The Wonder by Emma Donoghue

BLOG“She’s not exactly ill. Your only duty will be to watch her.”

Lib Wright is a nurse who worked alongside Florence Nightingale during the Crimean War. Her distinction as a Nightingale Nurse is what leads to her being hired for a two week assignment in a small Irish village. She does not know the details of the case and is in for a shock when she arrives at her destination. Upon her arrival she learns that her sole duty for the two week period is to watch over an eleven-year-old girl who will not eat, and has not eaten anything in four months, according to her parents. Many believe this claim to be a hoax, while many others look to the girl as a miracle. Over the two weeks, Lib is determined to discover the truth as the days pass by and the girl’s condition deteriorates.

The Wonder is a novel with a very intriguing premise. The mysterious circumstances regarding eleven-year-old Anna’s condition is what carries this story forward, and the author creates an eerie, Gothic atmosphere that is quite captivating. I did find the overall pacing of the novel to be slow… very slow. This made getting through the story a bit of a challenge and I found my attention wearing away from the words on the page. It is a unique and interesting premise, however I do wish the story itself had captured my attention as much as the initial description. Ultimately, The Wonder did fall a bit short for me.

*E-copy provided by NetGalley for an unbiased review.

Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones

BLOGI am the Lord of Mischief, the Ruler Underground,’ he said, mismatched eyes glinting. ‘I am wildness and madness made flesh. You’re just a girl’—he smiled, and the tips of his teeth were sharp—’and I am the wolf in the woods.”

Liesl has grown up hearing stories about the Goblin King, the Ruler Underground. While it all seemed so real to her as a child, the older she got the more it became a fantasy; things of myth and legend. However, odd sightings and strange occurrences raise many questions for Liesl, leading her to wonder how much of the stories are real. When her sister, Käthe is taken by the goblins, Liesl ventures into the world of the Underground on a mission to save her sister. But there is a price to be paid, and for the Goblin King, that price is a life for a life.

“What’s the use of running, if we are on the wrong road.”

Wintersong provided an interesting reading experience for me. Some things worked, others not so much, and overall I was left with mixed feelings. The writing is absolutely lovely, and the story itself does not follow the typical route of novels in its genre. This on its own fascinated me and kept me guessing as to how everything would develop and conclude. While marketed as a YA fantasy novel, it does feel more like an adult novel, which ads to what feels like a departure from the typical stories of the genre. The pacing of the novel is quite slow, which made it difficult to really get into the story and connect with the characters. Another thing that didn’t completely work for me was the romance aspect of the story that felt at times confusing and slightly annoying. However, certain parts of the plot did keep me engaged and I really liked the author’s writing style. She is a very talented writer and I look forward to seeing what she releases next.

*ARC provided by NetGalley for an unbiased review.

Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

BLOG“There is a point when a man may swim back to shore, but he was past it. There was nothing left but to be swallowed by the enormity of the sea.”

Silvia Moreno-Garcia is the author of one of my favourite books of 2015, Signal to Noise. This novel is quite different in genre, that being a paranormal thriller that tells the story of a clash between vampires in alternating points of view. We meet, Domingo, a homeless teen; Ana, a tough cop; and Atl, a young vampire who has entered a vampire-free zone in Mexico City. Atl is smart, dangerous, and on the run from a rival vampire clan. Atl walks into Domingo’s life and an interesting rapport develops, while Ana’s investigation leads her right in the middle of vampire gang rivalries.

Welcome to Mexico City… An Oasis In A Sea Of Vampires…

This is not a genre that I generally gravitate towards and not a book I would normally read, but as a fan of Moreno-Garcia’s writing I had to give this one a try. What is very clear is that she is a truly talented storyteller. The world-building is well crafted and it is easy to be drawn into this reality that the author has crafted. What really stands out is the characters, who are compelling and make you care about their stories and overall journey. The alternating viewpoints are well done, and I enjoyed them all, particularly that of Atl who is just such a badass. If you are a fan of this genre, then this book is definitely for you. However, if it is not something you generally read or if vampires don’t really appeal to you, I do recommend checking out Signal to Noise, which is a fantastic novel.

*ARC provided by NetGalley for an unbiased review.

Under Rose-Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall

IMG_4416“How can I expect people to empathise with a sickness they can’t see?”

“You don’t expect anything. You talk, you teach.”

Under Rose-Tainted Skies is the story of Norah, a teenage girl who suffers from agoraphobia, anxiety, OCD, and depression. All of this came about when Norah was thirteen and she has been homeschooled ever since, only leaving her home for weekly therapy sessions, which causes a great deal of anxiety for her. It is all very difficult to deal with and something she has to face on a daily basis. However she is not alone, and has the support of her mother who is there for her through everything. When a new family moves in next door she has a few interactions with Luke, and they slowly develop a friendship. Now Norah is dealing with a whole new set of feelings, and questioning whether she will ever be able to let someone in and experience a regular relationship.

IMG_4429

“See, anxiety doesn’t just stop. You can have nice moments, minutes where it shrinks, but it doesn’t leave. It lurks in the background like a shadow, like that important assignment you have to do but keep putting off or the dull ache that follows a three-day migraine. The best you can hope for is to contain it, make it as small as possible so it stops being intrusive. Am I coping? Yes, but it’s taking a monumental amount of effort to keep the dynamite inside my stomach from exploding.”

There are many aspects of this novel that work really well, but there are a few that did not particularly click for me, which left me with some mixed feelings after reading it. Norah’s story is based on the author’s own experiences and struggles, which she does a stellar job of portraying and bringing across. I have a great deal of respect for her story, and sharing it in this way can undoubtedly reach and potentially help a lot of people to not feel alone in their own struggles. Norah’s feelings and frustrations are described and related in an effective way, and you can’t help but feel and understand those frustrations and limitations.

As I was reading, I did get the sense that the story had no clear direction and was unsure of where it was going. It’s not something I would have particularly minded, because I did very much like the characters and was happy to just go along with whatever their journey ended up being. However, the story itself goes in a rather strange direction and one that begins to feel like a different kind of book altogether, all of which leads to an abrupt ending. For me, the story as a whole doesn’t really come together, but as I said there is a lot that does work, the main one being the mother-daughter relationship, which was the highlight of the novel. Not the best novel of this genre, however it is one that is definitely worth reading.

“Sometimes things are going to happen and the only way out is through.”

The Best of Adam Sharp by Graeme Simsion

BLOG“Lost love belongs in a three-minute song, pullling back feelings from a time when they came unbidden, recalling the infatuation, the walking on sunshine that cannot last and the pain of its loss, whether through parting or the passage of time, reminding us that we are emotional beings.”

The Best of Adam Sharp is the newest release from the author of the popular The Rosie Project. It tells the story of Adam Sharp, a man who is about to turn fifty and while he is settled in his life and twenty-year relationship, there is a lack of passion and excitement. His mind tends to wander back to his mid-twenties during a three month work project in Australia, where he met an actress and embarked on an affair during his stay in the country. Now over twenty years later, he gets an email from her, which brings up many questions and leads him to wonder about the road not taken.

I really enjoyed reading The Rosie Project and the quirky/endearing aspects of that novel. While I had less than positive feelings about The Rosie Effect (not a fan of unnecessary sequels/follow-ups), I was excited to see that the author had a new book with a whole new story and characters. Unfortunately this book was a huge disappointment for me and really failed to work on any level. The first part of the novel focuses mostly on Adam’s recounting his romance with the Australian actress, Angelina Brown, which comes across as rather awkward both in actions and dialogue. The second part of the novel is where things get… weird. So very weird. It takes us back to the present where Adam is back in correspondence with Angelina, after which a series of events unfold. I hesitate to mention anything specific here because I feel it would be somewhat in spoiler territory. Some reviews of this novel have stated that the second portion of the novel reads like a far-fetched fantasy of a middle-aged man, and I would have to agree. Altogether I found neither Adam nor Angelina to be likeable characters and as the novel progressed it became increasingly difficult to read on, especially as the story went in a bizarre and cringeworthy direction. Unfortunately, this was a big miss for me.

*ARC provided by NetGalley for an unbiased review.

A Tragic Kind of Wonderful by Eric Lindstrom

BLOG“I can’t let anyone know what really happened, or what’s wrong with me. I can’t bear the thought of how they’d look at me, and treat me, if they knew how many pills I take every morning just to act more or less like everybody else.”

A Tragic Kind of Wonderful is a YA novel that tackles the important and complicated issue of mental illness. It is something many people live with and deal with on a daily basis, but do so in secret due to the fear of the stigma that may come along with it. Sixteen year-old Mel struggles with bipolar disorder and has hidden this part of her life from almost everyone in her life, apart from her parents, aunt and an old friend of her grandmother’s. She keeps her friends at a distance, not letting them see the real Mel or know about a tragedy from her past that impacted her in a significant way. It is a difficult way to live and has led to an end of a friendship with a group of close friends, and while Mel develops new friendships there is a lot left to be resolved with those who were an important part of her life. When she meets a boy who she might be interested in a relationship with, the struggle between distancing herself and wanting to let someone in brings up many emotions she must come to terms with.

This is a beautiful and heartbreaking novel. It portrays life with bipolar disorder in a real way, allowing the reader to see and feel everything through Mel’s perspective. We get a thorough understanding of her struggles, thoughts, feelings, and desires. I particularly liked the way her relationships with those around her are described and portrayed, which gives an excellent look into the complexity of emotion and the constant instinct to protect oneself. A Tragic Kind of Wonderful is a wonderful novel that takes on an important topic and does so really well. I highly recommend this one.

*ARC provided by NetGalley for an unbiased review.

The Mothers by Brit Bennett

IMG_4332“All good secrets have a taste before you tell them, and if we’d taken a moment to swish this one around our mouths, we might have noticed the sourness of an unripe secret, plucked too soon, stolen and passed around before its season.”

Seventeen year-old Nadia Turner has a bright future ahead of her, however her life takes a turn after the unexpected suicide of her mother. In coping with the loss and the ever distant relationship with her dad, she becomes involved with the local pastor’s son, Luke, who is four years her senior. A former athlete whose career came to an end as a result of an injury, his once promising future is at a standstill and he waits tables at a local restaurant. Nadia wants more out of the relationship than Luke is willing to offer, and an unexpected pregnancy shatters the illusion. She doesn’t want to get stuck in her hometown, especially when her way out is within reach. The events of that summer sets these two on a path that leads to a lifetime of asking the question “what if?”

“Oh girl, we have known littlebit love. That littlebit of honey left in an empty jar that traps the sweetness in your mouth long enough to mask your hunger. We have run tongues over teeth to savor that last littlebit as long as we could, and in all our living, nothing has starved us more.”

The Mothers is one beautifully written novel. This is evident from the first page with one lovely passage after another. The author has a way of describing and portraying emotions that is really well done and I marked many quotes throughout. While the story focuses on Nadia and Luke, the narrative includes the perspective of “the mothers,” which consists of a group of elderly ladies at the local church who observe it from a distance. This adds a unique element and an interesting voice. It did take me some time to really get into the story, which left me with some unanswered questions by the end. Having said that, it is undeniably well written and I look forward to seeing what stories Brit Bennett will create in the future.