The Space Between Words by Michele Phoenix

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

I’ve never read Christian fiction. It’s not like I go out of my way to avoid it but I generally try to stay away from any books that focus on any religion. However, I thought this novel had an intriguing premise and I wanted to give this genre a chance. So here is my review:

When Jessica regains consciousness in a French hospital on the day after the Paris attacks, all she wants to do is run away. But her best friend Patrick urges her to reconsider her decision. Reluctantly, she agrees to continue with the trip they had planned before the tragedy. During a stop at a county flea market, Jessica discovers an antique sewing kit that contains a faded document. As new friends help her to translate the archaic French in the papers, they uncover the story of Adeline Baillard, a young woman who had been condemned for practicing her faith centuries ago. Adeline and her community had been decimated by the Huguenot persecution. But the documents showed that there were those who had managed to escape the brutality, including Adeline’s siblings. Determined to learn the fate of the Baillard’s, Jessica retraces their journey from France to England, spurred by a need she doesn’t understand. Could this stranger who lived three hundred years before hold the key to Jessica’s survival?

I was quite surprised to find that I really enjoyed this novel. It definitely went beyond my expectations and I loved that the author had a historical aspect for this story. I really knew nothing about the Huguenots until this novel, so that was a huge revelation for me. It is always a sad thing to hear about people being persecuted for their beliefs, and the fact that this still happens to this day is just terrible. I liked how Jessica goes on this journey to understand the Baillard’s continual belief in their faith, while also figuring out what happened to them. Jessica became invested in finding out their truth, and so I as the reader became invested in it, too. I always love reading about documents that start a journey, and this one was no exception! In fact, I think the author did a great job of making the journey progress the way that it did. As expected from a novel in this genre, there is a focus on faith and religion, but it is really quite mild and it is presented in a way where people of all different religions can enjoy and appreciate the message. I will admit that I was more intrigued by the historical aspect than what Jessica was going through, but the author did a good job of showing how PTSD can traumatize a person and shake their identity. Overall, this was a really solid novel, with good writing and a good journey!

Happy reading ~

Advertisements

Someone You Love Is Gone by Gurjinder Basran

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

I don’t often read emotional stories. But when I do, you can believe that I become a hot mess. This novel made my heart ache so many times that I didn’t know if I would be able to finish it. But I’m glad I did because it was a very thought-provoking story. Here is my review:

When Simran’s mother dies, Simran finds her world crash down around her. As she tries to make sense of the grief she feels, she sees her marriage disintegrate in front of her eyes and faces estrangement from her own daughter. As the days go by, Simran is haunted by memories and her mother’s ghost. As her life starts to fall apart, Simran must confront one of her most painful memories – when her parents sent her younger brother away. As the past starts flooding in, she wonders what could have caused her parents to send away their only son. Now, facedAs the past comes flooding back, she wonders what could compel her parents to turn their backs on their only son. Now with her mother gone, Simran must find the answers to these painful questions in order to finally put her ghosts to rest.

This book looks at grief in a multitude of ways. Not only does it focus on the actual moment of loss, it also depicts the stages and transitions one makes in the days that follow. It is a long and painful journey, and the reader feels every emotion that the main character does. As someone who has been fortunate enough to not have experienced the loss of a loved one, this was an eye-opening journey. There are so many nuances, so many elements to this state of being that I would never have thought possible. And the author allows each one to manifest itself and be understood by the reader. I really liked that the author flitted back in time and even delved into Simran’s mother’s past. This novel showed me the different ways people deal with grief, and how some accept and move on while others struggle to do so. This story is powerful even though it has a quiet voice, as it makes the reader aware of the strength it takes to carry grief in your heart and yet, continue to live life. I’m so glad that I had the chance to review this ARC and would recommend this book to anyone looking for a thought-provoking story.

Happy reading ~

 

Burntown by Jennifer McMahon

I love weird stories. The wackier, the better. It’s one of the reasons I love Joan Aiken’s Wolves Chronicles series. While I’ve never heard of this author before this book, I read that she had a reputation for coming up with wild stories. So I decided to get started with this one. Here is my review:

Eva grew up watching her father, Miles, invent strange and wonderful things in the small workshop behind their house on the river that runs through their old mill town. But the most important invention that Miles every made came from the mind of Thomas Edison: a machine that lets you talk to the dead. The bluepritns for this machine has been passed down to Miles and he’s been using it to protect his family. But one night, when a fierce storm is raging and there is the threat of a flood, the machine comes to life and delivers a single message: you’re in terrible danger. The next thing Eva knows, she is waking up by the river and only her mother is there. Her father and brother are dead, the house is gone, and there is an evil man out to get them. Eva changes her name to Necco and tries to forget about her past as she and her mother live life off the grid. But when her mother dies and her boyfriend is murdered, Necco is convinced that her past is catching up to her. What really happened that night? As Necco tries to discover the truth, she connects with 2 other women who are on their own desperate quests. And as the trio follow the clues, they discover that sometimes it’s the smallest towns that hold the strangest secrets.

Before this novel, I would never have thought that so many mismatched parts could come together to create a cohesive and interesting story. But they did. And I loved every minute of it. There is a paranormal aspect, with visions and psychic abilities and machines that let you communicate with the dead. There is a mystery element where people keep dying but you don’t know why. There’s a thriller aspect where the main character is being hunted by a man wearing a chicken skin mask. In all, it’s a crazy mess. But it worked on so many levels. There was not a single boring moment in this story. And the author managed to run so many different storylines at the same time! There are 3 main female characters and they each got their moment in the spotlight, which I really loved. The way it all got tied in was unexpected but it worked with the weirdness of the premise. I’m still shocked by how everything was put together … but I definitely enjoyed this read! This is not a traditional book in any way so I would recommend this to people who enjoy crazy stories with super interesting and zany plots! I can’t wait to read more by this author!

Hapyp reading ~

The Book of Bera by Suzie Wilde

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

I have always been intrigued by the Vikings and I was super excited when I heard that this book would be a Viking fantasy novel. I had no idea what that meant but I was eager to try it and see what it would be like!

When Bera journeys to protect her village from disease, an ensuing battle kills her childhood friend, Bjorn. The shame of her defeat causes her fatehr to wed her to the chieftain of a rival clan. But Bera soon realizes that her new husband’s second-in-command is responsible for her friend’s death. Though she must now take on the role of wife and stepmother, Bera vows to take revenge and begins her journey to power by honing her skills in the rough clan into which she has been sold. As her gifts continue to grow, she receives visions of looming disaster that will finally lead to the ultimate choice: revenge or safety for all?

This novel was a mess from beginning to end. And the entire blame falls on the main character, Bera. She is by far the most hated protagonist I have ever read about. Bera is an impulsive character that is very inconsistent in her behaviour and thought processes. For instance, before Bjorn died, she acted like she couldn’t stand him. But as soon as he died, he was suddenly the most kind person and she adored him. It made no sense, and this trend continues throughout the book. She vacillates between childishness and acting like a grown woman and it makes it hard to get a sense of who she is. Bera is also an extremely immature and annoying character. Perhaps her vicious behavior was supposed to emphasize her “Viking-ness” but all it did was make me not want to read this book. She literally has no redeeming qualities and it was a mission to get through this book. Suffice to say, I hated her every second.

The other problem with this book was that there wasn’t a proper buildup for certain events. Bjorn’s death, for example, was a bit out of the blue and it wasn’t presented in a way that felt complete. This was how I felt for most of the novel. There were also loads of things that just defied logic and made no sense whatsoever… but I won’t say what since I don’t like spoiling things.

In all, this was a very disappointing Viking-based story and I would probably not recommend this to anyone.

Happy reading ~

Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur

I have been very excited to read this poetry collection. I rarely, if ever, read poetry; I think the last poetry collection I ever read was by Shel Silverstein – and it was when I was in grade 3! Needless to say, my forays into the poetic scene have been long overdue and I decided to get into it with this book by Rupi Kaur, as it has been receiving so much praise… so here is my review:

milk and honey is a collection of poetry and prose that speaks about surviving. It is about surviving violence, abuse, love, and loss. It is about femininity and the ways one can be ashamed of it – and be proud of it. The collection is split into 4 chatpers, with each serving a different purpose, exploring a different pain. As we journey through the most bitter moments in life, the author shows us how we can still find sweetness hidden … if you are just willing to look.

My first thought was: this is a very short collection. Seriously, I read through it all in half an hour, and that is not a testament to my reading speed. I don’t know how long poetry collections usually are but this seemed unusually small in length. But as we all know, length doesn’t matter; it’s the content that counts! What I liked was that the author was unafraid to tackle difficult material like rape and abuse. There is a strong feminist voice in these poems, one that makes you proud to be a woman. I liked that the author talked about being comfortable in one’s own skin, because it is rare to find people who are. I also liked the hand-drawn pictures in the book. However, I don’t think that there was anything really special about this collection. Of course, the more voices that preach about loving-yourself-the-way-you-are, the better. But with all the raving reviews, I expected there to be something unique about Rupi Kaur’s interpretation and message. And there really wasn’t. There was nothing that made me connect with the poems, and while I could appreciate the sentiment, it just became too repetitive. I understand: love yourself. But how many times are you going to tell me that?! Out of all of the poems, only a handful really hit hard; the others were just underwhelming. In general, I just felt disappointed, which is really a shame because I hate being mean about someone’s art. Maybe I’m just too simple for poetry? Oh well, better luck next time!

Happy reading ~

Grief Cottage by Gail Goodwin

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

The premise of this novel was just too much to resist. I love a good ghost story and I was fully expecting to get loads of shivers and chills and supernatural goings-on. After reading this novel, I can honestly say that my predictions were way off. Here is my review:

When his mother dies unexpectedly, 11-year-old Marcus is sent to live with his great aunt, a reclusive painter who lives on a small South Carolina island. As he gets accustomed to his new surroundings, he is shown a ruined cottage that the islanders call Grief cottage, after a tragic incident where a boy and his parents disappeared during a hurricane 50 years ago. Their bodies were never found and the cottage has remained empty ever since. While Aunt Charlotte stays locked up in her studio painting, Marcus visits the cottage, building up the courage to face the ghost of the dead boy who used to live there. Full of curiosity and lonely, Marcus befriends the ghost boy, never knowing whether the ghost is friendly or has a more insidious nature.

There are a lot of things that caused me to not like this novel. The main thing is that it led me astray. Everything about the blurb screamed thriller ghost story. However, it would be more apt to describe this book as a literary fiction. Now, I have no problem with the literary fiction genre; I have read quite a few books that fit into this category and have quite enjoyed them. However, I do not like to be misled so blatantly. I felt like I was cheated out of the ghost story experience that was promised. Yes, the novel fixated on death and loss and grief, but there really was no need to brand the story as anything supernatural/involving ghosts. As you can tell, I’m quite upset by this. To make it worse, I didn’t really feel like this novel was a very good literary fiction. Even though literary fiction focuses on a certain theme and character growth/development, there is still a plot line; this novel missed the mark on that. I really liked Marcus’s character – he is a genuine sweetheart who tries so hard to please others. However, I didn’t really think he developed or grew in any real way; nothing that happened to him on his beach adventures really seemed to have the kind of impact I associate with literary fiction novels. In fact, the last portion of the novel completely threw me off because suddenly, the author takes us into the future and compresses together a decade of activity in Marcus’s life that just … made the story even more choppy than it already was. It was just weird and unnecessary. Another thing that I found a bit weird about this story was the writing style used for Marcus’s voice. The whole novel is like a monologue of the internal thoughts and feelings of Marcus but his voice sounds like that of a well-educated adult rather than an 11-year-old child. I’m not saying that children cannot have great vocabulary and think beyond their years, but the author never really showed Marcus as being so extraordinarily gifted and it just seemed so at odds with the personality and character of Marcus. It made it hard for me to believe in the story and feel connected to Marcus (even though, as mentioned previously, I liked him). The last little thing that bothered me was the way the author kept harping on the pronunciation of a specific character in the book, Lash. Every time Lash talked, the author just had to take a specific word and in brackets, write it out phonetically. It was cool at first because it helped me hear the voice in my head as I was reading but it got tedious really quick.

So overall, I really didn’t have a good experience with this book. I didn’t like how misleading the premise was, I didn’t like that the writing style was choppy, I didn’t think there was really any plot, and Marcus’s voice just really didn’t fit with his character. For those reasons, this novel gets a 1.5/5 stars from me.

Happy reading ~

Ginny Moon by Benjamin Ludwig

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

When I received the ARC for this novel, the title was The Original Ginny Moon. I think it has since changed (slightly) but the story has, of course, stayed the same. I wanted to read this novel because of its unique protagonist. After reading this novel, I’m just so glad to have had the chance to read such an amazing story!

Ginny is an autistic 14-year-old who has spent the last 5 years in foster care, after being taken out of her unsafe home. Now, Ginny is in her 4th home that will hopefully be her Forever home. Maybe this time, her forever parents will love her. Everyone wants Ginny to feel safe and forget her past … but Ginny can’t do that. She will never stop making her Big Secret Plan of Escape. Because Ginny has a secret about something that happened a long time ago… and the only person who can make it right is her.

What an absolutely wonderful book! From the very first page, this novel had my heart. I adored Ginny. The author did such an amazing job portraying her and making her come to life. While I’m no expert in working with people with autism, from my experience interacting with them, I can say that the author’s depiction was pretty spot on! And on top of being so accurate, the author also created a very unique and interesting voice for Ginny. Her story is heartbreaking and I was tense throughout the entire book, as I saw Ginny struggle to find her place. This novel isn’t just about Ginny. This novel is about the concept of family and the different ways it can present itself: as an abusive mother, as an absent father who believes in forgiveness, as a foster family that is trying to maintain normalcy in a situation that defies normal. And it’s beautiful and tragic and amazing to see how it all works out. I can’t stop talking about how much I loved this novel and I don’t want to keep repeating myself so all I will say is that this novel will touch your heart and give you an interesting perspective on the term “family”. I hope everyone will give this novel a shot because it is absolutely worth the time and effort!

Happy reading ~

The Space Between The Stars by Anne Corlett

I have been super excited to read this novel because it had such a unique dystopian presence. I like the idea of space travel and thought it would be an interesting element to this dystopian novel. Thank you to the First to Read program by Penguin Randomhouse for this ARC in exchange for my honest review.

All Jamie Allenby ever wanted was space, so much so that she willingly left Earth and moved to a more isolated planet. It is the perfect way for her to escape the sadness of her dissolving relationship. And then the virus hit. Now Jamie finds herself dreadfully alone. But a garbled message from Earth gives her hope that there may be survivors. When she finds some of them, their ragtag group will travel through vast stretches of space to try to start a new life on Earth. But their dream becomes harder and harder to reach as they face off against those trying to maintain the old ways of life.

If you are looking for a sci-fi heavy novel, then this one is not for you. This novel turned out to be a lot more philosophical as the physical journey the survivors take gives way to their inner journey. It was a novel that had enough suspense to keep you going, and didn’t drag you down with too many words. It never tried to impose any ideas on you, and allowed the reader to come to their own conclusions about each of the characters. I quite enjoyed the writing style and the revelations of the different characters. However, the main character was hard for me to empathize with. She was constantly whining, and rarely helpful. She became an irritating character who didn’t really do much to redeem herself. Overall, this novel is a very nicely written philosophical novel that takes place in a dystopian universe. However, the main character is hard to connect with at times, and the novel doesn’t have a heavy sci-fi connection (even though that is what it was portrayed to be). For all these reasons, I would give this novel a 3/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

The Conjoined by Jen Sookfong Lee

This is a novel that caught my eye when I was at my local bookstore. I remember seeing its cover, reading its title, and then reaching over to grab the book and read the premise on its back cover. It hooked me. I wasn’t able to buy it that day but it stayed in my mind for 2 months, and I just managed to make the time to read it now. After all of that buildup, I’m happy to say that the novel met my approval.

When Jessica’s mother passes away, it becomes her responsibility to go through her mother’s belongings. In the basement freezer, Jessica makes a shocking discovery: there are 2 dead girls inside. She immediately recognizes them as a pair of foster children who lived with her family in 1988: Casey and Jamie Cheng, two troubled and beautiful teenage sisters from Vancouver. During their time at Jessica’s home, they wreaked all manner of havoc before finally disappearing. Everyone thought they had simply run away. Clearly, they hadn’t. As Jessica tries to piece together the life of Casey and Jamie, she begins to see another side to her mother, Donna. The truths she discovers will make her question her own life choices, as she decides what she will do with her future.

This novel is not a thriller. I feel like I need to put that out there because most people (myself included) will read about the 2 dead girls and automatically assume that this story will be a whodunnit mystery. This story is a reflective one, with complex characters and multiple storylines that converge to put the picture together. We read about the struggle of Casey and Jamie’s parents, Chinese immigrants who struggle to make a life in Canada. We read about young love and the dangerous world we live in. We read about guilt and betrayals and family secrets that can scar someone for life. We read about the different factors that lead to a person making specific choices, choices that shape one’s personality. This story travels from past to present, between different perspectives, with mini-segments that talk about what led to the final moments in the lives of Casey and Jamie. All the while, we see Jessica try to grapple with the image of the mother she has always adored with the woman she now sees coming into the limelight. And through this struggle, we see growth and peace. I liked the reflective nature of this novel, with its pacing and its interesting writing style. I found it intriguing in a way that is very different from your usual thriller or mystery. This story made me think, and it stayed with me long after I read it. When a book makes a strong impact on your mind, then you know it’s a good one. I definitely enjoyed it, and this is going on my must-buy shelf!

Happy reading ~

Orange: The Complete Collection Vol 1-5 by Tanako Ichigo

When I was 12 years old, manga was all the rage. I grew up in a neighbourhood where there were many East Asian children, so I was heavily influenced by their culture and what was popular with them. At first, reading manga was just a way to fit in but very quickly, I found myself enjoying the story and the artwork. It has been a long time since I’ve read a manga book, but my boyfriend (who loves reading manga) recommended this to me, and guaranteed that I would love it. So I found it online and read it in one sitting.

On the day that Naho begins 11th grade, she receives a letter that is apparently from herself … but from 10 years in the future. At first, she dismisses it. There’s no such thing as time travel! But as the letter’s predictions come true, down to the minutest detail, Naho realizes that this letter could very well be the real deal. Her future self tells Naho that a transfer student will be joining her class, a boy named Kakeru. The letter begs Naho to watch him, stating that she is the only person that can save him from a terrible fate. Who is this mystery boy and how is Naho connected to him? Better yet, can she save him from his destiny?

This graphic novel may be YA fiction because of the setting and the characters, but the feelings it evokes are strong enough for any adult! If you aren’t familiar with Japanese culture, then parts of this novel may seem a little odd or cringe-y in the beginning. But trust me, it is worth sticking through. This story is one of friendship, loss, love, and resilience. The story deals with suicide, guilt, and the difficulty in moving on from a traumatic event. I am not ashamed to admit that I was sobbing like a baby throughout the novel. Naho is a timid character, and sometimes her timidity can be exasperating. But she changes throughout the novel, realizing that she needs to become more bold and assertive in order to be there for the people she loves. Every character in this story has depth and they are just so …. loveable and amazing! I’m still not in the right frame of mind to coherently write down my thoughts, but the main point I’m saying here is that this manga has a depth to it that I have rarely seen in others in this genre, or even in regular fiction. It has its funny moments, and its cheesy moments, and it’s cute to see teen love bloom. But it shows how strong the bonds of friendship can be, and how difficult it can be to be a teenager. Maybe the story hit me as hard as it did because my teenage years were also difficult (not as difficult as in this story, though) but it is still well-written, well developed, and aesthetically beautiful. If you have never tried manga, then start with this one because it is absolutely fantastic!

Happy reading ~