Book Review | Love and Ruin by Paula McLain

Authour:
Paula McLain
Format:
Hardcover
Publication date:
May 1st, 2018
Publisher:
Doubleday Canada
Source:
Received from publisher.

Review:

“I didn’t want to cause trouble; I only knew what I knew. That Ernest could eclipse me, large as any sun, without even trying. That he was too famous, too far along in his own career, too sure of what he wanted. He was too married, too dug into the life he’d built in Key West. Too driven, too dazzling.

Too Hemingway.” (p. 100)

A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of seeing and hearing Paula McLain talk for the second time. The first time was for her book Circling the Sun which is a fictional account about the life of Beryl Markham, a British-born Kenyan aviator, adventurer, and racehorse trainer. In her latest book, Love and Ruin she returns to Hemingway by telling the story of Martha Gellhorn, a prominent war correspondent during her time and the woman who would become Hemingway’s third wife.

Now I’m not a fan of Hemingway, despite the fact that he is a great writer, however I was incredibly interested in Martha Gellhorn’s story solely for the reason that I knew her as a woman who despised being a “footnote” to Hemingway as she was an accomplished writer on her own before and after her marriage. And even though I was unable to connect with Beryl Markham in Circling the Sun, I was willing to give Love and Ruin a chance since I was actually intrigued by Martha Gellhorn, the person in addition to the life she led.

I’m not as avid of a historical fiction reader as I used to be so I wasn’t sure what to expect from Paula McLain and Love and Ruin. However, I was pleasantly surprised that unlike Beryl, I was actually able to connect with the character of Martha. I loved her desire to jump right into the action and obtain the stories from the civilians themselves. And I could relate to her love of adventure, especially as she grew older.

For the majority of the novel, Love and Ruin is a quiet novel and not much happens. However, it does eventually pick up and of course, the prose is lovely from start to finish. That being said, Martha’s relationship with Hemingway often feels like an afterthought. As a result, I felt like the pair’s falling out came quite suddenly even if there were hints here and there of the cracks in their marriage. Perhaps this is why I found the sections where readers gain a glimpse into the consciousness of Hemingway to be a compelling read. In fact, initially, I actually preferred them over Martha’s story.

With Love and Ruin, Paula McLain has solidified her place as not only a writer of historical fiction but one who tells the stories of the women who are often forgotten in the mainstream history. These are the women who if even referred to in history books, may have been portrayed in not the most flattering way. From her books, I have enjoyed rediscovering the extraordinary women who have appeared in them so far and I look forward to seeing whose story she will tackle next.

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

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Book Review | The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

Authour:
Helen Hoang
Format:
ARC
Publication date:
June 5th, 2018
Publisher:
Berkley
Source:
Received from publisher.

Review:
With the lack of cultural diversity in the romance genre becoming increasingly obvious than ever, it’s refreshing to read a romance novel with characters who feel like they could be your own family. With Helen Hoang’s debut novel readers gain a heroine with autism and a male romantic lead who happens to be half Vietnamese! Even today, it’s still rare for Vietnamese characters to be presented as leads much less romantic leads hence my excitement for The Kiss Quotient.

Stella Lane is not your stereotypical romance heroine, she’s financially independent, incredibly intelligent and has an actual job that she loves and excels at. She’s also quite a relatable and quirky in an endearing way. Meanwhile, Michael Pham was a charming and sweet guy who just wants the best for his family especially his mother. I loved that we got to meet Michael’s family and I particularly loved his relationship with his cousin Quan as they have an amusing, brotherly dynamic. And while we do not get to know Stella’s parents as well as Michael’s family, I did appreciate Stella’s mother finally stand up for her in the end as up until that point she wasn’t a genuinely supportive parent.

Stella and Michael’s relationship was truly heartwarming as it starts as a reverse “Pretty Woman” situation with Stella, offering to pay Michael for his “help” and evolves into something more. The two of them had a great deal in common, for example, both have insecurity issues and both are passionate individuals, proving that the two of them truly were “endgame”. I loved witnessing how their “arrangement” brought both of them out of their protective “bubbles” and gave them the courage to take the risks that they were too scared to do so before. It wasn’t difficult to fall for Stella and Michael after watching their relationship unfold and observing how they were delightfully awkward in trying to navigate what it was that they truly wanted from each other.

Furthermore, I adored the diverse cast and secondary characters in The Kiss Quotient and with the exception of Stella’s gross and inappropriate coworker, Phillip I would love to see more of them. As a result, I cannot wait for Hoang’s next book, The Bride Test as it features a mixed-race heroine, and an Asian hero specifically, Khai Diep who is also Michael’s cousin. And of course, I am eagerly anticipating the day there is a book starring Quan, Michael’s cousin!

As the illustrated cover hints at, The Kiss Quotient is a perfect balance of steamy and sweet. As an own voices novel for autism and biraciality, I loved that it was an original story with the usual message that everyone deserves love and a happy ending. This one’s a book worth picking up if you are a contemporary romance reader looking for a little something different.

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 | Save the Date by Morgan Matson

Authour:
Morgan Matson
Format:
ARC
Publication date:
June 5th, 2018
Publisher:
Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:
Growing up one of my favourite newspaper comic strips was Lynn Johnston’s For Better or Worse. Similar to Grant Central Station it was also a comic strip where the characters who were based on the creator’s real-life family aged in real life. Even today the majority of comics still use “Comic-Book Time” instead of having time actually pass in real time. It’s unfortunate that Grant Central Station isn’t an actual comic strip seeing that based on the few comics included in the book, I would have loved to have seen more.

I mention this since one of the central elements of the plot in Morgan Matson’s Save the Date is the fact that Charlotte aka “Charlie” and the rest of the Grant family are characters in the mother’s comic strip. This is significant as one of the main conflicts within the Grant family concerns the mother drawing a real-life incident into her comic strip despite her promising not to. This leads to real-life consequences and one of the siblings being estranged from the Grant family. I’m glad this was not glossed over as I’ve always wondered how the people who have fictional characters based off of them truly feel about it. The conflict was handled in a way that felt authentic which I appreciated since this is a real issue creators need to consider when using “real life” in their work.

Other than the comic strip aspect of the book, I did enjoy the main storyline, which centers on Charlie coming to terms with the reality of her family and her life-changing. The fact that this occurs over the weekend of her older sister’s wedding adds a great deal of chaos and hijinks to the mix. Those who have been involved in planning a wedding know just how insane the process can become and how it brings out both the best and worst in all those involved. I could definitely relate to Charlie’s attempts to try to fix everything for her family in addition to her struggles to make a final decision when it came to college. That being said, my family is nowhere as large as Charlie’s even though they could probably match hers in terms of wackiness, hijinks, and drama.

Save the Date is probably my favourite Morgan Matson book thus far. I found it refreshing to have a YA contemporary novel where romance was only hinted at. Instead, the focus of Save the Date was on the Grant family dynamics and Charlie coming to terms with a major change. And while it was a hefty looking book, the pacing was splendidly done so that I flew through the pages quickly. An enjoyable read with a lively cast of characters, it feels at times like Save the Date was meant to be a movie or at least a TV show as you can vividly picture the story in your head. Pick this one up if enjoy a light, contemporary and entertaining YA read for the summer!

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 | Ayesha At Last by Uzma Jalaluddin

Authour:
Uzma Jalauddin
Format:
eGalley
Publication date:
June 12th, 2018
Publisher:
Harpercollins
Publisher Social Media: 
Twitter/Facebook/SavvyReader/
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:
“Because while it is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single, Muslim man must be in want of a wife, there’s an even greater truth: To his Indian mother, his own inclinations were of secondary importance.” So ends the first chapter of Uzma Jalaluddin’s début novel, Ayesha At Last. In case it wasn’t already obvious, Ayesha At Last is a modern-day retelling of Jane Austen’s beloved classic novel, Pride and Prejudice. As excellent of a retelling as it is, Ayesha’s story also stands on its own as both an own voices story and a Muslim romantic dramedy.

Despite its initial slow start, I found myself slowly drawn into Ayesha and Khalid’s world and social circle until I couldn’t put down the book. The characters feel like real people as they all struggle with relatable problems like workplace harassment, racism, finding the courage to follow your dreams and dealing with familial pressure when it comes to your career and love life.

I loved the relationships and friendships in this book. Ayesha and Claire’s friendship were truly heartwarming as was her relationship with her grandparents who more often than not stole the spotlight from the other characters in every scene they appeared in. I loved Nana and his habit of quoting relevant Shakespeare quotes and Nani with her investigatory talents and love of mysteries only surpassed by her love for her family especially her granddaughter Ayesha completely won me over. Furthermore, I appreciated that we get the story from both Ayesha’s and Khalid’s point of view as it helps us to understand who Khalid truly is and not judge him based on his appearance and his initial actions.

Notwithstanding the fact that I’m all for supporting diversity and own voices, stories in addition to local talent (Jalaluddin is from Toronto) Ayesha At Last is a well-written and well-paced novel that is one of my favourite takes on the Pride and Prejudice novel to date. It’s refreshing to read a novel that has a modern and realistic take on a romance between two individuals whose faith is important to them. Highly recommended for fans of Pride and Prejudice retellings and those who are interested in reading a romance from a unique cultural perspective.

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 Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

Authour:
Chloe Benjamin
Format:
Hardcover
Publication date:
January 9th 2018
Publisher:
G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:

“If nothing else, Judaism had taught her to keep running, no matter who tried to hold her hostage. It had taught her to create her own opportunities, to turn rock into water and water into blood. It had taught her that such things were possible.” (p. 138)

What if you were told that there was someone who could tell you when you were going to die? Would you want to seek out this person to know? What would you do with this knowledge? These are questions that haunt the Gold children in Chloe Benjamin’s The Immortalists.

Divided into four parts for each of the Gold children, Daniel, Varya, Klara, and Simon. Thus readers are given a glimpse at each of their lives from the time they first encounter the mysterious gypsy woman who tells them when they are “destined” to die to the end of their life. The majority of the book is incredibly tragic and heartbreaking as we witness the downfall of each of the siblings one by one. And while none of the siblings are truly likable, they are written as if they were real people and this made it difficult not to sympathize with and mourn each of them even if they usually were the cause of their own undoing.

Often it’s been said that knowledge is power, however, in the case of the Gold siblings, it is shown that knowing when you’re going to die may not give you the sense of freedom that you think it may bring. Each of the siblings deals with this information in their own way, and none of them execute it in a healthy way. Instead, they trap themselves in “mental traps” of their own making. All four of them focus more on survival rather than actually “living” and this brings about consequences, not just to themselves but to those close to them. And in the end, the reader is left with the same question that is posed to Varya, which is more desirable? Living a longer life or a “better” life?

A beautifully written novel, The Immortalists is infused with an element of magic realism as one has to wonder if the mystical woman was truly psychic or if she was just a scammer similar to the rest of her family. Regardless, it just shows how fragile humans are and how susceptible and vulnerable children’s minds can be despite a brave front. And while I’ll be lying if I didn’t say that I was hoping for a more uplifting read, The Immortalists was still a well-written albeit at times a difficult read that I suppose deserves all the buzz it has received.

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 | Royals by Rachel Hawkins

Authour:
Rachel Hawkins
Format:
ARC
Publication date:
May 1, 2018
Publisher:
Penguin Random House
Source:
Received from publisher.

Review:
In terms of release dates, Rachel Hawkins’ Royals hit the jackpot since it comes out right around the time of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding. And I’ll admit that while I’m not a major royal fan or even a fan of the royalty trope, that there’s an actual royal wedding happening this year was one of the deciding factors for me to pick up Royals.

The premise of Royals promises tons of fun and fluff and that’s exactly what you get in this somewhat shallow read. Our heroine, Daisy Winters isn’t the one marrying into Scotland’s royal family instead it’s her seemly perfect, older sister who’s going to marry the Crown Prince of Scotland. The fact that the focus is on the sibling who isn’t directly involved with the royal family made for a refreshing read as we don’t often hear from the family members who are suddenly thrust into the spotlight when someone in their “common” family is marrying a member of a royal family.

While Daisy isn’t my favourite character, I had to admire how she deals with her situation which is relatively well considering all the unreasonable expectations others have of her. She felt like an actual, ordinary American teenager and I loved her friendship with Isabel in addition to her relationship with her father who is basically the best character in the book. Furthermore, I appreciated the fact that Royals doesn’t take the stereotypical route with Daisy’s story, she doesn’t go wild with her status of being the sister of the girl who is marrying a Crown Prince nor does she even entertains the idea of hooking up with her future brother-in-law despite every other person including the Queen herself thinking she is after him. Finally I welcomed that way that Daisy and Eleanor’s sibling relationship was depicted as it felt true to life and relatable. And while it may be a bit clichéd it would’ve been interesting to get Eleanor’s story as she started off as a character who seem terrifyingly “perfect” yet was selfish and uncaring towards her sister. She only becomes more “human” and sympathetic near the end.

While Royals is a rollicking ride of a read there were a few issues I had with the book. Firstly, while the romance between Miles and Daisy had its moments, I felt like it was introduced too late into the story despite the tension being there from the start. As a result, there wasn’t enough time for the romance to fully develop. This ties into my other issue with the book which was that there were way too many storylines happening, which meant that by the book’s conclusion almost everything was left hanging which made for a less satisfying story.

For my first Rachel Hawkins’ book, Royals wasn’t an awful read, but it wasn’t my favourite read either. It is, however, an entertaining and unique take on the usual “princess” story which means it’s a fun, fairly cheesy story with a touch of drama. So if that’s your cup of tea, then this one’s for you. Personally, I liked Royals enough that I will most likely

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 | From Twinkle, with Love by Sandhya Menon

Authour:
Sandhya Menon
Format:
eGalley
Publication date:
May 22nd, 2018
Publisher:
Simon Pulse
Source:
Received from publisher.

Review:
Sandhya Menon’s When Dimple Met Rishi was one of my favourite reads back in 2016 so I was eager for more Sandhya Menon! That being said, I definitely wasn’t prepared for From Twinkle, with Love.

From Twinkle, with Love is centred around Twinkle Mehra who is an aspiring, teenaged filmmaker. Through her diary entries written as letters to her favourite female filmmakers, we get to learn more about the Twinkle who sees herself as a “wallflower” who is nothing special. She finds proof of this in her life where her parents who are almost never around physically or emotionally in addition to her complicated friendship status with her former best friend, Maddie.

What sets From Twinkle, with Love apart from your typical adorable contemporary is that traditional storytelling is basically non-existent in this book. Twinkle’s story is told mainly through her journal entries and this is interspersed with text messages between Sahil and his buddies in addition to Sahil’s blog posts which provide an alternate perspective on the events of the story. As a result of this non-traditional storytelling, I initially could not get into the story, although I did love Sahil from the start as his blog posts and text messages between him and his friends were hilarious and helped to endear him to me more as a reader. Twinkle, however, took some time to grow on me, though I could definitely relate to her in several ways as I had my share of “complicated” friendships at her age though I never had a talent like her penchant for filmmaking.

From Twinkle, with Love is a clever and enjoyable book that teens may be able to relate to especially with all the high school drama that occurs in the book. Filled with entertaining and diverse characters, From Twinkle, with Love was an above average read that remained consistently genuine throughout.

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 Brightsiders by Jen Wilde

Authour:
Jen Wilde
Format:
eGalley
Publication date:
May 22nd, 2018
Publisher:
Swoon Reads
Source:
Received from publisher.

Review:
Jen Wilde’s Queens of Geek was one of my favourite reads of 2017, so I was highly anticipating her next book, The Brightsiders. The book follows Emmy King, the drummer of a teen band called The Brightsiders that’s rising in popularity. Along with her friends and bandmates, Alfie and Ryan she has to deal with both family and relationship drama and often public fallouts that result from the drama. The book also looks at the pressures of being a young person under the scrutiny of the media due to fame and how it’s important to be true to yourself no matter what.

What I loved about The Brightsiders was the focus on Emmy’s “chosen” family. I love the friend group that Emmy has as on top of being a kick-butt group of individuals, they always had each other’s backs by providing support, comfort and cheering each other on! The best part of this book was just how LGBTQA+ friendly and positive the entire book was. Gender pronouns for any character are never assumed and everything is mainly treated in a matter of fact way. This makes it a perfect read for anyone, especially young people who identify as LGBTQA+ as they are not as commonly represented in fiction as cis individuals are. I also loved the fact that there is mental illness representation as I could definitely relate to having social anxiety that causes you to vomit when you’re nervous.

Unfortunately, in the end, I did not connect with The Brightsiders like I did with Queens of Geek. Perhaps it’s because I wasn’t who the book was intended for or maybe it was the fact that there were too many characters to keep track of, but I just couldn’t connect with Emmy or any of the other characters in the book or their stories. It was difficult to relate and/or sympathize with them since not only were they slightly unlikable, but also because due to their lifestyle, and the industry they are all in, they had to “grow up” faster than the ordinary teenager. However, I did find Alfie and Emmy interactions to be extremely adorable. And I also squealed at the cameos of Alyssa, Charlie, Jamie and Taylor who were the main characters in Queens of Geeks!

The Brightsiders wasn’t as “dramatic” as I was led to believe and that may be due to the fact the Emmy and her friends are rather “tame” when compared to the stereotypical rock stars. Altogether, The Brightsiders was an amusing (fictional) behind the scene “glimpse” at the life of young musicians and it’s definitely a book for all those looking for diverse voices and awesome queer representation!

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 | My So-Called Bollywood Life by Nisha Sharma

Authour:
Nisha Sharma
Format:
Hardcover
Publication date:
May 15th, 2018
Publisher:
Crown BFYR
Source:
Received from publisher.

Review:

“As much as love Bollywood damsels in distress, I don’t need saving. I’m my own hero.” (p. 69)

I love the recent influx of diverse voices in light contemporary fiction and I hope it doesn’t stop! Nisha Sharma My So-Called Bollywood Life is the latest addition to this category. Since My So-Called Bollywood Life was one of my “Waiting On” Wednesdays’ picks I was ecstatic to be able to snag an ARC early on in 2018.

To be honest, I haven’t watched that many Bollywood films, however after reading My So-Called Bollywood Life, I will definitely be remedying that! Fortunately, Winnie Mehta is a major Bollywood fangirl and film geek. I love that each chapter has a mini-review of a Bollywood film and that they are written in an honest, straightforward and kind of snarky manner. Furthermore, there is a complete list at the back of the book of all the films that were referenced throughout the book which makes it easier for anyone who is interested in going on a Bollywood movie binge.

Of course, this being a Bollywood inspired YA novel, there is heaps of drama and “destiny” is a key player in Winne’s story. That being said, I found it ridiculous how persistent and relentless Raj was and how Winne’s teacher and mother were incredibly unreasonable were for almost the entirety of the novel. And even though Raj’s behaviour was eventually given an explanation, I still find his actions borderline creepy and extremely manipulative which made me feel uneasy. Dev, on the other hand, was quite charming and he and Winnie were adorable together.

I do enjoy learning about new cultures, therefore I appreciated the fact that Winnie’s family and culture were well represented through the course of My So-Called Bollywood Life. As a child of immigrants, I could absolutely relate to certain aspects of Winnie’s including the switching of languages spoken within your family and the fact that you are “required” to constantly defend your cultural beliefs to your classmates who are unable to understand the complexities of your family situation.

Wonderfully frothy and over-the-top, My So-Called Bollywood Life is exactly what you’d expect from the synopsis. And while a couple of the Bollywood references may be lost on those unfamiliar with the culture like the dream sequences with Shah Rukh Khan which started to annoy me after some time, it did help with providing a “distinct” feel to the story. At times, reminiscent of When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon, My So-Called Bollywood Life is, for the most part, a delightfully cheesy and romantic read.

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 | Puddin’ by Julie Murphy

Authour:
Julie Murphy
Format:
eGalley
Publication date:
May 8th, 2018
Publisher:
Balzer + Bray
Publisher Social Media: 
Twitter/Facebook/SavvyReader/Frenzy
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:
So I am most likely in the minority, but I read shortly after it was released and felt “meh” about it. Willowdean was unlikable and it was difficult to root for her to come on top. However, the same cannot be said for the “sequel” Puddin’. I first heard of the book when the author came to a Frenzy Presents event in Toronto and was intrigued since the focus was to be on female friendships.

Taking place a few months after the events of Dumplin’, Puddin’ is told from the perspective of Millie the girl who won the runner-up position in the beauty pageant in Dumplin’ and Callie who was one of the mean girls who teased Willowdean and her friends. The book alternates between the two girls which allows readers to become acquainted with both of the girls. Millie was easy to relate to an extremely likable and it was easier to sympathize with Callie in spite of her past actions once we understood her character better. As a friendship tale, Puddin’ is marvelously adorable yet also realistic. It was refreshing, albeit a bit sad to see the girls who got to grow extremely close in Dumplin’ drift apart at the start of Puddin’. I appreciated the fact that Puddin’ establishes that while a major event can form bonds between people, it up to the people to maintain the relationships afterward. And this is what Millie does roping Callie and the other girls into “mandatory” sleepovers on the weekends.

The positive female friendship is truly the crowning piece of Puddin’ as, over the course of Puddin’, both Callie and Millie undergo a bit of character development as a result of their unexpected friendship. Millie learns to assert herself and fight for her dreams while Callie becomes slightly more soft-hearted and caring towards others after she opens herself up to the other girls. I also enjoyed seeing both the girls’ relationships with their mothers as they were far from ideal yet authentically portrayed.

Ultimately a solid YA contemporary novel, there are a few aspects of the book that just did not reach the same level as the rest of the book. Considering the central focus is on girls’ friendship, the romance in the book is more of an afterthought and the guys did seem a bit one-dimensional since there wasn’t enough time or space to develop them better. Furthermore it’s unfortunate that the dance team as a whole did not actually suffer any consequences and that only Callie was punished. Still, Puddin’ is my favourite of Murphy’s books to date as I delighted in the diverse characters and the overall female empowerment which made Puddin’ an excellent spring/summer read that I couldn’t put down!

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 | Am I There Yet? The Loop-de-Loop, Zigzagging Journey to Adulthood by Mari Andrew

Authour:
Mari Andrew
Format:
Hardcover
Publication date:
March 27th, 2018
Publisher:
Clarkson Potter Publisher
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:

“If you stumble,” she said, “that’s a great sign. It means you found your edge. You tried something that didn’t work, and now you know.”  (p. 15)

If you are on Instagram, you may be familiar with the name, Mari Andrew or have seen illustrations her Instagram account, bymariandrew where she posts meme like illustrations that are incredibly relatable, especially if you are in your twenties and still struggling to find your way through life. However, not only is she a talented artist, she is also a writer!

Am I There Yet? The Loop-de-Loop, Zigzagging Journey to Adulthood is her first book, a memory graphic novel that collects her illustrations alongside essays that give readers insight into the stories behind her drawings. Of course, the main draw for me was the drawings, however, I did find a few of her essays interesting and they do perfectly compliment the illustrations.

Divided into eight sections, my favourite is her section on “Finding Purpose” in addition to the one titled, “Finding Yourself”  as I love the travel illustrations and stories and the advice contain in both chapters. I also enjoyed the chapter called, “Love and Dating” since it contained the most entertaining and hilarious illustrations. I loved sharing the illustrations with my friends as there were several drawings that they felt truly captured their life and feelings in their twenties.

Am I There Yet? is the perfect book for anyone who feels as if they should have had all their sh*t figured out by their twenties and are stressed to find that this not the case now that they are in their late twenties. By sharing her own (ongoing) journey to adulthood, filled with heartbreak, love, loss, rejection and of course adventure, Andrew creates a comforting read assuring readers that they are not alone in this feeling of confusion. And that’s where ever you decide to go or whoever you decide to be, you’re going to be okay.

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 | A Death of No Importance by Mariah Fredericks

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? Mariah Fredericks is an American author who lives in New York. She has written many YA novels, A Death of No Importance is her foray into the mystery genre.

What is it about? Jane Prescott, is a ladies’ maid in an upper-class 1910 household in New York City. Being a servant means that she has mastered the ability of being “unseen” unless called upon. This skill along with her sharp, observant mind comes in handy when the fiancé of the lady she serves is murdered followed by the lady herself!

Where does it take place? A Death of No Importance is set in New York City during the Gilded Age.

Why did I pick it?  I’ve been trying to get back into mysteries and Mariah Fredericks’ A Death of No Importance sounded like an intriguing read due to its protagonist being a lady’s maid to a predominant family in 1910. These kinds of stories told from the servants’ perspectives are always interesting as due to the nature of their jobs, they are usually the ones privy to family secrets and have access to these families that no one else has. Immediately upon reading this book I was drawn in. The author does an excellent job of setting up the scene and a great amount of attention is paid to even the tiniest details which truly enhances the storytelling. The case itself is an interesting one, although I wished that we got more insight into the playboy Norrie as well as his “relationships” with Charlotte Benchley (who the protagonist, Jane works for) and Beatrice Tyler, the woman whom Norrie was supposed to be engaged. It felt like this juicy aspect of the murder mystery was quickly brushed under the rug in favour of the reveal of the murderer’s identity which I found a bit disappointing. Even so, A Death of No Importance was an excellent read that fan of historical fiction and cozy mysteries would enjoy. If there are more books featuring Jane Prescott solving mysteries, I definitely wouldn’t be opposed to picking them up.

When is it out? April 10th 2018

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 #15


Moshi Moshi by Banana Yoshimoto, Asa Yoneda (Translator), Mai Ohno (Illustrator)

Moshi Moshi was my first Banana Yoshimoto novel, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. Similar to several other well-known Japanese writers, there is an element of magical realism to the story. However, in this case, it is extremely subtle and takes the form of a not quite a ghost story since the “ghost” of the protagonist’s recently father haunts the pages of the book and remains a significant “presence” despite not actually being present. Yoshimoto’s writing is incredibly minimalist and cool, yet she manages to provide some fascinating commentary on the traditional gender roles and expectations in Japan today. Furthermore, she does an excellent job of capturing the grief and the process of trying to move on when someone you love dies in a remarkably traumatic manner. In addition, it was refreshing to see an accurate portrayal of a mother-daughter relationship where both are now grown yet neither are completely dependent on the other. But what I loved the most about Moshi Moshi, was the setting of the novel. Set in the Tokyo neighbourhood of Shimokitazawa, the book made me want to visit the area and check out the restaurants for myself. The only issue I truly had with Moshi Moshi was the romantic development and conclusion in the book as it was a bit unsettling and awkward. Nevertheless, Moshi Moshi is a soothing read in spite of its weirdness.

Feeding My Mother: Comfort and Laughter in the Kitchen as My Mom Lives with Memory Loss by Jann Arden

Jann Arden’s latest book, Feeding My Mother: Comfort and Laughter in the Kitchen as My Mom Lives with Memory Loss touches upon a topic that is near and dear to my heart. Having worked with patients suffering from Alzheimer’s, I was looking forward to this memoir of caring for elderly parents who have dementia. Told in dated journal entries interspersed with personal photos and recipes, the Canadian singer-songwriter brings readers into the daily realities of her life as a caregiver to a parent who has dementia. At times, the book feels almost too real however that’s the beauty of it. Arden’s candor about what it’s really like for the families of those with dementia makes Feeding My Mother resonates so much more for those whose loved ones also have dementia. The design of the book is also beautiful and soothing, and I loved the gorgeous photos included in the book. I also liked the theme of food in the book, and will definitely be attempting to make some of the recipes in the book like the Four-Cheese Mac. An absolutely heartbreaking yet warm, and comforting read.

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 #14


Only for You by Melissa Foster

I LOOVED the first book in the Sugar Lake series and was excited for a book featuring Bridgette, Willow’s older sister who was a teenaged rebel and now a single mother and overall just a sweet person. Similar to The Real Thing, Only for You was a cute and quick read that I flew through once I got started. Bridgette’s son, Louie was adorable and Bohdi was definitely a charming love interest. I also admired the overall familial closeness of the Dalton family and their acceptance and openness to new people. However, unlike The Real Thing I wasn’t sold completely on was the romance as I felt that Bridgette and Bohdi’s relationship got extremely intense rather quickly. I guess because of the genre and the brevity of the book this was the only option, still, it would have been nice to have a bit more lead up before the two of them started hooking up. That being said, I did appreciate the decision they made about their relationship as it was mature and realistic even if they regretted it almost immediately. Of course in the end, Only for You is still a feel-good romance so readers can expect another happy ending for all.

The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory

The premise of The Wedding Date is incredibly fun though, two strangers have a “meet cute” in a hotel elevator and proceed to inevitably hook up. What I like about The Wedding Date was it put a new spin on the usual romance tropes by having the characters entering into a long distance hook-up situation since Drew lives in LA while Alexa lives closer to San Fransisco. Furthermore, neither character is shown to have a “One-Hour Work Week” as it’s made fairly obvious how both Alexa and Drew’s jobs truly are demanding and central to their lives, which given due to the nature of both their careers. I also liked Alexa because I could relate to her in that we are both busy young professionals who love pink glazed donuts with rainbow sprinkles! What I hated was the way that all the drama/fights happened as a result of a lack of communication, sure conflict is necessary to move the plot forward, but the way things occurred made both Drew and Alexa seem so immature, which made it last satisfying when they “made up” as it was difficult to buy that they’d be okay in the end. Overall, The Wedding Date was for me a lackluster read as it was not only predictable (as expected) but also there wasn’t much that made it a standout read for me. Still, I will most likely read the follow-up book, The Proposal since it stars Dex’s best friend, Carlos who was a cool character.

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 | Shrewed: A Wry and Closely Observed Look at the Lives of Women and Girls by Elizabeth Renzetti

Authour:
Elizabeth Renzetti
Format:
ARC
Publication date:
March 6th 2018
Publisher:
House of Anansi Press
Source:
Received from publisher.

Review:
I had seen Elizabeth Renzetti’s Shrewed: A Wry and Closely Observed Look at the Lives of Women and Girls on social media for a while, however it wasn’t until I saw Kaley from Books Etc. rave about it that I was intrigued enough to pick up a copy.

A collection of feminist essays by Globe and Mail columnist, Elizabeth Renzetti Shrewed is a timely read given the current social climate. Shrewed was also one of those books that I immediately devoured as soon as I snagged a copy owing to the fact that it was exceptionally well-written. While there are countless books being released that focus on issues facing women and feminism, it was refreshing to read one from a Canadian perspective. I appreciated this given that despite being geographically right by each other, there remain some significant differences between Canada and the USA.

Among all the essays contained in Shrewed the first essay, “The Voice in Your Head is an A**hole” stood out to me, as it was truly relatable since I have often passed on applying for jobs for the reason that I felt I did not meet enough of the qualifications even though I know my colleagues especially male ones or even my father or brother wouldn’t hesitate if they were me. Likewise, her essay on how encouraging “fearlessness”, especially in our girls, can be a foolhardy concept was equally compelling. The essay was incredibly honest in explaining how a little fear and anxiety is necessary for humans, and that not letting your fear rule, this does not mean that you shouldn’t be smart about your choices. Finally, I also enjoyed her essays that were framed as letters to her daughter, son, and even to her younger self as they were full of truth and authentic wisdom.

Funny at times, and always frank, and inspiring Shrewed made me self-reflect a great deal about my life so far and about what the future has in store not just for me but for women in general. This is why I love that the Renzetti’s Shrewed ends with a message on how women and girls should not be afraid to be “loud” and “take up space” and that men shouldn’t be fearful of sharing these “spaces”. After all, there is more than enough room for us all.

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