This is the first time I have read one of Amy Cronin’s novels and I would definitely feel comfortable recommending “Twisted Truth” to my friends and family. The many positive aspects of this novel outweigh my criticisms, as for that reason, I have rated it four out of five stars. The novel is engaging and intrigued me enough to want to finish the story. The characters’ lives were interconnected which enticed me to want to know more about each one. I did not know the background of Kate Crowley’s story, however, this novel gave enough away so I could catch up with the previous story’s essential details. “Twisted Truth” left me eager to read more about Anna’s story as well as see how the mysterious Myles Henderson fits into the deeper conflict. Myles’ role in the story was minor, however, the events in the novel lead the reader to believe there is more to him than Anna anticipates.
The one star I deducted was a culmination of a few small aspects of the author’s writing style I feel hindered fluid, easy reading. The Prologue and Chapter 1 were too descriptive for my preference; I did not know who the main character was or where the story was going until Chapter 2. Most characters also had lengthy introductions which were unnecessary and distracting. Personally, the story did not really catch my attention until all of those descriptions were finished and the rising action began. If I was drawing the plot diagram for this novel with my English students, I would say the exposition seemed too long. I understand the value of the Prologue and how it was meant to catch the attention of readers, however, it felt out of place and disconnected. I also believe the introduction could have had less about Seán, his thoughts, and his daily life. This was prolongated by a lengthy description of the Gallaghers in Chapter 1.
My last critique of the book was that some of the events were too coincidental or overly foreshadowed to be believable. In addition, Anna’s actions didn’t always make sense or align with what we would normally do when afraid, fearful, etc. These things took away from the credibility of the novel for me, but not necessarily my enjoyment in reading the story.
Overall, I really enjoyed this novel and am happy to recommend it to my friends and family. I also want to thank BookSirens, Crimson, and Amy Cronin for the opportunity to read and review this novel.
A new contemporary thriller set in Cork, Ireland; Amy Cronin’s newest novel, “Twisted Truth” (only $1.26 on Amazon Kindle).
Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr is an authentic and emotionally charged journey through time, place, and space. It challenges readers to acknowledge the interconnectedness of history and the future while also pushing them to consider multiple perspectives. Using competing storylines, Doerr offers us insight into how our world is changing and how events can change our perceptions of humanity. Konstance, one of the main characters, explores earth’s history with a bird’s eye view using ultramodern technology. Konstance is able to virtually jump back to moments in history, however, she slowly realizes not everything her eyes see is true or accurate. Her time-traveling journeys enable readers to piece together seemingly unconnected events, people, and places.
The Greek myth of Aethon ties all of the characters together, a true tale of how both oral and written stories can teach people wisdom and knowledge. Stories can traverse different spaces and moments in time but remain relevant and influential.
Personally, I found Cloud Cuckoo Land emotionally charged. It confronted my views on climate change and made me consider the path on which our world may be headed. One of the reasons we read fiction is because it challenges us to consider diverse perspectives; it addresses tough topics via the inner dialogue of the main characters. As a teacher, I believe it is important for people to know that although they cannot physically experience the lives of others, they can have empathy towards the challenges others face. One of the ways we can understand other peoples’ perceptions of the world, and in turn become more empathetic to their needs, is by reading narratives such as this. These accounts can be either fiction or non-fiction, but by reading them, we can begin to understand other peoples’ immediate needs and worldviews. In my opinion, this narrative reaches deep into what it means to be human and how our needs have molded and changed throughout history. For all of the characters, the basic, life-sustaining ingredients were achieved in different ways. It is a story about survival and strength, and a story about the human condition. For me, this was the most emotional part of the narrative. I am not a climate change activist, but this book did challenge me to consider my own lived reality, as well as what the experiences of future generations might be like because of our actions today.
I would highly recommend this book to my friends and family. It was well worth my time and was a reprieve from the mundane and routine of everyday life.
I also want to thank NetGalley and Simon & Schuster Canada, Scribner for the opportunity to read and review this novel.
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Last year was challenging to try keep up with my book review blog. I have been working through an After-Degree in Secondary Education which has used up much of my spare time for reading for pleasure. In addition to my education, I have also been writing occasionally for Athabasca Universities’ The Voice student magazine. Writing for The Voice has stretched me as a writer – I have had to learn to take random topics (which I may not know anything about), research the key points and write a persuasive, interesting article that students will want to read. If you love to read about current issuing impacting the lives of everyday people in Canada, I would highly recommend signing up for their free weekly e-magazine.
The Art of Falling by Danielle McLaughlin
In a way, this is a coming of age story and a story of a midlife crisis. Nessa is struggling through her personal life and career when her past comes back to haunt her emotionally. Nessa is forced to deal with her own grief and disappointment in her choices as a young adult when the son of a friend unexpectedly comes back into her life. The Robert Locke artistic through-line was intriguing and I felt Nessa’s passion for art through her character. Some of the story was a bit too clean and predictable which is why I have given it a 4 out of 5. It doesn’t challenge the reader to think deeper into certain topics or require any knowledge of art to enjoy. I do however feel this novel is on par with many other new fiction books I have read recently. Like many contemporary narratives, The Art of Falling deals with personal and emotional struggles (ie the battle within) and has less to do with an identifiable physical conflict. McLaughlin certainly does a lot to keep the reader entertained with the ongoing Locke family drama and Nessa’s own family conflicts.
I would definitely recommend The Art of Falling by Danielle McLaughlin and it is an enjoyable and entertaining read. I would not have guessed it was the author’s first novel if it wasn’t for reading other reviewers’ comments. I also want to thank NetGalley and the publisher for a chance to read and review this novel.
The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I received a sample of this book and loved every minute of it. It gets to the heart of the Spanish Civil War and what life was like for everyday citizens under Francisco Franco’s dictatorship. As I only received a snippet of this novel, I can only speak to the initial character development. The story (at least initially) weaves between Ana, Daniel, Puri and Rafael’s experiences; this seems disjointed at first until the narrative begins to slow connect the lives of these characters together. A touching line “Your duty, your mission as a woman is to serve” represents a prevailing ideology on the role of women during this moment in history. It was not a free world for both women and men to come and go, doing as they please. It was a dictatorship where only those at the top of the pyramid thrived and the purpose of everyone below was to serve and be obedient supplicants to the desires of those in control. The American’s, past their own civil war, come from a democratic society cannot possibly understand the daily struggles of average people living under Franco’s regime. One of my favourite authors is the late Carlos Ruiz Zafon, and this story brings me back to Alicia’s story in “The Labyrinth of the Spirits.” I loved every minute of this book and would love to read the entire story!
I would also like to thank NetGalley and Penguin Random House for the opportunity to read and review a sample of this book.
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Truth and Bright Water by Thomas King
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I read this novel as part of my Education program, but would definitely consider using it in an ELA classroom in Grades 10-12. There are several core elements, such as themes of identity and loss and recovery as well as threads of symbols and magical realism. What I loved most about this novel is King is able to convey real emotions and challenges of teenagers while also transmitting another way of life. I have read some of King’s articles about historical narrative and I believe this novel really gets to the heart of how to show students another way of life, while also being relatable. There are many things everyday teenagers can connect with in this novel such as relationships and family life, while other areas give us a glimpse into the events impacting the lives of First Nations Peoples who live along the Canada/US border. This novel also goes much deeper than surface level themes, it gets to the heart of community narratives and how events of the past impact the lives of people today. There is privilege and disenfranchisement, there is hope for the future while also examples of deeply rooted regrets. If you want something to read out of the ordinary, something that will challenge your way of thinking and viewing the world, I would highly recommend reading Truth and Bright Water
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The King at the Edge of the World by Arthur Phillips
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
There is so much to love about Arthur Phillips’ newest novel The King at the Edge of the World . It is a historical fiction and transports the reader back to the Elizabethan era, a time when a person’s religious beliefs could mean the difference between life and death. This is also a time when the arts became accessible to more of the population; music, painting and theatre were used to shape personal views and impression. Phillips harnesses this time of expression and uses it throughout the novel to build intrigue and mood. In my opinion, the addition of theatre and stage plots within the novel adds to its reliability as a historical fiction by creating a sense of realism and presentism.
Mahmoud Ezzedine, one of the main characters, finds himself quite literally forced into the lives and castles of Queen Elizabeth I of England and King James VI of Scotland. As a medical doctor, Ezzedine was a gift by the Turks with the intention that he might promote good health and establish relationships between England and the Turks in Constantinople. Later he is regifted by England to Scotland. One review online compares Ezzedine with Gulliver in Gulliver’s Travels . I think this is an accurate analogy because like Gulliver, Ezzedine is able to critique and relay an outsider’s perspective on both English and Scottish society without being accused of choosing a side. It is for this reason that the ending of the novel doesn’t make sense to me. It seems disjointed from the rest of the larger theme. Without giving too much away, if Ezzedine character represents a critical, impartial outsider, then there must be an ending corresponding with his implied role.
My second biggest critique of this novel is that a good portion of this novel is not about King James VI. The title implies a story about a king and I found more than half of the story was not about him but about England and the Turkish empire. King James VI is also a secondary and not well developed character, at least in my opinion. We learn about what he does, his daily routine, but not who he is and what his relationships are like. I wish the story between Matthew Thatcher and King James VI began earlier in the plot and we were able to delve a bit deeper into who he is, possibly even explore more about his relationship with his wife. For this reason I gave the novel 4 out of 5 stars.
Should you read this book? I think so. I was surprisingly intrigued by the plot and Phillips’ writing demonstrates passion, research and experience. I also really love the cover!
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I honestly really loved this book and I think it is perfect for a YA audience. A Song Below Water is filled with themes of friendship, love and relationships mixed with a touch of magical realism. Effie and Tavia are as close as sisters can be and yet they each have unique qualities and interests. Their everyday lives are made even more challenging with the addition of magical powers as they learn to use them carefully amidst rolling and uncontrollable emotions. In their hometown of Portland, regular people outnumber a handful of “unique” people with exceptional powers and abilities. Tavia is a siren. She is one of many who are required to keep their powers hidden because of the fear and prejudice against them. This is a novel about racism and sexism, but the through-line is subtle and doesn’t overwhelm the plot. I think these are important topics and I was initially worried that this novel might be too heavy but it was actually quite engaging and upbeat.
The two main characters struggle through friendships, betrayal, love and family dynamics while remaining optimistic and hopeful for something good to come out of it all. And then there is the Gargoyle; who wouldn’t love to have a Gargoyle keeping them safe and watching over them from a distance?
I think even adolescents who aren’t into fantasy would still love this book. Effie and Tavia exist in more than just a fantasy world, their world is relatable to everyday life and the supernatural is weaved throughout a believable and complex plot. That is a challenge for every author who writes magical realism; it takes skill to make the unbelievable become ordinary and rational.
I would highly recommend this book, mostly for adolescents who enjoy fantasy mixed with relationships and friendship. I also want to thank Macmillan-Tom Doherty Associates and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review this book.
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My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I will be honest and say I had a hard time finishing this book. There were too many characters and too many flashbacks (especially in the beginning) for the story to really take hold and draw me in. The beginning of the novel had strategically placed flashbacks to provide the reader with information but they were not believable and came across as forced information. It wasn’t until near the end when I really started to care about how everything was going to fall into place. I can’t even say I was satisfied with the ending.
When you look at the structure of the novel, there wasn’t really a central climax or even rising action. There were constant little fights between the characters, mostly between spouses, but not really any main plot to grasp onto as a reader. Reading this novel was like having a bird’s eye view of three different couples going through the motions of life and martial problems. Yes, the characters were likeable, especially Nell. However, there were times when family friends and the children’s friends all completely lost or uninterested me because there were too many names thrown around. I kept wondering where the story was going and if there was going to be a point to all the madness.
I appreciate the opportunity to read an advanced copy of this novel and generally I am a light critic. However, I feel Grown Ups was missing something major, a main plot element, and without it, the reader cannot be drawn into the story. As readers, we want to envision a part of ourselves when reading a book, but more importantly, we also want to escape reality, even if for just a few moments. By giving us martial problems without some element of thrill or excitement, a story just ends up being a retelling of everyday occurrences.
I would still recommend this book, but it was not my favourite. I am left feeling as though the story could be better, and be fixed into a really amazing novel.
Thank-you to NetGalley and Penguin Random House Canada / Doubleday Canada for the opportunity to read and review this upcoming novel by Marian Keyes.
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My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is a really heart warming story about love and friendship. Dannie is lost but doesn’t realize it; she has friends, the perfect career and the perfect boyfriend. Bella is Dannie’s best friend and her exact opposite. Bella is adventurous and takes risks trying to find true love and passion in her life. As best friends since childhood, Dannie and Bella complement and challenge one another. Eventually Dannie’s perfect life and bubble have to pop, but how will she survive such a dramatic blow to her perfectly orchestrated life?
This is ultimately a story about love in all it forms. As humans we have the ability to be passionate and love unconditionally. Rebecca Serle’s story shows us just how unpredictable love can be and how it reveals itself to us in unexpected ways. I appreciate how the narrative unfolds in the moment. Dannie tries to control every aspect of her life, but love cannot always be controlled and it can lead us on paths we never thought we would go. In one instance, Dannie and David’s relationship is referred to as a parallel path, I would argue that love does this as well. We have the ability to love in my forms at the same time without our love for one person affecting our love for another. If you appreciate a great story with many hidden connections and deeper contexts, then this is a great book for you! I would definitely not hesitate to recommend this book.
I also want to thank NetGalley and the Publisher Atria Books for the opportunity to read and review a copy of this novel.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I really loved reading The Woman on the Windowsill: A Tale of Mystery in Several Parts. It reads as an account of life in Guatemala in the 1800s. I appreciate the author’s in-depth analysis of crime, social thought and class/gender divisions within the culture at the time. As I was reading, I found myself considering how much time and effort Sylvia Sellers-García must have spent researching for this book. Her research goes beyond the events surrounding the severed body parts and encompasses many of the aspects of everyday life in Guatemala at the time. Having a Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology, I am fascinated by many of the avenues Sellers-García explores when considering gender roles, the concept of violence and the role colonialism played in the formation of Guatemala city’s criminal governance. The descriptions of Guatemala City, the San Juan de Dios Hospital, the residential areas and cemetery help to develop a setting that makes you feel like you are walking through 19th century Guatemala. The brief glimpses of the past from the hospital records and criminal cases also really caught and held my interest as a reader.
The historical information and the evaluation of viewpoints at each stage of the investigation deserves a 4/5 for me on my overall rating of this book. It was historically fascinating to read and taught me many things about Guatemalan history that I was not aware of. On one side, I absorbed all of the intriguing the content in this book, but on the other side, the format left me wanting more of a narrative to keep it cohesive. I will be honest in saying it reads more like an essay or a research paper, than a novel or book. The chapters are almost irrelevant; the last chapter especially deviates too far from the core investigation to keep the narrative cohesive. The epilogue brings it back somewhat, at least in my opinion. I was hoping for more of a narrative fictional or non-fictional from this book which is why I have only given it 4 out of 5 stars.
I would still highly recommend this book to people, especially those who share my passion of history in Central and South America. I have been to Guatemala City and Antigua and The Woman on the Windowsill: A Tale of Mystery in Several Parts really brought me back to recalling my own experience in these cities. I had the opportunity to stay for a night in the home of a resident of Guatemala City. Their home’s vast and elaborate interior was exposed upon entering through large wooden doors fronting an otherwise average street. I recall being amazed at how large and welcoming the home was and how I never would have been able to guess what it held inside just passing by on the street. So I want to thank Sellers-García for bringing back some of those memories for me. I also want to thank NetGalley and Yale University Press so the opportunity to read and review this book!
~Expected Publication October 17, 2019
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I will definitely be recommending Christmas Shopaholic to my friends this Christmas (and will probably gift a few copies to people too). It is a fun, energetic Christmas story will all the right elements of the seasonal shopping fiasco! Every family experiences similar holiday challenges of what gifts to get, how to decorate, a menu that will please everyone and Becky goes through all of that and more. It is definitely all about Becky and includes her usual unrestrained spending habits only elevated to match the Christmas shopping frenzy and Becky’s desire to try to please everyone. There are food planning disasters, family fighting and Christmas concert mishaps.
My two biggest critiques about the novel would be the setting and the predictability. When I think about the story, nothing about the setting jumps out at me or was particularly memorable, it seemed to fall short of the normal holiday ambiance one might expect in a Christmas novel. In addition, the events in the novel are predictable and maybe too much so for my taste. I like the silly, OMG moments Becky has, I am just not sure they need to be as predictable and foreshadowed as much as they are because it takes away from some of the humour.
However, despite my criticisms, I still would highly recommend Christmas Shopaholic to my friends this Christmas. It is festive and witty novel that brings a joyfulness to the crazy shopping season we all experience.
I also want to thank NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group for a chance to read and review this book!