Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson

BLOG“It was always wise to be polite to books, whether or not they could hear you.”

Let it be known that I was very polite to this novel, even though I did not end up enjoying it very much.

Elisabeth has been raised in one of the Great Libraries, which houses numerous volumes and tools of sorcery, including grimoires that are are kept in locks and chains. Growing up as a foundling her dream in life was to become the warden of the Great Library, who is tasked to protect the kingdom from this sinister power. When a dangerous grimoire is released, Elisabeth’s actions leave her in a vulnerable position, implicating her in a terrible crime. With no one else to turn to she forms an unlikely partnership with a sorcerer, Nathaniel Thorne and his servant, Silas (a demon, of course). As unexplainable attacks continue and a sinister plot emerges, Elisabeth begins to see the world in a new light and discovers her own role within it all.”

“Ink and parchment flowed through her veins. The magic of the Great Libraries lived in her very bones. They were a part of her, and she a part of them.”

I loved the beginning of this novel, and for the first one-hundred and fifty to two-hundred pages, I was firmly on board. You had me at libraries and magic. The way we are introduced to the Great Library is well-done and the world is an interesting one. Once the story moves away from the library setting, however, at a certain point it starts to falter in its momentum and somehow never recovers. What follows is far too many instances of plot convenience that kept taking me out of the story (mostly to roll my eyes). Such as coming into possession of something, out of the blue, that oh so conveniently allows the main character to solve a dilemma. On to the next thing! It was at this point that the book lost its magic for me and became a tedious crawl to the finish. Highly disappointing considering how much I enjoyed reading it at the beginning. The most interesting part of the novel ended up being Silas, the demonic servant. I would love a book that focused on his back story because my interest peaked anytime he was involved.

I do appreciate that this is a standalone novel, which seem so rare in fantasy these days. I liked the characters, the world, and the whole concept was immensely intriguing. There is a lot to like. Unfortunately, the plot failed to click with me, but I would read any future book set in this world. And hopefully I would have better luck next time around.

Don’t You Forget About Me by Mhairi McFarlane

BLOG“Here’s what life has taught me so far: don’t worry about that thing you’re worrying about. Chances are, it’ll be obliterated by something you didn’t anticipate that’s a million times worse.”

Georgina’s dismissal from her terrible job at “The Worst Restaurant in Sheffield” is followed up by her discovery of an unfaithful boyfriend. This leads to a new job and a reunion with Lucas, her high-school boyfriend, who turns out to be one of the owners of the newly opened restaurant. Shockingly enough, Lucas does not seem to remember her at all.

Don’t You Forget About Me was certainly an interesting read. There is a lot to like about this story and I appreciate the attention on the main character and her development as she gains self-awareness in her behaviour and relationships. I do feel that there is far too much time spent on side-stories and characters, which I guess do paint a more full picture but could have been edited down considerably. This book is over 400 pages, and that just feels far too long.

I also have to say that the way this book is represented  is quite misleading, with the cutesy cover and what sounds like a cutesy romance. It is certainly not a fluffy read by any means and there is barely any romance. I don’t mind this at all, but if you are expecting a fun romance you may be disappointed. There are some serious topics as well, including sexual assault, which in my opinion, is something a reader should have an awareness of especially when a book is marketed in a way that does not suggest such serious undertones.

Overall, I liked Georgina and would have enjoyed more focus to be on her. However, there is far too much emphasis on various other characters that leaves the whole story feeling scattered.

Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center

BLOG“Choosing to love—despite all the ways that people let you down, and disappear, and break your heart. Knowing everything we know about how hard life is and choosing to love, anyway.. That’s not weakness, that’s courage.”

Cassie truly found her calling in her life as a firefighter. She loves her job and her crew at a Texas firehouse, where she has found her place and proved her strength and skills. However, a request from her ill mother and an unfortunate circumstance turns her life upside down and in no time she is on her way to Boston. Her new firehouse is a far cry from the well-funded one she left behind, with hazing, poor facilities, and a resistance to a “lady” on board. Cassie will need to establish her place on the team and prove herself all over again, all the while the unthinkable is happening: falling for the handsome rookie.

Things You Save in a Fire was highly recommended to me and I am so glad I gave it a read.  It is absolutely a page-turning book and I enjoyed the story, the humour, and the characters. Some parts are rather cheesy but overall it is compelling and entertaining. A great option for a charming romance. I have to admit I am such a sucker for this kind of novel, and find myself searching for suggestions for similar reads. It actually reminds me quite a bit of Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes, which I really liked as well and would recommend if you are looking to add to your reading list. For now, I am placing holds on more books by Katherine Center. 🙂

Open Book by Jessica Simpson

BLOGWell, this was a pleasant surprise. I rarely read celebrity memoirs, but earlier this week, while looking for something to listen to, I decided to give the audiobook for Jessica Simpson’s memoir, Open Book a try. As a teen in the era of pop stars and boybands, and not to mention a bit of a gossip-addict in the early 2000’s, I was curious to hear Jessica’s story. What I found was a well-done book that is truly heartfelt and personal, with the audiobook being narrated by Jessica herself. She shares stories from childhood, her rise to fame, her relationships, her struggle with alcohol, and her life now. She is honest and open about the body image issues that developed as she entered the music industry and the pressures placed on her to lose weight and fit into the pop star mold of the time. Thinking back to that era and remembering all the tweens and teens trying to emulate that image (myself included), and now knowing that in Jessica’s case she was miserable, uncomfortable, and starving in order to fit that image herself. An image dictated by a man in a suit.

I enjoyed listening to Jessica tell her story, from the emotional, difficult topics to the more lighthearted and fun. She has a great sense of humour and doesn’t take herself too seriously. With her memoir, you do get to know her as a person, and I couldn’t help but feel sad for the way she had been treated and mocked by the media and the public. This book definitely leaves you with a sense of the individual who is telling her story, and how genuine and kind she is. She seems to be in a better place now, and I hope she is happy.

If you are looking for an audiobook to listen to and enjoy memoirs, or maybe have a curiosity about the pop star-centric world of the 2000’s, I feel that Open Book is definitely worth a listen.

A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers

BLOG“The planet was beautiful. The planet was horrible. The planet was full of people, and they were beautiful and horrible too.”

*Because this novel is a sequel, this review may contain slight spoilers for The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet.

A Closed and Common Orbit is a stand-alone sequel to one of my favourite science-fiction books, The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet. In the original novel, we were introduced to a crew aboard an intergalactic ship called the Wayfarer, and followed their journey to a small, angry planet. Here, we follow the character of Lovelace, who served as an artificial intelligence system for the Wayfarer and is on her own path following the events of the first novel. She finds herself in a new body and with no memory of prior events after a full system shut-down, and is slowly figuring out the world and her place within it. Alongside her is Pepper, an engineer with a difficult and painful past, who is determined to help Lovelace.

The novel takes turns, chapter by chapter, following Lovelace’s current journey and telling a story from the past. There is no grand plot or action, instead the focus is on the characters and their lives. While The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet felt more expansive as we got to know different planets and beings, A Closed and Common Orbit feels more contained. I love reading character-based stories so I was really at home with this one. It took me a few chapters to get into the rhythm of the novel with the switch in story from chapter to chapter, but once I got into the groove I felt connected to the characters and their narrative. The two stories compliment one another well. As with her previous novel, Becky Chambers does an exceptional job of bringing fascinating worlds to life and giving depth and emotion to characters that makes everything feel so very real. By the time I finished the last page, I have to confess I was a little teary-eyed. Continue reading “A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers”