Archive for ‘Fiction’

April 11, 2012

Frey Unleashes the Full Volume of Los Angeles in Bright Shiny Morning by Jesse Robinson

by capreviewroom

Using powerful character stereotypes of both the inhabitants and the state itself, James Frey’s Bright Shiny Morning idolizes and dissects the growth and differing views of California. Unearthing the gritty truths of Los Angeles in particular, it depicts the prevalent darkness within the world of America’s affluence, poverty, and the dreams that brought its inhabitants within the reach of the city’s clutches. The writer, prior to this breakout novel, was revered, then questioned as the non-fictional mastermind behind A Million Little Pieces, and now is considered by some critics to wield the power over L.A. similarly to the effect that James Joyce was able to deliver Dublin to readers decades ago.

Upon entrance to the novel, or upon our awakening to the first few chapters, if you will, we begin to follow the story of two young lovers; Maddie and Dylan, who escape their lives of constant disappointment and abuse in Ohio, travelling from broken homes to the hopeful shores of California. We meet Amberton Parker, a successful, confident, powerful, masculine action-hero-movie star with a hidden double life; one that involves not only his sexual preference, but his true nature as a spoiled, yet charming man who has always, and most likely, will always get his way. Esperanza next; the Mexican immigrants’ daughter, born on America soil, a bright shining youth with the intelligence and drive to make a name for her family, only to be hindered by her own self confidence concerning her appearance. Then Old Man Joe;  who happens to be younger than he looks, a homeless man with only the “job as Boardwalk Hero,” (257) the use a bathroom outside a taco stand near Venice Beach and the taste of sweet, sweet Chablis as his saving grace. We encounter dozens of named characters, delivered on countless pages of which contain only short excerpts of their lives. Reducing people to statistics allows Frey to bring to light the gruesome facts of L.A.’s lost dreams and the believable stories of those who have made it, and made it big in Hollywood.

Frey peppers Bright Shiny Morning’s pages, chapter after chapter with the facts of L.A. that bring this novel back to earth, bring L.A. down from its pedestal enshrouded in glitz and perfection. Informational clips whiz by about the usage of L.A.’s highways, the building of separate townships such as Hollywood and Beverly Hills, the incorporation of a police force, and the eventual growth of organized crime. Evidence of the intention of suffering of the inhabitants who buy and sell firearms are intertwined with the hopes and well-meaning souls who come to make a life there. By offering all aspects of the personality of the city to us, Frey all but begs readers to dig deeper, to read past the initial stereotypes suggested within the characters presented to us. I strongly believe that the introduction to not only the chorus of voices heard, but the screaming of the undeniable facts of the growth of the city itself cries with a naturalistic volume. With the sum of the available noise within Bright Shiny Morning, Frey has successfully brought Los Angeles to life as a living, breathing, audible character in this book.

April 11, 2012

Flying With the Angels by Sam Esfandiari

by capreviewroom

James Frey’s fictional novel Bright Shiny Morning to simply put it, is the story of Los Angeles. A nerve-twisting and at the same time educational masterpiece which immerses the reader from the very beginning into the harsh and unforgiving realities of life within the limits of the Los Angeles county. Frey manages this captivation by creating very relatable yet stereotypical characters such as Dylan and Maddie, a young mid-western couple that flee the grips of their abusing parents and head west into the promised land, a strangely content homeless man of Venice beach named Old Man Joe, an incredibly self-conscience Mexican-American maid named Esperanza, and not to exclude, a closet-homosexual rich and famous action movie star named Amberton.

With each new character introduced, Frey tries to cover all the aspects of life within Los Angeles by forcing the readers to look through the eyes of his characters while also managing to keep it entertaining by shifting from story to story and occasionally from story to what he calls “fun facts” about LA. I find that this style of writing he uses is one of the main elements that keeps the book interesting and makes the reader wanting more and more. Even with the numerous missing commas and periods which makes it a false usage of grammar and rather irritating to people that have a keen eye for such matters, the strange need of wanting more still stands throughout the book.

Frey’s portrait of a modern Los Angeles within Bright Shiny Morning is rich with in-depth texture and creatively accomplishes to take the reader through the city streets without them having to actually be there. Through a collective use of correct history, geography, and emotional empathy with the heroes and antiheroes of the story, he takes the reader further and further down the rabbit hole of the mystery that is Los Angeles and in the end leaves them wanting more. In my personal opinion this novel is most likely one of the capstones of the twenty-first century contemporary literature since it so beautifully manages to teach and entertain at the same time.


April 11, 2012

A Dark Shiny Night

by capreviewroom

James Frey’s, Bright Shiny Morning, is an exhilarating read that compares and contrasts the very different lives and struggles of citizens of Los Angeles. From millionaire movie star Amberton Parker, (who gets whatever he wants) to public bathroom-living Old Man Joe, who never goes too long without his Chablis, Frey shows the reader how different life can play out in the sprawling city of LA. Frey also explores the lives of Esperanza, a young Mexican-American woman who both wants to make something of herself in America, while battling her own image issues, and a young couple Dylan and Maddie, who have left their homes in hopes of a new life in LA.

After reading through a section of each characters story, it’s hard not to become attached to one or another. Although I thoroughly enjoyed the entire novel, I was always anxious and excited for when the focus returned to Dylan and Maddie. For me, it was the most gripping sub story of the entire book, and I believe Frey’s writing style further enhanced the anticipation of returning to this story line.

Frey often veers off the beaten path and delves into facts and other short stories within the book, which often don’t relate to the main characters. While these “fun facts” and short stories are quite interesting, I feel the book could do without these parts. One could argue that they develop more of a history of the city and its inner workings, but I believe that hearing each individual story gives the reader a clear picture of the daily trials and tribulations these people go through.

Nitpicking aside, I have already recommended Bright Shiny Morning to a friend. It’s a fantastic book that begs the reader to become involved in characters. While fans of the classic “happy ending” may be disappointed, it reinforces that fact that life is a challenge, actions will have consequences, and all too often LA is called the “City of Dreams” for a reason.


Liam Scott-Curr

March 21, 2012

Not Flawless, But Not Forgotten

by capreviewroom

A “Dead Girls” review by Jane Agyeman

Nancy Lee’s “dead girls” is a compilation of short fictional about the grippingly emotional tales of sexual horror and discoveries of different woman throughout The Lower Mainland. It put the reader into lives of the characters in explicit and almost intrusively uncomfortable ways, exposing them and at the same time humanizes them, even those who have lives that are often seen as unacceptable socially. these stories are connected not only by there similar theme, but by the constant background presenst of a horrific convicted serial killer. Though this collection is by no means flawless, it is heartfelt, give one a glimpse into the mind of the destitute and, intern reflects the state of gentrification in a society unwilling to face its own imperfections. Lee writes what she knows,basing the book in her home town. This giving her addition depth of an elavated knowledge that comes with being in direct contact with the understated themes and contravercial sujbect matter of the society that she writes about.

This story, in my opinion is not without its flaws. Though this story tries to draw the interest and concern of all peolpe who read it this story may not be as appealing to males as it is to female due to the mentally intrusive nature of the content and the predominantly female perspective of the subject matter. Also, i personally think that Lee’s need to make the main characters as humanized and understandable as possible seem to create oversimplified charater perspectives, and rarely acknowledge the perspectives of the surrounding characters. It is also struturally flawed. Structurally the story seems to be limited and the character and plot seem to be lacking something. They are both elements that seem to need more detail and individuality.

This book does have it flaws, but much like the characters in Lee’s book, the overall it message is one that make this book one that should not be forgotten.

March 21, 2012

The Gruesome Dead Girls By: Terry Lin

by capreviewroom

In the novel Dead Girls, it consists of eight short stories written by Nancy Lee. These stories are influenced by a large number of prostitutes who vanished by the hands of the serial killer, Robert Pickton. In these eight short stories, Lee instils them with impassion, poignancy and slightly underlying it with grief leaving readers to simply indulge in great literature. When one reads these short stories, Lee does a particularly good job on explaining incidents in great detail from erotic scenes to surrounding environments, helping the reader to really apprehend what is going on in the stories. The very first short story in Dead girls is called “Associated Press”, where the main characters are a girl, a male overseas salesperson and a photographer. It describes how this girl met the photographer and has a great time until the overseas salesperson calls her. It seems that every time that he calls she has a complete change of feelings toward the photographer. This story surely has a deeper meaning to it but the reader itself must figure that out when he/she reads it. This short story is told in a second person point of view, but these eight stories are not only told in second person point of view, but the narratives of these eight short stories are constantly at changing their point of views. Each story has its own unique twist to it but in the end, they all stand on one theme and that is the gruesome murder of Downtown eastside. Lee’s interesting short stories reveals the diseases and problems that lure in the darkness of a city, and the fact that these problems affect us one way or another. Lee is blatantly trying to show her audience that they should learn from what has happened and reflect on it as a society and as a whole. Dead girls is a captivating book and is definitely worth your time to read.

March 21, 2012

Reacting to Sheer Reality: A Book Review of Dead Girls by Nancy Lee By Sian O’Byrne

by capreviewroom

Dead Girls is a collection of eight fictional short stories that are set in Vancouver. Instead of focusing on the glamour and beauty of Vancouver, Nancy Lee themes this collection on an aspect that most evade from association: drugs and prostitution on the downtown eastside. A reoccurring appearance of a dentist who turns out to be a serial killer of women on the streets weaves into each story. This book is written in 2002; right after Robert Pickton was apprehended. This arrest should have brought more attention and empathy to the woman of the downtown eastside but instead people still treat the woman as “them” and a “problem” within Vancouver. Lee uses a unique approach by illustrating the citizens living in Vancouver’s reactions to the murders, showing how the downtown eastside is a part of the city because of the way it reflects on all people in Vancouver.
Lee’s writing is first thought of as an easier read, but this is not a mistake. She rights in a way similar to screen writing as she has been educated so. Instead of complicated sentence structure she focus’ on a complicated subject matter. Most of the short stories are of just average woman who could be relatable to the reader, yet they are still aware of the underlining theme of the reality of Vancouver. The setting is almost a character itself. Most people do not directly associate drugs, prostitution and poverty with Vancouver because the media does its best to shun any negative representation of the city, whereas Lee boldly exposes the raw reality of Vancouver in a whole.

March 20, 2012

A City Without Boundaries

by capreviewroom

The subject of loss is not an uncommon theme in story-telling. The loss of love, loss of connections we’ve once had, and the loss of one’s self are both troubling and fascinating in the right context.  Few books are able to hold a reader’s undivided attention, but Nancy Lee’s Dead Girls is surely one of those books. The raw, explicit and detailed accounts of the numerous short stories contained within, beckon the reader forward to absorb the collection as a whole.

Where most readers pick up a book and are transported somewhere in the world they have only dreamed about, “Dead Girls” hits home with local readers, as Lee describes the views of the city from the top of the Harbour Centre in “Dead Girls” to “the point dimly lit by the glow of the Lion’s Gate Bridge” in “East”. Readers are given the opportunity to connect with the stories on a much more personal level. Simply knowing the area in which the stories take place in, add a sense of realism and insight to each story.

While each story in Dead Girls features different characters of varying ages, backgrounds, and life experience, the common theme throughout is loss, and the different ways in which people cope with loss. From divorce to a sisterly bond that cannot be broken, Lee does not tip toe around a subject. The intended adult audience is presented with work that stimulates similar memories of that of each character. Whether or not the reader can relate to the character is another story, “I wondered how much I had taken that day, the Dexedrine, the tigers, the Ativan, the Percocet” but Lee showcases each character in a way that we never find out why the character is the way they are, but the reader never second guesses the believability of the character.

From a pill-addicted nurse, to a night out with no direction, to a marriage torn apart from a missing daughter, Dead Girls is a collection with no set agenda. Each story does not build on its predecessor, yet each piece is such an important part of the overall collection. Dead Girls is a fantastic book, and one that begs multiple readings. Lee’s uninhibited views of dealing with loss and the darker side of the city of Vancouver are captivating and provocative. Dead Girls will leave you thinking long after you put down the book.

Liam Scott-Curr

March 8, 2012

In The Skin Of A Lion: The Forgotten Immigrants | Zack Chester

by capreviewroom

Michael Ondaatje is an award winning author and poet.   Some of his  great works include Anil’s Ghost,  and The English Patient which was made into a motion picture.  Living in Toronto inspired Ondaatje to write In The Skin Of A Lion, a novel based on mixed elements of fiction and non-fiction, during a time period in the early 1900’s in Ontario.  He grasps your attention with colourful images of an era gone by; immigrants never making it in history.  But in the pages of his novel, they become hero’s, lovers, builders, prisoners, thieves and murderers; never boring and never forgotten. He details their dreams with streams of poetic phrases and describes their encounters with flavour and meaning; their frivolous thoughts of love, their desire for mystery and their passion for revenge. They built Toronto’s landmarks and they wanted to be recognized.

The main character, Patrick Lewis is depicted from childhood as being a curios bystander visually absorbing his surroundings on an Ontario farm.  He leaves at 21 for Toronto to pursue what he saw in his rural environment- new land.  He attaches himself to the immigrant lifestyles that come his way, and becomes one of the working class.  The characters in this novel are exquisitely described, simple people made to appear glamorous and many with hidden agendas which you may never discover.  Patrick sensationalizes his interaction with these people who built the city, and at times it is difficult to determine reality from fiction but he always has a purpose throughout the novel, be it a dreamer, a leather tanner, a lover, a prisoner and even a father.  One can empathize with Patrick as he is passionate and driven.

There are many other characters that jump in and out at different times in this book but somehow they all come together to give meaning to their presence-a thief that Patrick befriends, and adulterer that he falls in love with, and an actress that he marries.  Ondaatje does justice to the lives of these immigrant characters by giving them not only purpose but hopes, dreams and resolution.   He does an outstanding job of giving recognition to the many unnamed immigrants who contributed to the landmarks and making of Toronto.

In summary, In The Skin of A Lion reads like a fairytale with historic elements, but I found that there was no real plot.  It was a recount of the creation of a new world with glorified events and deeply intriguing characters.  This novel is a good reminder of how our lives are defined by the people in it, and their interactions and events shape our lives.

March 7, 2012

In the Opinion of a Canadian | Shabi A.

by capreviewroom

Michael Ondaatje is a Canadian author who is famously known for his novel, The English Patient, which later became a well-received movie adaptation. I wouldn’t be surprised if the 1987 novel, In the Skin of a Lion, also became a movie; it definitely has enough twists, turns and suspense for Hollywood.

Ondaatje studied archived photographs for the writing of this novel and paints a vivid picture of Toronto in the forty’s. In the Skin of a Lion is a tale of a few different characters that intertwine and relate to each other. Thru Ondaatje’s detailed and gripping writing, you quickly become attached to each character. We meet Patrick Lewis, the main character, in his childhood in the small area of Depot Creek, Ontario. Right away, you are drawn and curious to know how we interact with him for the rest of the novel. Patrick is then followed through his life, introducing us to new characters such as family, lovers and colleagues. In his early 20’s, Patrick moves from Depot Creek to the city and becomes a searcher. What’s a searcher you may ask? “On December 16, 1919, Ambrose Small failed to keep an appointment. A million dollars had been taken from his bank account. He had either been murdered or was missing. His body, alive or dead, was never found”. Patrick was a searcher for Ambrose Small, a millionaire. From here, the story really takes off and you will be surprised to see what happens next.

What you may love, or hate, about this novel is that it does not focus on one story or event; you are following many tales at once. It’s about the hard working immigrants building away, the suspense of a missing millionaire, the lust between lovers or the ups and down of mans life. It’s about the story of Toronto; how it became what we know today. It’s about many things, which keeps you both entertained and pacing to keep up.

What’s strong about this novel is that it appeals to many readers thanks to Ondaatje’s writing. In the Skin of a Lion goes forward and backward in time, explaining everything you need to know in the end with great detail. It’s amazing to realize how involved you are with these characters and just how bad you want to know how Patrick’s life turns out. Overall, this novel is beautifully detailed and a definite page turner.

April 10, 2011

Not Your Typical Novel

by alessandranakhleh

Along with being an active designer and famous author, Douglas Coupland can be described as a man with a vivid imagination.  Or, at least how I can begin to describe him with regard to JPod, a novel written by Coupland and later published by Random House of Canada during 2006.  Creating real life, but not at all typical situations for his characters, readers are taken on a long journey in just over five hundred pages.  Narrated by main character, Ethan Jarlewski, Coupland tells a story of the reoccurring individuals in Jarlewski’s life; his co-workers, family and close friends, along with their not-so every day dilemmas.  Described by my classmates as “annoying” or “difficult to pay attention” to, I could not help but disagree, as JPod kept me fully entertained from page one.  Coupland’s sense of humor effortlessly translated to his writing urging me to continue flipping each page, allowing the book to fully consume my day.  Yes, I can easily agree that perhaps Coupland’s storyline was a tad unrealistic; Jarlewski’s mother killing and burying a man she had a relationship with, his brother smuggling illegal immigrants into Canada, his father with a secret younger girlfriend, or his boss being kidnapped and brought to China, aren’t mainstream problems an average man would face in a short time period – let alone during a life time.  But I can honestly say; I don’t think Coupland was aiming for an average novel.  Based at a Vancouver video gaming company, Coupland exposed his readers to an online feel his characters were more than likely experiencing.  Theoretically spamming the novel with their junk mail and time-wasting pages filled with useless numbers, Coupland added a modern twist to what could have been a standard novel, allowing his work to be extremely unique.  Separating the novel into three parts, Coupland is able to expand his story in terms of time, fast-forwarding through to the future when need be.  Critics would say Coupland could also be viewed as selfish towards the end of the novel by adding himself as a character into Jarlewski’s fictional life. This egotistic act by Coupland tops off an unrealistic novel with an even more impractical (but highly enjoyable) ending.  I would recommend JPod to folks of all ages.  Tactfully flowing from page to page with ease, readers are taken into the lives of each character while staying in the comfort of their own home.