Sunday, May 22, 2022

Book Review: Brindille

by Frédéric Brrémaud
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’m not sure what exactly happened in Brindille. It starts out really good, a bit vague but I can handle that at the beginning of a story. The opening panels of this graphic novel are gorgeous forest art. Our heroine is mysterious but interesting… and so it goes along. Then somewhere around issue #3 things start to happen with almost no context. I felt like I had missed something numerous times to throughout to the last issue in this collection (#8). I flipped back a couple times in case I was just tired and missing details but they literally just aren’t there.

It’s too bad the plot and information is lost as the art is wonderful. I loved how panels were very distinct in colour tones. When it was the war or enemy the panels were very dark, heavy in blues and reds. Whereas our forest panels (mainly featuring Brindille) were green and yellow, bright and filled with hope.

If only I could have figured out more of the storyline. It’s almost like the creative team was told in issue 3 or 4 that they had less time to tell the story than expected; so they panicked and cut out too much? I’m not sure what happened except that it just fell apart for me. So sad as I think there was real potential here.

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.

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Book Review: The Grimrose Girls

The Grimrose Girls 
by Laura Pohl
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is YA as it should be! Laura Pohl gives us a queer mystery featuring a groups of girls whom all represent fairytale princesses or characters. There is so much fun in this; even as the primary theme is about grieving a friend lost too soon.
Easily suitable for 12-year-olds (there is no sex, just some kissing and lusting for one another). The Grimrose Girls takes the well known fairytales (even referring to the Disney versions many times) and changes them up just slightly to fit into modern day scenarios. At the heart of this novel, a book of fairytales where there are no happy endings (and you know I can’t resist a book written about another book).

For our leading gals there is a lot of turmoil; whether it’s being sent away for school, the death of a friend, being new to school, feeling completely ignored by family, or not having control over their own destiny; each scenario is well out together and, while allowing correlations with well known fairytales, keeps you on your toes as details may change. One of my favourite moments is when one of our girls comments that she “didn’t even loose a shoe” as a scene at a party/ball unfolds. Obviously this Cinderella knows her own story well!

At about 25% of the way through the book, when it’s super obvious the reader is being given hints about which of our girls are which fairytale character I started a list. Working out which girl (and occasional boy) was which in different fairytales mentioned, or that I knew on my own. It was super fun! I got most of them correct; but not all. Perhaps the real magic in Grimrose Girls is that it has elements of so many stories tied into one mystery that then links in and explores teen angst and issues from a different perspective.

I don’t want to say too much more as spoilers would be awful to have going into this story. The true magic is in the mystery as it unravels and shows us who each of our lead girls are; or who they aren’t. I really appreciated this one and cannot wait to recommend it to everyone that loves fairytales and YA books. If you have any affinity for the Disney or Grimm/Andersen fairytales and some angsty, queer, teen girls then check this one out.
And be sure to revel in the fact that Laura Pohl wrote this book in English, her non-native language. Now that is a real feat!

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.

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Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Book Review: The Girl in His Shadow

The Girl in His Shadow: A Novel
by Audrey Blake
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Absolutely stunning. This is actually two authors who worked together from across an ocean(!) but published under one name. One of the female authors is a Canadian (like me!), the other gal is in the UK.

There is a lot of gory detail for surgery, but it’s all medically described and felt so real (especially the description of the rotting corpse--smell and all!). I appreciated that they didn't downplay the risks of the surgeries being performed for the time (especially when using the ether) but also the huge benefit of patients not enduring the pain directly. They didn't go into a lot of detail on the mental well-being of someone who has a bullet removed from their leg while conscious (for example); but it was certainly implied at times that the surgery might be more than a patient can bear (without the ether). We still loose people to anesthesia at alarming rates in today's medical system; but reading this I'll take that risk every single time over the option of just enduring pain (which can lead to permanent nerve damage and chronic pain).

The continued trials and walls put in place of our female lead are so frustrating. At times I wanted to take the book and whack some dead guy for his stupid theory about women being "too sensitive" or "too soft" to handle blood and trauma. Clearly these surgeons haven't seen who tends to the men brought in from a battlefield. There is absolutely no proof to show that one gender has more resilience to handle blood and gore than the other. Albeit we don't see a lot of female serial killers (although a small part of me likes to think it's because the women are too clever to get caught); I do not believe that is because women are adverse to gore. We have babies for goodness sake! What else is messier than having a baby?! (note: I have never, and will never give birth or carry I child I am going by what other women have told me) At any rate, there are a thousand scenarios that we could come up with to prove why women are not inferior surgeons or doctors. And while it's good to remember how far we've come in just over 100 years; at the same time I challenge people to remember this exact same sentiment stands for race and cultural background. Just because someone's English is a bit broken doesn't mean they aren't the absolute best surgeon or doctor.

Carrying on, I really loved the romance story (which is surprising); it felt like a nice add-on to the core novel. Now this is high praise from me as I tend to hate romance plunked into the middle of novels like this or that draw the attention away from the historical context. I didn't feel in any way like it was forced or took my attention away. The romance is firmly rational and it makes perfect sense given the lifestyle and close quarters of our lead gal and her love interest. Additionally; if you don't leave your home much or socialize you're likely to fall for someone in your immediate vicinity. (note: I do not consider this a spoiler as it is very obvious from the moment we meet said love interest what his likely role will be).

Overall I would say this is an excellent historical read. If you have any interest in women's fight to enter the medical profession, the controversial use of ether, the scientific 'race' to discover first, or just want a good historical read in this time period. I truly don't think many people will be disappointed by this novel. It is easy to recommend out (even if a bit gory at times, that's a simple heads up for any reader) and while many bad things happen in it; is ultimately a feel good read (which may seem odd for me to say but once you read it you'll understand why). As I don't do "beach reads" or contemporary romance (or not very often) this to me is a perfect casual summer or vacation read (for those that usually are immersed in intense historical war, sci-fi/fantasy, or horror novels). For those like me, I think you'll know if you are or not, then consider this a lighter read. Either way, it's a good solid read for almost anyone.

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.

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Monday, May 9, 2022

Book Review: Circus of Wonders

Circus of Wonders
by Elizabeth Macneal
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

"All of history is just fiction."
A well researched novel about the circus during the time of P. T. Barnum, although he doesn’t feature in the novel. Elizabeth MacNeal brings us into the realm of those who do do not look ‘normative’, and it’s truly a display of the good, the bad, and the ugly.

The characters are all well flawed and feel quite human. The practicalities of the personalities, choices made, and hopes and desires of each person reflect upon the circus quite well. From the lowly mouse to the large elephant; and from a birthmark speckled girl in a small village to the startling charism of the Ringmaster; we see the classism that exists inside the small community of a circus. Our lead characters are quite different from one another; and yet all of them wish to be so much more than they are. Dreamers who will strive for more and often, inevitably, fall short.

My favourite part of Circus of Wonder is the ending. It’s so rare to come across an ending that is both happy, yet sad; both realistic, and idlidic; and ultimately feels appropriate, even if no one really wins or looses.

If you enjoyed The Night Circus this might be for you. But be forewarned, there is no magic here. Just dangerous stunts, and conditioning, along with some genetic deformities. This is a story about life, making choices, and then living with those choices. No matter how it turns out there is one thing for sure; we can write our own history and make it as fictional as we want whilst brood

”Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.”

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