Tag Archives: new 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

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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

https://www.goodreads.com/book/photo/39085465-a-song-below-water



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

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/43779862-grown-ups

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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My first read of 2020! A book filled with intrigue and murder in 19th century Guatemala City

The Woman on the Windowsill: A Tale of Mystery in Several PartsThe Woman on the Windowsill: A Tale of Mystery in Several Parts by Sylvia Sellers-García

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!

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My First Impressions of the New Mystery Series: The Addie Foster Mystery Series by Kimberley O’Malley

Death Comes in Threes (Addie Foster Mystery Series Book 1)

Death Comes in Threes is my first time reading one of Kimberley O’Malley’s novels. I was intrigued by the story from the beginning and Addie is a very fun, witty and likeable character. Grey is Addie’s supportive and easy going BFF who is there for her on a moments notice. Throughout the short time period taking place in this book, Addie has some very frightening and unexpected events happen. She rides through them like a trooper and seems to come out unscathed. The inserting of a handsome Detective also always helps! 

Some of the things I like about this novel are the energetic and funny characters. I love the Aunties and the dogs; albeit the thread of the two dogs I felt might have been overdeveloped. The novel was easy to read and the dialogue flows smoothly and naturally. The cover is also eye catching and makes you want to pick it up to see what it’s about.

Some of the areas of Death Comes in Threes which fall flat for me are the mystery plot development, the overuse of some narratives and the length of the book. The mystery in the book isn’t very deep and could use a bit more complexity and intrigue. I want to know more about the three strangers and their deaths and not just a quick note saying they died, end of the story. I also wish there were a few more chapters. The third death was rushed and seemed like the author just wanted to end the book so #3 mystery man is found dead. If the story is called “Death Comes in Threes” I want to know about what happens to them, not in a weird way, but have more of a story behind it. 

Secondly, certain elements in the narrative were overused. Addie doesn’t need to stand by the door to dismiss the dark brooding Detective every time he comes to see her. Furthermore, every character in the story doesn’t need to stop and say how cute her dogs are, we get it. 

And thirdly, I just found the story too short. Add in more detail about the mystery. Lengthen the time between events and add a bit more meat and potatoes (this is entirely just my own opinion). 

All in all I would love to read the rest of Addie’s adventures to solve the mystery which this novel started. I feel like I have only read half of the story. 

I want to thank NetGalley and the Publisher Laurie White / Carolina Blue Publishing for an e-copy of Death Comes in Threes to read and review. 

Also upcoming “Dyeing for Change” by Kimberley O’Malley (Addie Foster Mystery Series Book 2)

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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:

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“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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How to do YOU choose a book?

We have all been there, you start reading a book that you were excited about, only to find it difficult to get into and not what you were expecting. It’s even worse when you have paid full price for that book. I can honestly say this fear of book failure has kept me from purchasing many books. If I am not at least 90% sure I will like a book, I will put it back on the shelf, go to my computer when I get home and order it from the library.

So how do you pick out of all of the books on the shelves and tables when you walk into your local bookstore? Do you look for the guided headings first, such as “Recommended” or “New and Hot”? Or do you first look at the covers and titles to see what catches you eye? When reviewing books online, the most important impressions to a publisher are how much you liked the cover, the summary and the author. Did you choose a book because it had an interesting synopsis or because it had a catchy cover page?

Do you often stick with the same genres? I like to think I have a wide range of genres that I read from until I look at my reading logs. I occasionally have to intentionally choose a book outside of my favourite genres to mix things up. My husband recently asked me to read one of the books he was required to read for his Master studies, hardest read ever. There is nothing like HAVING to read something versus wanting to read it. If I had picked it up myself off the bookshelf, I probably would have read it in a few hours. Instead, its been MONTHS and I am still only a few chapters in. I almost dare you to try this out first hand….I would recommend starting with say, Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan. Let me know how quickly you get through one of the most read books in history.

Whether doing book reviews or just reading my latest pick from the library bookshelf, I find myself in the same predicament. I feel obligated to give a book reading my best shot, even if it means reading just one or two chapters at a time just to get through it. I must have some irrational fear of a dnf (did not finish). My most recent experience with this dilemma was reading a new novel The Hot Year by Anne Piper. I have included my review below. I just found this novel so difficult to keep plowing through and wanted to quit after just a few pages. I would recommend not wasting your hard-earned money (or time) on this book….I did that on your behalf, you’re welcome.

There are also some books that just seem too good to be true. I was definitely excited when I was approved to read a pre-publication copy of The Favorite Sister by Jessica Knoll. The synopsis was intriguing and the cover has that wow factor. The author has published other novels with excellent reviews so I had high hopes for this one. Alas, the most I could give this novel was a generous 3 out of 5 rating. I have included my review below….you might want to give this one a chance, you will either love it or hate it.

And finally, I want to end with a book that you may just really appreciate, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan. The cover is nostalgic, the story is intriguing and overall, I think many people will enjoy this book. If there was a heading at the book store, this novel would be under something like “Best Overlooked Books”. The Washington Post was one of many to praise Robin Sloan’s novel, saying Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is “smart, hip and witty, like the shiny surface of a new iPhone.” In addition, the book won many awards including one for its cover (which does indeed glow in the dark).

If you are going to spend $ on books this year, you should make this one of them. The story itself is not life-changing, but it is upbeat, fun and uniquely modern.

The Hot YearThe Hot Year by Anne Piper

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

From my opinion, there are too many gaps in the narrative of this story and I almost quit reading well before the half way mark. The storyline is very difficult to follow and often there are jumps in narrative that are never explained. Why does Lucy love Miles? That was never explained. Who is Lucy, what is her background and where does she come from?

Lucy writes a newspaper article which seems a pivotal moment and yet the article itself is never properly introduced; Chapter 14 just begins with her newspaper article being published. Who knew Lucy could write or even wanted to write an article? Things like this were too confusing and made it difficult to continue reading until the end.

Lucy is flighty and an unreliable character. At times Lucy is ambitious and adventurous and other times she wants to be rescued and acts like a child. The dialogue between Lucy and Steve is difficult to follow and Miles is just horrible altogether. The reader is given no reason why Lucy fell in love with Miles in the first place.

I appreciated getting the chance to read this novel and want to thank NetGalley and the Publisher for an ebook copy to read and review.

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The Favourite SisterThe Favourite Sister by Jessica Knoll

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

What you can expect: mystery, backstabbing, glamour and drama.

I could best categorize The Favourite Sister by Jessica Knoll as a women’s fiction novel. The theme is a reality show similar to “The Housewives of” except that all but one of the women are not mothers and are portrayed as successful YOUNG women. Once a woman reaches the dreaded age of 34 she will be let go from the show.

The point of view switches from present, to past and from character to character. I think this is what makes the novel so difficult to get through. It is hard to know which point of view you are in when you put down the novel and come back to it.

The characters themselves are complex and each have a very distinctive personality. As readers we find out at the very beginning that one of the “Housewives” has been killed and then the plot goes through the events of the past to reconstruct what happened. I do sort of wish we were given just slightly more information about the death at the beginning, just something more to hold onto as the novel goes on. In the middle of the story the plot drags on a bit to the point where as a reader you might even second guess that someone is really going to die at the end. As a reader I wanted to be more engaged in the mystery than in the drama and glamour of each woman.

As many other reviewers have mentioned, the conclusion is very abrupt. After a lengthy novel that takes a while to plough through, I felt somewhat letdown by the ending.

Overall I have given The Favorite Sister a 3 out of 5. I think some people will just enjoy the drama and glamour of the women’s lives and not be too concerned about the mystery in the plot. For myself I wouldn’t pick it up to re-read it again.

I also want to thank NetGalley and the Publisher MacMillan for the opportunity to read an ebook copy of The Favorite Sister by Jessica Knoll.

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Some other books I have read for my READ50 2018:

Surprise Me by Sophie Kinsella

The Finishing School by Joanna Goodman

A Treacherous Curse by Deanna Raybourn

How To Stop Time by Matt Haig

The Rooster Bar by John Grisham

Glass Houses by Louise Penny

Unraveling Oliver by Liz Nugent

https://www.goodreads.com/user_challenges/10332816

 

Thank-you for joining me on my reading adventures.

Happy Reading 📚

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Fall Reading and New Releases

If you need a few book recommendations, here are a few new books that are my most recent reads:

Glass Houses by Louise Penny 

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35197712-glass-houses

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The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor 

Release Date August 01, 2017

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/32600721-the-cottingley-secret?utm_medium=api&utm_source=blog_book

“Because the world was still at war, we needed to believe in something better. In that moment, and perhaps for much longer, it seemed to me that the possibility of believing in fairies was more important that one little girl telling the truth.” – The Cottingley Secret, Hazel Gaynor

32600721

The Last Piece of My Heart by Paige Toon

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UPDATE: Now that I have read the entire novel, I would definitely recommend picking up a copy of this book this Fall. It is fun and energetic. You will warm to Bridget’s character quickly and her emotions feel authentic. Definitely a must read!

Original Post: So far so good! I have only read the Prologue and the first three chapters but I am left wanting more! I hope Bridget’s story continues along the path of being exciting and fun with hint of romance. There is a small chance that the plot of this novel will be predictable but as it is my first time reading a novel by Paige Toon I cannot say for sure one way or the other. I can say that so far the first three chapters are entertaining, convincing and witty and that Paige Toon’s novel has drawn me in. I can’t wait to read The Last Piece of My Heart in its entirety. Thank-you also to NetGalley and Simon and Schuster for the opportunity to read a pre-release teaser of the novel. https://read50.wordpress.com/2017/05/25/light-summer-reading-and-spring-2017-new-releases

In the Midst of WinterIn the Midst of Winter by Isabel Allende
Expected Publication October 31, 2017
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Richard, Lucia and Evelyn’s lives collide and intertwine in a way that none of them could have predicted. Richard, a man who struggling with his own inner demons is forced into a situation where he needs to react, make decisions and take control of his own happiness. Lucia is a feisty woman who is originally from Chile but has carved a life out for herself in Brooklyn, NY. Lucia is an optimist who is always able to help those around her but when it comes to making decisions for herself she is unusually hesitant. Evelyn is a young woman from Guatemala who has struggled and been forced to see and experience things that no one should ever have to endure. An unexpected accident thrusts these three individuals together into a journey it seems only lifetime could have prepared them for.

I really appreciated Isabel Allende’s newest novel In the Midst of Winter. She dug deep into the hearts of what would otherwise be unremarkable people. She took an underpaid young house maid and gave her a history that is unimaginable but real at the same time.

Allende also explores some BIG, real social and political events in Latin American history. I might argue that one of these events would be enough for the novel. In the Midst of Winter tackles three characters each with very different and very tragic lives. At times some of the political events got lost in transition for me. I found myself stopping to think about which thread was being described, which country and which character.

The beginning of the novel was very good in my opinion. It drew me in and kept my attention. Once the action began for the conflict I was reading quickly and cared less about how Richard, Evelyn and Lucia resolved their situation. The climax seemed rushed, almost like you could see the author writing and someone over their shoulder saying, “alright, now resolve and finish this novel in 5 pages or less”.

However, there are too many good elements to this story for me to give it less than a four. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to my friends and I think it would be excellent for a book club.
***I also want to thank NetGalley and the Publisher for the chance to read a pre-release copy of this book.

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