Smoke by Dan Vyleta

IMG_2135‘The laws of Smoke are complex. Not every lie will trigger it. A fleeting thought of evil may pass unseen. Next thing you know its smell is in your nose. There is no more hateful smell in the world than the smell of Smoke . . .’

A time when sin manifests into smoke.  Anger, greed, lust, and any desire or emotion considered to be sinful produces smoke on the body and leaves soot on clothing, visible for all to see.  Children are born with sin and at the age of eleven they must start learning to control the smoke.  It is at a private boarding school in Oxford where we meet Charlie and Thomas, two sixteen year-olds with very different backgrounds but who have found friendship at a school that is responsible for teaching them discipline and control.  A series of events and discoveries lead the two on a journey in search of truth.  The truth behind the world of smoke.

A  unique and intriguing premise that brings up some interesting questions about a world where sin is visible, and where the wealthy have discovered a way to conceal their smoke.  The book is split into five sections, each focusing on a particular part of the journey, and while it is mostly told from a third person point of view there are first person perspectives inserted randomly throughout from various characters.  A somewhat different approach but one that works well.  The storytelling is very descriptive and slow paced, and although initially compelling, the mystery surrounding the smoke gets lost in the  details.  As the story gets further along it loses the initial intrigue, and the supporting characters are not nearly as engaging or developed as Charlie and Thomas.  A great concept with some compelling characters, but one that doesn’t fully come together.

About a Book joins FB + a thank you

IMG_2053Creating About a Book and writing about books for the past year has been a very enriching experience.  It has given me the opportunity to connect with so many wonderful readers, authors, fellow book bloggers and led me to discover books I may not have come across otherwise.  In an effort to make the blog updates more accessible for friends, family, and readers who are not members of WordPress or Instagram, I decided to create a Facebook page.  You can find it here!  I would love to connect with you there as well. 🙂

A big thank you to everyone who has found their way to About a Book, whether it be through the website or Instagram.  I sincerely appreciate all your comments, recommendations, and feedback.  I look forward to sharing more reviews and discovering more wonderful books.

Thank you for your continued support!

❤ Ida

Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet by Charlie N. Holmberg

BLOG“Those with a taste for the olive oil cake crave strength, while those who come back for the berry tarts are, unknowingly, seeking wisdom.”

Marie is a baker who is able to infuse feelings and abilities into the food she makes, and transfer them to those who eat it.  She has no recollection of her past, who she was or where she came from.  Her quiet life is disrupted when marauders invade the town, kidnapping her and selling her to Allemas who forces her to make malevolent treats, including a witch’s gingerbread cottage.  During this time she begins to get visits from a ghostly apparition with a connection to her past, which slowly brings back long lost memories to surface.

Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet is a dark tale.  Much darker than the description or the cute cover led me to believe.  It does have a considerable amount of violence and abuse, so if that is something you have an aversion to in books then this is not for you.  I really like the idea and premise of the story, however I felt very much disconnected from it.  Reading anything with a lot of violence is typically not for me, and the fact that it dominates so much of the narrative left very little for me to connect to.  I would have preferred much more focus on Marie’s abilities and the magical aspects of the story. The descriptive writing style does flow very well and is slow paced.  It is a book with an appealing concept, and may be the perfect read for you depending on your reading preferences.

*ARC provided by NetGalley.  Publication date: June 28, 2016.

Most Anticipated July Releases

July 2016 is a great month for new releases.  There are a lot of books I have my eye on, however there are five standouts that I’m really looking forward to:

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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, John Tiffany
Anything Harry Potter related will always make the top of my list.  This is a play based on a new original story in which Harry is an employee of The Ministry of Magic and a father of three.

“It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband, and father of three school-age children.

While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes darkness comes from unexpected places.”

The Savage Song by Victoria Schwab
I absolutely love Victoria Schwab’s writing and the premise of her latest book looks like another page-turner.

“There’s no such thing as safe in a city at war, a city overrun with monsters. In this dark urban fantasy from author Victoria Schwab, a young woman and a young man must choose whether to become heroes or villains—and friends or enemies—with the future of their home at stake. The first of two books.”

Eva Sleeps by Francesca Melandri, Katherine Gregor (Translator)
“A bestselling novel in Italy, soon to be a motion picture directed by Edoardo Winspeare, and Elle magazine’s book of the year, Eva Sleeps is a sweeping modern story about family, forgiveness, and conflict. At its heart is the story of a woman searching for the truth about her origins.”  I really like the sound of the international and mystery aspects of this novel. Continue reading “Most Anticipated July Releases”

Five Books I Did Not Finish

IMG_1259As they say, not every book is for everyone.  There was a time in my life when I felt that I absolutely needed to finish whatever book I started, no matter what.  However, as my reading preferences developed and I started reading quite consistently, I eased up on the need to finish every book.  It’s rare that I don’t but sometimes it just doesn’t work out.  It’s not that it’s a bad book, but in some way it just did not work for me.  I always find it interesting to hear about not only what books people love, but also what books they did not connect with.  So, here are five books that were not my cup of tea:

1. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
This is not a book I rushed to read, not even during the height of its hype.  At some point I came across it on a shelf at the library and thought I would give it a go.  As most of you know it is split into three parts, the first of which I found really gripping and could not put down.  During the second part however, it became a different book and I struggled to continue.  At a certain point I just stopped caring about the characters or knowing what happens and had to call it a day.

2. Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella
The premise of this book really appealed to me and I looked forward to reading it.  Usually there are a mix of reasons that contribute to a book being disappointing, however with this one I can point to one specific thing; the mother character.  By far one of the most irritating and ridiculous characters I have come across.  I guess it was supposed to be funny, amusing, and add humour to the plot, but for me all it did was not only distract from the story but completely overwhelm it.  I kept waiting for Audrey’s story but with the mother’s erratic behaviour taking centre stage for way too long, I had to close the book on this one. Continue reading “Five Books I Did Not Finish”

Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler

IMG_2030“Kate Battista feels stuck. How did she end up running house and home for her eccentric scientist father and uppity, pretty younger sister Bunny?”

Now that is a good question.  Kate is definitely stuck.  Stuck in a living situation that is not ideal, stuck in a family dynamic that is not always easy, and stuck in a job she doesn’t care about and simply fell into.  Her father is finally hitting his stride with his research and is possibly about to make a breakthrough.  However, the fact that his brilliant assistant Pyotr is months away from being deported is a big problem.  A problem that Dr. Battista feels could be solved by Kate herself. However, can Kate be convinced to take part in his scheme?

Inspired by Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, Vinegar Girl is a light and easy read.  Having not read the Shakespearean play I can only share my take on the novel as a contemporary story.  Unfortunately, as a contemporary story it does fall flat and did not work for me in a few different ways.  Kate is a 29 year-old modern woman, which makes a lot of her choices and behaviour confusing and at times frustrating.  The motivation behind her actions is never fully explored or explained, and the immaturity of her general attitude is quite tiresome.  Similarly, Pyotr is a one-note character whose intentions and feelings are confusing, plus his portrayal as “the foreigner” comes off as stereotypical and not humorous, which is what I assume was the intention. The story overall does not live up to the fun and quirky potential of the premise.

*ARC provided by NetGalley.  Publication date: June 21, 2016.

Mr. Fox by Helen Oyeyemi

IMG_1957“Her heart was heavy because it was open, and so things filled it, and so things rushed out of it, but still the heart kept beating, tough and frighteningly powerful and meaning to shrug off the rest of her and continue on its own.”

Novelist Mr. Fox has a habit of killing off the heroines in his novels.  His muse Mary comes to life and turns Mr. Fox into a tragic character through her own stories, while he in turn does the same to her.  In the meantime, his wife Daphne is convinced that he is having an affair and soon becomes involved in the game between Mary and Mr. Fox.  With stories within stories Mr. Fox is an interesting adventure with a fairytale feel.

Helen Oyeyemi is a wonderful writer, and her prose is absolutely beautiful. There are a number of lovely quotes that I couldn’t help but mark and reread. The concept is unique and many stories are quite captivating, however I feel the overall book would have been much stronger if some of the content had not been included.  There are a lot of little stories and not all worked with the concept.  By the latter part of the novel it does start to drag and unfortunately lose the charm of its initial beginning, although it is unique and the writing is lovely.  If you prefer novels with a linear plot then this book is probably not for you.  However, if you like lots of stories, fairytales, and getting lost in beautiful language, then Mr. Fox is definitely worth a read.

“The girl tried, several times, to give her love away, but her love would not stay with the person she gave it to and snuck back to her heart without a sound.”