Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Review: Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Pages: 323
Received: Received an e-copy from Raincoast in exchange for an honest review

Release Date: April 1, 2014
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Goodreads Synopsis:

It begins as an assignment for English class: Write a letter to a dead person. Laurel chooses Kurt Cobain because her sister, May, loved him. And he died young, just like May did. Soon, Laurel has a notebook full of letters to people like Janis Joplin, Amy Winehouse, Amelia Earhart, Heath Ledger, and more; though she never gives a single one of them to her teacher. She writes about starting high school, navigating new friendships, falling in love for the first time, learning to live with her splintering family. And, finally, about the abuse she suffered while May was supposed to be looking out for her. Only then, once Laurel has written down the truth about what happened to herself, can she truly begin to accept what happened to May. And only when Laurel has begun to see her sister as the person she was; lovely and amazing and deeply flawed; can she begin to discover her own path.

My Review:

I absolutely adored this book, there is so much raw emotion flowing through the pages that you can't help but feel for Laurel. In her writing to all these dead people, Laurel eventually comes to terms with her sister's death, and finally lets out the truth of what happened to May.

Through the letters, readers can really see how Laurel is struggling with the aftermath of what happened to her sister, and she is trying to right a lot of things in her life. Ava Dellaira has a special way with words that you really believe this story and can see someone really letting things out in letters that will never be sent. Laurel writes to people who in a way have affected her life, through their movies and their music she grows and makes new friends.

Laurel is definitely a damaged person and you can see that in the way she writes her letters, not only has she lost her sister but it feels like she has lost her mother as well. No one is the same and they are all grieving in different ways. I really love how Laurel grows and learns about herself over the year, and she learns through trying to be her sister how to be her own person. Laurel learns that she needs to stop holding things in so that she can finally live her life the way she wants to.

This is a book that touched me in so many ways, honestly I want everyone to read this book, just to feel the depth of emotions that Ava has written here. A beautiful book with interesting characters, ones who are flawed and they are trying their best to get through life and hoping for the best. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Review: The Spymistress by Jennifer Chiaverini

Publisher: Dutton
Pages: 355
Received: Received a copy from the publisher through Netgalley

Release Date: October 1, 2013
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Goodreads Synopsis:

Born to slave-holding aristocracy in Richmond, Virginia, and educated by Northern Quakers, Elizabeth Van Lew was a paradox of her time. When her native state seceded in April 1861, Van Lew’s convictions compelled her to defy the new Confederate regime. Pledging her loyalty to the Lincoln White House, her courage would never waver, even as her wartime actions threatened not only her reputation, but also her life.

Van Lew’s skills in gathering military intelligence were unparalleled. She helped to construct the Richmond Underground and orchestrated escapes from the infamous Confederate Libby Prison under the guise of humanitarian aid. Her spy ring’s reach was vast, from clerks in the Confederate War and Navy Departments to the very home of Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

Although Van Lew was inducted posthumously into the Military Intelligence Hall of Fame, the astonishing scope of her achievements has never been widely known. In Chiaverini’s riveting tale of high-stakes espionage, a great heroine of the Civil War finally gets her due.

My Review:

Another historical fiction book that definitely caught my attention when I read the synopsis, unlike all these books that usually revolve around WWII, this one takes on the Civil War (which being a Canadian, I never learned as much about it as I could have). What really caught my attention is how this book revolves around a woman who is helping during the war because people believe her to be on the Confederate side.

Elizabeth Van Lew was a very intriguing character, I loved her loyalty to a true cause and the way she fought to preserve her beliefs. This book really gives life to a true hero, seeing what she jeopardizes in order to help the fight to abolish slavery, even getting her mother involved at times. Even though Elizabeth is threatened in so many aspects, she also realizes that she needs to make sure her loved ones are safe, going as far as making sure the rest of the town sees her family as Confederates.

I will say that even though I loved the idea behind the story, I didn't completely love the story itself. I felt that I was confused through some of the story, and found myself having to repeat sections because I lost what was happening. Elizabeth goes through so much, and yet it feels like the story needs more to really capture me. I definitely saw Elizabeth's bravery and how much she cared, but something about her character felt one-dimensional at times. I just couldn't completely connect with the story as a whole.

I really wanted to love this novel about a woman helping change history in a major way, but I needed more to Elizabeth's character to really enjoy this one. It is a great start but I'm a person who likes a little more depth. The story was good and I do recommend checking it out if you are interested in historical fiction that focuses on different times, it just wasn't perfection for me. 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Review: The Good Luck of Right Now by Matthew Quick

Publisher: Harper
Pages: 304
Received: Received a copy from the publisher through Edelweiss

Release Date: February 11, 2014
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Goodreads Synopsis:

Call it fate. Call it synchronicity. Call it an act of God. Call it . . . The Good Luck of Right Now. From the New York Times bestselling author of The Silver Linings Playbook comes an entertaining and inspiring tale that will leave you pondering the rhythms of the universe and marveling at the power of kindness and love.

For thirty-eight years, Bartholomew Neil has lived with his mother. When she gets sick and dies, he has no idea how to be on his own. His redheaded grief counselor, Wendy, says he needs to find his flock and leave the nest. But how does a man whose whole life has been grounded in his mom, Saturday mass, and the library learn how to fly?

Bartholomew thinks he’s found a clue when he discovers a “Free Tibet” letter from Richard Gere hidden in his mother’s underwear drawer. In her final days, mom called him Richard—there must be a cosmic connection. Believing that the actor is meant to help him, Bartholomew awkwardly starts his new life, writing Richard Gere a series of highly intimate letters. Jung and the Dalai Lama, philosophy and faith, alien abduction and cat telepathy, the Catholic Church and the mystery of women are all explored in his soul-baring epistles. But mostly the letters reveal one man’s heartbreakingly earnest attempt to assemble a family of his own.

A struggling priest, a “Girlbrarian,” her feline-loving, foul-mouthed brother, and the spirit of Richard Gere join the quest to help Bartholomew. In a rented Ford Focus, they travel to Canada to see the cat Parliament and find his biological father . . . and discover so much more.

My Review:

Matthew Quick is such a great author, I really believe his stories are influential on readers today. Each of his characters are special and really bring to life a different side of people. Bartholomew Neil is such an adorable character, I loved him and readers can connect with him as he is on a journey of self-discovery.

Bartholomew has spent his life taking care of his mother and after she passes away he needs to find a way to start a new life on his own. He is awkward and doesn't really know how to speak to people. The whole story is told in letters that Bartholomew writes to Richard Gere about his life and the people he meets. Bartholomew feels that he has a connection to Richard Gere because his mother had a love for him. I really enjoyed Bartholomew's voice as he told his story of beginning a new life, and the way he talks with Richard Gere as he believes they have a lot in common.

The secondary characters in this are also very special people, the way they help Bartholomew on his journey is amazing. They help bring him out of his shell and become like family to him. Each character is eccentric in their own way, and as they all come together they help each other through their problems. I love that none of these characters is a perfect person, they have their quirks and they have personalities that put them on the outside of society in some ways. Each of them grew on me, and I think the story would not be the same without any of them.

What was also interesting was the way Quick brings religion into the story, there are so many different religions presented and each character finds solace in a different way. Quick shows the pros to all different views of religion and how each of them differs and in a way he connects them and has them work together to help Bartholomew through his grief.

This really was such a beautiful and heartwarming story, Bartholomew is an amazing character that all readers will root for. It's a book about finding the good in everything (even the disappointments at times), and about finding yourself. Definitely an adorable book that I recommend. 

Friday, March 14, 2014

Review: Parasite by Mira Grant

Publisher: Orbit
Series: Parasitology #1
Pages: 504
Received: Received a copy from Hachette Book Group Canada in exchange for an honest review

Release Date: October 29, 2013
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Goodreads Synopsis:

A decade in the future, humanity thrives in the absence of sickness and disease.

We owe our good health to a humble parasite - a genetically engineered tapeworm developed by the pioneering SymboGen Corporation. When implanted, the tapeworm protects us from illness, boosts our immune system - even secretes designer drugs. It's been successful beyond the scientists' wildest dreams. Now, years on, almost every human being has a SymboGen tapeworm living within them.

But these parasites are getting restless. They want their own lives...and will do anything to get them.

My Review:

This was a large book with a lot of information to it, but it was such an interesting and creepy book. In a future where people are wanting to be very healthy, scientists discover that by ingesting a parasite it will kill boost a person's immune system and help them stay ahead of almost any disease. Now that almost everyone has the parasite inside of them, things are beginning to change and a new "illness" seems to be developing.

Mira Grant has developed a story that is disturbing because it has an air of reality to it. I could imagine something like this happening, something taking living taking over human bodies for them to live their own lives. This story really takes it's time to explain what is happening, it is a very slow build, but as the book goes along more information comes out. There is a lot of running around where you are not sure about people's motivations and you really want to know more.

I really enjoyed Sally's character, she is someone that shows how well the parasite works. After being in an accident that basically left her brain dead, Sally comes back to life because of the parasite she has inside of her. Now she is under observation to see what happened and how this can help the rest of the human population. Readers can really see Sally grow, she begins as a very naive girl who is re-learning everything about her life and how to do everything. She is still under her parents continual watch and she has problems being seen as an adult.

There were a few things that came about that didn't really surprise me, I was waiting for some information to be revealed, but the way it ended was shocking and leaves readers wanting more. You can see a war coming between many different peoples, everyone with a different reason for wanting the information. After some intense things, Mira leaves readers shocked and eagerly awaiting the next book. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Review: Archetype by M.D. Waters

Publisher: Dutton Adult
Series: Archetype #1
Pages: 384
Received: Received a copy from the publisher through NetGalley

Release Date: February 6, 2014
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Goodreads Synopsis:

Introducing a breathtakingly inventive futuristic suspense novel about one woman who rebels against everything she is told to believe.

Emma wakes in a hospital, with no memory of what came before. Her husband, Declan, a powerful, seductive man, provides her with new memories, but her dreams contradict his stories, showing her a past life she can’t believe possible: memories of war, of a camp where girls are trained to be wives, of love for another man. Something inside her tells her not to speak of this, but she does not know why. She only knows she is at war with herself.

Suppressing those dreams during daylight hours, Emma lets Declan mold her into a happily married woman and begins to fall in love with him. But the day Noah stands before her, the line between her reality and dreams shatters.

In a future where women are a rare commodity, Emma fights for freedom but is held captive by the love of two men—one her husband, the other her worst enemy. If only she could remember which is which. . . .

The first novel in a two-part series, Archetype heralds the arrival of a truly memorable character—and the talented author who created her.

My Review:

Oh my gosh, this book was intense, and impossible to stop reading once I started. This is definitely an amazing suspense novel with some interesting scientific ideas behind it. So much that happened in this book completely blew my mind, and I found myself surprised at the twists that kept coming. What really made this story is how it makes readers think about where the future of humanity could go, if some of these scientific advancements actually happened.

The world building in this story is disturbing but not unsurprising, it is reminiscent of THE HANDMAID'S TALE by Margaret Atwood (a classic book). Fertility is at an all-time low during this time and girls are trained to become wives of the richest men in the world. It's scary to think that the world could turn into something like this.

ARCHETYPE gives readers an amazing main character that is truly someone I admire. Emma wakes up with no memory of the past, and as much as she tries to remember she just can't. Her dreams give her a view of a life that contradicts what she has been told, she doesn't know which story to believe. Slowly her memory begins to come back to her, as we see two parts to one person, it was interesting to bring these two characters together as a new person. Emma is a character that learns to fight for what she believes in,a dn for the freedom of the female population.

The one small issue with this book that made it difficult to love the story was the romance aspect. It seemed overdone and Emma gave in to easily to trust just because she was told she loved this person. Neither of these two male characters treat Emma with any respect (in my opinion), and I don't believe that either of those characters were a right match for Emma. Though both male characters were intriguing and I definitely wanted to know more about each of them.

Overall this book was amazing, and intense, it's addictive because you want to know the truth behind what happened to Emma. The ending of this book is crazy and M.D. Waters leaves you needing more as soon as possible (I'm glad that the next book will be out soon). I am excited to see what is next for Emma, and how she deals with the revelations that came out in this book. 

Monday, March 10, 2014

Review: And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard

Publisher: Delacorte Press
Pages: 240
Received: Received a copy from the publisher through NetGalley

Release Date: January 28, 2014
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Goodreads Synopsis:

When high school senior Paul Wagoner walks into his school library with a stolen gun, he threatens his girlfriend Emily Beam, then takes his own life. In the wake of the tragedy, an angry and guilt-ridden Emily is shipped off to boarding school in Amherst, Massachusetts, where she encounters a ghostly presence who shares her name. The spirit of Emily Dickinson and two quirky girls offer helping hands, but it is up to Emily to heal her own damaged self.

This inventive story, told in verse and in prose, paints the aftermath of tragedy as a landscape where there is good behind the bad, hope inside the despair, and springtime under the snow.

My Review:

The synopsis of this book really stuck out to me. I was interested to see how Emily handled the aftermath of her boyfriend's death, and how she herself manages being in a new school. She really gets to become a new person and keep her past hidden so that she can start a new life.  At this new school, Emily begins to come into contact with a ghostly presence, that of Emily Dickinson, and she begins to learn about herself through Emily's poems.

I did enjoy the history of Emily Dickinson in this book, and how Emily saw her life in those poems and it helped her grow and try to understand what happened. Emily Beam begins writing her own poems to help let y her anger out, and these poems are interspersed throughout the story so that readers actually get a look into how Emily is feeling.

The most difficult part of getting through this book was that it is told in a third person perspective and you don't really get the full picture of Emily's thoughts and feelings. If the story had been told from Emily's perspective there would have been a better connection with the main character. Another small issue with this book was that it focused more on Emily Dickinson's life and her poems rather than Emily Beam and her guilt of the tragedy. Through her poems, readers do slowly learn what happened before the death and what was the possible cause of the tragedy.

The story was very poetic at times, and I enjoyed Jenny's writing style, I just felt that the story needed a bit more to it. I was hoping to get to know Emily Beam better and really understand her thoughts as she made new friends. I really wanted to like this story but there were just a few things that didn't work for me and made it difficult to connect with the story. 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Review: The Martian by Andy Weir

Publisher: Crown
Pages: 369
Received: Received a copy from Random House of Canada in exchange for an honest review

Release Date: February 11, 2014
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Goodreads Synopsis:

Apollo 13 meets Cast Away in this grippingly detailed, brilliantly ingenious man-vs-nature survival thriller, set on the surface of Mars.

Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first men to walk on the surface of Mars. Now, he's sure he'll be the first man to die there.

It started with the dust storm that holed his suit and nearly killed him, and that forced his crew to leave him behind, sure he was already dead. Now he's stranded millions of miles from the nearest human being, with no way to even signal Earth that he's alive--and even if he could get word out, his food would be gone years before a rescue mission could arrive. Chances are, though, he won't have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old "human error" are much more likely to get him first.

But Mark isn't ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills--and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit--he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. But will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

My Review:

I feel like I am on such a great roll with books lately, so many of the stories are ones that really stick out and that readers will remember for awhile. This book is one that was an intense read, and I could not stop, I needed to see what Mark would do next to save himself and what more could actually go wrong for him. This book is such an inspiration to everyone in the world to work hard and do whatever possible to survive the worst of any situation.

After a bad storm on Mars unexpectedly arrives, it leaves one crew member injured and the rest of them in a rush to leave, end up leaving him there, thinking him to be dead. When Mark comes to, he realizes that he has lost contact with Earth and has no way to let people know that he is alive, even more scary is that Mark does not know how he will survive before a rescue team could get to him.

I absolutely love Mark in this novel, Andy Weir has really created a brilliant character that works hard to survive. Mark struggles but overcomes a lot, he runs into problems and he learns from his mistakes. When something goes wrong he spends time reviewing the problems and works hard to fix them, it is easy to see his scientific mind at work figuring out where to fix things to keep himself alive longer and longer. What really had me falling in love with Mark in this book was the way he could find humor in the worst situations, he is the type of person that deals with stress by making jokes, and it came across so well.

The one thing that kept my attention through this was the way Andy Weir interspersed the scientific facts of what Mark was doing to survive this unknown place, with all the drama and problems. The way the story is written is very interesting, readers get Mark's perspective through a journal he writes everyday detailing what he is doing. In between there is also the story of those back home dealing with the aftermath of a failed mission, and what they can do to help Mark.

This book really brings out the best in people, showing how the most unlikely people will come together to help someone in need. Everything that happens in this book really affected me, it was like I was reading about someone I knew and I just kept hoping things would work out for the best. This is a difficult book to talk about without giving up some spoilers, so I will say go and read it. It is an amazing story that I definitely want to re-read ASAP. 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Review: Traitor's Blade by Sebastian de Castell

Publisher: Penguin Canada
Series: Greatcoats #1
Pages: 384
Received: Received a copy from the publisher through NetGalley as part of a blog tour

Release Date: March 4, 2014
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Goodreads Synopsis:

The King is dead, the Greatcoats have been disbanded, and Falcio Val Mond and his fellow magistrates Kest and Brasti have been reduced to working as bodyguards for a nobleman who refuses to pay them. Things could be worse, of course. Their employer could be lying dead on the floor while they are forced to watch the killer plant evidence framing them for the murder. Oh wait, that’s exactly what’s happening…

Now a royal conspiracy is about to unfold in the most corrupt city in the world. A carefully orchestrated series of murders that began with the overthrow of an idealistic young king will end with the death of an orphaned girl and the ruin of everything that Falcio, Kest, and Brasti have fought for. But if the trio want to foil the conspiracy, save the girl, and reunite the Greatcoats, they’ll have to do it with nothing but the tattered coats on their backs and the swords in their hands, because these days every noble is a tyrant, every knight is a thug, and the only thing you can really trust is a traitor’s blade.

My Review:

I am very happy to be a part of this tour and talk about this book, it was a great story and the beginning to a new and interesting series. This was actually quite an intense read, there are so many action scenes throughout, and there is a great background to what brought Falcio to where he is now. This book has everything to it, there is a lot of action, political conspiracy and so much intrigue, honestly it was a heart-stopping book.

This book is about Falcio val Mond, a character who is after revenge after having a very difficult time, he and his friends are disgraced everywhere in the country, and have lost their king. They are all seen as traitor's and are seen as the lowest of the low. What is amazing, is that no matter what people think of the Greatcoats, they really stick to their beliefs. Falcio ends up on this quest and it is one where he learns a lot about himself, and gets some insight into his past.

There is so much darkness in this book, meeting the most corrupt people you could find in a book, but Falcio and his friends have this dry humour that through the darkest of times still have you laughing. I always enjoy sarcasm as a comedic device in books, there is something about it that really matches with the dark tone of the book that is already there. You could really see that these three guys were true friends, the way they interacted with one another was true. They would tell each other how it was, and were there for one another when it came down to it, it was such a great addition to the story.

The story tells of Falcio's journey as he tries to honor his king's last wish, along the way he remembers his past and how he became a Greatcoat, and learned to bring justice wherever he travels. The people he meets teach him a lot, especially the young girl he finds and vows to protect. There are so many surprises along the way, and great fantasy aspects to the story.

I truly can't wait for more of Falcio and his friends, and to see where his next journey will take him on his fight for justice. Sebastian de Castell has created a world in disarray and a main character that will fight for everyone's rights. I admire Falcio for knowing when to fight and when to walk away, and for what he believes in, he honestly believes in the rights of the people of the lower class. If you are a fan of high fantasy books with a good amount of action, then I definitely recommend checking out Traitor's Blade. 

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Review: Witchstruck by Victoria Lamb

Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Series: The Tudor Witch Trilogy #1
Pages: 320
Received: Received a copy from the publisher through NetGalley

Release Date: September 24, 2013
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Goodreads Synopsis:

If she sink, she be no witch and shall be drowned.

If she float, she be a witch and must be hanged.

Meg Lytton has always known she is different—that she bears a dark and powerful gift. But in 1554 England, in service at Woodstock Palace to the banished Tudor princess Elizabeth, it has never been more dangerous to practise witchcraft. Meg knows she must guard her secret carefully from the many suspicious eyes watching over the princess and her companions. One wrong move could mean her life, and the life of Elizabeth, rightful heir to the English throne.

With witchfinder Marcus Dent determined to have Meg's hand in marriage, and Meg's own family conspiring against the English queen, there isn't a single person Meg can trust. Certainly not the enigmatic young Spanish priest Alejandro de Castillo, despite her undeniable feelings. But when all the world turns against her, Meg must open her heart to a dangerous choice.

The Secret Circle meets The Other Boleyn Girl in Witchstruck, the first book of the magical Tudor Witch trilogy.

My Review:

Historical fiction with some fantasy thrown in for good measure, definitely a book I want to check out. I'm still a little on the fence about a few things, but all in all this book really caught my attention. I did enjoy the story and how Victoria Lamb weaved the tale of princess Elizabeth, along with the idea of real witches running around, especially so close to the banished princess.

This story is about Meg Lytton, she is a maid to the princess Elizabeth, her main problem is hiding her powers from those around her. Especially with the fact that the one person who is interested in marrying her is the best witchfinder in town, making her life even more difficult. Meg is in the most dangerous situation of her life and throughout she has many difficult choices to make that the outcomes could kill her.

A lot of events were really heart-racing in this book, that kept you going, wondering what things Meg could get herself into next. This book takes place in the height of political fight, where the kingdom is turning to Catholicism, and Meg has no one around to trust, every her own family begins to make things difficult, and completely takes readers by surprise. I really enjoyed Meg's character, she has an innocence to her and yet at the same time her power gives her strength (though she is still learning). The one thing that means everything to Meg is her family, and you can really see her love for those around her and how she will do anything for them.

Then there is Alejandro, the priest that has come to the castle to spy on Elizabeth and make sure that she is becoming a devout Catholic. His character was so mysterious and interesting. I could never figure out what he would do next, and I liked that he always surprised me with what he did.

I think at some points I felt that things were slowing down and the story didn't seem as interesting for me, but this is a fun good start to a new trilogy. I do realize that the Tudor time period seems overdone in stories sometimes but the added fantasy made this a fun story to read. It wasn't a perfect story but it was fun to read and I'm interested to see what kind of things will happen next for Meg. 


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