Adrift at Sea — a bunch of awesome reviews!

AdriftAtSea_website“The text is terse and unembellished, leaving the images to capture the emotions through color and perspective—and they do so with compelling immediacy.”—Booklist

“[A] remarkable tale of perseverance that involved attacks from soldiers, a broken boat at sea, and a trip that was intended to last four days but went horribly awry….This is a solid informational resource that can be used for introducing a refugee’s experience.”—School Library Journal

“As she did in The Last Airlift and One Step at a Time, Skrypuch uses one child’s story to give moving insight into the experience of the many children who escaped war-ravaged Vietnam to start new lives….Deines’s (Elephant Journey) hazy oil paintings poignantly capture the family’s physical ordeal and anguish during their perilous journey.”—Publishers Weekly




“From the illustration of a lone boat adrift in a wash of dry heat that graces the cover of Adrift at Sea, to the dark and engrossing images of Tuan’s steps along the journey, Brian Deines’ art is evocative and integrative, resplendent in complementary colours of orange and golds and blues and purples.”—CanLit for LittleCanadians

“…detailed authors’ notes include history, photographs, and maps. The warm undertones in Deines’ oil paintings evoke tropical Vietnam.”—Kirkus Reviews

Review: Dear Mr. M

Dear Mr. MDear Mr. M by Herman Koch
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Herman Koch has a gift for getting a reader inside the head of flawed and unlikable humans in a mesmerizing way. Who is the most unlikable in Dear Mr. M? The voyeur neighbor who spies on the declining author and his family? Or that declining author, who finds moral equivalency in collaboration and resistance during war, and who marries a star-struck high school student 40 years his junior? Or maybe the young wife, who marries for fame. Intertwine these characters with the past ones — the teacher who sleeps with his student and then stalks her when she breaks it off, or those students who delight in tormenting people with cruel pranks.

All of these characters intertwine when the elderly author writes a mystery thriller loosely based on a true incident of a teacher who disappears and the students who are accused of murdering him. The title of his novel is Payback and as you reach the end of Dear Mr. M, you realize how perfect that title is.

Brilliant and addictive. Herman Koch’s best novel yet.

Thank you, Netgalley, for the opportunity to read this book.

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Review: I Liked My Life

I Liked My LifeI Liked My Life by Abby Fabiaschi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Right from the first paragraph I was engaged in this poignant intertwining narrative. The voices alternate from Maddy’s from beyond the grave, to her teen daughter Eve, who is grieving and rightly feeling tremendous guilt, and husband Brady — ditto. I wanted to get to the bottom of it — how this family got to the point that Maddy dies (no spoilers — you’ll have to read for yourself). I liked the self-reflection on all ends and how the story made me reflect on my own life and people I may have inadvertently hurt. This novel affected me to the point that I wept through parts.

I almost didn’t request this novel on Netgalley because of the comparison to Jodi Picoult, whose works I find emotionally exploitive. There is a fine line between compassion and exploitation and Fabiaschi veers on the side of angels.

Thank you, Netgalley, for the opportunity to read and review this book.

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Review: Kiss of the Sun

Kiss of the Sun: A ThrillerKiss of the Sun: A Thriller by R.K. Jackson
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

RK Jackson has good potential as a writer and this story certainly had promise but this novel read like an early draft. Too bad that he and his editors didn’t take some time with it to clean up the howlers and the logistical holes. I particularly liked the character development at the beginning and the first half of the book was evolving into a nice thriller that only required a bit of willing suspension of disbelief. But then, near the end, it was like the writer realized he was running out of pages and rushed through to finish. The last few chapters in particular were all telling and no showing — the bad guy standing up and explaining what he was doing, and why. Sheesh. And the ending? Hoo boy: all trope. A few more drafts and some good editing and this could have been brilliant.
Thank you, Netgalley, for the opportunity to read this book.

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Review: The Boy Who Escaped Paradise

The Boy Who Escaped Paradise: A NovelThe Boy Who Escaped Paradise: A Novel by J. M. Lee
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A very unusual novel about a young North Korean math savant who is found beside the murdered body of an unidentified man in New York.

The boy is taken to the hospital for treatment but also must be interrogated by police, but because of his difficulties in relating to people, this is a challenge. He does pour out his story bit by bit to another person, who, like him, speaks the language of numbers and symbols and in this way, the reader learns what happened to him.

In some ways the character reminds me of Forrest Gump. The boy is brilliant and easy to be taken advantage of, but what an uplifting story it is to follow his journey from a prison camp in North Korea all the way to the Statue of Liberty. He is such a true and trusting friend to the few who can relate to him. Many try to take advantage of his gift along the way and that in itself puts him into amazing circumstances.

Beautifully written, nuanced characters, great research. LOVE love this novel.

Thank you, Netgalley, for the opportunity to read this book in exchange of a fair review.

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All These Perfect Strangers: Review

All These Perfect StrangersAll These Perfect Strangers by Aoife Clifford
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I felt completely detached from this story. Clifford uses the clunky narrative device of having Pen, her character, write a journal as an exercise for her therapist. The story alternates between the present with her therapist, and the past, at university. I kept on waiting for the tension, and I kept hoping for compelling characters. None of that happened by page 60 so I gave up.

Thank you, Netgalley, for the opportunity to read this novel.

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The Conjoined: Review

The Conjoined: A NovelThe Conjoined: A Novel by Jen Sookfong Lee
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is not a thriller but I guess it’s been marketed that way to get more readers. It’s a family drama, and a darned good one. There are two dead girls in the freezer, but this novel isn’t a whodunit but more of a whydoneit. Jen Sookfong Lee builds a cast of very human characters, each having flaws and pretty much everyone longing for an elusive happiness and these individual pursuits combo into a deadly result. If you’re looking for a breathtaking pageturner a la Gillian Flynn, this isn’t it. But if you want to read a finely crafted novel about people who will seem so real to you that you’ll forget you’re reading a book, then pick this one up.

Thank you, Netgalley, for the opportunity to read The Conjoined.

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Review: Real Food/Fake Food by Larry Ormsted

Real Food/Fake Food: Why You Don’t Know What You’re Eating and What You Can Do about ItReal Food/Fake Food: Why You Don’t Know What You’re Eating and What You Can Do about It by Larry Olmsted
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Larry Olmsted has an engaging and anecdotal style of writing that makes his book compulsively easy to read and it is oh so informative. I am on a quest now to find real and fresh parma-reggianno cheese and authentic and fresh olive oil. I am glad to know why ordering red snapper in a restaurant is a bad idea and why one should never ever dine in a sushi restaurant. It surprised me to read why Costco, Walmart and some of the other big-box stores are actually more reliable than restaurants and grocery stores when it comes to sourcing healthy seafood and meat.

While some of the food fraud is relatively harmless, like lobster sandwiches that contain no lobster but do still contain edible food (even seafood sometimes) there are other occasions when the substitutions have lethal consequences, like spices being extended with fillers, which can include ground peanuts and flour — ingredients that are lethal to those allergic to them.

Much of what Olmsted relates is alarming but it’s mitigated by the fact that he advises the reader on how to spot fake food and how to go about buying the real stuff. Eye opening and compulsively readable. If you eat food you need to read this book.

Thank you Netgalley and Algonquin Books for the opportunity to read a free e-edition in exchange for an honest review.

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