Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan Mcguire

When I read Every Heart A Doorway, I have to tell you it was the most amazing experience ever. I loved the dark fantasy tale and I needed more. While this novel is part of the series, it can easily be read and enjoyed as a standalone. I finally got around to reading it today, and I finished it in one sitting. So here is my review:

Jacqueline and Jillian were never given any choices on who they wanted to be. For their mother, Jacqueline was molded into the perfect daughter: polite, quiet, and always dressed like a princess. Jillian was her father’s perfect girl: adventurous, tomboy-ish, and always looking for the next thrill; it was the closest he could get to a son. By the time they were 12 years old, these identities had been fixed upon them and no matter how much they hated it, they had no choice but to act the way their parents expected. But one rainy day, the twins find an impossible staircase that took them to a different world altogether, one filled with dangerous beings and death and the ability to make decisions for themselves…

I absolutely loved this story. It’s just as dark and weird as Every Heart A Doorway. It was so easy to get caught up in the journey of Jacqueline and Jillian. I loved the Moors, the vampire, the mad scientist … it was so much craziness that shouldn’t have made sense but did. The author manages to take the most random and insane ideas and tie it together to create this fantastic story. I also loved how the girls changed and developed over time, and how their past influenced their future choices. It says a lot about the expectations others can have about you and how that can affect you. Seeing these twins pursue completely opposite destinies was just so interesting, and yet the author still manages to make them connect with each other. I remembered Jack and Jill from Every Heart a Doorway, but this story made them all the more real to me. I would definitely recommend this novel to anyone who likes weird and interesting fantasy and/or is a fan of Seanan Mcguire!

Happy reading ~

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One Dark Throne by Kendare Blake – Three Dark Crowns #2

When I had read the first book in the series, I had not liked it. It had been too slow and I did not feel a connection with the characters. I wasn’t planning on reading the sequel … but I decided to give it a shot. Here is my review:

The Quickening was an unforgettable time that revealed many hidden secrets and plots revolving the three queens. Now that the Ascension Year is underway, all bets are off. Katherine, once the weakest sister and the least likely champion for the throne, is proving herself to be stronger than ever. Arsinoe, who has finally discovered the truth about her powers, must figure out how she can use this to her advantage while keeping it a secret. And Mirabella, once thought to be the certain Queen Crowned, is facing attacks that she cannot seem to fight against. Only one thing is guaranteed: this year will be the bloodiest yet.

When compared to Three Dark Crowns, I thought this novel was a LOT better. The story starts up right where it ended, and the scheming begins almost immediately. The author was kind enough to include a list of characters and their connections to each other at the beginning of the novel, which came in handy for me when I forgot someone’s name. If it’s been a while since you read Three Dark Crowns, I strongly urge you to read it before beginning this one or else you will find yourself confused for a good bit of the story. I felt like this time around the author made it easier to understand and identify with the sisters. At least, that’s how I felt! I liked reading about Arsinoe and Katharine the most. Arsinoe has a really great personality and I like how she is connected to Jules. However, I still feel that the naturalist aspects of the story were more about Jules than Arsinoe, and I would have preferred if that had been more balanced. Katharine’s character went through the greatest change (as was hinted through the description) and I really liked that because she got a whole lot more interesting! However, I wish the author had dug deeper into these changes, instead of just having it explained at the end of the novel; there was definitely room for some horror aspects in Katharine’s story but they were muted because they weren’t explored as much as I would have liked. Mirabella didn’t really spark my interest in this story but at least the terrible love triangle from before wasn’t taking front-and-center stage like last time! The romance elements that were included in the story were not too bad this time. Overall, I had a much more enjoyable experience with this novel than its predecessor. Does it still have room for improvement? Yes. Is it the best YA fantasy series I have read? No. But it has potential and it has me intrigued so I will probably keep myself aware of the release of the next book in the series and give it a shot.

Happy reading ~

The Golden House by Salman Rushdie

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

I’ve never read anything by Salman Rushdie but I’ve definitely heard of him. I’ve been really eager to read something of his but there are so many books to choose from! I was so happy to have been given this ARC and I couldn’t wait to read from this popular author! So here I go with my review:

When powerful real-estate tycoon Nero Golden and his 3 children arrive in America, the neighbours are abuzz. The family is quick to assume new identities, taking on “Roman” names, and moving into a grand mansion in Manhattan. Nero and his grown sons quickly establish themselves at the apex of New York society. We hear about their story from the perspective of René, an aspiring filmmaker who finds in the Goldens the perfect subject. René chronicles the undoing of the house of Golden: the obsession with money, the quarrel between siblings, the arrival of a beautiful woman, betrayal, and murder.

I really wanted to like this novel but I have to be honest: I did not enjoy it at all. It was very difficult to get through and I almost gave up multiple times. It starts off in a very boring way with nothing going on. That doesn’t stop the narrator from narrating everything in a very melodramatic way, which serves no purpose whatsoever. I really did not like the narrator at all; his voice tried to hard to mark its importance and there were just too many pop culture references for my liking. It’s clear that the author is a master in the art of making connections; his comparisons between the politics in the States and the happenings in the Golden family were apt and brilliant. However, getting to these moments was a challenge and it stopped impressing me after a time because of the way the author presented it. Maybe I’m not intelligent enough to appreciate the nuances and the arguments the author is trying to make … but at the end of the day, I didn’t enjoy reading this story. Overall, this was not the greatest novel I’ve read…. but I think I will give the author another chance to wow me!

Happy reading ~

The Salt Line by Holly Goddard Jones

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

I love dystopian novels and anything that is really full of creepy crawlies. This novel seemed like the perfect fit for me so I was super excited to read it! Here is my review:

In an unspecified future, the United States’ borders have receded behind a salt line, which is a ring of scorched earth to protect citizens from ticks that carry disease. Those that live within the zone are safe but are controlled by this common fear. Few have any real reason to leave the safe zone … except for the adrenaline junkies who are willing to pay a hefty price in order to enjoy what is left of nature. Among the latest expedition are a popstar and his girlfriend, Edie; tech giant, Wes; and Marta, a simple housewife. Once they leave the safe zone, the group are at the mercy of deadly ticks – and in the center of a murderous plot. They become captives in Ruby City, a community made up of outer-zone survivors. As alliances and friendships shift, the hostages must decide how far they are willing to go to get back to safety.

I really wanted to like this novel but I found I couldn’t get into it at all, and I had to add it to my DNF pile. While the story seemed interesting in its premise, I just couldn’t get interested enough to pursue this novel. The pacing was quite slow and that made it a bit harder for me to read because I really wanted to get to the good bits as fast as possible. I also didn’t feel any real connection with any of the characters; they just didn’t have enough for me to feel that emotional tug. I don’t really want to write too much on this review since I haven’t fully read the novel and others who have finished it would have a better idea on it, but for me, this novel gets a 2/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman

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

I’ve only read one other book by Alice Hoffman, but I really loved it. So I was super excited for the chance to read this one! This novel is a prequel to Practical Magic, which I have not read before and which the reader does not have to have read in order to understand what is happening in this story. But let me get on with my review:

For the Owens family, love is a curse that began in 1620, when Maria Owens was charged with witchery for loving the wrong man. Even though it has been hundreds of years, and there have been many changes in the world, Susanna Owens knows that her 3 children are talented – and dangerous. There’s Franny, perpetually grumpy but with an ability to communicate with animals; Jet, who is beautiful and kind, with the ability to read others’ thoughts; and Vincent, charismatic and addictive, with a penchant for getting into trouble. Knowing all this, Susanna has set down rules for her children: no walking in the moonlight, no red shoes, no wearing black, no cats, no crows, no candles, no books about magic. And most importantly, never, ever, fall in love. But when her children visit their Aunt Isabelle, they uncover family secrets and begin to understand the truth of who they really are. And when they come back home to New York City, each sibling sets off on a risky journey to escape the family curse.

If you think this is just a story about spells and potions, then you would be wrong. This is about so much more than just magic. It’s about families filled with regret, it’s about gaining the courage to live life to the fullest, and it is about daring to love and dream and LIVE. As usual, the author has written a beautiful story about family and love and loss, with gorgeous prose. I really could not stop myself from turning the pages. Every character has been wonderfully created, and it is so easy to feel connected to them; I felt truly invested in their lives and their pursuit for happiness. This novel had me so emotional; I was literally sobbing at times because I could feel their emotions so deeply. One thing is for sure: I am DEFINITELY going to read Practical Magic. If you have never read a book by Alice Hoffman, I urge you to do so ASAP because she is such a talented author and everything she writes is amazing! I’m just glad she’s written as many books as she has, because now I have more books to enjoy!

Happy reading ~

Once, in a Town Called Moth by Trilby Kent

I’ve been meaning to read this book for a while now, but I’ve been putting it off every time in lieu of some other urgent reading task. But I decided to make time for it now, so here is my review:

Ana grew up in a tiny Mennonite colongy in Bolivia. Her mother fled the colony when Ana was a young girl. Now, as a teenager, Ana and her father have also run away from the community, but Ana doesn’t know why. All she knows is that things were not right for her and her father and they needed to leave in a hurry. Now, they’ve arrived in Toronto and Ana must fend for herself in an alien country, completely disconnected from everything she knew. She has no idea where to begin with fitting in. But begin she does: she makes a friend, then two. She goes to school and tries to understand the hierarchy that is present and all the unspoken rules and codes that govern teenage life. She goes to the library, the mall, and even parties. And all the while, she is desperate to find her mother who left her so long ago, and understand her father who has always been a stranger to her.

This is definitely a character-driven story, and it is quite well done at that. The story is told from Ana’s perspective, in third perspective when she is in Toronto and in first perspective when she is describing her past in the Mennonite colony. I really liked that the author made that differentiation, as I’ve never seen an author do that before and it added a unique touch to the story. I really liked Ana’s character and the author did a really great job in expressing the emotions she was going through; as a reader, I found it very easy to connect with and understand Ana. I didn’t know much about the Mennonite community before this novel, but it is clear that the author did due diligence in researching and presenting the information about this community in a non-judgemental way. This novel is definitely more of a slow-burner and it’s really just about how Ana adjusts to Toronto after leaving Colony Felicidad so if you are expecting something more fast-paced or with action, then this is not the novel for you. However, it is a well-written YA novel that is all about growing up, fitting in, and finding your identity. I’m giving this a 3/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

Select by Marit Weisenberg

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

Sometimes, all I really want is to read some YA fiction. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen very often given my work and my looooong TBR list. Happily, this was one of the novels on that list so I could shoot two birds with one stone! Here is my review:

17-year-old Julia Jaynes comes from a very wealthy family. She is freakishly athletic, intelligent, and beautiful. But everyone in her community is like that. That’s because they all come from a race of highly-evolved humans living in the heart of Texas. In order to protect themselves and preserve their elite society, Julia’s powerful father has forced her to suppress her abilities. But when she accidentally demonstrates her powers in public, she is banished to the local public high school. Not only must Julia navigate through the confusion that is high school, she must also pretend to be a normal human being, which is not an easy task. Julia just wants to keep her head down and leave as soon as possible – but then she meets John Ford. And there is an instant connection between the two. She can even read his mind! But as Julia’s newfound powers grow, so do her feelings for Josh. When she discovers her father’s secrets, Julia begins to question her restrictive upbringing. Now, she must decide who she truly is – and who she will betray to maintain her new identity.

So what drew me to this book in the first place was the science fiction element. Of course, from the blurb, I knew there was a fair bit of romance. What I wasn’t expecting was that 90% of this novel would be romance and only 10% would be actual science fiction. That part was a big disappointment because I thought there would be more to her powers than what the author had in mind. I think if the author had spent more time developing the science fiction aspect of the story, there would have been more depth to the story. However …. I still really enjoyed the book. I usually don’t like romance novels; they make me cringe with the clichéd phrases. But for some reason, this one worked. Now, I’m not saying that the romance between Josh and Julia was spot-on; there were some definite holes in the way things worked and developed between the two. But it also reminded me of my own high school experiences, the friendships that blossom into something more, and the sweetness of first love. It was cute and sweet and simple and I liked it. I also liked that the author showed how Julia was affected by the actions and thoughts of other characters. While this made the story more of a realistic fiction than science fiction, it was an aspect that was still well done. Now, if you were looking for a good science fiction novel, then this is not the one for you. I mean, it seriously has nothing to offer in terms of that genre. If you like sweet romance mixed with family drama, then you would probably enjoy this story. Because that’s pretty much what it’s all about. Because the science fiction part was misleading but I actually enjoyed the romance part of this story, I’m giving this a 3.5/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

The History of Bees by Maja Lunde

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

When I heard that this novel was being compared to Station Eleven, I knew I had to give it a shot. Station Eleven was a book I absolutely adored so I was hoping I would enjoy this one just as much. Here is my review:

England, 1853: William gave up on his research in order to be a seed merchant and provide for his family. What he didn’t account for was the melancholy that would take over him and prevent him from doing anything. But when he stumbles upon a book that rekindles his passion in biology, he decides to set out and build a new type of beehive, one that will bring fame and honour to him and his children.

United States, 2007: George is a beekeeper who loves his traditional farming methods, and is opposing the tide of modern farming. But he is getting older every day and knows he can’t keep up with modern innovation. His only hope is in his son, Tom.

China, 2098: Now that the bees have disappeared, hundreds of workers must hand-pollinate. Tao has been doing this arduous task for years, trying to save enough money so that she and her husband can have another child, while also trying to educate her young son so that he can aspire for more in his life. When Tao’s young son is taken away by authorities after a tragic accident, she sets off on a dangerous journey to find out what happened to him.

Going into this book, I knew that it was a slow-burner that would take time to develop intrigue. I actually knew nothing about bees or pollination or the vital role that they play in our world, so I thought that was extremely interesting. The author really takes this environmental issue and beautifully connects it across 3 different generations and 3 very different groups of people. Each story was unique but presented the same content: parent-child relationships and how they are affected by parents’ expectations or hopes for their child. I thought that the author did an amazing job in portraying this relationship in each of the stories. However, I found it hard to get into the story itself. This was mainly due to the fact that the characters didn’t invoke any emotion from me. I didn’t feel invested in them and found it hard to make a connection with them. I also found that while the topics that the novel addresses were important, the author never reached the core of anything; it just felt like some depth was missing. So while this is a very interesting story told from 3 very different perspectives, it didn’t give me the overall effect I was looking for, which is why I’m giving this a 3/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

 

Best Day Ever by Kaira Rouda

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

When you’ve read as many psychological thrillers as I have, you always get apprehensive when someone promotes a book. I’ve been let down a lot of times… but I’ve also found some gems. This one? It’s a gem.

Paul Strom has the perfect life: he has an amazing career as an advertising executive, a beautiful wife, two lovely boys, and a big house in a wealthy neighbourhood. And he prides himself on being perfect: the perfect husband, the perfect father, a provider and protector. So when he plans a romantic weekend getaway with his wife at their lake house, he is confident that it will be the best day ever. But as Paul and his wife, Mia, drive toward the countryside, Paul notices that there is a spike of tension that has surfaced. As the doubts start to arise, they question the trust they have in each other how perfect their marriage really is.

This novel started slowly and I almost decided to quit. But I’m glad now that I stuck through with it because it is such an amazing thriller. This novel is creepy and spine-tingling and everything you want from a psychological thriller. Paul gave me bad vibes from the start, what with his attitude on women. However, as the story goes on, we see how incredibly insane he actually is. While everything is written from his defensive perspective, we as the reader retain our own belief that he is utterly mad. The story takes place within a span of 24 hours and there are all of these little hints and clues that indicate that something is not right. I love how the author went about developing the story, and I love how the author created and maintained Paul’s character. He is delusional about himself and that becomes apparent as we keep reading the story, and it just adds to that creepy-horror feeling. I don’t think the story really had that much of a twist but I don’t think that every psychological thriller needs one; it just needs to have the thrills, and this one definitely had that! The only negative point I can come up with is that the ending switched into Mia’s perspective, which I really didn’t care that much about. It’s good to know how things worked out but I would have preferred to have heard more from Paul instead, as he was the main character for such a large part of the story. In any case, this was a really good thriller that had me at the edge of my seat and I look forward to reading more by this author!

Happy reading ~

See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt

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

When I saw this novel on NetGalley, I knew I had to have it as an ARC. The story of Lizzie Borden is such an intriguing mystery, and I’ve always been fascinated by it. I really wanted to know how the author would go about presenting it and so, I was really happy to have received the ARC! Here is my review:

On the morning of August 4, 1892, Lizzie Borden calls out to her maid: Someone’s killed Father. The brutal ax-murder of Andrew and Abby Borden in their home in Fall River, Massachusetts, leaves little evidence and many unanswered questions. No one knows what to make of this: who would ever want to harm the respected Bordens? But there is a much darker story lurking beneath the surface and it becomes increasingly clear that the Bordens were not your typical family. Andrew Borden had an explosive temper, the stepmother was spiteful and moody in nature, and the two spinster sisters were stuck in the middle of it all. As the police continue to investigate, Emma tries to comfort Lizzie, whose memories of that morning are fragmented. Lizzie is an unreliable witness at best, as her story keeps changing every time she tells it. As the perspectives switch from Lizzie, to Emma, to the housemaid Bridget, and to the enigmatic stranger Benjamin, the events of that fateful day are revealed.

I had really high hopes for this novel but unfortunately, it didn’t live up to all of my expectations. While I don’t think this was a bad book, it had quite a few flaws that made it an unremarkable read for me. For one thing, I found it very difficult to characterize Lizzie. She is clearly an adult but the way she speaks and acts is very childlike. If the author’s attempt was to make Lizzie creepy, well, it worked. But it also made it very confusing because I just couldn’t understand what went on in her mind. Perhaps the author was hinting that Lizzie might not be a fully-developed adult in terms of her mental acuity, in which case this characterization works. But it just didn’t work for me. Now, the author did a really great job of portraying how different the family dynamics were in the Borden residence compared to most other Victorian families. I mean, the fact that there are 2 spinster daughters was in itself unusual as families back then were very eager to wed eligible daughters. The controlling demeanour of the father and the stepmother’s attitude were also interesting details that the author put into the story. I think my favorite character in the entire story was Bridget – because she was the only sane person! At many points in the story, I found it an uphill battle to continue pushing through. There were certain details that I really found boring or unnecessary and some perspectives just weren’t that interesting to me. However, as the second half of the book progressed, I will admit that the author dialed up the tension and my intrigue came back. I quite liked the way the author ended the story, as it went along with my own thoughts about this case. Overall, this novel was an interesting retelling of the Borden murders but the characters felt off and some parts of the novel dragged on. I would give this a 2.5/5 stars!

Happy reading ~