Tagged: first fiction

The Paradise Engine by Rebecca Campell

The Paradise Engine Rebecca CampbellMy rating: 4/5 stars

Release date: May 1, 2013

Publisher: NeWest Press

Thank you to NeWest Press for sending me an Advance Reader Copy in exchange for an honest review.


While working to restore an historic theatre in a seedy part of the city, a graduate student named Anthea searches to find her best friend, lost to the rhetoric of an itinerant preacher and street mystic. Almost a century earlier, Liam, a tenth-rate tenor, visits the same theatre while eking out a career on the dying Vaudeville circuits of the day. In both eras, an apocalyptic strain of utopian mysticism threatens their existence: Anthea contends with a nascent New Age movement in the heart of the city while Liam encounters a radical theosophical commune in the deep country along the coast of British Columbia, who appear to be building … something.

The Paradise Engine unfolds across a colourful backdrop of labour organizers, immaculately-attired cultists, ambitious socialites, teenage lovers, basement offices and innumerable coffee shops.

If you like stories with a clear resolution, this book may frustrate you. This one’s all about the build up, with multiple perspectives weaving in and out and around each other and almost converging. That’s not a criticism; it’s what makes the book brilliant. The Paradise Engine takes place in a world with two possibilities: either everything in life is a coincidence, or nothing is. And both possibilities are terrifying. Continue reading

Belinda’s Rings by Corinna Chong: Review, Author Q&A, and Giveaway

Belinda's Rings by Corinna ChongMy rating: 4/5 stars

Release date: March 15, 2013

Publisher: NeWest Press

Thank you to NeWest Press for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.


Half-Asian teenager Grace (but she’d prefer it if you called her “Gray” instead) is not a perfect little supermom-in-the-making like her older sister Jessica, and would rather become a marine biologist than a mother—although she does understand how to take care of her special-needs kid brother Squid better than anyone else in her family. When her mother Belinda abruptly runs out on her family and flies across the Atlantic in order to study crop circles in the English countryside, Grace is left alone to puzzle out her life, the world, and her unique place within it. With a warmth and a boisterous sense of humour reminiscent of Miriam Toews’ A Complicated Kindness and Peter Hedges’ What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? author Corinna Chong introduces us to two lovable and thoroughly original female characters: persnickety, precocious Grace, and her impractical, impulsive mother Belinda—very different women who nevertheless persistently circle back into each other’s hearts.

Before I start the review proper, let me get a few cliches off my chest: Stunning debut. Unflinching. Courageous.

Belinda’s Rings is about a lot of things. It’s about being a parent and being a sibling and being a child. It’s about mental illness and race and marginalization. It’s about perfect circles on the ground and lights in the sky and creatures in the sea. But most of all, it’s about mothering. And in a media environment that is sorely lacking in any nuanced discussion of motherhood (“Mommy Wars,” anyone?) it is so satisfying to read a take on motherhood that had me nodding in agreement and wincing in horror all at once. Continue reading