Books shelved under “General”

49 reviews found

  1. Book cover for After the Silence

    After the Silence

    by Louise O'Neill

    5 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    Just absolutely devastating. But of course, I have come to expect that of Louise O’Neill.

    After two brilliant forays into young adult novels, both well worth a read, O’Neill brought her unstinting criticism of patriarchy to her first adult novel Almost Love in the best and most scathing way possible. After the Silence is a more-than-worthy second adult novel. While both have passing similarities—depictions of emotional abuse, gaslighting, male partners treating women poorly—O’Neill looks at…

  2. Book cover for Of Human Bondage

    Of Human Bondage

    by W. Somerset Maugham

    5 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    Second review: August 2020

    It has been nine years since I first read Of Human Bondage, so I felt very overdue to revisit a book that I dubbed in my first review “ripe for reading again and again.” Maybe I was a little scared that it wouldn’t hold up. Well, I am in a re-reading mood in this second half of pandemic-laden 2020, and Maugham fit the bill.

    Trigger warnings in this book for:…

  3. Book cover for Zazen

    Zazen

    by Vanessa Veselka

    2 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    Very mixed feelings about this one. Zazen is the kind of nihilistic, meditative tract that a lot of people rave about. Vanessa Veselka definitely examines a lot of the paradoxes inherent in the way some adults conduct themselves during those often aimless days after school and before middle age. At the same time, I did not have a good time reading this, and I never really enjoyed any of the characters. But I do wonder…

  4. Book cover for Almost Love

    Almost Love

    by Louise O'Neill

    4 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    I have been a diehard fan of Louise O’Neill since I read Asking for It, and I pre-ordered Almost Love when I learned of its existence. O’Neill combines an unflinching feminist philosophy with an unfettered talent for storytelling, and her latest novel is no exception. Equal parts amusing, scathing, and surprising, Almost Love presents us with the paradoxes of making and breaking relationships and the ways in which we make and break ourselves in…

  5. Book cover for The Golden House

    The Golden House

    by Salman Rushdie

    3 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    If I were younger, I would be all over this book. If I were slightly older than that, but still younger, then I would probably sneer at this book’s pretentiousness. As it is, having advanced to the ripe old age of 28, I have now acquired enough wisdom neither to gush nor to sneer but simply to shrug. The Golden House is most definitely Salman Rushdie, but it’s also a little bit different. And perhaps…

  6. Book cover for Solar

    Solar

    by Ian McEwan

    2 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    Books with unlikable protagonists are difficult. I love the conceit of an unlikable protagonist in some circumstances. Yet if one is not in the right mood, not liking the protagonist doesn’t help. Solar compounds this problem with Ian McEwan’s dense narration which, while providing excellent insight into Michael Beard’s interior life, means that we spend a lot of time on little moments that aren’t actually all that interesting. As with several books I’ve picked up…

  7. Book cover for Lolita

    Lolita

    by Vladimir Nabokov

    3 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    It’s the penultimate read for the Banging Book Club! Arguably the most well-known of this year’s selections and easily the most controversial from the moment of its release, Lolita is definitely complex and not an easy book to read.

    Lolita reminds me of Lullabies for Little Criminals, one of my favourite books and one that I revisited this year in preparation for teaching it to my adult learners (I’ve since taught it twice,…

  8. Book cover for Adult Onset

    Adult Onset

    by Ann-Marie MacDonald

    2 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    Reading Adult Onset feels like watching someone else watch a movie inside a glass box: I can see them enjoying the movie but can’t quite join in. I think I’ve come to terms with the fact I didn’t like this book, but I’m still trying to figure out if it’s well written or not. That is, I’m pretty certain most of what I didn’t like is on me, not on the book—but maybe a little…

  9. Book cover for Anonymous Lawyer

    Anonymous Lawyer

    by Jeremy Blachman

    4 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    The epistolary novel was a huge tradition back when the novel was first becoming big. I love that blogs have breathed new life into this form. Anonymous Lawyer, based on a blog of the same name, is the somewhat-fabricated record of the hiring partner at a corporate law firm. He shares his views on summer students, employee management, how to get to the top, and family matters. In this character Jeremy Blachman conveys…

  10. Book cover for Horrorstör

    Horrorstör

    by Grady Hendrix

    2 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    So, this was bizarre.

    Horrorstör is a wacky horror novel. It's set in an American knock-off of Ikea called Orsk. This particular Orsk store is haunted, however, and three employees stay overnight to get to the bottom of it. Grady Hendrix attempts to enhance the novel through a number of artistic gimmicks ranging from the chapter titles/descriptions to the entire design of the book.

    As far as the design goes, it's a nifty idea. It…

  11. Book cover for Skinny Legs and All

    Skinny Legs and All

    by Tom Robbins

    3 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    I’m very ambivalent about this book. Skinny Legs and All is a dense, intricate spiral of a story with funny characters but serious messages. However, Tom Robbins’ style grates on me a little bit. There’s nothing egregious about it, but maybe I’m just getting less patient with purpler prose as I approach the ripe old age of 26. In any event, I appreciate and respect this book, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as…

  12. Book cover for Fall

    Fall

    by Colin McAdam

    1 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    In Grade 11 English we read A Separate Peace, by John Knowles, as our Novel, and I hated it. Now, I know that hating the assigned reading is a time-honoured tradition in English class, but you have to understand that this was my first experience with such an emotion. I was the book-addicted, scholarly, high-achieving nerdy student who, in Grade 10, had gotten together with friends and their English teacher at lunch to read…

  13. Book cover for Jailbird

    Jailbird

    by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

    3 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    One of the central conceits of Jailbird is that the RAMJAC corporation seems to own everything, and it is owned by Mrs. Jack Graham, a reclusive woman whom few people have met in person and who gives orders by telephone, confirming them by mailing a letter to her subordinates signed by fingerprints from both hands. That’s weird, right?

    Problem is, this is a Vonnegut novel, so it’s not nearly weird enough.

    Walter F. Starbuck is…

  14. Book cover for Enduring Love

    Enduring Love

    by Ian McEwan

    4 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    I picked this up because one of my A2 English Literature students has selected it for her coursework partner text, to accompany our class discussions of Hardy and Player One. Ian McEwan is an author I’ve been meaning to read more but never really made a priority, so it’s nice to have a reason to jump him up in the queue.

    I really do love the ghetto of genre fiction, but sometimes the overabundance…

  15. Book cover for Carry On, Jeeves

    Carry On, Jeeves

    by P.G. Wodehouse

    5 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    This is my second P.G. Wodehouse experience following Cocktail Time, which was not a Jeeves and Wooster novel. I enjoyed Cocktail Time and was looking forward to Carry on, Jeeves, which I didn’t actually realize was an anthology. This proved to be even better than a novel as an introduction to Jeeves and Wooster. It gave me a nice sense of their relationship through the ages. And with each story nice and short…

  16. Book cover for The Gun Seller

    The Gun Seller

    by Hugh Laurie

    4 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    This book has been on my to-read list for ages. Adding it was as simple as, “Hugh Laurie wrote a novel? Sold!” The fact that it’s a novel about a British ex-military freelancer trying to prevent the assassination of the American businessman he was hired to kill … well, that’s just a bonus. Some books keep their wit bottled up and dole it out carefully over the course of the story. The Gun Seller isn’t…

  17. Book cover for Cocktail Time

    Cocktail Time

    by P.G. Wodehouse

    4 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    Many people have recommended P.G. Wodehouse to me many times, and now I have finally read one of his books. I had no particular reason for choosing Cocktail Time as my first Wodehouse experience. I went to a used bookstore for the first time here in my new town, and at the back of the shop was a small bookcase full of very new-looking Wodehouse books. With no idea where to begin, I looked to…

  18. Book cover for The Seven Sisters

    The Seven Sisters

    by Margaret Drabble

    4 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    I went into this book without high expectations. Not only did I know little about Margaret Drabble or The Seven Sisters but I acquired this from the same person who gave me Love the One You’re With, so … yeah. Provenance aside, this book turned out to be immensely satisfying. Drabble creates a main character and narrator who is fallible and sympathetic, and the story she tells is firmly grounded in realism even as…

  19. Book cover for A Family Daughter

    A Family Daughter

    by Maile Meloy

    2 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    Once upon a time I sat down to read a book called Liars and Saints, which I had noticed in a piece in TIME magazine. I had bought the book with the intent of giving it as a gift, but after reading it I thought better: although not completely terrible, Liars and Saints possessed nothing to recommend it, inhabiting that wasteland of contrived implausibilities that seems to be the home of so much literary…

  20. Book cover for Mrs. Dalloway

    Mrs. Dalloway

    by Virginia Woolf

    3 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    I’ve been reading the most extraordinary, eloquent encomia of this book. There is something about Mrs Dalloway that provokes people into passionate reminisces of their own experiences, whether it’s middle age, walking through London, or navigating the perilous minefields of relationships. I wish I could contribute to that corpus. Truthfully, the intense style that Virginia Woolf uses in Mrs Dalloway made it very difficult for me to read, and that has damped my enthusiasm for…

  21. Book cover for Cat's Eye

    Cat's Eye

    by Margaret Atwood

    4 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    As we dove into summer I read my first Atwood novel, The Handmaid’s Tale, thereby establishing some ground rules for our relationship. We decided to agree to disagree when it comes to style so that I could continue appreciating her strong motifs and themes. Now as we dip our toes into autumn, I am now one more book into Atwood’s oeuvre, and this truce appears to be holding. If anything, Cat’s Eye is preferable…

  22. Book cover for A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

    A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

    by James Joyce

    3 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    I find myself having difficulty expressing my opinion of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. This is not an unusual situation for me with regards to "classic" works of literature that fail to meet my personal expectations. While such books don't entertain me, I still manage to understand or at least glimpse why they have earned a spot in the literary canon. This is the case for Portrait, my first…

  23. Book cover for How I Became a Famous Novelist

    How I Became a Famous Novelist

    by Steve Hely

    3 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    I first approached How I Became a Famous Novelist with some trepidation. Like many other humourous books, this one is very committed to its humour in a very meta-fictional way. Everything from the back cover to the epigraphs is part of the commentary the book and author Steve Hely are making on the state of writing and publishing in contemporary North American society. The book and its main character are extremely self-aware and self-possessed. Books…

  24. Book cover for The Hitman Diaries

    The Hitman Diaries

    by Danny King

    2 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    It's no secret that I love absurdist humour, and the British do absurdism better than most. From Monty Python to Blackadder to Douglas Adams, Britain does it best. The Hitman Diaries attempts to continue this national tradition of elevating the obscure, the mundane, or the morally ambiguous into absurd and hilarious situations that entertain and enlighten all at once. Danny King doesn't quite succeed in this respect, and I'm not really sure what to make…

  25. Book cover for Inside Out Girl

    Inside Out Girl

    by Tish Cohen

    4 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    I'm not a parent. And in the last couple of years, I haven't had much interaction with children (although that will change as my nephew grows up). As I began reading Inside Out Girl, my first challenge was to try and see everything through a parent's eyes. I had to work hard not to dismiss Rachel as an over-the-top mother figure and not to roll my eyes at the behaviour of Olivia, Janie, and…

  26. Book cover for The Pages

    The Pages

    by Murray Bail

    2 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    So I've done it again. I don't know why I do this. Sometimes literary fiction appeals to me, but most of the time it comes off as bland or just unremarkable. Nothing about The Pages indicated to me that it would be any different, and I was predictably unimpressed with it. But I can't very well write a review that says, "More of the same." I feel an obligation to provide a full explanation of…

  27. Book cover for Revenant

    Revenant

    by Tristan Hughes

    2 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    My gut reaction to this book: "Wow, this guy spent a lot of time figuring out to how to describe things."

    Maybe it's a shallow statement, especially coming from a writer, but it's true. Revenant made me think about how literary fiction tends to put more emphasis on lyrical descriptions than other genres. And along with that, you get all these characters that are apparently not only observant, but verbose in their observations. A certain…

  28. Book cover for The Lost Diaries of Adrian Mole, 1999-2001

    The Lost Diaries of Adrian Mole, 1999-2001

    by Sue Townsend

    1 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    I did it again. I walked smack into the middle of a series. And I have only myself to blame. Had I been more careful in examining this book, I would have noticed it's part of a series—I would also have noted its epistolary format, another feature that ordinarily gives me pause. However, I did not notice these things, and even once I did, I read this book anyway. Now I have to write this…

  29. Book cover for The Ex-Mrs. Hedgefund

    The Ex-Mrs. Hedgefund

    by Jill Kargman

    1 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    I began this book fairly sceptical and remained ambivalent throughout. Chick lit isn't a genre I read too often, so I'm not sure what made me pick this book up off the library shelf--perhaps a combination of the title and the promise of a glimpse into the world of New York high society.

    This book made me extremely aware of how young I am. Growing up, all the books I read talked about technology commonplace…

  30. Book cover for Who Killed Amanda Palmer?

    Who Killed Amanda Palmer?: A Collection of Photographic Evidence

    by Amanda Palmer

    4 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    I'm a fan of Neil Gaiman: I read his books, read his blog, and follow his Twitter feed. So when he starts mentioning this Amanda Palmer chick, links to her music videos, and extols both her talents as a musician and her creative nature in general, I decided I should pay attention. I did a little research of my own, learned more about Miss Palmer, but ultimately I was still left with the one question…

  31. Book cover for All Families Are Psychotic

    All Families Are Psychotic

    by Douglas Coupland

    3 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    Despite its rather rambling plot, I actually have a soft spot for All Families are Psychotic. It has something to do with the zaniness of the characters being so realistic. And the ending always chokes me up.

    As the title implies, the book's about family and the tribulations one's family undergoes as the wheel turns and one generation supplants another. Yet it's also about all the motifs surrounding family: growing up, maturity, dealing with…

  32. Book cover for The Whole Truth

    The Whole Truth

    by David Baldacci

    1 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    International political thrillers aren't always my cup of tea, but this book was just bad. I don't pretend to hold thrillers to the same standards as great works of art, but one has to draw the line somewhere. David Baldacci's writing isn't the worst I've seen, but it's not great. More worrisome, however, is the absence of an interesting plot or fascinating characters.

    The Whole Truth concerns a plot by the head of an…

  33. Book cover for The Origin of Species

    The Origin of Species

    by Nino Ricci

    2 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    Far too long for its own good, The Origin of Species seems to have one goal: destroy any last shred of sympathy the reader might have for the protagonist, Alex Fratarcangeli.

    Part of my trouble with this book is a defect of self. I'm too young to have lived through the 1980s, and I've never been to Montreal. Thus, it's difficult for me to comprehend Alex's preoccupation with Pierre Trudeau, Bill 101, and tension among…

  34. Book cover for Requiem, Mass.

    Requiem, Mass.

    by John Dufresne

    2 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    This book was difficult to review. The premise was intriguing, and John Dufresne's writing is very tight, both in dialogue and in characterization. Unfortunately, as the story progressed, I felt less and less interested in it, until I became totally detached and just wanted the book to end.

    For a character-driven story, Requiem, Mass. lacks enough depth to succeed in sharing characters' souls with us. It tries admirably, and nearly succeeds on one or two…

  35. Book cover for Once in a Promised Land

    Once in a Promised Land

    by Laila Halaby

    3 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    This book was intriguing at first. Halaby creates two rich characters, Jassim and Salwa Haddad, whose personal lives become much more complicated post-9/11. Jassim, comfortably encapsulated in his routine, accidentally hits a boy with his car, killing the boy and pushing Jassim's life off course. He grows distant from his wife. Salwa, meanwhile, suffers a miscarriage after intentionally "accidentally" getting pregnant and conducts a brief, confused affair with a much younger coworker. As their lives…

  36. Book cover for Salt

    Salt

    by Jeremy Page

    3 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    Cover-to-cover, Salt is lyrical, evocative prose, with an indigo but definitely not purple hue. Jeremy Page's writing drew me into the world of the salt marshes in Norfolk without so much as a backward glance to the rest of the world. He made me forget that the rest of the world even existed. The first part of the book briefly takes place during the Second World War, and aside from some references to other places,…

  37. Book cover for Dinosaurs on the Roof

    Dinosaurs on the Roof

    by David Rabe

    1 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    Having finished this book, I can't recall what made me decide to read it in the first place. I can't think of much to recommend it.

    The basic premise sounded OK (and maybe that was why I borrowed it)--an elderly woman, Bernice, stops by the apartment of her deceased friend's daughter, Janet. Bernice is a member of a small church group (which is "notacult"), and her reverend has announced that the Rapture will visit them…

  38. Book cover for The Uses of Enchantment

    The Uses of Enchantment

    by Heidi Julavits

    2 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    This book began with a great deal of promise, but as I got to knew the characters, I liked it less and less.

    Heidi Julavits demonstrates how one can avoid using quotation marks to indicate dialogue without confusing the reader, a lesson Ali Smith could stand to learn. The Uses of Enchantment is far superior to The Accidental in use of language and style to create a particular atmosphere and introduce the character. I enjoy…

  39. Book cover for Master of the Delta

    Master of the Delta

    by Thomas H. Cook

    2 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    The flashback is the weakest of all foreshadowing, and it is the device that ruined this book for me. It's a shame too, because Thomas H. Cook uses other foreshadowing as well--hints about the deadliest sin being pride, allusions to the consequences similar characters faced in great literary works. The flashbacks were confusing at best and disruptive to the pace of the story at worst. I don't mind so much if the entire story is…

  40. Book cover for Miss Julia Paints the Town

    Miss Julia Paints the Town

    by Ann B. Ross

    2 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    I picked this up from the library hoping it'd be about a plucky protagonist with a quirky attitude who would stop at nothing to save the day. Well, I was right, but not in the way I was expecting.

    I seem to have stumbled upon the ninth novel in a series of novels intended for an audience composed primarily of people who are not me. By which I mean, I didn't like this book all…

  41. Book cover for The Abstinence Teacher

    The Abstinence Teacher

    by Tom Perrotta

    1 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    While the theme might be interesting, this book did not live up to my expectations. The changes the main characters underwent seemed rough and somewhat arbitrary, as if they were changing because the author wanted them to change for the purposes of the plot rather than through their own internal motivation. Tom Perrotta's writing style does nothing to rescue me from this plot-driven drivel. Don't get me wrong: this book has its moments; they are…

  42. Book cover for What I Was

    What I Was

    by Meg Rosoff

    2 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    Not my cup of tea.

    I like books like this, but I didn't enjoy this particular one as much as I had hoped. I just could not commit myself to empathizing with the narrator, so the entire story left me hollow. I felt like I was a passenger.

    The first part of the book was quite intriguing. The narrator is a noncomformist boy who's been expelled twice; this is literally the boarding school of last…

  43. Book cover for The Ravine

    The Ravine

    by Paul Quarrington

    4 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    This is my first Paul Quarrington book, but after reading it, I will definitely read more of his work. His writing reminds me of Douglas Coupland, only with a slightly more Ontario flair. As a resident of Thunder Bay, I smiled at the few scenes set there. It's nice reading fiction by Canadian authors set in Canada.

    The last book that I read, The Mistress of the Sun, had a great beginning but a…

  44. Book cover for The Cellist of Sarajevo

    The Cellist of Sarajevo

    by Steven Galloway

    3 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    Some books are written purely to entertain. Some books are written with a purpose in mind, to explore a theme and somehow communicate an essential aspect of humanity from one person to another. This is art through language. The Cellist of Sarajevo exemplifies this.

    Steven Galloway very clearly states in his afterword that this is not a historical novel; it is not meant to accurately convey the details of the siege of Sarajevo. What it…

  45. Book cover for The Gum Thief

    The Gum Thief

    by Douglas Coupland

    3 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    It's exciting to read a new Douglas Coupland novel. After discovering jPod two years ago, I devoured the rest of Coupland's oeuvre. When I learned he had a new book out, I rushed to pre-order the trade paper back version. The Gum Thief. Intriguing.

    In fact, I didn't expect an epistolary novel. But that didn't detract from my experience.

    The two main characters, Roger and Bethany, have a bizarre relationship and play counterpoint to…

  46. Book cover for Overture

    Overture

    by Yael Goldstein

    2 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    I went through alternating appraisals of Overture. At first I thought it was boring, then sweet, then sickeningly romantic (if I ever hear the words "torrid but virginal liaison" again, I will snap, I swear), and finally, musical.

    I can't say I like the main character. She is one of those people who feels a constant, almost pathological, need to sabotage her own happiness. And I just can't accept that philosophy--even in the name…

  47. Book cover for Addled

    Addled

    by JoeAnn Hart

    3 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    I picked up Addled not knowing what to expect. I got a hilarious story involving upper crust country club members, country club employees, and of course, geese. It all related back to the geese in one way or another, which makes the title's double meaning perfect.

    Addled is endearing. I was enjoying the levity of the book, the way that it treated each situation as if we were watching it unfold in a terrarium of…

  48. Book cover for The Art Thief

    The Art Thief

    by Noah Charney

    1 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    Noah Charney knows a lot about art. His writing, however, leaves much to be desired.

    The book improved much throughout the course of the story. It started out as an uninteresting, rather dull story with disparate characters. Charney employs some rather unusual metaphors and descriptive phrases. At the very end of the story, when all is revealed and the mystery solved, one can look back and say, "Oh yes, this all comes together, how interesting."

  49. Book cover for The Emperor's Children

    The Emperor's Children

    by Claire Messud

    2 out of 5 stars

    Reviewed

    The best part of the book was the theme, which Clair Messud does handle well. For that reason alone, I gave this book as a gift to a friend once, hoping that even if I didn't enjoy it, she might like it.

    Aside from that, this book has little to recommend it, unfortunately. It's a shame, because I really wanted to like it: it had interesting moments, little bits that I enjoyed. Overall, however, it…