Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Review: The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende

Publisher: Atria Books
Pages: 336
Received: Received a copy from Simon and Schuster Canada in exchange for an honest review

Release Date: November 3, 2015
Buy From Chapters.ca / Buy From BookDepository.com

Goodreads Synopsis:

In 1939, as Poland falls under the shadow of the Nazis, young Alma Belasco's parents send her away to live in safety with an aunt and uncle in their opulent mansion in San Francisco. There, as the rest of the world goes to war, she encounters Ichimei Fukuda, the quiet and gentle son of the family's Japanese gardener. Unnoticed by those around them, a tender love affair begins to blossom. Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the two are cruelly pulled apart as Ichimei and his family, like thousands of other Japanese Americans are declared enemies and forcibly relocated to internment camps run by the United States government. Throughout their lifetimes, Alma and Ichimei reunite again and again, but theirs is a love that they are forever forced to hide from the world.

Decades later, Alma is nearing the end of her long and eventful life. Irina Bazili, a care worker struggling to come to terms with her own troubled past, meets the elderly woman and her grandson, Seth, at San Francisco's charmingly eccentric Lark House nursing home. As Irina and Seth forge a friendship, they become intrigued by a series of mysterious gifts and letters sent to Alma, eventually learning about Ichimei and this extraordinary secret passion that has endured for nearly seventy years.

Sweeping through time and spanning generations and continents, The Japanese Lover explores questions of identity, abandonment, redemption, and the unknowable impact of fate on our lives. Written with the same attention to historical detail and keen understanding of her characters that Isabel Allende has been known for since her landmark first novel The House of the SpiritsThe Japanese Lover is a profoundly moving tribute to the constancy of the human heart in a world of unceasing change.

My Review:

This book was just so absolutely beautiful, I was enamored with the story and how everything played out for the characters. It's a story about how the past can affect someone's future, and this is truly a story of a love that will never die. Isabel Allende writes a story that will touch readers and really make them believe in a love story.

There is a back and forth as readers get to know Alma as she is now and how she got to this point in her life. This is a beautiful love story, in a tough time and Ichimei and Alma lose time together because of the war. Not only is this a love story and the life of Alma, but also learning about Irina's past and a new love life for her. Irina learns a lot about herself through helping Alma and learning that no one's past is perfect.

Isabel Allende has a beautiful way of having readers connect with her characters, I loved reading about Alma and Ichimei as they continue to reunite over the years and they never forget one another. This story is about that one love that is lost and yet never forgotten, Alma wants to always remember her first love even though they lost each other over the years. I loved seeing Irina and Seth learning about Alma together and watching them grow together as Seth helps Irina overcome her own troubles.

Through generations Alma and Ichimei's love grows even though they are apart, and through a deep search Seth and Alma learn about them through letters written to Alma every month. I loved Alma's energy in her older age, she is truly a force to be reckoned with and she does everything she can to remember her one true love. Honestly, it is hard to talk about some of the things that happen, but this book truly made me believe in soul mates and shows that a true love will never die as long as you remember it.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Review: The Quick by Lauren Owen

Publisher: Random House
Pages: 523
Received: Received a copy from Penguin Random House of Canada in exchange for an honest review

Release Date: June 17, 2014
Buy From Chapters.ca / Buy From BookDepository.com

Goodreads Synopsis:

An astonishing debut, a novel of epic scope and suspense that conjures up all the magic and menace of Victorian London 

London, 1892: James Norbury, a shy would-be poet newly down from Oxford, finds lodging with a charming young aristocrat. Through this new friendship, he is introduced to the drawing-rooms of high society, and finds love in an unexpected quarter. Then, suddenly, he vanishes without a trace. Unnerved, his sister, Charlotte, sets out from their crumbling country estate determined to find him. In the sinister, labyrinthine city that greets her, she uncovers a secret world at the margins populated by unforgettable characters: a female rope walker turned vigilante, a street urchin with a deadly secret, and the chilling “Doctor Knife.” But the answer to her brother’s disappearance ultimately lies within the doors of one of the country’s preeminent and mysterious institutions: The Aegolius Club, whose members include the most ambitious, and most dangerous, men in England.

In her first novel, Lauren Owen has created a fantastical world that is both beguiling and terrifying. The Quick will establish her as one of fiction’s most dazzling talents.

My Review:

I was truly interested in the idea of this book, a large book with a fantastical world taking place during the Victorian age. This was quite a long story with a lot of information flying around. It takes some time to really understand everything that is happening because there are many different views of this special society.

Lauren Owen really details every aspect, which makes this book feel so much more realistic for readers. I could imagine all these little secret meetings happening, and the different groups all trying to come together to find out what exactly is happening. Each of the characters are unique and bring a different aspect to the story. We see how others react to the Aegolius Club, and what kind of things they want to do about it.

I felt that the descriptions really brought out the creepiness of the story that much more, just because everything came to life for me as a reader. At times it reminded me a little of Dracula by Bram Stoker as well, with the journal entries added in throughout to really bring out the story. It is definitely a drawn out story that took me some time to get into, but at the same time there is this mystery behind everything that really keeps you going even though it seems that the story may not be going anywhere.

The other part of the book that truly kept me going was the relationship between James and his sister, Charlotte. It is this strong bond between these two that brings Charlotte into this dark world and why the Aegolius Club comes out into the open. When Charlotte doesn't hear from James, she goes out in search for him and the things she finds is a lot worse than she could have ever dreamed.

There are some interesting twists to the story, though some do come out early on, and then there is a lot left to go through, which is what made this book a little difficult for me at times. The details really help the story, but they hindered it at times as well. What I loved was the romantic aspect of the book, it is very subtle at times, but there are some great scenes that deal with many relationships. I kind of wished those were detailed a little more sometimes.

This is not a book for everyone, the strong details will deter many people (I almost stopped reading quite a few times) but at the same time, it was a fun and intense thriller at other times. It is a book that I will remember but I do believe there are many other books out there that have dealt with this subject material in a much better way.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Review: Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente

Publisher: Tor Books
Pages: 432
Received: Received an e-copy from Raincoast Books in exchange for an honest review

Release Date: October 20, 2015
Buy From Chapters.ca / Buy From BookDepository.com

Goodreads Synopsis:

Radiance is a decopunk pulp SF alt-history space opera mystery set in a Hollywood—and solar system—very different from our own, from the phenomenal talent behind the New York Times bestselling The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making.

Severin Unck’s father is a famous director of Gothic romances in an alternate 1986 in which talking movies are still a daring innovation due to the patent-hoarding Edison family. Rebelling against her father’s films of passion, intrigue, and spirits from beyond, Severin starts making documentaries, traveling through space and investigating the levitator cults of Neptune and the lawless saloons of Mars. For this is not our solar system, but one drawn from classic science fiction in which all the planets are inhabited and we travel through space on beautiful rockets. Severin is a realist in a fantastic universe.

But her latest film, which investigates the disappearance of a diving colony on a watery Venus populated by island-sized alien creatures, will be her last. Though her crew limps home to earth and her story is preserved by the colony’s last survivor, Severin will never return.

Aesthetically recalling A Trip to the Moon and House of Leaves, and told using techniques from reality TV, classic film, gossip magazines, and meta-fictional narrative, Radiance is a solar system-spanning story of love, exploration, family, loss, quantum physics, and silent film.

My Review:

This book was so different from many other books that I have read in the past, it is one that really makes you think and see things from a new perspective. This is a beautiful book that I truly immersed myself in, imagine what it is like to watch your favourite film, now imagine what it would be like to know how everything comes together, and you can watch it being filmed scene by scene, that is what this book is like.

This book reimagines the film industry, bringing back the idea of the silent film and how it is so much better than film with voices, it tells more of a story for the audience. Severin Unck is the daughter of a famous silent film director and yet she goes off on her own to make her own documentary about traveling through space. Though somehow something goes wrong on the last trip and Severin never returns home, this book is the story of her growing up and how she became what she did through the eyes of everyone around her.

I loved how Caherynne Valente wrote this story, it is very unique and will definitely appeal to many science fiction lovers out there because of how different it is. There are different styles throughout the story, from interviews to a scene by scene explanation of a movie, this book has everything to it. It is beautifully written and I know that the story will stay with me forever. This is a book that shows about love and loss and the characters all try to show their love and memories in different ways. I loved learning about Severin and how she came to be who she is and what made her get into the line of work she did. You can see from others' stories that she was tough and was the type of person who loved fiercely.

Readers are desperately trying to find out what happened to Severin and it is one of the mystery books that glimpsing into the past can give more of an insight into the present. It's a book that is very difficult to put down because you just want to stay in this world and learn more and more about each of the characters. I don't want to give away the story, I just want to say that it is so unique and if you are interested in a storyline that uses a different type of narrative this would be the one for you.


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