A very late monthly wrap up for April 2019! Here’s what I read and what I thought…
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Bad Apple: A Tale of Friendship and Bad Apple’s Perfect Day by Edward Hemingway
As somebody who did their PhD studying apples, I definitely had to track down and purchase these two children’s books for a baby shower for a friend of mine from the same lab. I’m not an expert on children’s books, but I enjoyed the bright artwork and the clear storyline along with some funny apple-related puns. I also thought the books had a good message behind them. Bad Apple: A Tale of Friendship and Bad Apple’s Perfect Day by Edward Hemingway don’t seem to be widely available, and I had to get my copies from Bookoutlet, but I’d certainly purchase them again in the future for the right occasion.
Blink by Sasha Dawn [PR Copy]
Blink by Sasha Dawn is the story of two teens, living in a small town in Illinois. Josh spends a lot of his time at football and looking after his little twin sisters and one day meets Chantham, a new girl in town who is looking for her runaway sister. At the same time, Josh’s ex-stepdad, who the family has a restraining order against, starts to hang around. Josh is obsessed with the story of Rachel, a four-year-old girl who went missing 12 years ago. As Josh and Chantham connect, he begins to uncover a potential connection between her and Rachel.
Blink is a dark but suspenseful story. It definitely kept me turning the pages, wanting to know who Chantham was and what really happened to Rachel. Dawn does a good job building the romantic tension between Chantham and Josh, and although Josh is very mature for a teenage boy, it seems like his circumstances would have demanded it. That said, I didn’t connect with Chantham and didn’t care as much what happened to her. Even though the plot was interesting, I ended up feeling a distance from the characters. I also thought things got a little scattered, and the story itself was not very memorable. Even though it had potential, Blink ended up being just an okay YA thriller for me.
Bright Burning Stars by A.K. Small [PR Copy]
I try really hard not to judge books by their covers, but when you see one as beautiful as Bright Burning Stars by A.K. Small, well, all bets are off and I definitely had to request a copy! The synopsis intrigued me even further: it’s a dark young adult contemporary novel about two best friends, Marine and Kate, training at the Paris Opera Ballet School. They have been close since childhood, but now, in the final year, only one girl will be selected to join the professional ballet. The question is, what are they willing to do to win? And will their friendship survive?
Bright Burning Stars definitely has Black Swan vibes and the atmosphere of the novel is really well done. It’s clear that dance is a topic that Small is very familiar so it didn’t surprise me to read that she had also studied ballet. I love when authors make use of their own experiences and expertise in bringing a story to life, and that’s exactly what happened here. It was a struggle to read about what both Marine and Kate were going through and not be able to help them–I definitely wanted to reach through the pages and tell them everything would be okay and to love themselves. There is definitely a lot of tension in the novel about who will win, but it wasn’t really a mystery/thriller like I thought, so I kept waiting for it get to a little more surprising, which unfortunately influenced my enjoyment of the book. Also, while the novel tackles some important topics, I felt that they were kinda skimmed over. I also felt like most of the characters, except Marine and Kate, were pretty underdeveloped. That said, if you are interested in a dark, atmospheric, novel or just love books that focus on dance, definitely consider picking up Bright Burning Stars.
I Hate Fairyland, Vol. 1: Madly Ever After by Skottie Young, Jean-François Beaulieu, Nate Piekos
I don’t read a ton of graphic novels but the bright colours of I Hate Fairyland, Vol. 1: Madly Ever After by Skottie Young, Jean-François Beaulieu, Nate Piekos caught my attention and when I saw I could borrow an e-copy from the library I decided to give it a try. This is a collection of the first five issues featuring a woman, Gertude, that who gets sucked into a Wonderland-type universe as a young girl, only to still be stuck there nearly 30 years later…in the same body. And she’s not happy about it.
Despite the colourful drawings, this is not a cheerful story. Gertude has been trying to escape Fairyland for decades, and it’s gotten gruesome. The graphic novel uses alternative slang for swearing, words like “mother ducking”, which is cute and logical at first but ultimately a little annoying. Gertude’s guide for the quest, a magical maggot, Larry, and I really loved the dynamic between them. Overall, I really enjoyed the art, and the story was a lot of fun, but I wasn’t a hundred percent sold on the series. That said, I could see myself picking up the next volume when I’m looking for a graphic novel to read, and if you are a fan of graphic novels and don’t mind a little (lot) of violence, I do recommend checking this book out.
Princess Puffybottom … and Darryl by Susin Nielsen and Olivia China Mueller [PR Copy]
When I’m looking to gift somebody a picture book, the first thing I look for is whether it features animals or plants. Animal friendships? Even better, which is why I knew that I’d love the adorable Princess Puffybottom … and Darryl, written by Susin Nielsen and illustrated by Olivia China Mueller. This is a story about a kitten who has the purrfect life until an intruder arrives. Personally, I don’t love the “princess” mentality/theme for children, although the author makes it fun by referring to the humans as Princess Puffybottom’s “subjects” who serve her food and wait on her. That said, the drawings in this book are so cute! I absolutely adored them! And the book itself tells a nice, simple story about making friends instead of competitors. The last page/ending was also especially sweet. Overall, I think this would make a nice gift, especially if a slightly older child was expecting a sibling. I’d be especially interested in checking out more books that Mueller has illustrated in the future.
‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King
I’m still interested in (very, very, slowly) reading Stephen King’s backlist, so that’s why I decided to pick up ‘Salem’s Lot and listen to the very lengthy (17.5 hour) audiobook. I knew the story had to do with vampires, but not much else. Like so much of King’s work, this book takes place in small town Maine, which seems sleepy and quiet, but then a wealthy stranger shows up and nothing in ‘Salem’s Lot will ever be the same. The book has an extensive cast of characters, and although it’s clear from the beginning something terrible has happened, of course I kept rooting for some of them to survive. It’s a violent, gruesome story, but one that I definitely enjoyed listening to.
‘Salem’s Lot is definitely one of the longest books I’d read/listened to in a quite a while and it had a pretty slow start, by around 60% of the way through I was still waiting on a lot of the excitement. It was worth it once I made it through the first chunk and really became captivated by this character-driven horror. I might have read this book over 40 years after it was first published, but it certainly still stands up. Reading this book is a great reminder of how good King’s writing is and I’ll definitely continue to read from him in the coming years.
Girls’ Night Out by Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke [PR Copy]
No matter what I’m reading these days I always like to switch back to a mystery thriller on occasion, which is what had me reaching for Girls’ Night Out by Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke, a novel about three best friends with a lot of friction between them that go on vacation to Mexico together only for one of them to disappear.
This is a co-written book that includes multiple perspectives but it flows seamlessly while having each perspective be clearly defined and unique. I thought the authors did a fantastic job capturing the dynamics that often happen when there are multiple best friends in a group, and the relationships between the characters was really strong. There is also a whole lot of domestic drama which adds another element to the story, although sometimes the arguments in the book felt repetitive–that’s real life, but not the best to the read about. I didn’t actually like any of the characters but I didn’t mind, I just felt like the book was a bit slow-moving at times. It does flip between before and after the person goes missing, but I still didn’t quite get the tension I crave in a thriller. Even though it wasn’t a new favourite, I enjoyed Girls’ Night Out and I’d recommend picking it up if you are fan of books that focus on the relationships between women and want an extra element (a missing person!) to the story.
The Twenty-Ninth Year by Hala Aylan [PR Copy]
I definitely don’t read as many poetry collections as I mean to anymore, but being 30 when it was released, I was intrigued enough by The Twenty-Ninth Year by Hala Aylan to pick it up. This short collection is about changes and relationships and places all over the world. There are some breath-taking lovely phrases and I appreciated reading from a perspective so different from my own. At the same time, The Twenty-Ninth Year wasn’t incredibly memorable for me and didn’t leave me with that gut-wrenching emotion that the poetry I truly fall in love with does. Aylan’s writing is more subtle than that and it could feel a little repetitive at times. Not a favourite poet yet, but somebody who I would be interested in checking in on again in the future.