The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood

4/5 stars.
ebook, 449 pages.
Read from April 20 to May 02, 2014.

Three down and two more to go for the Canada-Reads nominations of 2014. At this point, I would have to say that this novel is my favorite out of what I’ve read thus far. While I admit I am already partial to Atwood as an author just because I’ve read more by her, I would still say that this one worked best for me as a reader.

The Year of the Flood is the second book in the MaddAddam trilogy. While this book is the second in the trilogy, it is technically a prequel or rather a companion piece to Oryx and Crake, the first novel in the series. The third book is called MaddAddam which takes place after these two books. While it is not necessary to read them in order if you are going to take up the novels I would recommend doing so as you’ll experience a whole different  level of plot depth.

The novel follows two main characters, Toby and Ren that are connected through a religious group called The God’s Gardeners. The women are separated by at least a decade of age between them yet they are invariably connected. The  God’s Gardeners anticipates the coming of a waterless-flood that is going to come and wipe out the human race so that the Earth can heal and rebuild from the destruction and unbalance that humans have caused it. The book moves through different areas of Ren and Toby’s lives in different time-frames, including what happened to them before they came apart of The God’s Gardeners, their time in The God’s Gardeners and where they are after the waterless-flood has hit the Earth.

The Gardener’s believe that humankind has strayed away from how God wanted us to live on the Earth. Especially with the way the world has become. Corporations, called the CorpSeCorps, now rule everything and are less than moral.  They have used up almost all of the Earth’s resources and have erased most of the animal species on the planet. The animal genes that remain are spliced and used to create horrible hybrids that serve human purposes. Food is highly processed and people have stopped asking where it comes from. The most notorious example of this is the burger chain, Secretburger. They will use any protein that they come across to use in their burgers. Even human protein. Hence, the name of the establishment, as you don’t ever really know what you’re eating. As a result, The God’s Gardeners choose to separate themselves and live in the pleeblands, the slums. The pleeblands and are inhabited by some very desolate people: homeless, refugees and criminals which make living there very dangerous. The God’s Gardeners are strict vegans and condemn anything material made. They recycle everything, grow their own food and teach their children how to live in one with God. The children take courses and learn essentials skills in classes taught the leaders of the groups, the Adams and Eves.

The book focuses on Toby and Ren in this very detailed and expansive world that Atwood has created. Like the Earth, both Toby and Ren have to heal from items that they have suffered in their past and they find this peace when the book concludes. The writing is at times chaotic, though I wouldn’t say that it’s hard to follow, so it perfectly mirrors the chaos in the plot.

There is a scary sense of realism that comes while reading this book. I found myself looking at the teachings of The God’s Gardener’s and wondering if I should take some of their own practices into my own life because the world that Atwood has created feels like it could be a possibility for our future. An excessive one maybe, but humans are an excessive race so I wouldn’t put this story too far past the concept of reality. With that being said, another point that I believe that Atwood makes, is that there is always hope and resilience, no matter what the horror.

Overall, a must-read for dystopian and Atwood lovers.

A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin

4/5 stars.
Paperback, 973 pages.
Read from March 27 to April 24, 2014.

My God, nothing in this world could have prepared me for the last 100 pages of this book. This novel is by far the best in the series so far. In this book, every man claiming to be a king collides and they collide hard. What you expect or want to happen, doesn’t, and it makes you want to throw the book against the wall in disbelief. My boyfriend gave me some funny looks when I screamed out in protest  to numerous scenes while reading this book. Oh and just when you think you have it sorted out and you’ve come to terms with the madness that’s ensued you read the epilogue and your mind is blown once again. Seriously, this was my face:

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It’s so hard to discuss this novel without giving away all of the essential twists and plot-changers! It is however impressive that Martin continues to remember so many details and have the story flow so well between one character’s chapter to another. Even more impressive, is the amount of growth that each and everyone one of the characters (that are still freaking alive, that is) go through in this book. You learn that Jamie Lannister is actually a good man, that you can sympathize with Cersei and hate her at the same time and how little Tywin really thinks of his dwarf son Tyrion. You watch Jon become a man and learn about a world outside of the Watch, that it is possible for Sansa and Catelyn to tolerate even more grief, that Dany and Robb have to make a few very difficult decisions and you get to see Arya becoming vicious and Sam become brave. Well, I suppose the exception being Joffery, he doesn’t change. He’s still a twat.

What this novel makes me ask now, is where is the series going? There were times where I felt I should have seen certain twists coming and yet, I didn’t, because Martin doesn’t do anything ordinary in terms of character investment and plot. Which leads me to ask: What is the outcome that Martin see with these characters? Who does he want sitting on the Iron Throne?  I can’t even fathom what it going to happen in the coming books with the shit-storm that Martin put in this book.

Well I have to read the fourth book now! I have actually already purchased it and will tackle it as soon as I can get over the emotional turmoil that Martin put me through.

Stupid Children by Lenore Zion

4/5 stars.
ebook, 176 pages.
Read from March 09 to 12, 2014.

This book, if you’re looking for something different, is it. Stupid Children is a dark-humoured book that focuses on the psychological traumas of a girl named Jane. After her mother died, her father was never quite the same. At a very young age her father was placed in a mental institution and she into the foster care system. Her tragedy continues as the home that she is placed into is a part of a cult called the “Second Day Believers”. The cult focuses on cleansing out the “mental impurities” of children and then it throws in some farm animal organs, drugs, sex and a weird ranking system of its members.

The book is written from the perspective of Jane as an adult, accounting her experiences and relationships to a psychologist and as well to the reader. This unique psychologist-narrative provides a potent perspective and, based on the mixed reviews this book has received, didn’t work for every reader. I felt however, that the style was pulled off very well.

Fast paced and quirky, the story focus on how non-nonchalantly Jane discusses her not-so-normal upbringing, the experiences she gets into with her friends and father-daughter relationships.  The characters are immensely likeable. There are some scenes that are so well described in the book that at first glance may not be directly related to the story but they allow the reader to gain entry into the emotional state of the characters. There are some amazing scenes that really give the reader a full extent of some of the psychological damage Jane endures and how she handles it. The scenes aren’t funny and they’re not tragic but they’re very raw.

I really couldn’t put this book down and I can say that it’s been the best read of 2014 for me so far. I actually had the privilege of participating in an author/reader discussion with Lenore Zion on this book. What I was able to learn is that Lenore herself is a psychologist and her influences for the book came from her dreams and a desire to let readers know what it’s like to be a therapist in a way.

The influence came from my dreams. I have a very rich dream world (and fantasy world) and I’ve been keeping a dream journal for years. It’s a bit egomaniacal, but my unconscious is fascinating to me – as is the unconscious of all human beings. We are brilliant and bizarre creatures. I wanted to write a book that allowed the reader to feel what it is sometimes like to be a therapist. Questioning things like “why is my client smiling while telling me this horrible, traumatic memory?” and “why does my client keep coming up with rationalizations to defend her abusers?” I work with a lot of trauma in my field, so these are things I have dissected psychologically for quite some time.” –  Lenore Zion, in a TNBBC Author/Reader Discussion

Lenore’s work as a psychologist is blatant in this novel and it adds such a fantastic and unique perspective that I don’t think readers will find anywhere elsewhere.  A highly recommended read for those who are looking for a something a little off-beat and awesome!