The Cardturner

Author: Louis Sachar 
Pages: 336 
Publisher: Delacorte Books 
Format: Hardcover 
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Summary (from Goodreads): The summer after junior year of high school looks bleak for Alton Richards. His girlfriend has dumped him to hook up with his best friend. He has no money and no job. His parents insist that he drive his great-uncle Lester to his bridge club four times a week and be his cardturner—whatever that means. Alton’s uncle is old, blind, very sick, and very rich.

But Alton’s parents aren’t the only ones trying to worm their way into Lester Trapp’s good graces. They’re in competition with his longtime housekeeper, his alluring young nurse, and the crazy Castaneda family, who seem to have a mysterious influence over him.

 Alton soon finds himself intrigued by his uncle, by the game of bridge, and especially by the pretty and shy Toni Castaneda. As the summer goes on, he struggles to figure out what it all means, and ultimately to figure out the meaning of his own life.

My Summary: After his girlfriend dumped him for his best friend, Alton knew his summer wasn't going to be a great one. With the next two months looking bleak, Alton has no choice but to accept the role of 'cardturner' for his great uncle, who has recently become blind. 

Clueless about bridge as well as his uncle's past, Alton finds himself being sucked into the world of competitive playing. And with his uncle's health deterriorating, Alton is ordered by his parents to figure out a way to get his 'favourite uncle' to name their family in his will. 

My Thoughts: Ok, I'll admit it: I never read Holes as a kid. In the sixth grade we were allowed to pick our own book if we didn't want to read Holes, and I ended up choosing Bridge to Terabithia (which is a story of heartbreak I shall not go into now). Needless to say, I started reading this book having no prior knowledge of the author or his work.

I enjoyed this book. It's really refreshing to have a male main character in a contemporary lit novel - most of the ones I read or have read had female MCs. Alton was a great character who experienced a lot of growth throughout the novel. Cliff on the other hand... I despised him. But I think the author did that on purpose. 

I really liked the way the author included the bridge references and lessons. It was awesome that you didn't have to read through a whole section on bridge playing if you didn't want to (just follow the whale!) and not have to sacrifice any part of the story. 

Final Thoughts: I recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys YA contemporary lit.


The Demonologist

Author: Andrew Pyper
Pages: 304
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Format: Paperback (ARC)
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Summary (from Goodreads): Professor David Ullman’s expertise in the literature of the demonic—notably Milton’s Paradise Lost—has won him wide acclaim. But David is not a believer.

One afternoon he receives a visitor at his campus office, a strikingly thin woman who offers him an invitation: travel to Venice, Italy, witness a “phenomenon,” and offer his professional opinion, in return for an extravagant sum of money. Needing a fresh start, David accepts and heads to Italy with his beloved twelve-year-old daughter Tess.

What happens in Venice will send David on an unimaginable journey from skeptic to true believer, as he opens himself up to the possibility that demons really do exist. In a terrifying quest guided by symbols and riddles from the pages of Paradise Lost, David attempts to rescue his daughter from the Unnamed—a demonic entity that has chosen him as its messenger.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

My Summary: David has never believed in demons, or Hell, or anything even closely resembling the things on which he finds himself an expert. His work has brought him fame in the literary community, but David refuses to believe in anything that cannot be explained.

When a mysterious woman appears offering David a chance to test his expertise and make a lot of money in the process he reluctantly agrees, thinking it is just what he needs. With his daughter Tess in tow, he travels to Venice to bear witness to the strange 'phenomenon'. 

But things are not what they appear to be, and a string of events leads to David's daughter being taken from him by a mysterious demonic entity with a keen interest in David. With nothing but his knowledge on Paradise Lost -  a book he thought he knew inside out - David must journey to rescue his daughter from the Unnamed, all the while fighting the very things he refused to believe existed.

My Thoughts: I've always been a huge fan of the paranormal, so I did a little happy dance when I found this book in my mailbox. 

Years of watching Supernatural taught me a very important lesson: don't mess with demons. But that's exactly what our main character does. Stubbornly refusing to believe in anything paranormal - all while claiming to be an expert on the topic - gets our MC into quite the situation. 

I loved the flow of the story, as well as the backdrop: there's something about Venice that just invites the supernatural, don't you think? David's love for his daughter was endearing, and his journey to save Tess had me on the edge of my seat. The author is incredibly skilled at combining a variety of paranormal elements and still managing to make the story work. Pyper's use of Paradise Lost had me itching to re-read it myself to see if I could discover any hidden codes of my own.

The Demonologist was incredibly well-written. I ended up finishing it in just over eight hours, so you know it's definitely worth a look!

Final Thoughts: I definitely recommend this novel to fans of the paranormal, as well as anyone who enjoys shows like Supernatural