Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi

I first heard about this book from fellow blogger Evelina from Avalinah’s Books. She had a raving review for this book and since our tastes are similar, I was eager to try this one out! You can check out her review here, but these are my thoughts:

35412372Summary (Goodreads): Ada begins her life in the south of Nigeria as a troubled baby and a source of deep concern to her family. Her parents, Saul and Saachi, successfully prayed her into existence, but as she grows into a volatile and splintered child, it becomes clear that something went terribly awry. When Ada comes of age and moves to America for college, the group of selves within her grows in power and agency. A traumatic assault leads to a crystallization of her alternate selves: Asụghara and Saint Vincent. As Ada fades into the background of her own mind and these selves–now protective, now hedonistic–move into control, Ada’s life spirals in a dark and dangerous direction.


My Rating: 5 star

Review: I’m going to start off by giving a trigger warning for rape, suicide, and violence.

This book is one of the most unique novels I have ever read, with its blend of mythology and mental health. In her review, Evelina mentioned that this book can be read either as magical realism or as “stark naked reality.” While Evelina looked at it from the former, I went at it from the latter!

This novel takes a very fresh approach to multiple personality disorder: what if instead of it being just looked at as a mental illness, it is seen as a possession of the body by multiple spirits? In this way, the author has created multiple chapters that rotate through different personalities within Ada’s body, with each personality emerging during a different point of time in Ada’s life. And these personalities are not human, they are mythological forces with great power – they are gods.

I absolutely loved how the author created this story and went with it. Ada herself only has 2 chapters for herself, while the rest are divided by the other gods. Each had their own unique personality and none were infallible. They constantly stated that they were trying to protect Ada and that she was sane, and in doing so, it challenges the reader’s understanding of sanity and mental health.

Yet, even as the author uses mythology as a platform for this story, she does not shy away from elements of mental health. We see how these gods rise to the occasion and make themselves known when Ada is in trouble and cannot face reality on her own. We see how Ada struggles to understand these different people that are inside of her and how they shape her own feelings about herself. Even though the story is not told in her voice, I was still able to connect and understand Ada. While I am no expert on this area of mental health, this novel, through its unique portrayal of multiple personality disorder, helped me see things from a different point of view.

In short, this book was a remarkable experience that blends magical realism with mental illness. It is beautiful and tragic and creative beyond measure. It is a book I would recommend to anyone and for those reasons, I’m giving it 5/5 stars. Major shoutout to Evelina for bringing this book to my attention through her amazing blog (link to her review is at the top of this post)!

Happy reading ~

 

Advertisements

The Marriage Pact by Michelle Richmond

I have been meaning to read more books about marriages, as a special challenge to myself. There are so many novels that are about this topic or that have the word “marriage”, “husband”, or “wife” in their title, so I thought it would be interesting to make reading these books a priority on my list, just to compare and contrast all of the different ideas that are out there. This story caught my eye, not only because of its title, but also because of its premise.

31748890Summary (Goodreads): Newlyweds Alice and Jake are a picture-perfect couple. Alice, once a singer in a well-known rock band, is now a successful lawyer. Jake is a partner in an up-and-coming psychology practice. Their life together holds endless possibilities. After receiving an enticing wedding gift from one of Alice’s prominent clients, they decide to join an exclusive and mysterious group known only as The Pact.

The goal of The Pact seems simple: to keep marriages happy and intact, and most of its rules make sense: Always answer the phone when your spouse calls. Exchange thoughtful gifts monthly. Plan a trip together once per quarter. . . .

Never mention The Pact to anyone.

Alice and Jake are initially seduced by the glamorous parties, the sense of community, their widening social circle of like-minded couples–and then one of them breaks the rules. The young lovers are about to discover that for adherents to The Pact, membership, like marriage, is for life, and The Pact will go to any lengths to enforce that rule. For Jake and Alice, the marriage of their dreams is about to become their worst nightmare.


My Rating: 2 star

Review: This is another case of a novel that started off in a very interesting way but eventually just kinda let me down. I really really loved the premise of this book. The idea of there being a society that is all about preserving marriages and making them last is really intriguing, and seeing a diabolic side to this club was something I was really looking forward to. However, I didn’t really get everything that I wanted from this book.

First of all, this story is told entirely from Jake’s perspective, which I thought was really interesting since most books I’ve read about marriages are told from the wife’s perspective. I think the author did a really good job of writing in a male voice and I really feel like I got a good understanding of Jake’s character and the way his marriage worked with Alice. Alice and the other characters in the book were a bit lackluster compared to Jake, but I was prepared to forgive that for the sake of this intriguing story.

But the story turned out to be quite boring. It revolves around Jake and Alice being a part of this elite and secret club and they find out soon enough that the club is very serious about its members following their mandates. There’s a lot of punishments involved, but for a large part of the story, we are just told about them and not really given a chance to experience it from the POV of our MC. The story plods along at a slow pace with nothing much happening, except for Jake’s constant worries about how things are going for Alice with The Pact. I was really hoping for there to be a lot more of a sinister air to the story with a lot more action. I was mostly just bored and could not wait to get to the good stuff.

The ending was an interesting twist, I suppose, but it felt just as lackluster as the rest of the story. There was nothing to really enjoy … except for the fact that this book was finally coming to a close.

So, while the writing was good, the pacing of the story was awfully slow and the lack of tension and intrigue made this a very boring novel. For those reasons, I’m giving it a 2/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

Exhibit Alexandra by Natasha Bell

Thank you to Penguin Random House and the First to Read program for this eARC in exchange for my honest review.

This novel sounded super interesting to me and I wanted to see if it would be different from other novels dealing with marriage in the thriller category. Here are my thoughts:

Goodreads (Summary): Before she disappeared, Alexandra Southwood lived an average, happy life: devoted to her wonderful husband, Marc, and caring for her two beautiful daughters. But now, held in a room against her will, Alexandra is forced to think about all she’s lost, and imagine how Marc and her daughters are coping in the wake of her disappearance. She’s shown news clips of Marc, desperately appealing to the public for information on her whereabouts. She tortures herself with visions of her family’s devastated new reality. And as she envisions Marc’s distress, she can’t help but remember their courtship, their marriage–all that he saved her from and all that they’ve built together.

Marc’s pain is visceral. He thinks of nothing but her. Even when the police discover Alexandra’s bloody belongings by the river, turning their missing-persons case into a murder investigation, he cannot accept that she is lost to him. He shifts from total despair to frantic action, embarking on his own journey through the dark maze of secrets she kept and passions he never understood. Following a trail that leads him to find answers to questions he never meant to ask, he’s forced to confront how frighteningly little he’s grasped about the woman he loves.


My Rating: 3 star

Review: It’s been a few days now since I’ve read this book and I still have no idea how I feel about it. Was this a terrible book or a genius work of literature? I will hopefully be able to answer that question by the time I’m done this review.

This story is told entirely from Alexandra’s perspective, and it’s done in a very different way. One chapter, told from Alexandra’s voice, is recalling the past and how Alexandra and Marc got to this point in their life. The other chapter is about how Marc is dealing with the current situation…. but it is told through Alexandra as she imagines what he must be going through. This chapter also ends with Alexandra talking about herself in the present moment with her unknown captor, and occasionally, there are letters written from Alexandra’s friend from her college days. It’s a very weird way to tell this story but it somehow… works…. ish. Even though Alexandra is telling the reader what Marc must be going through, I still felt as if I really was able to understand Marc’s character. He was someone who I could really get behind as a main character and I liked that this novel had a male protagonist instead of the usual female one.

This book does have a focus on the art world but the author doesn’t make it overbearing. The art information in the story is detailed enough to make its point but it wasn’t overly detailed or boring. The story itself was able to come through, which was really nice.

Now, I can’t really talk much about the plot itself. But what I will say is that this novel focuses on a few things, one being the role of a woman in marriage and in family life, and the lengths one will go to create art. In terms of both of these aspects, I thought the author brought up some food for thought and I really found myself pondering some of the questions this book raises. I will admit that the story took a long time to make itself clear and the ending was one that definitely left me stunned and confused … but it was a situation where I really couldn’t pinpoint whether I loved it or hated it. It was rushed, it had some ludicrous elements to it … and yet, it brought an interesting perspective that I had never really considered before.

This book is definitely not like any other thriller I have ever read. It is a bit slower in pacing, but there are so many unique elements to this story from the writing style to the actual themes in the book itself. It is one of those books that you will either love or hate … and I think I am leaning towards the former!

Happy reading ~

The English Wife by Lauren Willig

I saw this book and was immediately drawn by its beautiful cover. And after I read the premise of this story, I knew that I had to give it a shot. It has been so long since I’ve read a historical fiction novel, and this was the perfect chance for me to get back into the genre.

34945222Summary (Goodreads): Annabelle and Bayard Van Duyvil live a charmed life: he’s the scion of an old Knickerbocker family, she grew up in a Tudor manor in England, they had a whirlwind romance in London, they have three year old twins on whom they dote, and he’s recreated her family home on the banks of the Hudson and renamed it Illyria. Yes, there are rumors that she’s having an affair with the architect, but rumors are rumors and people will gossip. But then Bayard is found dead with a knife in his chest on the night of their Twelfth Night Ball, Annabelle goes missing, presumed drowned, and the papers go mad. Bay’s sister, Janie, forms an unlikely alliance with a reporter to uncover the truth, convinced that Bay would never have killed his wife, that it must be a third party, but the more she learns about her brother and his wife, the more everything she thought she knew about them starts to unravel. Who were her brother and his wife, really? And why did her brother die with the name George on his lips?


My Rating:   3 star

Review: This was a really interesting read and I quite enjoyed all that it had to offer!

I love the way the author blended multiple genres into one book. There was a great historical background that served as the perfect platform for this mystery story that explores the depth of love and romance and secrets in a marriage. Everything worked in harmony, and it was unexpected for me so I really enjoyed it!

I also loved that the story was told from 2 different points of view. One story took place in the past and was told from the perspective of Bayard’s wife. The other perspective is Janie’s as she tries to figure out what happened in the end. I loved both of these characters as they each struggled in their own unique ways and had very different personalities. Both the past and present story lines were interesting, but I found that the present was a bit slower in pacing and not as exciting. This was, however, necessary in order to build up the intrigue and the various plot twists, and to give the story depth.

There were quite a few twists and turns and a number of characters that were pretty mean and nasty, which I really liked. I love having characters that are easy to hate sometimes because it makes me want them to be the evil-doers at the end of the book. It certainly added to the intrigue and left me guessing as to who was responsible for the death of Bayard and his wife!

The romance in this novel was done superbly. I loved every single bit of romance in this novel and I wish I could expound on this but it would ruin the story. Suffice to say, this novel deals with some romance elements that are not usually seen in historical fiction books and it is done very well!

I actually loved the ending because it took me by surprise and wrapped things up smoothly while still leaving it slightly open-ended.

There are only a few points of criticism that I have. For one thing, there are too many names that sound similar. Georgie, George, Georgiana … it was easy for me to get very confused. I don’t think all of these names should have been utilized, and I definitely think the author could have simplified it. The other weird part about this book has to do with the ending and the character responsible for everything. The ending seemed at odds with their behaviour at earlier points in the book. While I liked that the author chose to pin it on this person, I wish that the author had made it make sense with the character’s behaviour early on – or at least not make it so at odds with the end!

Overall, I quite enjoyed the book and the various twists and turns it took. It was a great way for me to get that dose of historical fiction while reading about romance and mystery. I’m giving this a solid 3/5 stars and I’m looking forward to what else the author has in store!

Happy reading ~

Bellevue Square by Michael Redhill

This novel had me excited for a number of reasons. For one thing, it had such an interesting and (slightly) disturbing premise! And this novel takes place in Toronto, where I’m from! I have been seeing it everywhere in my local bookstores so I really wanted to go out and get a copy. Here are my thoughts:

Summary (Goodreads): Jean Mason has a doppelganger. At least, that’s what people tell her. Apparently it hangs out in Kensington Market, where it sometimes buys churros and shops for hats. Jean doesn’t rattle easy, not like she used to. She’s a grown woman with a husband and two kids, as well as a thriving business, and Toronto is a fresh start for the whole family. She certainly doesn’t want to get involved in anything dubious, but still . . . why would two different strangers swear up and down they’d just seen her–with shorter hair furthermore?

Jean’s curiosity quickly gets the better of her, and she visits the market, but sees no one who looks like her. The next day, she goes back to look again. And the day after that. Before she knows it, she’s spending an hour here, an afternoon there, watching, taking notes, obsessing and getting scared. With the aid of a small army of locals who hang around in the market’s only park, she expands her surveillance, making it known she’ll pay for information or sightings. A peculiar collection of drug addicts, scam artists, philanthropists, philosophers and vagrants–the regulars of Bellevue Square–are eager to contribute to Jean’s investigation. But when some of them start disappearing, it becomes apparent that her alleged double has a sinister agenda. Unless Jean stops her, she and everyone she cares about will face a fate stranger than death.


My Rating: DNF

Review: I rarely DNF a book. But this one … I just couldn’t do it.

I think my major problem with this novel was the way it was written. At first, I found the rambling voice of Jean to be intriguing, as it let the reader understand the way her mind worked.

But then it got old. Worse, it got boring. And this is with there being scenes with action to them.

I found myself very confused as to what was happening, and who was talking, and just … I couldn’t figure out the point of it all. Does Jean have schizophrenia? She certainly seemed like she had the symptoms.

Even though this novel had an unusual premise and I saw quite a few people give it 5 stars, I just couldn’t push through. I need my novels to make sense and not go off in multiple directions that don’t necessarily make any sense. I may come back to this novel at some later point in time, when I actually want to push through and give this book another chance. But for now, it is staying in the DNF pile.

Happy reading ~

Only Human by Sylvain Neuvel – Themis Files #3

I received this novel as an advance copy from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

FINALLY! THE LAST BOOK IS HERE!

The Themis Files is one of my top science fiction series of all time! I really just love the writing style and the way the story takes so many different twists and turns! I was super stoked when the publishers let me know that the third book was ready to review, and I read this in March because I just couldn’t wait until May! Here is what I thought:

35820656Summary (Goodreads): In her childhood, Rose Franklin accidentally discovered a giant metal hand buried beneath the ground outside Deadwood, South Dakota. As an adult, Dr. Rose Franklin led the team that uncovered the rest of the body parts which together form Themis: a powerful robot of mysterious alien origin. She, along with linguist Vincent, pilot Kara, and the unnamed Interviewer, protected the Earth from geopolitical conflict and alien invasion alike. Now, after nearly ten years on another world, Rose returns to find her old alliances forfeit and the planet in shambles. And she must pick up the pieces of the Earth Defense Corps as her own friends turn against each other.


Review: This novel left me feeling bittersweet for all the right reasons.

The story takes place 9 years after the previous book, but there is the expectation that the reader still remembers what happened from before. So if you haven’t read the previous books or you don’t remember what happened, READ THEM FIRST!

This story is once again told in a series of case files and interviews. This is a format that some may not like but I actually love it. It is just such a unique way to tell the story and it is surprising how it conveys a lot of emotion and allows the reader to connect and understand the characters. The writing style has always been one of my favourite things with this series and it continues to be so in this book, as well.

The plot for this story is slower than in the first book, but it is more than made up for by the depth of the story and all of the different connections that are made. There is so much that goes on in the story that there really is no need for a ton of action. I love the idea of the aliens, how the story mixes in politics and philosophy with science fiction, and the way the characters have grown and developed.

The only thing I didn’t like about the story was the introduction of a new character: Katherine. Now, the author has created some pretty zany characters who seem to lack depth at face value but are a lot more calculating or deep underneath. However, Katherine’s character was just too wacky for me and there wasn’t enough time in this one novel to give her any depth.

But overall, I loved this novel. I don’t want to give too much away because anything I say will be a spoiler. But this is a series worth reading. If you like science fiction and are looking for an interesting spin on a classic alien/robot story, this is one you don’t want to miss out on! I’m giving this a solid 4/5 stars!

Happy reading ~

 

The Girl I Used To Be by Mary Torjussen

Thank you to Edelweiss and the publishers for this eARC in exchange for my honest review.

I am definitely on a roll right now with the thrillers! Most of the books that I have been reading for this month are thrillers and it has been quite interesting to see the trend in this genre, and how different authors go about trying to tell a tale that is unique and twisty enough for readers! Here is my review of this thriller:

Summary (Goodreads): The morning after real estate agent Gemma Brogan has dinner with a prospective client, she’s furious at herself for drinking so much. But there will be more to regret than a nasty hangover.

She starts receiving mementos from that night: A photo of a hallway kiss. A video of her complaining about her husband. And worse…much worse. The problem is she doesn’t remember any of it.

As the blackmailing and menace ramp up, Gemma fears for her already shaky marriage. The paranoia, the feeling that her life is spiraling out of control, will take her back to another night–years ago–that changed everything. And Gemma will realize just how far the shadows from her past can reach…


My Rating:  2 star

Review: Unfortunately, this book just missed the mark for me. I think the premise was really interesting. However, I didn’t think the story was told in an interesting way.

The story is split into Part 1 and Part 2, and Part 1 is entirely from Gemma’s perspective. Right away, I pegged the person behind her paranoia (even though I didn’t know the motive). Now, that’s not necessarily a bad thing; I was excited to see how the author would tie things together. However, it took way too long to get to it. The story moves along very slowly and I found myself quite bored with the story. I wanted that feeling of heightened tension and the dread creeping over Gemma … but I really didn’t get much of that at all.

Part 2 was a lot faster in pacing, which was a relief since it also contained the revelations. Now, I don’t think the actual thought process behind the revelations was bad, but the way it was delivered didn’t really work for me. It was a little too easy for Gemma to figure out who was behind it all, and I really felt as if the author told me rather than showed me.

The other negative part of this novel was that I didn’t really feel any connection to the character. Gemma was okay, but lacked a lot of personality. Most of the novel was about her husband not stepping up and helping her, and while I sympathized with this, it made her come off as one-dimensional. There is a revelation in Part 2 about something that happened to her, and it took me aback because I don’t think the author created any hint of this traumatic event so it seemed like it came out of nowhere and didn’t really fit with her character.

Overall, I think that this novel had an interesting story idea but missed the mark in terms of execution. For those reasons, I’m giving it a 2/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

Rosie Colored Glasses by Brianna Wolfson [eARC Review]

I received this novel as an advance copy from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I was first drawn to the cover and title of this book, both of which seemed a bit quirky. The premise sounded a lot more serious but it really appealed to me because of its focus on a child who is torn between two parents. Here are my thoughts:

34564829Summary (Goodreads): Willow Thorpe knows friction… The friction between her parents, Rosie and Rex. The friction inside herself as she tries to navigate two worlds since their divorce.

But life has not always been like this.

When Rosie and Rex first met, theirs was an attraction of opposites. Rosie lived life for those heightened moments when love reveals its true secrets. Rex lived life safely, by the rules. Common sense would say theirs was a union not meant to last, but it was genuine love.

Now Willow just wants to be with Rosie, to bask in her mother’s outsize glow and, she thinks, protection. Because Rosie is the only person who can make Willow feel totally alive and completely loved.

But as Willow and Rosie and Rex try harder and harder to stay connected as a family, Rosie’s manic tornado of love continues to sweep up everyone in sight, ultimately to heartbreaking results.


My Rating:   2 star

Review: Trigger warning for suicide and drug abuse.

I wanted to love this book so much. But it just didn’t work for me.

The story is told from 2 different perspectives. We hear from Willow, the daughter of Rosie and Rex, as she struggles with having to go between her parents now that they are divorced. We also hear from Rosie and Rex when they first met and how they fell in love with each other. I really liked that we had these two perspectives because they made for a very interesting and well-rounded story.

I think that the issues this novel explores are very interesting and deep, and deserve to be mentioned. It is definitely a sad and moving story.

But the novel left me wanting more.

I wanted to understand Rosie more and I wish the author had used this novel to give more of a platform for mental health issues. I wish that there had been more opportunities for the reader to connect with Rosie and Rex because they felt very awkward and stilted; the only time they came alive was when Willow was describing them and I felt like there was a missed opportunity here for readers to understand Rosie and Rex.

The ending was sad but it felt unresolved for me. I finished this book wanting more from it and feeling like it missed the mark. For those reasons, I’m giving it a 2/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

The Girlfriend by Sarah J. Naughton [eARC Review]

I received this novel as an advance copy from Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

34929067Summary (Goodreads): After years of estrangement from her family, Mags receives a shocking phone call. Her rebellious brother, Abe, is in a coma, and the police suspect he tried to take his own life. But Mags isn’t so sure, and she begins to crack away at the life of the brother she once knew: the dark apartment building, the whispering tenants, and her brother’s mysterious girlfriend, the only witness to the incident, who raises more questions than answers. As Mags picks up where the police left off, she begins to unearth the secrets her brother left behind—and awakens her own talent for revenge.


Review: TW: There are mentions of abuse in this story, so please be aware. It isn’t described in too much detail but there is enough to make some readers uncomfortable.

This was an interesting novel, for sure. It just wasn’t my favourite.

I think that the story was unique in that it was told primarily from the perspective of 3 female characters. I liked that each one was different and had their own personality. I don’t think I necessarily loved any of the characters but they added for an interesting element to the story.

I thought the story itself was interesting … but it didn’t hold my interest constantly. The author definitely tried to incorporate quite a few twists into the story – and they did. But it was a bit underwhelming in its delivery. Perhaps this was because once the twist was delivered, the author also spent some time explaining it, which lost the effect of showing the reader something new and it just felt like I was being told what was happening.

I also was surprised by the legal turn the story took. I wasn’t expecting it, and I don’t think it really worked for me. It ended up slowing down the pacing of the story, when I would have preferred for it to be fast.

Overall, this wasn’t a bad thriller. It just wasn’t the type of thriller I was looking for. While there were moments that were interesting, I started to lose my focus closer to the end. I would give this a 3/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

Zero Day by Ezekiel Boone – The Hatching #3

I received this novel as an advance copy from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

I have loved this series since I received my first ARC for it. I’ve never been scared of spiders, but The Hatching had me feeling differently. I loved both The Hatching and Skitter, the 2nd book in the series, so I was super excited to know how it would all conclude. Here is my review:

35297544Summary (Goodreads): The world is on the brink of apocalypse. Zero Day has come.

The only thing more terrifying than millions of spiders is the realization that those spiders work as one. But among the government, there is dissent: do we try to kill all of the spiders, or do we gamble on Professor Guyer’s theory that we need to kill only the queens?

For President Stephanie Pilgrim, it’s an easy answer. She’s gone as far as she can—more than two dozen American cities hit with tactical nukes, the country torn asunder—and the only answer is to believe in Professor Guyer. Unfortunately, Ben Broussard and the military men who follow him don’t agree, and Pilgrim, Guyer, and the loyal members of the government have to flee, leaving the question: what’s more dangerous, the spiders or ourselves?


Review: For a novel that’s supposed to be about killer crazy spiders, there weren’t too many spider scenes.

I was hoping that this book would have crazy spider action and scare the bejeezus out of me. But I don’t think there was a spider scene until the halfway point of the book. Most of the story was just a lot of characters talking and politics. I think that the other novels in this series spoiled me for the last one; they were such high-impact, adrenaline-fueled stories that this one seemed like a bit of a let-down.

One of the things I had really loved about this series were the different perspectives that were included. I loved that there were some civilians and people from various areas of the world, all reeling from this spider issue. I was eager to see how these perspectives would converge in the end. However, after reading this final book, I question the necessity for all of those viewpoints and characters. So many of them just sputtered out in this book that it felt like it was all just a moot point. After having read about all of these different characters from the other 2 books in this series, I was quite disappointed with how their stories ended in this final book. Looking back, it might have been better for the author to only have focused on a few of the core story lines and left the unnecessary ones out, since it really didn’t add anything.

The writing was still great, which made this novel move along at a fast pace. Even though not a lot was happening in terms of action, all of the plot holes were filled and I appreciated that the author caught the readers up on things from the previous novels that may have been forgotten.

I know it sounds like I didn’t love this novel. And you’re right, I didn’t love it. But it was still quite good. I liked the writing, and the way the story ended. I was super invested in this series, which is probably why I enjoyed this last book despite it not being as action-packed as I had hoped. If you like creepy stories, I would definitely recommend checking this series out; it is honestly so good and it’s worth reading! I’m giving this book a 3/5 stars!

Happy reading ~