Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman

I read Seraphina a while back and I fell in love. It had dragons and court life and great world-building. It was definitely very different from most fantasy stories I’ve read but I enjoyed it immensely. When I saw that LibraryThing was hosting an Early Reviewer giveaway for Tess of the Road, I immediately jumped at the chance, and was delighted to receive a copy. From the synopsis, I was aware that the book took place in the world of Seraphina and I was excited to get back into it. Here is my review:


Summary (Goodreads): 

33123849In the medieval kingdom of Goredd, women are expected to be ladies, men are their protectors, and dragons get to be whomever they want. Tess, stubbornly, is a troublemaker. You can’t make a scene at your sister’s wedding and break a relative’s nose with one punch (no matter how pompous he is) and not suffer the consequences. As her family plans to send her to a nunnery, Tess yanks on her boots and sets out on a journey across the Southlands, alone and pretending to be a boy.
Where Tess is headed is a mystery, even to her. So when she runs into an old friend, it’s a stroke of luck. This friend is a quigutl–a subspecies of dragon–who gives her both a purpose and protection on the road. But Tess is guarding a troubling secret. Her tumultuous past is a heavy burden to carry, and the memories she’s tried to forget threaten to expose her to the world in more ways than one.


Review: Getting back into the world created in Seraphina through the eyes of a new character was really exciting for me. That being said, I would HIGHLY recommend that you read Seraphina before this one; this novel draws on many terms and concepts from Seraphina and the author doesn’t really take the time to explain it again in this book, so readers might find themselves lost.

When I started reading this novel, I was surprised to find that it was quite slow. Based on the premise, I think I was expecting a faster pace to the story. I also found Tess’s character to be … well, not to my liking. She is quite selfish and a little too impulsive. However, as I was thinking this, I also found myself liking this choice for a protagonist. I have always favoured flawed main characters to perfect one – and Tess is definitely in the former category.

As the story continues, there is an allusion to an incident that Tess was involved in that has made her undesirable and given her a bad reputation – and it is connected to a sexual encounter. The mystery surrounding this incident immediately made me want to know more, and it served as a pushing force for me to continue with the story. At the same time, I was surprised that the author wanted to discuss sex and sexuality; I hadn’t pegged this as the direction for this novel.

One of the major problems I encountered in this book was that it had very slow pacing. Not much happens in this story. Tess goes on a journey to escape life in a nunnery – and to escape the judgmental attitude of her family and friends. There are bouts of adventure but for the most part, there was just a lot of walking and talking and philosophizing. Now, I’m not really a fan of philosophy so I found some of these talks to be a little tedious to get through but I found that they were important for setting the stage for some of the moral issues the author explores.

Because while Tess was going through a boring outward journey, she was going through a rigorous inward journey. This novel was all about Tess’s ingrained views on sexuality and proper behaviour (as she was taught by her mother) and the way her experiences and the views of others’ challenges these beliefs. The reader gets to see how Tess has been bullied and shamed into feeling inferior and how she rises from this and starts to love herself again. I think that this theme is a really important one to cover and I think that, while the author had a shaky start with it in the beginning, it all came together quite well in the end.

This is a book that won’t work for everyone. The slow pacing and the initial un-likable-ness of Tess can be offputting for a lot of readers. But if you push through, you’ll see that this novel has its merits. It’s all about self-love and taking care of oneself. It’s about different ways to think about sex and sexuality, and the issues of being judged by traditionalist views on a female’s role in the bedroom. I like how the novel challenged these issues through Tess’s character and for that reason, I’m going to give this a 3.5/5 stars. The reason I can’t give it a higher rating is because the pacing was difficult to deal with and there wasn’t really much of a plot.

This is a novel I would recommend for fans of Seraphina and for those who are looking for a novel that looks into morality through the genre of fantasy.

Happy reading ~

Advertisements

The Sky is Yours by Chandler Klang Smith

Science fiction is a genre that I really like and try to read often. When I heard the premise for this one, I thought it was absolutely perfect for me! Thanks to NetGalley, and Penguin Random House’s First to Read program for this eARC in exchange for my honest review.


Summary (Goodreads): In the burned-out, futuristic city of Empire Island, three young people navigate a crumbling metropolis constantly under threat from a pair of dragons that circle the skies. When violence strikes, reality star Duncan Humphrey Ripple V, the spoiled scion of the metropolis’ last dynasty; Baroness Swan Lenore Dahlberg, his tempestuous, death-obsessed betrothed; and Abby, a feral beauty he discovered tossed out with the trash; are forced to flee everything they’ve ever known. As they wander toward the scalded heart of the city, they face fire, conspiracy, mayhem, unholy drugs, dragon-worshippers, and the monsters lurking inside themselves.


Review: I wanted to love this book so much. But I could barely make myself get through it.

This novel was well-written…. but that’s about the only positive thing I can say about it. Oh, and I really liked the cover.

I think what bothered me about this novel was the way its characters acted. I know that you don’t always like to love the characters; in fact, sometimes, having characters that are despicable can be great. But I couldn’t handle the vile acts. I’m not someone who is very sensitive and I can handle sensitive content but this time, I just couldn’t deal with the way the author talked about women and people’s bodies and rape. I understand that it was for satirical reasons but … just, no.

Maybe this is a novel I can come back to at another time. But for now, I’m putting it away and I’m sticking to my rating of 1/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

Secrets of Southern Girls by Haley Harrigan

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

I waited a long time before getting into this novel. Something about this story just made me hesitant. And then I got bogged down by work and other novels and never got a chance to go back to it (which is terrible since I’m always trying to get to Netgalley books on time). But I finally got to it… so here is my review:

10 years ago, Julie Portland accidentally killed her best friend, Reba. What’s worse is she got away with it. Consumed by guilt, she left the small town of Lawrence Mill, Mississippi. Now, raising her daughter and struggling to make ends meet in Manhattan, Julie still can’t forget Reba. When August, Reba’s first love, begs Julie to go back to Mississippi with him to find Reba’s diary, Julie’s past comes creeping back to haunt her. That diary could expose the shameful memories Julie has been running from, but it could also unearth the hidden truths that Reba left buried…and reveal that Julie isn’t the only one who feels responsible for Reba’s death.

I really did not enjoy this novel. There were a lot of things that just didn’t work for me. I thought this novel would be primarily told from Julie’s point of view. And while most of it was, there were also other perspectives thrown in that took me aback. With no introduction, a chapter would suddenly be told in the perspective of some other character. This really affected the flow of the novel, making it choppy. There were diary entries scattered throughout the book, and while I usually enjoy that, I didn’t like it here. That was mostly because the voice of the diary entry was very awkward. The story took a long while to get going and I kept waiting for that moment where the story would pull me in … but it never happened. There was nothing really appealing about the story. None of the characters were likable, and I didn’t really care about what they were going through because they were just so selfish and immature. I thought there would be more twists and turns in the plot but it was really just about Julie and August getting the diary (which happened pretty easily, in all honesty) and then reading the entries that the reader has had access to already. Nothing really made this novel shine or took it over the edge. All in all, I was pretty disappointed with this book and for those reasons, I’m giving it a 1/5 stars.

Happy reading ~

The Girl Before by J.P. Delaney

And here we are with another thriller with “Girl” in the title. But I decided to ignore that when it came to this book, in an attempt to not be biased in my opinion. This book has been getting a lot of attention and I’ve been recommended it multiple times. So I finally decided to give it a go! Here is my review:

Emma
After a traumatic break-in, Emma is desperate to move into a newer, safer place. But nothing seems perfect – until she comes across One Folgate Street. The house is an architectural masterpiece with its minimalist design…. but it also comes with many rules. The architect who built this house retains full control of it and only his word goes. The space is meant to transform its occupant completely – and it does.

Jane
After a personal tragedy, Jane needs a fresh start – and she finds it at One Folgate Street. But it isn’t just the house she’s fallen for; the seductive creator keeps coming into her mind. Once she moves in, Jane soon learns of the untimely demise of the previous tenant, a woman who resembles Jane. As Jane tries to make sense of the truth, she unwittingly begins to make the same choices and experiences the same terror as the girl before.

I’m surprised by how much I liked this novel. The story was addictive and while I didn’t like everything about it, I can’t deny that it had the thrill and the twists that I was hoping for. The two perspectives were quite interesting and the author did a really great job of making them match up and integrate. Emma’s character gave me a lot of warning signs, and it became more and more clear that she was not what I expected as I kept reading – but that’s what I loved about the book. I love that the main characters didn’t conform to my initial assessment, and I liked to see how they acted in similar situations. This book is all about depraved characters, each who have their own mental issues. They’re very twisted and I like that the author kept them true to that trait throughout the book. I wasn’t very comfortable with some of the ways that the author handled sexual consent and rape … but it worked in the context of this story because the story itself is all about individuals who don’t really conform or believe in those norms. A lot of people are saying that this novel is a bit of a combination between 50 shades of grey and Girl on the train …. I kind of agree with the first part of that. There is a lot of sexual stuff going on in this novel and even though I haven’t read 50 Shades of Grey, I can see where people can draw the parallels. However, this aspect didn’t make me as uncomfortable as I expected, as I still quite enjoyed the story. Overall, this was a very interesting thriller that had me hooked from the start!

Happy reading ~

The Child by Fiona Barton

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

I read The Widow by Fiona Barton when it first came out and it was definitely one of my favorite books out there. I was excited to see what the author would come up with in her next novel so I was super happy to have received this ARC! Here is my review:

When an old house is demolished, a workman discovers a tiny skeleton buried for years. When journalist Kate Waters hears this, she believes this story will turn out to be a great scoop. However, she needs more answers to her questions, especially the ones surrounding the identity of the baby. As Kate begins to investigate, she discovers a connection to a crime that occurred a decade ago: a newborn baby was stolen from the maternity ward and was never found, leaving the parents devastated. But there is more to the story, and Kate gets drawn into the pasts of the people who once lived in the neighbourhood being demolished. And the more secrets she discovers, the more torn she becomes on what she can and cannot reveal.

I cannot begin to describe how much I loved this book! Just like in The Widow, the novel features a journalist who is amazing at investigating and putting together the clues; in fact, she does a better job than the police! I love how kickass Kate is; for once, the woman solves things and doesn’t just get pushed to the side. Kate doesn’t make stupid mistakes. She is perfectly capable of handling the situation and doing a competent job. This is one of the many things I love about the novel. Having a journalist as the main character was really awesome to see and gave me a really cool insight into the world of investigative journalism. This book was all about motherhood and the ways in which we see mothers in the world. This book also deals with sexual violence and can be quite graphic, so consider this your trigger warning. My main attraction to this novel was its focus on multiple women and the way they handled traumatic situations in their lives. I honestly did not see the ending coming until most of the clues were given to me, and the thrill factor was definitely ramped up with this story! My one teeny complaint would be that I wished that when they talked about the court proceedings, the author had gotten into more detail; it felt a bit rushed after this amazing drawn-out story. Overall, another amazing thriller from Fiona Barton that you definitely do not want to miss out!

Happy reading ~

The Lauras by Sara Taylor

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

After one more fight between her mother and father, Alex wakes up to find that Alex and Alex’s mother are going on a trip. No explanations are given to anyone, as they make their trek across the country. As they travel, Alex’s mother reveals the story of her life piece-by-piece. Together, they trace back through a life full of struggle and adventure to put to rest unfinished business, heal old wounds, and seek out old friends.

When I began reading this novel, I was very intrigued as to see where this story would go. A 13-year-old child is woken up from bed and whisked away on a road trip. That is one heck of an intro! I really liked the author’s writing style, as it had a good flow and gave a great description of the setting. The main character in the story, Alex, was also intriguing in that Alex ascribes to no gender. Never in the story is it revealed whether Alex is male or female – and this intrigued me both because of the fact that this is a unique character and because the author so successfully hid the gender identity throughout the story. I liked the way little bits of Ma’s life were revealed as the story progressed, and how they reflected the trials and random events that can occur in life as well as the way these experiences shape you. However, by the time I got to the end of the story, I felt a bit disappointed and confused as to what the point of the whole story was. Granted, it is a coming-of-age story, one that shows how life leaves one with many memories that can be good and bad…. but that’s about it. After that whole road trip, I kind of expected a bit more. So while there were definitely some positive things about this novel, the overall plot seemed to have no real purpose and left me disappointed. I didn’t love this novel but I didn’t hate it either.

Happy reading ~

The Good Daughter by Alexandra Burt

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

I’ve been super excited for this novel and I was super happy to get it from NetGalley and the publishers. I always try to wait to read the book as close to the publishing date as possible, but this novel was the hardest to wait for! Anyways, here is my review:

Dahlia Waller’s childhood is full of memories of stuffy cars, seedy motels, and lies. She traveled the country with her eccentric mother, not knowing why they were always on the run. Now that she is older, Dahlia has done everything in her power to move away from that life. But there’s one thing stopping her from moving on: her questions about her past. And in order to get the answers to her questions, Dahlia must go back to her mother, a woman now on the brink of madness. But after she discovers 3 grave-like mounds on a neighbouring farm, she’ll learn that some questions are better left unanswered.

For all the hype this novel received, it was highly disappointing. I had expected the novel to be fast-paced but it was quite slow. I didn’t mind that, in all honesty, as it allowed the author to build up the tension. However, there were so many useless things that were thrown into this story. There was a girl whom Dahlia found in the woods, and why this event was even a part of the story is something I’m still wondering. I liked the different perspectives of the story, but it was fairly easy to predict and so, I started to lose some interest. I didn’t really like Dahlia’s character at all; there were so many different ways that she could have approached her problems and she just …. didn’t. Her mother was definitely more interesting – I’m pretty sure her character is the reason why I continued with the story. Overall, this story wasn’t anything special. There was nothing wrong with the pacing but the way the story was presented as well as the predictability of the “truth” just made it lose marks for me. Unfortunately, it wasn’t worth the hype.

Happy reading ~

 

The Lost Girls by Heather Young

There was a point in time when I was a huge fan of Kate Morton. I still like her work, but I used to be obsessed with every one of her books, and I would always be on the lookout for one of her new releases. The premise of this novel reminded me of the type of story Kate Morton concocts, so I knew it would be worth giving a shot. Here is my review:

In 1935 at a remote vacation home in Minnesota, 6-year-old Emily Evans vanishes from her bedroom. Her disappearance tears the family apart, and Emily’s mother, along with her two older sisters, spend the rest of their lives in that lake house, hoping that Emily will return to them. 60 years later, Lucy, the middle sister, is the only one still alive. But before she dies, she writes the story of that devastating summer in a notebook that she bequeaths to her grandniece, Justine.

For Justine, hearing the news of her great-aunt passing is sad. But she is relieved to have the chance to return to the lake house, and escape her manipulative boyfriend. With her two daughters, she travels to the house hoping that it will become a sanctuary for them. However, the house is no longer what it used to be. It is cold, run-down, and their only source of human contact is an old man. And the problems don’t end there. Justine’s eldest daughter becomes obsessed with Emily’s disappearance, Justine’s mother arrives with plans to get her hands on the inheritance, and her manipulative boyfriend tries to come back into her life with a dangerous plan. In a house marked by tragedy, Justine must face her worst fears to save herself and her family.

The synopsis that I have provided here does not do this novel justice, but anything more that I say would just ruin the story. This book moves in a slow yet intriguing way, switching between the voice of Lucy and that of Justine. Both of these women are so similar in their thinking and way of behaving, and yet they retain their separate identities. The story itself is tragic and unfolds beautifully, capturing one’s attention from the very beginning and holding it until the very end. While the disappearance of the child is what brought me to this book in the first place, it was the tale of growing up, learning to love, and exploring life itself that kept me here. If you are looking for a good historical fiction that explores the lives of 5 generations of women, then this would be a great place to start!

Happy reading ~

The Girls by Emma Cline

I’ve only read one book about a cult, and it was more about the aftermath of it and the resurrection of it. This novel focused on the perspective of one girl who joins a cult, and how that experience changed her. Going into this novel, I had no idea what to make of it, and I didn’t know what kind of tone the author would use. I started reading it on my 2-hour bus ride back to my university residence, and by the end of the journey, I had finished the book. So let me just leave it at that and begin my review.

Evie Boyd is a lonely teenager living in California during the end of the 1960s. With her father out of the picture, and her mother fixated on changing herself, Evie has nowhere she belongs. But then she sees a group of girls at the park and is immediately drawn to their carefree behaviour, and their freedom. A mesmerizing older girl named Suzanne smiles at Evie, and that is all it takes to make Evie want to join this group. She is invited to join the circle of a soon-to-be-infamous cult with its charismatic leader. As Evie spends more time away from her home and her regular life, and as her obsession with Suzanne and the cult intensifies, Evie feels like she finally belongs. But she could never have imagined how close she is to unthinkable violence, and how it will change their lives forever.

This book was a very interesting read to me. Evie is more of a narrator than a protagonist, as she recounts the terrible events that took place within that cult. The true main character seems to be Suzanne, who Evie admires and loves. However, the magnetism that Suzanne apparently embodies isn’t really that evident to the reader, and I was left wondering why Evie was so fixated on her. However, I still found it interesting to see how their friendship evolved. The other characters weren’t that important, and they stayed on the sidelines for the most part, which was fine by me. I just wanted to get to the juicy creepy stuff! That was the other interesting thing about this story – the author already tells you how it is going to end. Right away, you know that the cult is involved in the brutal killing of innocent people. The story took quite a long while to get to that point, perhaps because it was told from the perspective of a teenage girl who is more focused on fitting in and having a friend than in reading the turbulent situation around her. That put me off a bit because it made the crime seem completely random, when in reality it had been building up to this crime. I wish that there had been more of an emphasis on the cult scene; the author had a couple of parts where she mentioned ritualistic practices but for the most part, the cult appeared to be a place for runaways to just do drugs, have sex, and shirk all responsibility. That was a bit of a disappointment for me, because I really wanted to feel the eerie essence of it all, and the mass euphoria that is usually attributed to cults. One thing that I really did not enjoy about this novel was how the ending was described. Evie was not a participant in the violent killings, so every sentence that describes it begins with “I imagine” or “I believe”, or something else that just shows that she is just as clueless as the reader. I don’t want to read about what she “supposes” had happened, I want to ACTUALLY know! That was the only major flaw I found.

I know I seem to only have negative comments to say, but overall, I really enjoyed this novel. It was slow-paced, but not painfully slow, and the perspective of Evie was an interesting one, that highlighted our innate desire to belong to someone or something, regardless of how dangerous or stupid it might be. It depicted the flaws of teenage thinking, where teenagers believe they are invincible, always right, and that no one understand them. It explores the world of sex and drugs and the need to believe in something bigger than yourself. And most importantly, this novel was about friendship, and all of the different types of love that someone can feel for another person. I hope that you will all give it a shot, and come up with your own opinions about this book.

Happy reading ~

The Lesser Bohemians by Eimear McBride

I deliberately chose to read this novel because it is outside of my usual scope. This isn’t a fantasy story or a mystery/thriller. This is a  story that deals with love in its many forms, as well as ambition. It takes you on a journey to see how exactly the main character grows up. I usually don’t give novels like this a shot, not because I don’t think they are good, but because I feel like I am completely out of my depth when reading these stories. Nevertheless, I decided to give it a shot, so here is my review:

When she arrives in London, all this 18-year-old Irish girl wants is to start her life as a young actress. So she enrolls as a drama student, and tries to make a name for herself. At first she struggles to fit in in this new landscape, with its big city and its sophisticated people. But soon she finds herself making friends and finding a place to live. Then she meets an older man, an established actor 20 years her senior. And as their relationship ensues, it will change her life – and her – forever.

I found that I was unable to get through this novel. I barely got to glimpse the story itself, and the reason was solely because of the language style that the author chose. It was awkward and threw me off right from the start. I wasn’t able to follow along and I had to struggle a great deal just to understand what the author was trying to say. No matter how hard I tried to push past it, I simply could not get over it and so, I wasn’t able to get to the heart of the story. For that reason, I’m going to have to give this novel a pass.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.