer | Dark Possession by Christine Feehan | Everyone We’ve Been by Sarah Everett | Twelve Days of Dash & Lily by Rachel Cohn and David Leviathan | Paper Girls, Vol. 1 by Brian K. Vaughn, Cliff Chiang & Matthew Wilson | The Sword by The Luna Brothers | The Captive Prince Trilogy by C.S. Pacat


Hello.

Sorry for the Harry Houdini act again. I wasn’t in the right frame of mind after the election results so I could neither read nor write much about anything. Yesterday’s post took two weeks to write but I felt like it was necessary for me to do so I can get my ass back to doing what I used to love (reading and blogging).

I have been in and out of blogging lately but have tried my best to visit. Some days, I’m able to sit and read your posts, but most days, I just didn’t have it in me. You have no idea how much I appreciate you all for being one of the constant things that I can rely on. Anyway, thank you, and I hope to move on from all the ugly things that’s been going on in the world in and outside of this community.

San Diego

Last week was our annual pilgrimage to San Diego. We watched a game, enjoyed the food and sunshine and bought some books (naturally). I was a little worried about the kind of environment we will experience so soon after the election but I’d forgotten that California is a blue state, so it was relatively anti-Von Clownstick.

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Book Tube.

Gasps! I know, right? Basically, ever since that hullabaloo that happened a couple of weeks back (it seemed like years ago, really), I ended up checking out what it’s all about. And I’m not gonna lie, I’ve found some pretty entertaining, informative book tubers out in the wild.

Steve Donoghue: He is the most knowledgeable booktuber I’ve found so far. He’s a book critic who publishes written reviews on several e-zines. He’s prolific and he hauls books like it’s nobody’s business. His videos are raw and unadorned by distracting graphics but if it’s content you’re after, then he’s your man. He’s not a fan boy who gets over excited about the “feels”, or “characters he’d totally ship”. His giddy enthusiasm for books are genuine. It’s a pure joy to watch him get really excited in his subtle, gentlemanly way.

Climb the Stacks: She hasn’t updated in a while, but her book reviews are pretty prolific. I spent a good amount of time watching her vids and soaking up her recommendations in the literary fiction genre. If that’s something you’re interested in, you should check out her channel.

Unboxing Book Hauls. So addictive! One night, I spent a lot of time watching book tubers unbox their Book Outlet orders. At the end of the night, I ended up ordering 23 books in total! Good grief. I need to stop watching these videos for two reasons: 1 – I don’t need any more books! 2 – it’s giving me a sense of false confidence that I can actually film myself and do this book tubing thing. Not that I want to, really. I’m just saying that I could. Maybe.

Anyway, that’s what’s been going on in my life since my absence. I’d like to thank Penguin Random House Canada and Hachette Book Group for the review copies I’d gotten this week! Also, thank you all again. I’m going to do my absolute best to catch up on what’s been going on in your lives as well.

Happy reading, y’all!

 

When Everything Else Becomes Insignificant

img_2504I’m sure a lot of us have been trying to come to terms with the outcome of the US’ presidential election. Some of you are probably jubilant that your candidate won. For the rest of us, however, it will probably take a bit of time (and therapy). And I know it’s hard – especially to the Americans who knew what was at stake going into the polls. So as we slowly – painstakingly find out how this election will shape history for the future generation, it’s hard not to feel anything else but fear and worry. It’s difficult to give him a chance when the people he is surrounding himself with are people whose beliefs are based on the exact things we’ve opposed him to begin with.

As a woman, and one who has followed Hillary’s career as a politician, I’m devastated. She has given me so much hope and courage to never settle, never give up and to keep fighting. Now more than ever, I’m reminded of all the ways her character has been unjustly assassinated during the course of her political life. Before she was the governor’s wife, she stood in the face of patriarchy and would continue to struggle to find her place in a world full of men who are uncomfortable with what she stands for. I, however, will always know her for the woman who fights for the children; for a charitable organization who continues to help the poor and the sick. For the environment; for the racial, social, and gender inequalities of the world.

 I will never forget what I learned in the last two years. I will never forget the hate and the ignorance. I will never forget the anger and the intolerance. I will never forget the lies and the manipulation. I will never forget to hope and be courageous. Most of all, I will never forget what she’s taught me and my daughter about a woman’s rightful place in this world.

Thank you, Hillary.

[684]: Metaltown by Kristen Simmons

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Metaltown by Kristen Simmons
Tor Teen | September 20th, 2016
Source: Publisher, Finished Copy
Young Adult Fiction | Steampunk
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars


Metaltown, where factories rule, food is scarce, and hope is in short supply.

The rules of Metaltown are simple: Work hard, keep your head down, and watch your back. You look out for number one, and no one knows that better than Ty. She’s been surviving on the factory line as long as she can remember. But now Ty has Colin. She’s no longer alone; it’s the two of them against the world. That’s something even a town this brutal can’t take away from her. Until it does.

Lena’s future depends on her family’s factory, a beast that demands a ruthless master, and Lena is prepared to be as ruthless as it takes if it means finally proving herself to her father. But when a chance encounter with Colin, a dreamer despite his circumstances, exposes Lena to the consequences of her actions, she’ll risk everything to do what’s right.

In Lena, Ty sees an heiress with a chip on her shoulder. Colin sees something more. In a world of disease and war, tragedy and betrayal, allies and enemies, all three of them must learn that challenging what they thought was true can change all the rules.

An enthralling story of friendship and rebellion, Metaltown will have you believing in the power of hope.


I have not had the most successful reading experiences with Kristen’s books in the past. Because I’m a romance reader first and foremost, I often found the lack of romance a detriment. Colour me surprised when Metaltown changed all that.

As what you’ve probably already know, this book is a brutal take on a world of absolute desolation. With a metal industry in the background, and a ruling caste intent on enslaving the poor, it was not the easiest book to get through. What it has an abudance of, however, are stories of survival and determination from the cast of characters. There’s something to be said about the torturous struggle the characters go through. I, as a reader, was able to feel a deeper appreciation for their successes – no matter how big or small. And because the world is not especially pleasant, you can say the characters have strong hearts and even stronger stomachs.

Kristen Simmons knows how to create a world out of the deepest despair you can imagine. There was never a doubt about that going into Metaltown. In fact, I braced myself for what was to come. This time around though, I savoured every single sliver of glittering metal shavings. It’s so effectively visceral that you can almost smell and taste the iron in the air.

Metaltown took me by surprise. It may  have started a bit slow at first, but once you get past that hurdle, it’s smooth sailing from there. If you like to read about underdogs exacting due justice to those who’ve wronged them, this book might give you a bit of satisfaction. I enjoyed the gritty world – no matter how difficult it was at times. I especially love Ty. She’s a spunky girl with a big heart even if the person who was supposed to watch her back treated her unfairly on more than one occasion.