Tag Archives: adult fiction

Late to the Party ARC Review – Mayumi and the Sea of Happiness by Jennifer Tseng

23399029Title: Mayumi and the Sea of Happiness

Author: Jennifer Tseng

Rating: ★★★

Synopsis: Books may be Mayumi Saito’s greatest love and her one source of true pleasure. Forty-one years old, disenchanted wife and dutiful mother, Mayumi’s work as a librarian on a small island off the coast of New England feeds her passion for reading and provides her with many occasions for wry observations on human nature, but it does little to remedy the mundanity of her days. That is, until the day she issues a library card to a shy seventeen-year-old boy and swiftly succumbs to a sexual obsession that subverts the way she sees the library, her family, the island she lives on, and ultimately herself.
 
Wary of the consequences of following through on her fantasies, Mayumi hesitates at first. But she cannot keep the young man from her thoughts. After a summer of overlong glances and nervous chitchat in the library, she finally accepts that their connection is undeniable. In a sprawling house emptied of its summer vacationers, their affair is consummated and soon consolidated thanks to an explosive charge of erotic energy. Mayumi’s life is radically enriched by the few hours each week that she shares with the young man, and as their bond grows stronger thanks not only to their physical closeness but also to their long talks about the books they both love, those hours spent apart seem to Mayumi increasingly bleak and intolerable. As her obsession worsens, in a frantic attempt to become closer to the young man, Mayumi nervously befriends another librarian patron, the young man’s mother. The two women forge a tenuous friendship that will prove vital to both in the most unexpected ways when catastrophe strikes.

Huge thank you to Penguin Canada for this finished copy!

Sam’s Review:

When Mayumi and the Sea of Happiness came through my mailbox, I was both intrigued and worried. I don’t mind books with taboo subject matters, but I was sure I was going to feel quite uncomfortable with the relationship between Mayumi and the Boy. Oddly, I wasn’t as disturbed as I thought I would be, though I did find elements of this book weirder than the taboo relationship.

First I am going to praise the writing, because I did read this book in the span of two days and it’s pretty captivating. Tseng really envelopes the reader into her prose, even when there’s barely anything going on story-wise. The story itself goes through four seasons of Mayumi and the Boy’s relationship, her connection to Violet, his mother, and the worry that she will be discovered by her husband and others. That is the whole book in a nutshell, and yet the prose really makes the reader feel connected to what is going on.

That being said, I disliked Mayumi’s character and the stereotyping of librarians in the novel. That rubbed me the wrong way more than the relationship between Mayumi and the Boy, because there is this stupid assumption that library people, though friendly, don’t want to talk or really deal with patrons (not true, by the way). Mayumi plays into this stereotype so badly, and makes for frustrating character to care about. There’s no real drama in the novel, no real climax. The ending is pretty much a cop out given this larger build that were are given between Mayumi and the Boy. In a lot of ways, I felt rather cheated.

But I kept reading on, because seriously, Tseng’s prose and descriptions were what kept me going. Mayumi and the Sea of Happiness isn’t a bad book at all, but there’s larger holes that don’t get filled very well. If the taboo subject matter isn’t your thing, I’d definitely recommend staying clear, but if you can get past that, there is an interesting narrative being discussed here.

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ARC Review – Relativity by Antonia Hayes

25814254Title: Relativity

Author: Antonia Hayes

Rating: ★★★

Synopsis: Twelve-year-old Ethan Forsythe, an exceptionally talented boy obsessed with physics and astronomy, has been raised alone by his mother in Sydney, Australia. Claire, a former professional ballerina, has been a wonderful parent to Ethan, but he’s becoming increasingly curious about his father’s absence in his life. Claire is fiercely protective of her talented, vulnerable son—and of her own feelings. But when Ethan falls ill, tied to a tragic event that occurred during his infancy, her tightly-held world is split open.

Thousands of miles away on the western coast of Australia, Mark is trying to forget about the events that tore his family apart, but an unexpected call forces him to confront his past and return home. When Ethan secretly intercepts a letter from Mark to Claire, he unleashes long-suppressed forces that—like gravity—pull the three together again, testing the limits of love and forgiveness.

Huge thank you to Simon & Schuster Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

Relativity was a book I had heard nothing about until it appeared in my mailbox. I’ve been trying to get myself to read more adult fiction again, despite running a mainly MG and YA focused blog. There’s a lot of good in this book, though for me there was also a lot that held it back as well.

The book follows three main characters, Claire, Mark and Ethan, who are all family. Ethan has a unique generic case where he is able to see physics. He also has been separated from his father, Mark, for many years and wants to be reunited with him. Claire, Ethan’s mother, believes that the amount of sacrifices she had made for her family has amounted to her neglecting her own needs in life, but still feels as though she can’t put her needs before that of her child.

I really dug the emotional struggles that were present in the novel, because each of the characters all had different problems resulting in a need for wanting to be selfish. Claire has made sacrifices to no end but doesn’t feel valued, Mark wants his career and a family but doesn’t want to make either of these actually work, and Ethan is the product of two people who in a lot of ways didn’t necessarily want him for different reasons. It’s really sad to watch a lot of these people falling a part and the novel doesn’t really allow them to entirely get back together either.

That being said, while the plot was interesting, the writing was kind of bland. It was either over saturated in metaphors or everything felt so plain and direct. While I could sense the emotional struggles within the characters, sometimes I felt like the writing wasn’t able to convey that strongly. It definitely had it’s heartfelt moments, which I think fit the tone of the story well, and I liked the level of research that went into describing Ethan’s Shaken Baby Syndrome, and the backstory to that was intriguing, but I wish the writing did a better job of making me emote as a reader.

Relativity is a decent read, and I think for some readers will be an easy book to connect with. The overall story is really interesting and well put together, even if I found the writing a bit overdone or even lacking in places. It’s great for those though who want to be invested in a small scale story with only a handful of characters.

Book Review – Dead Endings by Jessica Chavez & Irene Flores

23363286Title: Dead Endings

Author:  Jessica Chavez & Irene Flores

Rating:  ★★★★★

Synopsis: In the city that never sleeps, spirits are equally restless and vie for the attentions of those who can sense them. Cailen Delaney, grad student and long-suffering ghost magnet, would rather spend her break getting reacquainted with her pillow, but is instead dragged into the aftermath of a strange series of murders by Everett Jung. Join Jessica Chavez (author) and Irene Flores (illustrator) through the streets of modern New York in this darkly comedic mystery about the connection between life and death…and how sometimes, literally, the separation is razor-thin.

Sam’s Review:

This review may seem a tad bias since I am friends with the author, but screw it, even if I wasn’t friends with her I probably still would have loved this book.

This book. Oh lord this book, did I laugh, cry and have all the feelings. Jessica Chavez, if you aren’t familiar with her work in video games, is a fantastic localization writer, but if I’m frankly, she’s just a fantastic writer writer (and she would kill me for the multiple uses of ‘fantastic’ and ‘writer’, on the other hand, I have stoked her ego as well!)

Dead Endings follows grad student who is a ghost magnet Cailen Delaney, and her alcohol-fueled misadventures in dealing with the undead who are refusing to rest. She’s sassy, snarky, and really just wishes you’d leave her the hell alone. Along with the head of her roommate, Gabriela and the quirky Everett, together they attempt to engage the spirits so regular folk don’t have to.

The story is this great blend of snark and seriousness. Chavez really knows how to play to her strengths in writing, mainly in her skill of writing witty character banter. There’s strong character interaction as well, and it makes for a real delight when the trio are together. Couple this with Irene Florez’s beautiful illustration work, and it just makes for an awesome experience. Seriously, they are gorgeous and they really being Chavez’s words to life in a way that makes for a great reading experience.

If you love snark, booze humour, paranormal adventures, and quirky characters, Dead Endings will delight from start to finish. I look forward to whatever else Jessica writers in the feature, and I can only hope there will be much more in the Dead Endings universe.

ARC Review – This Was Not the Plan by Cristina Alger

25111016Title: This Was Not the Plan

Author:  Cristina Alger

Rating:  ★★★★★

Synopsis: Charlie Goldwyn’s life hasn’t exactly gone according to plan. Widowerhood at thirty-three and twelve-hour workdays have left a gap in his relationship with his quirky five-year-old son, Caleb, whose obsession with natural disasters and penchant for girls’ clothing have made him something of a loner at his preschool. The only thing Charlie has going for him is his job at a prestigious law firm, where he is finally close to becoming a partner.

But when a slight lapse in judgment at an office party leaves him humiliatingly unemployed, stuck at home with Caleb for the summer, and forced to face his own estranged father, Charlie starts to realize that there’s more to fatherhood than financially providing for his son, and more to being a son than overtaking his father’s successes.

Huge thank you to Simon & Schuster Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

If I’m being honest, I don’t review a lot of a adult novels. It’s not because I don’t enjoy them, it’s usually because our blog has such a higher focus on young adult and middle grade. That being said, when I received This Was Not The Plan in the mail, part of me was a tad confused why I was getting it. Then I read the note inside from who sent it to me and decided I needed to give it a shot.

There’s not a lot of books out there that focus on male widows, let alone ones who are single parents. Charlie is a lawyer who works insane hours while his sister, Zadie, takes care of this son. When Charlie has a drunkin’ meltdown at a cocktail meeting, his feelings of what it means to be a corporate lawyer “protecting the bad guys” goes viral on YouTube, costing him his job. Forced to leave his position, it gives Charlie a chance to reconnect with his family, more particularly his son, in what turns out to be one of the crazy family reunions I’ve ever read about.

I loved Charlie as a character. Despite being uptight and very corporate, you get a sense that when he loses his job that “it wasn’t the plan.” Furthermore, this lack of planning continues to spiral in the novel, as so much more of his life goes from being planned to unplanned in the blink of an eye. He was married to a woman who didn’t believe in planning. Everything we learn about Charlie’s wife Mira is just interesting, and you get a sense that both characters couldn’t be more opposite to each other and yet they worked so well. The overarching theme of what it means to plan versus life just happening was quite inspiring at times, and it made for an engaging reading experience.

My favourite character by far was Zadie, though. She’s much more free-spirited and has a strong desire to teach her older brother how to live a little. The fact that he behaves like he is afraid to is part of the issue, but Zadie gives so much insight in terms of how living your life versus life living you can ultimately destroy a person’s well being. I also loved her relationship with Caleb, and I loved that she allowed him to express himself in any way he desired. I thought it was great how she also taught Charlie about how to accept Caleb’s openness for pink tutus and Dora the Explorer. I enjoyed that there wasn’t a romance really in this novel. Not that it would have been bad, but the author does this fantastic job of showing how Charlie just isn’t ready yet. Even if he thinks he’s ready, there’s that part of his that still hasn’t grieved his wife, that hasn’t had time to be the kind of dad he wants to be.

This novel is a fantastic read, and one that grabbed me right from the get-go. The characters in this novel are imperfect, but loveable. This is for lovers of contemporary fiction, and those who love stories about family. This Was Not The Plan ended up being a surprise favourite for me, and I hope others check it out and enjoy the overall message it illustrates.

 

Book Review – The Secret Loves of Geek Girls, edited by Hope Nicholson

26094420Title:  The Secret Loves of Geek Girls

Edited by: Hope Nicholson

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: Secret Loves of Geek Girls is an exciting new nonfiction anthology of comic and prose stories from women in fandom. All the stories in this collection revolve around personal experiences and thoughts on romance, sex, and dating.

Sam’s Review:

Truthfully, I don’t read a lot of non-fiction. This is probably due to the fact that I haven’t found a lot of non-fiction that interests me. When I saw the pitch for The Secret Loves of Geek Girls on Kickstarter, I knew I had to have it. After reading it, I’m glad with how it all turned out in the end.

This book features short essays and comics focusing on love, dating, fandom, sexuality, feminism, etc. It provides tons of unique perspectives, especially with how fandoms play a larger role in women’s lives and why it is a part of who they are. Fandom is something everyone is a part of, and there is no one true fandom! Plus we get various points of view from women of color, bisexuals, older women, younger women, and it’s fantastic! It’s such a great variety, and each story evokes its own tone of voice.

I can only hope more people check this book out now that it has released to a larger public. It’s sweet, earnest, crass and you won’t find uniquer voices than what’s in this collection. Every story offers something to learn, a perspective that may be you the reader hasn’t thought of, and I loved how it kept my curiosity busy. Definitely check this out if you want to read some wonderfully realistic and thoughtful stories.

Late to the Party ARC Review – At the Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen

23735614Title:  At the Water’s Edge

Author: Sarah Gruen

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: After embarrassing themselves at the social event of the year in high society Philadelphia on New Year’s Eve of 1942, Maddie and Ellis Hyde are cut off financially by Ellis’s father, a former army colonel who is already embarrassed by his son’s inability to serve in WWII due to color-blindness. Ellis decides that the only way to regain his father’s favor is to succeed in a venture his father attempted and very publicly failed at: he will hunt the famous Loch Ness monster and, when he finds it, he will restore his father’s name and return to his father’s good graces (and pocketbook). Joined by their friend Hank, a wealthy socialite, the three make their way to Scotland in the midst of war. Each day, the two men go off to hunt the monster, while another monster, Hitler, is devastating Europe. Meanwhile, Maddie undergoes a social awakening: to the harsh realities of life, to the beauties of nature, to a connection with forces larger than herself, to female friendship, and, finally, to love.

Huge thank you to Random House Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

This was a book I put off for months reading, worried I wouldn’t like it. I adored Water for Elephants, a book I assumed by title alone I wouldn’t enjoy. I was worried afterwards that At the Water’s Edge wouldn’t live up to my expectations of what Sarah Gruen is capable of.

However, I flew through this book. I couldn’t stop turning the pages because I was so engrossed by Maddie’s narrative, along with the quest to see the Loch Ness monster. I found myself completely enchanted by the way in which the story was woven together, and I loved how Gruen opens this novel and then surprises readers by the end of it with a reference to the beginning. There’s so many subtle nuances in this story, and the writing is quite lovely.

Mostly though, I loved Maddie, Anna, and Meg. I found each of the heroines in the story so strong in their own right, and I found that how they approached others in the story to be quite interesting. I wanted to hurl things at Ellis and Hank, but I understood their rational in a lot of the situations within the story. I gotta say though, the ending quite surprised me, and I loved how the story wrapped up.

Is the story a tad melodramatic and ridiculous? Absolutely! And if you don’t like that, then I definitely don’t recommend this book. However, if you don’t mind a little drama, and some really, really, lovely writing, I definitely recommend At the Water’s Edge, because if anything, it’s quite a page-turner.

ARC Review – The Sculptor by Scott McCloud

22040598Title: The Sculptor

Author: Scott McCloud

Rating: ★★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: David Smith is giving his life for his art—literally. Thanks to a deal with Death, the young sculptor gets his childhood wish: to sculpt anything he can imagine with his bare hands. But now that he only has 200 days to live, deciding what to create is harder than he thought, and discovering the love of his life at the 11th hour isn’t making it any easier!

This is a story of desire taken to the edge of reason and beyond; of the frantic, clumsy dance steps of young love; and a gorgeous, street-level portrait of the world’s greatest city. It’s about the small, warm, human moments of everyday life…and the great surging forces that lie just under the surface. Scott McCloud wrote the book on how comics work; now he vaults into great fiction with a breathtaking, funny, and unforgettable new work.

Huge thank you to First Second for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I admit, I’ve never actually read any of Scott McCloud’s works. It was my husband, however, who encouraged me to make the request and see what the fuss behind his work really is. It was a good kind of fuss, because I adored The Sculptor. Faustian in tone and narrative, The Sculptor is an emotional tale about wanting to be accepted by others, but also accepting yourself.

David is not the most likeable of characters, but honestly, it works in his favour. David has such strong ambitions, but he wants others to see what he feels he has in himself. After constant rejections in the artwork and facing his own identity crisis, he makes a deal with death — to be given the power to sculpt anything, but the cost is his life. David’s struggles and hardships are so beautifully depicted in this story, and his aggression and heartache made me really feel for him. Admittedly he’s a bit full of himself and quite self-absorbed, but he wants people to see his potential, and I think it’s something a lot of people can relate to.

And, then there was Meg. Admittedly, Meg’s aggressive behaviour was a bit of a turn-off at the beginning, and I found myself outright disliking her treatment of others. As the story goes on, however, you get just as into Meg’s head as you do David’s. They have quite a few similarities and yet, they are a wonderful, if slightly destructive couple. Once I understood where Meg was coming from, the connection became so much more apparent and I grew to love her part of the story as much as I did David’s.

The artwork in this graphic novel is stunning by the way. There’s so much detail, and every panel is just intense with emotion, not just from the characters, but even from the way McCloud depicts New York. New York at times feels like its own character, and I liked that aspect a fair bit. Plus the last few pages of the graphic novel? Insanely gorgeous. I don’t want to spoil why this is the case, but when you get to read it for yourself — you’ll understand.

I totally understand why Scott McCloud is a household name in comics. After readingThe Sculptor, I get why he is universally loved and highly acclaimed. Scott McCloud knows how to get into the mind of his characters and tell an enriching tale that makes you care about his characters, regardless of how dislikeable they may start out as. The Sculptor is an easy recommendation for those who love emotionally charged storytelling coupled and adore beautiful artwork to accompany it.