Novel Reactions: The Saturday Night Ghost Club

I found The Saturday Night Ghost Club when I was browsing in bookstores in Toronto. At first, I was hesitant to buy this book. Ghost Club? No, thanks. I already know I don’t like horror, but I was intrigued: The Saturday Night Ghost Club was set in Niagara Falls—how quintessential Canada can you get? (See: A Taste of CanLit)

And what a great decision it was. This book was a short yet powerful read, and, frankly, I would have finished the book within a day if it were not for a cute dog trying to get my attention. (Yes, there are things other than mobile phones that distract your typical millennial population, too.)

Well, fine. I also voluntarily paused halfway through because I kept feeling like something really bad was going to happen, and I wanted to delay the impending doom as much as possible. Funnily enough, although I was suspicious that something was wrong, I didn’t get that something right! Nice try, brain; the story’s twists and turns weren’t that obvious.

I’d say Craig Davidson kept me on my toes for all ~250 pages of the book. He also managed to break my heart and then mend it in the same number of pages. What a ride.

Novel Reactions: The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

I think I’ve just found my new favorite Murakami book: The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. I’d been holding off on reading it for a while now because (1) I tend to feel overwhelmed whenever I read Murakami’s books; and (2) the book is 607 pages. But due to a self-imposed deadline (see Until Next Time, Books without Borders), I pushed myself to read and finish the book, so that I can pass it on.

And what a worthwhile read it was. I admit that I didn’t immediately get attached to the main character, but he grew on me. The world of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is very typical of Murakami (sort of out of this world), but it wasn’t as crazy as his other worlds. I think the length of the book (again, 607 pages!!!) allowed for this intricate world building. Additionally, the pace was well set, and the story did not feel long nor rushed at all.

I was also a bit hesitant to read this book at first because it’s about a man looking for his lost cat. …But that only starts off the plot, and there is really a lot more to the story. There was one character whose role I couldn’t quite grasp, and, in result, I didn’t like this character as much. That’s my only “eh” comment, and I’m thinking it might also be a personal preference kind of thing.

Story and world-wise, this book has made it to the top of my Murakami list. (In case you’re curious, the other two in my top three are Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World and Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage.)

Novel Reactions: 99 Percent Mine

I am more or less a mood reader. I switch off to lighter romantic reads when I’m on vacation or when I’m too pooped from numerous sad endings. So this is where 99 Percent Mine comes in: I needed a source of entertainment during a time when Netflix wasn’t a good option.

The story is simple, and it was enough to keep me entertained. So… it served its purpose, but will I recommend it to anyone? Nah. I’m not a fan.

The story isn’t that special. The main girl (Darcy) is in love with her childhood friend (Tom), who is also her brother’s (Jamie’s) best friend. Additionally, the childhood friend is pretty much family and is doing the siblings a favor. (Said favor is renovating their grandmother’s cottage.)

Darcy and Tom are obviously going to get together, and it’s not the predictability that put me off. (My guilty pleasure is reading/watching romantic comedies; I always know they end well.)

Here, in more detail than people who hate spoilers will like, are my reasons for feeling meh:

  1. The main characters are not likable. Darcy is incredibly selfish. She has zero self-control and cannot accept responsibility for her actions. She thinks she’s all that (not in the way that she would brag about her work but in the way that she would always try to protect Tom). Also, Tom is not even that great. He’s placed on too high a pedestal, but he’s really just there as a brooding, juicy piece of meat.
  2. It seems like the writer needed an excuse to bring the two in extremely close quarters, so for some reason, Tom (childhood friend/contractor) camps out at the project site while Darcy lives somewhere there. Excuse me? How ridiculous is that? I get that it’s fiction, and writers can invent things, but at least let these things make sense! A lot of safety precautions have to be taken at construction sites. People cannot just come and go as they please, and contractors do not just let their inexperienced clients do manual labor on their sites. I am baffled.
  3. How can a new business owner with so much to prove skip town for two months and then take credit for all of the work done in their absence? Yes, everyone needs to take a personal day or two (been there) at some point, but to take two months without consequences? Given Tom’s background, I expected more hustle from him. I get that this is supposed to be for dramatic effect, but it would have given off the same effect and still have been more acceptable if this disappearance was cut short.

I’ve read better romantic novels. I came in looking for a fun read—to be entertained without having to think too much (basically, I needed an alternative to tv shows). It was just ok, I guess. Actually, no, it wasn’t very satisfying. Perhaps I should have read something else.

Novel Reactions: How to Stop Time

In Matt Haig’s How to Stop Time, we meet Tom Hazard, who is a really old man but just doesn’t look it. He’s lived through a lot of tough times over the centuries and consequently carries a lot of weight on his shoulders. He’s a pretty broken man. I didn’t love Tom, but I did find myself rooting for him as he struggled to survive.

Nothing is truly surprising with the plot. As the story unfolded, I found myself thinking “yes, this makes sense” and never “wow, what a plot twist!!!” Despite this, the story is still quite gripping, and I enjoyed reading all the way through. What made it particularly interesting for me was how Matt Haig portrayed Tom’s past lives. No, Tom was not a big deal in any time period; he always kept to the background, but he was there witnessing key points of history. (And I do love history.)

Overall, it was a pleasant read. There is some comfort that this was a somewhat predictable story because then it felt simple and familiar and not at all intimidating. But that’s not all there is to this book. The writing was great. There was never a dull moment in How to Stop Time, and the story moved at a manageable pace. To me, this is one of the books in which the incorporation of clichés was well executed. In case anyone’s wondering: yes, I’d recommend this to anyone looking for an easy read. And to history enthusiasts.

Novel Reactions: White Teeth

White Teeth delves into family history and dynamics: an unlikely friendship between two men, Archie Jones and Samad Iqbal, and how this brought their families together. It explores what it’s like to be a person of color in London from the 70s to the 90s (though I am guessing even until today). It is the kind of book I’d recommend to readers who are more invested in characters than the plot, those who want to understand why people-are-that-way and who do not mind the lack of action in a book.

It took me a bit longer than usual to sort out my feelings about White Teeth.

I read this book based on a recommendation by someone in my professional network. This was one of three fiction books in a list of ten books, so I felt that the book would at least expand my reading horizons. It did; I have no regrets.

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