Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Review: The Word Exchange by Alena Graedon

Publisher: Doubleday
Pages: 384
Received: Received a copy from Random House of Canada in exchange for an honest review

Release Date: April 8, 2014
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Goodreads Synopsis:

A dystopian novel for the digital age, The Word Exchange offers an inventive, suspenseful, and decidedly original vision of the dangers of technology and of the enduring power of the printed word.

In the not-so-distant future, the forecasted “death of print” has become a reality. Bookstores, libraries, newspapers, and magazines are things of the past, and we spend our time glued to handheld devices called Memes that not only keep us in constant communication but also have become so intuitive that they hail us cabs before we leave our offices, order takeout at the first growl of a hungry stomach, and even create and sell language itself in a marketplace called the Word Exchange.

Anana Johnson works with her father, Doug, at the North American Dictionary of the English Language (NADEL), where Doug is hard at work on the last edition that will ever be printed. Doug is a staunchly anti-Meme, anti-tech intellectual who fondly remembers the days when people used email (everything now is text or videoconference) to communicate—or even actually spoke to one another, for that matter. One evening, Doug disappears from the NADEL offices, leaving a single written clue: ALICE. It’s a code word he devised to signal if he ever fell into harm’s way. And thus begins Anana’s journey down the proverbial rabbit hole . . .

Joined by Bart, her bookish NADEL colleague, Anana’s search for Doug will take her into dark basements and subterranean passageways; the stacks and reading rooms of the Mercantile Library; and secret meetings of the underground resistance, the Diachronic Society. As Anana penetrates the mystery of her father’s disappearance and a pandemic of decaying language called “word flu” spreads, The Word Exchange becomes a cautionary tale that is at once a technological thriller and a meditation on the high cultural costs of digital technology.

My Review:

Well, this book definitely caught my attention, I absolutely love the cover and the description. I think Alena Graedon has used this story to really show how technology has taken over people's lives and changed language. Though this story goes over the top, it is scary to think that something like this could happen. This book is one that I think as a reader you need to sit down and take you time to get through.

I really loved how the story was written, back and forth from Anana's perspective and Bart's, giving readers two views on this "word flu". There is so much happening in this book, that it's hard to stop reading, I wanted to know more about how things came about, and also what really happened to Anana's father, Doug. The characters are quite eccentric and have such strong personalities which really add to the whole dynamic of the story.

What I really loved about this book was how it made me actually think about my life and how technology has affected it. I am of the generation that grew up with technology, and seeing how younger generations can already do so much really makes me wonder about what the written word will be like in years to come. Don't get me wrong I am not of the belief that print is dying, but there are so many people that rely on technology for everything, I can't even leave my house without my phone, it is an extension of myself. Alena Graedon has such an interesting idea of how technology evolves to think for us and really do everything, even ordering food and taxis for us.

Honestly, this book is one that I think everyone should read just because of the impact the story itself can have on people. It makes me want to sit down and take a break from technology. But adding to the story is the history behind words and language itself, as well as discussing how new words come into fruition. Alena Graedon slowly inserts the "word flu" into her story in a way that she shows the growth of it and how it takes over slowly.

Everything about this book was amazing, and insightful, and I hope to see more from Alena in the future.

Stay tuned in the next couple of days for an interview with Alena. 

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Review: Under the Wide and Starry Sky by Nancy Horan

Publisher: Harper Collins
Pages: 452
Received: Received a copy from Harper Collins Canada in exchange for an honest review

Release Date: January 21, 2014
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Goodreads Synopsis:

The passionate and turbulent story of Robert Louis Stevenson and his tempestuous American wife, Fanny.

At the age of thirty-five, Fanny van de Grift Osbourne leaves her philandering husband in San Francisco and sets sail for Belgium to study art, with her three children and a nanny in tow. Not long after her arrival, however, tragedy strikes, and Fanny and her brood repair to a quiet artists' colony in France where she can recuperate. There she meets Robert Louis Stevenson, ten years her junior, who is instantly smitten with the earthy, independent and opinionated belle Americaine.

A woman ahead of her time, Fanny does not immediately take to the young lawyer who longs to devote his life to literature, and who would eventually write such classics as Treasure Island and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. In time, though, she succumbs to Stevenson's charms. The two begin a fierce love affair, marked by intense joy and harrowing darkness, which spans decades as they travel the world for the sake of his health. Eventually they settled in Samoa, where Robert Louis Stevenson is buried underneath the epitaph:

Under the wide and starry sky,
Dig the grave and let me lie.
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will.

This be the verse you grave for me:
Here he lies where he longed to be;
Home is the sailor, home from sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.
(Requiem, Robert Louis Stevenson)

My Review:

So many books are coming out lately about the private life of many past authors, and I really love learning so much more about the people who wrote so many classic books that are still loved today. Robert Louis Stevenson is a most interesting character to base a story around, but this book is not only about him, but also Fanny van de Grift Osbourne, the woman he falls in love with.

This is quite a long story, there is a lot of information and the story spans over many years. I enjoyed seeing how these two characters met and how their relationship came to be, as well as how they worked together over the years. The chapters switch from Fanny's view to Robert's view, seeing how they both feel really added to the emotion in the story. It was interesting to see how each of them felt about different situations and how certain things affected them differently.

I felt like this story had too much going on, it was long and at times it felt like there was a lot of information that did not seem completely relevant. Horan has a great writing style, but the story was long and sometimes it was difficult to keep reading. I felt myself almost giving up on the story at times, but I am happy to say I kept on until the end.

The relationship between these two characters is strong, but there are a lot of difficulties for them, and readers can see how intense both Fanny and Robert are. The intensity these two have towards their work sometimes sees clashes between them. I loved how Fanny was there for Robert and helped him through some of his most difficult periods. I did want a little bit more about Fanny, rather than seeing how Robert affected her, though I understand a lot of her life revolved around him after they got together.

Both of them go through rough periods and I believe that the way they get through the situations shows how strong the love is between them. Though this was a hard book to get through because of how long and sometimes tedious it could be, it was a good story about someone who has had such a great effect on the literary scene. 

Friday, April 25, 2014

Review: Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige

Publisher: Harper Collins
Series: Dorothy Must Die #1
Pages: 452
Received: Received a copy from Harper Collins Canada in exchange for an honest review

Release Date: April 1, 2014
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Goodreads Synopsis:

I didn't ask for any of this. I didn't ask to be some kind of hero. But when your whole life gets swept up by a tornado—taking you with it—you have no choice but to go along, you know?

Sure, I've read the books. I've seen the movies. I know the song about the rainbow and the happy little blue birds. But I never expected Oz to look like this. To be a place where Good Witches can't be trusted, Wicked Witches may just be the good guys, and winged monkeys can be executed for acts of rebellion. There's still the yellow brick road, though—but even that's crumbling.

What happened?
Dorothy. They say she found a way to come back to Oz. They say she seized power and the power went to her head. And now no one is safe.

My name is Amy Gumm—and I'm the other girl from Kansas.
I've been recruited by the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked.
I've been trained to fight.
And I have a mission:
Remove the Tin Woodman's heart.
Steal the Scarecrow's brain.
Take the Lion's courage.
Then and only then—Dorothy must die!

My Review:

Oh how excited I was for this book, a story about what happened to Dorothy after what we know to be the end... I couldn't say no to something like this. I do believe that Danielle Paige has an interesting idea with this story, but though I enjoyed parts of the book, I also felt that there was too much going on at times. The story started out well, really getting readers interested in the history of Oz, following the story that we all know. But after some time, the story becomes confusing when everything starts happening at once.

Amy is a great character, she has this sarcastic streak to her which I love and I definitely felt had a great humour to it. I like that Amy has the attitude that gets her in trouble a lot and she is the type to react quickly to certain things, she is a great MC, and I believe that she will have more great adventures in the future of this series. But, I wanted a little more of her to the book though, there were a lot of secondary characters that it seemed took away from Amy and her mission. The characters that we all know and love from The Wizard of Oz come back with a darker streak to them, I thought it was interesting to see how things can change so easily when you get what you want.

Danielle Paige has a great amount of action happening in this first book that I believe will keep readers intrigued. Oz has become a dark place and I do think this series has brought an interesting view on a follow up to the much loved story. The main thing that made this book difficult to love was that there was too much going on in one book (especially with the fact that it is the first one in a series). There are too many aspects that all come out in this book, and not everything is explained in detail.

As much as I wanted to love this book, there were a few issues that I had. I enjoyed the story but I think Danielle Paige put too much in one book, and that some of the issues should have been outlined over the entire series. I am still a little interested to see what will happen next, and see more of the action that Danielle has with these loveable characters. The ending left me confused and wondering exactly what Amy is supposed to do. I hope there are more explanations along the rest of the series.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Review: The Age by Nancy Lee

Publisher: McClelland and Stewart
Pages: 288
Received: Received a copy from Random House of Canada in exchange for an honest review

Release Date: April 1, 2014
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Goodreads Synopsis:

Set in Vancouver in 1984, as Soviet warships swarm the North Atlantic, The Age follows Gerry, a troubled teenager confronted with her single mom’s newest relationship. When she takes solace in a ragtag group of activists planning a subversive protest at the city’s upcoming peach march, her fascination with the group’s leader, and her struggle with sexual identity creates a rift between Gerry and her best friend, Ian. Bolstered by her grandfather, an eccentric ex-news anchor in the throes of a bitter divorce, Gerry tries to put herself at the centre of the protest group’s violent plot. When the demands of these complex relationship become too difficult, Gerry escapes to the role she knows best, survivor in a post-nuclear dystopia of her own creation. Gerry’s real life and fantasy life alternate and accelerate until a collision of events and consequences forces her towards life or death decisions in both worlds.

Electric and engaging, with piercing observation, subversive wit, and the same fearlessness that caused a sensation amongst critics and fans of Dead Girls, The Age is at once a startling post-apocalyptic drama, a harrowing journey through adolescent recklessness and desire, and a dark portrait of a generation molded by nuclear anxiety. Its arrival confirms Nancy Lee as one of Canadian Literature’s most thrilling and compelling voices.

My Review:

This was an intriguing book for me, but I had some issues at times getting through it and understanding exactly what was happening. Gerry is someone who is growing up too quickly for her own good, the people she spends her time with change her view and really bring her into an adult view of things. She is someone who is struggling with her own personality and is easily swayed by those around her. Her best friend, Ian struggles to help Gerry through her issues.

I did really enjoy following Gerry's path to finding herself among a group of people who are older and often treat her as a kid. What sometimes confused me was the other storyline throughout the story, it is about a boy surviving in a post-apocalyptic world, learning how to get by and take care of himself and sometimes others in this scary time. This story would come up at different times and it would just switch to this perspective, confusing me as a reader at times to where I was in the story.

I did really enjoy Gerry's character, despite her trying to find herself, she has spunk. She knows how to fight back, sometimes you can see how young she is with her attitude towards things, and other times you can see how she is trying to grow up too fast. She has issues with her mother, who you can see is trying hard to be a good parent knowing how hard it is to do it on her own.

Gerry's father is not around so the male characters in her life add to the story, her best friend Ian is someone that you are not sure if she is in love with or aspires to be like. Then there is her grandfather, who through her is getting a second chance at being around for a child's life, but the way he spends time with Gerry makes you wonder if there is crazy in all parts of her life.

Honestly, as confusing as this story was at times, I enjoyed the coming of age story during such a difficult period of time in history. I did like the characters that were written, they added a lot to the story, and I think each person Gerry comes into contact with really affects her life and personality in such a huge way. I think Nancy Lee has written a great story, yes it is a little confusing at times, but it's about a girl finding herself while so much is happening around her. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Review: NIL by Lynne Matson

Publisher: Henry Holt 
Pages: 384
Received: Received an e-copy from Raincoast Books in exchange for an honest review

Release Date: March 4, 2014
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Goodreads Synopsis:

On the mysterious island of Nil, the rules are set. You have one year. Exactly 365 days--to escape, or you die.

Seventeen-year-old Charley doesn’t know the rules. She doesn’t even know where she is. The last thing she remembers is blacking out, and when she wakes up, she’s lying naked in an empty rock field.

Lost and alone, Charley finds no sign of other people until she meets Thad, the gorgeous leader of a clan of teenage refugees. Soon Charley learns that leaving the island is harder than she thought . . . and so is falling in love. With Thad’s time running out, Charley realizes that to save their future, Charley must first save him. And on an island rife with dangers, their greatest threat is time.

My Review:

What an interesting concept this book had, I really loved the idea of teens being stuck on an island and only have so much time to escape before they die. I think Lynne had a great idea, but the whole concept was not brought out as well as I thought in the story. As much as there were great things about the story, I felt like the romance story took precedent and it wasn't what I was looking for from this book.

I liked the idea that none of the people on the island truly understand what is happening, and that Matson makes the island a character itself. Many characters refer to the island as a person, commenting on how NIL will throw anything at those staying, making it seem like a game. It's great that a happy moment can be so easily ruined, you can see that whoever is in charge plays with the characters emotions, showing them that nothing is for certain. This idea really makes the book creepy, with readers never really knowing what could happen next.

For me the biggest problem I had, was the way the romance was portrayed between Charley and Thad. I just felt like that's what the story revolved around once they met, instead of actually figuring out the island and how to beat this "game". It seems like right away these two are meant for each other, even though they know nothing about the other person, and I can see how in a way it added to the story, but I personally felt like this aspect took away from the overall feeling of how scary this island is.

I did think that Charley's character was great, she is a fighter and she learns a lot about herself while on NIL. She has this strength of fighting to stay alive in the worst conditions and she gets through some tough situations with her determination to get out of this place. I think that she is the only true one who had the determination to try and figure out the puzzle of the island, whereas the others that she meets just seem to go along with what is happening.

There were a lot of enjoyable parts of this novel for me, but in the end I just could not connect. I felt that what the story was supposed to be about just fell under the radar for another book about two people meeting and falling in love through some dire circumstances. I was enjoying the story at times but I wanted more of the island and what the point behind it was, I think the story needed to delve deeper into that. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Review: A Burnable Book by Bruce Holsinger

Publisher: William Morrow and Company
Pages: 444
Received: Received a copy from HarperCollins Canada in exchange for an honest review

Release Date: February 18, 2014
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Goodreads Synopsis:

In Chaucer’s London, betrayal, murder and intrigue swirl around the existence of a prophetic book that foretells the deaths of England’s kings.A Burnable Book is an irresistible thriller, reminiscent of classics like An Instance of the FingerpostThe Name of the Rose and The Crimson Petal and the White.

London, 1385. Surrounded by ruthless courtiers—including his powerful uncle, John of Gaunt, and Gaunt’s flamboyant mistress, Katherine Swynford—England’s young, still untested king, Richard II, is in mortal peril, and the danger is only beginning. Songs are heard across London—catchy verses said to originate from an ancient book that prophesies the end of England’s kings—and among the book’s predictions is Richard’s assassination. Only a few powerful men know that the cryptic lines derive from a “burnable book,” a seditious work that threatens the stability of the realm. To find the manuscript, wily bureaucrat Geoffrey Chaucer turns to fellow poet John Gower, a professional trader in information with connections high and low.

Gower discovers that the book and incriminating evidence about its author have fallen into the unwitting hands of innocents, who will be drawn into a labyrinthine conspiracy that reaches from the king’s court to London’s slums and stews--and potentially implicates his own son. As the intrigue deepens, it becomes clear that Gower, a man with secrets of his own, may be the last hope to save a king from a terrible fate.

Medieval scholar Bruce Holsinger draws on his vast knowledge of the period to add colorful, authentic detail—on everything from poetry and bookbinding to court intrigues and brothels—to this highly entertaining and brilliantly constructed epic literary mystery that brings medieval England gloriously to life.

My Review:

This book was an intense read, I was intrigued by the idea of one simple book being the cause of so much destruction. This one inanimate objects bring so many people together from so many different areas is amazing. This book causes so much trouble, and it's not completely understood what it is or where it came from. The story is a race to find this book before it causes more trouble.

There is a large cast of characters in this book, that in a way are all connected through this mysterious book. I enjoyed the setting and seeing the book move around and how it affects those who have come into contact with it. This book that everyone is looking for tells of prophecies that detail the deaths of past kings, as well as discusses how the current king will die. It is seen as treasonous and if it got into the wrong hands could be fatal. I thought this book was a great read, it was mysterious with some great scenes that keep you wanting to know more about how things came about.

Most of the novel is told from the point of view of John Gower, a friend of Geoffrey Chaucer who is asked to find this offensive book. Gower is the perfect person for this job because of his connections with people, he calls in many favors from some of these people and the outcome is surprising at times. Gower has his own secrets that are slowly revealed, but he is someone who tries to keep those secrets hidden. Gower knows that people are most susceptible when their secrets are known, and that is how he is able to get people to help him throughout the book.

Interspersed throughout the story is a letter, that at first is confusing to the reader and as the story comes to an end, connects everything together bringing out a surprising turn of events. I really loved how Holsinger brought out this story, really stringing things along that makes you want to keep reading to understand the mystery. I enjoyed the thrilling adventure in this book and I definitely want to read more from Holsinger if all his books are like this. 

Friday, April 11, 2014

Review: Falling Out of Time by David Grossman

Publisher: Knopf
Pages: 208
Received: Received a copy from Random House of Canada in exchange for an honest review

Release Date: March 25, 2014
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Goodreads Synopsis:

Following his magisterial To the End of the Land, the universally acclaimed Israeli author brings us an incandescent fable of parental grief––concise, elemental, a powerfully distilled experience of understanding and acceptance, and of art’s triumph over death.

In Falling Out of Time, David Grossman has created a genre-defying drama––part play, part prose, pure poetry––to tell the story of bereaved parents setting out to reach their lost children. It begins in a small village, in a kitchen, where a man announces to his wife that he is leaving, embarking on a journey in search of their dead son. The man––called simply Walking Man––paces in ever-widening circles around the town. One after another, all manner of townsfolk fall into step with him (the Net-Mender, the Midwife, the Elderly Math Teacher, even the Duke), each enduring his or her own loss. The walkers raise questions of grief and bereavement: Can death be overcome by an intensity of speech or memory? Is it possible, even for a fleeting moment, to call to the dead and free them from their death? Grossman’s answer to such questions is a hymn to these characters, who ultimately find solace and hope in their communal act of breaching death’s hermetic separateness. For the reader, the solace is in their clamorous vitality, and in the gift of Grossman’s storytelling––a realm where loss is not merely an absence but a life force of its own.

My Review:

I chose this book to read because I wanted to try something new and out of my comfort zone, and the synopsis of this book really had me interested. I have to say that the time that I chose this book was a very difficult time for me, I had just lost my grandmother and I think reading a book about death and bereavement helped me in a way. Though what the characters in this book were going through was different, it still really speaks to readers about how hard loss is.

This book is a short and can be a quick read, but I think it is the type of book that you really need to spend a lot of time going over. It makes you think and if you don't pay attention, you could get lost as to what is happening with the characters. I think that the story being written in a poetic verse added to the story, in a way the grief of these characters came out more in the writing. Each person walking in these circles is calling out to their lost one hoping for one last fleeting moment, for just a little bit of solace. I'm not completely sure how to  review this book, it's not a story for everyone (I was ready to give up once or twice) but I found myself seeing what these people were going through, and almost hoping for something to come out of what they were doing.

I can say I am glad I tried to get out of my comfort zone for once with this book. It is a story that will touch readers, and I do want to go back to it again because I believe I will find more to the story during a second and even third reading of it. I found this book interesting, even though it was difficult to understand what was happening at times. 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Review: Hexed by Michelle Krys

Publisher: Delacorte Press
Series: The Witch Hunter #1
Pages: 384
Received: Received a copy from the publisher through Netgalley

Release Date: June 10, 2014
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Goodreads Synopsis:

If high school is all about social status, Indigo Blackwood has it made. Sure, her quirky mom owns an occult shop, and a nerd just won’t stop trying to be her friend, but Indie is a popular cheerleader with a football-star boyfriend and a social circle powerful enough to ruin everyone at school. Who wouldn’t want to be her?

Then a guy dies right before her eyes. And the dusty old family Bible her mom is freakishly possessive of is stolen. But it’s when a frustratingly sexy stranger named Bishop enters Indie’s world that she learns her destiny involves a lot more than pom-poms and parties. If she doesn’t get the Bible back, every witch on the planet will die. And that’s seriously bad news for Indie, because according to Bishop, she’s a witch too.

Suddenly forced into a centuries-old war between witches and sorcerers, Indie’s about to uncover the many dark truths about her life—and a future unlike any she ever imagined on top of the cheer pyramid.

My Review:

I was so excited about this book, just look at the cover, and going back to the idea of witches, I miss those type of books. The idea behind the book was great, but I have to say that the story did not completely play out as I was expecting, and the story fell a little short. The main issue with this book is that a lot is going on with little explanation. I felt quite confused throughout the story and it wasn't until closer to the end that things started making a bit more sense. The book leaves readers hanging with so many questions, and not enough character development.

I did enjoy the characters at times, Indigo was interesting and I liked her attitude throughout. She is ready to fight even though she doesn't completely understand what is happening because no one will fully explain things. I feel that Indigo still has a lot of growing to do over the series, but this book was a good start to showing she will fight for what's right. I think she is good at thinking on her feet at times throughout the story, but at other times she does regress into a confused girl (which is understandable for some of the situations). I think Indigo is a character readers take time to warm up to, she isn't the nice girl that everyone loves, and that made the book different than many others. Bishop was one person that I wanted more information on, he appears and disappears so much throughout the novel that readers don't really get a chance to know or understand him. The characters in this story were too one-dimensional and need to be fleshed out more, though the story needs more information itself.

I really liked the idea of the war between witches and sorcerer's and I think this was an interesting way to take the story, but I needed more of that, than focusing on Indigo and her life sometimes. There were some interesting action scenes involving the magic but they were few and far between. I want to know more about both these groups, because the idea behind the feud is intriguing and has me wanting to know more. I can tell that Michelle Krys has an interesting story, it just needs a little more work to keep the attention of some readers.

The most confusing part for me was how the story was narrated, it seemed to jump around at times, and I was confused as to what was happening. The ending definitely leaves me interested to know what will happen next for Indigo, if not at least to understand more about "The Family" and their true purpose in the world. The magic aspect was great and I think it really added to the story from where it fell short in places. In the end, I don't think this was the book for me (probably not really the target audience for it), but I can see there being progress as the series goes on. 

Friday, April 4, 2014

Review: The Wife, The Maid and the Mistress by Ariel Lawhon

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

Release Date: January 14, 2014
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Goodreads Synopsis:

A tantalizing reimagining of a scandalous mystery that rocked the nation in 1930-Justice Joseph Crater's infamous disappearance-as seen through the eyes of the three women who knew him best.

They say behind every great man, there's a woman. In this case, there are three. Stella Crater, the judge's wife, is the picture of propriety draped in long pearls and the latest Chanel. Ritzi, a leggy showgirl with Broadway aspirations, thinks moonlighting in the judge's bed is the quickest way off the chorus line. Maria Simon, the dutiful maid, has the judge to thank for her husband's recent promotion to detective in the NYPD. Meanwhile, Crater is equally indebted to Tammany Hall leaders and the city's most notorious gangster, Owney "The Killer" Madden.

On a sultry summer night, as rumors circulate about the judge's involvement in wide-scale political corruption, the Honorable Joseph Crater steps into a cab and disappears without a trace. Or does he?

After 39 years of necessary duplicity, Stella Crater is finally ready to reveal what she knows. Sliding into a plush leather banquette at Club Abbey, the site of many absinthe-soaked affairs and the judge's favorite watering hole back in the day, Stella orders two whiskeys on the rocks-one for her and one in honor of her missing husband. Stirring the ice cubes in the lowball glass, Stella begins to tell a tale-of greed, lust, and deceit. As the novel unfolds and the women slyly break out of their prescribed roles, it becomes clear that each knows more than she has initially let on.

With a layered intensity and prose as effervescent as the bubbly that flows every night, The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress is a wickedly entertaining historical mystery that will transport readers to a bygone era with tipsy spins through subterranean jazz clubs and backstage dressing rooms. But beneath the Art Deco skyline and amid the intoxicating smell of smoke and whiskey, the question of why Judge Crater disappeared lingers seductively until a twist in the very last pages.

My Review:

This book was a bit of a complicated one to get through, it jumps around a lot between the three female characters and their interactions with Joseph Crater and the people he is affiliated with. I enjoyed the round about way that the author wrote this story, giving readers a view of how many people's lives changed with the disappearance of the judge, and the mystery as to what actually happened to him.

Ariel Lawhon takes us to the present where after years of never solving the mystery, Judge Crater's wife is ready to tell the story of what she knows, and readers get taken back in time to when he disappears. Sometimes the story goes further back in the past to see how each of the three female characters were introduced to him.

This book will keep readers interested because you can see that there is something hidden beneath everything going on, and you need to read to the end to figure things out. I will say I was a little disappointed at how the ending was written, I think it could have been drawn out in a different way that really caught your attention and make you think about everything that you have just read.

Though the ending let me down a little bit, I really enjoyed the build up Ariel Lawhon has for her readers throughout the story, keeping you interested in the story and wondering what led up to the disappearance. I also think that Ariel did a great job setting the scene bringing readers into the 1930's with great descriptions of the different places that you would find some of the seediest people. 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Review: Vienna Nocturne by Vivien Shotwell

Publisher: Bond Street Books
Pages: 256
Received: Received a copy from Random House of Canada in exchange for an honest review

Release Date: February 25, 2014
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Goodreads Synopsis:

Vienna Nocturne tells the story of the turbulent life and brilliantly successful career of young British opera singer Anna Storace, a child prodigy who is taken by her parents to Italy at age thirteen to advance her career. In love with life and wildly ambitious, Anna wants everything--to be famous, to be loved--and this leads her to make some fatal choices. We watch her turn from a carefree young girl to a passionate young woman, and it is during this transformation that her affair with Mozart blossoms. The story of their love, no less powerful for being forbidden, is reminiscent of the passionate thwarted romances described in Loving Frank and Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. Written in melodious prose by a young author studying opera at Yale, Vienna Nocturne is dramatic story of a woman's battle to find love and fame in an 18th-century world that controls and limits her at every turn.

My Review:

Vivien Shotwell has brought to life an intriguing character, Anna Storace is amazing, and is someone who is very ambitious in her career. I really enjoyed learning about Anna's life and how hard she had to work to get her career started, and how difficult it was for someone like her to be recognized in a different country as a professional. Readers can see Anna grow over the course of the book, she is young and immature and it really shows, but she grows a lot and learns about love from the many men in her life.

The one thing I went into this book hoping for was a strong focus on the affair with Mozart and really getting to see Mozart as a primary character, but I think this part of the story fell short for me. I felt that it took awhile to get into the story of Anna and Mozart, and it ends so quickly. Mozart was a secondary character and this component of the story fell into the background, the story was more a focus on Anna and her life and choices as she grows over the years.

I can say that I did enjoy the writing of the story, Vivien does a beautiful job of describing the profession of an opera singer. The descriptions of the way these characters sing and how serious they take it just touched my heart and felt so eloquent, like what I imagine an opera singer to be. I love books that bring an artistic talent to life, it adds to the story so much.

I did enjoy the scenes between Anna and Mozart, I think he helped her grow a lot over the course of the book, but in all honesty, I wanted more of those two. I felt that the romance did not come out well enough in the short span of the book. As much as I enjoyed many parts of this book, the part that really caught my attention in the synopsis was the one part that didn't really meet expectations. Much of the writing in this book is beautiful and captivating for readers, and I do recommend the book for historical fiction fans, but don't go into it expecting a lot on the romance front. 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Review: Rain of the Ghosts by Greg Weisman

Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Series: Rain Cacique #1
Pages: 240
Received: Received a copy from Raincoast in exchange for an honest review

Release Date: December 3, 2013
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Goodreads Synopsis:

Rain of the Ghosts is the first in Greg Weisman's series about an adventurous young girl, Rain Cacique, who discovers she has a mystery to solve, a mission to complete and, oh, yes, the ability to see ghosts.

Welcome to the Prospero Keys (or as the locals call them: the Ghost Keys), a beautiful chain of tropical islands on the edge of the Bermuda Triangle. Rain Cacique is water-skiing with her two best friends Charlie and Miranda when Rain sees her father waiting for her at the dock. Sebastian Bohique, her maternal grandfather, has passed away. He was the only person who ever made Rain feel special. The only one who believed she could do something important with her life. The only thing she has left to remember him by is the armband he used to wear: two gold snakes intertwined, clasping each other’s tails in their mouths. Only the armband . . . and the gift it brings: Rain can see dead people. Starting with the Dark Man: a ghost determined to reveal the Ghost Keys’ hidden world of mystery and mysticism, intrigue and adventure.

My Review:

I had a few issues with this story, I can say I was intrigued by the cover and the synopsis but I felt that this story did not completely live up to expectations. I really was taken with the idea that Rain is able to ghosts, and that there is a mystery lurking in the island. I am usually intrigued by ghost stories, and there were times where the book had me interested and wanting to understand more of what was happening, but I think it fell short by the end.

I felt that the characters came off younger than I was expecting them to, and it made the story difficult at times. Rain also seemed to have an attitude that did not sit well with me through this story, the way she acted was like she was better than her friends and it got on my nerves. Her friend Charlie had a weird way about him as well, and I think these characters were not fleshed out enough. In a way, I loved how devoted Charlie was to helping Rain with anything, but at the same time it seemed like that made him very open to being taken advantage of...

The biggest issue I had with this book though was the narration aspect, it is told from the perspective of a completely different character, and it felt disjointed and confusing a lot of the time. It's not defined how this other character knows everything that is going on, or even who this character actually is (until near the end, and even then I was still confused). Then other times I felt that the narration did jump to the view of Charlie or Rain... it just seemed a bit all over the place.

I do think this book is geared towards a younger audience, and I think the series will be interesting as it continues on. There were parts that were intriguing and that will keep some readers coming back to understand more about the mystery behind this island. In the end, the book was too short and things happened to quickly for me to get into the series. 


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