{Audiobook Review} Invisible Monsters by Chuck Palahniuk (Alternate Title: Chuck Palahniuk’s Books Are All Kinds of Strange)

invisible monstersWhen it came to titles of this post, I had no idea what to write. I’ve read Chuck Palahniuk in the past and I always think that the next book I pick up will be normal, or tame, or … something. But I’m coming to learn one thing.

Chuck Palahniuk is all kinds of weird. And man are his books f***** up.

Really, there’s no other way to say it.

I didn’t actually intend on listening ot a book by Chuck Palahniuk. I thought I might start a new Neil Gaiman, but Hoopla didn’t have ANY of his books to listen to (and really, that is all kinds of wrong!), so I randomly scrolled through the titles and picked Invisible Monsters. It looked like it might be a lot less strange than his other two books I’ve read. Haunted, which was awesome, but super gory. Then Pygmy, which … well, Pygmy was a crazy book. Not for the faint of heart. I still have stomach aches from that one.

Frankly, based on those two books, I knew that what Palahniuk had to offer was going to be an odd one, but this one sounded normal — a former model who gets into an accident befriends someone who helps her recreate herself.

Not bad, right?

I kind of fell in love with this one right off the bat and I think the narrator had something to do with it. She sounded like a combination of the girl who played Georgia in Dead Like Me and Ellen Degeneres and was kind of snarky and I liked it. She made the main character sound like someone you could totally be friends with because you knew they were going to tell you things straight up and not sugarcoat anything.

Of course, that’s what you think. What actually is is that the main character had her jaw blown off and looks like you would “if you got the cherry pie in the pie eating contest.” After I finished the story, I still had no idea how to picture this character. A former model with no jaw, a lolling tongue, and skin tissue hanging all around. The cover of the book is actually kind of clever since it shows the model with that spattering of red in the face, which you would assume is poorly applied lipstick, but instead is a neat way to show what the character looks like without actually showing what the character looks like.

Anyway, when you think this new friend of yours can tell you how it is, they really can’t because they can’t talk. This is illustrated throughout the book with gobbledegook (can I actually pull that word off in a review?!) — awesomely narrated on the audiobook. We spend a lot of time with her narrating, so it’s always crazy to have those reminders that she can’t actually talk.

And aside from her character, everyone in the book definitely has their own story. My favourite characters had to be the main character’s parents. There were a few scenes with them that had me busting a gut! Everyone had a story and everything was so twisted and sometimes confusing — but it all was amazingly tied up in the end that I didn’t even see it coming.

I kind of loved how the whole story was told, too. It’s not told as a series of events that happen in order. Instead, we’re jumping back, jumping ahead, and you would think it would be totally confusing, but I was pretty surprised that I managed to keep track of everything and have no problem jumping back into the audio after not listening for a few days. Palahniuk wrote a story and characters that I could really understand and get into when I was listening, even if I only had 20 minutes to listen. Not only that, but with a story that has its unbelievably gory moments (really, you’d have to listen to it to find out — there were times I was very thankful I wasn’t eating while listening), it’s full of so much heart! You really wouldn’t think that, but the last ten minutes of the book had me hooked and I just had to sit and listen. In fact, this whole story despite all of its craziness made me want to listen … and I rarely listen to audiobooks these days.

Seriously, this book was amazingly good. If you can stomach the gruesome parts in it, you’ll probably fall in love with the story like I did. Yeah, not all of the characters are likable, but that’s a good thing. Now that I’m finished, I definitely need to read more of his stuff. I never thought I’d like Palahniuk’s work, but with every book I read, I realize how awesome he is.

Have you read anything by Chuck Palahniuk? Are you in agreement that he’s just plain weird? 

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Review: The Birth House by Ami McKay

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the birth houseTitle: The Birth House
Author:
Ami McKay
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: Purchased (Paperback)

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The Birth House is the story of Dora Rare, the first daughter to be born in five generations of the Rare family. As a child in an isolated village in Nova Scotia, she is drawn to Miss Babineau, an outspoken Acadian midwife with a gift for healing and a kitchen filled with herbs and folk remedies. During the turbulent years of World War I, Dora becomes the midwife’s apprentice. Together, they help the women of Scots Bay through infertility, difficult labors, breech births, unwanted pregnancies and even unfulfilling sex lives.

When Gilbert Thomas, a brash medical doctor, comes to Scots Bay with promises of fast, painless childbirth, some of the women begin to question Miss Babineau’s methods – and after Miss Babineau’s death, Dora is left to carry on alone. In the face of fierce opposition, she must summon all of her strength to protect the birthing traditions and wisdom that have been passed down to her.

Filled with details that are as compelling as they are surprising-childbirth in the aftermath of the Halifax Explosion, the prescribing of vibratory treatments to cure hysteria and a mysterious elixir called Beaver Brew- The Birth House is an unforgettable tale of the struggles women have faced to maintain control over their own bodies and to keep the best parts of tradition alive in the world of modern medicine.

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I kind of love Ami McKay. When it comes to Canadian authors, I think she is one of Canada’s treasures — her books are just THAT good. So good that when I finished this one — a book that had been on my shelf FOREVER (I read her newest book before even reading this one — that’s how long it’s been on my shelf) — I needed more. I was so sad that I had read all of her books! I guess that just means I’ll be wishing that she releases something new — ASAP!

Anyway, I read this book late last year while I was pregnant (yup — and I scheduled this post!) and was initially QUITE nervous to read it. I mean, it’s a book that deals heavily with pregnant women and birthing and all that jazz. I expected to be terrified and full of anxiety while reading it.

But it’s not written in a scary way. In fact, part of me wished I had someone like Mrs. B or Dora in my life for the birth of my own child. The art of midwifery is just that — an art. I love how the book really brings forth what was going on during that time, with women accepting midwives when it came to female ailments and childbirth, but that the men of society seemed against it (well, some at least) because there was no science to it. It was hard to believe that people like Mrs. B or Dora could be accused of witchcraft because they used natural means to help and heal, rather than immediately thinking that science has the answer. Sometimes a woman’s intuition is enough.

I was fascinated by this book. I had started it before bed one night and thought I would never get through it. It’s close to 400 pages and I had been getting my fair share of YA novels in, so a Canadian Literature book seemed daunting to me. However, Ami writes in such a way that it’s just that easy to get sucked into her writing and into the world she puts forth. I felt like I was there, witnessing what was going on around the main character, Dora. I felt her pain, I could feel her fears, and I could definitely feel the elation when a baby was born.

I also have to say something about the characters in this story. The women were FIERCE. Their strength should be enough to let them make a mark on the town, but sometimes it just wasn’t enough. While the women were amazing, some of the men just couldn’t see it. There were times where I found myself cringing as I read because of the attitudes of some of the male population. Though I did like that not ALL the males were against the women and their beliefs — there were some real keepers in the story!

I had also thought that the book would span generations, but we’re really only let into a year or so of Dora’s life. And it’s quite amazing how much she grows as a character in such a short amount of time. And the doctor? Oh. My. Gosh. I was so scared of him! To live in a period like that where the idea of a local obstetrician is such a new thing was terrifying. I had actually seen the movie Hysteria about the way to treat women with certain … ahem … ailments and it was nice to be familiar with the time period through that. I know that people thought they were really moving ahead in medicine, but some things just seemed so silly. Of course, the best thing to do would be to just label a woman as crazy.

When I was close to finishing the story, I had to think about how in times of emergency, it was always about saving the women and children — and then Ami (well, Dora) brings up that very sentence. It really was a great way to try and bridge the gap between the sexes. I finished the story feeling completely satisfied and so happy that I had finally given the story a go. Ami McKay will definitely remain up there in the ranks of my favourite Canadian authors — or, really, just my favourite authors. I can’t wait to see what she brings to her readers next.

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Author Links

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Review: Hellgoing: Stories by Lynn Coady

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hellgoingTitle: Hellgoing: Stories
Author:
Lynn Coady
Genre: Short Stories
Source: Purchased (eBook)

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With astonishing range and depth, Scotiabank Giller Prize finalist Lynn Coady gives us eight unforgettable new stories, each one of them grabbing our attention from the first line and resonating long after the last.

A young nun charged with talking an anorexic out of her religious fanaticism toys with the thin distance between practicality and blasphemy. A strange bond between a teacher and a schoolgirl takes on ever deeper, and stranger, shapes as the years progress. A bride-to-be with a penchant for nocturnal bondage can’t seem to stop bashing herself up in the light of day.

Equally adept at capturing the foibles and obsessions of men and of women, compassionate in her humour yet never missing an opportunity to make her characters squirm, fascinated as much by faithlessness as by faith, Lynn Coady is quite possibly the writer who best captures what it is to be human at this particular moment in our history.

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Short stories have always been something that alludes me. I mean, I understand the novel and I kind of get poetry (something I never really studied in university. Give me books!), but when it comes to short stories, I felt like it took a lot of work to really extrapolate the TRUE meaning of the story. If there was a meaning. Which, in university, there’s ALWAYS a meaning.

I’m not sure if I would have picked up Hellgoing on my own, but when I saw that local author Lynn Coady was up for a Giller Prize with her collection of stories, I decided to give it a whirl. Not only do I love trying out prize-worthy books, but I also have been on a mission to really explore the depths of local talent we have here in the capital city.

Without a doubt, it’s easy to see that Lynn Coady has talent. Right off the bat, I was in love with her writing style. It’s more mature than what I was used to, but it was also very accessible. I didn’t find myself fumbling through the text and actually found myself absorbed in the stories. Shocking, right?

I think my favourite stories in the collection have to be The Natural Elements, Wireless, and Body Condom. All had very real characters and interesting studies in our actions as humans. The stories aren’t light, they’re hard and sometimes a bit crude. It can be hard to really get to know a character through a short story, but I think there are certain characters (as in my favourites listed previously) who stand out. We don’t get a lot of filler with a short story, nor do we really get a lot of backstory. Instead, we get the here and now and the story that’s happening in this moment. It’s like we’ve suddenly attached ourselves as flies on the wall of someone else’s life, if only for a brief instant.

I’m definitely interested to try out some of Lynn’s full-length works. I think she is a true local talent and definitely worthy of acknowledgement. I’d be interested to see her writing a little serious of a story — maybe something with a mix of seriousness and a bit of humour, but I’d still say that this is a good introduction to her work.

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