Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram | Blog Tour

Thursday, 16 August 2018

Darius the Great is Not Okay

Adib Khorram

Release Date
August 28th, 2018

320 Pages


Sent to me for review by PenguinTeen Canada

Goodreads Link

Where to Preorder
Amazon CA | Book Depository | ChaptersIndigo

Darius doesn't think he'll ever be enough, in America or in Iran. Hilarious and heartbreaking, this unforgettable debut introduces a brilliant new voice in contemporary YA.

Darius Kellner speaks better Klingon than Farsi, and he knows more about Hobbit social cues than Persian ones. He's about to take his first-ever trip to Iran, and it's pretty overwhelming--especially when he's also dealing with clinical depression, a disapproving dad, and a chronically anemic social life. In Iran, he gets to know his ailing but still formidable grandfather, his loving grandmother, and the rest of his mom's family for the first time. And he meets Sohrab, the boy next door who changes everything.

Sohrab makes sure people speak English so Darius can understand what's going on. He gets Darius an Iranian National Football Team jersey that makes him feel like a True Persian for the first time. And he understand that sometimes, best friends don't have to talk. Darius has never had a true friend before, but now he's spending his days with Sohrab playing soccer, eating rosewater ice cream, and sitting together for hours in their special place, a rooftop overlooking the Yazdi skyline.

Sohrab calls him Darioush--the original Persian version of his name--and Darius has never felt more like himself than he does now that he's Darioush to Sohrab. When it's time to go home to America, he'll have to find a way to be Darioush on his own.

To start this off, let me say this: I love Darius. I want to be his friend and make him feel loved, and make him tea. His character was both light hearted, and also heartbreaking at the same time. Adib Khorram did such an amazing job exploring the feelings associated with Darius' depression, and the fact that he truly felt like he was always on the outside, without making him seem one sided or like a caricature of a person with mental health issues.  The intricacies of depression, and the way it impacts his life, his relationships with his family, and even his relationship with Sohrab, were so well written. I loved the candid discussions of mental illness, and also how the story didn't end with him being 'cured'. 

Speaking of cures, I have a big issue with the concept of the Geographic Cure, which is the idea that when people travel, their problems are left behind in the place they are leaving. I loved how Darius' travels to Iran focused on the beauty and the amazing elements of travel -- meeting family, seeing cultures in different ways, exploring new places -- but also showed the realism of being in these new places. The way that Darius interacted with his grandparents made for some really thought provoking moments for me. Even though they are flesh and blood, there is still so much distance between them. I was also really interested in the intricacies and details about Iranian and Persian culture!

The pacing in this book was something I really appreciated. I think I always talk about wanting something fast paced, but I loved the slow steady nature of it. While the beginning was a bit difficult to get into, about 60-80 pages in, I really felt like the story flew past. The plot doesn't move quickly, but I just became so invested in the characters, and in their lives, that I barely realised how quickly I was reading it.

This can't be a review without talking about Darius and Sohrab. Their relationship was the highlight of the book for me. I love new friendships, and I loved getting to see how their friendship built. I want another book where Sohrab comes to America and they stay best friends.

There's something about this book, that when the last page was turned, and the story was over, I knew that I had read something special. It was a mix of the culture infused in the book, the beautiful and fully realized characters, and the discussions surrounding mental health, but this book was something special. And something that I think a lot of people will love and enjoy. 4.5 Stars. 

Thanks so much to Penguin Teen Canada for having me on as a part of the blog tour! Check out all the other stops below!

Thanks for reading, and I hope you all enjoy Darius!

The Josephine Knot by Meg Bram | Play Review

Saturday, 11 August 2018

Book: The Josephine Knot

Authors: Meg Braem

Publisher: Playwright's Canada Press

Pages: 64 Pages

Format: Paperback

Source: Sent to me for review by PCP

After Samantha’s baba dies, her fractured family is summoned to pick through the house full of belongings and trash, leaving taped notes on whatever they want to take. Between old napkins, a closet full of ketchup packets, and a freezer full of rotting meat are gems like a grandfather clock and plastic deer statuettes that hold more sentiment. While her father David sifts through his own memories, all Samantha wants is to find a simple object that could represent her place in the family. When other family members arrive, tug of wars and passive-aggressive conversations commence. In a house full of junk and sadness, it comes down to Samantha and David to find a new way to fit together.

This was a play that I had high hopes for, and while I enjoyed reading it, and while I think it was well written, I didn't get what I wanted out of it. I felt really intrigued by the premise, and the language used throughout was really stark and striking, but I felt like I was missing something. It felt almost incomplete.

First I'll start with the characters. Samantha and her father are the two main characters, and while the actors play all the different characters, Sam and her dad are the two mains. Sam felt oddly unexplored, and her father the same. This might sound like the stupidest thing I've ever said, but it felt like this was a play meant to be staged. Almost like something is missing in the written record of it. One of the best things about this play was the dynamic between Sam and her dad in their scenes together. They have this beautiful, dynamic relationship that is one of the few things that translates onto the page.

There were a couple moments that I also felt like the play was under developed. I felt like every situation fell a bit flat, but also that a lot of relationship building happened in between the lines. The lines felt like they relied a lot on the actors playing these parts to fill in the situations with tone, and very specific, dynamic choices. I felt like this play could be three hours long, with half of it done in utter silence, and I would be captivated. 

I thought the writing of it was beautiful. I thought it was smart, emotional, striking, and I think that Meg Braem does a great job as a playwright, but I also think she wrote a piece that relies heavily on actors and directors. She built a beautiful skeleton, but it needs to be built up before it can move about.

But as soon as I finished this, I had made so many choices as to how to direct it. I saw gaps and immediately started to thing about how to fill them in, how to do justice to the story and the writing while rounding out the story. And, I mean, isn't that what a good playwright should do? 

Overall, I enjoyed this story, but it's what happened after I put it down that was the best. Meg Braem created a story with so many possibilities and exploring those is what makes this story come alive. She's created a beautiful skeleton of a piece, in my opinion, and while the actual text left me wanting a lot more, imagining what it looks like as a fully fleshed out person is what makes it worth the read.

3 Stars.

Happy Reading!

Waiting on Wednesday | Small Talk by Carole Fréchette and John Murrell

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

Waiting On Wednesday was created by Jill at Breaking the Spine

There is so much about this play that sounds amazing to me. It's translated from French, about meaningful conversations around mental health, and unexpected friendships. Also this cover is kinda incredible. I can't wait until this comes out, and I'm able to read it.

Small Talk by Carole Frechette (Translated by John Murrell)
Release Date: September 17th 2018 | Published by Playwrights Canada Press | Goodreads Link
Preorder on:

“There can be no fullness without emptiness. And there can be no conversation without a void.”

Everyday conversation has always been a challenge for Julie, a lonely and anxious researcher who spends her days bent over a microscope in a basement laboratory. She struggles through lunchtime discussions with co-workers and one-sided exchanges with her withdrawn father and mute stepmother, attempts to understand her aphasic mother, and feels steamrolled in conversations with her game-show host brother and his extravagant girlfriend. At the end of each day, she goes home exhausted and indulges in soliloquies in which she lets go of everything unsaid. She tries self-help videos and a conversation workshop, but nothing can budge her verbal roadblocks. After being humiliated by her brother on live TV, she runs away from her city, her family, her job, and her life. Wandering in the woods, she meets Timothy, who is trying to end his life. Between someone who wants to leave the world and someone who would like to be a part of it, a meaningful conversation begins to take shape.

What titles are you waiting on? Let me know, and happy reading!

Heart of Thorns by Bree Barton | Book Review

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

Heart of Thorns

Author: Bree Barton

Publisher: Katherine Tegan Books

Pages: 437 Pages

Format: ARC

Source: Sent to me for review by HCC Frenzy

Links to Purchase
 Amazon CABook DepositoryChapters Indigo

I received an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

In the ancient river kingdom, touch is a battlefield, bodies the instruments of war. Seventeen-year-old Mia Rose has pledged her life to hunting Gwyrach: women who can manipulate flesh, bones, breath, and blood.

Not women. Demons. The same demons who killed her mother without a single scratch. 

But when Mia's father suddenly announces her marriage to the prince, she is forced to trade in her knives and trousers for a sumptuous silk gown. Only after the wedding goes disastrously wrong does she discover she has dark, forbidden magic—the very magic she has sworn to destroy.

It feels like it's been a hot minute since I read a high fantasy novel, and what a reentrance here. While I had a few issues with the book, what Heart of Thorns ultimately is, is a fierce, fun, and super feminist fantasy that is a great start to a series. 

My biggest issue with the story was the pacing. I felt like the first 250 pages just dragged on. Yes, what I was reading was interesting, but Mia and Quin's threat, and their enemies, just didn't seem real enough. The consequences of their running away, and the unknowns of where they were going just didn't raise the stakes. It wasn't until about 200 pages in that the characters themselves realised how high the stakes were and then started to act accordingly. The slow pace did allow for world building, character development, and some good slow burn romance wise, but I just wish the first half of the book was paced the same way the second half was.

But let's talk about the world. I really liked the world, and the political dynamic that was set up. I do wish we had gotten a bit more about the River Kingdom outside of the royal circuit, and overall just a more well rounded sense of the kingdoms in general, but the political intrigue was really captivating. I loved reading about the horrific king, and the dynamics between his family, and his hunger for power. I also loved how Prince Quin and his sister, Princess Kerri, butted heads, and showed both sides of the River Kingdom. The siblings showed the range of the kingdom, and watching them develop into characters that were different than how they were both originally thought to be was really cool.

It takes guts to completely pull the rug out from under your character, and that's what Bree Barton does with Mia. And she does it so freakin well. Mia is this know it all. And she's not afraid to tell you what she knows. From her knowledge of the hunter, to her knowledge of anatomy, she's a know it all and she's not afraid to tell you about it. But in what is maybe my favourite scene of the book, her knowledge, and everything she knows, is taken away. Miss Mia-Know-It-All suddenly knows nothing and everything she did know is not useful anymore. Taking that power away from her main character is a risk that totally pays off. Cutting Mia down to her bare bones, taking away her learned knowledge and leaving only her intuition is something that really comes in handy towards the end of the book.

I think the standout of this book is the characters. Mia is great, as is her sister, Angelyne. I loved their dynamic together. It was giving me all kinds of Wicked/Elphaba and Nessarose vibes, which I really appreciated. Some of the side characters I found were underdeveloped, but I expect to see them more fully fleshed out in book 2! My biggest character disappointment was that we didn't get to know Princess Karri more. It would have made the ending hit harder. Quin, though, is also a standout. I have dubbed him my new book boyfriend I will protect him. He's sweet, bisexual as all hell, and also a great cook. Yup. He's a keeper.

Overall, I had a lot of fun reading this. The political intrigue was cut with dry and biting humour, and while it was slow to pick up, the story really feels as though it's just getting started. I'm giving Heart of Thorns 4/5 stars, because while I really enjoyed the characters and the world, the pacing was really tough to get through. But I can't wait for the series to progress, and to find out where this story goes!

Happy Reading!