Lies About Books: William Shakespeare Punches A Friggin’ Shark And/Or Other Stories

As the chill of winter sets in all around us, the time has come around once more for a completely erroneous report on something I recently read and enjoyed! This month, I had the pleasure of reading Ryan North’s William Shakespeare Punches a Friggin Shark, And/Or Other Stories.

Although the byline is credited, bafflingly, to the renowned Ryan North, the book is actually an autobiography, written by the titular William Shakespeare – not the infamous playwright William Shakespeare, but rather an entirely different individual, also a writer of infamous plays, also coincidentally named William Shakespeare.

If this is not confusing enough, the book’s story is told through an additional confusing gimmick: 3-D. Equipped with 3-D glasses from the volume’s inside cover, the reader is taken on a three-dimensional journey through the harrowed life of this particular William Shakespeare. We feel his desperation as he takes out loan after loan that he will not be able to pay back, all to finance the ill-fated 3-D theatre in which he had wanted his plays to be performed; we feel his fury as he confronts the cruellest of his loan sharks; and we feel the sting on our knuckles as he shakes out his hand after finally punching out that evil shark.

Rife with adventure, difficult choices that we feel we are making alongside the narrator, and theatrical dreams that all amount to naught, this book was serious and moving. I recommend it to any and all fans of three-dimensional reading, Williams Shakespeare, or chooseable-path adventures.




Lies About Books: The Sixth Grade Nickname Game

There’s a sad sort of clanging from a clock in a hall, telling us that it is soon time to say goodbye to the month of November. On the bright side (in a dark season), this means it is time once more for some absurd and untrue words about a book I’ve read this month!

Last week, I had the pleasure of reading Gordon Korman’s The Sixth Grade Nickname Game.

In this dystopian novel, everyone on the planet is assigned a random nickname, which functions as their name in the simulation they log into for about eight hours each day. They learn, work, and play in this simulation – depending on their age and walk of life – with anonymous peers from all around the world, knowing one another by nothing but their nickname handles. Best friends Jeff and Wiley have never met in person, but they have shared a simulation group for almost all of their eleven years, interacting within the confines of their game.

But when Jeff is wrongly accused of a terrible crime, and faces execution, it is no longer a game. Wiley must somehow find his friend in real life, and prove his innocence – or discredit their entire world’s simulation-based legal system – before it’s too late. And he might discover, along the way, whether the aliases they have been assigned were really as random as they thought, or tied to something more sinister…

The Sixth Grade Nickname Game is a chilling portrait of an ever-more-realistic future, while preserving the genuine spirit of its young protagonists. I recommend it to any fans of harsh cyber dystopias, sixth grade students, and/or endangered species.

Lies About Books: The You I’ve Never Known

Do you feel a spooky something in the air? A chill or a whisper on the wind? October is winding its weary way to a close, and we all know what that means: time for more lies about a book I’ve recently read!

This month, I read The You I’ve Never Known, by Ellen Hopkins.

The You I’ve Never Known centres on Ariel, a young woman who is utterly bored. Fed up with the monotony of her life, she invents – or perhaps “theorizes” is a better word – a person. She calls this person Casey, and begins to write Casey letters.

Ariel has never heard of this person she invents, but she insists that Casey is, or at least might be, a real person. Her letters, which make up the lion’s share of the book, are witty and personable; they talk about Ariel’s days and feelings, yes, but even more often, they focus on her hypothetical correspondent, describing in realistic detail what she thinks might be going on in the life of the presumably-imaginary Casey.

Ariel goes so far as to even mail these letters to Casey: she puts a small fortune in stamps on one corner of the envelope, with her return address on the opposite corner, and writes “CASEY” in large block letters in the centre – without, of course, an address – and sticks them in the big red mailbox on the end of her street.

But when Ariel gets a letter in the mail claiming to be the real Casey, writing back, her world may be about to change forever…

Raw with emotion and inspiration, The You I’ve Never Known is a heavy book, but a worthwhile one. I would recommend it to anyone who is a fan of imaginary friends, letters, or difficult childhoods.

Lies About Books: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Sunny September is here again! Well, it’s near again, and soon will be over, which means it’s time for more lies about a book I’ve read this sunny month. Earlier this month, I finally got around to reading The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower, as the name suggests, tells the story of a happy-go-lucky flower. What is most out of the ordinary is that the book, despite its plant protagonist, is told in the first person, narrated in a series of supplicant letters to the Plant King.

The flower’s name is not Charlie, but it calls itself Charlie; as a flower, it has no name, but, after all, we as the readers must call it something. Over the course of the book, we never learn what type of flower it is: that is suggested to be unimportant in comparison to the flower’s lived experience. Rather than following a typical plot structure, The Perks of Being a Wallflower meanders in its narrative, describing the people “Charlie” sees from its vantage on the wall where it grows – the snatches of conversation, the noses that stop to inhale its sweet scent, the hands that caress its petals dangerously.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is an unusual book to be sure, but no less a good one for all that. Charlie’s story has a tendency to grip the reader despite the lack of standard suspense or tension. I would recommend this book to any fans of plant life, epistolary novels, or childhood trauma.

Lies About Books: Of the Divine

It is absolutely still August, but while that lasts, it’s time for another round of Lies About Books, in which I provide absolutely insupportable falsehoods about a genuine book that I actually enjoyed this month! And in August, which is the month that it currently still is, I had the immense pleasure of reading Amelia Atwater-Rhodes’ latest novel, Of the Divine.

Of the Divine chronicles the journey of Naples, a gourmet chef named for the town in which he has lived all his life. Naples has always known that he was born to bake great things. But when exotic travellers visit Naples – the city and the man – with stories and legends of delicacies that are truly divine, he is no longer satisfied with cooking truly excellent creme brulees and cherries jubilee.

No, Naples decides that he cannot rest until he can prepare the very food of the gods. He sets out on a journey to find the mystic and possibly dangerous ingredients to produce genuine ambrosia. But what he finds may rock the foundations of the entire cooking world… Are he and his fellow chefs ready for these revelations?

Of the Divine is a captivating story of cookery, herblore, and the human condition. Heartwarming to the very end, and jam-packed with recipes that will make your mouth water, this book is a true gem. I would recommend it to any fans of desserts, cataclysmic changes, and/or poor life decisions.

Lies About Books: Beanstalk

The summer is Most Definitely Not Over, but July basically is, which means it’s that time again – time for me to tell bald-faced lies about a book I genuinely enjoyed! In the month of July, it was my supreme pleasure to read the novel Beanstalk, by E. Jade Lomax, first book in her Leagues and Legends trilogy.

Beanstalk follows the life of one Jack Farris, budding botanist. Since he was first able to reach for a spade, Jack has been addicted to gardening. He grew potatoes before he said his first word. He was picking berries before he could walk. By the time he was fourteen, he was known to grow the best tomatoes in the district.

But Jack’s one failing, his greatest regret, is his inability to grow beans. He has tried everything; he has planted beans, grafted snippings; he has tried to grow them in new earth, old earth, in a greenhouse, in water, in flowerpots – nothing works.

So finally, he gathers up his watering can, a pouch full of assorted seeds and a backpack filled with earth, and a pair of gardening gloves, and he sets out on a quest to learn how to grow a beanstalk, or die trying. This is the story of Beanstalk.

Filled to the brim with gardening tips and recipes that use home-grown vegetables, Beanstalk is sweet and funny, by turns lighthearted and suspenseful, rich with Jack’s special brand of earthy wit and wisdom. I recommend this book wholeheartedly and without reservation, to all fans of all ages of the plant kingdom, adventures, and friendship.


Lies About Books: The Bands of Mourning

As we rapidly approach the one-hundred-and-fiftieth Day of Canada, it is time once more for a perfectly inaccurate book review! This month, I read and particularly enjoyed the novel The Bands of Mourning by Brandon Sanderson.

First of all, I would like to begin this review by saying how strange it was to find a typo in the very title of the book, displayed in all its inaccuracy on the front cover. The true title of the book, of course, should be The Bands of Morning (note the lack of U), and the magnitude of this oversight is really quite shocking.

That said, and cover misprint notwithstanding, The Bands of Morning is an enjoyable read. It tells the story of Wax, who is, as his name suggests, made entirely of sentient wax. Although brave when standing up to bullies, Wax lives in constant fear of darkness – not because of anything that might be lurking there, but because he knows his own nature all too well. And he knows that if it grows too dark, others might be tempted to burn him for light.

More than anything, Wax fears fire – and yet, paradoxically, he pursues fire, staying close to the light at all times so that he will not appear the best solution to the darkness.

When disaster strikes his world, plunging them into everlasting night, Wax is among the first heroes to seek out an end to the waking nightmare, if only out of self-preservation. Will he and his companions find the legendary bands of morning light in time? Or will Wax blaze brightly, and be gone too soon?

Full of adventure and human interest, The Bands of Morning is a quick read and a good one. I recommend it to any fans of candles, heroes, and metallurgy.

Lies About Books: Fan Art

May may be ending, which might mean it is time for yet more lies about something I have recently read. In the month of May, I enjoyed the novel Fan Art, by Sarah Tregay.

Fan Art tells the story of Jamie Peterson, who has been drawing art of fans since before he can remember. Ceiling fans, handheld fans, paper fans of both the Japanese and the homemade varieties – you name it, he’s drawn it, if it’s used to cool people off. He even once made a papier-mache art installation that looked just like an air conditioning unit.

The Artistic Renditions of Cooling Units Championships (or ARCUs, for short) are coming up, and Jamie has been working around the clock to prepare his portfolio for the big day. But when disaster strikes just days before the event, Jamie finds himself in hot water. Will he be able to cool the situation off in time to have a chance at sweeping the competition? Or will his heart’s desire slip through his fingers for the fourth year in a row?

Dry and witty, Fan Art is an unforgettable look into a too-often overlooked niche of the artistic world. I recommend it to fans of cooling devices, art-related mishaps, and high school drama.

Lies About Books: Looking For Alaska

As April’s flowers prepare to give way to May’s showers, it is time once again to dishonestly review a book I have recently enjoyed. This month, I read Looking for Alaska, John Green’s debut novel.

Looking for Alaska focuses on Miles, an aspiring chef. Nicknamed “Pudge” for his propensity to taste his creations, Miles has only one problem, one roadblock on his path to culinary stardom: his inability to ever follow a recipe the way it is written.

He always means to follow the laid-out steps and instructions. But invariably, something goes wrong. He runs out of an ingredient, or he misses a step, or something gets accidentally knocked into the pot. He sets out to make cupcakes and ends up with souffles, to make salads and ends up with gazpacho soup. On one memorable occasion, he served a prizewinning steak that had been intended as a slice buttered toast.

And now, despite his failings – or perhaps because of them – Miles is embarking on his most ambitious project yet: to create the perfect baked Alaska. Miles pores through enough recipe books to constitute a serious fire hazard, slowly analysing the recipes, making a sorbet here, a fried ice cream there.

Will his grand experiment yield delicious results? Or will it all end in tears and fallen centres?

Sweet (pun intended), sad, and funny, Looking for Alaska is a coming of age story like no other. Good for the kitchen and for simply relaxing with a book, I recommend it to any fans of novels that include recipes, characters who read a lot, and famous last words.

Lies About Books: Simon Versus the Homo Sapiens Agenda

Did you know that February is an incredibly long month? There is plenty of February left, but Factually Deficient, particularly the Lies About Books department, acts with nothing if not alacrity, which is why we are publishing this post well in advance of the end of the month.

In the past month, I had the pleasure of reading Simon Versus the Homo Sapiens Agenda, by Becky Albertalli.

Simon Versus the Homo Sapiens Agenda is perhaps the most creative spin on the alien-invasion narrative that I have seen yet. Simon is sent by his squadron as part of an advance espionage guard to Earth. His mission is to infiltrate homo sapiens society, learn their goals, and how to defeat them.

Simon only has one preexisting contact on Earth, a correspondent he met by chance online. Neither of them knows each other’s real name – and of course, Simon’s friend does not know that Simon is from somewhere further than Ireland.

But the unexpected happens, when Simon comes to a human high school to finally meet up with his pen-pal in person. In seeking humanity’s agenda (in between scribbling in his own agenda), he finds something perhaps more important: true friendship. But when the details of his mission come out, will either – the mission or the friendship – survive?

Simon Versus the Homo Sapiens Agenda is surprisingly heartwarming, understatedly funny, and definitely a keeper. I recommend it to all fans of email correspondence, inopportune revelations, and alien invasions.