Be omnivorous, don't just read one kind of book, read everything. - Richard Wagamese

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Review: The Deserter by Paul Almond

Publisher: McArthur & Company
Pages: 266
Source: Publisher
Category: Canadian Fiction
Rating: 5/5


Thomas Manning, a young, British Naval officer wanted to take a leap of faith and begin a new life in the New World. Spending months on a navy ship left oneself to imagine, and beyond Thomas' ship was a world to be discovered. Thomas recognized the potential, vast unchartered territory, new settlements and a new beginning. The only way to get to dry land was to jump ship and land in the freezing St. Lawrence water. The risk increases, if he's caught and branded a deserter, he will be subjected to death by one thousands thrashings. Thomas decides to take the risk and jump. After the initial jump, within minutes Thomas is disoriented- the frigid water leads to stiffening of his limbs, and Thomas is not sure he can get to shore. His new life begins...After fighting the water, he makes it, only to seized by the Mik'maq. Thomas is immediately petrified, he's heard many harrowing, brutal stories concerning Europeans being held captive and killed by the savage Indians. Instead of being tortured and mistreated, the Mik'maq assist Thomas. Life in the New World is much different than . While he is initially able to obtain part-time employment with the French settlers, winter is very grueling and Thomas is left of his own. Living conditions are drastic, winters long, and food scarce. Thomas wonders what his outcome will be. Will he survive his first Canadian winter? Fortunately, the Mik'maq take him under their wing once again and show him the way. Survival is still not guaranteed, but much less perilous than being on your own in the bush.

Overall Impression:

I believe this one should be placed into the hands of every young student learning the history of Canada. This saga will cover 200 years of invigorating Canadian history, hidden by the colorless classrooms in most Canadian high schools. Often Canadian history is referred to as 'boring' but a few pages into 'The Deserter' and you will change your mind. First and Foremost, I will declare that I am Mik'maq from the Gaspe region. Paul Almond's research is impeccable, and I read his Acknowledgments before starting the novel. When I saw the research he undertook, I was very pleased and decided to see what this book was about. What I quickly learned was this was a book written by a very skilled writer. The language is simple, the tale action-packed. Every little task in Thomas Manning's life is life-threatening. Every man for himself, rewards are very tempting, and threats are exceedingly substantial. Paul Almond's portrayal of the Mik'maq is very accurate, he embraces the true circumstances and includes the significant legends of the people. I will be passing this book around, or possibly buying others copies and holding tight to my copy. This is the first in a six book saga, I will placing all the others on my wishlist.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Review: Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shepard

Publisher: Harperteen
Pages: 286
Source: Personal Copy
Category: Young Adult
Rating: 5/5


Five young girls, living in a small town of Philadelphia are admired by many, and envied by all. Spencer, Aria, Emily, Hannah, and Allison were best-friends in seventh grade. Their lives had it's normal teenage up and downs, until their whole world was suddenly rocked. Allison goes missing, and no one has any idea if she is alive or dead. The whole town becomes panicked. The disappearance of Allison is devastating for the girls, and they become the 'friends of the missing girl.' Allison was the pack leader, and without her the girls become lost. The police question the girls, and they mostly cooperated but some details are held back to hide their dirty, horrible secret. Of course, everyone has their secrets...

The girls lives quickly change and they find themselves moving on and drifting apart. A few years after the disappearance, Allison is still missing and the girls are living separate lives. Spencer the 'goody-two-shoes' finds herself not-so-secretly coveting her sister's boyfriend. Aria moved to Iceland but is now back in town and smitten with a young, handsome teacher, the feeling was mutual until realized she was his student. Hanna is fighting to stay in control of her looks, and Emily is confused when feelings emerge for her new best friend. When secret message surface the girls quickly become worried. A secret messenger, by the name of 'A' knows far too much about the girls. The messages become more and more disturbing, revealing dark secrets only Allison knew. One thing is certain, these message make it clear that someone is currently watching them. Who is the mysterious 'A'? The girls each begin to wonder if Allison is alive. Can they possible put aside their new lives to confront each other about 'A'?

Overall Impression:

When I picked up 'Pretty Little Liars' I didn't think I would find a new series I would fall in love with. I thought I would read it, put it aside and move on. I read it, ran to the local bookstore for book two, and was distraught when it wasn't in stock...I came home ordered it, and ran home everyday to see if I received it in the mail. 'Pretty Little Liars' is very unique, the story alternates from each girls perspective. This technique really made me fall in love with each character, and understand where they are coming from. Each girls has their very real demons. I really think this book should be read by older teens, there is some mature subject matter. Some of those things contained in the book are sex, alcohol and marijuana. I think that should be noted for parents. Although, there are some things that I would rather not read about, I liked the real-life circumstances the girls face. These things are very much apart of high school. The teenage emotions and hormones run wild. There are so many unanswered questions, and I can't wait to continue reading. Yes, I am giving it five-stars because the story itself was spellbinding. I found myself running away with my book any chance I got, I needed to keep reading...

Good news! I received book two today!

Did I mention, I bought book 3 and ordered book 4?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Review: The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Pages: 552
Source: Publisher
Category: Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 5/5


When Cassandra' grandmother dies, Cassandra inherits a mysterious cottage located in England. Cassandra is astounded, thinking her grandmother never visited England. How can she possible have purchased this cottage? While the cottage is mysterious, the mysteries have just begun. Cassandra' aunts mention a small, significant detail: Nell is not a biological sister. At the heart of the story is a little girl abandoned on a ship and sent to Australia in 1913. Her possessions include a small suitcase containing a few articles of clothes and a very rare book of fairytales. Nell went 21 years without knowing the truth, and on her 21st birthday her father reveals how he found her and brought her home to a his wife. She was distraught from failed pregnancies, and she cherished Nell. Nell is forever changed by these revelations, unsure of who she is or what her past contained. Nell eventually seeks to learn the truth and with vague memories from her past. Nell is sure that the author of the book of fairytales has a significant place in her history. Her journey leads her to an extravagant estate in England, her journey was chronicled in a diary that Cassandra would find especially useful. Cassandra sought to figure out the final details that Nell was unable to uncover about herself. Who were Nell's parents?

Overall Impression:

A profound, magical tale of complicated family history. 'The Forgotten Garden' is a tale that will remain with you long after you've closed the book. Readers will be completely invested in each and every character. Kate Morton writes each remarkable character in alternative perspectives spanning over 3 generations. I promise, you will not be lost, you will not be confused by the alternating timelines. Kate Morton's technique manages to keep readers on track every step of the way. Although the story interweaves between past and present the story pace is consistent. The story does not halt while switching perspectives, the story keep flowing. This book is mysterious, emotional, suspenseful, and delightful. I was kept in the dark the whole way, but I really wanted to figure out the mystery. A lengthly book, but an absolute masterpiece. This was my first Kate Morton book, and I had high expectations. Many times when you have high expectations, as a reader you feel let down. This book lived up to all the hype, and I honestly didn't want it to end. At the end of the book, I wasn't read to walk away. I felt sad to leave the characters behind. I will be reading and reviewing The Distant Hours soon. Kate Morton has one more fan! She is one SKILLED author!

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