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review 2017-08-31 00:12
The Address by Fiona Davis
The Address: A Novel - Fiona Davis

A special thank you to Penguin Random House First to Read and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Fiona Davis' novel takes readers to the historic Dakota—the famous home of John Lennon from 1973 to his murder outside the building in 1980. The story opens in England with Sara Smythe, a head housekeeper at an elegant hotel. She is offered a job by Theodore Camden after she saves one of his children from falling out a window. Wanting a better life, she accepts the job which is to be the managerette of the Dakota, an upscale apartment building in New York City.

Fast forward to 1985 New York City, where Bailey Camden has just completed a stint in rehab and is trying to get her life back on track. She is hired by her cousin, Melinda, to redecorate her apartment in the Dakota, and is hopeful that this opportunity will relaunch her career. Davis joins the two storylines with the Dakota when Bailey finds Sara's belongings in a trunk in the basement of the decrepit building.

As a reader, the best parts of the story were in the past. Even though the 80s are by far my favourite decade, um hello, best music ever, I simply couldn't connect with Bailey and just wanted to stay with Sara. Davis fell victim of the duelling storylines and I feel of late that this style has been done too much and as an avid reader, this type of narrative is old hat.

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text 2017-08-17 09:08
DNF: Beasts Made of Night
Beasts Made of Night - Tochi Onyebuchi

I received a copy from Penguin First to Read.

 

I used some of my points to secure a copy of this one. I was quite looking forward to it. While it's not bad, at 187 pages, I've come to the point where I just don't care anymore. The concept is quite fascinating. In this Nigerian inspired fantasy, the hero Taj is an Aki, a Sin Eater. The Royal Family of the fictional city of Kos are supposed to be pure and free of sin, sin comes in the form of Sin Beasts which the Aki consume and absorb into their skin in the form of tattoos. Interesting enough.

 

But there was something off about the plot and the execution of the story. I can't say I felt particularly attached to any of the characters. The world building was interesting enough but the writing was kind of flat. And the plot seemed to jump from one thing to the next. There was a barely there romance that felt way too insta-lovey for my liking. He meets with a princess once or twice and then he's fascinated with her. Understandable, but again, there was something that just wasn't there to make it work for me.

 

It's getting to the point where I'm not looking forward to finishing, and as I said early, I'm bored with and don't care enough to find out how its end. There is definite potential in the writing and as I said the world building was interesting and quite unique. While this book was not for me I would certainly be interested in seeing more from this author.

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review 2017-07-31 11:48
Review: When I am Through With You
When I Am Through with You - Stephanie Kuehn

I received a copy from Penguin First To Read

 

I really loved the last book I read by this author, and was really looking forward to this new one. After reading it, initially I gave it a four star rating, I really liked the main character, but found the twist in the novel quite disappointing. And after thinking about how to review it for more than a week after I finished, I realised I just didn’t like it that much at all. So I’ve lowered the rating to a two star.

 

The main character Ben is in jail for killing his girlfriend Rose. There’s something really compelling about Ben’s voice. He makes no apologies for his actions. He’s quite blunt in some respects, but in others almost quite passive and pessimistic. Calls himself a realist, but it’s almost quite depressing. He’s from a small town he never sees himself getting out of. He spends most of his time taking care of his mother who suffers from injuries from a car wreck and depression. He doesn’t see much prospect of ever getting out of his small town, thinking he’ll be stuck taking care of his mom for the foreseeable future and being stuck with minimum wage jobs.  Though you do get the impression he could be quite intelligent if he puts his mind to it.

 

When he meets a girl called Rose who decides she’s going to be his girlfriend, things change for him. Can’t say I really liked Rose much. She’s a drama queen who has to have things her way. When this book started I had plenty of ideas for how he may have killed her and the why was almost understandable.

 

The bulk of the story is a camping trip gone wrong. Ben and a group of other students heading up to a local mountain range. Ben suffers from debilitating migraines as a result of the same car accident that injured his mom. There’s also hints of something he did to cause the accident, also that he killed his step-father. This is all explained in context as the novel progresses. It goes to explaining some of his pessimistic personality.

 

There’s a handful of other kids on the camping trip, two stoners/drinkers, Rose and her brother, a girl Ben is sort of friends with, a few others and a nice teacher who seems to be the only adult encouraging Ben to do something with his life. At some point while separated from the main group Ben, the other girl and the two stoner/drinkers stumble across another group of campus. A creepy old man and two weird women with him. Someone’s heard a story about escaped convicts and boat loads of hidden cash. The weather is getting worse.

 

And things start going wrong very quickly. But it takes an incredibly long time (or it seems like) for anything to actually happen. It’s very slow and when things finally start happening, it’s…like…eh. The actual killing of Rose was nothing like I had been picturing when thinking of the start of the novel. It felt rather anticlimactic.

 

Despite Ben’s shifting personality from pessimistic to passive aggressive, I did find his tone of voice incredibly compelling. Even though the story was gloomy and rather boring, there was something about Ben’s telling of it that made it a quick read to want to know what happened but in the end it was all rather disappointing.

 

Looking forward to the author’s next book, but didn’t really like this one much.

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review 2017-05-08 20:19
Review: A Million Junes
A Million Junes - Emily Henry

I received a copy from Penguin's First to Read. I used some of my points to secure my copy of this one.  I have a weakness for Romeo & Juliet inspired stories, and that plus the promise of magical realism was what caught my eye about this title.

 

A little apprehensive as I tried to read the author’s debut novel and didn’t get very far at all with it, but I fell head over heels in love with this book almost right away. (And now I will have to go back and read that debut novel again).  

 

It’s almost impossible to recap the plot because that would be extremely spoilery. The basic premise is Jack “June” O’Donnell has lived in a mysterious little town her whole life, she knows there is a feudal history between her family and their neighbours, the Angerts. Something that has been going on for years and years and years. There’s deep history all connected to the strange little magical wonders that surround June’s house and an infamous tree in her family’s yard.

 

It all start to unravel when hanging out with her best friend Hannah one night, June’s neighbour, Saul Angert appears back in town after being gone for years. June knows that the last thing she should be doing is hanging out with an Angert. However, inevitably, June finds Saul knows one of her friends, and she finds herself hanging out with Saul more and more.

 

The writing is delicious, it’s superb. The novel elicits an incredibly emotional response.  It’s so amazingly written. It paints such a vivid picture and really made me feel engaged with the characters, and hooked on the story.

 

The relationship between June and Saul is wonderful, beautifully built, it has ups and downs, trust, friendship and romance. Both face hidden truths about their past and the secrets which caused the falling out between their families all those many years ago.

 

Also – bonus points for female friendship. June’s relationship with her best friend Hannah is everything you want in a BFF friendship. Trust, sticking up for each other, silliness, being there for each other, listening. It was just wonderful to see the dynamics between the two girls not overshadowed by boys or bitchiness.

 

All with a delightful touch of magical realism floating through the novel.

 

A brilliant story going easily from funny to cute to dramatic to romantic to gut-wrenching and back again. (The end made me cry). I absolutely loved everything about this book.

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review 2017-05-08 18:31
Review: Flame in the Mist
Flame in the Mist - Renee Ahdieh

I wound up with two review copies of this one. I first put in a Netgalley request which I figured was a long shot, and when I didn’t hear anything back in months, I used some of my Penguin First to Read points to secure a copy when it popped up on their read to review site. And then when I’m half way through the book my Netgalley request was approved. Oh well.

 

I don’t really know what to make of the novel in the end. I gave it a generous 3 stars, but it’s more like two and a half. While I can appreciate the journey of inner strength from the main character, Mariko, I didn’t actually like her all that much. I found the first 100 pages or so incredibly boring. The novel is beautifully written, the scenery is fantastic and the descriptions are vivid and lyrical. The fantasy setting in a Japanese world is fascinating. All marks of a fantasy I should love.

 

But personally, I just could not get into the plot. I found Mariko almost aloof, I didn’t get much of a sense of personality from her at all. I couldn’t connect with her character in a way that would make me as a reader care about what happened to her.

 

That being said, as the novel progressed, the plot did get better and Mariko did show some pretty impressive growth and strength. She’s definitely intelligent and determined, you have to give her that. On the way to her politically arranged marriage her carriage party is attacked by a notorious mercenary group the Black Clan. Mariko survives the attack and doesn’t cower in fear. She’s furious and decides she wants to know the reasons behind. Disguising herself as a boy, she follows the Black Clan and worms her way in.

 

Back in her home province, Mariko’s twin brother Kenshin, is convinced she survived the assassination attempt. Other plots include devious goings on between the Emperor and his Mistress who seems to have some hint at dark dangerous magic and her own political agenda. The Empress who seems quite passive but there’s more to her than meets the eye. The Emperor’s legitimate son (Mariko’s intended) and the illegitimate son with their own squabbles. And while all this is going on Mariko in the guise of a boy is uncovering the inner secrets of the Black Clan.

 

Of course there are lots of plot twists and everyone has secrets of their own. Mariko uncovers some shocking truths about the lands she came from and how her lord father runs them, and must decide where her true loyalties lie. There’s a romance agenda as well for Mariko when the truth about her identity is revealed. There are secrets within the Black Clan itself.

 

The plot did improve as the novel goes on and starts getting more into the twisty secrets, there’s a barest hint of some sort of magic involved, but very little of it is explained. Though it’s enough to make the reader want to know more (or it certainly worked that way for me). While Mariko was a difficult character to warm to, her journey throughout the novel is impressive, even with a kind of predictable romance, I want to know what happens next.

 

Thank you to Netgalley and Hodder & Stoughton for approving my request to view the title.

 

Thank you to Penguin First to Read.

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