Tag Archives: dutton children

ARC Review – That Inevitable Victorian Thing by E.K. Johnston

Title: That Inevitable Victorian Thing

Author: E.K. Johnston

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Set in a near-future world where the British Empire was preserved, not by the cost of blood and theft but by effort of repatriation and promises kept, That Inevitable Victorian Thing is a novel of love, duty, and the small moments that can change people and the world.

Victoria-Margaret is the crown princess of the empire, a direct descendant of Victoria I, the queen who changed the course of history two centuries earlier. The imperial practice of genetically arranged matchmaking will soon guide Margaret into a politically advantageous marriage like her mother before her, but before she does her duty, she’ll have one summer incognito in a far corner of empire. In Toronto, she meets Helena Marcus, daughter of one of the empire’s greatest placement geneticists, and August Callaghan, the heir apparent to a powerful shipping firm currently besieged by American pirates. In a summer of high-society debutante balls, politically charged tea parties, and romantic country dances, Margaret, Helena, and August discover they share an unusual bond and maybe a one in a million chance to have what they want and to change the world in the process —just like the first Queen Victoria.

Huge thank you to Penguin Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I feel like based on the Goodreads reviews that I am in the minority for this book. I really love E.K Johnston’s work and I think there is something interesting discussions that can be had with a book likeThat Inevitable Victorian Thing.

That Inevitable Victorian Thing is an interesting read. It focuses on the idea that colonialism didn’t have it’s chance to manifest in North America and Europe, and the idea that groups of people regardless of race or religion can live in harmony. While that concept is somewhat very unrealistic, the idealism behind it is quite wonderful in my opinion. I would love to live in a world where racism doesn’t exist, where people respect one another. Again, it’s not perfect given racism isn’t entirely abolished in the story and classism still exists, but you get a sense of hopefulness from the cast of characters that they want a better world.

I do want to stress that I think a lot of the Canadian content and Ontario pride in this story may go over the heads of non-Canadian readers, as Canada has some impressive rep in this story. As someone who lives in Ontario, I loved reading the maps and Johnston’s discussions of the province within the story, and it was fun to see name droppings for people, places and things that are indicative of Ontario. I recognize this is something not everyone is able to appreciate, but I enjoyed it a lot.

This Inevitable Victorian Thing is wonderfully diverse and I loved how well marginalized people are handled. I think Johnston put a lot of care into the world-building and characters, making the world feel like it could be believable. Margaret, Helena, and August are all characters who, despite their flaws, want to change the world for the better, and I appreciated their hopefulness throughout the narrative.

Personally, I loved That Inevitable Victorian Thing. Yes, it is a slow burn, and perhaps a bit too ideal, but I found myself loving the world and the characters. I loved the larger theme of hope, connection and respect that existed throughout the narrative, and the romance in the story is pretty darn darling all things considered. I think there are aspects that will be difficult for some reads to appreciate, but if you’ve enjoyed Johnston’s works in the past, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed by this book.

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ARC Review – The Careful Undressing of Love by Corey Ann Haydu

30201161Title: The Careful Undressing of Love

Author: Corey Ann Haydu

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: Everyone who really knows Brooklyn knows Devonairre Street girls are different. They’re the ones you shouldn’t fall in love with. The ones with the curse. The ones who can get you killed.

Lorna Ryder is a Devonairre Street girl, and for years, paying lip service to the curse has been the small price of living in a neighborhood full of memories of her father, one of the thousands killed five years earlier in the 2001 Times Square Bombing. Then her best friend’s boyfriend is killed, and suddenly a city paralyzed by dread of another terrorist attack is obsessed with Devonairre Street and the price of falling in love.

Set in an America where recent history has followed a different path.

Huge thank you to Miss Print’s ARC adoption for this review copy.

Molly’s Review:

This book was fucking gorgeous. I fell in love with this book at first sight because the cover it just so stunning. I have bookstagrammed it a few times because it is just so beautiful. I actually probably wouldn’t have asked for this book if not for the cover and the fact that it’s magical realism. I wasn’t a huge fan of this author’s other books, but I wanted to give it a shot.

The writing in this book is fantastic. It sucks you in and even if the story is lacking (cuz it was in a few places) you just get so wrapped up in how lyrical the writing is that you can’t not fall in love with it. I really enjoyed all of the characters and the mysterious New York City that they lived in, I loved the magical realism parts, and the way that love was used as a curse, a weapon, a sentence.

This is a story about four girls who grow up in the shadow of a curse. There’s an old lady who lives on their street and she’s akin with a cult leader. The girls living on this street have to follow certain rules and not fall in love or else the boy they love will die suddenly, before their time. As does with many superstitions, many of the traditions lose their meanings and the girls stop giving power to the curse. They buck tradition, they skimp on certain rituals, and they fall in love. Only when a boy they all care about dies do they fall back and take a hard look at the curse and the people they love.

In the background of this story of the girls there’s also a tragedy that’s similar to 9/11. Many of the girls’ fathers died in what is called the Time’s Square bombing. The story takes place seven years after the bombing and the girls are all part of the Affected. History has been re-written so rather than learning about the terrorists we instead learn about the people who died. The girls have to deal with two different stigmas, people’s prejudices against them as cursed girls AND Affected, and they struggle with “tourism grief” and people coming around to see the “cursed girls”.

There’s a bit of mob mentality as the curse seems to take stronger hold and the women of the street, those who have lost someone, those who haven’t yet, all come together and the ending of this book is heartbreaking and stunning.

I do wish that some of the things in the background of this story had been fleshed out more; I really would have liked to have had more about the bombing (but I guess not getting too much information was a reflection of the way that society had stopped caring about who did it and rather who was affected), and also I would have liked to have learned the fates of a few of the girls after the last chapter (there’s an epilogue). Also there were times when I kept thinking “so the curse only works if one of the girls falls in love with a BOY?” and if you’re worried about this, don’t, because it does delve into how it works if one of the girls falls in love with a girl as well.

ARC Review – Still Life with Tornado by A.S. King

28588459Title: Still Life With Tornado

Author: A.S King

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: Sarah can’t draw. This is a problem, because as long as she can remember, she has “done the art.” She thinks she’s having an existential crisis. And she might be right; she does keep running into past and future versions of herself as she explores the urban ruins of Philadelphia. Or maybe she’s finally waking up to the tornado that is her family, the tornado that six years ago sent her once-beloved older brother flying across the country for a reason she can’t quite recall. After decades of staying together “for the kids” and building a family on a foundation of lies and violence, Sarah’s parents have reached the end. Now Sarah must come to grips with years spent sleepwalking in the ruins of their toxic marriage. As Sarah herself often observes, nothing about her pain is remotely original —and yet it still hurts.

Huge thank you to Penguin Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

I am a huge A.S King fan, and I always find her books to be a gripping, emotional, and even terrifying at times, experience. Still Life With Tornado is a book about art, abuse, and what it means to feel stagnant when the world is moving past you before your very eyes.

Sarah is a wonderful protagonist who struggles with so many issues, from her parents being trapped in a loveless marriage, to having her art work sabotaged because she saw something she shouldn’t. Abuse of power is a large part of what makes this novel so rough to read. Teachers, parents, there’s both a desire for control and a loss of control int his novel that is reflected in every single character. It’s also interesting to read how Sarah’s family fell apart through the eyes of her mother, as well as the family vacation that changed everything.

This novel broke my heart right in half. These are the kinds of stories that make me so sad, and make me wish that no one had to suffer these types of situations. Sarah’s question for original art is both thoughtful and sad, and it makes you wish that things could, in fact, get better for her. It makes you wish that things could get better for everyone in the story. Sometimes the only way something can get better is if you choose to meet it head on, which can be so scary. Sarah feels a large void, acting in a part she didn’t really ask to play, and you feel for her. You understand why she seems so broken.

I felt so emotional reading this book, and once again A.S King leaves me thinking about life and family. While I may not have parents anymore, I appreciated the fact that I always felt loved and wanted, even when things were hard between them. Sarah’s story is so moving, and it’s a harsher reality that not everyone has dealt with or seen, which makes it very eye opening as well. Still Life With Tornado is A.S King at her finest, as she challenges her readers in such such a gripping and thought provoking story.

ARC Review -The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog by Adam Gidwitz & Hatem Aly

29358517Title: The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog

Author: Adam Gidwitz & Hatem Aly

Rating:  ★★★★

Synopsis: 1242. On a dark night, travelers from across France cross paths at an inn and begin to tell stories of three children: William, an oblate on a mission from his monastery; Jacob, a Jewish boy who has fled his burning village; and Jeanne, a peasant girl who hides her prophetic visions. They are accompanied by Jeanne’s loyal greyhound, Gwenforte . . . recently brought back from the dead.
As the narrator collects their tales, the story of these three unlikely allies begins to come together.

Their adventures take them on a chase through France to escape prejudice and persecution and save precious and holy texts from being burned. They’re taken captive by knights, sit alongside a king, and save the land from a farting dragon. And as their quest drives them forward to a final showdown at Mont Saint-Michel, all will come to question if these children can perform the miracles of saints.

Huge thank you to Penguin Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Revie

Let me preface this review by saying I knew nothing about this book going into it, and the first chapter basically wrecked me into a ball of tears. The rest of the book, thankfully, wasn’t that way, but it just goes to show you that sometimes middle grade books will throw interesting curve balls to get the reader engaged.

This book largely focuses on three children and their holy dog, but their story is actually being told by a large variety of narrators: a nun, a barmaid, an inquisitor, etc. Each character has their own version of the events in the novel, providing snippets of truth that focuses the reader to play a bit of a guessing game. With so many unreliable narrator’s,The Inquisitor’s Tale makes for such an interesting read.

The book is not for the heavy of heart — it’s an emotionally draining and exhausting read where you want to cheer for these characters. You as the reader feel like you are following their journey, partaking in both their successes and sorrows as well. There’s very well timed humour, and the children are really delightful as their are unique. Even just how the story unfolds is very unique in itself, and it makes for an interesting reading experience as well.

Also there is an intense about of research in this book, and I loved reading Gidwitz’s Author’s Notes at the end as to where the inspiration of the novel comes from. I really had no idea that the holy dog was in fact a thing, but there ya go. Fun, cheeky, and emotionally draining, The Inquisitor’s Tale is a ton of fun for those looking for an adventure that feels both entertaining as it is timeless.

Late to the Party ARC Review – Daughter of Deep Silence by Carrie Ryan

23281652Title:  Daughter of Deep Silence

Author: Carrie Ryan

Rating:  ★★★★

Synopsis: In the wake of the devastating destruction of the luxury yacht Persephone, just three souls remain to tell its story—and two of them are lying. Only Frances Mace knows the terrifying truth, and she’ll stop at nothing to avenge the murders of everyone she held dear. Even if it means taking down the boy she loves and possibly losing herself in the process.

Huge thank you to Razorbill Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

When I requested this book, I was super excited. I love Carrie Ryan’s prose, and while I often find faults in her storylines, I still adore how she illustrates them. Then the reviews poured in, and I was hesitant. I feel silly waiting as long as I did to read this, because darn it, I enjoyed the crap out of this book. It’s not without some issues, but this book read like candy, which is perhaps why I enjoyed it so much.

While this book is very much a romance novel, it has a really well described mystery component. Frances assumes the identity of a passenger of the of the luxury yacht Persephone, and is one of the only survivors after it sinks. She is forced to become someone she isn’t in order to uncover a mystery about what happened behind the tragic event. Let me tell you — Ryan does this bit very well, making it not confusing (which can sometimes happen in a story like this) and she makes Frances transformation very fun to read about. She gets to be a sort of double agent, but not quite. Admittedly, for the most part, I dug her character. I loved her strength and gusto, but I loved how she knew when to be herself, and then be her alter-ego. I love that she understands the importance of staying in character, but she doesn’t want to lose who she truly is either. Is she likeable? Not at all, but on the flipside, she makes for an interesting person to read about.

If I’m being honest, there’s no one who is actually totally likeable. Morales is kind of all over the place, Shepard is a tool, and yet… I couldn’t stop reading about these awful characters! There was something about them being horrific and unappealing that caused me to turn the pages. This is a rare case for me where the story was so much more compelling than the characters, and I found I just had to know where it was going to go and how it was going to end. Here’s the other thing: you REALLY have to suspend your disbelief for this novel to work, which is why I think the reviews are so polarizing. There’s huge chunks in the plot that feel utterly ridiculous, but so compulsively readable! I read this book in two train rides from my commute, and let me tell you: I didn’t tear my eyes from the pages because this book was just so fun, and turning pages was like popping candy.

Is there’s anything I will criticize, it’s the romance. Yes, there is a romance in the book, and yes it plays a larger role than I would have liked. Grey wasn’t the most exciting love interest, and if anything, he was kind of a push over at times. The romance in this book felt too puppy-loveish considering the mystery that is presented throughout the story. This element does come across problematic, especially towards the end of the novel when it feels less about the revenge plot and more about her hooking up with Grey. I mean, we go from 200 pages of crazy excitement, action, and just plain fun, to this weird sort of desperation for a guy who is totally connected to the murder of Frances family. I struggled to buy that sort of Hollywood plotline where enemies become lovers — it’s not a favourite of mine, and sadly it didn’t work here for me either.

But still, this book was bizarrely fun to read, and totally out of my comfort zone. Carrie Ryan is worth reading because her promise is gorgeous and her stories are just so compulsively readable. It’s ultimately why I enjoy her as an author, and while this book is utterly ridiculous at times, I seriously cannot deny the amount of enjoyment I had reading Daughter of Deep Silence. Carrie Ryan knows how to suck her readers in, and don’t let the reviews sway you, if you can suspend your disbelief, there’s is a fun story to be had here.

 

ARC Review – The Alex Crow by Andrew Smith

22466277Title: The Alex Crow

Author: Andrew Smith

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Once again blending multiple story strands that transcend time and place, Grasshopper Jungle author Andrew Smith tells the story of 15-year-old Ariel, a refugee from the Middle East who is the sole survivor of an attack on his small village. Now living with an adoptive family in Sunday, West Virginia, Ariel’s story of his summer at a boys’ camp for tech detox is juxtaposed against those of a schizophrenic bomber and the diaries of a failed arctic expedition from the late nineteenth century. Oh, and there’s also a depressed bionic reincarnated crow. 

Huge thank you to Penguin Canada for this ARC!

Sam’s Review: 

I have a weird relationship with Andrew Smith. I struggled withGrasshopper Jungle, yet I flew through 100 Sideways Miles. Andrew Smith’s writing feels so unique and different in every book he writes, and the The Alex Crow is no exception in this.

The Alex Crow is a disturbing novel throughout. There are foreboding feelings, discomfort, and the book is so atmospheric. There’s three distinctive stories in this novel yet they way in which they start to blur together, mess with the reader’s mind — I have to give Smith credit, I found this book messed with me a few times. I had to reread sections just to make sure I understood what was happening, why it was happening. The book wants play with your conceptions of reality, and it does! It completely messes with you!

Furthermore, Smith has a way with descriptions, in that he has this power to make things sound so much more gross than it might actually be. I was reading this book while eating my lunch a lot of the time, and it makes your tummy curl. I don’t recommend that. There’s a lot of complex relationships in this this novel as well, especially between Ariel and Max. Ariel’s narration in some sections was so heartbreaking, especially whenever he goes into detail comparing his life as a refuge to being given a normal life by his adoptive family.

The Alex Crow is just weird, and when I finished it, I felt I still didn’t entirely know what had happened, even after the big reveal related to Ariel. The book will make you feel lost, confused, and yet once you begin to put the pieces together, there’s something really wonderful with this book. If you are not a fan of Grasshopper Jungle‘s style, this book may not appeal to you as much. I admit that even though I wasn’t huge onGrasshopper Jungle, I felt like The Alex Crow did a better job of drawing me in and then telling me, “By the way, find your own way through the story.” The Alex Crow is by no means an easy read, but it’s definitely rewarding in its challenge.