Before I Let Go by Marieke Nijkamp


Before I Let Go by Marieke Nijkamp

Corey returns to Lost, Alaska, a place she called ‘home’ for all but the last 7 months of her life, for a previously scheduled trip during her school’s spring break.  She was supposed to spend this week with her best friend, Kyra, who promised she would wait for her, promised they would spend the week together, promised she would try.  But days before her flight Corey learns that Kyra was found under the ice of the frozen lake.  That she was lost to her.  Forever.  Corey, instead, returns to mourn her friend and find out what happened.  In doing so, Corey is confronted with a Lost that she doesn’t quite recognize and she flounders to understand the changes she sees around her, while finding herself an outsider in a town she still considers her home.

Corey grapples internally with Kyra’s death and struggles to come to terms with the fact that she is really gone, all while faced with a town that seems reluctant to see her friend’s death as a tragedy at all.  Corey’s confusion and disbelief is highlighted and complemented by the surreal, dream-like quality of the imagery and prose of this novel.  It is a story seen through the eyes of a grieving seventeen year old girl and the grief is a tangible thread woven throughout.

While reading I wasn’t sure what to believe, just as Corey doubts the stories and events that the people of Lost present to her.  I wanted Corey to find the answers she was looking for, but I was afraid that they didn’t exist.  Or wouldn’t be enough.  But when those answers begin to come to light, the confusion and sense of betrayal only intensified, leaving me feeling as empty and alone as Corey felt.  I feel that Nijkamp deftly brought me on a journey of despair, while leaving me a small trace of hope at the end of it all.

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff


Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

I actually can’t even right now.  I stayed up so late last night finishing this book because I had to know what happened in a way that I haven’t had to know about a book in a very long time.

My introduction to this book started last month when I read a Book Riot post entitled “7 Books with Unusual and Unconventional Formats“.  I had read a couple of the books on the list and liked them enough to be intrigued by the other entries.  After all, I like the quirky books.  This one caught my attention because not only is it told through hacked documents, but the introductory paragraph suggested some dark, wry, sarcastic humour just might be served up as well.  I was not disappointed.

Illuminae follows Kady Grant who breaks up with her boyfriend Ezra Mason and then finds herself fleeing Kerenza IV as an all out war between corporations rains down on the planet.  Kady and Ezra flee together, still reeling from the break-up, but forced to put that aside in order to NOT DIE.  Evacuation is just the beginning of the challenges as Kady and Ezra find themselves on damaged ships, limping toward a destination that is months away with enemies hot on their heels.  And then there is a plague that breaks out on one of the vessels, and a rogue A.I. that has its own ideas about how to “save” the people.

The beauty of this book is that the documents serve to unravel the story in such a way that at each turn you become more and more invested in the characters and events.  Little by little you learn more about the characters, and their situation, and become more and more engaged by, and in, them.  It surprised me just how invested I became, as I was  buoyed by the levity of the content, and it wasn’t until I reached the heart stopping climax that I realized just how deftly the stakes had been raised just a little at a time until they became all-consuming.

And I do mean all-consuming.  I couldn’t sleep until I reached the end.  Then I still couldn’t sleep…because…that ending.

My god.

LUCKILY, this morning I was able to check out and download the second in the series, GEMINA, so I can continue combing through dossiers and transcripts to get more of the story.  I need more.  So very badly.


Find You in the Dark


Find You in the Dark by Nathan Ripley (aka Journey Prize winner, Naben Ruthnum) has been described as a tale for fans of the Dexter series by Jeff Lindsay and on that front it does not disappoint.  This novel follows Martin Reese, who has found a more constructive way to channel his more destructive tendencies by doing what the police can’t seem to do – find the hidden bodies of past serial killers.  Martin combs through police files, and interviews with the murderers, in order to narrow down the final resting place of bones long forgotten.  Martin runs into trouble, however, when the bones turn out to be not as forgotten as he believed and he makes a very serious enemy who does not take kindly to having all of his trophies removed and returned to their loved ones.

Present in this story is that dichotomy of how to feel about the choices that Martin makes.  He may be doing the right thing the wrong way and for the wrong reasons, but it is also a much more constructive use of his … skills … than the path he was on as a young man.  He also tends to do some wrong things for the right reasons, out of love for his wife and daughter.  It leaves you both rooting for him and feeling a little bad about what that means about your overall morality.

Overall, Find You in the Dark was a lot of fun to read, and if you enjoy rooting for morally ambiguous characters, I highly recommend giving Martin Reese some consideration.

I was exceedingly lucky to be able to read this as an Advanced Reader’s Copy from NetGalley, but the good news is that it is out MARCH 6th (in Canada, April 2nd in the US)!!  So you don’t have long to wait to enjoy the moral conundrums for yourself.

Reincarnation Blues


Reincarnation Blues by Michael Poore chronicles just a few of the almost 10,000 lives of Milo, a man who has fallen in love with Death.  Or rather, he’s fallen in love with Susan, who is “a” death, not “THE” death.  While he should be using his lives to try to achieve perfection, whatever that is, he instead looks most forward to the time in between his lives when he and Susan can be together.

This novel is ever changing as we follow Milo through some of his lives.  Most surprising is that lives don’t have to be lived in an earthly chronological order.  One may live a futuristic life in space, followed by a life on a more primitive earth, followed by a life on an entirely different planet.  Hopping through lives, you get an idea of how difficult it must be to achieve this sought after “perfection” when you can not really remember lessons learned from one life to the next.  When you are not even aware that there is a goal to work towards.  And even if you were aware that you have such a goal, you have no idea what it is, or what it means, or if you would even recognize it if you saw it.

I have always said that I like quirky books, and this has that in spades.  It is philosophical, yes, but it is also wry and funny and dark and violent in parts as well.  Life is messy and full of dichotomies, after all, and I think that this novel does a really good job of balancing the real and the surreal in just the right amounts.

Reincarnation Blues is constantly changing and evolving into something new, and that makes it really hard to describe in any meaningful way.   But the epic journey is worth it in the end as the book carries you through to a thought provoking and unforgettable conclusion.

2017 Reading Round Up

Each January I like to take a look back at my reading for the previous year to really re-evaluate some of the books I read.  Have they stuck with me?  Have they faded away and I now barely remember having read them at all?  But I’ve been putting it off this year because this is the first year in a very long while that I haven’t met my goal of reading 100 books over the course of the year.  While I was uncomfortable with not meeting this goal, and battling a sense of failure, I have had to remind myself several times that we got some pretty awesome family games last year for Christmas and have spent a lot of this year playing them together.  Not only that but I have been learning how to sew and sometimes I can listen to audiobooks while doing that, but sometimes I need to concentrate because, to be completely honest, I have no idea what I am doing half the time.  And this year I also took a Photography Class and Photoshop Class which had a lot of assignments and readings and took up a huge chunk of my time.

So now that I’ve made all my excuses…


Number of Books Read:  78 

That’s a full 22 less than my goal.  Though to be fair, I’m pretty sure The Fireman by Joe Hill was about 22 books long, so maybe I’m just not giving myself enough credit.  😉

Number of Books that were Audiobooks:  24

Number of Books that were (Auto)Biography:  5

Number of Books that were Graphic Novel: 36

Number of Fiction: 23

Number of YA:  9

Number of Juvenile:  9

It shapes up to about the same number of graphic novels as last year, and, much more surprisingly, about the same number of fiction novels as last year.  So where is the difference?  Where are the 22 “lost” books that I didn’t get to read this year??  It turns out that I actually read much less YA this year, which is such a travesty!  I love YA novels.  I’m a little sad that I missed out on reading more of them.  Also, I read quite a few less biographies, even though I had discovered that I really liked them last year.  And I didn’t read one in graphic novel form either – which was a huge love of mine in 2016.  Maybe I read all the good ones already??   No, that can’t be right.  I just did a google search and put a couple of the ones I hadn’t read yet on hold.  There.  Much better.

And so without further ado…


Best Juvenile:


This isn’t even a contest.  There are just some juvenile novels that are magical and have that ability to appeal to all ages.  Zorgamazoo by Robert Paul Weston is perfection.  I wrote in March that I was in awe of this book, and that awe has in no way faded over time.  I still remember the delight with which I listened, enraptured, to Alan Cumming as he read me this tale of adventure.  Nothing else I read this year even comes close.


Best YA:


The Edge of Everything by Jeff Giles surprised me enough that it gave me pause.  The world he built is rich and layered and the characters well-developed and compelling.  The language used was vivid, creating scenes that still stand out in my mind even now, months later.  And the end?  I can’t leave it there…I demand more.  As soon as possible.


Best Graphic Novel:

This one isn’t entirely fair.  I hadn’t finished Locke and Key by Joe Hill by the time the end of the year hit last year, but I was already ready to name it the best Graphic Novel series I read that year.  Having finished it this year, with each installment becoming better and better, it really is, hands down, the best graphic novel series that I read THIS year also.  I just can’t bring myself to name the same series two years in a row.  It seems wrong somehow.

However, I had been putting off reading the YA Graphic novel NIMONA, which I’ve always meant to read, but it had gotten lost in my giant imaginary pile of books-to-get-to-one-day.  When I heard it was getting the movie treatment I just couldn’t put it off any longer.


Nimona by Noelle Stevenson is delightfully quirky, makes a wonderful complete story, and surprisingly tackled some big thinking subjects like the true nature of “good” and “evil.”  I can see how it could be made into a truly special movie and hope that it gets the treatment it deserves.


Best Autobiography:


Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime is that very rare mix of meaty substance wrapped up in humour that only serves to highlight the weight of the issues touched upon even more.  I feel like whatever I write about his work won’t be good enough to really convey how important it is to read this book.  Through his vivid storytelling Noah paints a personal story of what it was like growing up when segregation was the norm and he was, literally, born a crime.


Best Audiobook:

This might be the first category where there just isn’t a clear, runaway, winner.  I have listened to a lot of audiobooks this year and they all have something that would make it easy to recommend them.

I’m actually going to go with one that I wanted to write about, but I just never really found the time or the words.


The Marsh King’s Daughter by Karen Dionne is the story of a woman, Helena, who grew up in the secluded marsh.  Her mother was kidnapped by her father and held captive in the wilderness.  We know at the outset of the story that Helena and her mother eventually escaped her tyrannical father, but over the course of the story we learn of the father-daughter bond, the complicated mother-daughter relationship, and just what happened deep in that marsh.  It is a story in the vein of “Room” by Emma Donoghue, but told by an adult Helena rather than getting an entirely childlike perspective.

The narration by Emily Rankin matches the tone of this book with such perfection I was transported into the story, wrapped in it, enveloped by it, my brain immersed and boiling in its juices.  Uh…so…I liked it.  A lot.

It might conclude in an ending you can see coming a mile away, a too-trite “hollywood” style ending.  But it is inevitable, as illustrated by the parable of the Marsh King’s daughter told in pieces at the beginning of each chapter.


Best Fiction:

This one is just as hard to determine.  But in this case I’m just going to go with the book I obsessed about the most.


Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

I had absolutely no plans to even read this book for quite a while because I, wrongly, assumed that it was some sort of romantic drama or romantic comedy type book.  I didn’t expect a complex book about a group of moms with kids who attend the same kindergarten class.  It quickly became an obsession of mine.  I fell in love with the characters and wondered what they were doing if I had to turn off the audio book in order to attend to real life.  I couldn’t wait to get back to them, and when this book was over I was so very sad that I wouldn’t be able to read more about these characters.  So sad that I contemplated immediately starting the book all over again.

I listened to this as read by Caroline Lee who gives such a flawless performance that I am actively seeking out her other audio books to add to my to-read pile.  Luckily, it’s more Liane Moriarty books at the same time!


Bonus – Best Classic:

I’ve been trying to make a concerted effort to read some of those classic novels that I have not really ever gotten around to, or to re-read those that I haven’t read in so long that I have very little memory of them at all.  It feels wrong to include them in any sort of “best fiction” because…they are already considered classics.  They are, by definition, pretty darn good.


Margaret Atwell’s The Handmaid’s Tale was adapted into an award-winning series and both the novel and the series rightly deserve all the accolades they have received.  The series does an amazing job of updating the novel to present day, but the core struggles in the book remain the same.  It’s a stark, cautionary tale that is as relevant today as ever.



I should have read this YEARS ago.  It was a book club pick for a book club I was a part of, even.  But I didn’t get to it at the time.  I suppose that books join your life if and when you are ready for them and I may not have given it the full attention it deserved had I tried to force myself to read it when I wasn’t yet ready.


Lullabies for Little Criminals by Heather O’Neill is that sort of novel that only comes along once in a while.  I’ve already talked about this novel in my blog post here.  At the time I said that it is a story that will just stay with you, and I have to stress that it really hasn’t faded much over time.  It is beautifully written, and the audio book is beautifully performed.  To me it is a modern classic, and is unlikely to be fading away anytime soon.

So there you have it!  Another mammoth post to start the year off!  And another promise that I won’t do it again…until next year!



Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits by David Wong

Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits by David Wong

“If Zoey had known she was being stalked by a man who intended to kill her and then slowly eat her bones, she would have worried more about that and less about getting her cat off the roof.”

Laughing while a serial killer attempts to kill a girl makes me a bad person, right?  I’m a bad person. Based on the amount that I laughed, I’m a really, really bad person.

David Wong takes a departure in this book from his horror series (“John Dies at the End”) 20501606to present us with a futuristic adventure story that finds Zoey Ashe, a self-described “trailer troll,” in the middle of a war for the newly deceased Arthur Livingston’s fortune.  Half of the lawless city of Tabula Ra$a wants her dead and the other half, the fancy suits from Arthur’s company, might not be trustworthy enough to keep her alive.

Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits is a roller coaster ride filled with the same wry, dry, witty humour that makes David Wong’s other novels such a treat to read.  This is a wonderful place to join in his writings if you aren’t a huge fan of the more horror elements of “John Dies at the End” and “This Book is Full of Spiders.”  Instead, Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits expands into science fiction, bringing us inside a near-future America where humans have begun modifying themselves with technology, and the divide between the rich and the poor is more pronounced than ever.

This story is carried forward mostly on the charisma and relatability of Zoey who is thrust into a situation she doesn’t really understand, and absolutely does not want.  As usual, I listened to this on audio and greatly enjoyed the narration as presented by Christy Romano who gives Zoey her vibrancy and keeps her from tipping too far over into farce or melancholy.  It’s a tough balancing act, and was superbly performed.

I highly recommend this book to those with an appreciation for mischievous humour and action packed heist-type shenanigans.


Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson has been on my radar for a while, as I kept hearing about it from different websites and reviews, but when I read that it was going to become an animated movie (slated for release in 2020) I knew that I could wait no longer.  It was time to pick up this gem of a book so that I could properly look forward to the upcoming19351043 film.

Nimona, a shapeshifter, apprentices herself to the villainous Lord Ballister whether he likes it or not, and the two of them set out on a mission to reveal the true nature of the “hero” Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin and the Institute of Law Enforcement and Heroics.  I knew that this book was going to be a lot of fun, but what I failed to realize was that not only would this be a complete joy to read, but it would also be filled to the brim with heart.

The budding friendship between Lord Ballister and Nimona, despite his disinclination to have…or keep…Nimona as an apprentice is delightful to watch unfold. Her devotion to him tugs at the heartstrings and leaves you begging him to just have a little compassion where she is concerned.

Nimona also managed to touch on how “evil” or “good” is defined, who gets to define it, and probe the nature of good and evil, without feeling like it is a heavy-handed life lesson or a “teachable moment.” This may be due to the fact that Nimona is just plain funny.  From the illustrations to the dialogue to the exploration of the core of what makes a hero and what makes a villain, Nimona presents itself with a witty, sarcastic flair that is a delight to experience.

Now I’m sad I have to wait over two years to see the adaptation.  (I’ll just read it again!!)

Zombies, Zombies, Zombies!!


Get it?  Three Zombie books, and so a trilogy of Zombies in the title of this blog entry.  I amuse me.

Sometimes I read things in themes without ever really meaning to read in a theme at all. So, recently, I found that I had just managed to finish three zombie books in quick succession.  They couldn’t possibly have been more different, however they were each delightful in their own way.

Zombies:  A Record of the Year of Infection, Field Notes by Dr. Robert Twombly by Don Roff.

I’m a sucker for the “fake documentary” type book.  And that is just what you are getting with Zombies:  A Record of the Year of Infection, Field Notes by Dr. Robert Twombly by Don Roff.  “Zombies” reads like a diary complete with sketches to document the zombie outbreak as experienced through Dr. Twombly’s eyes.  It is his personal account of the events, and he oscillates between desperation, hopefulness and despair.  It is a super quick read, and can (and should) be finished in one sitting.

Another example of this type of book, also in the zombie genre, is Dead Inside: Do Not Enter: Notes from the Zombie Apocalypse.  Both of these serve as an interesting look at what documentation during the zombie apocalypse might look like.


My Life As a White Trash Zombie by Diana Rowland

If I didn’t know that the show iZombie was based on the graphic novel series by Chris Roberson, I would have thought FOR SURE that this is the novel that was adapted to create that wonderful show.  But while they both involve a zombie working in a coroner’s office/morgue the rest of the lore of the zombie world seems to work just a little bit differently.  In the case of My Life as a White Trash Zombie, the zombie in question is Angel Crawford, who wakes up in the hospital after overdosing on painkillers to an ominous note saying her new job at the parish morgue starts in the morning. And she’d better be there if she knows what is good for her.  Uh, thanks, ominous note of no information.

This is more of a light zombie read.  It’s surprisingly charming and follows a more typical mystery story arc like most detective novels.  It’s a pretty familiar and somewhat formulaic mystery but I found myself just enjoying the wry and dry humour of Angel enough to make it feel just a little bit fresh.  I found her to be someone that I rooted for…at least once she FINALLY CLUED IN TO WHAT WAS HAPPENING.  Seriously, has she not seen a zombie movie??  I guess you never expect it to happen to you?  It doesn’t enter your brain until you want to actually eat a brain? Oh Angel…at least she got there… eventually.

At any rate, I didn’t expect to be as drawn in by the characters as I was and found myself immediately investigating the rest of the series.  When I need a good, fun, zombie mystery I will revisit Angel and see what sort of antics she has for me next.

The Boy on the Bridge by M. R. Carey

The Boy on the Bridge is a follow up story to The Girl With All the Gifts.  During the course of The Girl With All the Gifts our heroic menagerie finds an old mobile lab, a tank called the Rosalind Franklin or simply Rosie for short.  The Boy on The Bridge is the story of the ill-fated crew of that abandoned mobile lab unit.  Clearly we, as readers, know that Rosie ends up abandoned so that it can be found during the course of the events in The Girl With all the Gifts.  Prequels are a tricky business, readers already know where you must end up in order to fill the narrative of what is to come.  That makes it much harder to have aha! moments.  The Boy on the Bridge outlines just how the discovery was made of the children, leading to the imprisonment of Melanie and her classmates that we see in the beginning of The Girl With All the Gifts.  But knowing that the ultimate fate of the players in this story is dim makes it just a little harder to fall in love with them, and much easier to see the sadness in, and futility of, their mission.  However, knowing what happens also makes the events of The Boy on the Bridge carry so much more weight.  The wondering of how things could have been…if only…

The Boy on the Bridge is a prequel to The Girl With All the Gifts, but it is a prequel that must come second as the Epilogue serves to wrap up the Melanie story from The Girl with All the Gifts as well as concluding The Boy on the Bridge at the same time.  It was the conclusion to both that I never knew I needed.  And I am so content in its perfection.

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah

There are some books that can change you.  Books that can offer you a glimpse, however small, of another life.  This is one of those books.  Thanks to Trevor Noah I have a much clearer picture of what life was like, at least for him, growing up in South Africa.  And that is a perspective I never would have gotten to experience otherwise.  I learned so very much about the culture and day-to-day life in a way that I didn’t expect before I sat down to listen to this book.

It is a very difficult task to convey even a little bit of the complexity of “what was it like29780253 for you growing up” not to mention trying to convey that sort of complexity about growing up in a country that the reader may not have visited, or have an in depth knowledge of as a starting point.  Trevor Noah adeptly brings in all the context needed to understand and relate to the stories that he tells about his childhood and teenage years.  He does so with the humour that you expect, but also with a gravity and heart that gives his account true emotion, feeling beyond intimate in its honesty.

When Trevor Noah was announced as the successor to the brilliantly talented Jon Stewart I didn’t think that he had a chance of carrying a show that had become so synonymous with Jon himself.  I am more than happy to say that I was very, very mistaken.  Noah not only rivals Jon’s brilliance and sense of calling out the ridiculousness of the everyday, but he brings a fresh perspective into what is America given his vast experiences.

I highly recommend listening to this book on audio as read by Trevor himself.  There is just no substitute for hearing the precise accents and dialects as you move through the tales of Noah’s past.  In this case the audio is an experience unto itself.

Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz

Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz

Magpie Murders begins with editor Susan Ryeland telling us that she lost everything because of the manuscript we are about to read.  Just when my interest and curiousity was peaked, she leaves us to the manuscript as she read it.  32075854

I wasn’t sure about the manuscript part of the story at first.  I was hoping for maybe an interjection from the editor or some explanation during the course of the manuscript, but you get neither.  We are given the Magpie Murder manuscript without comment in its entirety.  But it grew on me.  Once I got to know the vast cast of characters in that manuscript I was intrigued.  I was actually disappointed when the manuscript abruptly ended, much to Susan Ryeland’s surprise.  When she heads to the office first thing Monday morning she learns that the author, Alan Conway, has been discovered dead and the missing chapters are nowhere to be found.

Susan becomes convinced that there are clues to what really happened to Alan contained in Magpie Murders, his (now) final novel.  But the police has ruled the death a suicide, and no one seems to want to believe any differently.

I found the book to be very clever and if you are a fan of the classic whodunnit genre you will find a ton of references to authors and their works.  I had most of the manuscript mystery solved by the time it abruptly ended, but the overall mystery of Alan Conway kept me reading because you get so little information until after the manuscript portion has been read by Susan and the death of Alan is discovered.

I wasn’t sure about the mystery-in-a-mystery aspect of this book, but it was done very well and I enjoyed every moment of it.