Top Ten Tuesdays | Favorite Books of 2017

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Holiday Blog Hiatus

It’s that time of the year again! In preparation for the next busy upcoming weeks, Words of Mystery will once again be going on hiatus for the month of December. The blog will be back with new blog posts again the second week of January! In the meantime I’ll continue to be active on social media. Finally, I just realized that this blog is almost four years old!! I’ve come a long way since I first started blogging, and really couldn’t have gotten to do all the things I’ve done without all of you who read, and support my blog, so thank you from the bottom of my heart.  I hope you guys will join me once again in the new year. Until then, I wish you a happy holiday season.

A sneak peek at some of the books that will be featured on the blog in 2018.

Winter/Spring 2018 Preview (Raincoast Books)

Back in September, I got the opportunity to attend the Toronto session  at the Bloor/Gladstone Library. Hosted by Vanessa and Laura from Ampersand Inc. as well as Jenn from Lost in a Great Book, the event was a fun, snack-filled chance to watch the live stream with other book lovers of the actual preview event that was taking place in Vancouver, BC.

Since the end of November is much closer to 2018, I thought that now would be the perfect time for me to share with you guys my top four picks from all the titles that were showcased at the preview event.

1. Busted by Gina Ciocca (on sale January 1st, 2018)

This was the very first title that was presented during the preview. Pitched as “Veronica Mars meets 10 Things I Hate About You”, Busted is definitely a must read for contemporary YA fiction lovers. If you love Jenny Han and Morgan Matson then this one is recommended for you! Seeing as I’ve loved several books by both of those authors, I immediately added this one onto my TBR list. This book features spying and a protagonist who finds herself falling for the guy who she shouldn’t as not only is he unavailable he’s also her “mark”. Stay tuned for my review of this book in early 2018!

2. Wires and Nerves, Volume 2 by Marissa Meyer, illustrated by Stephen Gilpin (on sale January 30th, 2018)

Like many book bloggers, I’m a HUGE fan of Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles series. The graphic novels are set after the events of the main series, and they follow Iko who’s known as Cinder’s android best friend. The graphic novels find Iko teaming up with some familiar faces and I definitely can’t wait for the second and final volume to come out!

3. Brazen by Pénélope Bagieu (on sale March 6th, 2018)

The past year and a bit I’ve be really getting into feminist and empowering reads like The Mother of All QuestionsWonder Women: 25 Innovators, Inventors, and Trailblazers Who Changed History and Kelly Jensen’s Here We AreBrazen is the latest book to follow the trend of female empowering reads. The book features profiles of 29 different women and unlike the books before it, this one is told in graphic novel format! Combining with my love of comics with my growing interest in women’s history and stories, this book has made it high on my list of must reads for 2018!

4. How I Resist: Activism and Hope for the Next Generation by Maureen Johnson and Tim Federle (on sale May 1st, 2018)

Since this book doesn’t come out until May 2018, there’s not cover for it yet. Anyways lately given all that’s happening in the world right now, it’s no surprise to see an increase in books talking about human rights and activism. How I Resist features essays about activism and hope (which many of us can use during these times) from many well-known YA authors and actors that’s meant to inspire everyone not just the young people it’s targeting!

So what 2018 titles, are you most looking forward to? Let me know in the comments below.

Book Review | Siege of Shadows by Sarah Raughley

Authour:
Sarah Raughley
Format:
ARC
Publication date:
November 21st 2017
Publisher:
Simon Pulse
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:
While I wasn’t too impressed with Fate of Flames, despite my initial excitement for it, I was intrigued enough to want to pick up the next book in Sarah Raughley’s Effigies series.

Like Fate of Flames, Siege of Shadows took a bit of time to hook me in. However, what I liked about this book was just how action packed it was. Since the majority of Fate of Flames was used to set up the world building, and mysteries and mythology of the Effigies there was more room in Siege of Shadows to focus on the relationships. Now that all four girls have come together and forced to work as a team it definitely brings out the more interesting dynamics. I also loved that we become more acquainted with the girls’ families, especially Maia’s uncle who proves himself quite useful to their cause. Of course there’s a bit of romance here and while I could have done without it, I did feel that there was a proper amount of build up especially from the previous book that the romance was all but inevitable.

As always, I love the Canadian and Toronto setting in the Effigies books! I also appreciate the diversity when it comes to the girls. Both the Canadian setting and the diversity is something that’s not often seen in YA novels, especially ones in the fantasy genre so it was definitely refreshing. Siege of Shadows has definitely upped the stakes for the Effigies and I loved how action packed it was. Also that ENDING!! Now I even more hooked and cannot wait to see where the series goes next, although I do hope that the “deaths” of all but one (for obvious reasons) in Siege of Shadows actually stick as they were incredibly emotional and powerful and it would be a cop-out if those particular characters survived.

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

Book Review | The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce

Authour:
Rachel Joyce
Format:
ARC
Publication date:
November 7th 2017
Publisher:
Doubleday Canada
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:
I loved Rachel Joyce’s The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy, as devastating, heartbreaking as it was and while I haven’t read any of her other books something about The Music Shop tempted me into picking it up. And fortunately I was given an advance copy shortly after hearing about it at the Penguin Random House Fall Preview.

Set in the 1980s, the book focuses on Frank the owner of a music shop who stubbornly refuses to get with the times and stock CDs (choosing instead to continue to own deal with vinyls). Among the cast of characters are his assistant  and his fellow neighbours who own various shops/businesses along the same old street and neighbourhood that has seen better days. I loved that this novel was inspired by the author’s real life meeting with a music shop whose owner was able to find the musical “cure” for her husband’s insomnia. This magical quality of being able to “know” what music a person needs to hear which is an ability that her protagonist, Frank also shares.

If I were honest The Music Shop started off a bit slow for me as I didn’t care about any of the characters. However, before long I found that I had been unknowingly drawn deep within the world and characters of the book. This may have been a result of the beautiful, whimsical prose. Or perhaps it was the fact that over time we get enough glimpses into the past of each of the characters helping us to understand why they are the way they are in addition to why people care about Frank a great deal.

While some may say that The Music Shop is an overly sentimental read, I loved that I was left with a warm feeling when I was finished with the book. It is a definite must read for music lovers and for people who are looking for an uplifting read that is within the along the same veins as The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin or even Katarina Blvald’s The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend as it’s also about the power of the arts, and how when ordinary people get together and work together they can make the extraordinary happen whether it’s just for one person or for far more people than they could have ever anticipated.

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

Midweek Mini Reviews #10

The Key to Everything by Paula Stokes

I love novels that feature travel in them, however I can be rather picky when it comes to the ones I actually end up liking. Fortunately, I rather enjoyed Paula Stokes’ The Key to Everything. Since The Key to Everything is categorized as “New Adult” this made the characters even more relatable to me since they are closer to my age than the teens in YA novels are. I also loved the fact that Oakland and Morgan are Psychology graduates as that’s what I studied during my undergraduate as well. The whole joke about Oakland and Morgan analyzing the boys (because they’re studying psychology) has been said to me on numerous occasions as well when I went abroad as a student. And while it was a bit frustrating to see how Oakland behaved at times, I did appreciate the positive female friendships (there’s not much “drama” between the girls) and I was glad that Morgan was there to talk some sense in Oakland when she went too far. The Key to Everything is a great read that is sure to inspire some serious wanderlust, but more than that I love how it portrays the unexpected friendships and relationships that can form when you take the risk and put yourself out there. And while it’s not always the case, it’s was nice to see that the bonds the girls form during their trip end up lasting when they return to the “real world”. Slightly predictable yet also unique this was one book I loved throughout.

Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe by Melissa de la Cruz

Melissa De La Cruz’s Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe has made many changes to the classic novel. The Bennets’ are now brothers instead of sisters, Bingley is a gay actor, and Darcy is an independent, modern woman who had to make her own fortune after she was “disowned” by her parents. What I didn’t like about this retelling was how Darcy was made out to be a selfish, snobby and stuck up person by almost everyone. As readers we get to see the story from Darcy’s point of view, but even from her actions while she’s far from perfect she truly isn’t that horrible or even judgmental of a person compared to some of the other characters. Which is why I felt her “change” was a bit excessive since we didn’t get to see how she previously treated her assistant and it’s not as if she abused Millie. I was glad when her best friend, Bingley finally assured her that she wasn’t the awful person that everyone made her out to be just because she was the only one of them to leave and make it on her own. As for the character of “Luke Bennet” (this version’s “Elizabeth Bennet”), I wish we got to know him more because his character came off as kind of bland. Other than that Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe was a sweet spin on the Pride and Prejudice story and would make for a nice quick holiday read. And if you’d rather watch the movie, then you’re in luck as Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe is in the process of becoming a Hallmark movie!

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

 

 

Mystery Monday | Glass Houses by Louise Penny

Mystery Mondays

Mystery Mondays is an occasional review feature here on Words of Mystery that showcases books in the mystery (and on occasion thriller) genre that we are currently reading and our thoughts on them. Feel free to comment and leave suggestions as to what we should read and review next.

Who is it by? Louise Penny is a former journalist and radio host with the CBC. The authour of the best selling Chief Inspector Gamache series, Glass Houses is her 13th book in the Inspector Gamache series. She currently lives with in a small village south of Montreal with her dog, Bishop.

What is it about? A mysterious figure is haunting the village of Three Pines, and Armand Gamache, now the Chief Superintendent and Head of the Sûreté du Québec can’t help but feel uneasy. This is confirmed when a body is found leading to a court case with Ganache as a key witness. As the court proceedings continue, it’s clear that there is more to this homicide case than its initially seems. With the Crown prosecutor and Gamache almost at each other’s throats, regardless of the decision the outcome and revelations from this trial will have a much greater effect than anyone could have anticipated.

Where does it take place? While the mysterious figure and murder occurs in Three Pines, the trial in this book seems to take place in Montreal which is where the head office of the Sûreté and Palais de Justice are located.

Why did I like it? Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache series has become somewhat of a tradition for me. As every year I look forward to the next book in the series. Once again, Louise Penny does not disappoint with her latest book. Glass Houses starts off differently compared to the other Gamache books that I’ve read. Beginning in the present with Gamache as a witness in a trial in Montreal before moving back to some time back when mysterious and silently threatening figure first appeared in Three Pines, Glass Houses manages to move back and forth in time without too much confusion for the reader. With its unexpected twists and turns throughout, I loved how the trial was only a minor piece of a more exciting and clever plot.

Like all of her books, Glass Houses excels at being thrilling and shocking yet also uplifting and (subtlety) hilarious when you least expect it. Perhaps it was partly a result of the authour’s personal loss during the writing of this book, but I found Glass Houses to be incredibly heartbreaking yet so full of love and warmth at the same time. And getting to visit Three Pines and be right there with all the characters that I’ve come to love like Gamache, Jean Guy, Isabelle Lacoste and even Ruth has made it even more sad to have to say goodbye to them once more. However, I’m hoping we’ll get see them soon in a year and hopefully in a new book as I’m intrigued as to where the story with go next after the ending in Glass Houses.

When did it come out? August 29th 2017

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

Midweek Mini Reviews #9

The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman

If you follow my blog, you will know that I loved Alice Hoffman’s last book, Faithful. However, I was a bit reluctant to pick up her latest book The Rules of Magic as I never got into Practical Magic and wasn’t sure it would be my cup of tea. For those who are familiar with Practical Magic, you will recognize the world and a couple of the characters in The Rules of Magic. However, it’s not necessary to be familiar with Practical Magic as The Rules of Magic is a prequel and can definitely be enjoyed as a standalone. In The Rules of Magic we become acquainted with the characters of Franny, Violet and Jet who are all endowed with magical gifts. I especially loved that we see Franny and Jet grow up from little girls to old women. Getting to see their thoughts and motivations made me want to root for them even more and it was nice to see that the tragic Owens curse didn’t completely stop them all from love and happiness. Similar to her other books, Hoffman’s writing whisks you away to the world of the characters so that you feel as if you are right there beside them as they go through life. I’m glad I ended up picking up The Rules of Magic as I was able to discover yet another enchanting and magical book.

Basic Witches: How to Summon Success, Banish Drama, and Raise Hell with Your Coven by Jaya Saxena & Jess Zimmerman

The idea and history of witchcraft has always fascinated me enough so that it lead me to picking up Jaya Saxena and Jess Zimmerman’s Basic Witches: How to Summon Success, Banish Drama, and Raise Hell with Your Coven. With the exception of the various “spells” and “rituals” Basic Witches at its core reads like any other self-help book. Empowering and female positive, I adored the beautiful illustrations and the straightforward and non-judgemental voice of the book. And while I wasn’t all that into the “spells” I loved learning about the feminist history that surrounds most of the stereotypical witchcraft beliefs and practices. Additionally, the “spells” are relatively easy to do and some of them do seem fairly reasonable as well as practical. For instance, I truly enjoyed the information on smellomancy as well as the cooking magic suggestions as I definitely agree that warm milk and honey are perfect for when you want to relax. A fun, light-hearted and unique read that’s perfect for the modern young woman who needs a little extra “boost” in life.

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

 

Mystery Monday | Righteous by Joe Ide

Mystery Mondays

Mystery Mondays is an occasional review feature here on Words of Mystery that showcases books in the mystery (and on occasion thriller) genre that we are currently reading and our thoughts on them. Feel free to comment and leave suggestions as to what we should read and review next.

Who is it by?  Joe Ide is a writer who is of Japanese American descent. His debut novel, IQ was inspired by his love of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories in addition his early life experiences of growing up in South Central Los Angeles, an economically depressed area with a largely black population and an area where gangs and street crime were far from uncommon. Ide currently lives in Santa Monica, California, with his wife and their Golden Retriever, Gusto.

What is it about? Isaiah Quintabe’s aka “IQ” has always felt that there was more to his brother, Marcus’ death than what was found. Even with his newfound “fame” and success as a PI, this is one thing that continues to haunt him. Now ten years later, he finds himself forced to confront his past when his late brother’s girlfriend reaches out to him asking for his help in finding her sister, a compulsive gambler.

Where does it take place? IQ’s latest case takes him from his Los Angeles neighbourhood of East Long Beach to Las Vegas, Nevada a city that has the potential to be both gambler’s paradise as well as hell.

Why did I like it? As always the writing and world of Isaiah Quintabe aka “IQ” is a gritty one, and nothing is held back in the writing and the details of the story and characters. Though it took a bit of time, I ended up enjoying Righteous more than the previous book in the series. I liked that some time has passed and that characters like Dobson and Deronda were given more compelling character development and backstories that made them more sympathetic and “human”. My favourite thing about Righteous though, would be seeing how IQ’s brain works to “connect the dots” and put all the tiny clues and details together to finally solve the mystery behind his brother’s death. Now that that part of his past has been settled, it will be interesting to see how he goes about moving forward in his life and what direction this series heads to next. Fast paced and action packed, Righteous will be enjoyed by those who loved IQ and even those who haven’t read the first book but are looking for a different kind of mystery series.

When did it come out? October 17th 2017

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

Book Review | The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand

Authour:
Cynthia Hand
Format:
ARC
Publication date:
October 24, 2017
Publisher:
HarperTeen
Publisher Social Media: 
Twitter/Facebook/SavvyReader/Frenzy
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:
Okay, confession time The Afterlife of Holly Chase is my first Cynthia Hand book. I am aware of how much love her writing gets like with the Unearthly series or even with her work on My Lady Jane, however I wasn’t really enticed to pick up one her books until I read the synopsis for The Afterlife of Holly Chase. I adore Christmas as a holiday and a modern YA retelling of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol sounded perfect to me!

Holly  to me felt like your typical, albeit spoiled teenager. While I could understand Holly’s actions, I couldn’t relate to her for the most part. That being said, I did like how she was able to eventually open up to her colleagues at Project Scrooge. And I did enjoy the twist at the end regarding the latest “Scrooge”. I also appreciated the fact that while there is some “romance” in the book it doesn’t play out in the typical way which I found refreshing for once.

Reading The Afterlife of Holly Chase in July definitely gave me the Christmas “feels”. While at times it seems like the story was trying too hard in its attempts to be a retelling of an old classic tale, I felt that overall it was handled in a way that captured the spirit of the original novel. Additionally I adored the characters who worked at Project Scrooge and while the ending may come off as a bit too clichéd with it’s sweet yet bittersweet tone, I liked that it was realistic in that while Holly doesn’t automatically become a good person instead she continues to try to be a better person. The Afterlife of Holly Chase is a book that is isn’t too overly sentimental and yet it may still get you in the Christmas mood.

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

November Blog Schedule

Sorry for the late post, this month has been all kinds of crazy! In additional to it being the most busy time of the year at work with all our events, I’ve been prepping for my team’s move to our new swing space. I’ll be glad for what (I hope) to be a much calmer November. Anyways I’m glad to be back this month with new reviews and posts every week this month that I hope you’ll enjoy. Feel free to let me know what you’re currently reading and what you’re excited for this month.

***

November 2 – The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand
November 6 – Righteous by Joe Ide
November 9 – Midweek Mini Reviews #9
November 13 –  Glass Houses by Louise Penny
November 15 – Midweek Mini Reviews #10
November 21 – The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce
November 23 – Siege of Shadows by Sarah Roughly
November 28 – Top Ten Tuesday
November 30Winter/Spring 2018 Preview (Raincoast Books)

Book Review | Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin

Authour:
Gabrielle Zevin
Format:
E-galley
Publication date:
August 22nd 2017
Publisher:
Algonquin Books
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:
I adored Gabrielle Zevin’s The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, and was intrigued by the synopsis of Young Jane Young as it focuses on the relationships between mothers and daughters.

Young Jane Young is told through multiple perspectives, starting with the mother of the titular “Jane” who is actually Aviva Grossman, a former intern who had an affair with the Florida congressman she worked for. Afterwards, we are filled in on what happened to Aviva now going by the name, “Jane’s” before moving on to the perspective of Embeth, the congressman’s wife. I also liked that we see how Jane’s decisions still have an impact on her life several years later. And it’s interesting how the author chooses to have the last chapter in the book be styled in a Choose Your Own Adventure manner as it gives the reader greater insight into “Jane’s” thought process when she was younger. However, this was a bit confusing at first as I was reading an e-galley copy and couldn’t turn the pages, though I eventually realized that it wasn’t actually a chapter where the reader is actually given the opportunity to “choose” what happens as “Jane” has already made her choices.

It’s wonderful to have women be the dominant voice in this kind of political narrative for once, and Zevin does an excellent job of making each woman feel like a real person that the reader can empathize with. An engrossing, and a surprisingly empowering read at times, Young Jane Young takes the refreshing approach of focusing on the women who are affected by a political scandal making it equal parts entertaining and enlightening.

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

Midweek Mini Reviews #8

You Can Have a Dog When I’m Dead: Essays on Life at an Angle by Paul Benedetti

Continuing my pattern of reading collections of personal essays, I decided to pick up Paul Benedetti ‘s You Can Have a Dog When I’m Dead: Essays on Life at an Angle. This book is a collection of his past columns for The Hamilton Spectator where he writes about his life, family and of course his neighbour Dave. Maintaining a good balance of being heartfelt, witty, hilarious and self-deprecating Benedetti’s writing at times reminded me of the writing style of the late Stuart McLean’s. Touching on every happenings in his life, there is definitely something that everyone can relate to in this collection of essays.

Well written and organized in a short and simple way, You Can Have a Dog When I’m Dead: Essays on Life at an Angle is most certainly a book that was made to take along with you on vacation or even for a weekend at the cottage.

This Time Around by Tawna Fenske

For those looking for a light, sweet contemporary romance Tawna Fenske’s This Time Around definitely does the trick. I adored the setting and all the characters, especially Jack’s daughter, Paige (who stole every scene she was in and even some that she wasn’t in) and Allie’s new friend, Skye. Furthermore it was difficult not to root for Jack and Allie as they were perfect for each other.

The only issue I had with this book was the conflict with Allie’s family and the money she discovers, I found it incredibly frustrating that she just kept on making poor decisions when it came to that. However, this was offset by the absurdity of what else she finds in her grandmother’s attic as it seems every character was finding something there.

This Time Around, is one of those warms that leaves you feeling warm and fuzzy in the end, and I like how it shows that the life you expected might not be the life you get and how sometimes it’s the unexpected that leaves us pleasantly surprised.

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

 

Book Review | A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares by Krystal Sutherland

Authour:
Krystal Sutherland
Format:
ARC
Publication date:
September 5th 2017
Publisher:
G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:
The pitch is what lead me to pick up Krystal Sutherland’s sophomore novel, A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares. I’m always up for sharp and witty banter and fun characters.

However, upon starting it, I came to realize that A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares is not your usual type of contemporary YA. Instead, it incorporates supernatural like elements, giving the story more of a magic realism/horror vibe similar to The Addams Family. That being said, I definitely appreciated the weird and quirky cast of characters and the various phobias of the Solar family and how they dealt with them in dysfunctional ways. Furthermore, I liked how “Death” was portrayed as an actual, physical character in this book and how even “Death” has to die at some point showing that nothing is forever.

Despite A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares, being a refreshingly odd YA novel I found it difficult to connect to the characters. As a result, I wasn’t really a fan of the romance even though I loved the protagonist’s interactions with her brother and best friend. Still, I did appreciate how Jonah assisted Esther in her mission to tackle her fears and break the family “curse”.

A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares is without a doubt an incredibly unique and mysterious novel. There are often times where the reader is left to question what is truly happening vs what is in one character’s imagination. And while I did not truly connect with the story, I do believe it leaves its reader with a good message about facing your fears head on.

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.