Book #83: The Orphan Master’s Son

Adam Johnson, The Orphan Master’s Son, 2012, 443p

Welp, this is a book that really messes with your sense of reality.

Would I have ever read this on my own? Nope. But when you are leading a book club with a bunch of older ladies who can ALWAYS TELL when you don’t read the book… you’re kind of stuck aren’t you?

So I read it.

Set in North Korea, Jun Do (yep – literally John Doe, basically a nobody) is an orphan master’s son, stuck with the worst of the duties and responsibilities. AFter that, he becomes a professional kidnapper then takes on his most difficult role yet – the rival to Kim Jong Il. Jun Do does everything he can to protect his new-found love, but will it be enough?

First thing that popped into my head was how much of this is the truth?

First of all, Jun Do seems to be constantly choosing his own sense of reality and identity. Was he ever really the Orphan Master’s son or did he choose to believe that to make up for the cruel treatment? This book takes the old adage of “fake it til you make it” to heart. Jun Do goes from zero to hero in roughly 450-pages – victim to master.

Also, as I know little to nothing about North Korea, is this an accurate portrayal of life in that country? Apparently Johnson based this off interviews with North Korean defectors, so it must have some hints of truthfulness. In that case, holy geebs.

This is not the worst book club book I’ve read but it won’t top the list of the best.

 

Book #82: Dragonfly in Amber

Diana Gabaldon, Dragonfly in Amber, 2001, 743p

Hello giant beastly huge book with a giant beastly huge Scotsman! Hubba.

This one took me A LOOOOONG time to read.

a) Because of said mentioned beastly length
annnnnnd
b) Because this one was harder to get into than Outlander. Like seriously, it took me like 300 pages to be like ‘okay, this is aight’

I get it. I get it. We sort of need all the historical backstory to get to the spoilery ending. But, my new Outlander motto is: MORE JAMIE, LESS ERRRYTHING ELSE.

We met Claire again in present day – well as present day as 1968 is – with her fire-haired daughter Brianna (hmmm…I wonder where she gets that from…) as they head back to Scotland. Claire plans to reveal to Brianna once and for all the unfathomable details about her heritage. Told through present day Revelations and beautiful, Highlander-filled flashbacks, we learn more about Claire and Jamie’s quest to change history and where it led them.

The cliffhanger ending somewhat made up for the slow start. I have yet to pick up Voyager, cause I’m worried it will be much the same. I feel like this a series that is going to take me a decade to read, but I’ll slog through it one giant tome at a time.

Cause Jamie.

Book #81: Career of Evil

Robert Galbraith, Career of Evil, 2015, 489p

Since kicking off this blogging adventure, I have read all three of Galbraith (aka Rowling)’s books. (see reviews here and here.) One I enjoyed, the other not so much. So I was interested to see if the third time was the charm.  (Yes, Prisoner of Azkaban was actually my favourite of the series, so I had high hopes.)

In this case, book three seems to be my sweet spot.

Our unlikely heroes Strike and Ellacott are at it again. When Robin receives a severed leg in the mail, the daring duo set out to find the sicko killer, all while the police department put it on the back burner. Strike soon realizes this case is personal and narrows it down to three suspects – all from his deep dark past.

I REALLY liked that we got to know Cormoran and Robin better in this book. Robin always seemed flat to me until this book. The will they?/won’t they? game is STRONG with this one – culminating in a cliffhanger ending. (Is it all really over?!? Obvi not, when there is a fourth book in the works). And FINALLY Cormoran has given up on Charlotte – which is refreshing.

All in all, I liked this book best of the series. Character development ALWAYS wins out for me over grossness.

 

 

Books #61-80: the Recap Edition

Total number of pages read

Grand total of 7151 this round. Longest was Grave Mercy at a whopping 550p; shortest was the gutpunch 176p of When Everything Feels Like the Movies.

Fave read?

It’s a toss up this time between two titles! At least they have a common theme: mental health.

The first – a teen book, obvi – is All the Bright Places. This one hit me HARD in the feels. It is added to my trifecta of teen feel punching books along with Eleanor & Park and The Fault in our Stars. Finch and Violet’s struggles hit a LITTLE too close to home for me.

Next up – Furiously Happy. I dig Jenny Lawson. I want to be friends with this lady. Her blunt honestly makes my heart feel less along. Plus she’s fucking hilarious.

Honorable shoutouts to Winterkill and Bitten for just being rad. It’s hard to narrow it down when there aren’t too many stinkers in this batch of books.

Least fave read?

Toss up between the (not so) erotic and pretty boring Mary Higgins Clark-esque Sweet Surrender and my foray into Steampunk teen fiction with The Girl in the Steel Corset. The books I read can tend to be predictable, but these two titles were both predictable and BORING. In this case, two strikes and they are out (or on my least fave read list, at least…)

What did I learn?

Werewolves can still be sexy (Obvi). I was proudly team Jacob while reading Twilight. Swooned for Alcide in True Blood. Crushed pretty hard on all the sexy lycanthropes in Bitten. (Also – watch the Space Channel remake of this show. Clay is droolworthy! Elena is a babeorama!)

What did I confirm?

Teen fiction hits me hard in the feels. Harder than adult fiction. Destroys me.

Best book club pick?

There was surprisingly only one book club pick in this recap – The Autistic Brain. It’s been pretty loosey goosey for book clubs. More to come in the next 20 titles.

Surprise find?

I was a little hesitant to jump into a series that had like ELEVEN books in it – but Bitten was a nice find. Helloooooooo werewolves. But like seriously. That’s a lotta books, Kelley Armstrong.

Biggest letdown?

I’m gonna have to go with The Silkworm. I REALLY REALLY dug The Cuckoo’s Calling. This one, not as much. Maybe it’s because I have a horrible memory and couldn’t remember who half of the characters were. Maybe it’s because some of this story grossed me out. But it didn’t live up to the first book for me.

What I’m looking forward to in the next 20 books

The return of Maggie Stiefvater to my reading list! The Raven King was pushed back so many times, I didn’t think I would ever read it! Blansey for life, yo. ❤

Book #80: Furiously Happy

Jenny Lawson, Furiously Happy, 2015, 329p

I adore Jenny Lawson. Her frank candidness about her mental health struggles is reassuring. It’s okay to not be okay. It’s to struggle and fall back down and cry and fail. The more people I see sharing and telling their stories make me feel less alone. Mental health disorders are isolating and exhausting. I am about two years post-diagnosis and I’m still pretty fucked up about it all.

I struggle with anxiety. My official diagnosis is Generalized Anxiety Disorder, which in a nutshell means I worry about everything everyday and always. Normal things –  like driving a car, going to the doctor’s, being late, and saying the wrong thing, – overwhelm and consume me. I lay awake at night and plan how I would get out of my house if there was a fire. I worry that my dog is unhappy. I think everyone hates me.  My relationships and friendships are affected. My overall health and well being are affected. It is not fun living in my head (or living with me).

We caught glimpses of this side of Lawson in Let’s Pretend This Never Happened. That book was FAR more hilarious than this one. This one had it’s moment, but for me it was more powerful, because the struggle is real.

Her advice to succeed at anything: Pretend You’re Good At It. I heed this advice. Everyday. I pretend I’m good at life. Not overwhelmed or anxious or drowning.

This book hit really close to home for me. Read it. Love it. Cry about it.

Book #79: When Everything Feels Like the Movies

Raziel Reid, When Everything Feels Like the Movies, 2014, 176p

This is an uncomfortable read. There, I said it.

I typically don’t read gutting books. Like terrible, horrible, soul crushing, losing my faith in humanity types of books. I read SAD books. I read BITTERSWEET books. But not like this.

There is so much hype surrounding this one. It won the Governor General Literary Award – and people have actually demanded it be stripped of it. It was a finalist on Canada Reads in 2015. It is vulgar and sweary and graphic, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t valid.

Jude, a gender queer teen, pushes the boundaries of their homophobic small town, with makeup, dresses, and a Hollywood attitude.  Their best friend, Angela, is a self proclaimed slut, and Jude pines after the most popular jock at the school. Jude copes with their own life of endless bullying and cruelty by living in denial – envisioning themselves s a beautiful starlet. Those bullies and name callers simply ‘paparazzi’. With graphic sexual content, violence, drug use, and language – it is clear why there was such controversy surround this title.

It’s a tough read. But, it is an extremely honest, brutal portrayal of youth have to face every day.

Not every book has to be beautiful. And sugar coated.

Sometimes it’s good be uncomfortable.

Book #78: The Jewel

Amy Ewing, The Jewel, 2014, 358p

If you have read ANY of my blog posts or if you even remotely have discussed books with me at any time, you will know that I’m beyond addicted to dystopian teen fiction. It is my book crack. I tried to count up the number of dystopian series I have read and the list was crazy long.

I like what I like. And I liked The Jewel. Is it cheesy and predictable? You bet. But it was an entertaining quick read, yo.

The first book in the “Lone City” series, the Jewel follows Violet, a powerful surrogate purchased by royalty to essentially propagate human kind. The royal bloodlines are tainted. In order to have healthy children, the rich purchase surrogates from the poorest communities – but these are no ordinary girls. Each have special powers over the “auguries”– being able to change somethings colour, change its shape, and encourage it to grow. Violet, now know simply as #197, is purchased by the Duchess of the Lake and is isolated and beaten. She is simply trying to survive, until she meets Ash – a paid companion to the Duchess’ niece. While the forbidden romance grows between Violet and Ash, the other surrogates begin dying after childbirth. Violet attempts to escape her fate, but things become much more complicated when she realizes she is pregnant…

If you’re reading this blog and are like “wait haven’t I read something like this before?”, the answer is clearly yes. Is this a new age, low grade version of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale? Obviously. Are there any new stories out there? Likely not. Is this going to be a classic? No. But I read it and will devour the rest of the series like a bag of chips.