Tag Archives: Fiction

A Story About a Queen, a King and a Special Gift

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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Upcoming YA Fiction: “A Song Below Water”

A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


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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Spring Reading

Grown Ups by Marian Keyes


Grown Ups

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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February – Update on my READ 50 Challenge for 2020

     What are YOU reading in 2020? My reading list so far this year is full of variety. I have junior high ELA and SS textbooks, I have YA novels and then I have the “just for me” reading which I occasionally fit in between homework assignments.

     For one of my assignments in university this term, I created a book club plan for Grade 9 ELA students. The four books I chose for the in-class book club are used to initiate student discussions about collective identity, diversity and issues affecting Canadians in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Indian Act. In addition, I wanted to make sure that all of the books I chose were written by Canadian authors in order to support Canadian talent. I believe junior and senior high students want to read relevant, new fiction, as well as books they see adults reading. My hope is that by making intentional literary choices within the classroom, teachers CAN encourage students to become life long readers.

*Photos from: https://www.goodreads.com

My “currently reading” list:

(BUT, I am most looking forward to reading about what Edward Snowden has to say!)

*Happy Reading* 

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A Story About Love In All Its Forms

In Five YearsIn Five Years by Rebecca Serle

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.

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A Historical Fiction for Outlander Enthusiasts!

The LairdThe Laird by Virginia Brown

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Laird was an unexpected delight to read. I imagine this novel will be scooped up by Outlander and Historical Fiction enthusiasts alike. The characters are complex and genuine. Virginia Brown does an excellent job describing the Scottish history and landscape leaving the reader dreaming about life in the highlands. Judith Lindsay is the heroine of the novel. Judith is a widow and has yet to find a place where she really feels a sense of belonging. Because of her past, Judith sets her expectations high and holds her ground even when she doesn’t have a reason to have hope. The confident and ambitious Robert Campbell is an equal force to reckon with. Rob is determined to stay true to his morals and obligations no matter what the cost. He is limited it seems, only by his physical body, which occasionally fails him.

My one criticism for this novel is the excessive use of figurative language in the first few pages. The flowery prose was a bit unnecessary and as a result the sentences did not flow as naturally as they could. Although, once you trek on past the first few pages the writing style becomes more natural and effortless to read.

Overall I thought The Laird was a wonderful and after reading it, I am excited to delve into more of Virginia Brown’s novels to see what they are like. I would definitely recommend reading this book!

I also want to thank NetGalley and Bell Bridge Books for the opportunity to have an advanced e-book of The Laird to read and review.

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Christmas is coming! A new book in the CookBook Nook Mystery series; available November 8, 2018

Wreath Between the Lines (A Cookbook Nook Mystery 7)Wreath Between the Lines by Daryl Wood Gerber

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As a newcomer to the Cookbook Nook Mystery Series by Daryl Wood Gerber, I found Wreath Between the Lines a fun, engaging Christmas read. There was plenty of action to the plot and Jenna is a friendly and sweet character with maybe more than her share of curiosity. Because I am new to the series I didn’t fully understand Jenna and her father’s relationship but her father seems to be supportive of all her investigative actions even while he is away on vacation.

The plot jumps right into a murder which happens at Jake Chapman’s home, a rich millionaire who happens to be a friend of the family. Suspicion about the motive for the murder, Jenna jumps right in to solve the case and find out why it appears Jake was the intended target of the attack. This is the point in the story where I find my first major critique. I am surprised at how quickly Jenna accuses everyone around her. She doesn’t seem to have a filter in who she suspects as a criminal and often confronts people directly. I think the story loses a bit of its credibility with Jenna’s immature investigative tactics. This is the first reason I have only given the novel a rating of 4 out of 5 stars.

My second major critique would be wordiness. There are too many descriptions and unnecessary details added which downplay some of the action in the plot. For instance, when Jenna is running to help Jake whose friend has been murdered and strung up by Christmas lights, why do we get a description of Jake’s detached garage? I just feel as though some long descriptions of characters and places are unnecessary or awkwardly placed. The writing is overly detailed to the point where it is excessive. Some of these things might still be edited out before the final copy so I haven’t given too much weight to that in my rating.

All in all, I think I would be happy to give another one of Daryl Wood Gerber’s books a try and would definitely not hesitate to recommend this as a quick and spirited Christmas read.

I also want to thank NetGalley and Beyond the Page Publishing for an advanced copy of this e-book to read and review.

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E-Books or Traditional Books?

I read an interesting statistic today… approximately 4,000 e-books are self-published on Amazon EVERY DAY.

Thats crazy!

I looked into it and Amazon doesn’t actually share e-book stats with anyone, never mind sharing their sales numbers to the publishing industry but it seems like the actual number might even be higher than 4,000. Interesting.

I read this article too and it poses a lot of questions about how and why Amazon might be keeping book sales information to themselves. Here is a similarity compelling article on the topic from GoodReads.

Of course, they also say most statistics are 
MADE-UP on the spot.
What do you think of this? Would you self-publish an e-book if you knew you could make a few thousand dollars this year off of it? Or would our wait until you had a really good idea for a book and hope a publisher picks your story?

On another topic: What have you been reading lately?

Here are my most recent reads for 2018:

Screen Shot 2018-10-13 at 4.14.30 PM

“The Last Mrs. Parrish” by Liv Constantine

“The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle” by Stuart Turton

“The Golden Egg” and “The Jewels of Paradise” by Donna Leon

“The Prisoner in the Castle” by Susan Elia MacNeal

“Earthly Remains” by Donna Leon

“The Clockmakers Daughter” by Kate Morton

“The Shadow of the Wind” by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

See my full READ2018 list so far and any reviews I have posted for them @ GoodReads

Happy Reading!

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A Moody Fall Read: An Old Manor House, A Tragic Mystery and a Missing Family Heirloom – “The Clockmaker’s Daughter” by Kate Morton

The Clockmaker's DaughterThe Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Expected Publication October 09, 2018

Birchwood Manor is a brooding historic home with more than a few stories to tell. Birdie, one of the main characters acts like a narrator for the story. We get to know fragmented parts of her story but we also get to see all of the other lives inexplicably drawn to the home as well. Throughout the years people have come and gone, each person unknowingly becoming part of the home’s story.

The Clockmaker’s Daughter is my first read by Kate Morton and I have mostly only positive things to say about it. The novel has such a picturesque setting and who doesn’t love a large historic home just waiting for someone to unravel its mysterious past? As readers we get multiple points of view which gives us a birds eye view of Birchwood Manor throughout its history. However, the alternating points of view can also be occasionally difficult to navigate from chapter to chapter. Some reviewers have mentioned that the story was hard to follow, but I actually enjoyed getting to hear all about the lives of each of the characters. I think Morton did an excellent job at navigating the complex plot while still being able to give us enough about each character to be able to connect with them. Some of the branches in the plot did die off, but I didn’t really miss them and did not feel they added to the success of the book overall.

Elodie is another one of the stories main characters and she is easy to connect with right away. She seems like she is a down to earth girl who just gets drawn into the history of Edward Radcliffe and his family’s story. Edward Radcliffe came from a wealthy family and was an aspiring artist. But how did his life become surrounded in tragedy and what caused his seemingly sudden demise? Elodie finds a leather satchel that hides clues to the Radcliffe family’s tragic history and leads Elodie down a path she can’t help but follow.

I would definitely recommend this book to my friends and think it will be a book which will stay in my memory bank for a while.

I want to thank NetGalley and the Publishers Simon & Schuster Canada and Atria Books

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Happy Reading!

Mantelpiece Clock

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“What She Gave Away” by Catharine Riggs; Should you trust the person sitting next to you?

Coming September 4, 2018!

Are you looking for a mild thriller that will not leave you too psychologically disturbed? Or maybe a Fall book for your Book Club? After reading this upcoming novel, you’ll never look at the library computer patrons the same way again and will want to go shred all those notes with computer passwords on them.

Here are my impressions on Catharine Riggs debut novel:

What She Gave AwayWhat She Gave Away by Catharine Riggs

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In my opinion, What She Gave Away by Catharine Riggs is a mild psychological thriller. This story is packed full of murder, suicide, banking fraud and even more lies and manipulation. But who is at fault or is it just a series of unfortunate tragic events? The main characters, Crystal and Kathi, are both unreliable narrators which slightly complicates matters.

Crystal is an intelligent, conniving banker who seems to leave a trail of destruction behind her. Her actions are motivated by an underlying hate for everyone she comes in contact with. Crystal quietly plays a psychological game of “whats the worst that can happen” to anyone that might upset her. Often Crystal will manipulate circumstances resulting in harm to those around her.

Kathi is a naive trophy wife who drinks so much that she doesn’t even know how to formulate her own opinions much of the time. She struggles to survive and conform to society’s expectations of her. In the midst of complete financial disaster Kathi strives to keep some sense of normality in the life she has created. Her world is slowly collapsing around her and she has no idea how to help herself or who to trust.

The main conflict in the story is manipulated by Crystal’s actions. She is the catalyst behind everything that happens. Psychologically traumatized during her childhood, Crystal just wants to internally rage and secretly plot to destroy the lives around her. As the story progresses, Crystal gets more and more brave and her actions cause more and more harm. Add in a probation officer who has connected a few dots and is keen on investigating suspicious suicides and you have a story!

What are my overall impressions? I think the writing style is on point despite other reviewers complaints about the alternating point of view. That being said, I would have liked to know more about what Kathi was actually thinking. The novel has a first person point of view for Kathi but yet she doesn’t even seem to have an opinion much of the time so I found it hard to connect with her character. The length of the novel was appropriate and didn’t seem too lengthy. Crystal was sneaky and manipulative, but she could have come across as being more paranoid; she was too confident.

My two big criticisms of the novel are the suspense and the conclusion. There wasn’t enough drama and suspense for me to really say it was a huge thriller. It was more on point with say a John Grisham novel than of a nail bitting thriller.

Secondly, the conclusion was too lengthy and tidy for me. I would have omitted the Epilogue completely and just wrapped up the novel without it. And why jump to 2020? Without giving away the ending, why tie things up so neatly? Leave something for the imagination or unknown and don’t give us a happy, we are all friends ending to a story starring two characters who are morally corrupt and have a distorted sense of reality.

If thrillers are your thing, I say give it a chance! I enjoyed reading What She Gave Away by Catharine Riggs and if it were not for the ending and a bit more suspense, I would have given it 5 out of 5.

I also want to thank NetGalley and Thomas & Mercer for the chance to read and review the Kindle copy of this book.

Happy Reading!

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