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.

Lies About Books: Goldenhand

Can you believe that it’s 2017? I can’t. In fact, the year is probably a lie, like everything else in this blog. But regardless of the year, it is January, if only for a little while longer, which can only mean one thing! (That is a lie; it can mean many things.)

In the month of January, I read the book Goldenhand, by Garth Nix.

Some people are gifted with a silver tongue, able to leverage the power of speech to describe anything, charm anyone, make any speech. What Lirael has is a little different: she has what her friends and family nickname a golden hand. While she stutters and stumbles in speaking, as soon as she switches to sign language, her expressions are fluid, eloquent. As long as she is gesturing, rather than uttering words, she is perfectly persuasive, elegantly expressive.

It has worked well for her. But when someone stunningly attractive, in desperate need of help, and absolutely blind walks into her shop, she is put to the test. Can she express herself adequately in spoken words to help this person? Or is it possible to reach across their divide, and, hand in hand, find a way to be mutually understood?

By turns funny and sweet, farcical and sad, Goldenhand is a creative, clever work of bilinguality, switching abruptly to long passages in diagrammed ASL rather than printed English. A challenging book, but one well worth the effort. I recommend it to any fans of magical visions, books with meaning-laden non-English symbols, or unlikely friendships.

Lies About Books: Holes

The year is almost over and gone, which means it’s time for another entirely misleading review of a book I’ve recently read. This month, I had the pleasure of reading (and teaching) the novel Holes, by Louis Sachar.

In Holes, Stanley Yelnats works – like his father and his father’s father before him – in a Swiss cheese factory. His job is to put the holes into the cheese (hence the title of the book). But when a chance encounter causes Stanley to overhear an argument between his boss and a difficult customer (who wants no holes in his cheese), he ends up uncovering a conspiracy which could span the entirety of the dairy industry.

Which of his co-workers does he dare tell? Whom can he trust? Is it worth pursuing the truth, if it puts his job at risk? Sweet, funny, and rife with cheese puns, Holes is the story of one man’s search for justice in an uncaring, mechanical world. I recommend it to any fans of characters with monotonous lifestyles, treasure hunts, and milk byproducts.

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Disclaimer: The real Holes is sweet and funny, but contains no cheese.

Lies About Books: Song of Achilles

As we bid farewell to the dying embers of November, it is that time of the month again, time to disseminate lies about a perfectly good book I read this month! During the month of November, I had the pleasure of reading Song of Achilles, by Madeline Miller.

Song of Achilles tells the story of a young boy, Patroclus, who is abandoned by the last human outpost on a dying planet. Left with no way to provide for himself and no escape, Patroclus resorts to the one refuge left to him: music. He walks the paths of his barren world, singing to himself of the nation he once had, and of his loneliness.

His shock is unparalleled when he discovers that he is not alone on the planet after all. Drawn out by his singing and by the warmth of the nearing sun (as the planet spirals to its death), a foreign – if not quite alien – species introduce themselves to him. Calling themselves achilles, they are utterly unlike humans, though it seems they have shared a planet long enough that they can understand Patroclus’ language, more or less. He is fascinating to them: both in his alien nature, and in his ability to produce the beautiful music that so enthralls them.

One achille in particular is drawn to Patroclus, and an unlikely friendship springs up between the two. But will their legacy outlive their doomed planet?

Hauntingly lyrical, painfully tear-jerking, and vividly expressive, Song of Achilles is xenofiction as you have never read it before. I recommend it to all fans of ancient Greek literature, beautiful romantic friendships, and alien life-forms.

 

Lies About Books: Fire

As hordes of children take to the streets in their desperate, alliterative quests, it is once again the time of month for lies about a book I read. In the month of October, I read – among other novels – the book Fire by Kristin Cashore.

This book, a prequel to Cashore’s novel Graceling, takes place in a past distant by both time and place, in a society whose members’ names are fluid, representing the most notable thing about the person. Often their discoveries.

The eponymous Fire believes she has invented something that will change the nature of their civilization forever. No more will they eat their food raw. No longer will they slowly die of cold in the winter. Her innovation, her genius of discovery, has the power to overturn and improve every aspect of their lives.

But when a fire rips through several huts in the village, killing their inhabitants, suspicious eyes turn back to Fire, the originator of it all. Will her invention last to revolutionize her world? Or will its destructive properties destroy her, too?

Passionate and colourful, Fire is a compelling, fascinating book. I recommend it to any fans of early societies, literal naming conventions, or mind reading.

Lies About Books: Of the Abyss

As September crackles to a close, it comes time once more to give a wholly untrustworthy review of an excellent book! This month, I had the privilege of reading Of the Abyss by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes, which was released in e-book form this week and will be released in hard copy this November.

Hansa is the only duck in the pond, with bright plumage, a proud purple stripe down his side. Lord of all that he swims in, he is happy. Until, that is, one day, when a strange raindrop brings changes.

A drop of a dark, inky substance falls into Hansa’s pond. First, it just sits there, one black speck on a sea of sparkling blue. Harmless. But it grows. And as the black liquid, slightly thicker than the water, spreads, things begin to change. The frogs emigrate first, seeking greener pastures, safer places to swim. Then the fish start to mutate, becoming many-legged, sharp-toothed horrors writhing in the deep. The pond itself seems to twist and alter. The bottom all but falls away.

Through it all, Hansa remains, stubborn. He will not be scared from his home, even if he must regularly preen away the black fluid which clings to his once-vibrant feathers, even if he is no longer Hansa of the pond, but Hansa of the abyss.

And then, when the transformation is complete, and not a drop of clear water remains in what was once the pond, a glistening duck appears from the murky deep, like a photo negative of Hansa’s coloration. Can these two learn to share the pit that is now home to both of them? Or will their differences accomplish what nothing else could do, and destroy them both?

Beautifully crafted, alluring and seductive, Of the Abyss is a definite keeper. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys stories with forbidden gay romance, demon spawn, and references to ducks.