Book Review: The Wild Book by Juan Villoro, Lawrence Schimel (Translator)

The Wild Book by Juan Villoro, Lawrence Schimel (Translator)

Publisher: Restless Books

Genre:Fantasy and Young Adult

Release Date: November 14, 2017

Pages: 240 (Hardcover)

Juan is looking forward to spending the summer having adventures with his best friend when he gets terrible news: not only are his parents separating, but he has to go live with his strange uncle Tito, who lives in a rambling home with three cats and about one million books. Shy and wary, Juan starts to explore Tito’s library, which is unlike any Juan has ever seen: the books are arranged in strange sections like “Motors That Make No Noise,” “Cheeses That Stink But Taste Delicious,” and “How to Govern Without Being President,” and some of them seem to change location each time you look for them. In fact, Tito tells him that a book finds a reader when it’s needed, and not the other way around.

Soon, Tito lets his nephew in on a secret: Juan is a Princeps Reader, to whom books respond in a very special way, and Tito needs his help finding a special volume called The Wild Book, which has never allowed itself to be read. Juan is joined in the quest by his little sister and the pretty girl who works at the pharmacy across the street, and together they battle the nefarious Pirate Book, which steals words out of existing stories. Over the summer, with the help of his new friends, Juan learns all sorts of secrets about world classics from Alice in Wonderland to The Metamorphosis, and overcomes his fear of change and the unfamiliar.

It should be said that Translations are tricky. Most times, they are not that great, they miss the point and style the author tries to convey. While I’ve read a few, this one, I believe, expresses the author’s intentions excellently because I loved this novel despite being geared towards a younger audience. The illustrations are also so insanely beautiful, the different ways in which the books come to life and illustrate the stories hidden inside of them. It’s awesome.

The entire adventure is great, the passion both Juan and Catalina display towards helping uncle Tito to find the wild book and using clever ideas like their own interests to greet the book. I also loved the books themselves–the personification put into them, the way they had real, honest emotions and even got sick is such a beautifully written and executed. The story is extremely intricate and the in-depth descriptions it gives of the different rooms, like the shadow room and the stature room is also beautiful.  Juan Villoro and Lawrence Schimel do a fantastic job with the writing and style (and so do all of the editors!). The story simply flows and reads off the page, it was hard to put this one down.

Luckily, the things that bothered me within this story are few. They pretty much all have to do with the ending. And looking at upon my notes, I do realize that this story is for a very young audience but still. I did not like the way it was so neatly tied up. It glosses over the good bits about Juan as an adult and how him and Catalina meet again or even after the summers ends. It’s just too tidy for my liking. It would have been nice if they explained the wild book more in-depth as they decided to do with other books.

Nonetheless, this story is a lot of fun. It relies on other stories and the imagination in order to get across to readers and it’s a light read. The characters are well-developed and I enjoyed reading all about their adventures, especially uncle Tito. I would love a story solely on him and his adventures in that beautiful library.

4 Dreamy Clouds

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Book Review: Ask Me How I Got Here by Christine Heppermann

Ask Me How I Got Here by Christine Heppermann

Publisher: Greenwillow

Genre: Contemporary and Young Adult

Release Date: May 3, 2016

Pages: 225 (Hardcover)

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Addie has always known what she was running toward. In cross-country, in life, in love. Until she and her boyfriend—her sensitive, good-guy boyfriend—are careless one night and she ends up pregnant. Addie makes the difficult choice to have an abortion. And after that—even though she knows it was the right decision for her—nothing is the same anymore. She doesn’t want anyone besides her parents and her boyfriend to know what happened; she doesn’t want to run cross-country; she can’t bring herself to be excited about anything. Until she reconnects with Juliana, a former teammate who’s going through her own dark places.

This will be a short and sweet review. Despite my feelings and how relative large the negative part of my review will be, I did enjoy Ask me How I Got Here. It’s cute, funny even. It’s not at all like most young adult books because it doesn’t waste time on unnecessary details. Still it does need work, things are not fleshed out. But I liked it. It’s a solid read.

The characters aren’t fleshed out well enough. Juliana comes into the story and into Addie’s life. It’s not a smooth transition and seems like she was added into the story as a second thought. There are also connections made between Addie and The Virgin Mary, however I was expecting more from it. I was expecting their stories to line up not perfectly, but better. Especially with their relationships with men, their emotions towards family, etc. As I read through all of my notes for this one, my biggest problem is with the characters. It sucks when a novel, beautifully written in verse fails to translate enough emotion through the characters. Claire and the brother should have been better. They fell flat and were not able to support Addie, the protagonist as much as they should have.

I loved Addie’s voice. No bullshit from her. It’s beautiful as she uses references from the Bible to explain her life through The Virgin Mary. Although I’m not at all religious, the way Heppermann weaves this into the story is lovely. I really enjoyed it.

Ask Me How I Got Here is an in between novel for me. It’s not bad but it isn’t particularly good either. If characters play the largest part of a novel for you, this might not be a novel for you. Nonetheless, it’s a story that’s not really talked about, especially in young adult. Teenagers do indeed get abortions, shit happens. Which also aides in my overall opinion of the book.

3 Mediocre Clouds

Book Review: Ruin and Rising (Shadow and Bone#3) by Leigh Bardugo

Ruin and Rising (Shadow and Bone#3) by Leigh Bardugo

Publisher: Henry Holt and Company

Genre: Fantasy and Young Adult

Release Date: June 17, 2014

Pages: 422 (Hardcover)

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The capital has fallen.

The Darkling rules Ravka from his shadow throne.

Now the nation’s fate rests with a broken Sun Summoner, a disgraced tracker, and the shattered remnants of a once-great magical army.

Deep in an ancient network of tunnels and caverns, a weakened Alina must submit to the dubious protection of the Apparat and the zealots who worship her as a Saint. Yet her plans lie elsewhere, with the hunt for the elusive firebird and the hope that an outlaw prince still survives.

Alina will have to forge new alliances and put aside old rivalries as she and Mal race to find the last of Morozova’s amplifiers. But as she begins to unravel the Darkling’s secrets, she reveals a past that will forever alter her understanding of the bond they share and the power she wields. The firebird is the one thing that stands between Ravka and destruction—and claiming it could cost Alina the very future she’s fighting for.

The Shadow and Bone series has it all (or did). Great dialogue, gruesome fights, and some of the finest humour out there. With this said, I had very little expectations for Ruin and Rising the third and final novel in the series. The Darkling plays such a large role in this series. Not only as the villain but as an ally and a lover, and I just…I didn’t see his importance here. To be completely honest, I didn’t see anything, no growth from the most beloved characters. Although I admit, Bardugo is the queen of twists and turns, I got very few twists except that one fucking huge one that made my eyes water.

Because in all actuality, what the hell happened? There was so much tension, so much build up in the first book that completely fell flat by the end of this one. This love triangle is just getting out of hand. It’s stupid and I hate it now. Bardugo used a great twist and something unique, to tie everything in a nice, sloppily done bow. How the war goes down is just not logical. It really isn’t. Moreover, the actual ending is not anything special. It’s so unlike the story that I think a lot of her fans are having an extremely hard time with it.

Nonetheless, Bardugo did put in one large plot twists, showing her brilliance through beautiful writing. I do like some of the secondary characters a lot more than before. Like Zoya, who has a great sense of humour and Nikola–everything about him, he’s kind of amazing.

It’s the classic ‘last book in the series’ syndrome. Many second books are cursed with being boring but the last book is always cursed with leaving many readers unsatisfied. And I am apart of that group of readers. I actually had to re-read the war because it was so fast, so clean, I just couldn’t believe it. Shadow and Bone is still an amazing series, just keep your expectations of this book low.

3.5 Interesting Clouds

Click here to see my review of Shadow and Bone.

Click here to see my review of Siege and Storm (Shadow and Bone#2).

Book Review: The Godfather by Mario Puzo

The Godfather by Mario Puzo

Publisher: NAL

Genre: Classic

Release Date: 1969

Pages: 448

Almost fifty years ago, a classic was born. A searing portrayal of the Mafia underworld, The Godfather introduced readers to the first family of American crime fiction, the Corleones, and their powerful legacy of tradition, blood, and honor. The seduction of power, the pitfalls of greed, and the allegiance to family—these are the themes that have resonated with millions of readers around the world and made The Godfather the definitive novel of the violent subculture that, steeped in intrigue and controversy, remains indelibly etched in our collective consciousness.

I started this one because I loved the movie. The Godfather is just about fifty times better than the movie. With the novel being split up into relatively small books on individual characters, it’s action-packed with perfect pacing, seamlessly switching between multiple perspectives so readers get a full depiction on the characters. Seriously could not put it down.

Despite the large amount of love and respect I have for this novel, a few things didn’t add up for me. There is so much time is spent on lesser important secondary characters. An example would be the ridiculous amount given to Johnny Fontane, whom is a celebrity. His book in the novel doesn’t justify his role in the novel since it is so small.

Nonetheless, I love everything else. It’s very fast-paced with cleverly written dialogue. The book on Don Corleone is by far the best as it helps paints a beautiful picture of him as a realistic person and character. Timeframes are well put together, a lot of time has passed between a few of the books yet it feels like nothing has passed at all. More specifically, the writing is extremely smooth despite it being in third person which only adds to the story and gives it more diversity.

I know why everyone calls this a classic read. The best of the best, because it truly is. Everything is so realistic and intense, even people who don’t enjoy classics will have to make an exception for this one. It’s just that good.

4. 5 Bad-Ass Clouds

Song of the Week (Revamped) #20-Ladybug by Never Shout Never

song of the week revamped

Song of the Week is a weekly meme of some of my current favourite songs or songs that I can’t get out of my head. Leave your favourite songs and I’ll be sure to check them out.

Never Shout Never is an American indie/pop band, formed in Joplin, Missouri in 2007. The group has released Five full-length albums: What Is Love?, Harmony, Time Travel, Indigo, and Sunflower  and four EPs: The Summer EP, Never Shout Never , Me And My Uke, and The Yippee. The band was first a one-man show with only Christofer Drew who started by posting a few songs on Myspace. Now, the band has a bassist who does vocals (Taylor MacFee) and a drummer who also plays guitar and does vocals (Hayden Kaiser).

Very quick, upbeat song (I know I say that a lot but that’s what I’ve been feeling lately) about dissing the person you love. I recently saw Never Shout Never in Toronto about a week ago so I thought I’d mention this cute little song.

Favourite part:

’cause girl you just can’t smile
And I know I am such a creep
Callin’ 24 hours 7 days a week
But I got somethin’ to say, I got somethin’ to say, I got somethin’ to say to

Listen to the song here.

Lyrics are here.

Book Review: Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

Flower for Algernon by Daniel Keyes


Publisher: Mariner Books

Genre: Contemporary and Young Adult

Release Date: 1966

Pages: 311

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With more than five million copies sold, Flowers for Algernon is the beloved, classic story of a mentally disabled man whose experimental quest for intelligence mirrors that of Algernon, an extraordinary lab mouse. In poignant diary entries, Charlie tells how a brain operation increases his IQ and changes his life. As the experimental procedure takes effect, Charlie’s intelligence expands until it surpasses that of the doctors who engineered his metamorphosis. The experiment seems to be a scientific breakthrough of paramount importance–until Algernon begins his sudden, unexpected deterioration. Will the same happen to Charlie?

 

The way I feel about this book is simple. It is that strange feeling as every hair on your body stands on end as you relive some strange childhood memory you’ve tucked away. It is the tears the steadily fall down your cheeks and you realize, yes, Charlie, I have been there. I have seen and felt what you have seen and felt. And the heartbreak as you realize that life is just one huge circle, waiting to turn.

As Charlie gets wiser, he is able to identify the emotions as they come to him. However, as a reader I wish I could have been able to experience more of them. Charlie is very closed off when it comes to certain emotions and focuses and others such as anger and frustration. It would have been nice to see more of his emotions towards Alice and his family.

Nonetheless, this is a lovely novel. The way in which Charlie’s memories come to him with such clarity and realization is beautiful. The way Keyes writes seamlessly brings his story to life, switching from one Charlie to the next. The message of the story is that there is always room for improvement, that no one is ever perfect which might be a cliche, but coming from Charlie and his difficulties, is so heartwarming and special. Keyes also spends quite sometime on Charlie’s relationship with his mother, how they have interacted with each other before and after his sister. How she reacted to him being back and a completely different person. Although I wish this part had more emotion, the back story, the anxiety, and the memories…It’s all there. It’s well done and quite satisfying once they meet again.

So many times, Charlie is described as ‘something else’, as something that is not human, that was created when in reality he wasn’t. A doctor did not create him and this realization to Charlie, to understand the meaning of these words and to fight against them, is the most moving part of the novel. It shows how he has used his wisdom to understand that nothing was wrong with the old Charlie, he was just as capable as he is now and I love this book for that.

4. 5 Bad-Ass Clouds

Song of the Week (Revamped) #19-Girls your Age by Transviolet

song of the week revamped

Song of the Week is a weekly meme of some of my current favourite songs or songs that I can’t get out of my head. Leave your favourite songs and I’ll be sure to check them out.

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Girls Your Age took a very, very, very, long time for me to even like. It has a Lana Del Rey feel to it and is just…your usual pop song. But it does have some depth once you really open up to it. It’s quite poppy and sultry,

Favourite part:

Bad boy talking fast, talking dirty
He tells me that I’m hot so I tell him that I love him
And he says, “Girls your age
Never mean what they say”

Listen to the song here.

Lyrics are here.