Thursday, February 28, 2019

#CBR11 Review #11: We Were Liars by E Lockhart

I foolishly left the library book I was working my way through at work, and wouldn’t be back for at least a week, so I looked for something that seemed like it would be easy breezy to hold me over until we were reunited again. I chose We Were Liars, which ended up being a quick and not too difficult read, fun at times but also emotional. I can’t say that I totally connected with it, however, and I wasn’t entirely sold on the ending: not because it doesn’t work but because after a certain reveal, it seemed like some things didn’t quite jive with the behaviors of all the characters, and also it was something I had seen often enough before (sometimes in more effective ways, sometimes not, to be fair).

We Were Liars comes from the point of view of Cadence (or Cady), the oldest grandchild of a wealthy family, who spend their summers together on a private island. Cady and her fellow older cousins (along with one not-quite-cousin) are practically inseparable during these summer months and refer to themselves as The Liars. Yet, the year Cady is seventeen will be a different one: when she was 15 she was involved in some kind of accident on the island which resulted in a brain injury, leaving her with terrible migraines and little memory of what happened that summer, with the exception of a few little snapshots of images here and there. After spending a year away, she now returns to find her grandfather’s health and mind deteriorating, and many of her cousins acting strangely around her. There is the suggestion of secrets abound, and Cady struggles to find what exactly her place is in this new environment, and to try and find out what exactly happened to her that summer that she can no longer remember.

This story promises secrets and twists as Cady comes to understand the reality of her family’s life and the power structures within. She learns about love and relationships, identity, and the greed at the heart of her family. Cady herself is an interesting character and her process through the novel is one I was curious enough to follow, though many of the other characters seemed to be in there in a way that suggested they were important to Cady and her family, yet didn’t feel like there was much to them at all: they were fleeting and somewhat one-note (or two-note, at best) to really feel like they were as important as we are supposed to believe them to be. Also, while the conclusion was impactful, it was also a bit of a gimmick given how everything else had set itself up. Or at least, I felt like the feeling that a big reveal or twist was on it’s way the whole time made the ultimate reveal feel like a bit of a letdown. And like I said, it was one that I had definitely seen before and laid everything on real thick right near the end, especially given how Cady seems to piece it together very quickly and we are to see a change in her character so abruptly in how the story plays out. Perhaps this is all a part of the development of her as an unreliable narrator, given her issues with memory, etc.

Ultimately, this was a decent and quick read and certainly not as simple as it seemed. Yet, I just didn’t connect to it in a way that makes me feel like it will be one to stick around in my mind in any meaningful way.

[Be sure to visit the Cannonball Read main site!]

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

#CBR11 Review #10: Selected Poems by John Keats

I’m not exactly sure how to go about this review because poetry is not exactly something I read often (at all, really), nor do I know much about it, so everything here will be coming from a place of very little knowledge. So then why did I choose to read this collection of poems? Because I had an itch to try something not really in my comfort zone, you know, branch out to some new forms and see how it goes. And why John Keats? Well you see, I absolutely adore Ben Whishaw and was watching Bright Star wherein he plays Keats again, and thought hey! I don’t know that I’m actually familiar with Keats’ work as a poet at all? And so, here we are.

Selected Poems includes a large selection of works from John Keats, from his longer, well-known volumes such as Endymion, to some shorter little verses –some of which he did not publish himself—often written for or in honor of a specific person. Overall there is a large focus on nature and beauty, and from what I can tell, the verses seem to flutter on in a pretty musical fashion. I will admit that in some of the longer poem or books, I would be able to follow the first line or two of each paragraph/verse, but then begin to get swamped in the words and flow and lose the plot as they say before each verse was up. Though I did, however, find a favourite in Keats’s more well-known romance, Lamia, following a myth of Hermes/Mercury and serpent-woman Lamia.

Truth be told, this was maybe a little more than I anticipated when I jumped into it, and I did find myself getting bogged down throughout the second-half of the book of poems, as my attention started to wander through all the poetic verses with which I am not super familiar. There is clearly a beauty to these words and for those that I could actually follow, I did enjoy, though I think maybe I need to get a little bit more into poetry reading before I can make any more eloquent judgments or critiques of it. This was an interesting little exercise for me, to say the least.

[Be sure to visit the Cannonball Read main site!]

Friday, February 15, 2019

#CBR11 Review #09: Check, Please! Book 1: Hockey by Ngozi Ukazu

I honestly can’t tell you why I haven’t gotten into Ngozi Ukazu’s web-comic series Check, Please! before (this book is just the first 2-years of the protagonist’s story compiled into one volume), because I know I’ve heard good things about it before, and upon finally reading it I can say that I really did enjoy it a lot! It is super cute, with a lively and clean art style, and is about nice hockey bros just being bros?? Love that. Yeah, maybe it’s a little predictable at times, but I don’t mind at all as I was excited to see things unfold the way they did. Really, the only thing I could complain about is how it is a little abrupt from piece to piece, but that’s just a function of being from a web-comic that has not been pieced together into one book. So I can’t really fault it for that.

But let’s get on to what this is about! Check, Please! #1: Hockey follows Eric Bittle (or, Bitty, as he is known by his team) a former figure skater who because of his quick skating on his high school team, has been recruited by a college hockey team. He is a huge fan of baking and making video blogs about his life, school, hockey, and favourite baking recipes. This volume of the comic series therefore follows his life through the first couple years of college as he finds a place on the team, melds with his teammates, develops young-love crushes, and tries to learn how not to freeze up at the prospect of getting checked in hockey.

In addition to the main story, the end of the book includes some side-stories and fun informational comics about hockey as delivered by a couple of the other boys on the team. Honestly, these parts were hilarious because they sounded like they were delivered straight from the mouth of my sister’s hockey-loving boyfriend. As well, the characters are all for the most part very fun and lively, which made this a fun and far-too-fast read. Yeah, maybe there could be a little more complexity to some of them, but sometimes it’s nice to just get to read something without too much crazy conflict or awful characters: sometimes I just want to escape to something sweet! And sweet is exactly what this book is.

Truth be told I kind of just skimmed the last pages of the book which include all the tweets made by the character throughout the story. If these had somehow been included throughout I may have appreciated them more, but trying to figure out at the end what pieces in a big array of little sweets fit where into the story was not a mental exercise I felt like undertaking. Oh well! It’s alright, because no hard no foul, I still really enjoyed this book and will definitely be trying to keep with the web comic in the future (all of which, including the story presented here in book form, can be found here!).

[Be sure to visit the Cannonball Read main site!]