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Stephanie Spines

I like dem pages. Find me youtubin' http://www.youtube.com/user/stephandtimread


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1Q84: 3 Volume Boxed Set

1Q84 - Haruki Murakami Preface: This is probably an incredibly disorganized review.Okay, Murakami. You got me with this one. You really, really did.My mind is reeling after finishing the beast of a book. It took me over a month to read this. But this book is so packed full of surrealism and magical realism and leaves the reader with SO MANY QUESTIONS and so many threads to ponder.I was hooked from the beginning. The premise of the story is just so interesting, slow parts notwithstanding (what do you expect from a book that is over 1000 pages?). I enjoyed the Orwellian overarching themes of totalitarianism and state/religion control, but this is really the only major parallel I can draw between the two stories. The plot and narratives are so intricately woven over the course of the story. I'm a sucker for stories where we get to see our characters being drawn closer and closer together. I also really appreciate the way Murakami keeps the reader engaged by using this narrative technique and also by raising questions and revealing secrets - some of which are clear cut and some of which are not. I guess overall this was a story about duality, good and evil and parallelism. There are so many connections that Murakami makes that make the reader wonder. For example the connection between Aomame and Fuka-Eri. I was wondering all throughout the story if somehow there was a maza/dohta connection? Also the connection between Ayumi and Tengo's mother, both of whom died the same way and shared some similarities. I also wondered if Tengo was somehow the son of Leader? I remember at some point in the story that his father says that he was "conceived in a vaccuum", or something of the sort, just like Fuka-Eri was. Also the fact that it seems that there is a permeable spacetime barrier that people can pass through (the creepiness of Tengo's comatosed father as the disturbing NHK Collector) I thought the imagery of the two moons was also quite amazing.The characters were all great. I wasn't sure about the addition of Ushikawa's narrative in the third book. It was sudden but I see why he was included. I would definitely problematize the way Murakami writes women, in general, but particularly in 1q84. Thinking back though, I think I always love Murakami's characters. I found it really interesting that Ushikawa was perhaps the most 'human' of all the characters. Tengo, Fuka-Eri and Aomame all had some otherworldliness about them, something alien. The Little People were very odd and their choice of passageways between realities was disturbing. Ho, ho!So now I have all of these questions and very few answers. Thanks, Murakami.

City of Bones: Mortal Instruments, Book 1

City of Bones - Cassandra Clare Cringe-worthy.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings - Maya Angelou How brilliant!Angelou is a master of prose! Her writing style is just a pleasure to read in all ways. Her imagery, use of similes, just general creativity is outstanding!While she had a pretty devastating life, Angelou's memoir is full of joy. I mean, it is full of heartbreak and sadness too, but also notably full of happiness, laughter and joy. My favourite aspect of this book is that Angelou creates a story of racism where the narrative is not that of victimhood, but a narrative of resistance. While Maya and her family are constantly experiencing violent and overt racism, they are at the same time, pushing back. That is my favourite aspect of this story, however this unfortunately seems to be the same thing that I see negative reviewers complaining about. The way that she constructs whiteness in this story is not discriminatory, it is a reclamation of power that has been taken away by the oppressive force of racism.I found Maya SO relatable in this story. Especially that she was "tender-hearted", because people describe me that way too. Overall, amazing. Highly recommend.

Parable of the Sower

Parable of the Sower - Octavia E. Butler I thought "Parable" was a brilliant and terrifying dystopia with real current social implications. There are a handful of dystopian novels, among them, Orwell's 1984 and Bradury's 451, that are so relevant that they actually frighten some deepset part of your psyche. This is another one of those works. Terrifying in its not-so-far-offness.While I'm not a McCarthy fan, I can understand the comparisons between The Road and Parable, even if only in the sadness and desolation of the setting. Also in the parentification of the Lauren and other characters in the story.What I found left something to be desired is the whole inclusion of Lauren's Earthseed religion. I thought the concept was underdeveloped, but in my refusal to believe that Butler would do something like that without a firm intention to back it up, I've also wondered if maybe it was meant to be a social commentary in itself about the fleeting nature of religion? Maybe thats far fetched. I just know that by the end of the book, I was no longer reading the exerpts from Earthseed that were included before every chapter. I also know that I was surprised by the religious content here, even if it hinged on the whole god is change thing.I thought the characters were well developed and I didn't find myself hating on or really adoring any of them, but I would challenge the relationship between Lauren and Bankole. I believe I am among the minority for kind of liking Bankole but I would problematize the nature of their relationship as upholding patriarchy, considering Butler's politics and what she is known for. Overall, I really enjoyed Parable of the Sower and will hopefully pick up the sequel in the future. Its definitely worth the read.

The Master and Margarita (Wordsworth Classics)

The Master and Margarita (Wordsworth Classics) - Mikhail Bulgakov, Michael Karpelson So, I just couldn't get into this one.I really wanted to. Really, I did. I know it is supposed to be this magical politically satirical foray into Stalinist Russia. I know that it has a scathing social commentary. Honest. I'm a fan of absurdist political satire a la Vonnegut, but I just wasn't feeling this. At times it was humorous but maybe its just my lack of familiarity with the period in history. I didn't care for any of the characters and I just didn't think it came together well enough for me to be engaged.Ohhhhh well.

Brown Girl in the Ring

Brown Girl in the Ring - Nalo Hopkinson Brown Girl in the Ring is set in a future dystopian Toronto, where the wealthy have fled to the suburbs following a large-scale economic collapse fuelled by failed negotiations with local First Nations communities. Infused with magical realism, it follows Ti-Jeanne as she reconnects with her Caribbean culture, largely via her grandmother, Gros-Jeane (who is, as one may call her, an obeah woman) to take down a local gang lord, Rudy.At first, I really connected with Ti-Jeanne, a single mother with a young baby. I thought she was strong and flawed and thus, quite human. I connected very much to the dialect, being Caribbean-Canadian myself. The setting was also great, as a current Torontonian. I was able to picture the ruins of the places that Ti-Jeanne visited and actually that made it quite scary! Plot-wise, it was quite gritty and intense at some points. particularly Gros-Jeanne's brutal murder. Speaking of which, my main issue with the plot was how Ti-Jeanne forgives Tony in the end. Am I supposed to interpret that as strong and diplomatic? Because I interpreted it as stupid and unrealistic. If my baby's father smashed my grandmother's head in with a hammer, no matter WHAT the motive, I think I might have to kill him myself. I thought it was absurd that Ti-Jeanne forgave him. I thought the writing was quite disjointed and at times difficult to follow. I struggled through some of it, but where this novel fails in prose, it definitely makes up for in cultural authenticity. I cannot praise this book enough for its references to Caribbean folklore and myth, as well as things like obeah. It was an enlightening experience to read in this sense, particularly for me, a Caribbean-descended woman living in Toronto. Further, we could spend some time interrogating and unpacking what it means for these Caribbean cultural references to have permeated a largely white-, male-dominated genre and industry and how powerful an act of resistance has been created in this work. But I'll save that for an essay.Brilliant.

A Dance With Dragons (A Song of Ice and Fire, #5)

A Dance With Dragons (A Song of Ice and Fire, #5) - George R.R. Martin GEORGE! WHY?

Fifty Shades of Grey

Fifty Shades of Grey  - E.L. James Sigh.I'll give E.L James ONE STAR because she actually went through the trouble of writing this. It's like when you get a certificate for participation. Thanks for comin' out.I decided to read this because I needed something pulpy and mind-numbing as I was on vacation. Also, I just needed to know. I NEEDED TO KNOW.Let me start off by saying that the BDSM stuff didn't bother me. I'm ok with kink, I'm ok with BDSM, I'm ok with play rooms and whips and chains and all that jazz. But...First lesson: Don't assume that something so horribly patriarchal, heteronormative and just generally opressive, would be "mind-numbing" to someone with politics like mine.I don't even want to go into this part because it just seems so glaringly obvious. This relationship is abusive and actually a lot of it has me raising issues of consent because of Ana's subsequent responses to some of the things that she was made to do (i.e: post-spanking). Furthermore, Christian Grey is the most stomach-churningly misogynist, stalkerish, sociopathic character I have ever had the displeasure of reading. Ew. He reminds me most of American Psycho's Patrick Bateman. Now imagine if American Psycho was marketed as an erotica. Exactly. I would have been way more ok with the BDSM had it not reproduced patriarchy in such a messed up way. And this is to say nothing of Ana's character... Anyways...Lesson two: E.L James has clearly forgotten what its like to be a young sophomore in college, and has potentially forgotten what its like to have sex as said individual. Nobody would have made it through two years (or however many sophomore is, I'm Canadian) of university without understanding full well how to use email. Nobody. Additionaly, I have never met a sophomore who wore their hair in pigtails unlses they were going to a pyjama party. Finally, nobody says "HOLY COW" when they are mid-coitus. Haha. Coitus. Ana read like a child and it made the erotic parts just so, so...wrong.Anyways, in general this book was just so, so poorly written, like E.L James just got bored one day and decided to pretend to be and 80 year old writing from a 13 year old's perspective. It just did not jive at all. I already feel like I've spend too much time writing this.Save yourself the time and get some better erotica for free on the internet.

John Dies at the End

John Dies at the End  - David Wong This one didn't do it for me.I didn't find it funny (except the bratwurst part) and I didn't find it scary or gory. Mostly it just felt like David Wong was trying to hard to be funny and scary. I didn't like the characters, who I found were just annoying and stupid. I thought soy sauce was a ridiculous and corny name for a drug that messed people up so bad, and while I commend the author for originality, I didn't like the monsters/creatures.I didn't like the plot development and I foudn the narrative too hard to follow. It seemed like David Wong tried to cram too much bizarro into this book, and I like bizarro.I struggled to finish this one.

Anya's Ghost

Anya's Ghost - Vera Brosgol I liked this one.I don't usually read YA graphic novels, or YA in general. I enjoyed the art in this graphic novel, especially the use of greys and blues. The character development was good, as the reader watches Anya learned some important, albeit cliche life lessons. Emily, the ghost that Anya meets, personally doesn't get remotely creepy until the very end. Anya, I find is a little gripey and seems to have an awful lot to complain about, but I foudn that this was an effective portrayal of an average teenager, which I believe was the point. Anya is just average. She has pretty low self-esteem, is awkward, has a crush on the hottest guy in high school, finds her mother annoying, and is insecure about being an immigrant. She thinks she has the worst life, which is annoying, but typical for any teenager.Where this book lacks in uniquness and originality, it makes up for in its art and in its character development.

Beauty Queens

Beauty Queens - Libba Bray Initially I gave this 4 stars but I think I'll only give it 3.I don't read chick-lit. I don't read YA. This book read like those two genres except that it touched on a lot of really important intersectional feminist issues and it did it in a way that didn't make me completely cringe anyway. It did so critically and in a way that aligned with my politics. If all chick-lit was written from a feminist perspective and written to touch on issues in this way, then perhaps I would read more of it. Perhaps... The themes in the book were intelligent, however I didn't find that they were executed in an intelligent, manner. I think Bray bit off more than she could chew and tried to cram too many social isues into one book. Maybe that was the point though, to show that a handful of women have an equal if not greater set of issues. It touched on everything from disability to race, gender, sexuality and it did it in a fun way, but it just wasn't ultimately very...fulfilling. I found the commercial chapters really irritating, to be honest. As well as most of the characters, actually. The writing style otherwise, was fun and light. I particularly enjoyed Petra, Taylor, Nicole and even Sinjin who I thought were the higlights of the book and were to me, the most dynamic characters.From what I understand, this book differs greatly from some of Bray's other work but I'm still not sure if I feel inspired enough to pick anything else up.

Warm Bodies (Warm Bodies #1)

Warm Bodies - Isaac Marion So, I love zombies. I am a zombie nerd.I thought Marion's take on the genre was pretty fascinating. I really enjoyed the idea of sentient zombies who, internally are pretty articulate and intelligent. I also thought it was an interesting idea to have them experience their victim's memories as they consumed their brains. I thought conceptually, this story was interesting. I like R's character and I enjoyed Julie's character. She is pretty feisty and headstrong. The setting was also cool, an airport. Where zombie dreams are made. And the descriptions of zombie sex were really quite entertaining and had me creating these hilarious mental images.But there were parts that annoyed me.The Boneys. Am I the only one who thought that this was super corny? I was imagining a skeleton army clacking around the place. Didn't like them. They were not at all scary. The flashbacks and weird situation with Perry's brain. I didn't think that this piece was wel-enough developed to have it take up such a huge part of the story. Why did Perry seem to take over R's brain like that? I didn't think this was well-enough explained and actually found that these flashbacks got annoying and tired.All-in-all this book gets points for its unique and innovative take on zombies, a-la-Fido, but loses points for poor development.

Big Sur

Big Sur - Jack Kerouac, Rob Admiraal, Aram Saroyan Loved it.A funny and sad chronicle of Kerouac's post-On the Road, fame-induced alcoholism. The honesty of this book had be laughing out loud and also feeling pretty sad for Kerouac's state of being in this book. I loved his sea poetry and other notably hilarious moments such as when the rat he inadvertantly (or maybe not) poisoned ran across his face in the middle of the night. Or the hilariosuly poignant moment when he is drunk on the floor moaning to himself and realizes that he isn't the only one in the room. This is my third Kerouac and I think I enjoyed it as much as the first two I read - On the Road and Dharma Bums. He really is the King of the Beatniks.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn - Betty  Smith I am used to reading English/Victorian classics so Smith's A tree Grows In Brooklyn was refreshing, being the American classic that it is.At first, I found the story to be slow. I wasn't feeling particularly attached to Francie but she certainly grew on me quickly.It was a beautifully written story and veyr much character-driven. Smith recreates Brooklyn very meticulously. I particularly enjoyed the Christmas tree scenario. I also enjoyed how the reader could relive memories with Francie and Neeley as they did in the book.This is a bit of a half-assed review but all-in-all, I enjoyed the read. It had a lot of feelings and, yah.

Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles Series #1)

Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles Series #1) - There is a lot of potential in a futuristic retelling of Cinderella set in a city called New Beijing, wherein our protagonist is no longer the soft-spoken, fair and genteel character we once knew her as, but instead, a headstrong, cyborg mechanic. Am I right?While I didn't think this book fell completely flat, it definitely did not entirely fulfill my expectations for such an imaginative retelling. The writing style was simple but enjoyable. It was a quick read and I had fun drawing paralells between the original story and this one as I went along. Meyer seemed to use the original fairy tale as a skeleton for her story and so there was a lot of space to play around with the characters and their dynamics.I also enjoyed the characters. I liked the Cinder that Meyer created. Iko was also cute and made me want my own android BFF. Peony seemed very sweet, as well. Kai seemed to be pretty charming, which figures. And Adri and Levana were just...blugh. I thougth that the Lunar's glamour power was quite interesting as well.Departing from what a lot of people seem to feel, I didn't feel completely rattled by the "cliff-hanger" at the end. In fact, I didn't even see it as much of a cliff-hanger. I was just more confused with what exactly her intention was. One area where I thoguht Cinder fell a little flat was the setting. Despite reading some of the interview of Marissa Meyer in the back of the book where she explained that she chose New Beijing because it would be a bustling setting full of culture, I noticed that there was generally no mention of anything cultural at all. Aside from some of the name choices, the story could have been set anywhere. I REALLY did not like that she dropped the name New Beijing, and didn't carry it anywhere. Major flaw for me.All-in-all, had I not been in the mood for a light, YA read, I probably would have either rated this lower or not read it at all. It did, however, serve a personal purpose for me, by providing me something a little imaginative but generally mediocre to read.