Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Review: The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman

Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
Series: Lady Helen #1
Pages: 496
Received: Received a copy from Penguin Random House Canada in exchange for an honest review

Release Date: January 26, 2016
Buy From / Buy From

Goodreads Synopsis:

London, April 1812. On the eve of eighteen-year-old Lady Helen Wrexhall’s presentation to the queen, one of her family’s housemaids disappears-and Helen is drawn into the shadows of Regency London. There, she meets Lord Carlston, one of the few who can stop the perpetrators: a cabal of demons infiltrating every level of society. Dare she ask for his help, when his reputation is almost as black as his lingering eyes? And will her intelligence and headstrong curiosity wind up leading them into a death trap? 

My Review:

I had been eagerly anticipating this book for quite awhile, I love the dark fantasy books set in Regency London. Honestly, as you can tell from the description, this is a book that right off the bat doesn't want to say too much for fear of giving away the story, so I will keep it easy myself as well. I find it is always amusing to see a girl going through the rigorous motions of getting into society, while at the same time having something dark to deal with. Alison Goodman really highlights what it was like for a girl to be presented to the queen and how hard it was growing up in this time, and yet she also adds a great supernatural element to the story that keeps readers on their toes even more.

What drew me in to the story even more was the way everything was slowly drawn out and it took some time before things were revealed about Helen. Readers do learn that she has a more difficult time in society because of who her mother was, but her aunt truly tries to help her through by pushing her into society more and more. When Helen begins to look into some dark secrets happening around town, she begins to learn more about not only others around her but herself as well.

Many of the characters do really stand out to me as a reader, but Helen especially. She is very intelligent and even though she is taught to hide that away for fear of no attracting the right sort of people, she still knows how to socialize and she can keep up a great conversation. She is also inquisitive and truly cares for those around her, she fights for what she wants when she believes that it is what is needed, and she is willing to overstep boundaries to help people. And then there is Lord Carlston, he was run out of town years earlier, and now has returned despite being looked down upon by society. Even with these things hanging over his head, Lord Carlston still has some people in high places that will help him through, and Helen becomes drawn to him, he knows things about her and her family that she wants to know, and her curiosity gets the best of her and drags her into the dark streets of London. Especially when Lord Carlston comes around saying he knows more about her than he should.

Truly, give this book a chance, Alison Goodman has packed so much into one book... there are some comedic sections, but this is a dark book yet a lot of fun as well. You will want to know more about where Helen came from and you will want to see what she does with everything she learns. Helen truly takes things in stride and I am excited to see what else is coming from these characters!

Friday, February 19, 2016

Review: Every Anxious Wave by Mo Daviau

Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Pages: 288
Received: Received a copy from Raincoast Books in exchange for an honest review

Release Date: February 9, 2016
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Goodreads Synopsis:

Good guy Karl Bender is a thirty-something bar owner whose life lacks love and meaning. When he stumbles upon a time-travelling worm hole in his closet, Karl and his best friend Wayne develop a side business selling access to people who want to travel back in time to listen to their favorite bands. It's a pretty ingenious plan, until Karl, intending to send Wayne to 1980, transports him back to 980 instead. Though Wayne sends texts extolling the quality of life in tenth century "Mannahatta," Karl is distraught that he can't bring his friend back. Enter brilliant, prickly, overweight astrophysicist, Lena Geduldig. Karl and Lena's connection is immediate. While they work on getting Wayne back, Karl and Lena fall in love -- with time travel, and each other. Unable to resist meddling with the past, Karl and Lena bounce around time. When Lena ultimately prevents her own long-ago rape, she alters the course of her life and threatens her future with Karl. A high-spirited and engaging novel, EVERY ANXIOUS WAVE plays ball with the big questions of where we would go and who we would become if we could rewrite our pasts, as well as how to hold on to love across time.

My Review:

When I first heard about this book, it really peaked my interest, I can never say no to a book about time travel, and the addition of using the portal to relive some of the best concerts in history really seemed intriguing. Like every book about time travel, there is always that person that wants to change the past and save someone, and of course this brings trouble to Karl and Wayne... especially when Karl sends Wayne back to the wrong year and know he is stuck in time.

Honestly, this book was not at all what I expected it to be, the connection between Lena and Karl was weird and I found it made the story difficult to read at times because it just didn't seem real at all. Karl calls Lena because she is the only one who he believes he can trust based off of her picture, but he quickly learns that she has a lot more hidden in her past that could change everything between them. Lena quickly takes advantage of Karl and goes back to change her life which ultimately affects the future between her and Karl.

I will definitely say that this story was difficult for me to get into, I found that it was bogged down with too much information and that it took too long to get into the real story. Though I will say I did enjoy how Mo Daviau took on the question of what someone would do if they could change their past and how it affects others. The other part of this is how Daviau brings in the idea of the characters' future selves and how easy it is to change every little thing.

I wasn't a fan of any of the characters, none of them seemed to have any redeeming qualities, and they didn't really seem to try and change for the better as the book continued. There were a few points where I did like Karl and he redeemed himself, and he had some humorous moments... the banter between him and Wayne was fun, especially as Wayne is texting about the year 980 and how it has changed his life.

All in all, this book just didn't really sit with me all that well. There are enjoyable moments, and it has a great message about how changing the past not only affects you as a person but those that you have come in contact with. But there was so much about this book that I took offense to and I just had a hard time grasping everything that was written. If it is something that interests you, give it a try, but sadly I just can't recommend this one.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Review: The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood

Publisher: Nan A. Talese
Pages: 308
Received: Received a copy from Penguin Random House Canada in exchange for an honest review

Release Date: September 29, 2015
Buy From / Buy From

Goodreads Synopsis:

Living in their car, surviving on tips, Charmaine and Stan are in a desperate state. So, when they see an advertisement for Consilience, a ‘social experiment’ offering stable jobs and a home of their own, they sign up immediately. All they have to do in return for suburban paradise is give up their freedom every second month – swapping their home for a prison cell. At first, all is well. But then, unknown to each other, Stan and Charmaine develop passionate obsessions with their ‘Alternates,’ the couple that occupy their house when they are in prison. Soon the pressures of conformity, mistrust, guilt and sexual desire begin to take over.

My Review:

Oh a new Margaret Atwood (though yes, not so new now...) This book was everything and more I expected from such an amazing writer. I am sad to say that I haven't experienced all of Margaret Atwood's collection but I am attempting to be a better Canadian and read through them because they are so highly acclaimed (and because the ones I have read I love). The Heart Goes Last does not disappoint, originally it was published as a Byliner serial called Positron and I can see why from there, she expanded the story into what is now this beautiful novel!

This is honestly a book that is so hard to describe to someone because there is so much happening, you can't really put it into words for someone who hasn't experienced it themselves. This is a book about not fully understanding the world around you and the people as well, how easily things change at the drop of a hat. Margaret Atwood shows how many different pressures can eat away at a person and really change who they are.

This book had a lot of different aspects to it and it really helped make the story, though I will say there were a few times where I felt like the beginning and the end almost seemed like two different stories, and yet though it felt like two completely different things at the same time I could also see the connection (if that makes any sense...haha). All of the characters have many flaws, which really makes them human, they are trying to be perfect for one another and yet you can see clearly the mistakes that lead them to trouble.

Honestly, I must say that Margaret Atwood is the type of author where it is hard to describe her stories. They are very unique and are the type that readers truly need to experience for themselves, she is one of those that you either hate her writing style or you love it... I for one can say that I really do love what she comes up with and I hope that there is still many many more to come in the near future.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Review: Unspeakable Things by Kathleen Spivack

Publisher: Knopf
Pages: 304
Received: Received a copy from the publisher through Netgalley

Release Date: January 26, 2016
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Goodreads Synopsis:

The setting: the early 1940s, New York—city of refuge, city of hope, with the specter of a red-hot Europe at war.

At the novel’s center: Anna (known as the Rat), an exotic Hungarian countess with the face of an angel, beautiful eyes, and a seraphic smile, with a passionate intelligence, an exquisite ugliness, and the power to enchant . . . Her second cousin Herbert, a former minor Austrian civil servant who believes in Esperanto and the international rights of man, wheeling and dealing in New York, powerful in the social sphere yet under the thumb of his wife, Adeline . . . Michael, their missing homosexual son . . . Felix, a German pediatrician who dabbles in genetic engineering, practicing from his Upper East Side office with his little dachshund, Schatzie, by his side . . . The Tolstoi String Quartet, four men and their instruments, who for twenty years lived as one, playing the great concert halls of Europe, escaping to New York with their money sewn into the silk linings of their instrument cases . . .

And watching them all: Herbert’s eight-year-old granddaughter, Maria, who understands from the furtive fear of her mother, and the huddled penury of their lives, and the sense of being in hiding, even in New York, that life is a test of courage and silence, Maria witnessing the family’s strange comings and goings, being regaled at night, when most are asleep, with the intoxicating, thrilling stories of their secret pasts . . . of lives lived in Saint Petersburg . . . of husbands being sent to the front and large, dangerous debts owed to the Tsar of imperial Russia, of late-night visits by coach to the palace of the Romanovs to beg for mercy and avoid execution . . . and at the heart of the stories, told through the long nights with no dawn in sight, the strange, electrifying tale of a pact made in desperation with the private adviser to the Tsar and Tsarina—the mystic faith healer Grigory Rasputin (Russian for “debauched one”), a pact of “companionship” between Anna (the Rat) and the scheming Siberian peasant–turned–holy man, called the Devil by some, the self-proclaimed “only true Christ,” meeting night after night in Rasputin’s apartments, and the spellbinding, unspeakable things done there in the name of penance and pleasure . . .

My Review:

This book had a lot of potential for me, but in the end I really had a hard time enjoying the story. This was a truly difficult book to connect with and I felt that the story switched around characters that I could never get the feel for anyone. I felt lost as to what was happening a lot of the time in this story because it jumped around so much, from past to present and from character to character... I'm the type who likes a little more fluidity to my stories.

I will say I was interested in the idea of this family and all the other characters, trying to start a new life after many hardships and learning about the trials of actually getting out of Russia and how it has affected their families now. There isn't really too much I am able to say about this book, everything felt all over the place and there were quite a few disturbing sections that really made me reconsider finishing... in the end I am happy I did force myself to continue because there are some redeeming parts, as Maria (who I felt was older than 8 in the way she is written) gets to know her aunt, this mysterious creature who throws everyone for a loop when she unexpectedly arrives.

I just found it hard to connect everyone's stories together in this book, and to get past the unspeakable things that were happening. I felt like there was a point where things just seemed to go a little over the top for me and I couldn't concentrate on everything happening. Kathleen Spivack definitely has a special story here that I think many will enjoy, her writing transports you into the characters' world, but for me it just didn't work.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Review: Gold Fame Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins

Publisher: Riverhead Books
Pages: 339
Received: Received a copy from the publisher through Netgalley

Release Date: September 29, 2015
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Goodreads Synopsis:

In a parched southern California of the near future, Luz, once the poster child for the country’s conservation movement, and Ray, an army deserter turned surfer, are squatting in a starlet’s abandoned mansion. Most “Mojavs,” prevented by armed vigilantes from freely crossing borders to lusher regions, have allowed themselves to be evacuated to encampments in the east. Holdouts like Ray and Luz subsist on rationed cola and water, and whatever they can loot, scavenge, and improvise.

For the moment, the couple’s fragile love, which somehow blooms in this arid place, seems enough. But when they cross paths with a mysterious child, the thirst for a better future begins.

Immensely moving, profoundly disquieting, and mind-blowingly original, Watkins’s novel explores the myths we believe about others and tell about ourselves, the double-edged power of our most cherished relationships, and the shape of hope in a precarious future that may be our own.

My Review:

This is a very difficult book to try to review, the story really captured my attention and I wanted to know more about how Luz would get through situations but at the same time I felt disconnected from the characters at times. Watkins definitely has a beautiful writing style and really details out every little thing in her story that you feel like you are in this world, and yet it also felt like so much attention was put there that her characters personalities kind of fell by the wayside.

This is definitely an original story about a very dry future where people really have to rely on themselves to get by. Everything is rationed out so everyone is very aware of what they need to survive. Ray and Luz are getting by together, until on their travels they run into a group and end up with a little child that will change their lives forever. I loved how Ray and Luz's relationship is explored throughout this book, and how Watkins shows the change when this new person joins their already troubled group.

This story definitely had me at a loss for words, I was intrigued to see how a couple like Ray and Luz would deal with the many different groups on the outside... all of which scream danger and you don't know what you are going to get. I think there was a disconnect between the different parts of the story, when Luz and Ray are travelling and readers see what the world is like and then the part where Luz has found herself a safe haven.

Luz was an interesting character, she grew up in the media and everyone watched her grow up, in this aspect Luz seems to be very naive about things and it makes her an easy target for people to use her for their own use. Honestly I am on the fence about how I feel with this book, on one hand the writing is absolutely captivating and the story is definitely unique, but on the other hand I felt that there were scenes that made me feel uncomfortable and there was a disconnect in the story that made it difficult to truly follow.

I would say give this book a try because there are some definite benefits and the story does bring out thoughts of finding hope in the darkest of times. This book will definitely be the type for some people... I did love a lot about it, and it didn't take me long to finish it because I was very invested, but I can see many people having issues.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Review: The Love that Split the World by Emily Henry

Publisher: Razorbill
Pages: 400
Received: Received a copy from Penguin Random House Canada in exchange for an honest review

Release Date: January 26, 2016
Buy From / Buy From

Goodreads Synopsis:

Natalie Cleary must risk her future and leap blindly into a vast unknown for the chance to build a new world with the boy she loves.

Natalie’s last summer in her small Kentucky hometown is off to a magical start... until she starts seeing the “wrong things.” They’re just momentary glimpses at first—her front door is red instead of its usual green, there’s a pre-school where the garden store should be. But then her whole town disappears for hours, fading away into rolling hills and grazing buffalo, and Nat knows something isn’t right.

That’s when she gets a visit from the kind but mysterious apparition she calls “Grandmother,” who tells her: “You have three months to save him.” The next night, under the stadium lights of the high school football field, she meets a beautiful boy named Beau, and it’s as if time just stops and nothing exists. Nothing, except Natalie and Beau.

Emily Henry’s stunning debut novel is Friday Night Lights meets The Time Traveler’s Wife, and perfectly captures those bittersweet months after high school, when we dream not only of the future, but of all the roads and paths we’ve left untaken.

My Review:

To be honest, this book kind of slipped under my radar, even though it is kind of compared to one of my absolute favourite books of all time, The Time Traveler's Wife... After reading more into this book, I started to get a little more interested, then when I started reading it myself I was actually really taken with the story. I will say that it took me some time to truly like the story, I felt that it was slow getting into things and I couldn't really understand exactly what was happening (kind of like Natalie).

I was really surprised at the story Emily Henry came up with. it was intriguing and I wanted to learn more about what exactly was happening with Natalie and Beau. I really loved the way Henry described how things happened and it felt like time stopped when Natalie and Beau were together. I loved how the aspect of what was happening was described, Emily Henry brought this idea of alternate worlds to life with these two characters being at the center of everything.

Despite a few rough patches with this book, the romance was a bit too over the top for my liking, this book did end up getting me emotional at the end as some things are revealed to Nat about her life and how everything happened. This book really makes you think about the road not taken and how your life could be different if one small thing had changed in the past, what have you missed out on by taking that right instead of left?

The ending left me confused, and I'm still not absolutely sure about what exactly happened, I felt like there was still something left unsaid and it disappointed me. But all in all, I loved what this book offered me and it definitely gave me a new world and a new view on why things happen the way they do. 

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Review: In The Unlikely Event by Judy Blume

Publisher: Knopf
Pages: 397
Received: Received a copy from Penguin Random House Canada in exchange for an honest review

Release Date: June 2, 2015
Buy From / Buy From

Goodreads Synopsis:

In 1987, Miri Ammerman returns to her hometown of Elizabeth, New Jersey, to attend a commemoration of the worst year of her life.

Thirty-five years earlier, when Miri was fifteen, and in love for the first time, a succession of airplanes fell from the sky, leaving a community reeling. Against this backdrop of actual events that Blume experienced in the early 1950s, when airline travel was new and exciting and everyone dreamed of going somewhere, Judy Blume imagines and weaves together a haunting story of three generations of families, friends, and strangers, whose lives are profoundly changed by these disasters. She paints a vivid portrait of a particular time and place — Nat King Cole singing “Unforgettable,” Elizabeth Taylor haircuts, young (and not-so-young) love, explosive friendships, A-bomb hysteria, rumors of Communist threat. And a young journalist who makes his name reporting tragedy. Through it all, one generation reminds another that life goes on.

In the Unlikely Event is a gripping novel with all the hallmarks of Judy Blume's unparalleled storytelling.

My Review:

Growing up with Judy Blume books as a kid still never prepared me for the writing she has in her adult novels. This book was absolutely intense and I loved every little thing that happened. The way Judy Blume connected each of her characters together and how deep into their secrets you get, this is a book that you walk away not truly wanting to leave everything you just experienced.

I was absolutely blown away with this story, and how Judy Blume brings together this amazing community during a time of such devastation. The story follows the lives of many different characters as a series of planes fall from the sky causing a lot of trouble in this small little town. Miri Ammerman remembers the events of the year as she travels home to commemorate the tragedy of that year but also to remember how these events turned her into the woman she is now.

Each event affects everyone in this town differently, and they all still must grow and live their lives during these tough times. This is a book about how no matter how tough times can get, that life still must go on, friends and lovers will be lost, but you will always have family there for you. Judy Blume breathes such life into her characters that you could easily see yourself running into them out on the street. This is a story about real life and how through tragedy, three generations of family help one another through.

Truly, Judy Blume shows readers time and again that she is a masterful storyteller, and really brings everything to life that she puts to paper. This book is absolutely unforgettable and I believe will leave an impact on anyone who reads it. I can definitely say that it left a very strong impression on me and truly leaves me thinking about it long after I closed the cover!

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Review: Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Series: The Diviners #2
Pages: 613
Received: Received a copy from Hachette Books Canada in exchange for an honest review

Release Date: August 25, 2015
Buy From / Buy From

Goodreads Synopsis:

The longing of dreams draws the dead, and this city holds many dreams.

After a supernatural showdown with a serial killer, Evie O’Neill has outed herself as a Diviner. With her uncanny ability to read people’s secrets, she’s become a media darling, earning the title “America’s Sweetheart Seer.” Everyone’s in love with the city’s newest It Girl…everyone except the other Diviners.

Piano-playing Henry DuBois and Chinatown resident Ling Chan are two Diviners struggling to keep their powers a secret—for they can walk in dreams. And while Evie is living the high life, victims of a mysterious sleeping sickness are turning up across New York City.

As Henry searches for a lost love and Ling strives to succeed in a world that shuns her, a malevolent force infects their dreams. And at the edges of it all lurks a man in a stovepipe hat who has plans that extend farther than anyone can guess…As the sickness spreads, can the Diviners descend into the dreamworld to save the city?

In this heart-stopping sequel to The Diviners, Printz Award-winning and New York Times bestselling author Libba Bray takes readers deeper into the mystical underbelly of New York City.

My Review:

Oh gosh, the wait for this book was so hard!! I was in love with The Diviners when it came out and I needed more, even though these books are as big as they are, readers can easily fly through them. Though I will be honest, this one took me a little bit longer to read than the first of the series did. I found myself feeling iffy and sometimes a little uninterested, but then there was a moment that would bring me right back to the story.

Honestly, Libba Bray brings the 1920's to life in such an amazing way, but what is truly amazing about this series is the beautiful cast of characters that each contribute to the story in such a large way. Now that Evie's secret about being a diviner is out in the public, she is almost everybody's favourite person now. Though you can tell that she is hiding something herself, after everything ended in the last book, it left Evie with a fear of what else could be out there.

It took me a bit more time to get into this book, because I think I found myself to be confused as to what was really happening and how the dreams of Henry and Ling meant anything to the story. But as I got deeper into the story, it started to become very intriguing and I wanted to see these two characters find those that they were looking for. Soon this sickness that is taking over the city gets worse and there is only one group that can find the source and save others from the same fate.

While all this is going on with the dream world, Evie is dealing with her own small issues in the real world now that she has become "America's Sweetheart Seer", she is partying every night and trying her best to forget the fateful night that led to all this. Libba Bray truly delves deeper into the dark forces that are taking over the city, and readers slowly learn more about this group of diviners and possibly more about what is after them. This book opened up more about the different characters as we follow them around and delve further into their pasts and learn about what brought them where they are now.

I absolutely love Libba Bray's writing style, the world and characters she has created in The Diviners are both so engrossing that you never want to leave, and I for one will wait as long as need be for the next book in this series! I'm excited to see what new adventures will befall our group of ragtags, and what other horrors Bray can come up with.


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