Midweek Mini Reviews #28

This Midweek Mini Reviews post features two non-fiction, travel inspired books.

The Romance of Elsewhere: Essays by Lynn Freed
To be honest, The Romance of Elsewhere was a bit of a disappointment for me as I thought the essays would be more about travel. Instead, only the title essay and the one tittle “Letter from London” were truly about travel while the other essays looked at a more general restlessness and not any sense of wanderlust. Featuring all previously published essays, the writings seem to be comes someone of rather a privileged background as shown by the mention of servants and an estate and a few of them had a bit of a condescending tone. That being said, it was fascinating to read Freed’s essay about choice and about her life growing up in South Africa during the apartheid-era and of course I appreciated the first essay which talks about travel and wandering the world in a raw and un-romanticized way. All in all, for the most part, I couldn’t really get into most of the essays. Despite that, however, I found that they were for the most part, well written and more often than not provided some thought-provoking and revealing insights about home and wandering.

Around the World in 80 Novels: A global journey inspired by writers from every continent by Henry Russell

I picked up this book when my travel plans changed and it seemed like I wouldn’t be able to go anywhere this year. If you’ve ever been curious about the real life settings and inspiration for some of the most famous books, Henry Russell’s Around the World in 80 Novels is for you. I liked how there was a good mix of classics and modern literature across various genres. On top of that, there are like tips and suggestions for those who are able to travel to these places. However, even if you aren’t able to physically travel to these countries, I like how this book expands on the idea that you can travel anywhere in the world and through time without leaving the comfort of your usual reading spot. Be ready with a notebook and pen while reading this book as I ended up discovering many titles to add to my TBR including Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea (Jamaica and Dominica), Rose Macaulay”s The Towers of Trebizond (Turkey) and Death in Oslo by Anne Holt set in Norway.

 

 

 

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

Mystery Monday | Sleeping in the Ground (Inspector Banks #24) by Peter Robinson

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? Peter Robinson was born in Yorkshire, but later came to Canada to do his Masters in English and Creative Writing at the University of Windsor followed by a Ph.D. in English at York University. He’s won the Arthur Ellis Award for excellence in Canadian crime writing among a few other awards. Currently, he divides his time between Toronto and Richmond, North Yorkshire. Sleeping in the Ground is the 24th book in his Inspector Banks series.

What is it about? After a mass murder occurs at a small country church in the Yorkshire Dales, the culprit is captured shortly after. However, this is case is one that’s far from closed. Teaming up once again with profiler Jenny Fuller who is also a former flame, Banks will have to find the truth before it’s too late.


Where does it take place? Just as the author himself is from Yorkshire, England the book is set in the gorgeous Yorkshire Dales which is an upland area located in Northern England.

Why did I like it? Sleeping in the Ground was my first ever Inspector Banks novel, and it definitely won’t be my last! Like any good police procedural, the writing here flows effortlessly. I loved getting acquainted with all the characters of Banks’ world and seeing them interact with one another. In fact, one of the strongest points in Sleeping in the Ground was the descriptions of character dynamics and relationships. It was fascinating getting a glimpse into the personal histories and minds of Banks’ and the members of his team since knowing who each of them are outside of their job ensures that the readers view them as more “real” and thus is able to understand them better. The mystery itself was well-done, despite a few of the elements that made the lead up to the reveal a bit too “convenient” and slightly predictable, it was nevertheless a thrilling ride. As a former psychology major, I could definitely appreciate how the Robinson takes the time to slowly peel back the layers and motivations of the killer. Like the majority of mystery books, one does not need to have read the earlier books in the series to enjoy this one. In fact, fans of Michael Connelly or Ian Rankin or even Louise Penny will probably enjoy Sleeping in the Ground because of the similar writing style and themes of music and poetry. And while I probably won’t go back and pick up any of the earlier books in the Inspector Banks, I will without doubt continue with this series by adding it onto my growing list of mystery series that I intend to continue reading.

When was is it out? October 24th, 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 #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.

 

 

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.

Fall Books Preview 2017

Fall marks the return of school, and the return of people coming back to work from their summer vacation. But book lovers may also know it as the prime “book season”, when many great releases are out, serval literary festivals are happening and the major book awards are given. This month I had the opportunity to attend two different fall book previews each with amazing author guests, and  so instead of doing a full event recap for each event I thought I’d highlight a few of the titles from both that I’m looking forward to.

Penguin Random House

Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin (Out Now)

This one is one that I’ve actually read before the preview. It’s about a young woman who as an intern has an affair with her married, a congressman. Told from various points of views including the woman, her mother and the congressman’s wife this book unexpectedly became one of my favourites for it’s incredibly female empowering message. A review of this book will be up on the blog some time next week.

Smitten Kitchen: Every Day Triumphant & Unfussy New Favourites by Deb Perelman (October 24, 2017)

I don’t often cook or bake, but when I do I tend to visit food blogs for inspiration. I stumbled upon the Smitten Kitchen blog last year when I was looking for recipes for my Christmas cookie swap with my friends. I love the simplistic blog layout, gorgeous photos and the easy to follow recipes. It’s been more than four years since the last Smitten Kitchen book and based on the previews, this one promises the usual drool worthy food photos and family friendly, accessible recipes. For those of you interested, Deb Perelman will be coming to Canada for a signing at Chapters Bayview on October 26!

Unqualified by Anna Faris (October 24, 2017)

This one is rather interesting seeing as Anna Faris and her husband, Chris Pratt have just announced that they’re separating. Chris is still confirmed to be doing the foreword to the book as announced earlier. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book but after reading an excerpt of her book where she talks about how its importance of friendships especially female friendships outside of your romantic relationships, I found her writing to be relatable and interesting so I’ll definitely be picking this one up. Unqualified has been suggested as being a must read if you’re a fan of Faris’ podcast or even if you enjoy funny, female memoirs.

Christmas at the Vinyl Cafe by Stuart McLean (October 31, 2017)

I grew up with CBC radio, and Stuart McLean’s Vinyl Cafe show was one of the staples of my Canadian childhood. Sadly with his passing earlier this year, 2017 will be the first year without a Vinyl Cafe Christmas special. This collection includes some previously recorded stories as well as some new ones, so I’m definitely excited for it as it would make for some perfect Christmas reading.

The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce (November 7, 2017)

I adored Rachel Joyce’s The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy and after hearing abut The Music Shop, I’m eagerly anticipating this one as well. Inspired by a real life event, and taking place in the 1980s and featuring a record store where the owner has a “gift” for finding music that people need at a certain point in their life. Described as quirky and heartwarming and recommended for fans of Terry Fallis’ The Best Laid Plans this one is definitely on my must read list this fall. (I managed to get an ARC of this one, so stay tuned for my review of it on the blog)

HarperCollins (YA)

If There’s No Tomorrow by Jennifer L. Armentrout (Out Now)

I haven’t read anything by Jennifer L. Armentrout yet, but the tagline for this book “how can you move on if tomorrow isn’t guaranteed” has me intrigued. Also I looked up the synopsis of this one online and it sounds like it would be an interesting contemporary YA novel with the added bonus of a swoon-worthy book boyfriend! This one was recommended for fans of All the Bright Places as well as 99 Days.

One Dark Throne by Kendare Blake (September 19th)

I quite enjoyed Three Dark Crowns and am looking forward to more action in the sequel! This series is about a set of triplets who must fight to the death in order to become the next queen! Recommended for fans of complex, and messy sibling relationships and readers who love the fantasy genre.

Love, Life, and the List by Kasie West (December 26th)

So this one was my most anticipated titles out all the ones that were presented! I love a good contemporary YA novel and am a huge fan of the friends to lovers trope. Plus I love reading books were characters have their own bucket lists and are trying to check things off their list. This is mostly because I’ve always wanted to make a bucket list but could never really commit to doing one so its fun for me to live vicariously through others even book characters.

So what are you guys looking forward to this fall? Let me know in the comments below!