Monday, August 31, 2015

Review: Mosquitoland by David Arnold

Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
Pages: 352
Received: Received a copy from Penguin Canada in exchange for an honest review

Release Date: March 3, 2015
Buy From / Buy From

Goodreads Synopsis:

"I am a collection of oddities, a circus of neurons and electrons: my heart is the ringmaster, my soul is the trapeze artist, and the world is my audience. It sounds strange because it is, and it is, because I am strange."

After the sudden collapse of her family, Mim Malone is dragged from her home in northern Ohio to the "wastelands" of Mississippi, where she lives in a medicated milieu with her dad and new stepmom. Before the dust has a chance to settle, she learns her mother is sick back in Cleveland.

So she ditches her new life and hops aboard a northbound Greyhound bus to her real home and her real mother, meeting a quirky cast of fellow travelers along the way. But when her thousand-mile journey takes a few turns she could never see coming, Mim must confront her own demons, redefining her notions of love, loyalty, and what it means to be sane.

Told in an unforgettable, kaleidoscopic voice, "Mosquitoland" is a modern American odyssey, as hilarious as it is heartbreaking.

My Review:

This book truly touched me, as soon as I began I could tell that this was going to be a journey and that I would really grow with Mim. This book was such a quirky story that will catch your heart, with a fun cast of characters and a road trip that rivals many others, you will just want to delve into this book and not let go.

David Arnold has created so many quirky characters that all come together to make this story. The book is told through Mim's eyes as she is writing to her friend back home about her travels to find her mother and get back her old life. Mim jumps on a bus not sure what she will find along the way, but she definitely runs into trouble on her travels. Mim has to confront a lot of her own demons and she looks deep into herself to find answers to her problems. As the story continues Mim learns more about her family and she realizes that not everything is perfect.

What really made this book was how amazing of a storyteller Mim is, throughout the story we get a deeper glimpse into Mim's mind as she is writing about her travels to an unknown family member known as "Iz". But this book is also emotional, it deals with mental illness in such a deep way, Mim can be an unreliable narrator at times and as the reader continues along the journey you see her struggles and wonder if she truly needs to be medicated. Mim writing to Isabel helps bring out another light to Mim and it helps her get through her travels. This book shows that in the real world not everything is bright and shiny but those dark times help teach Mim a lot about life.

David Arnold definitely brought a magical story to life, readers can easily relate to Mim (not necessarily all the time, but there is always a point where you find yourself connecting to her). This book has you on the edge of tears most of the time with some added humour to bring out the light in the darkness. But this book shows that going out into the world on your own will bring trouble but if you fight through you can make it.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Blog Tour: The Merit Birds by Kelley Powell

Today I am happy to take part in the blog tour for The Merit Birds by Kelley Powell courtesy of Dundurn Press.

Here is a synopsis of The Merit Birds:
Eighteen-year-old Cam Scott is angry. He's angry about his absent dad, he's angry about being angry, and he's angry that he has had to give up his Ottawa basketball team to follow his mom to her new job in Vientiane, Laos. However, Cam's anger begins to melt under the Southeast Asian sun as he finds friendship with his neighbour, Somchai, and gradually falls in love with Nok, who teaches him about building merit, or karma, by doing good deeds, such as purchasing caged "merit birds." Tragedy strikes and Cam finds himself falsely accused of a crime. His freedom depends on a person he's never met. A person who knows that the only way to restore his merit is to confess. "The Merit Birds" blends action and suspense and humour in a far-off land where things seem so different, yet deep down are so much the same.

I would like to welcome Kelley to talk about how she flunked a creative writing class, and yet look at her now.

How I Flunked Creative Writing Class

This past year my debut novel, The Merit Birds, hit number 3 on the bestseller list and one of my short stories was longlisted for the competitive CBC short story prize. You might be surprised to know that I received my lowest mark ever in my undergraduate creative writing class.

The class was set up as a giant workshop. Around thirty arts students sat in a huge circle, clutching coffees and staring at each other expectantly. Two or three students would be on the hook for the week, which meant they had to read out their work and then sit back while the rest of the class critiqued it. I was fine with my work being evaluated publicly, but having to review someone else’s heart and soul while twenty nine others looked on gave me the shivers. Couldn’t I give my critique in writing, or share it with the author one-on-one, or even in a small group? I stayed quiet most classes, learning a lot from other students’ writing and suggestions, but silently beating myself up for not participating fully. Since the course grade was mostly based on participation I barely passed.

It wasn’t until several years later, when I read Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, that I began to realize that being quiet isn’t necessarily bad. Cain shows how introverted people are physiologically made to be quiet, and demonstrates how our North American society desperately needs to balance its “extrovert ideal” with the qualities of introverts. She even shows how the 2008 stock market crash was caused by an over reliance on extroverted qualities.  After reading Cain’s book I began to realize the irony of my low creative writing mark. On one hand I flunked because I was too quiet, but on the other hand being quiet allowed me to observe people and environments in a way I couldn’t have if I was talking frequently. People often ask me how I made the descriptions of Laos so evocative and real in The Merit Birds - it’s because of my quiet, consistent observation of people and sensory detail.

Of course extroverts can be excellent writers too, but judging by the writers I know, many of us are introverted souls who would rather be quietly creating. I’m grateful to know that my alma mater has since changed the grading scheme for its creative writing class.

To all of the aspiring authors out there I say let yourself be quiet, but let your inner defiance of a low mark - or of the idea that getting published is unattainable - be strident.

I am also happy to offer a giveaway (CANADIAN ONLY) of a copy of The Merit Birds from Dundurn Press. Just leave a comment below for Kelley. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

Review: A Desperate Fortune by Susanna Kearsley

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Pages: 519
Received: Received a copy from the publisher through Netgalley

Release Date: April 7, 2015
Buy From / Buy From

Goodreads Synopsis:

For nearly 300 years, the mysterious journal of Jacobite exile Mary Dundas has lain unread — its secrets safe from prying eyes. Now, amateur codebreaker Sara Thomas has been hired by a once-famous historian to crack the journal's cipher. But when she arrives in Paris, Sara finds herself besieged by complications from all sides: the journal's reclusive owner, her charming Parisian neighbor, and Mary, whose journal doesn't hold the secrets Sara expects.

It turns out that Mary Dundas wasn’t keeping a record of everyday life, but a first-hand account of her part in a dangerous intrigue. In the first wintry months of 1732, with a scandal gaining steam in London, driving many into bankruptcy and ruin, the man accused of being at its center is concealed among the Jacobites in Paris, with Mary posing as his sister to aid his disguise.

When their location is betrayed, they’re forced to put a desperate plan in action, heading south along the road to Rome, protected by the enigmatic Highlander Hugh MacPherson.

As Mary's tale grows more and more dire, Sara, too, must carefully choose which turning to take... to find the road that will lead her safely home.

My Review:

I honestly am not sure about my thoughts on this book and I have sat with it for so long. I was really excited because I have heard such amazing things about Susanna Kearsley as an author, and I can see why people love her, she truly knows how to weave a story together, but this book is one that I don't know what to say and how to talk about it. The historical aspect is what really drew me to this book, the idea that there is a story that intertwines two women in different times really spoke to me. But when I finished this book I don't know if I truly felt that it worked for me.

Through a lot of the novel I felt that it was just two different stories and the only way that they really connected was because Sara was translating Mary's journal, other than that I really could not find other connections between these two women. This was a very long book that at times I just could not keep up to what was happening and I was lost with the perspectives and what had happened the last time I was with this character. I feel that the way these two stories attempted to intertwine, didn't work for me as a reader and I couldn't keep myself interested throughout much of the book, I was distracted and lost a lot of the time.

I did really enjoy the story of Mary Dundas and how she is playing such a dangerous game that she never asked to get into. Mary's story is fraught with deceptions and romance at the same time and there is danger at every turn as she helps conceal a man accused of a huge scandal in London. I enjoyed the intrigue that Susanna Kearsley gave me in this story, but then when things would switch back to present time and Sara's story I just felt that the connection I had was missing with this second part.

This story will appeal to some people, and I do believe that a lot of it appealed to me, but it just took me too long to get through. I liked it at times but for the most part it was too confusing and all over the place for me to truly love.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Review: Mademoiselle Chanel by C.W. Gortner

Publisher: William Morrow
Pages: 384
Received: Received a copy from Harper Collins Canada in exchange for an honest review

Release Date: March 17, 2015
Buy From / Buy From

Goodreads Synopsis:

Born into rural poverty, Gabrielle Chanel and her siblings are sent to orphanage after their mother’s death. The sisters nurture Gabrielle’s exceptional sewing skills, a talent that will propel the willful young woman into a life far removed from the drudgery of her childhood.

Transforming herself into Coco—a seamstress and sometime torch singer—the petite brunette burns with ambition, an incandescence that draws a wealthy gentleman who will become the love of her life. She immerses herself in his world of money and luxury, discovering a freedom that sparks her creativity. But it is only when her lover takes her to Paris that Coco discovers her destiny.

Rejecting the frilly, corseted silhouette of the past, her sleek, minimalist styles reflect the youthful ease and confidence of the 1920s modern woman. As Coco’s reputation spreads, her couturier business explodes, taking her into rarefied society circles and bohemian salons. But her fame and fortune cannot save her from heartbreak as the years pass. And when Paris falls to the Nazis, Coco is forced to make choices that will haunt her.

An enthralling novel of an extraordinary woman who created the life she desired, Mademoiselle Chanel explores the inner world of a woman of staggering ambition whose strength, passion and artistic vision would become her trademark.

My Review:

This is exactly the type of book that I love, one that cover just shouts out to be picked up, and from there a story about Chanel and how it came to be such a big name is so high on my list with the historical significance. I can honestly say that I was hooked from the beginning, I went everywhere with this book and tried to get in a page whenever I could, just to learn that much more about the life of Coco Chanel.

C.W. Gortner truly brings Coco's life to readers in such a vivid way that I felt I was living these days with her and jumping through all the hoops, helping her get her feet on the ground. Right from the beginning you can tell that things for Gabrielle are not going to be easy, but she is such a fighter and I loved learning about her life. Coco attempts to grow with the times and she becomes more creative and works harder and harder to make a reputation for herself and truly be happy of her work. I absolutely loved her passion for her creations and that passion is what helps make them that much more popular, she knows how to conjure friendships with the right people to push her venture even further forward.

But even though Coco has these good fortunes coming her way, not everything in this story is sunshine and fairytales... Coco goes through many hardships and learns the consequences of choosing work over love sometimes. Even though Coco is a passionate person, sometimes it gets the best of her and she ends up truly hurt because she let certain people get away. There is a lot of romance in this book but it doesn't overtake what is truly important to Coco, and she grows along with the world.

What really added to this book was how C.W. Gortner added in major historical events and we get to see how these events affect Coco's business and how she fights through the tough times. I loved the historical aspects that bring readers deeper into Coco's life. Honestly, Gortner has truly delivered with this story about a woman who fought for what she wanted, and her passion, drive and true work ethic gave her the life she wished for in many ways. This is a powerful book that shows anything can be achieved if you truly work hard and have a passion, but also don't give up everything for one small thing... no matter what there will be some regrets in life, but you can't let them take over your life.

I truly recommend this book to any reader out there, this book has so much for everyone and I think it is worth the read!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Review: Golden Son by Pierce Brown

Publisher: Del Rey
Series: Red Rising #2
Pages: 464
Received: Received a copy from Penguin Random House Canada in exchange for an honest review

Release Date: January 6, 2015
Buy From / Buy From

Goodreads Synopsis:

With shades of The Hunger GamesEnder’s Game, and Game of Thrones, debut author Pierce Brown’s genre-defying epic Red Rising hit the ground running and wasted no time becoming a sensation. Golden Son continues the stunning saga of Darrow, a rebel forged by tragedy, battling to lead his oppressed people to freedom.

As a Red, Darrow grew up working the mines deep beneath the surface of Mars, enduring backbreaking labor while dreaming of the better future he was building for his descendants. But the Society he faithfully served was built on lies. Darrow’s kind have been betrayed and denied by their elitist masters, the Golds—and their only path to liberation is revolution. And so Darrow sacrifices himself in the name of the greater good for which Eo, his true love and inspiration, laid down her own life. He becomes a Gold, infiltrating their privileged realm so that he can destroy it from within.

A lamb among wolves in a cruel world, Darrow finds friendship, respect, and even love—but also the wrath of powerful rivals. To wage and win the war that will change humankind’s destiny, Darrow must confront the treachery arrayed against him, overcome his all-too-human desire for retribution—and strive not for violent revolt but a hopeful rebirth. Though the road ahead is fraught with danger and deceit, Darrow must choose to follow Eo’s principles of love and justice to free his people.

He must live for more.

My Review:

Oh my gosh, the love that I have for this series is so hard to describe. Pierce Brown has taken hold of me and I just want to continue on as the story goes deeper and becomes more intense. This book takes place some time after the first book, Darrow has gotten himself deeper into the Gold life as he serves for one of the highest families. Darrow is still hoping to infiltrate the most privileged of the people and ruin them by taking them down one by one through the inside.

I still have so much respect for Darrow, and after this book it grows that much more. Darrow has so many virtues and yet as he gets deeper into the world of the Golds, things slowly change as he finds friends and even love within this place. In this book, Darrow is getting himself deeper into danger and the stakes are even higher now that he actually is part of a Gold family. He struggles to hold onto his memories of Eo as he starts to lay down the work to take down this powerful Society.

There is a lot more drama in this because Darrow is getting himself further into Society, and we get to learn a lot more about the Peerless Scarred and even get to see more of the universe that this is set in. I love that Pierce Brown takes this story into different territories and shows readers a new part of this universe.

All of these books have such non-stop action, but the best part of this is how Darrow is beginning to really see how the Golds work. He begins to actually go back and forth between the thoughts of a Gold and those of a Red, he is truly torn between two worlds as he continues along his path of destruction. Darrow is slowly getting himself into more trouble as he has problems sticking to his promise to Eo while he falls in love with the Gold world.

More secrets are slowly revealed but these books never feel boring, every little thing has a deeper meaning. Darrow is fighting harder than ever for a rebirth of the Society, and there are so many more secrets that are slowly unraveling everything for Darrow. These books are just so intense and thrilling that you don't want to stop, I have loved everything that Pierce Brown has given readers with this series, and honestly after the drama in this story there is so much more for Darrow to go through before this fight is over.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Review: Dear Killer by Katherine Ewell

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Pages: 359
Received: Received a copy from the publisher through Edelweiss

Release Date: April 1, 2014
Buy From / Buy From

Goodreads Synopsis:

Rule One—Nothing is right, nothing is wrong.
Rule Two—Be careful.
Rule Three—Fight using your legs whenever possible, because they’re the strongest part of your body. Your arms are the weakest.
Rule Four—Hit to kill. The first blow should be the last, if at all possible.
Rule Five—The letters are the law.

Kit takes her role as London’s notorious “Perfect Killer” seriously. The letters and cash that come to her via a secret mailbox are not a game; choosing who to kill is not an impulse decision. Every letter she receives begins with “Dear Killer,” and every time Kit murders, she leaves a letter with the dead body. Her moral nihilism and thus her murders are a way of life—the only way of life she has ever known.

But when a letter appears in the mailbox that will have the power to topple Kit’s convictions as perfectly as she commits her murders, she must make a decision: follow the only rules she has ever known, or challenge Rule One, and go from there.

Katherine Ewell’s Dear Killer is a sinister psychological thriller that explores the thin line between good and evil, and the messiness of that inevitable moment when life contradicts everything you believe.

My Review:

This book was so enthralling, Katherine Ewell brings out a character very much like Dexter for a younger audience. Kit is very serious about her "job" as the Perfect Killer, she has a strict set of rules that she follows and she never strays from what she has been taught. There is no right or wrong for Kit, she receives a letter and then she follows her path, it is simple and all she knows, then all of a sudden she gets a letter that throws everything out the window and brings Kit into a difficult situation.

Kit's whole world comes crashing down around her with this one letter, something hits too close to home and yet Kit needs to stick to what she has known her whole life. All of a sudden Kit needs to figure out, does she stick to the rules or is there more grey than she thought in all this. For a book for teens this one really hit the mark, it is defintiely a great psychological thriller where readers really get to see into the mind of the killer and get an idea of what possess this person, for me this really set this book apart from others.

As the book continues on, it seems that Kit gets herself deeper into this disaster and she starts to learn a lot more about herself and begins questioning everything she has been taught. In this way it is a great coming of age novel with a big twist on the thriller aspect, in truth when teenagers hit a certain age they question what they have been taught as children and Kit truly delves deep into this transition.

I really think that Katherine Ewell hits on some great real life issues like teenagers having a crisis of figuring out who they are in the world and the mess that comes along with all these questions. The whole story just takes on such a different level of messiness because of the large scale situation Kit gets herself into. This book will definitely take readers for a ride and brings up the idea that not everything is black and white, there is always that middle ground that gets missed (though this story may be a bit far-fetched, it works really well). I can honestly say I was hooked with this book and needed to see how Kit would get herself out of the situation as she gets closer and closer to the problem.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Review: Alive by Chandler Baker

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Pages: 368
Received: Received a copy from the publisher through Netgalley

Release Date: June 9, 2015
Buy From / Buy From

Goodreads Synopsis:

Stella Cross's heart is poisoned.

After years on the transplant waiting list, she's running out of hope that she'll ever see her eighteenth birthday. Then, miraculously, Stella receives the transplant she needs to survive.

Determined to embrace everything she came so close to losing, Stella throws herself into her new life. But her recovery is marred by strange side effects: Nightmares. Hallucinations. A recurring pain that flares every day at the exact same moment. Then Stella meets Levi Zin, the new boy on everyone's radar at her Seattle prep school. Stella has never felt more drawn to anyone in her life, and soon she and Levi are inseparable.

Stella is convinced that Levi is her soul mate. Why else would she literally ache for him when they are apart?

After all, the heart never lies...does it?

My Review:

Hmmm... what to say about this book. The synopsis had me intrigued, it's something that always makes a great story, what happens after a transplant. Stella has definitely had a difficult time of things, and she is just getting herself back into the rhythm of a normal life when strange things start happening.

When a new guy shows up at school, Stella is immediately drawn to him, she wants to jump right back into life hoping that she can do everything normally. Eventually Stella and Levi are inseparable and when he is not nearby she literally aches for him. As the story goes on, a lot of creepy things begin to happen to Stella and Levi seems to be around all the time, she literally is in pain when Levi is not around her.

This book had a very creepy undertone to it and I love the how Baker incorporated stories of the supernatural into it. Stella and her best friend have a fascination with a radio show that is very much like The Twilight Zone, where people call in and talk about their supernatural experiences, it was a great addition to the story.

As much as there were parts in this book that I didn't like all that much, like the way Stella acted towards her friends, she basically just blows them off because Levi wants her around him. Levi is very controlling and Stella goes along with it all because of how drawn she is to him. Whenever she is not around Levi, Stella has nightmares and creepy hallucinations that keep her wondering what is wrong and if the surgery somehow went wrong.

This was definitely an interesting story for me, and I flew through it, though I will definitely say that the things that happened were not shocking, I could see a lot of the twists coming from the beginning. Honestly, it was a fun story but it's not one that will stick with me, I think there are other similar books out there.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Blog Tour! Villa America by Liza Klaussman

Publisher: Bond Street Books
Pages: 432
Received: Received a copy from Penguin Random House Canada in exchange for an honest review

Release Date: August 4, 2015
Buy From / Buy From

Goodreads Synopsis:

A dazzling novel set in the Cap D'Antibes based on the real-life inspirations for Fitzgerald's Tender is The Night.

In this gorgeous, glamorous, and affecting novel, Liza Klaussmann does for Sara and Gerald Murphy what Paula McLain and Michael Cunningham did for Ernest Hemingway and Virginia Woolf in The Paris Wife and The Hours. Villa America was in fact a real house on the French Riviera that Sara and Gerald Murphy built to escape to in the 1920's. Members of a group of expat Americans, they were known for their fabulous parties and for making the Riviera into the glamorous place it is today. Their freewheeling days were filled with champagne and caviar, but these were people who kept secrets and who were, of course, heartbreakingly human. 

This is a stunning story about the Lost Generation, about a marriage, about a golden age which could not last. 

My Review:

I really loved Liza Klaussman's writing when I read Tigers in Red Weather a few years ago, and as soon as I started reading Villa America I was just as captivated with her characters and the story. Liza really knows how to bring her characters to life for readers and make you feel like you actually can see them in person. Klaussman's writing is beautiful and just takes hold of readers, for me I just want to stay in this world forever.

This story truly revolves around Sara and Gerald Murphy, and through them readers meet an eclectic group of people. They are all quite flawed in many ways, and yet that is what makes them so intriguing to read about. What I really loved about this book was how there is the addition of historical figures like Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, these two really add to the story. I loved seeing their relationship from a different perspective and it actually makes me want to go read Z, a novel of Zelda Fitgerald just to learn more about them.

Everyone has so much fun and it is all about partying and having a good time, but of course amidst all the fun there are many secrets laying about and slowly everything unravels and trouble is always around the corner. It is hard to guess what will happen next, and I love a book that has surprises around every corner. This is truly a book that gives us a look into an era that sounds like so much fun, yet it is one that obviously cannot last forever, there is too much trouble coming out of it.

I can absolutely say that I am a fan of Liza Klaussman's writing and the characters that she brings to life, I'm interested to know what her next work will be and what era she will bring to light for readers.

On top of this review, I am also offering a giveaway courtesy of Penguin Random House Canada of this book. All you have to do to enter is leave a comment! The giveaway will go until August 21st! And don't forget to check out the other blogs!!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...