Friday, July 31, 2015

Review: The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler

Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Pages: 352
Received: Received a copy from Raincoast Books in exchange for an honest review

Release Date: June 23, 2015
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Goodreads Synopsis:

A sweeping and captivating debut novel about a young librarian who is sent a mysterious old book, inscribed with his grandmother's name. What is the book's connection to his family?

Simon Watson, a young librarian, lives alone on the Long Island Sound in his family home, a house perched on the edge of a cliff that is slowly crumbling into the sea. His parents are long dead, his mother having drowned in the water his house overlooks.

One day, Simon receives a mysterious book from an antiquarian bookseller; it has been sent to him because it is inscribed with the name Verona Bonn, Simon's grandmother. Simon must unlock the mysteries of the book, and decode his family history, before fate deals its next deadly hand.

The Book of Speculation is Erika Swyler's gorgeous and moving debut, a wondrous novel about the power of books, family, and magic.

My Review:

I was really interested in this story because of the idea of this mysterious book showing up at Simon's house and revealing to him a new story of his family. Simon is going through a tough time, his parents have passed away and his house is slowly crumbling to the ground, so when he receives a package with a book that has a connection to his family history he begins to look deeper into the past and how it could affect his future.

The idea that a book has such a connection to someone's past is haunting, I enjoyed the historical significance that this mysterious book had on Simon, and it was great to see the back and forth between the two different story lines. As Simon goes through a tough time this book is the one thing that keeps him going. He spends all his time learning more about his family history to try and stop fate from causing more havoc.

What the book contained was not really what I was interested in, it was watching Simon try and change the magical history his family has. I can say that I was captivated at points, but there were times where I felt like the two stories were not completely matching up, and I was having trouble keeping up with how they connected with one another. The side of the story with the circus characters got a little more interesting as the story went on, I just wanted to understand a little more what Simon's story had to do with these people.

Simon really trusted everything this book had and he let it control his life, it causes him to dig deep to find out what happened to the women in his family, I felt that this search almost ruins Simon, it's not helping him solve his problems he has in life, it just keeps him busy and I believe it makes life harder on him.

This is a book that I am back and forth on how I feel about it, on one hand it was a great story about family, but on the other hand I just felt it was missing that little something to really push it over the edge.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Review: Apple and Rain by Sarah Crossan

Publisher: Bloomsbury
Pages: 352
Received: Received a copy from the publisher through Netgalley

Release Date: May 12, 2015
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Goodreads Synopsis:

When Apple was three years old, her mother abandoned her. Now, eleven years later, Apple’s mother suddenly reappears and Apple feels almost whole again. Her mother will do anything to make up for her absence. There’s just one burning question still to be answered: Why did she leave?

But getting to the truth isn’t as easy as Apple hopes—because her mother’s been keeping a secret from her. It’s only when Apple meets someone more lost than she is that she begins to learn the true meaning of family.

From acclaimed author Sarah Crossan comes a stunning new novel—beautifully told through prose and poetry—about betrayal, growing up, and the ultimate path to healing.

My Review:

I am not too sure what I was getting into with this book, it is definitely a book about family and learning about yourself through those around you. The writing of this book is what really kept me going, Sarah Crossan has a way with her words and she really did bring the character of Apple to life and had readers truly feeling her pain.

Apple lost her mother at a very young age and ever since has been wishing for her to come back, she wants her mom to realize what she left behind and regret her decision. When her mother finally comes back for her she wants answers as to why she left so many years ago, but before anything comes about, secrets are revealed that causes Apple to wonder how much her mother really wants her around. The one thing I found is that in the beginning though Apple is a teenager she seems very young still and has a lot of learning about life. Readers can actually see Apple growing more as the book continues on, she not only learns about herself but she learns about those who truly love and care for her.

This book shows readers that there is more to a family than meets the eye, there are so many great people that Apple doesn't really see because she is too busy thinking about herself and what having her mom back means for her. I feel really bad because in ways she hurts others around her without truly seeing what she is doing. I loved seeing Apple finally learn what family is to her and how she falls in love with the unexpected. Apple had a tough time never understanding why her mother didn't want her and she has always been very sheltered because of the mistake her mother made in the past so when she has the chance to do things for herself, she truly gets to learn from the past and make a different future for herself.

Sarah Crossan has given readers a book with so much heart to it that as much as you dislike the characters, especially how Apple treats people sometimes, you will still fall in love with them by the end. These people are flawed but they need to learn and grow up, in many ways even the adults have growing up to do as much as the children in this story. Apple definitely learns that a broken heart takes a lot more to heal than just wishing for someone to be there.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Review: Miss Emily by Nuala O'Conner

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

Release Date: July 14, 2015
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Goodreads Synopsis:

Nuala O’Connor’s enchanting American debut novel, Miss Emily, reimagines the private life of Emily Dickinson, one of America’s most beloved poets, through her own voice and through the eyes of her family’s Irish maid.

Eighteen-year-old Ada Concannon has just been hired by the respected but eccentric Dickinson family of Amherst, Massachusetts. Despite their difference in age and the upstairs-downstairs divide, Ada strikes up a deep friendship with Miss Emily, the gifted elder daughter living a spinster’s life at home. But Emily’s passion for words begins to dominate her life. She will wear only white and avoids the world outside the Dickinson homestead. When Ada’s safety and reputation are threatened, however, Emily must face down her own demons in order to help her friend, with shocking consequences.

My Review:

I am happy to have taken part in the blog tour for this amazing book, it is one that is beautifully written and will touch readers. Nuala O'Connor truly brings Emily Dickinson to life on these pages, but I love even more that it is not all about her but the story is also about those people around her. I thought it was interesting how Nuala used the voice of a maid to show a side of Emily.

The small thing that I found hard was how quickly the story would shift perspectives at times, I felt that I was really getting somewhere with one of the characters, the chapter would end and I would be following a bit of a different storyline. Though this got to me at times, I was able to easily forget about it because I was so into the story, the fact that one story would abruptly stop made me want to keep reading to know more about what they were doing. This book was intense at times, and I thought that the relationship between Emily and Ada was such a great way to show Emily's personality and how much she cares about those close to her.

Misss Emily is such an interesting take on Emily Dickinson's private life, especially being such a short book, there is not a lot of time to really bring readers into this idea, but I think Nuala did a great job. After reading this book I can say that I am more interested in studying up more about this poet. I have never been one to really know about poetry and I only know a couple of her poems, but the idea of her being so closed in really makes it hard for people to get to know her. There is a lot that readers will learn about Emily Dickinson as a person and you truly see what lengths she will go to so that she can save someone she loves.

Both the girls in this story have such strong personalities and despite their divide in class, Ada and Emily become fast friends because they are so alike in ways that others can't see. Both of these girls have a lot of hurdles to bear and they help each other, Emily is used to letting her writing take control and Ada comes out of nowhere and slowly brings her out of this shell she has been in for so many years. Honestly, this short little book has a lot to give readers, I actually wish there had been more because I felt that there was more to the story than I got to see.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Review: The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma

Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Pages: 336
Received: Received a copy from the publisher through NetGalley

Release Date: March 24, 2015
Buy From / Buy From

Goodreads Synopsis:

On the outside, there's Violet, an eighteen-year-old dancer days away from the life of her dreams when something threatens to expose the shocking truth of her achievement.

On the inside, within the walls of the Aurora Hills juvenile detention center, there's Amber, locked up for so long she can't imagine freedom.

Tying their two worlds together is Orianna, who holds the key to unlocking all the girls' darkest mysteries…

What really happened on the night Orianna stepped between Violet and her tormentors? What really happened on two strange nights at Aurora Hills? Will Amber and Violet and Orianna ever get the justice they deserve—in this life or in another one?

In prose that sings from line to line, Nova Ren Suma tells a supernatural tale of guilt and of innocence, and of what happens when one is mistaken for the other.

Goodreads Synopsis:

Wow, can Nova Ren Suma weave a story together, I never would have imagined something like this coming together as it did. A story of a dancer living out her dreams while on the other side of the story, there is another girl who is dreaming of her freedom in a juvenile detention center. I have not read a Nova Ren Suma book before but I've heard great things about her writing style, and I can say that she draws her readers in and keeps a very tight hold throughout the whole story.

This book was intense, there is so much back and forth between the two characters, Violet and Amber, and slowly as readers get more into the story, the history of these two characters eventually reveal itself. These two girls are connected in a very deep way, but what exactly is this mysterious event and what actually happened that night to bring these girls where they are now.

There is a darkness to this book, and yet Nova's prose writing brings a light to the darkness as well. She brings to life a supernatural tale that is still very real, it is about the ghosts that torment us when we feel guilt. Readers will be enthralled to find out what happened and why these two characters are so entwined with one another. What happens as Violet visits Aurora Hills, we see both stories collide together and the past comes rushing back so that both girls learn more about each other and what their friendship was like.

Reading this book and seeing what Nova Ren Suma's writing style is like makes me want to read her books that much more, I love the prose that just grabs a readers attention and keeps you wanting more even long past the book has finished. Her dark tale has a true meaning to it and will really make you think about how you have treated things in the past.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Review: The Just City by Jo Walton

Publisher: Tor Books
Series: Thessaly #1
Pages: 368
Received: Received a copy from Raincoast Books in exchange for an honest review

Release Date: January 13, 2015
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Goodreads Synopsis:

"Here in the Just City you will become your best selves. You will learn and grow and strive to be excellent." 

Created as an experiment by the time-traveling goddess Pallas Athene, the Just City is a planned community, populated by over ten thousand children and a few hundred adult teachers from all eras of history, along with some handy robots from the far human future--all set down together on a Mediterranean island in the distant past.

The student Simmea, born an Egyptian farmer's daughter sometime between 500 and 1000 A.D, is a brilliant child, eager for knowledge, ready to strive to be her best self. The teacher Maia was once Ethel, a young Victorian lady of much learning and few prospects, who prayed to Pallas Athene in an unguarded moment during a trip to Rome--and, in an instant, found herself in the Just City with grey-eyed Athene standing unmistakably before her.

Meanwhile, Apollo--stunned by the realization that there are things mortals understand better than he does--has arranged to live a human life, and has come to the City as one of the children. He knows his true identity, and conceals it from his peers. For this lifetime, he is prone to all the troubles of being human.

Then, a few years in, Sokrates arrives--the same Sokrates recorded by Plato himself--to ask all the troublesome questions you would expect. What happens next is a tale only the brilliant Jo Walton could tell.

My Review:

Okay Jo Walton has stolen my heart, I have heard great things about her fantasy stories, and I think this was the perfect one for me, I honestly cannot wait to see what will come next in this series. The way Jo weaved this story together was just beautiful, I never thought bringing back Plato's idea of a "just city" would really come back into light, and yet Jo Walton really brought this to life in a way that will mesmerize readers.

The "Just City" is created as an experiment by the goddess Athene and she plans it over many years and looks to take people from different eras that have asked to live in a place that is more to their beliefs. I love how readers are able to see the city from different characters' perspectives, Jo Walton goes from the children growing up, to adults that have been brought here (being able to see the difference from where they came from to this new place. And on top of these characters, readers also see the perspective of the gods that have taken part in putting this project together.

My favourite sections to read through were Apollo's, it was fun seeing him attempt to understand the human race and see that mortals may have a better understanding on things in life than gods do. Apollo arranges it so that he is stripped of his godly powers and he grows up as a human to truly take on the experience. Living in the "just city" truly teaches him a lot about mortals that he would never have known by just watching them.

As the years go by and the city grows more, the children grow and learn more about themselves and attempt to take on the world in a more fair way. I love how Jo Walton has thought this through so intensely and really brings to life how even the most perfect idea of a world still may have issues. Bringing Sokrates into the mix of the city really brings to light more details that would have been left out, the story becomes so much more interesting because you see the questions that no one would think to ask actually coming out.

This is the type of book that will appeal to those that are interested in philosophy especially, but I think that those that are not fully immersed in the philosophical world will still enjoy this story because of everything it brings to light. And this story will truly make you think about how nothing can be absolutely perfect and fair.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Review: The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

Publisher: McClelland & Stewart
Pages: 848
Received: Received a copy from Random House Canada in exchange for an honest review

Release Date: August 28, 2013
Buy From / Buy From

Goodreads Synopsis:

In 1866, a weary Englishman lands in a gold-mining frontier town on the coast of New Zealand to make his fortune and forever leave behind his family's shame. On arrival, he stumbles across a tense gathering of twelve local men who have met in secret to investigate what links three crimes that occurred on a single day, events in which each man finds himself implicated in some way: the town's wealthiest man has vanished. An enormous fortune in pure gold has been discovered in the home of a luckless drunk. A prostitute is found unconscious on a deserted road. But nothing is quite as it seems. As the men share their stories, what emerges is an intricate web of alliances and betrayals, secrets and lies in which everything is connected and everyone plays a part, whether they know it or not.

Part mystery, part fantastical love story, and full of diabolical twists and turns, The Luminaries is a breathtaking feat of storytelling that reveals the ways our interconnected lives can shape our destinies. Bursting with characters and event, it is a story -- and a unique, richly atmospheric world -- that readers will gladly lose themselves in.

My Review:

This book had caught my attention when I first heard about it, and the fact that it is such a big book really had me wanting it so much! I will say that this is a book that asks readers for a lot of attention and it definitely takes time to get through, but I will say that the time I invested in this book was worth it. This is an intriguing mystery story with some fantasy involved and there are a lot of twists that will keep you guessing about what has happened.

There is a lot of back and forth in this book as many of the twelve men who have gathered together tell their stories that all lead to the same man and many secrets and lies. Eleanor Catton has weaved a very intricate story where many different characters share a story that eventually helps solve a mystery in this small town of New Zealand. Everyone tells lies and has secrets that shape this story into what it is, a thrilling mystery of a story.

I found that at times I could not remember whose story I was reading at some points because some of them had voices that were similar and I had to back track a couple of times. But that is why this book takes so much concentration, and I think these types of books are worth the investment of just leaving everything behind and letting the story take over. Eleanor Catton has written a cast of characters that is hard to take out any one without the story suffering. Everyone is connected, some in the smallest way possible but enough that it impacts the story, and each story brings many of the men to be implicated in the disappearance of the wealthiest man.

I am sad that there wasn't more of a female presence in this book, the main female character was the prostitute that is found unconscious, and her story, though very important, is a very small part of the story compared to the men's part. I did wish for more female characters that could add to the story and it may help bring in a few more female readers.

If you are interested in a mystery book that is very much a literary story than this is the one for you, but you have to be prepared to invest a lot of time in this book. Do not rush that story, take your time and the story will touch you even more. I am glad that after letting this book sit for so long I finally grabbed it off my shelf and let this story take control of me. Many of the characters will keep your attention over others. This is more than just a story but it is a historical event that will keep you going.


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