Midweek Mini Reviews #3

 The Art of Living Other People’s Lives: Stories, Confessions, and Memorable Mistakes by Greg Dybec

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What I liked most about The Art of Living Other People’s Lives: Stories, Confessions, and Memorable Mistakes by Greg Dybec is just how relatable some of the essays in the collection are. They are also quite entertaining in a self-deprecating manner which leaves the reader with a lot of good quotes you can’t help but scribble down. Two of my favourite quotes from the book are “A great writer knows when not to fake being a expert” and “If anything breakups should be renamed breakdowns. That’s all they really are. Whatever drew two people together in the first place eventually breaks down,” these two were the most memorable for me because they are simple yet so true.

Of all the essays in the collection I particularly was fond of the collection’s titular essay because who here hasn’t at least once found themselves listening in onto the conversations of strangers around them? I also enjoyed “Life on the Other Side of the Internet” because it gives you a “glimpse” at what’s its actually like working for a major Internet site.

Overall if you enjoy reading Elite Daily articles (the authour is the managing editor of the site) you will probably like this book, but even for those who are millennials who are only vaguely familiar with the site (like myself) Dybec’s musings on life, family and relationships could definitely be appreciated as being relatable.

Victoria by Daisy Goodwin

vicBefore reading Daisy Goodwin’s Victoria, I have to admit I knew very little about the history of Queen Victoria other than that she is (now) the monarch with the second longest reign (Queen Elizabeth II recently just surpassed her record). However, I am a fan of Daisy Goodwin and what she does when it comes to historical fiction so I was looking forward to Victoria.

In Victoria, Daisy Goodwin once again does what she does best in historical fiction and really whisks you away to the 1800s and into the life of a young royal who is coming of age and into her role as a country’s monarch. While naïve, it was difficult not to root for a young Victoria as she struggled to find her way into her new role against so many obstacles and barriers and with a whole lot of spunk. In the end, knowing what becomes of many of the characters from Victoria’s youth in real life made this book an incredibly bittersweet and emotional coming of age novel.

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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Mystery Monday | Escape to Havana by Nick Wilkshire

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? Nick Wilkshire is a lawyer in addition to being a writer. Escape to Havana is the first book in his Foreign Affairs Mystery series. He currently lives in Ottawa, Ontario.

What is it about?After a very public scandal involving his wife, and a divorce that followed soon after the last thing Charlie Hillier wants is to remain in Ottawa where his ex-wife is. So when a posting in Cuba opens up, he’s more than willing to go. What he wasn’t expecting to find in his new position are the drugs under his bedroom floor…

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Where does it take place? Havana, the capital city of Cuba where Charlie has his first foreign posting.

Why did I like it? Escape to Havana was a title that wasn’t actually picked by myself but rather it won a twitter poll to be the next title to be featured on “Mystery Monday”. To be honest, it felt like it took an eternity for something to actually happen and for a mystery there was not much sleuthing going on. That being said, the protagonist, Charlie is quite likeable and a character that us regular folks can generally relate to. And things do really pick up in the last few chapters before the book ends. Escape to Havana was a fairly light read with a satisfying conclusion however I’m not sure if I’m be picking up Book 2 in this series.

When is it out? November 12, 2016

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 Elephants in My Backyard by Rajiv Surendra

elepAuthour:
Rajiv Surendra
Format:
Hardcover, 288 pages
Publication date:
November 22nd 2016
Publisher:
Random House Canada
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:

” I had no choice here. This was the clarity I needed–Pi was everything to me, and here on out, it was all or nothing.” p. 166

As kids we are taught that if you work hard, you will succeed. No one (or rather few people) ever talk about failing to realize their dream or major goal. Sure, it’s easy to tell a person to just pick themselves up after failing, and to just shake it off the feelings of hurt and disappointment to move forward, however that is something that is without a doubt easier said than done.

Thus I was enticed enough to pick up Rajiv Surendra’s The Elephants in My Backyard. The premise of The Elephants in My Backyard follows Rajiv as he goes on this journey to obtain is dream acting role, “Pi” from Yann Martel’s renowned novel, Life of Pi. Non-spoiler alert, but despite the lengths Rajiv goes through to be the best possible “Pi”, he doesn’t land the role of “Pi”. In the end, while he doesn’t obtain his dream role, he does end up making several new friends throughout his journey which furthermore results in him becoming acquainted with himself and accepting who he is as a person.

Rajiv’s passion for Life of Pi, and in particular the character of “Pi” truly shines through his writing, which made you root for him even more despite knowing the outcome. And while a few of the sections felt as if they went on forever and it took time for me to immerse myself into the story. However, there were certain sections that had me completely engrossed. Among them were the one where he shares his experience of learning how to swim in addition to the chapter detailing his dysfunctional family life and how it affected his personal life.

Part memoir, part travelogue The Elephants in My Backyard also has several gorgeous hand drawn illustrations done by the authour. This is one story that is both powerful and emotional and will resonate with those of us who have put our all into something only to be passed over for it in the end.

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 Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

sunalsoAuthour:
Nicola Yoon
Format:
ARC; 349 pages
Publication date:
November 1st 2016
Publisher:
Delacorte Press
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:
I’m probably one of the few bloggers who did not pick up Everything, Everything. To be frank, I didn’t feel that the book was for me. However, the person I passed my advance copy of the book to (my cousin) remains obsessed with the book as are several other bloggers who I know.

Yet Nicola Yoon’s sophomore novel, The Sun is also a Star had a synopsis that had me intrigued. And despite its comparisons to Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor and Park, a book which I could not finish I actually thoroughly enjoyed The Sun is also a Star. For those of you who have read both, you’ll definitely be able to appreciate the obvious similarities between the two, however The Sun is also a Star truly does stand out as its own unique story.

Taking place all in a single day, The Sun is also a Star tells not only the love story of Natasha, a teenage girl who wants to save her family from being deported and Daniel the younger son of a Korean immigrant family struggling to live up to his parents’ expectations but also the story of those they meet on their adventure. Dispersed among the chapters telling Natasha and Daniel’s story are short chapters on various cultural, scientific and historical topics in addition to the stories of the other characters.

What I loved about The Sun is also a Star is that Natasha and Daniel both feel like real teenagers facing real issues, including the cultural struggles that ring true for those of us who were not born in our current country or who are the children of immigrant parents. I adore how families are portrayed in the novel and it’s refreshing that we are given the back story to characters like Natasha’s father and Daniel’s father who on the surface both appear to be difficult men.

Another thing I adore about the book, was Nicola Yoon’s prose which made for some gorgeous and heartbreaking storytelling. Though the story at times was disjointed and non-linear, I appreciated the fact we are given glimpses into the futures of various characters. Furthermore, I liked how Yoon demonstrates that we are all connected, and how one person’s decision can have major impacts on another’s life without them even realizing it. It makes the reader stop and consider how their actions can affect others. That being said the lawyer in the book annoyed me to no end, and it was heartbreaking how his actions ended up affecting both Natasha and Daniel.

The Sun is also a Star is infinitely more than your average love story, sure it’s the story of Natasha and Daniel but it’s also the story of their parents without whom they would not exist. It’s also the story of all the other people in the book. After all, your story is without a doubt your story, but it does not exist alone. As humans, we are constantly interacting with others, all who have their own stories that are just as important as yours. Reading a book like The Sun is also a Star reminds us that no one story is any less important than another and that you should never discount the stories of others.

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 | Fate of Flames by Sarah Raughley

Authour:flames
Sarah Raughley
Format:
ARC, 353 pages
Publication date:
November 22nd 2016
Publisher:
Simon Pulse
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:
The moment I heard it about a book that was pitched for fans of Sailor Moon, and Avatar in addition to featuring a group of kick butt female leads, I was in and Fate of Flames became probably my most anticipated YA title from Simon and Schuster’s fall catalogue.

Fate of Flames is about four girls who all have control over an element resembling fire, water, or air. What’s intriguing about these girls is that there are always four of them, when one dies, another girl comes into her powers in addition to all the memories of her predecessors. This brings us to our protagonist, Maia whose effigy powers awaken during a lockdown at her school. This causes her to realize that her predecessor, the fire effigy has Natalya has died. She is at that point quickly thrust into the world of the effigies and fighting phantoms.

What I enjoyed about Fate of Flames was that it incorporated modern elements in a fantasy/science fiction story. Social media is a major element in the story, as are online forums which Maia tends to go on even before she became an effigy. I also liked the fact that Maia existed as a fangirl before she became an effigy as it makes this more relatable. Interestingly enough, I think the book took a realistic approach to how someone who is a fangirl transition into become one of the “heroes” they looked up to. Maia is definitely out her comfort zone, and it was refreshing to have a protagonist who doesn’t just easily adapt into her new powers and her role as a fighter, especially since it’s clear that Maia did not have any pre-existing badass attributes or abilities. Unfortunately, not much happens in Fate of Flames, the reader is thrown a great deal of history/backstory and information with little explanation. Furthermore, there isn’t much fighting until the near the conclusion of this book. Maia, the protagonist is incredibly useless for the majority of the book and instead her role is relegated to gathering the other effigies. Once the four girls, Belle, Lake and Chae Rin are gathered that’s when the story proceeds to move forward.

Overall as a first book in a trilogy, I’d consider Fate of Flames to be a decent read. I just hope all the hints, back stories, and mysteries lead up to a thrilling and satisfying story. My interest is definitely piqued, at least for book two which I hope will focus more on the girls learning to work more effectively as a team. Fate of Flames is a book for those who desire a female group focused fantasy novel that is refreshingly light on the romance.

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 | Faithful by Alice Hoffman

faithAuthour:
Alice Hoffman
Format:
Egalley
Publication date:
November 1st 2016
Publisher:
Simon & Schuster
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:
Before Faithful, I’ve only read one book by Alice Hoffman which was Aquamarine, a book I read back when I was in elementary school. Thus, I wasn’t sure what to expect from Faithful besides gorgeous prose.

Told from a third person, omniscient perspective, Faithful is the story of a woman named Shelby, who struggles with immense guilt when a car accident leaves her best friend brain-dead while she is virtually unscathed. As a result, Shelby spirals downwards and engages in countless self-destructive behaviours before she is slowly able to come to terms with the fact that she “survived”. What I liked about Shelby’s story was that Shelby undergoes lots of terrible things yet in the end she is able to come out of it as a stronger character. It just goes to show that no matter how broken somebody may be, they can eventually come back from it.

Another story element I enjoyed within Faithful were the female relationships. In particular, the friendship between Maravelle and Shelby was incredible and I adored the way that Maravelle’s family gradually became a substitute family to Shelby. It was touching to witness her begin to care for others all while assisting her in her journey of learning to love herself again. The other central relationship throughout the book was Shelby’s relationship with her mother. It was lovely watching their relationship evolve over time and their bond becomes stronger as both grew older and begin to understand each other better.

In spite of the fact that I enjoyed Faithful for the reasons mentioned above, there were two things that I wasn’t fond of. One was the romance in the book, the relationship in the conclusion felt underdeveloped and if I were to be honest, this book would have been more than fine without any romance plot. The other thing that made me slightly uncomfortable was what happens to Shelby’s friend, Helene. Despite being brain-dead she is kept “alive” on life support so that people can come to and worship her for miracles. While it is understandable that her parents are unable to let go of their daughter, it’s also depressing to read how she is kept alive like this after having read about what she was like.

Faithful, is a powerful novel that demonstrates how amidst all the tragedy, loss, guilt, and shame there can be love, hope and perhaps even a “rebirth” of sorts. And that “magic” does exist and in manifests itself in unexpected ways in real life. All in all it was a fairly quick and engrossing read that I would recommend to readers who love stories of redemption and stories with dogs!

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

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Finally October is over! Though to be honest it wasn’t as bad as I expected, slightly hectic but not too overwhelming. Somehow between all the event preparations and working various events, I still managed to have some fun as well. I went to a couple of IFOA (International Festival of Authors) events in Toronto and I even got to attend a Fall Preview at the Penguin Random House Offices.

This past month I’ve gotten really into the Poke food trend, thanks to my co-workers. For those of you who are unfamiliar with what Poke is, its basically a sushi bowl and was something that originated from Hawaii. Fortunately for me, a bunch of new Poke places have opened up downtown. My top picks would have to be Pokeito (which my coworkers LOVE) and The Poke Box. Other than food and bookish stuff, I’m gotten news that my work team may be expanding. Which is both cool and slightly daunting, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed and hoping for the best.

I hope you guys enjoy the coming posts this month, and feel free to let me know your thoughts, I’ll be on hiatus next month but I’ll be back in full force come January. As always, thank you for visiting my blog.

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November 3  The Wangs vs. the World by Jade Chang
November 8 My (Part-Time) Paris Life: How Running Away Brought Me Home by Lisa Anselmo
November 10 – Wonder Women: 25 Innovators, Inventors, and Trailblazers Who Changed History by Sam Maggs
November 15 Faithful by Alice Hoffman
November 17 Winter Preview Picks
November 21 – Murder at the House of Rooster Happiness by David Casarett
November 24 – Fate of Flames by Sarah Raughley
November 29 – The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
November 30 – Ever the Hunted by Erin Summerill