Tag Archives: adult book review

ARC Review – The Dog Who Dared to Dream by Sun-mi Hwang & Chi-Young Kim (Translator)

30651306Title: The Dog Who Dared to Dream

Author: Sun-mi Hwang & Chi-Young Kim (Translator)

Rating:  ★★★★

Synopsis: This is the story of a dog named Scraggly. Born an outsider because of her distinctive appearance, she spends most of her days in the sun-filled yard of her owner’s house. Scraggly has dreams and aspirations just like the rest of us. But each winter, dark clouds descend and Scraggly is faced with challenges that she must overcome. Through the clouds and even beyond the gates of her owner’s yard lies the possibility of friendship, motherhood and happiness – they are for the taking if Scraggly can just hold on to them, bring them home and build the life she so desperately desires.

Huge thank you to Hachette Book Group Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I wasn’t sure what I was getting into when I started reading The Dog Who Dared to Dream. I am a huge sucker for animal stories, but this one in particular read more like a folktale than the average story about a courageous dog.

Written in short vignettes, Sun-mi Hwang weaves a tale about a Scraggly dog, and we the reader watch her life past. We learn about the relationship she has with her owner, the first time she gives birth to puppies, and her slow descent into old age. This story is heartbreaking, sad, but at times filled me with hope. Scraggly is someone worth cheering for and she has a lot of conviction within her. I loved the way she is humanized in the story, and a lot of what happens to her, you feel for her.

I particularly loved when she had birth and then the owner threaten to sell the pups to pay for his roof — Scraggly felt so betrayed and the way this scene is written is just lovely, because it reminds you that dogs are very familiar with emotion. They always remember. Also can I just say the cat in this novel was kind of a jerk? I will say, I did like the resolve to that towards the end. Besides, the hen was much worse!

I really enjoyed this book and I think it does a great job illustrating the kinds of relationships animals have with their humans, and even other animals. Although the translation read a little stiff at times, I think there’s still a lot to enjoy here. Just prepare yourself or a lot of feelings. Seriously, I had feels.

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Blog Tour – A Daughter of No Nation (Hidden Sea Tales #2) by A.M. Dellamonica (Review and Q&A)

A.M Dellamoncia is an author I’ve actually had the pleasure of meeting a few years back. During Fan Expo (?), we bonded over being Italo-Scotches, people who are half Italian, half Scottish. I had purchased a copy of Indigo Springs, which I’ve since read and enjoyed (really nifty stuff there!). She’s a very funny individual with a good sense of humour, and if you live in the Toronto area when she’s doing an event, I urge you to go and see her — she’s a great person. Her latest series Hidden Sea Tales, is a series I became smitten with last year, so when Raincoast approached me to be a part of the blog tour for the second book, how could I resist?

Below you will find my review of the second book and a short Q&A with A.M Dellamonica, where she discusses Bram (aka my gay book boyfriend) and her inspiration for this series. Enjoy! And make sure to check out A Child of the Hidden Sea (out in both hardcover and paperback) and then the sequel, A Daughter of No Nation which released in hardcover on December 1st.


25543928Title:  A Daughter of No Nation (Hidden Sea Tales #2)

Author: A.M. Dellamonica

Rating:  ★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: As soon as Sophie Hansa returned to our world, she is anxious to once again go back to Stormwrack. Unable to discuss the wondrous sights she has seen, and unable to tell anyone what happened to her in her time away, Sophie is in a holding pattern, focused entirely on her eventual chance to return.

With the sudden arrival of Garland Parrish, Sophie is once again gone. This time, she has been called back to Stormwrack in order to spend time with her father, a Duelist-Adjudicator, who is an unrivaled combatant and fearsome negotiator. But is he driven by his commitment to seeing justice prevail, or is he a sociopath? Soon, she discovers something repellent about him that makes her reject him, and everything he is offering. Adrift again, she discovers that her time spent with her father is not without advantages, however, for Sophie has discovered there is nothing to stop her from setting up a forensic institute in Stormwrack, investigating cases that have been bogged down in the courts, sometimes for years. Her fresh look into a long-standing case between two of the islands turns up new information that could get her, and her friends, pulled into something bold and daring, which changes the entire way she approaches this strange new world. 

Huge thank you to Raincoast Books/Tor for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

Let me preface this review by stating how much I adored Child of the Hidden Sea. I WAS IN LOVE WITH IT! I found it just a unique and refreshing take on both time slip fantasy and pirates. Just the fact alone that pirates are such a dying breed in literature make me depressed considering how much fun and roguish they can be.

And here’s the kicker: I was so excited about a sequel for Child of the Hidden Sea because I loved the world, I thought the characters were a ton of fun (BRAM!) and because at the end of the day, I liked how Dellamonica gave the reader a lot to think about. Sophie is wonderful as a heroine who is delectably flawed, but charming nonetheless. Something about A Daughter of No Nation did not grip me right away the way the first book did. I struggled with the majority of this book, and if I’m being honest, I can’t really explain why given that everything I liked about the first book was definitely still here and if anything there was moreof it.

But I struggled, and realized it wasn’t the book: it was me. I was trying to force myself to read this book when I wasn’t in the mood, and as a result my enjoyment suffered. This is not a bad sequel by any stretch of the imagination, but rather it didn’t hook me the way the first book did. The writing is still quite stellar and vivid, and while I enjoyed it, I felt a bit more lost considering I hadn’t reread A Child of the Hidden Sea, and I think I should have.

What I will say, however, is the last hundred pages are what did it for me. I was completely glued the story, turning the pages and demanding the need for more. All of a sudden the book had this grip on me that refused to let go until I had gotten to end. I won’t spoil this book, but for those who loved the first one, those last hundred pages will keep you so invested and remind you of why the first book worked so well.

So while this sequel was a bit slow for me and didn’t really work for me mood-wise, I still plan on reading book three when it releases. I think sometimes a second book can suffer from a middle book syndrome and sometimes that is okay too. I just admit, I wish there had been more Bram. Any time Bram was around, the book had my fullest attention because darn it, he’s just so damn delightful.

A. M. DELLAMONICA is the author of Indigo Springs, winner of the
Sunburst Award for Canadian Literature of the Fantastic, and its concluding sequel, Blue
Magic. Her short stories have appeared in a number of fantasy and science fiction
magazines and anthologies, and on Tor.com.

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Q&A on A Daughter of No Nation (and why you should join the Bram train!)

The amazing folks at Raincoast gave me the chance to ask A.M Dellamoncia a few questions about the Hidden Sea Tales, and she was awesome enough to answer them! Here’s the results:

Bram is my favourite character in the series. He’s delightfully sassy. Where did the inspiration for his character come from?

I don’t think there was ever a point where I didn’t know Sophie would have a brother.My siblings (a category that includes inlaws who’ve been part of my life for almost
thirty years as well as my sister and stepsibs) are a crucial thread within the fabric of
my life.

The Hidden Sea Tales are about microclimates, as well as a hundred other things, and I
believe that families are social microclimates. By this I mean that the only person whose
experience of growing up can ever be remotely like your own is that of a kid who’s grown
up in the same household. Even then, of course, two different children can come away with
completely different perspectives on what happened in their shared past, and this is
pretty much true of Sophie and Bram. They have very different takes on their dad in
particular. Even so, they are close–there’s a scene in A Daughter of No Nation where
they’re each so determined to protect the other from physical harm that they’re
practically stumbling into each other, and thereby putting themselves in more danger
rather than less.

As someone who is queer, I also have some familiarity with the experience of building
your own family from the close-knit circle of people with whom you share many experiences
but no actual DNA. Bram is definitely inspired by many of the smart and thoroughly
wonderful gay men I have come to know over the years.

One aspect I love about this series is the time-slip nautical/pirate theme that you have   working through the story. What made you decide to blend so many different genres to craft this series?

I am very proud of my first two books, Indigo Springs and Blue Magic, but they are
somewhat somber and the latter, in particular, has a shockingly high body count. When I
set out to write a Child of A Hidden Sea, I wanted to have fun. I started by making a
list of everything I love: sailing ships, Sherlock Holmes, biodiversity, portal fantasy,
sea monsters, wildlife biologists, crime procedurals, nature documentaries, photography,
pirates, magic, volcanoes… okay, I admit it was something of a nerdy list.

The sensible thing at that point would have been to pare down that initial brainstorming
session, choosing a few absolute favourites and saving the rest for the next book. But I
wanted to go at it like a kid attacking a pile of birthday gifts, by keeping everything
on the list that I possibly could. I had a lot of fun writing these novels, and I think
it shows.


Huge thank you again to both A.M Dellamonica and Raincoast for all their time and effort in this blog tour. Both Child of the Hidden Sea and Daughter of No Nation are out NOW!

Wanna see where the tour is heading next? Check out the tour stops below!

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ARC Review – Radiance: A Novel by Catherynne M. Valente

23014329Title:  Radiance: A Novel

Author: Catherynne M. Valente

Rating:  ★★★

Synopsis:  Radiance is a decopunk pulp SF alt-history space opera mystery set in a Hollywood-and solar system-very different from our own, from Catherynne M. Valente, the phenomenal talent behind the New York TimesbestsellingThe Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making.

Severin Unck’s father is a famous director of Gothic romances in an alternate 1986 in which talking movies are still a daring innovation due to the patent-hoarding Edison family. Rebelling against her father’s films of passion, intrigue, and spirits from beyond, Severin starts making documentaries, traveling through space and investigating the levitator cults of Neptune and the lawless saloons of Mars. For this is not our solar system, but one drawn from classic science fiction in which all the planets are inhabited and we travel through space on beautiful rockets. Severin is a realist in a fantastic universe.

But her latest film, which investigates the disappearance of a diving colony on a watery Venus populated by island-sized alien creatures, will be her last. Though her crew limps home to earth and her story is preserved by the colony’s last survivor, Severin will never return.

Told using techniques from reality TV, classic film, gossip magazines, and meta-fictional narrative, Radiance is a solar system-spanning story of love, exploration, family, loss, quantum physics, and silent film.

Huge thank you to Raincoast/Tor for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

So, Radiance is a weird, weird book. It’s not bad weird, just very out there. If people were to ask me how I described the book, I’d probably tell them it’s a confusing, yet charmingly deceptive book about film-making in space. There’s Hollywood glitz and glam and it’s all happening in the solar system. The book is alsovery old Hollywood, which is something I adored about it.

Here’s the thing, the writing in this book is stunning, and not in Valente’s usual way. It’s gritter, much more technical through the use of mixed media (such as scripts, letters, etc) and she really does this amazing job of painting space-Hollywood in a way that feels so familiar, and yet at the same time she puts enough distance between the world and the readers to remind them that not everything is as it seems on the surface. I loved that about this story, and really the writing and the world building were the parts that really kept me involved and drawn in to the overall narrative.

But if I’m being frank, I’m not sure I totally understood the story on this one. Parts of it felt slow or all over the place, and there’s this feeling of franticness that fits what is happening the story, but it makes it hard to follow. Furthermore, I wasn’t in love with these characters and I did find them memorable at all. What I was in love with was how film-making techniques were integrated in the story, the old world Hollywood elements just captured me in a way that made me want to rewatch classic films. But I wanted to connect to these characters, and struggled, hoping one of them would be someone I could connect with.

I think if you’re a hardcore Valente fan like I am, you’ll probably find something to love about this book. I do not recommend this book if this is your first time reading her work (I’d also say start with Fairyland or some of her short stories) because he writing is very unique and it’s definitely not for everyone. I think there’s a lot to enjoy about Radiance, I just found it for me personally, to be a tougher reader than some of her other works.

Late to the Party ARC Review – Uprooted by Naomi Novik

22544764Title: Uprooted

Author: Naomi Novik

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life. Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.

The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her. But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.

Huge thank you to the publisher for providing me an ARC of this book!

Sam’s Review:

I am a huge Naomi Novik fan, especially since His Majesty’s Dragon released years ago. Her books do an amazing job of blending alternative history an the fantastical together to create a gripping world that is always interesting to embark in. Her latest novel, Uprooted, is a departure in this regard, as it’s still fantasy, there still be dragons, but is much more traditional in nature. And it’s perfect.

What I love about Uprooted is that in a lot of cases, the book is not entirely what it seems. We have a “Dragon” abducting women and “sacrificing them,” we have a wood that is much more alive than those realize, and a heroine by the name of Agnieszka who must learn magic as a means to push the malevolent woods back, before it destroys everything in the valley and all the people she has sworn to protect.

This is a gorgeously written book that oozes wonderful and raw description. Moreover, Novik uses her skills to craft this very sinister world, one which feels disjointed and suffocating. The Woods are as much of a character in the story than one would notice at first, and it’s a testament to Novik’s skill that we are given a Woods that is very much alive and out to destroy the world. Oddly, the Woods was my favourite character, and I loved the way in which its described, and the way it has the power to foil the characters in the story. That’s not to say I didn’t love the heroine,
Agnieszka, who really is a character that begins as a slow burn and then blossoms into this wise, tough individual who knows there’s so much riding on her success. Agnieszka struggles with failure, she’s sympathetic, and she’s someone who wants to do and see good in everyone and everything. I loved her for it.

And that’s really it: all the characters in this book have a great amount of depth and complexity to them. Agnieszka takes Kasia’s place, you know in that instance their relationship changes in a way that isn’t necessarily for the better. The Dragon is such a gruff guy, and yet he does show care and compassion towards Agnieszka, even if it’s somewhat digressive in nature. The characters and their dynamics work wonderfully, and the story is gripping from start to finish. I cared about these characters and the world they are living in.

If you’ve never read a Naomi Novik novel or you’re intimidated by the size of the Temeraire series, then I implore you to give Uprooted a go. It’s delicious dark, but it’ll scratch the itch of any fantasy fan who loves deep description and wonderfully fleshed out characters. This is easily a new favourite novel by her for me!

ARC Review – Wind/Pinball: Two Early Novels by Haruki Murakami

24013720Title:  Wind/Pinball: Two Early Novels

Author: Haruki Murakami

Rating:  ★★★★

Synopsis: The debut short novels–nearly thirty years out of print– by the internationally acclaimed writer, newly retranslated and in one English-language volume for the first time, with a new introduction by the author.

These first major works of fiction by Haruki Murakami center on two young men–an unnamed narrator and his friend and former roommate, the Rat. Powerful, at times surreal, stories of loneliness, obsession, and eroticism, these novellas bear all the hallmarks of Murakami’s later books, giving us a fascinating insight into a great writer’s beginnings, and are remarkable works of fiction in their own right. Here too is an exclusive essay by Murakami in which he explores and explains his decision to become a writer. Prequels to the much-beloved classics A Wild Sheep Chase and Dance Dance Dance, these early works are essential reading for Murakami completists and contemporary fiction lovers alike.

Huge thank you to Random House Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

So I spent many, many years looking to find a translation for both of these novels. Believe it or not a translation did exist forHear the Wind Sing, but the price to get a physical copy of it was beyond absurd. So colour me thrilled when this collection was announced (and once again translated by an old professor of mine). Wind/Pinball is a bind up of Hear the Wind Sing andPinbal 1973, and are Murakami’s first two “novels” if you wish to call them that.

What I loved about this collection was that we get to see the beginnings of a young Haruki Murakami. We see the themes that are now considered staples in his works showing early life. Isolation, love, jazz, it’s all here in it’s rawest forms. Personally, I really enjoyed the visit in both these stories, especially because it gave me a lot of insight into Murakami as an early writer, and it shows the rougher areas in his writing where you can tell he was still new to the craft. It felt like such an enriching experience. The downside, however, to this is that while these were his first novels, they don’t actual feel like anything new. I could sense that some of his later works were influenced by these first two stories, particularly South of the Border, West of the Sun, which I’d argue is still a better novel than both of these.

However, I enjoyed and read both novels in one sitting. Murakami’s writing is still captivating, and it was interesting to see the origins of The Rat, who is a popular character in A Wild Sheep Chase. You get to see two very distinctive and different sides to this character when reading Wind/Pinball, and yet you know it’s the same person from all three stories. I adored both novels but for different reasons: in Hear the Wind Sing, I loved how the hero was a disc-jockey, yet he didn’t have the greatest social skills. Reading that particular story gave me a huge appreciation for why jazz and its culture is so prevalent in Murakami’s works.

Pinball 1973 was the more quirky of the two stories, as once again we have a jazz loving protagonist, with an interest in pinball, but can’t seem to get the ladies to like him. Again, we have all of Murakami’s signature themes, but in this story we start to see more of the quirky sense of humour that Murakami has. My favourite part was these two twins and the protagonist could never figure out how to identify them separately, and they play being identical twins up so hard on him. It’s gets so bad that they get sweat-shirts with different numbers on them, and when he asks if he can call them by number, they take off their shirts and switch them. I thought that was hilarious.

I think for hardcore Murakami fans, this is a must read in the sense that it’ll provide you with some historical insight into his early works, as well as his writing process. The introduction in this collection alone is worth reading for those curious about his habits, where he came from, and why he reuses the same themes throughout his stories. Both stories offer a lot of interesting moments, though similarly they don’t offer anything that feels new or that you haven’t seen from Murakami before. They’re worth the read, and then while your at it, go read A Wild Sheep Chase to simply see how the Rat’s story comes to end.

 

Late to the Party ARC Review – Prudence (The Custard Protocol, #1) by Gail Carriger

23562480Title:  Prudence (The Custard Protocol, #1)

Author: Gail Carriger

Rating:  ★★★★

Synopsis: When Prudence Alessandra Maccon Akeldama (Rue to her friends) is given an unexpected dirigible, she does what any sensible female would under similar circumstances — names it the Spotted Custard and floats to India in pursuit of the perfect cup of tea. But India has more than just tea on offer. Rue stumbles upon a plot involving local dissidents, a kidnapped brigadier’s wife, and some awfully familiar Scottish werewolves. Faced with a dire crisis and an embarrassing lack of bloomers, what else is a young lady of good breeding to do but turn metanatural and find out everyone’s secrets, even thousand-year-old fuzzy ones?

Huge thank you to Orbit and Edelweiss for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I probably should have read this sooner given my fangirl status for Gail Carriger. Sadly, life got in the way and this just didn’t happen as early as I wanted it too. However, given the status of this book for some many years, boy was I finally glad to read it!

Prudence was totally worth waiting for, given all the hiccups before its release. It’s as sassy as the Parasol Protectorate series, but still has it’s own distinctive voice and sense of humour. I loved Rue and her companions, particularly Percy who just had me in stitches for large chunks of the story. Carriger has this amazing ability to write chemistry between her characters, and I feel like in this book the level of success she has is huge.

Furthermore there were cameos of old favourites from Parasol Protectorate, which really just made me grin from ear to ear. Plus since Prudence takes place in the same universe as many of Carriger’s other novels, it just makes everything feel so familiar and comfortable.

For me, I get a sense of comfort when reading a Gail Carriger novel. I know exactly what I am getting: humour, quirk, romance, a grand adventure with some prim and proper attached, and I’m such happy to have those things. This book isn’t without flaw, as it does feel a little samey to the main series, but I didn’t care because I found myself laughing along to Rue and crew’s antics. The comedy was just very spot on in this novel, and sometimes you wanted a book that doesn’t try to hard, and it’s only goal is to make you have a good laugh.

ARC Review – Exquisite Corpse by Pénélope Bagieu

22718721Title: Exquisite Corpse

Author: Pénélope Bagieu

Rating: ★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Zoe isn’t exactly the intellectual type, which is why she doesn’t recognize world-famous author Thomas Rocher when she stumbles into his apartment…and into his life. It’s also why she doesn’t know that Rocher is supposed to be dead. Turns out, Rocher faked his death years ago to escape his critics, and has been making a killing releasing his new work as “lost manuscripts,” in cahoots with his editor/ex-wife Agathe. Neither of them would have invited a crass party girl like Zoe into their literary conspiracy of two, but now that she’s there anyway. . . . Zoe doesn’t know Balzac from Batman, but she’s going to have to wise up fast… because she’s sitting on the literary scandal of the century!

Huge thank you to First Second for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

Exquisite Corpse is an oddball of a graphic novel because it’s seeing a romantic comedy in comics is not common. Interestingly though, this comic is not entirely what it seems on the surface either. Every person ins this story is vile, some what disgusting in terms of being a human being, and yet it also a huge part of the comic’s charm as well.

Zoe is desperate for a man to sweep her off her feet and provide for her. She hates her job, current boyfriend, and wants someone to adore her. Thomas Rocher is a famous author who lives and dies on positive review feedback. The two of them meet by chance, and they in turn have an exceptionally messy relationship. Like, it’s just baaaaaaad.

There’s not a lot of characters in this graphic novel, and it’s actually for the better. Both these characters want someone’s approval and praise, living for their own life’s show and demanding the world give them in some ways what they are entitled to. Obviously, Bagieu shows the readers how ridiculous that concept is, so it makes for some very frustrating characters. In a lot of ways, both Zoe and Thomas ultimately get what they deserve, though, I have to say, the twist ending, though I saw it coming, was really well done, and the revenge that takes place in the story is really well timed and just messed up.

My favourite character was actually Agathe, if only because I loved her backstory to her relationship with Thomas and how even though her and Zoe get off on the wrong foot, they oddly come together in their distaste for Thomas. While a lot of the comic looks at issues of attention, entitlement and approval, it’s something Bagieu gives the readers connections to. Let’s face it, many of us have met a Zoe, Thomas or Agathe in our lives, and they aren’t easy people to tolerate.

Exqusite Corpse is different, and not an easy graphic novel to read. The content is solid, the art is gorgeous, but these characters will likely disgust you, or you might see something you may not be ready for. Regardless, I think the comic teaches some interesting lessons, and I feel like there’s a lot to uncover about human nature and desire, simply by reading this book.