I wasn't sure that I wanted to start a new fantasy series from Bardugo after I had a lackluster feeling for the first book in her Grisha series, ShadoI wasn't sure that I wanted to start a new fantasy series from Bardugo after I had a lackluster feeling for the first book in her Grisha series, Shadow and Bone. I was in the vast minority with my rating of that book but after teenage co-workers loved this book so much I decided to give her another shot. I'm glad that I did.
This book started off strong and I loved the premise of a heist and a gaggle of misfits. Both this series and the previous Grisha series are set within the same fantasy world and, according to other readers, have some overlap between them. But this is a solid stand-alone novel so you do not need to read the Grisha series before picking this one up.
This book has a lot going for it. There's suspense, action, some great banter between the characters and even some romance. While it did feel like the author was trying to do a little too many romantic pairings of her characters I liked that the romance played more in the background and didn't feel like it outweighed the other aspects like the heist itself.
What struck me about this book is that it is such an ensemble piece and has a great group dynamic. Many of the characters take up the reigns of the story giving readers an up close and personal look at each of them. We learn some of their back stories and see their diverse personalities - hilarious Jesper, intense, sometimes hard to like yet brilliant mastermind Kaz, quirky Wylan, the strong yet silent type, Inej ... and a few more. They were each so different yet their personalities complimented each other well. It would be hard to choose one favourite so I'll say that Inej, Jesper and Nina were my favs and leave it at that. The book focuses on several different issues - from loss, to abandonment, to enslavement and deeply held discrimination these characters Six of Crows will have you feeling all the feels - the good and the bad. And I loved that.
All in all, this was a really good book. I'm looking forward to getting my hands on a copy of Crooked Kingdom, the second book in this new YA fantasy series. ...more
3.5 STARS - This was not my first time picking up this book. I had taken out the hardcover copy at the library many months ago but couldn't get throug3.5 STARS - This was not my first time picking up this book. I had taken out the hardcover copy at the library many months ago but couldn't get through the first chapter where Poehler discusses over and over how hard it is to write a book. After a few pages of this 'poor me' attitude (as if someone forced her to write it) I gave up. It just wasn't in the cards that day.
I recently decided to give it another shot but this time I took out the e-audiobook version with Poehler herself reading the book to me. I love her quirky, fun attitude and it definitely comes through in the audio version. She also invites several famous faces to add little bits to her story including Carol Burnett, Sir Patrick Stewart, Kathleen Turner and Seth Meyers. These additions added that Hollywood panache and some fun ... well, except for Meyers whose reading came off as extremely stiff and awkward which I hadn't expected from a SNL alumni. Even her mom and dad who read some parts felt more relaxed that poor Meyers.
It's hard to put this book into a specific category. It's not quite a memoir, nor is a comedic laugh out loud book (although there were certainly parts where I did laugh out loud to the shock of people walking by me as I listened). It's somewhere in the middle with the surprising theme of self-help coming to the forefront. I guess it shouldn't come as a surprise since Poehler is quite involved in her organization Smart Girls which encourages girls to change the world by just being themselves.
My feelings for this book wavered all over the place. As expected, this book has its funny parts and you get a sense of Amy's personality off-screen (which is quite similar to on-screen). Poehler ranges from the funny, goofy friend to a quiet sage who gives some great advice. But it has a very scattered feel to it as it jumps around from various topics and times in her life. And, sometimes, as with SNL, the focus on some topics went on for too long and became awkward - this included her conversation with Meyers which went from kind of funny to 'I guess you had to be there', to awkward and finally 'ok, wrap it up!'
Poehler keeps her personal life close to the vest which, on one hand, I can understand but on the other, when I'm reading a memoir of sorts I kind of wanted to know more about her family life etc. If you're looking for info on her marriage and subsequent divorce from Will Arnett you won't get it here and even her anecdotes about life on the SNL set and Parks and Recreation are brief.
Overall, I admit to being a little underwhelmed by this book. It had its great moments but they seemed far and few between. It's not a comedic book per se but much more of a look at life lessons she's learned, her rise to fame and some pretty great advice for getting through the sticky stuff of life. Poehler is down-to-earth, genuine and is a funny gal who you can see yourself hanging around with. So, Ames, call me, 'kay? ...more
This book explores family and all it's various forms and variations. From the relationship between mothers and daughters, parents and their kids to siThis book explores family and all it's various forms and variations. From the relationship between mothers and daughters, parents and their kids to siblings. Add in the complicated feelings surrounding adoption and this book has a lot going on.
The story is told via the different perspectives of three women - Nina, Phoebe and Lindy - who are each eccentric in their own rights but while they are connected by blood they have been separated by a decision made several decades before. These women have different life experiences and want different things out of their relationships with each other. I think their varied reactions to the adoption gives the reader a well-rounded look at the issue of adoption but I feel that one point of view was missing - the perspective of Lindy's adoptive mom. Readers get a glimpse, but a deeper, heart-felt look into how she felt seeing her daughter connect with her birth mom would have been touching and added another layer to the adoption issue.
The book focuses mainly on Nina who has a desperate need for family after the loss of her adoptive mother. She's almost obsessive in her need to connect with people who are 'hers'. I will admit that I didn't always like Nina with her erratic and desperately needy behaviour. Honestly, sometimes I wanted to shake some sense into her - especially when she becomes a doormat to her new 'family'. She is a woman who wants to belong at any cost and she loses herself a little in the process but thankfully she goes through a metamorphosis which I enjoyed witnessing. She's a positive person who imagines the best in situations (even if those dreams are unrealistic) and I suppose the cynic in me clashed a bit with her character.
Readers also get a very different look at adoption through the eyes of Lindy, Nina's newly found sister as well as Phoebe, the mother who gave them up for adoption over 30 years before. I really clicked with Lindy's story line and wish that she was given more page time. Reader's get a look into Lindy's hectic life and what she does to compensate for her lack of control but I would have liked to have known more about her - what was it like growing up in a large family, how did things progress with her relationship with her adoptive mother, did she still feel the obsessive need to count things?
The book started off strong with these varied characters and the mystery surrounding the reason for the adoption and my emotions ran the gamut with this book. I enjoyed getting into the nitty-gritty of these complicated family relationships. I liked that Nina's romantic life wasn't as easy road and how my emotions relating to that relationship went all over the place - from 'awwww, that's sweet' to 'dump him, now!' to a realistic, yet satisfying ending. But other times I felt the energy lagged and I didn't quite like or want to know more about Nina. And then the author picks up the pace in the last third of the book and ends with a wonderful epilogue that brings things full circle and wonderfully imperfect. This is why I'm sitting here struggling with my rating.
Dawson's writing is strong, occasionally witty and has a very heart-felt feel to it. Her characters were complicated and even though I didn't like many of the choices one of them made (Nina, I'm looking at you) I still felt they were accurately drawn and believable.
I enjoyed this book for what it is - a look at familial relationships in all their (occasionally) messy and wonderful stuff. Relationships - familial, parental and romantic - are hard, hectic and hopefully wonderful things.
Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to TLC Book Tours for providing me with a complimentary paperback copy of this book in exchange for my honest review....more
I do so love a book with a whole bunch of drama and characters that leap off the page! With her new book Borrowed Wings, author Ruthie Morgan continueI do so love a book with a whole bunch of drama and characters that leap off the page! With her new book Borrowed Wings, author Ruthie Morgan continues the engaging story she began in her first book, Skylark. When I read Skylark earlier last year, Morgan blew me away with her characters, story, humour and emotion. So, it's no surprise that I jumped at the chance to read the sequel.
This second book is very much an ensemble piece. While the first book focused on the tumultuous relationship of Billie and Evan, this time around Morgan broadens her scope and allows the secondary characters from Skylark to take up the reigns. The story is told in a linear style but the multiple points of view give the reader better insight into the lives and struggles of various residents of St Cloud.
Billie, the main character in Skylark, continues to tell her story in Borrowed Wings but I liked that she isn't always front and centre. Her story is told in the first person so readers get to see how she's faring after returning to St Cloud and facing the memories that await her. I liked witnessing her transformation from the darkness of loss and struggling to get her life back on track to figuring out who she is without her recently deceased husband.
St Cloud is a small, tropical island community where everyone knows everyone ... or do they? I enjoyed getting to know these secondary characters better and witnessing their joy and camaraderie and sharing in their heartbreak and tears. This book plays out like a big, emotional family drama complete with loss, redemption, love and a renewed sense of hope for the future. People who enjoy ensemble casts, be it in TV (like Parenthood or This Is Us) or in books (like Louise Penny's Inspector Gamache series) will enjoy this series where secondary characters are given time to shine and bring their unique issues to the forefront.
While I thoroughly enjoyed this book there were a couple of things that niggled at me. First, while I had a recollection about the bond that Billie shared with Jack in the first book, I felt that their connection in this book was assumed rather than shown. I wanted to see and remember why they had such a close relationship. Also, I found it difficult at times to keep track of some of the characters. There's a lot going on with multiple characters/relationships within several story lines. I ended up making a little cheat sheet to help me remember who was dating/married to whom, careers etc since it had been over a year since I had read the first book. I didn't need the sheet for long but in the beginning, it was very helpful.
Morgan is a beautifully descriptive writer who brings her readers into the heart of this small community, its residents and their own personal self journeys. She doesn't shy away from big topics or Kleenex worthy scenes such as: loss, life after loss, dealing with aging parents and sibling discord. Morgan balances these heavier topics by weaving her wicked sense of humour into her characters and their camaraderie which gives readers a clear sense of community on this small island.
While Skylark was about the complexities of relationships with a nod to the darker aspects of love Borrowed Wings brings the story full circle and has a more redemptive, hopeful feel to it. This book is about the strength of friends and family - in all its varied forms - and finding one's way to fulfillment and happiness.
Note: I highly recommend reading Skylark first to understand the depth of Billie's feelings and loss as well as the relationships between the residents of St Cloud.
Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to author Ruthie Morgan for providing me with a complimentary e-book copy of her book in exchange for my honest review....more
I went into this book thinking it would be an emotional journey of an adult daughter and her experience as the caregiver to her ailing, elderly parentI went into this book thinking it would be an emotional journey of an adult daughter and her experience as the caregiver to her ailing, elderly parents. Johnson writes well and helped me gained insight into the struggles of baby boomers who face caring for elderly parents, sometimes for decades. She also highlights the relationship between mother and daughter which can sometimes teeter-totter between loving and tempestuous.
Unfortunately, I didn't feel quite the emotional impact which so many other readers raved about. While Johnson shares some touching moments I felt the story got bogged down in the details as she goes through her parents' house and all of the items they accumulated over the years. It became more about cataloging family relics and dividing them up between the siblings. While these descriptions of furniture, pictures etc would be interesting to those within the family I can't say that I felt the same way. Among these family relics stories about family lineage were thrown in here and there to give the reader a better understanding of Johnson's family's history. With the focus on family keepsakes I lost interest around the half way mark and had to force myself to finish the book.
What I did like about this book is Johnson's descriptive writing. She brought her neighbourhood in Oakville, Ontario and the house she grew up in to life with vivid descriptions. She also doesn't hold back her honest, and sometimes hard to read, recollections of being raised by parents with very different parenting styles. It felt like Johnson began to romanticize her parents after their death (which is bound to happen) but I couldn't shake the images of Johnson's childhood with a mother who came off as narcissistic and a father who was uptight about rules and doled out physical punishment for his children's 'own good'.
I found this book just an 'okay' read and wavered between giving it a 2.5 and a 3 star rating. I'm somewhere in the 'an okay read but not one I'd recommend' realm so I've upped it to 3 stars. While I felt the book was well written and the author brings some interesting issues to the table regarding the care and loss of elderly parents, overall I found this book quite dry, disjointed in its telling and, unfortunately, I struggled to finish it....more
I want to preface this review by saying that the original classic novel, The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, is my all-time favourite childhI want to preface this review by saying that the original classic novel, The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, is my all-time favourite childhood book. That meant that going into this newer version I had reservations and anticipation in equal measure.
Webb undertakes a huge responsibility to readers who loved the original as she continues the story of the garden and its next generation of admirers. I enjoyed how Webb incorporated Emmie's story within the backdrop of WWII which was such a tumultuous and dangerous time when many children were sent out of London to the safer countryside to wait out the war.
While this book feels like it's written for a slightly younger audience than the original I think that the author captured some of the magic from the classic by including many of the original characters. Readers who haven't read the original will still be able to enjoy this book because of old diaries that are incorporated into the story line which help reveal the back story for new readers and remind fans who have previously read the original.
Webb has written a nice story with a hearty nod to the original. But part of me wishes that she had added more of her own twists to make it stand apart more from Hodgson Burnett's version. I think it followed too closely to the original.
While this was a good read there were a few things that fell a little short for me: First, while Emmie was a good main character (who loves her wee cat almost to distraction of the reader) she lacked the sass and heart of Mary Lennox. Second, this book didn't have the eerie suspense that made the original so memorable. I think Webb tried to add suspense by not revealing the true identities of some of the characters (namely Mr. and Mrs. Craven and the dower gardener - whose dialect was oddly conveyed on paper) until much farther into the story. Unfortunately, it wasn't a hard code to crack for fans of the classic and I don't know if readers who hadn't read the original will necessarily make the connections easily.
In the end, I think young tweens (9-11 years) will enjoy this book. For fans of the classic it's a nice look at what could have happened to the original characters and while I didn't find this book quite as enchanting as the original it was an enjoyable and easy read featuring a truly memorable garden.
Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to Sourcebooks Jabberwocky and NetGalley for providing me with a complimentary e-book copy of this book in exchange for my honest review....more
This book is about the decade long downward spiral and self-redemption of a seventeen-year-old girl as she tries to come to terms with her grief and hThis book is about the decade long downward spiral and self-redemption of a seventeen-year-old girl as she tries to come to terms with her grief and her guilt in the accident which put her best friend in a coma.
This is the first book that I've read by Alice Hoffman. It started off strong and had me quite engrossed in Shelby's descent into blame, grief and self-hatred. This teen is hurting so fiercely; her grief is raw and she doesn't feel like she has many people in her corner. Nor does she feel like she deserves anyone or any future.
I found the first third of the book quite interesting but after awhile it seemed like a lot of the same self-hatred, blame game and Shelby pushing people way. The book itself is about Shelby's coming of age/redemption but it didn't feel like it had a strong sense of direction. Instead, the plot meandered along until the pieces started to fall together for Shelby, in her personal and professional lives.
One of the aspects that kept me reading was the mystery surrounding who was sending Shelby secret notes which engaged her in a way that the people around her couldn't. This mystery was quite compelling but its resolution was a little lackluster and I wasn't a fan of how things ended. It felt too contrived and easy.
A big part of my feelings for the book stem from Shelby and my lack of connection to her. She was a hard character to like. I felt for her situation and her grief but she was very cynical, dark and so focused on self-loathing and intent on living a horrible life. She's a hot mess for a lot of the book and believes that she deserves a horrible existence as penance for the accident she believes she's responsible for. Even when the powers that be, including her friends, boyfriend(s), her attachment to animals and sudden scholastic ability, propel her to a better life she still feels undeserved. Hoffman writes the story in the third person and I think that by doing this she loses the chance for her readers to get inside Shelby's head and witness the grief through Shelby's eyes.
Overall, this was just an okay read for me. It's a book about tragedy, loss, grief, blame and the complex relationships that we sometimes have, especially those between mother and daughter. It's also a coming of age story with Shelby experiencing a lot of bumps along the way as she learns that she deserves love and a full life.
Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to Simon and Schuster and NetGalley for providing me with a complimentary e-book copy of this book in exchange for my honest review....more
This is the third book in the Java Jive cozy mystery series and my first book by this author. While I'm not an avid 'cozy' reader, in the past I haveThis is the third book in the Java Jive cozy mystery series and my first book by this author. While I'm not an avid 'cozy' reader, in the past I have enjoyed the genre once in awhile. While readers could, like myself, jump right into this book, I'd advise reading the first two books before picking up this mystery. While I got the gist of things I felt like I missed out of having a solid sense of the connections between the characters. You understand who is who but miss out a bit on why they have such strong feelings - good and bad - for each other.
The mystery aspect of the book was strong and kept me guessing throughout the book. There were good twists and a gaggle of potential baddies to choose from. I also liked how a mystery in a previous book was solved within this story line tying in the two books. It gave closure and stirred up some new issues too. That's awesome!
Juliet stands out as a spunky gal who needs that sass to deal with all of the issues in her life. She has the requisite penchant for getting into trouble and the ability for some funny banter. Unfortunately, she had a very frenetic feel to her and her decision making abilities were often bad and unbelievable. I also wasn't a fan of Juliet's soap opera-esque problems with the various men in her life. It's not a love triangle, it's a rectangle of romantic angst. That's too much romantic mayhem for me. I'm in it for the mystery and felt that too much time was spent focused on her relationships.
I also have to admit that I didn't like Ryder. At all. The issues/fights between him and Juliet felt immature, seemed to come out of nowhere and became tiresome fast. One minute they're getting cozy and the next minute one of them picks a fight over something silly and they're screaming at each other. Plus, there's Ryder's issue of Juliet interfering with police business - at one point he's adamant that he doesn't want Juliet anywhere near his case and then soon after he's asking her to help get info from people she knows. Wha?! I didn't understand why they wanted to be together except that Ryder has an amazing body which is referred to several times.
This book was hit and miss for me. I really enjoyed the mystery and felt that Fardig threw great red herrings at her readers to keep us guessing. But too much time was spent on Juliet's love life for my liking. With more focus on the mystery and more likable characters this book would have garnered a higher rating from me.
Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to Random House - Alibi for providing me with a complimentary e-book copy of this book in exchange for my honest review....more
Behind Closed Doors has been the talk of the town since it hit store shelves earlier this year. Ratings were high and people were throwing stars at itBehind Closed Doors has been the talk of the town since it hit store shelves earlier this year. Ratings were high and people were throwing stars at it left, right and centre! While it seemed like it would be a home run for me Behind Closed Doors didn't manage to wow me.
It started off strong and I immediately pictured Grace as a Bree Vandekamp-type woman (you know Bree from Desperate Housewives?) with her perfect soufflés, handsome husband and what seems like an idyllic life. The author sets up her story well but around page 100 things started to fall apart for me as the story line became stagnant and there was more telling and less showing the reader what was going on.
I had expected a twisty suspense read but it was more of a melodrama. There were a few instances of suspense and while I wouldn't say that the plot or resolution was totally far-fetched it does lay on the far end of the plausibility scale as readers are forced to suspend reality for a large portion of the book.
For me, the characters were the weakest part of the book. They felt more like one-dimensional soap opera characters and I didn't find them believable or even likable. One is very naive and misses clues left, right and centre and another is pure evil (cue the mustache twirling baddie) with no redeeming qualities. It's hard to get behind characters like that.
That being said, this book was still a page turner at times but I disagree with some readers' comments that it's similar to The Girl on the Train or even Gone Girl. Readers are privy to several of the twists early on which made the suspense dwindle while the sinister feeling escalated. Where it does have similarities to Gone Girl is that I didn't care about the main characters at all - well, except for Millie. I liked her.
Overall, this was an okay read. It had a great premise, super creepy factor but if the characters had been stronger and the reader was given some hard to predict twists this book would have been amazing....more
3.5 STARS - What do magic, mystics, suffragists, female oppression and Cleopatra's Needle all have in common? They're a mixed bag of topics but they'r3.5 STARS - What do magic, mystics, suffragists, female oppression and Cleopatra's Needle all have in common? They're a mixed bag of topics but they're all important parts of The Witches of New York.
McKay's story focuses around three women who just happen to be witches - Adelaide Thom and Eleanor St Clair own a tea shop which is a front for their real services for women which include tarot card reading, palmistry, herbal medicines, contraception etc. Beatrice Dunn is a teenager who comes to New York and becomes an apprentice at the tea shop.
My favourite part of this book was the vivid description of the era. This book oozes with the atmosphere of the time so readers will have no trouble imagining New York in the 1880's. I thought that the inclusion of Cleopatra's Needle, as it was being brought to Central Park, was an interesting way to bring a real historical element to the book.
This era was male dominated and while magic and mysticism was quite prevalent within all walks of life there were still many who held independent women, such as Eleanor and Adelaide, with contempt and suspicion. I enjoyed that these three witches weren't portrayed as devil worshipers but strong women trying to lead normal lives ... with a touch of magic. Getting a peek into Eleanor's family grimoire was interesting and I liked how these three women used their magical abilities to help and empower others.
The book started off quite strong with the characters quite varied and the addition of Beatrice and her, as yet unknown, abilities had me intrigued. You may think it odd but my favourite character was Perdu, Eleanor's raven. He was the most interesting character to me but sadly the mystery surrounding him is one of the loose ends that isn't dealt within this book which was disheartening.
I found this to be quite a slow-paced book with a rather straightforward plot. While it does have some suspense that builds, the conclusion is quite predictable. There are a few 'baddies' thrown in to spice things up, like a jealous husband and Francis Townsend, a sadistic, religious zealot. Both of these men bring some much needed energy to the book but I can't help but feel that these bad guys were portrayed as the clichéd villains. I wish this suspense could have been used more throughout instead of just at the end.
What McKay does give her readers is a strikingly vivid picture of life in 1880's NYC. I enjoyed the addition of ghosts, mystics and magic as well as seeing how these strong, independent women handled being seen as threatening to the male-dominated culture. But with the slow pace and the predictable ending I liked this book, I just didn't' love it. In the end, this was a wonderfully atmospheric novel that puts female friendship, love and witchcraft in the forefront.
Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to Knopf Canada for providing me with a paper copy of this book in exchange for my honest review....more
I was a big fan of Phil Collins' in the 80's and 90's, even seeing him perform in Toronto three times (an awesome performer, in case you're wondering)I was a big fan of Phil Collins' in the 80's and 90's, even seeing him perform in Toronto three times (an awesome performer, in case you're wondering). I still enjoy his older music but I admit that I had lost track of what he'd been up to over the past decade or so.
With Not Dead Yet Collins' has written a no holds barred look at his life. He starts with his beginnings in England with his family and goes into great detail about his early connections with some famous stars (which totally shocked me), his desire to be on stage and shows his readers where his fear of letting people down stems from. He takes his readers through his early years on stage and in music - both as a child performer and later as part of Genesis and as a solo artist.
The book also focuses a lot on his marriages and most especially his children. Going into this book I really didn't know much about his personal life except that he's the father of actress Lily Collins. What I got from this book is a look at a man trying to be a devoted father. While he is often absent from his children's daily lives due to his hectic professional schedule, for the most part, he is quite successful as a dad of five. As a husband? Not so much.
As a songwriter Collins' has proven he has the chops to hold his own with the big dogs of music so it should come to no one's surprise that he can write a mean autobiography too. His cheekiness comes through every so often in his writing (which goes hand-in-hand with his awesome cover picture) and readers will get a real feel for Collins as a person. However, as much as it pains me to say this there is, at times, a whiff of conceitedness on his part. He's done a lot, he knows a lot of people so I'm not sure how he could have written this book without being 'showy' but I wanted to acknowledge the wee big of arrogance that peeks through at times.
And perhaps that's part and parcel with Collin's brutal honesty with himself and his fans. Throughout the book he opens up about some weighty issues as well as theories surrounding his life. I admit that I went into this book looking for the back story involving his song "In the Air Tonight" and a better look into his personal life. I found this book enlightening regarding his recent personal and professional struggles (of which I knew next to nothing about). And yes, he even sheds some light on the inspirational catalyst of In the Air Tonight.
For mega fans of 80's/90's music they'll love the stories involving Genesis and other big name groups of the time. Personally, I found it a little heavy in the naming of 'who played what, on which track and with whom' at times. I was in it for more of the personal look into his life and not who played bass for which recording of a specific song. But that's a personal preference and doesn't influence my rating.
Collins' talent as a song writer, percussionist and eventually as a lead singer is known the world over but it was nice to be reminded of all that he has accomplished and struggled with personally as well. He has had some huge moments in his life, with others being more infamous in nature, but he uses this book to tell his story with blatant honesty and heart. He lays everything out for his readers to witness - his sometimes poor decisions, his monumental successes and rise to fame, his regrets and his love for his family. If you're wanting to get to know Phil better, both on and off stage, you'll want to pick up this book.
Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to Crown Archetype Books for providing me with a complimentary paperback copy of this book in exchange for my honest review....more
I went into this book thinking that it would be a teen romancy kind of read. Cue the witty banter, a cute love story and some teenage angst. But insteI went into this book thinking that it would be a teen romancy kind of read. Cue the witty banter, a cute love story and some teenage angst. But instead I got something quite different. Sure, there's awesome banter which is delightfully dry and made me laugh out loud a few times. There's a love story and definitely teenage angst but it went a lot deeper than I had anticipated and really gave me some things to think about.
The book centres around Henry Page who is 17 years old and lives in his own universe with a tight knit group of family and his best friends Lola and Murray perpetually by his side. Henry is humble, sweet, very witty and generally a good guy. It's not until Grace, a new girl at school, shows up that his universe is thrown into a tailspin.
What immediately hit me was the depth of the characters. Henry had bonds with so many people and I felt like they were each given a good amount of page time for the reader to really get a sense of how they affected Henry's daily life. This was especially clear in his relationship with his two best friends - Lola and Murray - who are quirky in the best possible sense of the word. These three love and 'get' each other, their banter is hilarious and you know that they will be there for support through the good, bad and the utterly disastrous.
The same could be said for Henry's older sister Sadie and his more than than quirky-cool parents (whom I immediately pictured as Dill and Rosemary Penderghast from the movie Easy A). These two are delightfully funny with a healthy dose of dry wit. They adore Henry and give him the space to make decisions for himself.
My feelings for Grace were a little more complicated. I struggled to understand her and I liked how the author revealed why she is the way she is. But I still never fully trusted her. I was pretty firmly on Team Henry and didn't want to see him hurt. But at the same time, I could understand why Grace struggled with her own demons. Like Lola, I wasn't always a fan of their relationship and it was hard to witness when it became toxic and painful.
Sutherland paints a very realistic picture regarding relationships. They're intricate, complicated and can be viewed through different lenses depending on who's looking. Do we love the person standing before us or just the idea of what we want them to be? Can we just love certain aspects of people? Do people show us their whole selves? Do they have to? Does true love last?
“Love doesn't need to last a lifetime for it to be real. You can't judge the quality of a love by the length of time it lasts. Everything dies, love included. Sometimes it dies with a person, sometimes it dies on its own. The greatest love story ever told doesn't have to be about two people who spent their whole lives together. It might be about a love that lasted two weeks or two months or two years, but burned brighter and hotter and more brilliantly than any other love before or after. Don't mourn a failed love; there's no such thing. All love is equal in the brain. ”
To balance out the heavy themes in the book Sutherland employs humour, complete with some great one liners. My inner geek also loved the great book and movie references that were, for the most part, easy to get. My favourites were, of course, the Harry Potter references which included the shock and outrage that some people still haven't read the series. And then there's Henry's "Why You Should Date Me" Powerpoint presentation which made me giggle and fall for his character even more.
This book is a whole lot of things wrapped up into one nice package. It's about friends, family, finding yourself and the feelings of first love in all its obsessive and astounding bliss. But it also deals with loss and the struggle to live with all-consuming grief which people deal with in very different ways and on varying time lines. These are heavy, sometimes messy, potentially disturbing and heart-breaking topics but I think that Sutherland balances the deep and somber moments with episodes of light, laugh-out-loud banter which made this book a roller coaster of a ride and hard to put down for any length of time. I also liked the realistic ending where things weren't wrapped up nice and neatly in the end. Life, love and loss are messy. Let's not sugarcoat it.
Krystal Sutherland has written a very impressive debut novel. It's beautifully vivid cover will entice you but its characters, honest portrayal of the complexity of relationships and its humour make this book is a truly wonderful read.
Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to G.P Putnam and Sons Publishing for providing me with a complimentary paperback copy of this book in exchange for my honest review....more
This past summer I read the first book in this series and I was immediately intrigued with the premise of four different London's existing at the sameThis past summer I read the first book in this series and I was immediately intrigued with the premise of four different London's existing at the same time, each with varying amounts of magic.
Unfortunately, this book second book in the series didn't live up to the first book and I think it could have been down-sized considerably. The main issue I had was that not a lot happened. Much page time was devoted to the build-up to this big, multinational magical competition (think Tri-Wizard Tournament from HP). And yet the actual competition was lackluster and didn't happen until much closer to the end. Other than this tournament not a lot else goes on and the larger story arcs, which I loved from the first book, weren't addressed to the extent that I had hoped.
The issues were compounded by the fact that the characters didn't seem to develop any further than they had in the first book and their personalities, while familiar felt muted (except for Lila's arrogance which ran rampant throughout). But I did enjoy the addition of Emery Alucard. He has some mystery, can handle Lila and has a healthy dose of sass. But the animosity between him and another character, while explained, seemed much too weak of a reason for the intense and long held feelings between them.
Then there were issues with the plot that didn't make sense to me. Why would Lila, a Grey Londoner with no magical training, suddenly decide to cheat her way into a magical competition where the other competitors are people with magical ability and who have been training for many years? She's arrogant and puts herself in increasingly dangerous situations and based on that alone readers are supposed to believe she has a chance to win the competition? Um, no.
Overall, this was just an okay addition to the series. Even though not a lot happened it remarkably kept my interest enough that I finished it. So why the three star rating when it feels like I've kind of dumped on this book? Schwab is quite a talented writer, the story started off strong (mainly with Lila's story line and the introduction of Alucard) and I continue to love her premise of the four Londons. I also loved the addition of Rhy's romance. Unfortunately, this book suffered a severe bout of Second Book Syndrome and felt like it was merely a set up for the third book in the series. It had action, various romances and a good cliffhanger but I wish some of that energy had been used earlier on. I'm hoping that the author will pull out all the stops for the final book....more
3.5 STARS - I wouldn't say that I'm a huge fan of Mara Wilson's. I've only ever seen her in one movie that I can remember (the mega-hit Mrs Doubtfire3.5 STARS - I wouldn't say that I'm a huge fan of Mara Wilson's. I've only ever seen her in one movie that I can remember (the mega-hit Mrs Doubtfire with Robin Williams) and I've read many of her humorous Tweets but that's about all I knew about this actor who used to be the wee mite with the adorable lisp.
Going in I was expecting the book to be fairly humorous and give an insider's look into the life of a child actor. Fairly standard fare with a former child star author. You know, the usual pitfalls of The Business for a child, a few behind-the-scenes snippets (I personally hoped there'd be a bit on Robin William's) and, of course, her family life. And yes, all of these things are in the book but overall it's much more of a coming of age book featuring Wilson's struggle with the death of her mother, her teen years as a student and actor, her personal struggles with mental illness and ultimately finding who she really is.
This is a wee book but Wilson packs quite a bit into its pages. While I found different aspects of the book compelling I can't say that I was captivated throughout. It is a hodgepodge of her life experiences written in an essay-like format. This gives readers a glimpse into her life by focusing on different aspects but also made the book feel rather choppy. I enjoyed learning about behind-the-scenes aspect of Hollywood, her desire to be seen as more than just the actress who had played Matilda but it was her struggles with anxiety and OCD that were truly impressive, raw and eye-opening for me. I also loved her tribute to Robin Williams ('Writing Robin') which I found to be heart felt. That said, her essays about her struggles as an adult actor and her personal life I found much less compelling.
Wilson has written an honest, no holds barred look into her life. While she can have a fairly, and admittedly, bitter tone at times (her name means 'bitter' after all) I applaud her for not being afraid to be vulnerable to her readers as she reveals her fears and struggles. She's a strong young woman who can be quite witty and sarcastic but unfortunately her humour was much less part of the book than I was expecting (I do so love some well written 'sarc' and dry humour).
Overall, this is a good book if you'd like insight into where this former child actor is now in her life. It's a heart-felt and honest commentary on her life as a child actor and now as a young woman. She's honest with her struggles and you can't help but respect her fighting spirit.
Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to Penguin Books Canada for providing me with a complimentary paperback copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. ...more
2.5 STARS - I was drawn to this book for two reasons: the beautiful cover and the premise that this famous scientist plagurized his own wife's work. I2.5 STARS - I was drawn to this book for two reasons: the beautiful cover and the premise that this famous scientist plagurized his own wife's work. In the past I had given little thought to who Albert Einstein was as a person. I knew him only as the brilliant E=MC2 scientist with the crazy white hair so I was eager to learn more about him and the woman he married.
Unfortunately, from the get-go this book had a different feel than I had expected with too much time spent focusing on the courtship of Albert and Mitza. If I'm being honest, I didn't buy into their connection. Albert plies her with silly nicknames that turn this brilliant young woman into a gushing, silly girl eager to look past all of his rude behaviours. Albert starts off a quirky, yet highly intelligent, young university student who is lacking in social graces and a clue when it comes to being invited to events. But the reader quickly sees, via Mitza's first person account, a change in his personality as their relationship progresses. He goes from awkward geek to an absolute scoundrel - arrogant, power hungry, misogynist and self-centred to a shocking degree. I couldn't see why she would want to be with (and stay with) this annoying man who even her close friends and parents outwardly disliked. In this author's view, besides his brain, Albert didn't bring a lot to the table. As I said, I knew next to nothing about Albert Einstein going into this book but I'm not sure portraying him as a total jerk was respectful or substantiated in fact.
Mitza, on the other hand, is shown as being a brilliant young woman who sees her future in academia due to a limp (that is mentioned repeatedly) which immediately labels her as unfit for marriage by her culture's standards. She is sweet and smart yet increasingly and astoundingly meek as her relationship with Albert continues. She is portrayed as frustratingly compliant for a smart woman who was raised by a father who believed in higher education for his daughter. In contrast, Albert is portrayed as sneaky and egotistical as he repeatedly does things to undermine Mitza and put himself first. Sure, at first she's furious when he does these things but if you wait a beat she'll back off and ultimately do nothing but accept her fate. This circle of dysfunction and Mitza's ongoing meek behaviour got on my nerves fast. The plot focuses so long on this ongoing dysfunction that the characters are left with no time for development until too far in the book. By that point I had lost interest in what happened to her.
There has been conjecture that Mitza contributed to many of Albert's theories and it's this thread that the author chose to follow and assume it for fact for her fictionalized story. I'm willing to entertain the idea that Mitza contributed her skills in mathematics in some way to her husband's scientific discovery but I think Benedict went too far when she decided that Mitza suddenly came up with The Theory of Relativity.
Benedict's writing is standard fare but lacked any emotional quality to help me sympathize with the characters which resulted in me not having any connection them. Benedict freely admits that science isn't her area of expertise and that comes through in the writing since that aspect was glossed over with a general idea of certain scientific theories given to the reader but not in depth enough to give the reader a clear idea.
My thoughts of this book are in the minority compared to other readers. I realize that this is a work of fiction but I think the author took too many liberties with the personality of Einstein and the premise that Mitza had major input into many of his famous theories. Ultimately, I this was a dysfunctional romance with a side of science. I was left expecting and wanting so much more out of this novel.
Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to Sourcebooks and NetGalley for providing me with a complimentary e-book copy of this book in exchange for my honest review....more
I chose to read this book because it sounded pretty cool. I liked the mystery and magical aspects and, honestly, the distinctive square shape of the bI chose to read this book because it sounded pretty cool. I liked the mystery and magical aspects and, honestly, the distinctive square shape of the book with its beautiful cover featuring a blue-green beetle caught my eye as well.
This is a middle school read that is a combination of steam punk, historical fiction, fantasy and DaVinci Code type adventure. There are robotic scarabs, hidden passages, cool machines, the inclusion of some real historical events (namely The Great Fire of London in 1666) and even some magical elements. It's got a lot going on and I was intrigued.
It has an interesting premise with Jack finding out he has special powers which he must use to locate a mysterious artifact to find his missing father. This is the first book in a new series so there is a lot of world building going on but unfortunately it also gave the book quite a convoluted feel, especially in the first half of the book.
My feeling on this book can be summed up by 'meh'. I liked some parts but it was missing that special something. I spent the first third of the book trying to grasp the ideas of 'sparking' and 'tracking' (I sort of kind of got it but it was more complicated than I think it had to be). The middle third dragged and the last third, especially the last 60 pages or so, was where the action ramped up a notch.
My 'meh' feeling also stems from the fact that it was too light on character development. Sure, there's some good banter between Jack and Gwen but we really don't get to know them (and hardly see Sadie, Jack's sister, at all). The nefarious Clockmaker wasn't featured much and came off as a moustache twisting baddie caricature.
I think with a less complicated plot and more time spent on character development I could have really sunk my teeth into this book. I'm hoping that now that readers have a good idea about this unique world the future books in this series will address the characters more because, while this is a good start, this could be a fantastic series for middle school readers....more
2.5 STARS - WWII fiction is one of my favourite genres so when I saw this book I knew that it was right up my alley. The story is told via two 12-year2.5 STARS - WWII fiction is one of my favourite genres so when I saw this book I knew that it was right up my alley. The story is told via two 12-year-old narrators in two different eras. One follows Hannah, a Jewish girl living in Berlin in 1939 and modern day Anna, a descendant of Hannah's, who lives in New York City.
The first half of the book briefly introduces us to Anna but most of the page time is given to Hannah and her family's escape from Germany just before war breaks out. Living in Germany under the increasing power of what Hannah calls 'the Ogres' is hard. While Hannah has the unique experience of being a Jew yet looking more Aryan in complexion, this does not make her life easier and causes discord within her Jewish community. As Jews they are constantly denigrated by their neighbours and fear that their lives are in danger. This abuse, as well as the mood in Berlin at the time, is vividly portrayed to the reader.
Surprisingly I didn't find myself invested in Hannah's (or Anna's) hardships. The setting and the plot were screaming for an emotional connection but it felt like Correa didn't delve deep enough into the emotions of his characters. Add in the very slowly paced plot and unfortunately I didn't feel like I had much of a connection to either of the girls whose personalities were so similar that they seemed to blend together. Personally, I would have preferred for Anna's story line to be omitted entirely with more focus on Hannah's family.
After reading this book I questioned whether or not this is supposed to be a Historical Fiction for young teens instead of adults. The writing itself, while descriptive to a point, felt geared to a younger audience. It felt like the effects of this horrific war were toned down for the reader. If this book is written for a younger audience (and I could find no mention of it being specifically a YA read) I suppose it could be said that Correa was making his book age appropriate. Personally, if this is written for adults I don't think the devastation of WWII and the horror that was inflicted on Jews by the Nazis is something that should be glossed over. I also don't understand why, except for one instance I can recall, the author chose to not use the terms Jew, Nazi or Holocaust in his book.
What I will take away from this novel is the fact that I enjoyed learning about the S.S St Louis, the trans-Atlantic ship that Hannah and her family took with almost 1,000 other people to Cuba to escape the horrors of war. I had previously no knowledge that there were refugees who escaped the Nazis only to be turned away by Cuba (who suddenly decided not to honour the visas that the passengers had procured earlier). ** Note: The US and Canada were also among the countries who also turned away these refugees. ** That was an aspect of WWII, in all of my reading, that I had no knowledge of and I'm grateful that I now know more about that aspect of the war.
A plot focusing on the plight of Jewish refugees during WWII gave The German Girl all the makings of a unique, touching and wonderful WWII fiction read. Unfortunately, I don't think that Correa, an award winning journalist and author, delved deep enough into the issues or the emotions of his characters to make it a truly gripping and emotional read.
Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to Atria Books and NetGalley for providing me with a complimentary e-book copy of this book in exchange for my honest review....more