3.5 STARS It's been such a fantastic year for mysteries, at least it seems that way to my reading belt. There has been such diversity among narratives, such solid and imaginative dodging and covering up of truths. There are a few stand-outs for me thus far, in the mystery genre, and What Strange Creatures has been added to that list. I find myself hand-pressed to describe the way main character Theresa Battle got under my skin. Her almost drab air of existence set the entire tone for the book, one that I couldn't even lie about loving, because I loved it.
What Strange Creatures
was a ride of a book.
It opens in the future, as the most enticing of narratives seem to do. We know what the outcome is, and Emily Arsenault is prepared to lead us through the days leading up to that tragic verdict: a man has been accused of murdering his girlfriend. Said man, Jeff Battle, is the older brother of Theresa, our main female lead. The second chapter is the beginning of the groundwork, we're taken back three weeks in time, to establish family dynamics, pick up on clues, and become tangled in the personal lives of almost every character we meet. It was a regular 'whodunnit' on the surface, but there was so much more to be found once the layers began to peel back.
It's completely unlike me to appreciate an author who writes matter-of-factly, but this was matter-of-fact done extremely well. The formula for mystery novels, in my experience, seems to be this: a heinous crime, an introduction of potential suspects, a fake left, a fake right, and BAM! the killer is caught. It's a dance I've come to love, and one that
What Strange Creatures
definitely delivers, but with a side order of quirk. It was that darn Theresa Battle. She roped me in with her wit, and easy banter with her brother, and most notably, her decision to climb up off of her rump, and do something that mattered. Arsenault's ability to engage was top-notch, and wholly entertaining.
I deducted stars for a less than stellar reveal at the end, though, that's not to say that I wasn't completely blind-sided about who "bad guy" ended up being, I just thought it deserved a little more drama and PUNCH.
What Strange Creatures
for it's beginning, and it's middle, and a tone that is unlike any other mystery novel you will find out there. I already have Arsenault's other books ready and waiting to be devoured.
Side Note: If you own a pet, I also urge YOU to pick this up..you'll see why.
Recommended for Fans of:
The Last Policeman
series by Ben H. Winters,
by Rory Flynn,
by Gillian Flynn, Mystery, Thriller, Contemporary, Political Fiction....more
I can't seem to wrap my head around all of the things that this book...WASN'T. I have never before, in my entire reading existence, read a book that iI can't seem to wrap my head around all of the things that this book...WASN'T. I have never before, in my entire reading existence, read a book that involved ZERO conflict. There was inner conflict in here, yes, as one character undergoes a hysterectomy. But even THAT was written with sunshine, rainbows, and lollipops dancing in the background. I was dumbfounded, and so disappointed with what I found in
. However, as per usual, these are my personal opinions, because this book could very well be the perk that YOU need to get you out of a winter slump: a neat little drama-free soap opera of a book.
As the synopsis points out,
is a narrative about 3 woman (plus some female side characters), "navigating" their way through life, and it's small surprises. I won't delve too much into the plot, because anything I say might very well give away the entire thing: this book could have been written in 150 pages or less, seriously. The story is mainly centered around Sarah, who, along with her husband Josh, uproots her life and moves from New York, to a small town in Virginia. She then receives some bad news regarding her best friend Mona, hightails it back to New York to take care of her, and ends up spending some quality time with her sister-in-law, Kate, as well. In the end, she receives some great news.
That's it. That's all. I've pretty much described the entire book to you. There were no LIFE-ALTERING secrets revealed. No one was betrayed, no one was abandoned, defeated, depressed or even remotely in danger *SIGH*. When I started a new chapter, or read a line that (I thought!) held some guarded truth, I kept thinking "okay..okay this is it guys!! NOW the author is going to drop some bombs! Some real HEART-HITTING twists! I just KNOW IT!". And then..........nothing. Nothing until the very end, and then nothing there either. I was absolutely losing my MIND over the sheer
that was happening.
The characters in
were completely one-dimensional, and could have all been the same person to me. Their voices were so alike, my eyes glazed over almost all of the dialogue. Sarah's husband, Josh, could have been the one getting a hysterectomy for all I know, he was THAT interchangeable with her best friend, Mona. He was unrealistically written, which infuriated me to no end. Seriously, what man is THAT perfect? Give me a break. I want to escape reality when I read, but I'm not in favour of becoming delusional. I will refrain from sharing my thoughts about the main female lead, Sarah. Let's just say that when I got to a scene where she completely refused to become someone's friend because they were "too pretty", I was literally ready to close the book for good.
followed a linear path, a safe and, maybe for some, a comfortable pace. It's a book you might pick up if you've just overcome an emotionally trying time, and you just want something that's free of any negativity, or intense drama. There IS the issue of cancer in this book, so if that's a touchy subject for you, maybe steer clear. However, it was written about in a way that barely grazed the surface of the emotions, and procedures, involved.
I'm not exactly sure if she meant it to be, but if any inspiration from Kafka was used to craft the narratives in this book, it was definitely felt. II'm not exactly sure if she meant it to be, but if any inspiration from Kafka was used to craft the narratives in this book, it was definitely felt. It's difficult to review a book steeped in magic realism, as it usually lends to such an ambiguous tone, and ambiguity is not one of my favourite literary devices. I sometimes hate being left to my own imagination, as insane as that sounds, coming from an avid reader. Kodi Scheer was successful in her efforts to mix reality with surreality, but I wasn't blown away by every story in Incendiary Girls.
If I had to pick, my favourite was probably one of the shortest: Miss Universe. A tale in which one of the contestants was, quite grotesquely, torn limb from limb. It was a literal translation of the jealousy, and competitive madness, that is felt by the people participating in such an event. Incendiary Girls was like an acid trip of literary proportions. It was like handing a pen to the raw, human brain, and then asking it to draw pictures. It's not often we are allowed to drop our filters, and think true thoughts, or act on impulses that lurk just beneath the surface, so close. Kodi Scheer's writing was engaging, and thought-provoking, even if those thoughts sometimes veered into very weird territory. It was truth, cloaked in some fantastical notions, and bouts of magic.
Incendiary Girls was definitely one of the most strange, but invoking, narratives I've read thus far. If you're in the mood for something very different, you'll want to be picking this one up.
Recommended for fans of: Jose Saramago, Magic Realism, Short Stories. ...more
More times than not, your reading self is going on a hell of a lot more adventures than your physical self, at least mine is. My adventures of choice More times than not, your reading self is going on a hell of a lot more adventures than your physical self, at least mine is. My adventures of choice usually include fantastical worlds, and severely improbable magical abilities. But sometimes, just sometimes, I like to experience things that are more likely to happen in my own life, or have very WELL happened in my own life. Like drunken nights with friends, and embarrassing crushes on boys, and a general disarray of fun and good company.
Siding With Plato
was that type of experience, it was an easy, feel good type of read. Filled with cliches, yes, but it was the quirky dialogue, and sharp-tongued characters, that won me over.
Brooke was your typical college freshman, right along with the three girls she meets, and instantly bonds with, very early on in the book. No time is wasted, as the story line is quickly filled with party scene after party scene, and next day hangovers at breakfast. Then of course, there was THE GUY. You know the one. The jock, the one that couldn't be anything but a heartbreaker, a tease, a cocky, self-centered bastard. Brooke resists his charms for as long as she can, and it was in this play of cat and mouse that I really enjoyed her character. I did not expect some of the lines she lashes out with, and I found myself literally laughing out loud at almost every scene with her dialogue. I appreciated the fact that Michelle Manning didn't cast her characters in these 'innocent,' doe-eyed roles. They were spunky, and refreshingly shameless. They spoke their minds, and acted on impulses, and were never maliciously belittled by their peers, or themselves, for doing it. There is a definite need for these types of open-minded environments in fiction.
I hope to see this author break out big in the writing scene, and I look forward to reading more of her work.
Recommended for Fans of: Contemporary, Romance, 'Chick-Lit', Comedy, New Adult, Sophie Kinsella...more
5+++ STARS I want to let you know, first of all, that every word I write of this review is loaded. It is filled with emotion so strong that I wasn't sure I would be able to write this at all. I want to let you know that this book, this disturbingly beautiful, haunting, book, it changed the shape of my heart. It held it, and squeezed it so firmly that I am convinced that it no longer resembles anything familiar. I want you know that I need to refrain from using words that aren't even words-I want to make up words that could possibly mean MORE. I want to sit still and convey my emotions to you telepathically, because my GOD, these words aren't going to be enough.
The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender
is, without a doubt, the best YA book I've read of 2014. It was the brave, and completely unexpected. I loved that the title misled you into thinking this book was only about Ava. Because it wasn't, it was a heart beating louder than anything I've ever heard. It was the unraveling of three generations, beginning with Ava's grandmother, to her mother, to finally, Ava's own tale of happiness and woe. Leslye Walton needs to be allowed to do nothing else but eat, and write books. To be mildly cliche, I drowned in her words. I felt the atmosphere she created like a thick fog around my head-I have never yearned so badly to literally step foot into a narrative. Walton's words were magnets for emotion, and painted the most vivid scenes. Each jump in the timeline was written seamlessly, but with the most clear indication of change. You existed separately with each woman, and felt their stories right down to your bones. When each story line finally became one with Ava's, I was determined to never finish this book, not because I began to dislike, but because I was sure I would never love written words so strongly again.
This book was a marvel, and something I will never stop forgetting to remember. You will be doing yourself a horrible injustice if you don't eventually read
The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender
A horrible injustice.
Recommended for fans of: Magic Realism, Historical Fiction,
The Lovely Bones
by Alice Seabold, A.S. King, controversial issues....more
2.5 STARS I tried to give love another chance. The love for David Nicholls' books that is. I will admit, I liked
many degrees more than I enjoyed the mess that was
, and even laughed at loud on more than one occasion. But as a whole,
was a self-indulgent, teeth grinder of a book. The main character was a mess, and rightly so, because his wife and son's characters were pretty much the scum of the earth.
I have never felt more inclined to throw a book at my wall, with hopes of actually injuring a few choice characters within.
was a portrayal of the shining moments of love, and the darkened moments of it's decline. Douglas Petersen is on the verge of losing his wife, but for no good reason, in my opinion. Connie Petersen wakes up in the middle of one night with the courage to utter some despairing words: "...
I think our marriage has run it's course. Douglas, I think I want to leave you.
" What ensues is a maddening switch of timelines between present, and past.
Present: Douglas, Connie and their son Albie have gone on their pre-booked Grand Tour of Europe, despite Connie's statement, but to the inner joy of Douglas. He hopes to win his wife back, and finally gain some respect from his son while he's at it.
Past: Douglas recounts his unexpected love affair with Connie-starting from before they even met. When they do meet, there couldn't be less fanfare, and more effort on Douglas's part to convince us that what he and Connie shared up until a certain point was pure, and utter, magic.
I was having none of it, and maybe that was Nicholl's intention. The story was Douglas's perspective, his view on what he thought the people around him were feeling, and expressing. I would have loved to have Connie's side of the story, happening simultaneously with her husband's. I wanted to know the thoughts of a woman that I only grew to hate more and more as the narrative progressed-Connie was selfish, dissatisfied, and wholly unlikable. I feel as though we were sometimes meant to see Douglas as the enemy, but personally, I wanted to shelter him the entire time. I wanted him to know that he was doing a fantastic job of being a father, and keeping his family provided for. I wanted the whole book to turn into a big "finding yourself" for him. I wanted Connie and Albie to take their self-centered selves into some other book, somewhere else.
Nicholl's writing was thought-provoking, the multiple lines I highlighted was proof of that. There were profound statements that spoke to me about my own state of affairs, made words out of thoughts I have never verbalized.
definitely was a subjective novel, laid out in a way that allows readers to see themselves in either Douglas or Connie, or even Albie. It was a test of my patience, for sure, and I walked away having picked a side. Whose side will you choose?
Recommended for Fans of: Contemporary, Literary Fiction,
2.5 STARS I'm not a huge fan of name, and/or label, dropping in books. It cheapens the narrative, and makes my skin itch from superficial ridiculousness.
Christmas at Tiffany's
was full of it. Filled to the brim. I kept trying to concentrate on the deeper message of 'truly finding yourself' after you've experienced trauma, but I just kept getting distracted by the primping and preening. I can't count the amount of times I eye-rolled at the references made to guys 'checking out' Cassie and her 'long legs.' I sound bitter, but I just can't stand it when an author consistently attempts to drill into a reader's head just how 'attractive' her character is-once is enough for me to get it.
Christmas at Tiffany's
was a fast, entertaining read. It was a 'how to spend a rainy afternoon' type of narrative. The scenery in this book was the star pupil, the way Karen Swan seemed to capture the true essence of New York, Paris, and London. If anything, she made me want to blow my savings on a round trip to all three cities. I stopped focusing on Cassie's personal and romantic life, and began to focus on the effects that each city had on her well-being. I didn't care for her fantastic physical transformation, and wish that the narrative didn't spend so much time emphasizing that. I figured out very early on who her true romantic match would end up being, so it was more exhausting than anything else to have to sit through multiple 'hook-ups' with random men.
Christmas at Tiffany's
is a massive tome of a book, which wasn't off-putting in the least once you actually started reading it. I want to say that it could have been about 150 pages shorter, but I respect that the author didn't elaborate too much on any one particular moment. It was an interesting technique, used especially well in, and after, the opening scene. A huge twist is revealed, and becomes the catalyst for the remainder of the novel, but it wasn't dragged on, and you don't even really understand what's going on until Cassie has already moved on to the next chapter in her life. I must admit, it was one of the hardest hitting revelations I've read in a 'chick-lit' book, and written very well.
This novel would definitely make a terrific gift/suggestion for the people in your life that enjoy Lifetime Movie Specials, or books centered around the holiday season. And that cover would look fabulous sticking out of a stocking!
Recommended for Fans of: Women's Fiction, Romance, Contemporary, Kristen Hannah, Elin Hilderbrand, Sophie Kinsella, Emily Giffin....more
3.5 STARS Like crack cocaine, that's what this was. I literally read this thing in two in hours-a new record for me.
Last Train to Babylon
is nothing like it's title suggests, and I was surprised out of my mind at the narrative inside. It wasn't the best book, by any means, and I'd be lying if I told you that there weren't lines and words that the author completely overused, but uh, if you refer to my opening statement: it was crack cocaine.
It's the easiest punch to the gut, this type of narrative, the kind that promises a vault of disturbing secrets and vicious truths. I figured I was in for some dark stuff, and was only slightly disappointed when it was finally given out. It was physically painful to like Aubrey, the main character, but it was a guilty pain. She went through a traumatic event, an irreversible, life-altering injustice. And I still hated her. I loathed her. I itched with the urge to slap her upside the head. If she wasn't so self-aware, it would have been so easy to just close the book and not finish it at all. She admitted her inability to feel emotion, but it seemed more like a spoiled, privileged attitude, rather than one that stemmed from an actual personality flaw.
It was the side characters that deserved my attention, and the one I grew particularly close to was Adam-my whole heart belonged to Adam. His pain felt the most raw, his reactions the most understandable. I wanted an entire book of Adam. Just Adam and his emotions. There is definitely enough content in here to satisfy the readers that prefer their books fluff-free and unashamed, but there were also things in here that induced some serious teeth grinding: the phrase "it felt thick" and "like sand" (or other combinations of those words) was used an inordinate amount of times. Aubrey managed to achieve EVERY level of drunk possible, and I just grew tired of it. Why was she drinking so much even before the 'incident'? It just all seemed so unnecessary, and forced.
But hell, this book was readable. It moved quicker than any thriller, or murder mystery I've ever read, and that's saying a LOT. I may have had my qualms, but I have to appreciate and rate this book on that fact alone. I can't wait to read more of this author's work.
Recommended for Fans of: Contemporary, Controversial Issues, Alice Seabold,
by Kelly Buffet,
The Last Time I Saw You
by Eleanor Moran....more
BEST SHORT STORY COLLECTION I've read all year. I'm still fairly new to the genre of short story fiction, but I'm realizing that I've already become picky about the ones I'll agree to read.
Man V. Nature
has definitely set the standard for me. It was quirky, and dark, and completely raw with emotion. It was the first time, in perhaps EVER, that I welcomed ambiguity with such open arms. Short stories have a tendency to end on an annoyingly cryptic note, and for the life of me, I can never get myself to appreciate the literary art of such a technique. But
Man V. Nature
was unstoppable, and all-encompassing. Diane Cook's writing made a direct hit on my most vulnerable spots.
I want to single out a particular story I enjoyed the most, but the thought of doing so feels akin to picking a favourite child. I don't have children, but I suspect that it's nearly impossible, and completely unfair. Every story in
Man V. Nature
was a force on it's own. If there was a gun to my head, I would tell you tell you that 'The Way the End of Days Should Be' was my favourite, was the one that resounded the loudest with me. And that is the fantastic thing about this novel, there is not a chance in hell that one of these tales won't mirror an exact emotion you've once felt; won't expose the truths about your most carnal desires. I couldn't help but place myself in every single setting, crawl inside the skin of the characters being forced to show their true selves.
Man V. Nature
was basic and complex human instinct, transformed into a piece of literature like I've never read before. I wanted there to be another story when I turned the last page, I wanted the author to keep telling me the things I deny about myself almost every single day.
This book changed me. I can't remember the last time I've felt like I could write that sentence with complete confidence. Every single person on this planet needs to own, and read, this book.
Recommended for Fans of: Life, Short Story Fiction, Contemporary, Literary Fiction, Chuck Palahniuk....more
3.5 STARS I seem to be on a semi-serious short story fiction kick, and I can't say that I'm hating it. Allnach's fresh batch of tales weren't as intriguing as the ones I enjoyed in
Oddities and Entities
, but there's no denying this man's ability to write the hell out of a 5-page narrative. I only enjoyed about half of the stories this time around, and that was literally the first half-the second half consisting of the meatier tales, and even one written entirely in verse. Unlike his other works,
was a mash-up of genres, though all still heavily steeped in the things that make us innately human, and at times, not so human.
I'm not even a little ashamed to admit that my favourite narrative ended with a character consuming a human heart. There is something so disturbingly refreshing about Allnach's writing, something so unabashedly addicting. It's the opportunity you're given to question your own desires that becomes so appealing, the fact that you're getting to delve into the perverse desires of others, that keeps you hooked. When I arrived at a tale that had a child carefully tracking his way to the bathroom in the middle of the night, I was reminded of my own fears of having to pee at 3AM, of the monsters that are undoubtedly waiting under MY bed. I want to use the word 'relatable' to describe
, but I can do better than that. This book was instinctive, and deeply rooted to the human soul. It was like the brain splayed open and unattended, unfiltered.
I only wish that the entire book consisted of stories that I could have kept on reading forever, unfortunately, Allnach lost me at the half point. I couldn't stay present in the longer narratives-one of which centered around Greek mythology-and especially not the when it got to a versed story entitled "Of Typhon and Aerina". But that was the beauty of this collection, it was the epitome of the cliched idea: "there was something for everyone." The second half that I disliked, could easily become another reader's favourite half.
I foresee even greater things for Allnach, and I can't wait to be a part of it.
Recommended for Fans of: Short Stories, Controversial Issues,
Man V. Nature
by Diane Cook, Contemporary, Greek Mythology, Psychological Thrillers....more
I won't pretend that
wasn't a realistic take on the horrors and anxiety inducing moments that divorce so kindly provides-I haven't been through divorce myself (and I pray to whoever is listening that I won't ever have to), but I am definitely the product of it, and i'll tell you this: it truly is the children who suffer most. Martha Louise Hunter hit the nail on the head in that respect, but sadly, fell so far from the mark in other ways that mattered. Descriptions were lengthy, dialogue was more comical than, I'm sure, was intended, and I just couldn't find it in me to sympathize with the main character.
That is quite the lengthy synopsis up there, and pretty much throws out every key point in the novel, so I will refrain from reiterating. The opening chapter of
was a task for me, the rehashing of a childhood nightmare was winded and way too wordy-I would have felt more, with less. As we enter present day, we're introduced to the catalyst for the narrative: Juliana's husband has served her divorce papers, and wants her completely out of both his, and their children's, lives. What ensues is a campaign for Juliana to regain her life-it becomes a fight to not only get back her children, but a valiant effort to fill in the gaps that were made when she was busy playing rich, and privileged, housewife.
I found Juliana to be insufferable. I loathed her rat bastard husband, Oliver, and couldn't help but work up some very real anger as I compared him to some people that, unfortunately, exist in my own life. However, even after the proverbial crap hit the fan, I still couldn't attach any emotion or empathy to Juliana, or her situation. It wasn't for lack of trying, because there were parts of this novel that were hard to ignore-Martha Louise Hunter definitely writes to entertain, but it all felt a little too desperate housewives for me. The added element of the time-warp paintings was, honestly, the only thing that helped me stick around. I was fascinated by the possible magic of it all, it was a much needed intermission between the somewhat cheesy, and juvenile dialogue.
Oh, shit. It's my dad. And, man, is he pissed off.
One would think that I stole that line from the mouth of Juliana's 14-year-old son, Adam. Maybe his dad caught him smoking. Maybe he didn't clean his room. One would think that, but it wasn't. That one came from Juliana herself. Who is 40-years-old. She is describing her elderly father, who is on his way out of his house in a rage, hell bent on threatening her husband, who has come by to taunt her.
This story is one that can help garner a lot of hope, and possibly strength, in women who have been through similar situations. Though, be prepared for some serious eye-rolling.
definitely wasn't one for me.
Recommended for Fans of: Women's Fiction, Contemporary, Sarah Addison Allen....more
Confession #1: I have never, in my entire existence, read, sat next to, or lingered near an Agatha Christie book. Although, I have in my possession ONE Sophie Hannah novel (that I haven't read yet). Confession #2: I didn't like this book. Confession #3: I have nothing to compare
The Monogram Murders
to, a.k.a. I have no idea if this book was written in true Christie form. Confession #4: I still didn't like this book.
Three people are murdered at a snazzy local hotel. The killer is still at large. Or are they? Hercule Poirot, and his Watson-esque sidekick, Catchpool, set out on a slightly convoluted goose chase to gather facts and rule out suspects. They get THISCLOSE to figuring it out, and BAM! Wrenches are thrown in. Truths are revealed to be lies. Who possessed the greater motive for murder? It won't be who you think it is, but Hercule and Catchpool will spend about 20+ pages telling you who it was, and why.
I didn't dislike the entire thing. I actually quite enjoyed the first 3/4 of
The Monogram Murders
. I was following along rather excitedly with the age-old puzzle of "find the murderer." I wasn't particularly drawn to the slow pace, or even the quirks of the beloved Hercule Poirot, but Hannah kept me engrossed right up until she exploded into what felt like a three-week long reveal. It was excruciating, and not even the kind that's worth it in the end. That's not to say that her writing wasn't up to par, because there was a flow that existed in the narrative that carried my attention to exactly where she needed it. It just got lost after that point, and I found myself glazing over whole paragraphs, and at times, even skipping pages.
The Monogram Murders was my very first foray into "author resurrecting author", and to say that I disapprove of the idea is unfair, because I don't. I feel as though I should have at least read a classic Christie novel before diving into this one, however, that may have also made things worse. For what it's worth, the characters in The Monogram Murders were distinct, and cleverly placed to create an air of mystery, and intrigue. I admit that I enjoyed the side characters a hell of a lot more than the two main ones, and wish that we got to hear more from the likes of Fee Spring, or even Dorcas the maid. This novel held a lot of potential, but sadly, fell horribly short in the end.
Recommended for Fans of: Sherlock Holmes, Mystery, Crime/Detective fiction, Historical Fiction....more
3.5 STARS MAGIC TRICKS REVEALED. Who hasn't searched that on YouTube? Or was at least somewhat fascinated by magic tricks growing up-from juvenile slights of hand to the likes of Houdini and David Blaine. Personally, I was completely obsessed. My overactive imagination conjured up a million reasons why the trick COULDN'T have been fake. These magicians were the real deal in my mind. They were the warlocks, witches, and super-human beings that populated my novels, and played staring roles in my favourite TV shows. I wanted nothing more than for magic to actually exist in the world, and it was for that exact reason that
held my attention hostage for 3 hours. I was COMPLETELY taken.
Jessica Blackwood, immensely talented magician turned FBI agent. A complete deviation of career, or so she thought. A baffling, and seemingly paranormal, murder has presented itself in a cemetery in Michigan. A cold case turned hot again. Someone has killed a young girl that was already dead for two years. How? Jessica Blackwood is appointed the person in charge of answering that question. Dredging up her expertise in magic, Jessica is set on the trail of a Houdini murderer, a serial killer with a penchant for an audience. She's about to find out the consequences of trying to look behind the curtain.
Fun fact #1, Andrew Mayne, the author of this novel, is a real life magician. With this knowledge in hand, I was already prepared to thoroughly enjoy
. And enjoy the hell out of it I did. Not only is Andrew a magician, he seems to seriously have knack for narratives. The story line in this novel was very well thought out. Unfortunately, there were scenes that got slightly muddled and bogged down with technical explanations and descriptions, but it didn't take long for the entertainment and intrigue to resurface. This guy obviously understands the effect of placing cliffhangers at the chapter endings, making it insanely hard for me to put the book down, even for a second. It was absolutely fascinating to learn the mechanics behind popular magic tricks, both the small ones, and the ones being created by our murderer. I felt like I was part of the team, like I could help figure out what the next move would be.
My only qualm, and a pointless one really, because this is a series, was the conclusion of
. It was a little too anti-climatic for me. I wanted a bigger scene, more resistance, and a lot more explanation. I also wished we got a deeper look in Jessica's past, the fact that her ancestry was also steeped in magic. It was all so endlessly compelling, and engaging. Andrew Mayne has created the beginning of a series that will be hard to ignore. I can't wait to read what he has for us next!
Recommended for Fans of: Mystery, Thriller, David Blaine, Criss Angel, Magic & Illusion in fiction....more
3.5 STARS I don't read horror fiction, let's just throw that fact out into the universe first, and foremost. But when I was propositioned with the synopsis of Horrorstor, I felt a calling in the deep recesses of my bones that I couldn't ignore, possible nightmares be damned. Now, here I am, only slightly scarred for life, and glad that I went for the ride. Horrorstor was definitely shudder-inducing during it's more disturbing scenes, but not overwhelmingly so, and certainly not enough to make me want to keep my nightlight on. In fact, it was downright comical at times, with characters pulled straight from a B-rated horror flick.
It begins with Amy (no last name), and Basil (same), Orsk employees with agendas all their own. Orsk being a complete and utter knock-off of the cooler, better-staffed, and high-priced Ikea. We pass some bantering dialogue, and we are introduced to the characters that round off our cast of five: Matt, Trinity and Ruth Anne. Suspicious overnight activity has left the store in disarray for a number of nights, and Basil, floor manager, has proposed an overnight patrol, enlisting the help of Amy and Ruth Anne. Matt and Trinity invite themselves to the 'search party,' spewing paranormal reasoning for the recent damages. Together, these five Orsk employees set out on a shift that their sanity will never forget.
I want to acknowledge the GENIUS that was the layout of this novel-the sheer level of originality, the insanely intricate efforts put into creating this wonderful parody of a book. Horrorstor is an almost exact replica of an Ikea catalogue, right down to drawn picture inserts of the furniture, it's available colours, exact dimensions, and handy tear out coupons-it all culminated into one of the most unique reading experiences I've ever had. I read this book while walking (safe, yes, I know), and was stopped by multiple baffled people, on multiple occasions, wondering why I was so immersed in an Ikea catalogue. And I replied with "No..but look closer! It's a novel! See! Revel in this clever ploy! Go buy this book..now."
I understand that there was also a story happening inside of this artful packaging, and it was one that I did enjoy, and was written quite well, save for some moments of repetition. Hendrix layered on the gore, and at times, kept it going for longer than I felt necessary. I wanted more character development, and frankly, a bit more time to build up my fear. I almost wanted this exact story to be written in a regularly bounded book, with expanded scenes, though, I already know that the experience would have been lessened.
Gimmicks aside, there were some heavy issues weaved into this narrative, and it was then that I really appreciated the author's writing. If you're looking for a book to kick start your creepy October reading, I would probably go pick this one up as soon as you can. It would also make for a KILLER coffee-table book.
Recommended for Fans of: Horror, Thriller, Gore, Paranormal, Nick Cutter. ...more
I can't say that I loved this book. Caitlin Moran's writing is definitely something worth talking about, but the content of How to Build a Girl was so far from what I tend to enjoy. Sex, drugs, and rock and roll. This book. Literally. I got the coming-of-age aspect, but it was those big 3 that just became way too much for me. It also may have been a culture difference/issue, because I sure as hell wasn't that full of sexual angst at the tender age of 14. I just failed to connect with the main character on SO many levels, and the stream of conscious narrative had my head spinning.
How to Build a Girl began in 1990. I existed at this time, and I was 4. Whereas our main character, Johanna Morrigan, is a ripe 14. I appreciated the 90's, but unfortunately, I'm a little too young to have caught on to all of the super-hip references that were made in this novel. Also, I just wrote 'super-hip,' not sure what that says about me either. Anyway, Johanna is sick of being an overweight, nerdy, and generally unbecoming teen. Her family is near broke, and her life is heading in a rather unfulfilling direction. She decides to create an alter-ego. Enter, Dolly Wilde, a music review writer for one of the coolest music papers around. Money begins to seep in, and so do the dangers, and temptations, that come with intermingling with rock stars.
I felt like this narrative was edgy for the sake of being edgy. I felt like it was trying too hard, and in turn, not actually accomplishing what it set out to do. Caitlin Moran could turn the phone book into something I want to read, I'm sure. How to Build a Girl was definitely not poorly written, it was just..TOO written. It was too much, too soon. Johanna wanted an out, and so became something that was 'in' (see what I did there). But too much sex, too much vulgarity, and too many visuals in my head that I would rather not have visualized. I realize I sound like a major prude, but Johanna/Dolly was 14 going on 35, and I would have been murdered on the spot by my parents had I been behaving the way she was. I reiterate, it may have just been a huge cultural difference, I find that a lot of British novels involve teens that are allowed to do things that I'm not even doing NOW, at 28 years-old.
I wish I had read Moran's How to Be a Woman before approaching this work of fiction, if only to have understood her personal and political background. Perhaps that's exactly what I will do. I hope to be re-writing this review sometime in the future. For now, I'm saying that I wish I had passed on this one.
Recommended for Fans of: Contemporary, Feminist overtones in fiction, Romance....more
3.5 STARS A surprisingly dark mystery, with a paranormal twist thrown in for good measure.
The Night Visitor
would have translated into a cheesy thriller on film, but on my e-reader, it was a narrative that seriously kept me hooked. The characters were distinct, and wonderfully cliched, the visuals stayed alive in my head long after they were described, and in terms of the mystery aspect, I would NOT have been able to guess that shocking conclusion.
The Night Visitor opens with a haunting murder scene, stocked with everything from a dark, creepy apartment, wild birds, eerie silence, and a of course, a huge slopping puddle of blood on the floor. The victims: artist Junior Lara and model Anya Langtry. Anya is pronounced dead, as Junior falls into a deep coma. The narrative continues around and within the lives of the victim's families: the Tates/Langtry's, old money, new money, and owners of a highly successful cosmetic line, and the Lara's, Junior's not as wealthy brother, sister, and mother. Rory Langtry, Junior's ex-girlfriend, and Anya's twin sister, claims the lead role as she suddenly develops a paranormal connection to the comatose Junior. She begins to see the world through his eyes, feel what he feels, and more importantly, becomes steps closer to finding out what really happened the night her boyfriend and sister died.
All cheesiness, and orgasmic coma scenes aside,
The Night Visitor
provided a much needed entertainment factor. It was intense, without stop, and I thought the paranormal aspect played well into the narrative. In all honesty, I was expecting a big reveal that barely dropped my jaw, but there it was, right on the floor, when the author finally shoved the murderer into the light. The build-up was definitely worth it, and I can't wait to get my hands on some more of Emley's mysteries.
Recommended for Fans of: Mystery, Paranormal, Thriller, Starter House by Sonja Condit. ...more
It is that elated sense of being, when all of your feelings seem to be resonating not only in your heart, but in every other limb and organ in your body. It's that moment when printed words have the ability to move you beyond a smile, or a chuckle, or a tear. It was
The Story of Land and Sea
that had me in awe of that literary potential. It was a story that seemed to have been written to only speak to itself, to exist quietly, with no hopes of falling into another's hands-it was that sure of itself. But it did, it not only fell into my hands, but it obliterated my heart with it's emotion, with it's consistent portrayal of loss, and abandonment. Not an uplifting story, but had I not read it, it's absence would have been a tangible thing.
We begin in 1793 (officially the furthest back I've experienced in a narrative). Told in three parts, from different points of view, in different moments in time,
The Story of Land and Sea
follows a family, and all of the hearts that exist around them, and within them. It is a story of grief, but also one of such love, and longing. It begins with Tabitha and her father John, and continues with wistful descriptions of the sea, memories of Tabitha's deceased and beloved mother Helen, and the hardships no single father should ever endure. In Part Two, we find a young and incredibly mature 10-year-old Helen. There are stronger mentions and implications of religion, as we delve deeper into the mindset of the ghost of a women we met earlier. We also meet Moll, the slave that is "gifted" to Helen on her birthday. This section was definitely the foundation, the area that answered floating questions-it was also the most enjoyable for me. Part Three brings together the people that were most prominent in Helen's life: her father, her husband John, her slave Moll, and Moll's son Davy. The slowest moving section for sure, but not for lack of intense beauty, that of which defines this entire novel.
To be honest, the era this book existed in had me doubting it's entertainment value-it's ability to keep me hooked. But hooked I was, though not necessarily on characters and setting, but my GOD, on that writing. The way the author combined a simple string of words, the way those strings then attached themselves to my heart, and pulled whenever it got a chance. I was mesmerized, and caught up in perpetual awe. I urge you to not ignore this book, to pick a place in your heart, or in your home, that you feel the most comfort, and experience this book.
Recommended for Fans of: Historical Fiction, American Revolution in Fiction, Diana Gabaldon....more
My hopes soared for
The Story Hour
, I was so deeply touched by The Space Between Us, so moved by the poignant display of human failure and triumph, that I gathered all of my expectations and demanded the same from this new novel. I wasn't sorely disappointed, but my range of emotions while reading
The Story Hour
wasn't as varied, and definitely not as engaged.
Following a tried and true narrative of the author's,
The Story Hour
involves the lives of two main characters-every couple of chapters, a different perspective. We meet Lakshmi first, at the most vulnerable moment in her life, and immediately before she attempts to take her own life. Years of enduring both a loveless country, and marriage, has finally broken Lakshmi's soul, and her will to carry on. When Lakshmi isn't successful with her attempt, we are then introduced to therapist Maggie Bose, whose own life isn't without it's obstacles. At the opposite end of the spectrum from Lakshmi's life, Maggie is happily married, and has a thriving career. When Maggie is assigned as Lakshmi's therapist, the two embark on a journey that begins as anything but professional, and by the end, has the two women changed beyond their wildest dreams.
I usually wouldn't point it out, but I want to in this case, because it was such an important detail in the story line, and to be honest, an extremely refreshing change for me. Maggie was of African-American descent, and oh my goodness, STOP the world. It was mentioned by the third or fourth page, in order to create solidarity between the two women, as in addition to Maggie being black, she was also married to an Indian man. I want to applaud Thrity a million times on her character choices, I want to tell her that she broke the molds for me, and gave me, and every other reader, a rare chance at experiencing a diversity that should exist SO much more than it does. I will now proceed to tell you that I was one feeling short of completely despising Maggie, her character was selfish, impatient, and condescending. Lakshmi was definitely the hero of this narrative, in so many ways.
Thrity's writing, unfortunately, fell short for me this time around as well. Lakshmi had my heart, but her chapters were like a cheese grater to the brain. Her broken English, and grammatically incorrect narrative, was incredibly, incredibly hard to follow. So much so, that I took to just 'auto-correcting' everything in my head before I read it. I understood the need to convey the level of Lakshmi's intelligence, and it definitely added a good contrast between the two women, but oh man, was it annoying. When Maggie's chapters finally came back, I was torn between feelings of walking into an air-conditioned room on a +45 degree day (because, bless you correct grammar), and wanting to rip my hair out because Maggie was so irritatingly deceiving at times.
The Story Hour
is not what I would deem a solid, well-rounded novel, but it's one that I wouldn't have wanted to miss. Thrity Umrigar is definitely one of my 'auto-buy' authors, and I will be recommending this book to those who are looking to indulge in stories of triumphs.
Recommended for Fans of: Contemporary, Cultural Fiction, Women's Fiction, Painted Hands by Jennifer Zobair....more
The only things I like short, or at least like them to feel that way, are my work shifts and lines. As a reader, I was never a fan of short stories, never felt like enough emotion or intent could be packed into a 3-10 page narrative. I know there are, in existence, so many fantastic short story works I need to experience, need to seek out and read. Flings by Justin Taylor was a good place for me to start, and just what I needed to kick start a love for shorter tales.
Flings is a compilation of short narratives, all revolving around, immersing within, and drawing out the very things that make us distinctly human-that allow us to build and destroy relationships. Appropriately entitled "Flings" because many of the stories involve people in romantic, or sexually complicated, relationships. In one story, a young boy is best friends with twin brothers, one of whom contracts cancer and passes away. We are left to wonder how deep the friendship ran, what unexplored questions the young boy had about his connection to one of the brothers-was it sexual? Truth be told, the majority of this book dealt with sex, and drugs. It was slightly off-putting, but entertaining to say the least.
Taylor's characters felt real, and displayed very real emotion. Not being used to the hurried time jumps in short stories, it was harder for me to truly enjoy any one specific tale, but as a whole, each one unfolded in a way that lent to the other. Taylor didn't stray too far off course from one story to the next, so, honestly, it felt like one huge setting, cut into snippets of everyone's lives. Taylor's writing was bold, and witty, and caught me completely off guard at times. The perfect piece to add to your reading pile if you're between books.
Recommended for Fans of: Short Stories, Romance, Contemporary....more
2.5 STARS I started this book in the oddest state of mind, it was a mixture of unfair expectation, and perhaps a craving for something more uplifting. There are no doubts to be found when considering the extent of Ned Hayes' story crafting, it was definitely intriguing and heart-wrenching in the right ways, I just found myself drifting farther and farther away from the narrative, until I succumbed to this inevitable conclusion: Sinful Folk just wasn't for me.
I can't say I don't enjoy a good romp through the 1300's, because I've experienced this time period through reading before, and have found myself completely involved. There was just something so particularly downtrodden about Sinful Folk something a little too simplistic and empty in it's narrative-even while I write this, my entire being is still being repelled by just the thought of it. I didn't hate it, don't get me wrong, the story within is not one that can be easily disliked.
No, inside we meet Miriam, or as we know her through most of books entirety, Mear, a young nun who escaped her convent with her young baby in tow. After an exhausting trek, in which she violently stumbles and cuts her tongue, she is brought into the village of Dans by some passerby, who mistakes her for a thief and murderer. After she is deemed harmless, and mute-and wrongly identified as a male-she follows suit and immerses herself in her new surroundings. Ten years later, the worst of tragedies has fallen on Mear's door: her ten-year-old son Christian has burned to death in a nearby home, along with 4 other village boys. In an attempt to avenge their son's deaths, and find their own inner peace, all five 'fathers' set on a perilous journey to see the King. Along the way, Mear is faced with exposure, and plagued by questions: Who killed her son? What ACTUALLY happened that night?
is based on true, thinly recorded, events.
It may have been my disconnect with the narrative, but I couldn't predict who the killer was, nor where the mystery was taking me. Instead, I found myself taken with Hayes' writing, and the way he made me feel so entirely for Miriam/Mear. It was obviously a far-fetched idea, attempting to convince readers that a young/middle-aged woman could safely disguise herself as an old man for ten long years-I just wasn't buying that. Nevertheless, I wanted justice for this character, I wanted her to feel anything besides pain and discouragement. It was the way that an individual of THIS era could be writing so specifically about an era that he never saw the light of day in-it was the way he made me believe THAT.
was one of those books that had you thanking a higher power for allowing you to be conceived in a time of such opportunity and freedom.
This may not have been the book for me, but I would definitely be interested in reading another Ned Hayes book should he decide to write more modern fiction....more
2.5 STARS Think, Practical Magic. Minus Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman. Minus the possession and the super-handy ability to light a candle by blowing on it. The ladies in
Season of the Dragonflies
dealt in scents, in perfume, to be exact. I enjoyed the magic realism aspect of this book, and appreciated the fact that it made me nostalgic about one of my all-time favourite movies, but completely capture me, it did not. Too predictable, too neatly tied-up, too much running-around-but-not-actually-GOING-anywhere happening.
The run down: an enticing Prologue, a curious flower is found, a legacy is born. Skip forward three generations, a Lenore daughter is returning to her hometown of Quartz Hollow (loved this name), after a particularly depressing bout of roughing it on her own. After a failed marriage, and minimal job options, Lucia returns to her mother Willow, and sister Mya, in hopes of recapturing peace-as ALL those who return home, in novels, tend to seek. Lo and behold, she slowly creeps out of her funk, rekindles a love from her teenage years (gasp! didn't see THAT coming..no but, I did), and attempts to quell the family troubles that were brewing while she was away.
I wouldn't exactly deem
Season of the Dragonflies
a "comforting read," as there were some tense moments, and characters that I, more often than not, wanted to strangle, namely Mya Lenore. However, it was fast-paced in nature, and boasted a pretty cool concept: a specific flower with magical properties, capable of propelling the careers and allure of woman. These woman used the flower in it's perfume form, provided by the Lenore family, and all was fantastically well up until the moment a client decided to breach her contract. I definitely enjoyed the story happening in front of my face, the love and life stories of the Lenore women, rather than the almost unnecessary sub-story happening in Hollywood. I understood that essentially, one story needed the other, to exist as a whole, but I just couldn't bring myself to CARE about what happened with the starlets who wore, and were abusing, the perfume.
I was most wrapped up in Lucia's story, and the love-hate relationship she carried on with her sister, Mya. The author did a fantastic job of creating such distinct personalities for the two. I was able to picture them clearly in my minds eye, and felt Mya's angst as clearly as I might feel my own. It was their story, and the refreshingly luscious town of Quartz Hollow that kept me reading a book that I would otherwise not have picked up for myself.
A great read for anyone that wants an added touch of something more in their fiction, a tinge of the unexplained, if you will. But just a tinge. ...more
Adult Dystopia. What a hell of a thing to anticipate reading about. All I've known of the genre comes from cookie-cutter teen narratives that more times than not, border on the highly ridiculous.
was not of the 'highly ridiculous' variety, but it was definitely a whole set of other adjectives that I'd rather not use when describing a book: confusing, disjointed, jumbled, and overly-descriptive. I found a simple solace in Jiles' beautiful prose, but her stream-of-conscious narrative was one I could have done without.
I'll admit, without shame, that I find it hard to appreciate and understand true literary fiction. I will most likely never venture into the realms of Faulkner or Orwell, they just aren't my thing. I prefer linear plot lines, thoroughly fleshed out characters, detailed world-building, a mind clear of ambiguity.
was like reading a novel through layers of fog. I just couldn't wipe away enough of the haze to truly grasp what was happening below and in between the author's words. 150 years into the future, an over-populated earth, lives and resources regulated, a young girl navigating a cruel new world on her own, dreams abound and attempting to be made into reality: I understood all of that. There was detail enough that I could sympathize with the citizens of this (very possible) new state of existence. But there was that, and only that. Paulette Jiles wove a tale that read too much like one very long, very scattered, poem.
I had to put this book down, numerous times. At the lowest times I felt like I just wasn't intellectual enough to understand the tones, but then the frustration would set in, and I would be running a near-constant dialogue of "UGH, why can't it just stick to one moment time for at LEAST a paragraph!?" and the obvious "WHY ARE THERE NO QUOTATION MARKS!?" By the end, frustration won out, and I quickly scolded myself for even questioning my intelligence: this book just wasn't for me. The beginning was brutal to slog through. The middle, when Nadia finally hit her stride, and found James, were definitely the most engaging. The conclusion felt rushed, and the introduction of key characters in this section only added to my puzzlement.
was a near brilliant idea for a novel, near absolutely brilliant, which is why the actual execution of it left me so disappointed. This narrative should have been solid gold.
In all, a great choice for readers who have studied lit fiction, and for those who enjoy books that challenge more than they engage.
is a novel to be deconstructed, and put back together again. To be enjoyed as one would analyze a piece of art. Sadly, those things just aren't what I enjoy in my reading....more
I have had a long standing relationship with Mrs. Picoult's writing. We started off in a fury of obsession and intensity (
My Sister's Keeper, Second Glance, Nineteen Minutes
), where I spent a solid month or more devouring everything I could find that had her name listed as the author. We tapered off into a slow simmer soon after, when I began to realize that I was growing weary of her repetitive narrative formula (
Handle with Care, Change of Heart
). We then, sadly, become merely acquaintances (
Sing You Home, Lone Wolf
). I would drop by to see what was new, of course, but there wasn't any real interest, nor any shred of the excitement and intrigue I had once felt. Then
happened, and I was fiercely thrown back into a state awe, but with a new found respect in tow. Jodi created something unquestioningly distinct when she wrote
, especially when considering her usual narratives, and there is absolutely no denying that it is my favourite piece of work by her. I thought we had rekindled something, I could have sworn that my love was about to reignite in that old familiar way. Unfortunately,
was the pinprick to my bubble. I wasn't completely disappointed, but our acquaintance status has been reinstated.
promised to expose me to a few of my favourite things, both in life, and in my literature: animals, paranormal happenings, and an international setting. Jodi Picoult's name on the cover aside, I was already sold. Jenna Metcalf can feel her mother, right down to her core. Alice vanished from Jenna's life when it was barely beginning, and a determination to find her is fierce in Jenna's heart. With the enlisted, and frustrating, help of two polar opposite personalities, detective Virgil Stanhope, and ex-famous psychic Serenity Jones, Jenna embarks on the most important journey of her 13-year-old life. In true Picoult form, we are also treated to the perspectives of Alice Metcalf, Virgil and Serenity. Also abundant are in-depth facts on elephants as both a species, and an intellectual being. Those were definitely the most fascinating parts, in my opinion.
It wasn't the lack of classic Jodi prose, because that is a constant, in everything that she writes. What was lacking for me was the plausibility. I couldn't convince myself that Jenna, at 13, was capable of such mature and witty banter. I also felt like the added dynamic of Serenity's "psychic" nature was a little too forced, and out of place. The latter ended up being extremely crucial for story development, especially at the conclusion, but I felt like there was too much happening at once. I was at once in Africa, completely intrigued by Alice Metcalf's research on elephant grief, and also in the audience of a talk show, listening to Serenity spew predictions and fortunes. The mingling of those two particular story lines just rubbed me the wrong way, and played a huge part in lessening my interest in
The conclusion of this book was absurd, and felt like a huge cop out. It was definitely the most disappointing twist I've ever read in a Picoult book, and would love to know if that was the author's first choice. This isn't a case of regret, because there is always something in Jodi's writing that makes me happier to be alive, I just didn't love the story. Here's hoping next year's book jump starts my heart.
Recommended for fans of: Contemporary, Mystery, Paranormal, animals in fiction,
Water for Elephants
by Sara Gruen....more