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 ~

 

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Children of Icarus by Caighlan Smith – Children of Icarus #1

I actually received an eARC for Children of Daedala and was going to start reading it … when I found out that it was book 2 in a series. Now, I checked reviews and it seemed like everyone was saying it was imperative to read book 1 or else book 2 would make no sense. So … I searched and searched for Children of Icarus and finally managed to procure a copy. Here is my review of this book:

29065483Summary (Goodreads): It is Clara who is desperate to enter the labyrinth and it is Clara who is bright, strong, and fearless enough to take on any challenge. It is no surprise when she is chosen. But so is the girl who has always lived in her shadow. Together they enter. Within minutes, they are torn apart forever. Now the girl who has never left the city walls must fight to survive in a living nightmare, where one false turn with who to trust means a certain dead end.


Review: I honestly don’t even know where to start with my review for this book.

One of the things that I noticed right away when I received my copy of this book – and this is quite unusual for me to comment about – is that the cover and page quality is really really nice. The cover illustration is very dark but when you remove the dust cover, the same image is underneath and it has a very nice finish to it. I also loved the paper quality; it was thick and glossy and I felt really happy flipping the pages. Yes, I know, this is a weird way to start my review but I really couldn’t get over how awesome the book printing was … but now, let me get into the content itself.

Our protagonist in this story has no name. It is never mentioned. I actually really like this because it is an idea I myself had for a story that I wanted to write. The author overcomes the difficulty of having to reference a character with no name by telling the story in the first person narrative, which is quite smart since most readers also want to get to know the way the MC thinks and feels and this way you get two birds with one stone.

I really liked the idea of introducing mythological creatures to the story. I just wish there was more to them. There was also a maze runner vibe, what with the setting taking place in a labyrinth, which I really quite liked.

However, I didn’t like the story or the main character … or any of the characters, for that matter.

Let’s start with the story: nothing happens. Our protagonist, after surviving a harrowing attack, finds herself in the company of other survivors. And then nothing happens. All we read about is her observations of others and how daily life is among the survivors. Even when the story takes a turn towards something more interesting, it becomes bland as well. Literally, the ending is the most exciting part of the story, and the use of the word exciting is a bit of a stretch; I read it and felt absolutely nothing. I think my problem with the story is that I was expecting it to be heavily infused with mythology and for there to be tons of action. However, there really wasn’t much of that. I also think that the story had a lot of gore and violence to it, and a lot of it was unnecessary and quite sickening. And when I mean sickening, I’m referring to the behaviour of the characters.

Which brings me to the characters. Now, I really didn’t like the protagonist, and I found myself feeling both pity and anger towards her. She has no spine, no bravery, no strength whatsoever. She just sits there and lets things happen to her. On the one hand, I’m always saying that I want realistic character portrayal; if I were in her shoes, I would probably also be petrified and unable to do anything. But nobody wants to read about a character like that. There is a reason that authors write stories with main characters that have personalities; they attract readers and make the story interesting. In this case, our protagonist is the most boring and cowardly character I have ever read about. Literally, almost all of the problems could have been avoided if she had just spoken one sentence. But she didn’t. However, she suffered way too much for just that one mistake.

This is where the story really made me upset. The behaviour of the other characters towards the protagonist made me sick. I found myself getting really worked up and unable to read at times. In the beginning, I was just annoyed with how rude a few of the characters were towards our MC … but after the truth is revealed, I was just shocked at the way things escalated. There was no need for it to become that brutal and it was seriously messed up. I was not okay with it. I have no idea how I managed to push through that part of the book, and I’m glad it didn’t come up again. Consider this a warning about the seriously intense violence and brutality that the characters exhibit against each other. 

All in all, I was not very pleased with the book. I didn’t think the story was nearly as interesting as it could be and I hated all of the characters. To top it off, the scenes of cruelty and violence left me feeling very disturbed. I’m giving this a 1.5/5 stars. Since I went through all of the effort to get a copy of this book and read it just to read the sequel, I will be reading Children of Daedala. Let’s hope the story improves from here on out.

Happy reading ~

The Wicked + The Divine Vol 1 by Kieron Gillen

Whenever I get the chance to read a graphic novel, I do so. It’s just so different from reading a novel and it is usually short and a quick read. Plus, amazing artwork to enjoy! Anyways, I saw this in my local library and the premise was interesting enough that I decided to give it a shot. Here is my review:

Every 90 years, 12 gods incarnate as humans. They are loved. They are hated. And in 2 years, they die. Now, they have been reborn as pop stars. But remember: just because you’re immortal, doesn’t mean you’re going to live forever. Even for gods, there are consequences for one’s actions.

I went into this novel so amped but I finished it feeling disappointed. Let me start off with the positives: the artwork was so beautiful! I loved the use of colour and how every character was unique and identifiable. I also loved the premise of the story itself. Anything to do with mythology and gods will capture my interest. However, this novel really had no background to it. It was hard to piece together what was going on, and who everyone was, and why events were happening the way they were. I also didn’t really like the personalities of the gods; I get that they were reincarnated as pop stars but they didn’t need to have so much teen angst! The plot really didn’t make sense until the end… and even then, it wasn’t a satisfying end. At the end of this graphic novel, I felt confused. What was the point of it all? Was this just supposed to be a teaser for the next book? I don’t know, but I felt like I had been jerked around and not given the full story. It made me sad because the concept behind this novel was just so intriguing and it could have been executed so much better! For these reasons, I’m giving this novel a 1/5 stars. I know there are more volumes but I don’t think I will be checking them out any time soon.

Happy reading ~

The Brides of Rollrock Island by Margo Lanagan

I recently heard about this book through a newsletter: it was one of the top 10 fairytale retellings. I love fairy tales and any time I have a chance to read one in a new form, I will. This story is about mermaids – but it is quite unconventional. Here is my review:

On the remote Rollrock Island, men make their living from the sea. It is also the place where they fetch their wives. The Witch Misskaella knows how to find the girl at the heart of a seal. She’ll coax a beauty from the beast for any man – for a price. And what man wouldn’t want a sea-wife? But though he may tell himself that he is the master, one look in his new bride’s eyes will transform him just as much as it changes her. Both will be ensnared – and the witch will look on, laughing.

When I first started reading this book, I was unsure of whether I would like it or not. The first few chapters are a little unclear and not as nicely structured as I would have liked. However, the story soon picks up, and begins to flow beautifully. The story is told from the perspectives of multiple characters, and how they are all affected by these beautiful seal-women. Calling them mermaids would be a misnomer since they really aren’t like the legends – and they come from seals. Each of the perspectives had a unique voice and helped to really flesh out the story. The more you read the story, the more you feel drawn to it, and the more twisted it becomes. Let me make this clear: this is not a happy or funny story with tons of action. It is poignant, and sad, and beautiful, and dark. If that’s what you are looking for, then this story will work for you. Once I got through the first few chapters, I absolutely loved this novel. I’m giving this a 4.5/5 stars but I would cautiously recommend this to other fantasy lovers.

Happy reading ~

Hekla’s Children by James Brogden

I actually began this novel a while back but had to stop because of my workload. The novel stayed in the back of my mind and I’m glad that I finally got the chance to read this book now. So here is my review:

10 years ago, teacher Nathan Brookes was supervising 4 students on a walk … when they all vanished. Only one returned, Olivia, and she was starving, terrified, and unable to recollect where she had been. And Nathan has been haunted by this event ever since. When a body is found in the same ancient woodland where the kids disappeared, it is immediately assumed that it is the body of one of the missing children. However, it is soon identified as a Bronze Age warrior. While others may be able to move on from this archaeological curiosity, Nathan finds himself having horrific visions of his students being trapped. Then Olivia reappears, desperate to put the warrior’s body back into the Earth. For he is the only thing keeping a terrible evil at bay.

This novel was both a hit AND a miss for me. The beginning was intriguing and it really grabbed my attention; that’s why I kept thinking about it even when I stopped reading the novel! The author did a great job setting the scene, and I got really invested in Nathan’s character. I suspected that the author would lean towards the fantasy-horror genre combination, and I was pleased to see that my prediction was true. I liked the introduction of the Bronze Age warrior and really wanted to see where the author was going to go with that. Very quickly, the author switched from having Nathan as a main character, to someone else …. and then it switched again to Nathan … and then went back to someone else. That part was a little baffling because it made me feel like I wasn’t reading a continuous story but rather two different stories happening within the same timeline. It worked in the sense that it added more intrigue to the story but it also failed by making things more confusing and muddled. The story itself grew more complex but it had its flaws. A lot of details were skimmed over and could have used some more buildup, and it lost some of its horror feel near the end. The way certain characters were connected didn’t really work for me, and some of the conclusions that were drawn were a bit too unbelievable for my taste. By the end of the novel, I felt like I had read a really complicated and intriguing novel … but one that lacked a consistent flow. Since there were elements that I still enjoyed about this novel, I’m giving it a 3/5.

Happy reading ~

Bright Air Black by David Vann

Before reading this book, I knew nothing about Medea or Jason and the Argonauts. In fact, I did a quick Wikipedia search into the origins of these characters before delving into this book so that I could properly understand the content. Here is my review:

The story brings us aboard the ship Argo as it makes its epic journey back home across the Black Sea from Colchis – Medea’s homeland where she has fled her father with Jason, the Argonauts, and the Golden Fleece. As Medea sails along with the man she loves, she must decide whether she is a sorceress or a monster. As the journey continues and reality hits Medea, we witness Medea’s humanity, her Bronze Age roots and position in Greek society, her love affair with Jason, and her tragic demise.

It definitely helped that I had a little background on the story before beginning this book because this novel starts at the point when Medea is on Jason’s ship, running away from her father. The story doesn’t really delve too much into the events that preceded this but you eventually do find out as you continue reading. Apart from that, the story is quite indepth in terms of storyline, giving a great amount of detail into the way the journey progresses. Having never read anything about Medea or Jason, I found the story fascinating. There was never a dull moment and with each page comes more violence, brutality, and treachery. If you have never heard of Medea, then you need to read this book and get to know her story!

Medea’s character….. was incredible. She is strong, ruthless, intelligent, and determined in a way that no other female protagonist I have each very read about has been. When she spoke, she voiced the thoughts of countless women over countless generations. She is the epitome of the struggles of a woman who does not fit into the mold created by men. In short, I loved her. She was violent and lacked mercy and yet shred he managed to exude femininity while acting completely unfeminine (according to our views on what a feminine person  is typically like). I cannot stress enough how well the author portrayed her and how mesmerized I was by her strength. She is definitely one badass female protagonist, even if I don’t support all of her violent actions.

At first, the writing style seemed unusual to me. It’s poetic but not in the typical way. It made me take note of every word being used, every transition being made. This was a beautifully written story and it demanded that you pay attention attention appreciate that beauty.

Happy reading ~

Lost Gods by Brom

The first thing that caught my attention with this book was the cover. I’m serious, it’s an honest work of art. I couldn’t stop thinking about that cover so I knew that I had to go and get myself that book no matter what.

Chet Moran just got out of jail and he is eager to start his life on a fresh note with his pregnant wife, Trish. They leave town to begin again in the hopes that they can forget all of their troubles. But their safe haven isn’t what they imagined, as an ancient evil pursues them. Trapped and murdered by a vile horror, Chet soon learns that pain and death are shared by the dead as well as the living. In order to protect the souls of his wife and unborn child, Chet must journey into the depths of purgatory to find a key that promises to restore everything to its natural order. Alone, confused, and damned, Chet must face unimaginable horrors in the underworld.

In the beginning, I was unsure about whether I would like this story or not. Things moved a bit too quickly with not enough expectations. But after just a few chapters, I couldn’t tear myself away. This story is action-packed and full of interesting twists and turns. There are a lot of different mythological elements in this novel and I found that they were incorporated quite well! The horror aspects were also honestly freaky so I definitely got my money and time’s worth! Every question about the different elements are answered by Brom and that just made it such a satisfying story to read. My favorite part of this novel were the illustrations by the author; they were creepy and beautiful and just amazing! All in all, this was a really cool book with lots of great horror elements. I’m definitely going to check out more by Brom!

Happy reading ~

The Fifth Petal by Brunonia Barry – The Lace Reader #2

I have always been slightly obsessed with the Salem witch trials and the mass hysteria associated with that time. In fact, one of my thesis papers in my undergrad talked about this event and the way that mental illness was viewed during that time period. I’m always on the lookout for good books on this topic. When I heard about this one, I knew I had to get my hands on it ASAP!

Living in Salem means you are surrounded by witchcraft; everywhere you go, there are people claiming they are seers, witches, or descendants of someone from the Salem with trials. John Rafferty, chief of police, has gotten used to it by now, especially since he himself is married to gifted lace reader Towner Whitney. But things take a turn for the unusual when he has to investigate a 25-year-old triple homicide dubbed “The Goddess Murders”, where 3 women who were all descended from accused Salem witches were killed on Halloween. With the help of Callie Cahill, daughter of one of the victims – and a survivor of this event, Rafferty begins to uncover a dark period in Salem’s past. Callie finds herself struggling with visions that she can’t quite understand, as her gift with premonitions kicks into overdrive. Neither Rafferty nor Callie believe that the main suspect, Rose Whelan, is guilty of murder or witchcraft. But exonerating Rose comes at a price, one that could put everyone in danger. Who – or what – killed those women? And if they can’t discover the answer to that, will evil rise again?

This novel is by far one of my favorite novels on the Salem witch trials! What a masterfully told story!

From the very beginning, this story was compelling in the way it set the scene. The graphic nature of it all shook me and kept me reading further. This book takes place 25 years after the incident, and it shows how the townspeople and those directly involved in the case have been affected by it. The author went into great detail about the mythological and historical aspects of witchcraft, and it was really fascinating to read about. All of the facts were incorporated beautifully to create this deep and layered novel. The characters were amazing in that they were each unique and fully developed. There were certain interactions and connections between characters that seemed lacking, and I think that may have been because there was a prequel (which I neither knew about nor had read). The plot was intriguing and I liked how the author entertained the possibility of supernatural causes as well as the more human-related cause. Overall, this novel had me spellbound with its intrigue, prose, and its references to witchcraft and the Salem witch trials. A must-read for anyone interested in those topics!

I received this novel from Blogging for Books and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Happy reading ~

Tales of the Lost by Richard Howard

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

I don’t read short stories. I avoid short story collections. Even if my favorite author writes short stories or participates in an anthology, I won’t read it. This isn’t because I think short stories are bad. It’s mostly because I always find that a short story leaves me wanting more, but I never receive it. I’m the kind of person who likes a full-fledged novel that answers all questions and doesn’t leave anything too open-ended. However, short stories pique the interest of the reader but then leave them hanging – and I hate to be left hanging. This has been my opinion for a very long time, and this year, one of my resolutions was to change my negative attitude about different things in my life. As a first step, I requested to read this novel, which is a collection of horror/supernatural short stories. I went in with an open mind, and now that I’ve finished reading, I have been converted!

Tales of the Lost is a book of short stories for adults, that delves into the realm of fantasy with modern-day settings. There are some ghost stories that will send chills down your bones, there are other stories that will instill fear in your heart, and there are yet others that will make you rethink what you know about the world. Regardless of which story it is, you will find yourself exploring the mystical and the otherworldly elements along with each character, and experience loss, love, regret, and wonder.

This being my first attempt at reading a short story collection, I have to say that it was a great experience! Every story is intriguing and packed with something unusual, with characters that you can live vicariously through, and supernatural elements that you could never have dreamed of. There weer so many myths and legends and ghost tales that were brought into this collection, and it was just great to read so many different stories about them all! I actually enjoyed the cliffhanger feeling that each story left me off with because it made me go through a rollercoaster of emotions, and culminated in a dramatic ending that made me literally go “woah”! Some of the longer stories could have used some more transition elements but other than that, I really enjoyed everything I read! Overall, this was a great experience for me, and I cannot wait to read more short stories!

Happy reading ~

Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton

Lately, there have been a lot of YA fiction that has caught my eye. There are times when I go through a phase where all I read are YA novels, or only adult fiction. I’ve tried to stay away from that and read some of everything, but this also means that I don’t always get to the newest and hottest books in time. This novel has been getting a lot of attention but I’ve been putting it off for a while now, and I’ve just made time for it. All I can say is that I wish I had read it sooner!

Mortals may rule the desert nation of Miraji, but mystical beasts still roam the wasteland that surrounds it. There are even rumors that djinni still practice their ancient and powrful magic. But the town of Dustwalk, where Amani lives, is as ordinary as life can be – and Amani can’t wait to leave it. In a world where the fate of a woman is to wind up “wed or dead”, Amani is counting on her skills with a gun to gain her passage out of Dustwalk. When she meets Jin, a mysterious foreigner, in a shooting contest, she had no idea that he would provide her with the perfect chance to escape. But it is only when she leaves on a mythical horse, with the murderous Sultan’s army chasing her and Jin, that she realizes that the desert she thought she knew is not all it seems.

This novel had me spellbound from the start. I loved the mythical world that this story is set in. I recognized many of the elements from Arabian stories that I grew up hearing as a child, so it was wonderful to see it incorporated so well here. Amani is a force to be reckoned with, and she is a heroine that I was proud of. She never got caught up in the romance, and she followed her heart throughout the journey. My only wish was for the novel to be longer so I could continue to enjoy the story! This novel also had a Western element, with its shooting game and saloons and there was a bit of a cowboy vibe during the journey. My interest in Western novels is just beginning to grow so  I quite enjoyed that aspect. All in all, I can see why this book has generated so much of a buzz! I am excited to say that there is a sequel and I cannot wait to read it!

Happy reading ~