Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Review: Lily and the Octopus


I'm not entirely sure what I was expecting when I started Lily and the Octopus. I had heard amazing things so I thought I'd give it a try. But...I'm still not entirely sure what I got with Steven Rowley's novel.

Here's the synopsis:
Combining the emotional depth of The Art of Racing in the Rain with the magical spirit of The Life of Pi, Lily and the Octopus is an epic adventure of the heart.
When you sit down with Lily and the Octopus, you will be taken on an unforgettable ride.
The magic of this novel is in the read, and we don’t want to spoil it by giving away too many details.
We can tell you that this is a story about that special someone: the one you trust, the one you can’t live without.
For Ted Flask, that someone special is his aging companion Lily, who happens to be a dog.
Lily and the Octopus reminds us how it feels to love fiercely, how difficult it can be to let go, and how the fight for those we love is the greatest fight of all.
Remember the last book you told someone they had to read?
Lily and the Octopus is the next one.
I'm going to go against the synopsis and give you a bit more background on the story. Lily has been Ted's dog for many years and one day he realizes there's something growing on her head. Ted decides that that something is an octopus. I think he knows, deep down, that it's a tumor and Lily is therefore very sick. What follows is a story that is sweet and heartbreaking all at once.

So that magic the synopsis alludes to? It took the reader on a bizarre adventure on the high seas and that is when Rowley completely lost me. I love a good magic realism book but when I'm not expecting something like that and when I wasn't as invested with the story to begin with...well...it doesn't help my enjoyment. 

I can't pinpoint what, exactly, my issue was with this novel. It wasn't a bad book. It was written well. I just don't think the subject matter resonated with me and I think it needed to for the reader to fully enjoy the novel.

I do have to say that I love the idea of being able to have actual conversations with our pets. And the opening? That Thursdays are for talking about boys Ted and Lily think are cute? Love. (Ted is a Ryan Gosling fan while Lily is Team Ryan Reynolds.)

Lily and the Octopus really was a sweet novel. I think it might resonate more with dog owners. I have a rabbit and I'd be devastated if an "octopus" moved in with us. Many, many other people absolutely adored Steven Rowley's novel so don't just take my (oh so very lukewarm) thoughts on it.

*An ARC of this novel was provided by the publisher, Simon and Schuster Canada, in exchange for review consideration. All opinions are honest and my own.*

Monday, March 6, 2017

Review: Hungry Heart


Jennifer Weiner has long been a favourite author of mine. I was able to see her when she was in Toronto a few years back and she was so nice and real. Because I find her to be an overall excellent human, I was so excited to read Hungry Heart, Weiner’s first non-fiction book.

Here’s the description of her book of essays:
Jennifer Weiner is many things: a bestselling author, a Twitter phenomenon, and an “unlikely feminist enforcer” (The New Yorker). She’s also a mom, a daughter, and a sister; a former rower and current cyclist; a best friend and a reality TV junkie. In her first foray into nonfiction, she takes the raw stuff of her personal life and spins into a collection of essays on modern womanhood as uproariously funny and moving as the best of Tina Fey, Fran Lebowitz, and Nora Ephron.
Jennifer grew up as an outsider in her picturesque Connecticut hometown (“a Lane Bryant outtake in an Abercrombie & Fitch photo shoot”) and at her Ivy League college, but finally found her people in newsrooms in central Pennsylvania and Philadelphia, and her voice as a novelist, activist, and New York Times columnist.
No subject is off-limits in this intimate and honest essay collection: sex, weight, envy, money, her mom’s newfound lesbianism, and her estranged father’s death. From lonely adolescence to modern childbirth to hearing her six-year-old daughter’s use of the f-word—fat­­—for the first time, Jennifer Weiner goes there, with the wit and candor that have endeared her to readers all over the world.
By turns hilarious and deeply touching, this collection shows that the woman behind treasured novels like Good in Bed and Best Friends Forever is every bit as winning, smart, and honest in real life as she is in her fiction.
I’ve met a few authors who just don’t give off an accessible sort of vibe but Weiner is so genuine. That personality comes through in the book and you really feel like she's just chatting with you and telling you, and only you, her stories. 

Side note: if you watch The Bachelor(ette), make sure you follow Weiner on Twitter. I'm guilty of hate-watching the show (though I've skipped the current season...Nick drove me bonkers so I couldn't bring myself to watch it) and I find that many of the things my friends and I are thinking and saying are what Weiner is tweeting. Funny, insightful, and sometimes cringe-worthy, they're definitely a must for any fan (or "fan") of the franchise. 

I love how passionate Weiner is about feminism and, in particular, discussing and bringing attention to inequality with book reviews. The issue is, basically, if you look at any major publications that review books, you'll see that women authors just aren’t getting reviewed as often. And when they are, it's not usually for commercial fiction but, meanwhile, genre fiction for men is often reviewed. I think I was expecting even more about this issue in the book and was a little let down that she didn't tackle it as much as I thought she might. She has written other articles about the issue so I encourage you to look them up.

When I finished Hungry Heart, I found I wanted more. I imagine Weiner had many more stories to share but only so many could make it into the book, which is too bad. So many stories, so few pages to share them in. I guess I'm just greedy!

I also wish there had been more present day stories and anecdotes. I loved finding out what Weiner's childhood was like and how it shaped her as a woman and an author but I found I wanted to know more about how she's living her life now and what she thinks of even more current events.

If you're a fan of Jennifer Weiner's novels, you're going to want to read Hungry Heart. If you like memoirs and books of essays by smart, funny women, you're going to want to read it. I hope she writes another series of essays soon. In the meantime, I'll impatiently wait for her next novel.

*An ARC of this book was provided by the publisher, in exchange for review consideration. All opinions are honest and my own.*