Tag Archives: adult

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!

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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 – The Divine by Asaf Hanuka, Tomer Hanuka, Boaz Lavie

22718664Title: The Divine

Author: Asaf Hanuka, Tomer Hanuka, Boaz Lavie

Rating:  ★★★ 1/2

Synopsis: Mark’s out of the military, these days, with his boring, safe civilian job doing explosives consulting. But you never really get away from war. So it feels inevitable when his old army buddy Jason comes calling, with a lucrative military contract for a mining job in an obscure South-East Asian country called Quanlom. They’ll have to operate under the radar–Quanlom is being torn apart by civil war, and the US military isn’t strictly supposed to be there.

With no career prospects and a baby on the way, Mark finds himself making the worst mistake of his life and signing on with Jason. What awaits him in Quanlom is going to change everything.
What awaits him in Quanlom is weirdness of the highest order: a civil war led by ten-year-old twins wielding something that looks a lot like magic, leading an army of warriors who look a lot like gods. What awaits him in Quanlom is an actual goddamn dragon.

Huge thank you to First Second for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

So The Divine is a messed up read. It’s a story about child soldiers, mysticism, and a man who makes possibly the worst decision of his life — and just before the birth of his child!

Mark has no money, loses his job, and makes the decision to go to Quanlom, a war torn nation. There are two ten year old twins who aren’t afraid to make their guests feel welcome but cutting their throats open. Yeah, this comic is one part super stylish, the other being very gory. The twins will make you uncomfortable, feel disturbed and yet you know they live such a crappy life that whatever power they have they are going to use to make others feel the same way.

Plus there’s a mother f’in dragon. Cause every mystic needs a dragon to murder the world. It’s also damn scary.

Truthfully though, the story is quite interesting and disturbing, and it keeps it’s consistency throughout. However, this comic is also not for the faint of heart because some of the torture scenes are pretty graphic (truthfully I found them quite uncomfortable!), and you need to have a bit of a tough stomach. I appreciate the inspiration behind the The Divine, which was a photograph of two twin children smoking cigarettes, and the story the authors weave from it is fascinating.

I think The Divine is going to be very hit-or-miss with readers, and I do think that will have everything to do with the story and gore factor. I think if you’ve got a tough stomach you’ll find it to be quite the intense experience, and I actually enjoyed it because of that (even if it disturbed me so much). I think if the story gets lost on your, you won’t enjoy The Divine, but at least then you can enjoy the pretty pictures? ’cause the art is super super pretty.

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.

Book Review – Exile (The Book of Ever #1) by James Cormier

22961594Title: Exile (The Book of Ever #1)

Author: James Cormier

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: Centuries after the Fall, the United States has been wiped away. The crumbling remains of the great American empire are home now only to savage, lawless tribes and packs of ravening Damned-the twisted children of the apocalypse. Most of those few who survived humanity’s destruction spend their short lives in a violent struggle for survival. But some light still flickers in the darkness: the Blessed of Bountiful live in seclusion, relying on walls both physical and spiritual to protect them from the Desolation that their world has become. Among them are the Saints, those few men and women born with superhuman abilities that the Blessed see as gifts from God. The violent apostate tribes of the Northeast Kingdom have always been a danger, but up until recently its small size and the vigilance of its people have made Bountiful an unappealing target. As attacks on the community grow harsher and more frequent, however, even the steadfast Blessed are forced to start preparing for the worst. With her home’s very existence threatened, seventeen year old Ever Oaks, a Saint with the power to heal, is forced to make a difficult choice, one that may come to define her people’s future…

Huge thank you to the author for providing me with a copy of this book for review. In no way is my review biased due to this. My opinions are my own.

River’s Review:

I will admit that I don’t often review indie or self pubbed books but I made an exception for this one because the author is local (MA) an it just sounded interesting. I haven’t read a good dystopian in awhile and I thought why not.

I’m SO glad I read this! I loved it! I was so INVESTED in it and didn’t want to put it down. It’s very well written and really touched a lot of things that I love about dystopian, sci-fi and even fantasy. I love it when dystopians are SO dystopian that they’re thrown back into the stone ages.

Ever Oaks and her village are Blessed. They’re survivors of The Fall (the end of the world basically) and some of her people are gifted with super-human abilities and deemed Saints. Ever is a Saint with the power to heal. She lives in a very, VERY religious society where men are in control and women are basically owned by their father’s and husbands. We know this is the future but it feels so very much like the past.

Ever is a good girl, a godly girl, but she does what she wants and when her village is attacked by the outside tribes who live savagely and witout God, she joins the quest to find her people a new home. She leaves with three other men to head north to find a new home. What they find instead is a powerful enemy, the truth about The Fall and Ever’s destiny.

When I first started this the religious part threw me for a loop. I’m not a fan of traditional religion and while this is very much based on Christian belief it was never preachy and I loved how much of the society and customs were based in this old belief system. I never once felt anything negative towards the religious aspects of this book and usually when I read books with religion in them I can usually find something that makes my stomach twist the wrong way. But this was beautiful and the intent of the religion in this book was not to preach as you.

I loved the world building in this. There were times that I felt elements of The Walking Dead, other times elements of Divergent. Never did this feel like it was trying to be those. It just felt very familiar and I liked that. So often dystopian novels try to make things TOO different and crazy and I’m just left wondering how that could have happened or WHY that happened. But this book had a wonderful set up and world build and when the story took unexpected twists and threw in some sci-fi elements I was ready for it and enjoyed it greatly.

The unexpected twists were SO good. I thought that this was going to be a journey book (which is part of why I picked it up, because I’m a HUGE fan of survival and journey stories) and while it was, it wasn’t in the way I thought it was going to be. I thought I had it pegged and then there were two twists that made me SO happy that this WASN’T predictable and made me love it even more.

And let’s talk about the romance for a second. While the beginning was a little bit fast (Ever and Jared spend a day together and at the start of the day she was annoyed with him and at the end of the day she admitted to having some different feelings towards him… thought they DID go through a lot together in that one day) I liked how it smoothed out and grew. The book isn’t heavy on romance, but man, when things did come together I felt that flutter that I get when two characters I’m rooting for finally kiss.

Overall this was a GREAT book and if you’re a fan of Divergent, The Birthmarked Trilogy or dystopian survival stories then you’ll want to check this out. I can’t WAIT for the next book!

ARC Review – The Diamond Conspiracy by Pip Ballantine & Tee Morris

23292456Title: The Diamond Conspiracy

Author: Pip Ballantine & Tee Morris

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Having narrowly escaped the electrifying machinations of Thomas Edison, Books and Braun are looking forward to a relaxing and possibly romantic voyage home. But when Braun’s emergency signal goes off, all thoughts of recreation vanish. Braun’s street-wise team of child informants, the Ministry Seven, is in grave peril, and Books and Braun must return to England immediately.

But when the intrepid agents finally arrive in London, the situation is even more dire than they imagined. The Ministry has been disavowed, and the Department of Imperial Inconveniences has been called in to decommission its agents in a most deadly fashion. The plan reeks of the Maestro’s dastardly scheming. Only, this time, he has a dangerous new ally—a duplicitous doctor whose pernicious poisons have infected the highest levels of society, reaching even the Queen herself…

Huge thank you to Ace and Netgalley for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

Do you know what I love about The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences series? I love that it has yet to disappoint me (and the day that happens I will feel a lot of sadness). There’s insanity! Humour! Romance! And some nutjobby characters who continue to entertain.

In this latest instalment we finally learn more about Welly’s and it’s quite the doozy. It’s great to finally see him drop down his guard and let the reader and Eliza in. I mean seriously, their romance is so adorkable, and I love when they get into heated conversations because both are so stubborn and awkward that it makes you laugh. Eliza continues to amuse me in every book, and she always gives the reader lines to chuckle over.

The characters introduced in The Diamond Conspiracy are pretty darn fun as well. There’s also mecha, face punching, and just plain awesome from this volume. Admittedly, even if the series ever goes downhill — I’ll probably still be reading it.

After a crummy week of tests and being sick, Books and Braun really know how to be the perfect pick me up.