4 star, YA

Review: The Binding by Bridget Collins

The Binding by Bridget Collins

Books are dangerous things in Collins’s alternate universe, a place vaguely reminiscent of 19th-century England. It’s a world in which people visit book binders to rid themselves of painful or treacherous memories. Once their stories have been told and are bound between the pages of a book, the slate is wiped clean and their memories lose the power to hurt or haunt them.

After having suffered some sort of mental collapse and no longer able to keep up with his farm chores, Emmett Farmer is sent to the workshop of one such binder to live and work as her apprentice. Leaving behind home and family, Emmett slowly regains his health while learning the binding trade. He is forbidden to enter the locked room where books are stored, so he spends many months marbling end pages, tooling leather book covers, and gilding edges. But his curiosity is piqued by the people who come and go from the inner sanctum, and the arrival of the lordly Lucian Darnay, with whom he senses a connection, changes everything.


4 Drink Me Potions


The Binding is an alternate world where some chosen individuals are born to be binders, a special type of person who is able to “bind” a person’s memories, releasing the original memory from the original holder. This story follows Emmett Farmer, who is called to work as a binder. Not dissimilar to a coming of age story, we follow Emmett as he embarks on the journey to learn this sacred trade – not looked upon highly by all. To some it is evil, a black magic that only witches perform, and to others, a means to an end, whether to forget a painful memory or for something more sinister.

I’ll admit it, I actually randomly picked this off the shelf at Chapter’s one day because it seemed interesting – and boy was it interesting! This led to me getting hooked on the first 100 pages, and then forced me to find a way to finish the rest of the story. This world is just so darned interesting. Like the brief suggests, the world is reminiscence of 19th-century England. The main difference is of course, the art of bookbinding. Now, as if I wasn’t already interested enough in the art of bookbinding in real life, Collins put an extra spin on it, and I almost wish that her imagined bookbinding it were a real art.

At first glance it’s harmless enough, what’s wrong with forgetting a bad memory? Feels like most people in the modern day world can agree to a thing (or two) that would be better left forgotten. How much easier then would it be to just start over after that? Quickly you discover that just like any tool or technology out there, it can be monetized, taken advantage of, and even abused. A tool is just a tool, depending on how you use it. This story follows Emmett as he transitions from being a common farmboy into a revered (or outcasted) bookbinder. He meets many different people in his journey, and most have a differing opinion on the bookbinding profession. He travels between the countryside where he grew up as well as the big city, and just like in real life, the difference between the two settings is stark.

The story really takes a wild turn when he discovers certain names on books, which threatens to reveal secrets of the past meant to be hidden (forgotten?) forever. Collins does a fantastic job leading us through this journey, and really explores the value of memories, now that they can be detached from the original owners. The cost of having something so valuable ripped from you will certainly leave behind a type of scar if not done properly. Which memories are worth keeping, and what is the value in forgetting?

Whew! I really enjoyed this book, and also quickly ate it all up in one day after my initial taste of it at Chapters. The themes that are explored are extremely fascinating, and you quickly find yourself on the emotional journey with Emmett, ready to face the very interesting world that Collins has built.

Overall Recommendations:

The Binding follows a farmboy, Emmett, as his whole life changes when he is called to the sacred art of bookbinding – or the taking of one’s memories and sealing it in book form. This novel truly explores the importance and value of human memory, as well as the whole concept of a book in general. Just what should and shouldn’t be forgotten? And how does one determine the value of a memory? This concept of memory and bookbinding certainly had me spellbound, and wishing that it were real. If you have any interest in this concept, or love a realistic world with just a hint of magic, this may be the book for you!

4.5 star, adult

Review: The Oyster Thief by Sonia Faruqi

Image result for the oyster thiefThe mermaid’s scales were bronze, and they shimmered like hundreds of pennies arranged close together. Her immense blue-green eyes gave a look of fragility to her face, yet he found her eyes unsettling. She was leaning against a thirty-foot-long shark, which emerged from behind her and opened its mouth to reveal a great big cavern lined with hundreds of teeth – a black tunnel ready to swallow him.

Coralline is a mermaid who is engaged to the merman of her dreams. But when an oil spill wreaks havoc on her idyllic village life, her little brother falls gravely ill. Desperate to save him, she embarks on a quest to find a legendary elixir made of starlight.

Izar, a human man, is on the cusp of an invention that will enable him to mine the depths of the ocean. Her discovery will soon make him the richest man on earth – while threatening merpeople with extinction. But then, suddenly, Izar finds himself transformed into a merman and caught in a web of betrayal and intrigue. Meeting Coralline in the ocean, he decides to join her on her quest for the elixir, hoping it will turn him human again.

The quest pushes Coralline and Izar together, even though their worlds are at odds. Their pasts threaten to tear them apart, while a growing attraction adds to the danger. Ultimately, each of them faces an impossible choice. Should Coralline leave her fiancé for a man who might betray her? And Izar has a dark secret of his own – one that could cause him to lose Coralline forever.

Magnificent and moving, set against a breathtaking ocean landscape, The Oyster Thief is a richly imagined odyssey destined to become a classic.


4.5 Drink Me Potions


Two world collide when a mermaid and human man meet, plunging readers into a vast underwater realm brimming with adventure and intrigue.

Coralline is a mermaid living in her hometown of Urchin Grove, working as an apothecary to heal others. Meanwhile, Izar on land is the adopted son of the CEO of the prosperous Ocean Dominion, a company which seeks is to destroy the ocean and mine the precious minerals on the ocean floor. Izar is a gifted inventor, and discovers how ot create underwater fire to raze the ocean floor. Their two worlds collide when Izar is left for dead but becomes a merman instead, meeting Coralline.

The story begins at Coralline’s engagement to a handsome rich merman, whose family’s wealth and status precedes him. Immediately you are reminded of The Little Mermaid, with the beautiful scenery and world created by Faruqi. Vibrant colours and animal familiars exist in this imaginary underwater world and it is as beautiful as any land could be. Faruqi draws many contrasting parallels between the underwater world and the world above and we quickly learn that each is bitterly aware of the other.

When Coralline’s brother falls sick, she embarks on a treacherous journey filled with lies and deceit to try and find a magical elixir to cure him. On her way she meets a half-dead Izar, whom she nurses back to full health. Together they travel a large expanse of the Atlantic looking for this mysterious magician who created this elixir of starlight said to save any life once in exchange for a curse (unicorn blood, anyone?).

I thought this book had all the elements of a classic fairytale that one might want: a loveable and relatable protagonist, Prince Charming, betrayal and plot twists, and a very clever villain, all tied together with the classic true love romance. There’s also a lot that wasn’t expected, and that’s what really drew me into this book. The story really explored different aspects of real life like environmental issues, doing what is right versus what you want, morality and propriety. In addition, koodos to the author for doing her research: as a science major, it really pains me to have to read through very faulty scientific logic in a book. Not in this one! The scenery, ideas and theoretical science that are proposed are all very believable and logical, giving these two contrasting worlds a very realistic feel.

They weren’t kidding when they said that this book is filled with betrayal and intrigue. It almost feels like a whodunnit novel, with lies and misperceptions around every corner, waiting to strain relationships, whether they be familial or romantic. I think this book will resonate with many people with all the different issues that are explored, and I would definitely recommend this exciting adventure to anyone.

“Fire vaporizes water, and water vanquishes fire. The two can never truly meet.”

One of the most exciting and thought provoking lines in the book, it is quickly a theme that emerges tying the balance of the whole book together. Can the underwater world and the land of fire above truly ever be at peace? Or are they just too different?

Overall Recommendation:

A beautiful underwater world not unlike our own that really pulls you into the ocean with the characters themselves. Although most of the story takes place underwater, all of the issues that are brought up are all relevant to our lives. Even as a reader, it is hard to trust anyone in the book, and you are also forced to take a side as you follow Coralline on her journey for the magic elixir. A constant rollercoaster of emotion and suspense, I definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys observing these parallel worlds where it is easier to more candidly address some real world issues. If you loved The Little Mermaid as much as I did, this grown up version will definitely be the twist you’ve been waiting for.

3 star, YA

Review: Spindle by E. K. Johnston

Image result for spindle e k johnstonIt has been generations since the Storyteller Queen drove the demon out of her husband and saved her country from fire and blood. Her family has prospered beyond the borders of their village, and two new kingdoms have sprouted on either side of the mountains. There the demons are kept prisoner by bright iron, and by the creatures the Storyteller Queen made to keep them contained.

But the prison is crumbling. Through years of careful manipulation, a demon has regained her power. She has made one kingdom strong and brought the other to its knees, waiting for the perfect moment to strike. When a princess is born, the demon is ready with the final blow: a curse that will cost the princess her very soul, or force her to destroy her own people to save her life.

The threads of magic are tightly spun, binding princess and exiled spinners into a desperate plot to break the curse before the demon can become a queen of men. But the web of power is dangerously tangled – and they may not see the true pattern until it is unspooled.


3 Drink Me Potions


The world is made safe by a woman, yes, but it is a very big world.

Spindle is a dramatic retelling of one of the oldest classics: Sleeping Beauty. However, it is not merely the same characters given different names and guises; a whole new world is created to bring a much different life to the story. Despite its fairytale origins, this book actually has many more mature themes compared to the Disney version, but nevertheless it had all the nostalgic value of the original story.

At first, the story was a little bit hard to follow. The theme is completely different: a cursed baby princess forced spinners in her country to leave due to a plague that attacks spinners specifically. The demons feed off of skill and the making of things, and spinning was chosen as the cursed skill that will ultimately let the demon take over the princess. If you are already confused at what I mean, that is exactly how I felt.

Since the people were cursed to not spin, the King and Queen banned spinning in their whole kingdom, and this led to the massive bonfire of spindles in the city – sound familiar? This is where I finally started to realize that this was the fairytale that I knew and loved (perhaps I should have realized from the title). The final straw was of course this “birthday party” of the Little Rose (the princess – another clue I missed), where magical guardians came bearing gifts, and before the last gift was given, the demon came and cursed the child. The last, and of course the weakest, guardian was left with the task of giving her the princess a small reprieve from the curse. The demon cursed the child to be taken over when she learned to spin, and the guardian gave her the “gift” of sleep if she reached for the spindle. Ding ding ding! Princess Aurora, is that you? Why yes, yes it is.

However, this is not your typical useless princess waiting for her prince to come. As one of the main characters, the Little Rose is a fierce and courageous young lady who embarks on a dangerous journey to break the curse with four new friends – ex-spinners looking to break the curse on their family and country. While Princess Aurora was given the gift of beauty and song, the Little Rose was given much more interesting and dare I say, useful gifts such as the discernment of truth.

The Little Rose was only five years old when her parents ruined my mother and brought ruination to my own life.

Spindle initially follows the journey of a young boy named Yashaa who is the son of an ex-court spinner. With his mother’s position being close to the princess, Yashaa once lived in the castle before the demon came and drove all spinners out of the land. This leads Yashaa to have an inborn hatred for the princess for being the cause of their damnation. Due to the King and Queen banning spinning and exiling all those who practiced to protect their daughter, this left many homeless and bitter. Those who spin in the land are cursed to have a worsening cough until their last breath, such is the demon’s curse.

Yashaa and his friends embark on a journey to save all the spinners and to break the curse on the land. Eventually they meet the princess, who is not at all as they expect. Together they run away and wander through the desert to look for a way to break the curse. All seems hopeless: the Little Rose has the choice of being taken over by a demon or eternal sleep. Romance develops as the journey continues and all the tensions start building as the demon begins to hunt for the lost princess. Will they be able to find a way to break the curse in time, or will eternal sleep be the fate for the Little Rose?

Overall Recommendation:
Sleeping Beauty is one of my favourite fairytales. The elements of magic and a powerful evil villain in Maleficent really enraptured me as a child. As a much older child now, I appreciated the more mature elements of this retelling, especially where the princess is not just some damsel in distress. The whole premise is completely new, and therefore may be hard to catch on. But for me, who loves any fairytale retelling, there was at least that element that I loved. I would say I enjoyed the nostalgia that came with the realization of what the story meant, but it was definitely a little bit more difficult to follow sometimes. Give it a try though, if you enjoyed Sleeping Beauty as much as I did.