Browsing Category: Contemporary

Charades, by Todd Foley

Website Banner (Charades Blog Tour)

Welcome to the Charades blog tour!

[ Hosted by the lovely Trisha at TrishaJennReads ]

I am incredibly excited to take part in the Blog Tour for Todd Foley’s beautiful novella that’s still fresh off the press. It’s a beautiful short novella that was published in May of this year – I read it in an hour. And then again a a second hour. I also discovered that this is available on Kindle Unlimited, so check out the other stops on the tour and then go grab yourself a copy and a cup of coffee (*ahem* Tim Hortons?)!

foley charadesSeries: Standalone
Genre: Literary Novella
Published: May, 2016
Goodreads | Amazon CA US UK

Who are you? What do you do, and why? How do you make everyone believe it? How far will you go to keep it that way?

Meet Otis, an elderly owner of a meat shop in Vancouver, Canada. Slow to move but quick to observe, Otis knows all about his faithful customers – the food they eat, the company they keep, the secrets they unwittingly divulge and the perceptions they’re determined to sustain. But what’s Otis to do with this unwanted burden? How can he bring about their freedom and deliverance? What will happen to them if he doesn’t?

Set in a rainy metropolis as diverse as its residents, Charades examines the narratives we fashion and the measures we take to maintain those stories.

Katelynn’s Review

Rating:  4 / 5
Format: Ebook
Started: June 27th, 2016
Finished: June 27th, 2016
Wine Pairing: Forget wine, all I want is a Tim Hortons chili.

First, a huge thank you to Todd for writing this magnificent little novella and providing a copy for review!

Otis is an affable protagonist that captures your attention before you realize it. He sneaks up on you (which isn’t an admirable trait in anyone who wields a knife as a profession) and holds your hand gently as you’re lead through the day to day life in Vancouver as a butcher. He is quiet, approachable, and hard working. It sounds simple – kind of like how life is quite often. It passes before your eyes, your days float and begin to meld together and you’re flipping another page on the calendar before you know it.

To be honest, throughout most of the story I thought this was a beautiful novella that brought out the subtleties of day to day life – that it zeroed in on focusing on the world around you instead of going through life like a zombie most of us do (especially with smart phones all attached at our hips). I have always found there to be a certain magic in the detailed description and observation of life – whole life that extends beyond your bubble. I devoured the novella and loved every page of it! It’s beautiful in it’s simpleness, and following an elderly butcher in Vancouver was so different from my own life I couldn’t help being sucked in. Foley’s writing is so fluid and familiar, it’s like you’re talking with an old friend.

I sometimes stop by the public library on my way home. It’s a bit out of my way, but it’s a sight to be held. Modeled after the Colosseum, I feel like I’ve been transported to a simpler time. Well, not simple; it was a venue for watching humans kill each other for sport. Learning is a much more admirable activity.

But while the gentleness with which he builds Otis and his customers assimilates you into the life of a Vancouver native, it contrasts with the plunge as Foley delves deeper beneath the covers and the masks that people build up around themselves. There is irony and there is simplicity. Indirectly we explore vices, flaws, weaknesses, mistakes: the darkness of humanity that we all carry a little piece of. The same people we know in the cubicle beside us or that serve us coffee all hold secrets and have skeletons in their closets – just like you and I.

Everyone has at least one vice. Something to which they constantly need access or within close proximity. A sense of security. An extension of their identity. A habit they can’t break.
What’s yours?

“Charades examines the narratives we fashion
and the measures we take to maintain those stories.”

Oh yes, this line from the synopsis sums it all up nicely.

A fascinating and intriguing read that had me hooked until the end, Charades is an absolute gem. The range and depth of the characters and their secrets kept me guessing, Foley’s writing had me hooked, and the ending – oh that ending! Perfection.

… intrigued yet? 😉

todd foleyAbout Todd Foley:

Todd Foley is an American who made the move to British Columbia, Canada, where he lives with his wife and growing family. He is the author or Eastbound Sailing and Man Speak. He finds inspiration for storytelling via his unorganized bookshelf, a nonsequiter Netflix queue and using public transit.
Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Other works: Eastbound Sailing | Prodigal | Man Speak: Conversations on Manhood, Responsibility and [not] Growing Up

The Universe Versus Alex Woods, by Gavin Extence

extence the universe versus alex woodsSeries:  Stand Alone
Genre:  Contemporary, Young Adult
Published:  June, 2013
Goodreads | Amazon CA / US / UK | Indigo | Barnes & Noble

A rare meteorite struck Alex Woods when he was ten years old, leaving scars and marking him for an extraordinary future. The son of a fortune teller, bookish, and an easy target for bullies, Alex hasn’t had the easiest childhood.

But when he meets curmudgeonly widower Mr. Peterson, he finds an unlikely friend. Someone who teaches him that that you only get one shot at life. That you have to make it count.

So when, aged seventeen, Alex is stopped at customs with 113 grams of marijuana, an urn full of ashes on the front seat, and an entire nation in uproar, he’s fairly sure he’s done the right thing …

Introducing a bright young voice destined to charm the world,The Universe Versus Alex Woods is a celebration of curious incidents, astronomy and astrology, the works of Kurt Vonnegut and the unexpected connections that form our world.

Katelynn’s Review

Rating:  5 / 5
Format:  Purchased Hardcover
Started:  April 23rd, 2016
Finished:  April 24th, 2016
Drink Pairing:
Fireball whiskey. This one hurt.

I’m not quite sure where to start. This book is so much more than the six sentences you read from the inside flap of the hardcover on the bargain table (of course, all books are.. but really, this synopsis is painfully short). It’s the story between news clippings – getting hit directly in the head with a meteorite, making friends, going to school, growing up and growing into yourself, and most importantly – saying goodbye. Written with a sharp wit, incredible wisdom, and a whole lot of Kurt Vonnegut, Extence drafts us a beautiful tale that is heartbreaking and profound and speaks directly and indirectly. It has an enormous amount of substance while staying short, concise, and eloquent (much like a certain cantankerous Mr. Peterson).

Friendship, family, love, and loss are all main themes that are touched on. Alex is a strange kid that prefers the written word to sports, spends his evenings and weekends with a cantankerous old American instead of with kids his own age, and has a directness in his thought process and dialogue that is simplistic and quite misunderstood. Friendship transcends blood, age, ethnicity, country, political standing, and any other social label you can think of – and when you find a friend, it’s important to hold them close. All relationships are based on different chemistry, making some easier than others, but all are still precious and important. Family bonds are more than just through shard blood, and they can sneak up on you without you realizing it.

In life, there are no true beginnings or endings. Events flow into each other, and the more you try to isolate them in a container, the more they spill over the sides, like canal-water breaching its artificial banks. A related point is that the things we label ‘beginnings’ and ‘endings’ are often, in reality, indistinguishable. They are one and the same thing. This is one of the things the Death card symbolizes in tarot – an end that is also a new beginning.

Most importantly The Universe Versus Alex Woods is about life. Though the story we read is rather clearly laid out with a concise ending that’s also the beginning, both directly (as in the quote above) and indirectly (through the writing style) we are shown that life is not ordered. It does not have foreshadowing and it does not have plot twists – rather, it is merely the culmination of successive events that never slow down or stop or explain themselves, and the only plot themes are hindsight. In books, we have an almost sixth-sense about what’s coming and have time to brace for it. In life, we merely have hope of what is to come and for strength to endure it.

It’s about growing up, loss, pain, and sacrifice. All of the events we are told about lead up to an unconventional death through assisted suicide. We are told the story and left to draw our own conclusion – whether we agree or disagree with allowing someone to chose the time when they’re on their death bed. It’s a controversial issue that generally turns heated rather quickly, and I personally found the perspective and delivery of support (in this case) for assisted suicide beautifully put – considering the subject matter, anyway. I’ve grown up with my mother saying it’s cruel to keep people alive when there’s no hope left, and they’re only waiting in pain and humiliation for death. They can only hope that death is peaceful when it does come. To be able to choose when you’re ready, to go in peace and to say goodbye.. though it may be harder for those who remain it is probably the greatest gift you could give the dying. It is called “ethical euthanasia” when we accept the fact that our beloved pets would suffer more than they would enjoy life if we kept them alive, but yet we would deny our mothers, fathers, brothers or children the right to peace because we are selfishly holding on? If someone is asking – begging – to be let go before they become trapped inside their mind, unable to control their bodies, what is crueler? To keep them alive, or to say goodbye?

“Listen, kid, morality’s not all black and white. There’re some very big grey areas. I think, from what you’ve been telling me, maybe your mom’d agree with that too.”

There is so much that it’s hard to summarize and these complex ideas are hard to change from thought to text. I can’t believe this is simply a young adult book and I believe everyone – of all ages – should read this. The writing is absolutely exquisite and it doesn’t matter how old you are to laugh and cry with Alex. This has certainly proved to be the most poignant book I’ve read in 2016 and I recommend it to everyone.