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Book Review: Foe

I kindly received this book from Simon and Schuster a few months ago and just got around to reading it in July, and now I'm kicking myself for not getting to it sooner! This is such a unique and well-crafted novel and one of my favourite reads of the year. Keep reading to hear my full thoughts! 
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Junior and Hen enjoy a happy, albeit quiet life on a farm outside of the city. But their peaceful existence is interrupted when a government agent shows up on their doorstep to notify Junior that he has been randomly selected to partake in a resettlement project on the “installation” (the first human dwelling on the moon). They promise him that Hen will be taken care of by someone very familiar to her.

The first science fiction thriller I read was Dark Matter and I absolutely loved it. It was unique, witty and engaging. But after reading Foe, I can easily say this surpassed Dark Matter as my new favourite in the genre. The story is remarkably told and the pacing is brilliant. I was completely engrossed from the first page and can happily say this is one of my favourite thrillers of the year.

It’s told in short, often abrupt bursts, and it perfectly reflects the isolation and confusion of the characters and atmosphere of the setting. It encases an array of emotions Hen and Junior must be facing, while still conveying the confusion and urgency of the situation. 

foe, book review, Iain Reid, thrillers, science fiction, books

While it is a science fiction novel, set ambiguously in the not so distant future, there is little world building involved, which is something I prefer in my science fiction—the closer to the truth, the eerier and immersive it is. The rural farm and mill provide minor context in both a confusing and enlightening way; it’s a throwback to more traditional lifestyles as well as the more complex government initiatives that are attempting to modernize society, for better or worse.

The novel questions the notion of government intervention and an individuals choice in the matter. Should the installation be a random draw? Should people have the autonomy to choose their own future? Should they have been able to opt out, or was this conscription method the only way to get a truly random selection to test the full effects of the new dwelling? It's an issue that is discussed throughout the novel, and while it focuses on the issues Hen and Junior are facing, it also seems to mirror the US governments intervention and the forcible removing of families, to a degree. 

The novel also focuses on consent and knowledge, in terms of what the characters are being told by the government, and the extent of that knowledge. There are many scences throughout the novel where both Hen and Junior seem out of the loop. Whether they're being told conflicting information or nothing at all, they are often unable to make informed decisions when faced with difficult issues. 

While I could talk about this novel for ages, it’s hard to discuss it without giving too much away. It’s incredibly unpredictable, alluring and engaging and I cannot recommend this book enough. There are so many twists and turns that it was almost impossible to put down. I like to believe I'm fairly good at predicting the ending in thrillers now, but I did not see this one coming and loved it! Even if you’re not a fan of science fiction, like myself, this book perfectly teeters the edge of thriller and science fiction in the most imaginative and unique way possible. I would highly recommend picking up this book when it is released on August 7! 

xoxo K

Book Review: Ginny Moon

I’d heard this book recommend to those who liked The Rosie Project, and while I wasn’t a huge fan of the execution of that novel, I did like the premise. Ginny Moon is about a 14-year-old autistic girl who can’t seem to find her place in the world. 
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The narration of this novel really caught my attention. It was both captivating and frustrating, and really exuded the way Ginny perceived the world and her surroundings. Whether it’s her trying to quantify who she is (“I am not Ginny. I am (-Ginny)),” remember and articulate new words she’s learned, or trying to make sense of her life before the foster care system, Ludwig did a fantastic job of expressing Ginny’s thoughts and allowing the reader to enter her often discombobulated mind. 

While reading from Ginny’s perspective was frustrating, it was even more troublesome to hear about her parents and family’s perspectives on the matter. Ginny wasn't aware of her own quirks, didn't understand when someone was frustrated and wasn't always able to articulate herself when she’s stressed or scared, often times leading to fights with those around her. Imagine having a son or daughter who never appears to be grateful for what they have, not because they aren’t but because they don’t know how to convey those feelings? Imagine them complaining when you are trying your best to make them feel comfortable, loved and respected? As difficult as it is to be autistic, I cannot even imagine the emotional and physical challenges that being a parent to an autistic child would be. Those frustrations were explained in the book and were both devastating and authentic. Ludwig is the parent of an autistic child, so the owned-voice narration of the parents is particularly appealing. 

“Do you have any idea how much bullshit we go through for you Do you have any idea how high my blood pressure is? Your mother won’t come out of the bedroom and I’m missing a ton of time at work. This isn’t routine, Ginny. This is pretty much unbearable. I’m trying to be as gracious and generous as I can, but I don’t know how much longer we can keep it up.” 

While the novel was told from Ginny’s perspective, that also made it a challenging read at times. Her thought process could be all over the place, her perception of the world could be distorted and there were times I would find myself rereading passages to try and make sense of the story. It’s a fine line between conveying the struggles Ginny faces while making a coherent story, and at times I found this book tread too close to the line. 

That being said, I think that this was an amazing book. I found myself laughing out loud and crying in my bed, but think that it’s a worthwhile read for anyone who is interested in literary fiction. 

xoxo K

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society: Review

*note this review may contain spoilers 

Beginning in London, England, 1946, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is a heartbreaking story of love, loss and courage in the face of extreme duress. Juliet Ashton, a British columnist and author, struggles to rebuild her life after the war. Having lost her home, family and possessions, she must build a new life for herself. After receiving a letter from a resident of Guernsey, she begins corresponding with members of the community and starts to understand the hardships they faced during the Nazi occupied years. 

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is an epistolary novel, which can be both engaging and vexing; that is to say, they are not perfect. They often include passages and details in the letters that would not otherwise be written during correspondence and are instead only included to allow the reader to understand the entirety of the story. I found that the letters between Juliet and the residents of Guernsey gave the book a personal touch and allowed the reader an inside glance at the lives of the residents, and how they managed to deal with such gruelling conditions. 

“’Life goes on.’ What nonsense, I thought, of course it doesn’t. It’s death that goes on. Ian is dead now and will be dead tomorrow and the next year and for ever. There’s no end to that. But perhaps there will be an end to the sorrow of it. Sorrow has rushed over the world like the waters of the Deluge, and it will take time to recede.”

I’ve heard a lot of people call this book a charming, funny and sweet novel, but to describe it as such deters from the depth the novel has to offer. In the same way people often refer to chic-lit novels as easy reads, they can contain empowering and harrowing messages below the surface, and to skim this book you can easily miss it. Not only is Juliet forced to deal with her own grief and tragedies during the war, but she seemingly absorbs those of the residents of Guernsey—reliving their fears, heartaches, and hells. I cannot even begin to image the metal strength of those who actually lived in Guernsey would have needed to make it through a day, knowing their children were sent away, the enemy was right at their door, and they scarcely had enough food to make it through the week. The letters between the residents and Juliet show the profound injustices during wartime, and though there were funny passages, they could also take your breath away. 

“I was alive at the end of it. Thats what I told myself—Well, you’re still alive. I think of all of us said the same each morning when we woke up—Well, I’m still alive. But the rush is, we weren’t. What we were – it wasn’t dead, but it wasn’t alive either. I was a living soul only a few minutes a day.” 

What I found interesting about this novel was how they portrayed a lot of the Nazi soldiers who were occupying Guernsey. How often is it that you read about the occupied feeling sorry for their captures? It goes to show the strength and compassion of citizens during the war—the realizations they faced that there were no winners at a time like this; everyone was a loser, whether it was their family, their land, their sanity. Five years of torture for all that were involved was enough to make anyone either insane or saintly. Shaffer and Barrows did an amazing job at illustrating these events, creating very real scenarios of love and loss. 

“’To tell the truth,’ Sam said, ‘as long as the Occupation was to last, I met more than once nice German soldier. You would, you know, seeing some of them as much as every day for five years. You couldn’t help but feel sorry for some of them –stuck here knowing their families at home were being bombed to pieces. Didn’t matter then who started it in the first place. Not to me, anyway.’" 

While this novel was filled with harrowing stories, I was very happy with the ending. After reading about the hardships and tragedies those in Guernsey endured, it’s nice to know that happy endings were still possible, at least for some. Is it an ideal ending? Definitely not, but is there even such a thing? Why did the others not race to adopt Kit instead of letting an outsider in? Sometimes, I think, you need to trust that others can do a better job and trust in their love. While Juliet wasn’t ideal in these regards, she did display tremendous love for Kit and her mother, a woman she never met and was prepared to dedicate years of her life to tell her harrowing story. 

Overall, I would highly recommend this novel if you are a fan of historical fiction. 

xoxo K

Living Colourfully. The Lessons I Learned from Kate Spade

I was devastated when I heard the news about Kate Spade's passing yesterday. I was in disbelief for most of the afternoon. After work, as I was scrolling through Twitter and reading articles on her life and career, I found myself getting very emotional. I had never considered how much she had impacted my life until she was gone. 

Kate spade, what Kate spade meant to me,

Like many girls (and boys) my age, my first designer handbag was from Kate Spade. I was working at a garden centre, making minimum wage when I got an email for one of their coveted surprise sales. I wanted something simple and timeless, and after much deliberation with my mom, I opted for a tan satchel purse as a present to myself for landing my first ever job. I used it on a daily basis for years, and still have it to this day. 

Years later, I started a corporate job on a social media team. I was terrified of starting a new job, my first full-time position. I had just finished school and had no idea what to expect in a corporate environment. I opted for a Kate Spade dress on my first day. I wanted to feel confident and empowered while still looking professional. It’s the dress I’m wearing in the picture on my security pass and it’s a subtle reminder every day that you can be a #bosslady while wearing a bow. 

Kate Spade was founded in 1993 in Kate's Tribeca apartment, the year I was born. She cashed in her 401K to make her dreams of owning a handbag company come true, and steadily advanced it into a multi-million dollar business. 

In this vein, I felt like I grew up with the brand and with Kate. As the assortment grew and new retail stores opened,  I too undertook new endeavours in my life. I started junior high, learned new skills and made new friends. There were awkward stages and growing pains, but also learning experiences and opportunities I’d never experienced before. The company was sold in 2007, the year I started high school, but it was like Kate and I were undertaking these changes together. Life was uncertain, but the possibilities were endless. 

Kate spade

To me, Kate Spade represented so much more than a pretty designer brand. Kate Spade, the woman, was an inspiration to me and many other people my age. She embodied the notion that you can be a feminist while still being feminine. That you could wear pink polka dots to a meeting and still be taken seriously. That bringing your work home was less daunting in a floral bag. She inspired a generation to pursue their dreams in the most colourful fashion. 

I hated pink when I was a teenager. I thought it was too girly, too childish. But Kate elevated it to a sophisticated shade, something to be coveted, not mocked. Despite having been removed from the company for 11 years, Kate still represented the colourful aesthetic that I abide by: live colourfully. 

Kate Spade was an innovator, entrepreneur, and inspiration to so many. It’s heartbreaking to think that she shaped my life in such a positive way, yet she was trapped in her own darkened corner. Kate exemplified everything I wanted to be as an adult, and the lessons I’ve learned will remain with me for years to come. 

May she finally find her colourful lining and may she rest in peace. 

xoxo K