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 ~

Ink and Bone by Lisa Unger

This book was given to me as an advanced copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

When I read the description for this novel, I almost jumped up and down in my seat for excitement. It literally has everything that I love all rolled into one. Mystery? Check. Crazy killings and kidnappings? Check. Badass female protagonists? Check!! Supernatural events? CHECK, CHECK, AND MORE CHECKS! I’m so grateful I got a chance to read this novel so here is my review!

Finley Montgomery is not your ordinary twenty-year old. For as long as she can remember, Finley has had a special gift: she can see into the future and can see beyond the physical world, allowing her to make supernatural things happen. But Finley has no control over her powers, which seem to be growing stronger every day. The only person who can help is her grandmother, Eloise, who lives up in the Hollows, a small town in upstate New York. Finley decides to move there to continue on with her life – while learning how to use her gift. But this “gift” seems both a blessing a curse, as Findley finds herself drawn into the investigation of a young girl that has been missing for ten months. With time running out, Finley is starting to feel the supernatural pull of the Hollows. Will she be able to get to the little girl? Or will the Hollows take her instead?

This book was ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC! Every single aspect of it was well thought out. The story, the characters, the supernatural… it all fit in seamlessly. This novel had so many different areas that it explored; from the need to belong and know who you are to the question of whether there is an afterlife, everything was covered in a brilliant way. I could not put this book down and nor did I want to! Apparently, there were three short stories that the author wrote prior to this novel that were on the same topic of The Hollows; I plan on getting my hands on them ASAP, just because I liked the story so much! There is no need to read the short stories before this one as it all flows well. I cannot wait to read more by this author and I urge you all to give it a shot, too!

Happy reading~

 

The Other Me by Saskia Sarginson

I used to read a lot of novels that were part of the realistic fiction genre. Novels that revolved around love and loss and changing perspectives. Over time, I have become more interested in genres like fantasy and science fiction and horror and thrillers. This novel took me back to earlier days and reminded me of why I love realistic fiction so much. So here is my review:

1986, London: Klaudia, who has always been home schooled, is finally going to have a chance to join high school. What makes her most nervous about all of this is her German father, who works as a janitor in her school. When the kids at school find out that they are related, they begin to taunt her by calling her father a Nazi. And Klaudia finds herself unable to defend him with confidence; every time she has brought up his past, her father has maintained his silence and refuses to give details. No one will ever discuss what happened in the war and her father’s possible involvement in it.

1995, Leeds: Eliza is making her way in the world. Leaving university to pursue her passion of dance, she is developing into a talented artist. When she meets Cosmo, she begins to believe that her life can truly be happy. But she is harboring secrets, secrets that could destroy everything she holds dear.

1930s, Germany: Two brothers are trying to make it in a world where Hitler is quickly rising in fame. While one brother supports the Fuhrer, the other cannot help but hold back. Will brotherly love withstand the test of loyalty?

As these characters’ lives intertwine, each will have to reconsider their identity and place in the world.

I absolutely loved this novel. I loved it because it was more than just a story steeped in history and prejudice. This story brought the Third Reich to life in a completely different way. Here, we see how what happened in the past can affect future generations, and how decisions and mistakes can haunt us forever. This novel showed how events shape one’s identity and affect our relationships with others. It made a historical event into something personal, something unique that isn’t shared by millions of others. It brought perspective. The author did a fantastic job in portraying all of the different characters and their struggles, as well as their acceptance of fate. I could go on and on about all of the things that I love about this novel (which is pretty much EVERYTHING about this novel!) but I would rather urge you to read it and enjoy it yourself. So if you haven’t put this on your reading list, DO SO NOW!

Happy reading ~

Black Fairy Tale by Otsuichi

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

This is one of those rare times where I have read a book that is predominantly set in Japan and sticks to the cultural setting there. Sure, I’ve read novels that take place in countries in Asia and allude to different cultural norms, but I have never had the opportunity to read the works of a Japanese author. It was definitely an interesting change and I’m glad I got the opportunity to do so!

The story begins with a fairy tale: a raven who has learned to speak English from watching movies meets a girl who has lost her eyes in an accident. In order to make her happy, the raven goes around stealing the eyes of others so that she can use them to see the world around her. The happier she becomes, the more eyes the raven feels he needs to steal.

There is another story at play, however; the story of Nami, a girl who has lost her memories and finds she no longer fits in the world she was a part of. She has eye replacement surgery for her left eye, which she lost in an accident. She soon discovers that the replacement has given her the ability to look into the memories of the previous owner of this eye. And through his memories, she witnesses a terrible crime, one she feels the need to solve.

As the two stories intertwine in this chilling tale, we see the universal need of all people to be accepted and loved.

At first, I didn’t really like this story. To be fair, I didn’t know what to make of it. The way Nami was treated by her friends and her family after her surgery seemed ridiculously unfair, to the point where it just put me off. But I pushed through with the story. And I’m glad it did. Aside from some highly skeptical science (which I later attributed to magical powers), it really was a good story. Nami’s character is unique, and her desire to be accepted is one I can relate to. The creepiness of the story was tantalizing, and it kept me hooked; I was reading this late at night and was definitely a little bit nervous to sleep in the dark! All in all, this is a good novel for teens to read (I don’t think an adult audience would really enjoy this sort of work) and I would recommend this novel for anyone who likes horror!

Happy reading ~