What truly matters: A review of The Tiny Wife by Andrew Kaufman

the tiny wife book

“…the vast majority of you, if you even believe you have a soul, believe it sits inside you like a brick of gold….nothing could be further from the truth.”

The Tiny Wife by Andrew Kaufman

After attending the book launch for The Tiny Wife, I was intrigued by the book’s imaginative content, and I had to experience it for myself. Being a short book, it only took me a one-way train ride home to finish it. I experienced a whole range of emotions while reading it, from the humorous chuckle to the perplexed mumble.

I won’t bother giving the usual quick summary in this review, as that can already be found on the blog via the book launch post from earlier (link provided above).

illustration in the tiny wifeMetaphorical and witty, The Tiny Wife is a joy to read. While its language is simple, its meanings are complex and full of wisdom. After being robbed, strange events start to happen for all of those involved, many of which are not plausible. But all of these happenings are significant.

The woman who is chased by her lion tattoo is being chased for a reason. Her name is Dawn, and the lion tattoo represented the moment she finally got the courage to break up with her boyfriend. Now this very tattoo has come to life and is chasing her all over the city non-stop. It is not until Dawn finally stops to look at the lion that she realizes she has nothing to fear at all. The lion’s features are not menacing but quizzical. As a result, Dawn is able to send it after the robber instead, who she randomly runs into in the market. The meaning I took from this scenario is that running from your problems does not solve them in the long run, and one moment of courage isn’t enough. Dawn needed to embody that courage fully, which meant more than just physically representing it through the tattoo. There are a couple other scenarios I enjoyed, such as the man who has carried around a refused engagement ring for months. His metaphorical awakening is just as powerful, involving the woman he thought he loved, a broken heart, and a moving vehicle. You’ll have to read it to find out why.

However, because the book was so short, I do feel that a lot was missed out on. I was still very curious about what happened to all the other characters who had something of emotional value taken from them. What did they give to the robber? Did they save their souls? Or did they all wink out of existence instead? The book left me wanting more, but that is often the nature of a novella.

I also found that some metaphors alluded me, such as the man who gave the robber a wedding picture of his wife’s parents. What does tying his shoes, suddenly declaring he is leaving his wife, only to find she is already gone actually mean? I can’t figure it out for the life of me. Perhaps I am the only one with this problem, but these small unknowns left me puzzled and fearful that I was missing out on something that was supposed to be evident but wasn’t. This power of subtlety, while frustrating on occasion, is also the genius of Kaufman’s writing, and I’m just sorry that I’m missing out on some of it. This is also why Kaufman’s ending is so satisfying, as you will find out when you read the book yourself. In regards to Kaufman’s main characters, you can understand the metaphorical growth that happens between Stacey and her husband, David during this whole odd experience of  her shrinking bit by bit each day—it is, ironically, a growth that is gradual and natural, that which easily resonates with everyday people and everyday life.

Stacey’s husband, David is also the narrator, which is an interesting feature in The Tiny Wife. Obviously, because David wasn’t physically there, he is telling the story based purely on what Stacey has told him. Some of the holes in the story make sense due to this limited point of view. It is also interesting because, like David, we are outsiders to these events.We arrive at the same conclusions and experience the same epiphanies alongside David, unless he gives us a peak at information he was given at a later point in time. I think this was a great stylistic choice on Kaufman’s part, as it gives the story a different dimension. We aren’t privy to Stacey’s deepest thoughts and emotions, which leaves a lot of room for interpretation instead of just being told the facts. It is a less heavy-handed approach I sometimes enjoy.

Now, I can completely understand Kaufman’s personal message in my copy now: “Don’t let this happen to you.” Well, I will definitely not be letting this happen to me, but if I come close, I can always be reminded to cherish what is most important in life by reserving an hour to reread The Tiny Wife.

4 out of 5 book thumbs up

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The Tiny Wife by Andrew Kaufman, published in Canada by Cormorant Books © 2014

Available at Indigo, Amazon, and independent bookstores everywhere.

 

 

And the wheel stops turning… – A review of A Memory of Light, Book 14: The Final Volume by Robert Jordan

A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan

“All was shattered, and all but memory lost, and one memory above all others, of him who brought the Shadow and the Breaking of the World. And him they named Dragon.”

A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson

*Some Spoilers…but not many.”

I don’t think I can give a decent review of this book, simply because I have been reading the books for a span of twelve years (as I’m sure most of Robert Jordan’s fans have — He is similar to George R.R. Martin in that way). Naturally, I have forgotten some important features of the series and I have also lost my intimate knowledge of the characters. However, this lapse of memory will not deter me from writing a simple review and final farewell to the first-ever colossal series I started as a young adult.

A Memory of Light is the third and final contribution Brian Sanderson has made to the series while filling in for Robert Jordan (The man did as he promised and wrote until they nailed his coffin shut). Throughout this giant book, standard size in the series, we witness all the events leading up to and that are a part of the Last Battle. It is a harrowing struggle between the Light and the Dark, however, the battle seems quite sour with Egwene’s and Elayne’s armies being overwhelmed by Shadowspawn. The Dark One seems to have an endless supply of Trollocs to throw in their direction. Sticking together, the armies of the Light bond together in support of Rand and the single objective of defeating the Dark One before he can take full grasp of the world. However, it takes every effort to hold on long enough in the hope that Rand will emerge victorious before their strength wanes entirely.

A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan coverLike I said, it has been while since I’ve read the series, so my memory of each book is foggy at best. But, in regards to the series overall, I found this book not so dragged out with extended events that disengaged the main characters, like Matt and Perrin, from the main storyline. Previous books usually had them gallivanting off in different directions. It was refreshing to see all the characters united in a single cause yet still independent from one another. Matt is still adorable in his quirky and humorous mannerisms, but he also becomes more responsible—a leader. Perrin is still that pillar of silent strength and endurance, but in the same way that Matt develops, we see Perrin finally accept himself as both man and wolf rather than constantly battle between the two. This acceptance makes him suddenly a formidable force that Slayer can’t possible compete with in the end. I especially enjoyed Egwene’s transformation. She truly became a magnificent Amyrlin Seat, unsurpassed by all who came before her and likely all who came after. She leads the battle until she is spent and she doesn’t break even when she experiences the greatest loss an Aes Sedai can experience.

Everyone seemed to solidify as individuals by the end of the book, making sacrifices and decisions that defined them. I was still unsatisfied with Rand, though. He seems to lose his three-dimensional aspects and became very simple in his characterization: I must say goodbye, defeat the Dark One, and die. Okay, Rand, that’s great and all, but who are you, really? I wasn’t convinced I knew him in the same way I got to know all the other principal characters by the end of the book. A lot of people in the series talk about liking Rand before he was the Dragon Reborn, and I can’t help feeling the same way. He was a lot more complicated and colourful in his characterization and becoming the Dragon Reborn should have only amplified that rather than dim it completely.

The Last Battle is where all the action happens, and it takes up a good chunk of the book (The chapter is over 100 pages long!!!). I didn’t mind the chapter’s length, however, as much as I minded the repetition beforehand: “Last Battle this” and “Last Battle that.” The redundancy of those two words became exhausting, and the importance of this event was gradually eroded away. A little variance in the gravity of the situation would have been appreciated.

The Last Battle lived up to its name. There was chaos. There was death (some heart wrenching). It was a magnanimous struggle. I was thoroughly enthralled with the battle on all sides. The intensity was catching as the armies dealt with heavy losses, traitors in their midst, and the Forsaken trying to undermine them at every turn. Alas, there is another “but.” Purely caught up in the battle raging outside Shayol Ghul, I was severely disappointed that the same intensity was not developed in the battle between Rand and the Dark One. Instead of this grand final fight between the two, there was only “mind games,” creating imagined worlds based on who won. The plot slowed down horribly whenever Sanderson focused on Rand. I don’t know about anyone else, but I had a lot of “raised eyebrow” looks for these scenes. For all the hype generated for this battle and what it would mean if they lost, I wasn’t convinced. The battle was very figurative and abstract, which failed to keep me interested when so much more exciting action was happening elsewhere, and that elsewhere was where I felt the most investment in the storyline.

I did enjoy A Memory of Light, despite its flaws. It was the end of the series and, for the most part, a fitting one. We saw where everyone ended up, and we were left with a bit of mystery to play with (after all, “all-wrapped up nicely” endings are old school these days).

Wheel of Time series quote

Farewell, Wheel of Time, it has been a pleasure going on this twelve-year journey with you.

4 out of 5 book thumbs up

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A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson published in the USA by TOR Fantasy © 2013

Available at TOR, Indigo, Amazon, and independent bookstores everywhere.

 

Saying hello to being twelve again: A review of Something Wiki by Suzanne Sutherland

something wiki

“…I put all my ideas and feelings out there online, everything I’m thinking and wondering about, and then some other geek in some other corner of cyberspace a million miles away sees what I’ve done and deletes it.”

Something Wiki by Suzanne Sutherland

When we’re young and impressionable preteens, we are always ready to think the world is out to get us (frankly, I don’t think it changes all that much when you’re an adult). We struggle with fitting in, with making friends, and with keeping those friends. Suzanne Sutherland’s second book Something Wiki is all about that childhood drama we all go through at one point or another, maybe more than once (speaking from experience).

Jo Waller is a geeky twelve years old, who has a cool older brother named Z (at least according to her), three friends, a bad complexion, and wears over-sized hand-me-down band t-shirts her brother left behind in his room. She also has a secret: She edits Wikipedia. However, she doesn’t just edit it, she makes it her own online journal of random scrawls on different pages, which also immediately get deleted, or sometimes even responded to, although in a rude manner (Three friends is plenty, Jo. Ignore the cyber troll). Being twelve is rough, and Jo thinks she has the worst luck when everything goes from normal to all wrong in a small span of time. Her friend list shortens to one, her brother comes back home to live with his pregnant girlfriend in the basement, and Jo’s face won’t cooperate with her hormones. Jo can’t seem to see a silver lining in all the drama, or if she can survive it.

I probably could have read this book a lot faster than I did, but I received the ARC from Net Galley, and I don’t have an e-reading device. I also stupidly opened it on Adobe Digital Editions at work without realizing that that was where it would stay until I finished it. Needless to say, due to these lovely limitations, I was reading Something Wiki on my 30-minute lunch breaks (when time allowed).

If I was a decade younger, I would have given this book five out of five book thumbs up. It is a simple and easy read for someone my age, which is why it is a young adult/children’s book . This book is absolutely relevant for that younger demographic. I know I sure could have used a book like this growing up, as Jo goes through many of the same problems I experienced myself with problematic friends, troublesome hormones, and the whole unrequited crush-thing. It is no picnic going through this alone, and if you’re reading about Jo’s life, you might not have to (fictional or not, it’s relevant).

Jo is a very believable character. Sutherland’s characterization is spot on. Writing from a younger person’s perspective is a difficult task, but Sutherland does it with ease, and a bit of personal “dorky” flair. Besides identifying with Jo on basically EVERYTHING she goes through, I found myself chuckling at her quirky behaviour and her honest responses to the topics of sex and pregnancy.

The layout of the book was a great style choice as well. Having Wikipedia entries at the start of every chapter not only highlighted the book’s title, it also gave us an in-depth look at how Jo expresses herself. Humorous and upfront, she says what she feels without sugarcoating it.

If you want to meet your twelve-year-old self again, I definitely recommend giving this quick-and-easy read a chance. Or, if you have someone you know currently occupying that difficult age, perhaps suggest Something Wiki to them, because deep down, we are all insecure and unsure at that age, at all ages really, but we are also unique, incomparable beings — our own brand of dork.

4 out of 5 book thumbs up

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e-Galley provided to me by Dundurn via NetGalley

Something Wiki by Suzanne Sutherland, published in Canada by Dundurn © 2015

Available at Dundurn, Indigo, Amazon, and independent bookstores everywhere January 3, 2015.

 

Before Peter belonged to Wendy: A review of Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson

Tiger Lily book by Jodi Lynn Anderson

“Peter walked across her heart, and left his footprints there.”

Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson

*Some spoilers*

Reading Jodi Lynn Anderson’s Tiger Lily is a reintroduction to your childhood experience Neverland without the rose-coloured glasses of Disney’s animation. While there are still pirates, mermaids, and fairies to keep the fantasy alive, Anderson’s Neverland is gritty and dark, laced with the same pitfalls, heartaches, and dangers we all know about or have faced as young pubescent adults.

The book is written from Tinkerbell’s point of view, and in this story she is Tiger Lily’s before she is ever Peter’s (If you can really call her anyone’s, Tinkerbell is more of a tiny stalker who becomes too fascinated with Tiger Lily to leave her side). Tiger Lily is fifteen years old at the start of the book. Her only family is her adopted father, Tik Tok and her friends Pine Sap and Moon Eye. Otherwise, Tiger Lily is quite the loner and anything but fragile. Preferring hunting to sitting still and sewing, Tiger Lily is definitely out of place when it comes to the rest of the women in the Skyeater Tribe.

But Tiger Lily’s quest for solitude comes to an abrupt halt the moment she comes, somewhat roughly, into contact with Peter Pan. Unlike in Disney, the Tribe fears Peter Pan and the Lost Boys, viewing them as savage barbarians that will prey on those who go to their side of the woods. However, Tiger Lily’s curiosity overpowers any sense of immediate fear, and she begins to visit Peter and the Lost Boys drawn to them and their reckless ways. She especially begins to fall for Peter, developing a back-and-forth relationship with him that can only be defined as young, unruly love.

tigerlily1Little love spats aren’t the only conflict Tiger Lily encounters. Back home, she is suddenly betrothed to another man, Giant, a distasteful and large boy who is cruel and lusts after poor Moon Eye. There is also the arrival of New Englanders on the island to contend with. At first, there is just a single ship-wrecked victim named Phillip who Tiger Lily nurses back to health, however, another ship arrives later on with more of them, a ship that also happens to be carrying Wendy.

Unlike Tiger Lily, who carefully guards her emotions, Wendy is girly and very open with her affections. Soon the Lost Boys and Peter become very attached to her, and Tiger Lily is at a loss as Peter drifts away and the New Englander’s invade her tribe and enforce new foreign customs upon them. Suddenly nothing is simple and Neverland is anything but a happy fantasy land where no one grows up.

tigerlily2Anderson has created a Neverland that is far more believable than the one nestled in the First Star to the Right. She has pictured it as an undiscovered tropical island, untouched by modernity, where faeries and mermaids still exist simply because they haven’t been found yet. It is especially magnificent the way she captures the problems of colonialism as the New Englanders once again invade what was once unknown and try to assimilate it to themselves. We become first-hand witnesses through Tinkerbell’s eyes as the Skyeater Tribe falls apart when forced to change their beliefs. Tik Tok especially represents this when he is forced to cut his hair and stop wearing dresses, which highlights the problems of the present, and not just the past, as society is introduced those who define themselves as transgender or homosexual. Anderson goes even further by including, subtly, a rape scene between Moon Eye and the lustful Giant. The brief scene is agonizing as we are all too aware that Moon Eye is too small and too fragile to defend herself against the gigantic mass that is Giant. Neverland is both sad and destructive, but this is what makes it plausible, and as a result Neverland has never been darker or more real.

But, Tiger Lily is also about the difficulties of adolescence and first loves. I think just about everyone can relate to Tiger Lily and her struggle to fit in, and everyone can also understand the struggle of loving a boy at that age. It is exhausting, all the questions we have when we do, and Tiger Lily asks the same ones in her own fashion: Does he love me? Do I love him? What does he mean when he says this or that? In the end, no one says what they mean and everyone ends up getting hurt. Isn’t that the way of it though? We’ve all been there.

Simple and endearing, Tiger Lily will bring you back to your own version of teenage angst and reveal a boy and girl who never grow up that are just the same as you or me. Because in true-to-life fashion, Tiger Lily loves, loses, but she eventually will find that someone who loves her for exactly who she is and doesn’t want her to change. Be true to yourself: It is a simple message transmitted through one of Neverland’s strongest female characters who Disney just brushed over, but who Anderson saw fit to illuminate.