Book Review | Traveling with Ghosts by Shannon Leone Fowler


travelghostsAuthour:

Shannon Leone Fowler
Format:
ARC, 294 pages
Publication date:
February 21st 2017
Publisher:
Simon & Schuster
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:
Both the authour, and the (human) love of her life, Sean were only in their twenties when Sean was stung by a jellyfish in Thailand and died almost instantaneously. What follows is the authour’s journey of learning to live with this tremendous personal loss. I can’t begin to imagine the amount of grief, she must have felt losing the (second) love of her life due to the first love of her life, the sea.

I love an excellent travel memoir, and in Travelling with Ghosts, the authour takes us back to the times and places she travelled to with her fiancé. This done both through flashbacks to when Sean was alive in addition to descriptions of her return to these countries, this time on her own. I particularly enjoyed the section where she goes to Israel to visit the two Israeli girls who stayed with her when Sean died in Thailand. It was fascinating to read how different the country was back when the authour visited Israel compared to when I went there eight years later.

However, Travelling with Ghosts is more than just a beautiful travelogue, it is also a story about loss, grief, and one woman’s journey that follows. Unlike the majority of memoirs, nothing is sugar-coated here. As is the case in real life occasionally there are no silver linings, but regardless, we must find a way to manage and continue on with our lives despite being forever changed.

If you are someone who enjoys reading poignant memoirs that are somewhat longer than you should consider picking up Travelling with Ghosts. While I felt that some sections dragged on for too long, Travelling with Ghosts was overall a decent read that encourages people to be courageous and not be afraid to venture on their own.

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.

Book Review | The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson

unexpectedAuthour:
Morgan Matson
Format:
ARC, 519 pages
Publication date:
June 2nd 2016
Publisher:
Simon & Schuster
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:
To be honest, I feel as if I’m one of the rare few that am not obsessed with SYBG that coupled with the length of The Unexpected Everything made me reluctant to pick it up. However, after reading a gushing review of The Unexpected Everything from Tiff at Mostly YA Lit I started reconsidering my decision to pick up the latest Morgan Matson book.

Andie is a girl who is used to being in control and planning out everything, however as the title hints, things don’t go according to her plans for the summer. Instead, in The Unexpected Everything she is forced to re-evaluate how she’s always lived her life which leads to numerous changes that “unexpectedly” cause her to realize who she truly is and what she’s always wanted.

What I adored in The Unexpected Everything is the portrayal of friendships, especially female friendships in this book. My favourite aspect of this novel were the scenes that featured Andie and her friends either hanging out or texting each other. And while there is some drama in the novel, I appreciated how it was handled in an authentic manner, even if it means no simple happy ending. Another thing I loved with regards to The Unexpected Everything is the father-daughter relationship which we don’t see that often in YA novels. The entire portrayal felt extremely true to life, as both are initially awkward around each other, and unclear as to what their roles are since Andie’s father has been mostly occupied with his work as a congressman. However, slowly they are able to reach a compromise and I appreciated how Andie’s father allowed her to negotiate with him as a way to continue to provide her with some freedom.

All that being said, I wasn’t too fond of the romance in The Unexpected Everything. Although, I will admit that Clark had his adorable moments and I did delight in seeing how he helped Andie slowly get out of her comfort zone. Also I’m always up for a good bromance, and loved that he and Tom (the boyfriend of one of Andie’s best friends) bonded over shared interests and the fact that Clark is one of Tom’s favourite authours.

Overall, The Unexpected Everything is a book that I highly recommend to anyone in need of an excellent summer read. In fact, it has left me wanting more from Morgan Matson. In fact, given how her story concluded, I would love a novel with Toby as the protagonist, as I would love for her to have her’ own happy ending and finally find the “cure” to her “curse”.

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 | Hungry Ghosts by Peggy Blair

Mystery Mondays

Mystery Mondays is a sometimes weekly, sometimes biweekly and sometimes monthly 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.

Authour: HUNGRYGHOSTS
Peggy Blair
Series:
Inspector Ramirez, #3
Format:
Advance Reader Copy, 363 pages
Publication date:
June 2015
Publisher:
Simon & Schuster Canada
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:
Peggy Blair has once again done! Thrilling and compelling, Hungry Ghosts is probably my favourite book of the Inspector Ramirez series to date. In Hungry Ghosts, the mystery this time involves both an art heist in addition to a string of murders of prostitutes in Cuba. Meanwhile, in Northern Ontario in Canada we follow Detective Charlie Pike (who was introduced to readers in the previous book, The Poisoned Pawn) as he investigates a murder of a woman who appears to have been killed in a manner similar to the prostitutes that were killed in Cuba.

What I loved mainly regarding Hungry Ghosts was that I got to revisit the characters again, and learn what’s been happening on with them. I didn’t realize how much I missed Ramirez, Apiro, Maria, Celia and Charlie until I started this book. Fortunately for me it was relatively simple to jump right back into their world even though it’s been awhile since I’ve read the last book. I also found it interesting that we receive further details on Charlie Pike’s back-story as the case he is sent to investigate brings him back to his people. I appreciated reading his back story as it truly builds on his character. In addition, it was fascinating to acquire glimpse of what is life for those living on a reserve. And as always, the plot in Cuba with Inspector Ramirez offers a large amount of insight on what it is like for the locals who in reality live there and it definitely shows throughout the book that the authour has done her research.

Hungry Ghosts is an intriguing page turner that was extremely difficult to put down. Peggy Blair does a brilliant job of telling two separate stories, each with their own twists thrown in and tying it altogether into one book.

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 | Owl and the Japanese Circus by Kristi Charish

owlAuthour:
Kristi Charish
Format:
Advance Reader Copy, 418 pages
Publication date:
January 13th 2015
Publisher:
Simon & Schuster Canada
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:
As a former archeology student, and lover of mythology I love it when archeology is mixed with elements of the supernatural. And in Kristi Charish’s Owl and the Japanese Circus that’s exactly what you will find.

Owl is a former archeology who is now an international antiquities thief, and despite the fact that she dislikes dealing with the supernatural she somehow manages to get dragged into their affairs. This book had an extremely interesting concept, and I always love reading books where there’s a strong female protagonist. Unfortunately it seemed that for the majority of the book, Owl was rescued more than she did the rescuing. I kind of had high expectations of her since she’s supposed to be incredibly proficient in her line of work, which did not seem evident to me until later on in the novel. In addition I was hoping for her to take matters into her own hands more. I also I found the fact that when she needed to be rescued, the identity of the person who was rescuing her and the reveal that followed to be all too convenient for my liking.

Meanwhile I found romance in the book to have progressed fairly quickly although maybe it’s because they have known each other for a while. In the final pages I was left with extremely mixed feelings regarding the relationship though it was not something that overwhelmed the central storyline. So in spite of the few things I did not care for, there was one component of this book I did enjoy. And that was the friendship between Owl and her business partner, Nadya. I felt it was a refreshing and excellent portrayal of a female friendship.

In conclusion, Owl and the Japanese Circus was a slightly predicting however it was still a somewhat entertaining read. Though I am not the biggest fan of this book, the epilogue did hook me in and I would be curious as to where Owl’s adventures take her 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.

If you love historical fiction…

SS

For more info on the book: http://books.simonandschuster.ca/Kings-Curse/Philippa-Gregory/9781451626117

Philippa’s website: www.philippagregory.com

Chapter excerpt: http://issuu.com/touchstonebooks/docs/the_king_s_curse

The publisher was kind enough to provide me a copy of the book, as well as two tickets to the event to giveaway. If you are interested and are a resident of Canada leave a comment below before September 19, 2014, telling us why you would like to win or look for the tweet on twitter and retweet and follow to be entered. The winner will be selected at random. Good Luck!

Mystery Monday | FaceOff

Mystery Mondays

Mystery Mondays is a sometimes weekly, sometimes biweekly and sometimes monthly 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.

Authour:faceoff
Edited by David Baldacci
Format:
Advance Reader Copy, 444 pages
Publication date:
June 3rd 2014
Publisher:
Simon & Schuster
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:
What do you get when you add two well known thriller writers together along with some of their well known characters all in one story? For countless fans of thrillers it would probably be a dream come true. For someone like me who ordinarily isn’t the biggest fan of thriller fiction, it was an eye opener to the different possibilities the genre has to offer. Even before I read this book, the concept alone was enough to know that I needed to review this book on my blog.

There are eleven stories in this collection, which is edited by David Baldacci a writer who is quite well known in his own right. Each chapter features a different collaboration between two well-known thriller writers, and starts off with an introduction that tells the reader about the two writers the characters they choose to include in the story, an explanation as to why the authours were paired up and finally in some instances we get a behind the scenes glimpse of the whole writing, collaboration and thought processes. I found these introductions extremely informative as well as a helpful guide to the characters which in turn enhanced my reading experience as there were only like three characters in this entire collection that I was familiar with. The introductions also showed that much thought was put into the pairings which made me appreciate this collection even more as the pairings worked extremely well for the on the whole.

Taken as a whole, FaceOff had me slowly changing my mind reconsidering trying out more thrillers though nothing too scary. There was a variety in the types of thriller stories in this collection from super creepy to bone chilling to fast paced procedurals, which is excellent for those who want to dip their toes into the thriller genre as it introduces readers to various different characters and from these stand alone stories you can decide based on the characters which series you would like want to pick up next. I know that after reading this collection, the list of thriller novels I want to read has grown substantially as I know I want to read more books with Patrick Kenzie, Malachi and Repairman Jack in them. All are interesting but remarkably different and unique characters who make this collection a highly recommended read for 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.

Book Review | After I Do by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Authour:afterido
Taylor Jenkins Reid

Format:
Advance Reader Copy, 334 pages
Publication date:
July 1st 2014
Publisher:
Washington Square Press
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:
There are scores of stories that just end when a couple gets married, leaving the reader to guess what happens after. However, After I Do takes, the less common approach of telling the story of a married couple, Lauren and Ryan, whose marriage is falling apart. Their marriage get so unbearable that the pair decides to separate as they no longer find that they love each other anymore.

And while there may be some books that have similar stories what I like about this book is how it opens up with the couple having a heated argument before jumping to how they met 11 years ago, followed by their wedding and the months that follow up until the present time with a few time skips in between. Fortunately this indicates the start of each chapter so the reader doesn’t get too confused. As a result, we get to witness Lauren and Ryan meeting and falling in love and then falling in love as both start to neglect their relationship once they get married. I found this a clever storytelling tool, and it works well for the type of story the authour is trying to tell.

What I liked about After I Do is that there is no magic solution to their marital problems; the couple is left to their own devices to try and figure things out on their own. Everything they do has consequences, and even their separation affects just more than the couple. There is an excellent scene in the book where Lauren’s brother who has always been close to Ryan ever since Ryan came into Lauren life tells her that she doesn’t own Ryan even though they split up. This was realistic in that it examines the question of what happens to the other relationships when a marriage breaks up, it’s too simplistic to say you’d take the side of your blood family no questions asked. I believe in real life relationships are more complicated and messy and at times family members may end up cherishing those relationships that resulted because of the marriage just as much as their relationship with their own family and it is just as painful if not almost impossible to give those relationships up.

Taylor Jenkins Reid writes family relationships extremely well in After I Do, and her writing also flows nicely. In particular, I like the relationship Lauren has with her family, especially the one she has with her sister, Rachel which made me envious of their closeness. Rachel was also such a refreshing character as you rarely see characters that don’t put much stock in whether or not they end up married and with a family in women fiction. As this is how I also feel about the subject, I loved that I was able to relate to the character of Rachel in that way. Overall, the whole family dynamic in Lauren’s family was so amazing and it was easy to love them, especially her grandmother who was the perfect blend of sweetness, harshness, and hilarity.

After I Do is a book that even if you’re not married you could probably enjoy just as well, as it reminds us the importance of appreciating the people we love and to cherish all the time we have with them.

If you like this book, you’ll love: Landline by Rainbow Rowell

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 | Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson

Authour:you've gone
Morgan Matson
Format:
Advance Reader Copy, 448 pages
Publication date:
May 6th 2014
Publisher:
Simon & Schuster
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:
To be honest, I wasn’t going to pick up this book to read, but after hearing so several of my fellow book bloggers enjoy it I just had to check it out. Morgan Matson’s Since You’ve Been Gone is at its heart a story about female friendship which is what I loved about it. I loved the friendship between Sloane and Emily because Sloane truly helped Emily to come out of her shell. As well their friendship reminded me of the relationship between my best friend in my first year of college and me. Like Sloane, my friend ended up disappearing halfway through the year and in the end I never heard from her again. I should mention that although Sloane has disappeared in the present story she does make a lot of appearances via flashbacks which always make sense when they occurred were always carried out in a smooth and clearly stated manner. It is through these flashbacks that we get a better understanding of their friendship and why it’s so important for Emily to find out where Sloane went.

Another aspect in Since You’ve Been Gone I adored was the significance of lists in the story. Firstly it is the list that Sloane leaves behind for Emily that spurs her to embark on a quest to complete all the items on the list in hopes that by doing so she will find Sloane again. This leads Emily to have numerous adventures, while discovering who she is outside of Sloane. The other thing is the numerous playlists throughout the book that Emily uses for when she goes running in addition to the playlists that her love interest, Frank listens to. I loved all the playlists spread throughout the book and I could not resist looking up some of the songs to compile into my own playlist to listen to as I read this book.

While there is a bit of romance in the book, it is more of a slow burning one as the love interest, Frank has a girlfriend at the start of the novel. This actually leads to the next point I want to make which was the only thing that I hated about this book was how quickly all of Emily’s new “friends” dropped her after she confessed to doing a certain thing. This frustrated me because she was so supportive of all the things they did, but when she made one mistake they just ditched her. Sadly this is left unresolved by the end of the book.

Still in spite of my one issue with the story I did enjoy this book, as the story of Sloane and Emily’s friendship truly resonated with me. Overall Since You’ve Been Gone was an enjoyable book, perfect for light summer reading.

If you like this book, you’ll love: The Art of Lainey by Paula Stokes

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