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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Tag Archives: READ50
The King at the Edge of the World by Arthur Phillips
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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~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!
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Fatal Inheritance checks off ALL of my “summer read” boxes! This story is light-hearted with an adventurous heroine who is off to discover the secret behind her unexpected inheritance. The setting is the delectable French Riviera and the author definitely delivers on character development, plot and setting. The scenery enticed me and left me dreaming of the Mediterranean coastline and the essence of the holiday lifestyle of the elite.
In the beginning, Eve, the main character is slightly naive, trusting and vulnerable. However, through her journey we see a new Eve emerge who is quite audacious and self-sufficient. She meets so many fascinating people along her journey and Eve discovers the world can offer her so much more than she has imagined. I almost envision this novel as a coming of age book; Eve is realizing the world is much bigger and more exciting than she has been lead to believe. The author does a great job at integrating each of the supporting characters into the plot and making them unique and memorable. Noel is brooding and mysterious while at the same time he makes the reader want to know more about him. And don’t even get me started on Sully! I love his quirkiness and his ability to connect everyone who comes in contact with Villa La Perle.
I generally judge a book by the way in which I am captivated by the story as well as how I feel after finishing it. With Fatal Inheritance I was sad to have the story end; I wanted to find out more about Eve’s adventures and what else lies ahead for her. I also read the novel quite quickly which is often a good sign that it is entertaining enough for me to want to keep reading. The plot is full of twists, secrets and excitement. There are dinner parties to attend with famous people whom Eve has never imagined she would ever cross paths with. I also appreciated the theme of “love” throughout; it was definitely something people lost hope in during this time in history.
If you are looking for an enchanting, adventurous read while sitting at the beach this summer, I would highly recommend Fatal Inheritance!
I appreciate being able to read an ARC of Fatal Inheritance and I would like to thank NetGalley and the Publishers Simon & Schuster Canada / Washington Square Press for the opportunity to read and review it.
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.
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)
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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