**Notice** Due to transfering back from a godaddy hosted wordpress blog back to blogger, reviews published before june 2017 don`t all have a pretty layout with book cover and infos. Our apologies.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Company Town by Madeline Ashby

Company Town by Madeline Ashby

Book Stats:  

Reading level: Adult
Genre: Science-Fiction, Speculative Fiction
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Tor Books
Release date: May 16th, 2016

Series:  Stand-alone

Source: Purchased

Reviewed by: Stéphanie

Order: Amazon | Book Depository

Meet Hwa. One of the few in her community to forego bio-engineered enhancements, she’s the last truly organic person left on the rig. But she’s an expert in the arts of self-defence, and she’s been charged with training the Family’s youngest, who has been receiving death threats – seemingly from another timeline.

Meanwhile, a series of interconnected murders threatens the city’s stability – serial killer? Or something much, much worse...?
I loved this book. I say this quite often, but this time I really mean it. It's brilliant, intelligent and deals with very relevant and current themes. And to see this come out of Canada is amazing. We have some great authors here in Canada, and I'm really happy to have discovered this author through Canada Reads. For those of you who aren't aware, Canada Reads is a battle between five books from March 27-30, 2017. Five Canadian celebrities defend a Canadian new release and there can only be one winner. I really hope Tamara Taylor (actress on Bones) defends Madeline Ashby's book for the win. Company Town really deserves it.

The novel is set in the near future, on the eastern coast of Canada, where a group of oil rigs have been transformed into a floating city in the Atlantic ocean. Bioengineered genetic enhancements are the norm in this future and very few people have no enhancements. One of those people is Hwa, a high school drop out, working as body guard for sex workers on the rig. Her lack of enhancements is not by choice but more out of lack of funds. When Lynch Ltd., the new owner of the city, offers her a new cushiony job, she's hesitant to leave her post, since so many of the sex workers are also her friends. But she's perfect for the job of protecting Lynch's heir, since without enhancements, she can't be hacked by an outside threat.

I love the way we are introduced into this new, technologically rich environment. It gives you the impression that nothing is private, that someone is always monitoring you though technology. I'll admit, it was very hard to understand the technology at first, and since the author relies heavily on the technology to tell her story, you really have to read the first few chapters slowly. The author assumes the reader knows about the technology, relying on the reader's intelligence and imagination to extrapolate. It makes you consider how much we rely on technology, even today. It also makes you wonder how much more technology we will surround ourselves with in the future.

Personally, as an optometrist, I rely heavily on technology to do my job, but I admit, I also love my gadgets like my smart phone and my smart watch. (On a side note, the protagonist Hwa suffers from Sturge-Weber Syndrome and one of the possible complications include glaucoma, an eye disease, so I really appreciated those little details in the book, especially the artificial intelligence/robotic eye doctor. However, I highly doubt I'll be replaced by a robot, any time soon.)

Company Town is a high paced murder mystery that transforms into a very conspiracy charged novel. Sex workers are the easy target for murder, and now that Hwa works for the company that owns the floating city, she takes advantage of her new access to classified information to investigate the death of her friends. She also gains the help of her new boss, Daniel Síofra, who works for the Lynch family and their business. Together, the unlikely pair form a strange bond, which makes you wonder if their professional relationship could ever turn into a personal one.

They seem to care for one another, but with Hwa's condition comes a large purple "stain" on her face and insecurity about her physical appearance. Daniel has received so many bioengineered alterations to his appearance that Hwa considers him to good for her. Hwa questions everything, from Daniel's implication in the Lynch business, to Lynch's ultimate goal for the city, to conspiracy theories about the explosions that killed so many on an oil rig a few years back. The more Hwa investigates the murders, the more questions arise.

The futuristic elements, the human connections and the smart plot makes this book an unforgettable read. I really hope it wins the Canada Reads competition, but even if it doesn't, I'm glad I discovered it through its promotion. I'm definitely reading more Madeline Ashby books in the future. I love her style and the amount of work she put in creating this futuristic world. I strongly recommend this book to any fans of the genre.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Stacking The Shelves [247]


Stacking The Shelves is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. This means you can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks!
If you want to find out more about Stacking The Shelves, please visit the official launch page!

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Happy weekend everyone! Just a quick post today. I didn't exactly purchase anything but I did help finance a graphic novel on Kickstarter, and I received it in the mail this week. Normally, I don't read many graphic novels but I loved the idea of a contemporary twist to a greek mythology tale. I also received 5 postcard size prints. I love swag!

The Myth of Eros & Psyche
Act 1: Eros's Plan

I haven't helped finance many projects on Kickstarter, but lately I've been hooked. There are some wonderful projects out there, and not just in publishing, but amazing entrepreneurs coming up with amazing ideas. What do you think of Kickstarter or similar websites? Have you ever helped finance any projects? Let me know! Or simply share what's stacking your shelves this week!

[inlinkz_linkup id=699544]

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Like a River Glorious by Rae Carson

(Please note for this post: The word 'Indian' is used to describe those of Native American descent due to it being a word culturally used during that period, and is also used in this review since it is in the book and a predominant sub-theme of the novel.)

This second book of the Gold Seer Trilogy has a very different flavor than the first as the first was a long journey narrative. This, by contrast, is more split into two parts, the first being an account of creating their homestead and helping it to survive, and the second of being an unwilling captive in her uncle's camp and joining a resistance movement in a fight for freedom. Rather than being a book all its own, it is decidedly a second book where mostly action carries the novel rather than plot or other drives, so readers will want to read the first before they try this one. The setting is much more localized, but we don't get to see much of California until the very end when there are glimpses of a historic Sacramento. It's possible that Glory, California, their small town (which seems to be fictional), could be Glory Holy Recreation Area, a bit southeast of Sacramento since it is both near mountains, east of San Francisco, and has quite a bit of water nearby as described in the book.

Our heroine Lee has also grown into her leadership role among the group, and most think highly of her judgment and abilities after their trek West. When other groups (men) begin to intermingle with their own, even these men come to recognize Lee's leadership and voice despite her gender. While Lee is captive in her uncle's camp, she must return to the pretense of being a proper young lady and subject to her uncle's authority and that of other men. Even when she is brought in by the leaders of the resistance group, Lee must still keep up much of the act to keep her friends safe. However, the very power her Uncle Hiram wants to use to save him, Lee grows to wield for her protection and as a potential weapon. Also, Lee and Jeff's romance heats up a bit, and Lee is no longer denying her feelings. Jeff is growing to appreciate his heritage, that of being half-Indian, and begins to see their rights as his own rights and speaks out among those who are not Indian.

One of the things I enjoyed most about this novel was how it brought cultural issues of the area to light without being overwhelming such as: the treatment of Indians of the period (capturing them, enslaving them, stealing their land, and treating them with very little human dignity or care for life); the treatment of the Chinese where they immigrate and gain work contracts which made them no better than performing slave labor, sometimes termed a 'coolie gang'; and still continued the issues of women's rights and slavery. Another change from the first novel is the growth of Leah's gold-sensing power. Here she begins to use it more frequently, perhaps because her secret is no longer as secret, and it begins to transform. No longer is it just a calling where the gold appears from the ground, but she is able to make it mold and bend to her will with greater and greater success. Lastly, isn't that cover absolutely gorgeous? Doesn't it really capture a glorious sunrise?

I still can't wait for the third and final volume Into the Bright Unknown coming out in October 2017, and I expect we will see even more of Leah come into her own, both in powers and in the world.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Court of Fives by Kate Elliott

This fantasy was so good! I definitely did not expect to like this book as much as I did. It was compelling and action-filled. The characters were engaging. I loved Jes and Kal the best. The whole book revolves around Jes' conflicts and her choices based upon a few events. Running the Fives has been her dream that has always been out of reach. With her father's status as great military leader and his already taboo marriage to an Efean woman that he refuses to put aside, meaning she and her children still have his loyalty which is unheard of for a Patron man and makes him and his wife legendary among the Efeans, Jessamy is cautioned even more to be inconspicuous and obedient. In fact, none of the girls are to ever draw attention to themselves, hard because of their mixed race/status, the attention of Jessamy and Bettany being twins/cursed, Maraya having a club foot, and Amaya being exceptionally beautiful. This makes having a mixed race a key element of the book, which should draw some attention in YA and be part of #weneeddiversebooks movement. It's rare to have a YA fantasy deal with mixed race issues so prominently.

When their family status and future is most insecure than it has ever been due to her father's lord dying, Jes still pursues her dreams with the possibility of ruining everyone else's, which one could argue shows both courage and stupidity. It doesn't hurt that she's met Kal, who she is attracted to, not just for his looks, but because he's smart, honest, and a talented Fives runner who also happens to be a lord. But then when her mother and sisters are shamed as her father's star rises by being taken in to Lord Gargaron's household, Jessamy also faces the hardest choice -- to continue with her one chance to run the Fives in front of her father or be a dutiful daughter and go with the rest of her family.

Having always thought her father was rather hard to reach and would deny her despite her dreams, Jessamy continues with her plans but loses to Kal on purpose; however, Lord Gargaron knows of her cunning plan and forces her into a deal to run for him which also increases her father's status. But when she finds out that her mother and sisters are missing, Jessamy sacrifices her chances as a Fives adversary to possibly be discovered rescuing her family, showing that when faced with the worst odds, she will choose her family's lives over her own. It's quite a turn from selfishness to sacrifice for Jes, but then, if you consider that Jessamy decided not to run the Fives originally, she likely would have been missing with her family and no one would have been in a position to attempt to save them, much less find powerful enough allies to make a difference in their fates. This is one of the reasons that this book is really inspiring because choices of one young teen girl (who starts out selfish yet brave) comes to be the savior of her family, at least in the short term. We'll see what happens in the next book!

The setting was a mix of ancient Egyptian and Greco-Roman society (think playing Age of Empires or Civilization) and myth. For more on the elements Kate Elliott used to create Court of Fives, visit "The Book Smugglers" site. This was a pretty clean read except for the bit about Kal pretending Jes is his mistress to give them more time together to plot and plan. Does contain some romance, but not very much, so this can definitely be read by middle grade readers or upper elementary readers. An interesting bit is how the premise is modeled after a variation of Little Women, which I hadn’t realized up until now. All in all, worth a read! If you'd like to read an excerpt, visit Tor.com. Stay tuned for my review of book 2 coming soon!

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Stacking The Shelves [246]


Stacking The Shelves is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. This means you can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks!
If you want to find out more about Stacking The Shelves, please visit the official launch page!
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 Happy long weekend to most Canadians! Monday is Family Day in most Canadian provinces and I'm taking advantage by going to visit my brother. Books will certainly keep me company on the long drive. Here are some new books I will bring with me.

Purchased
Company Town by Madeline Ashby
Fifteen Dogs by André Alexis
King's Cage by Victoria Aveyard
Starfall by Melissa Landers
I also purchased awesome wooden bookmarks, four that are Harry Potter themed, from an Etsy shop called Flexiwood. I love them!
Feel free to share what's new on your shelves. You know what to do.


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Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Midnight Star by Marie Lu

The final dark tale of Adelina and the Young Elites ends with sacrifice, beautiful storytelling, and revelations for the deepest questions of the heart.
I can't say enough how I really like this series and how different it is from other things that are out there in YA. Adelina's growth from a scared girl who discovers she has power and influence to the queen/empress responsible for death, destruction, betrayal, and abuse of power should make the reader unsympathetic, possibly even to the point of intense dislike for her. After all, how do you like a villain?
But, this series is one of the few where I am surprised I DO like the villain. Yes, she's flawed and consumed by her depth of ambition and hunger for any brand of "justice", even one that crosses lines of morality. However, she also shows an inner conflict, a mental instability caused by her abuse and her powers (which could be symbolic for a real mental illness), and a deep thirst for love, affection, and acceptance, which due to her upbringing, she never received except from her sister (who later betrays her thus causing more violent consequences). I really love the conflict of Adelina's insanity and her bloodlust rivaled with her desire for power, love, and the fear she weaves into the hearts of others. It makes the ending that much more powerful. 
One of the other fantastic things about this series are the characters. You really remember Enzo, Raffaele, Teren, and the rest long after you've read the series, and each of the Young Elites has their gifts but also has their own loyalties and reads just like real people. When many of the Young Elites have to band together to even begin to stop the horrors occurring in the land, it is strangely a scene of forgiveness, of common alliance at their similar fates, and still they mistrust each other. It is symbolic of how something that benefits everyone could be achieved if all parties set aside their hatred, their selfishness, and their past trespasses to really work as a team. Usually in stories, it is the heroes versus the villains, but in this case, it's the heroes and the villains having to come to a middle ground to reach a common goal. Very thought provoking and unlike other books out there!
One of the things I loved most about this novel was that while it had an entirely different flavor than the previous two which were increasingly dark and felt reminiscent of Assassin's Creed, it also is the most poetic of the three and really brought out the gift of storytelling that Marie Lu has. I cannot say much more without telling elements that are essential to the final bits of the book. I never could have predicted that outcome; so wow! the twist was shocking, beautiful, and I cried. But no spoilers here! The cover is lovely and at the end of the novel, the reader must contemplate the cover and the title with the novel's resolution. Let me know what you think of the ending!
 

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Stacking The Shelves [245]


Stacking The Shelves is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. This means you can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks!
If you want to find out more about Stacking The Shelves, please visit the official launch page!

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Happy Saturday everyone!  I'm at work today... so I'm surrounded by books and focusing on books and not actually reading any books.  #LibrarianLife  ;)
This past week I got two brand new books:  Crucial Conversations (from a training that I attended at work) and Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children: The Graphic Novel (from a used book sale).  I've already read the graphic novel and it's fantastic.  I highly recommend this really unique trilogy in either traditional or graphic novel format!


Then, as per usual, I brought home a boatload of books from the library.  One of them is from my school's library, which is pretty neat.  You see, I'm attending a college that is about two hours' drive away from my home via online distance learning.  To check out a book, I simply filled out an online request form and they mailed it to me!  Sweet.  It's for a group project, but it's turned out to actually be a really good book:  Giving Our Children a Fighting Chance.


And since I'm back in the thick of things school-wise, I've been downloading some pretty easy listening audiobooks from my library for my commute:  the Encyclopedia Brown series by Donald J. Sobol!  Do y'all remember these from when you were a kid?  I'm happy to report that I can figure out the solution about 75% of the time.  And I'm going to attribute the other 25% to not paying close attention to the story while paying close attention to the road.  ;)

For fun, I checked out two books of crochet patterns from the library, but I haven't had time to make anything from them.  One was just so odd that I couldn't resist grabbing:  Animal Heads by Vanessa Mooncie, about how to crochet faux trophy heads to hang in your house.  The other would be useful, if I ever had time to crochet anymore:  Crochet One-Skein Wonders for Babies.

And finally, I also checked out Killing Lincoln by Bill O'Reilly and Together is Better by Simon Sinek at the recommendation of library patrons.  Being in the middle of a semester means I may or may not have time to read them, though.
And you?  What did you bring home this week?  Leave your link below to join the fun!

Thursday, February 09, 2017

The Revenge of Seven by Pittacus Lore

The Revenge of Seven might be the slowest of the Lorien Legacies books, but it also explains a lot.  I appreciate that.  I'm someone who actually enjoys academic lectures for the knowledge imparted.  So when there's a pretty long monologue that ends up explaining a big plot point, I'm totally ok with that.  Unfortunately, this series is aimed at readers looking for lots of action and adventure, so lots of explanation and not a lot of action is not a good thing for them.

In this installment of the Lorien Legacies series the gang is still disorganized and still traipsing around.  They're also still very lovable.  You can't help but root for them!  They're gutsy and kind to each other and they find ways to joke/have fun along the way.  In short:  they're teens!  This series would be so relatable to any teen who picked them up.  These are the teens they go to school with... with super alien powers, of course.  ;)

The group learns a lot when poor little Ella is kidnapped by Setrakus Ra.  I hated this part!  Out of the whole group, why her?!?  She's the "kitten" of the group.  She's the one I want to protect and cuddle.  I don't like the thought of little, defenseless Ella in the hands of Setrakus Ra.  But she's one tough cookie!  It turns out she might have been the best one to get kidnapped.  She held up under Setrakus Ra's scrutiny.  She protected the other Lorien.

In the last third of the book, the action picks up quickly.  Makes the whole thing worth it!  When I started this book, I thought this might possibly be the last book in the series (I did not prior research) but it turned out to be only another book in the series!  There's at least two more.  That's good.  When you request this book from your library, go ahead and request the following one- there's one heck of a cliffhanger ending to this one!

I listened to the audiobook version of The Revenge of Seven and it was done well!  The narrator does a good job invoking a teenage boy.  He also does a good job imparting a sense of urgency to the action scenes without sounding frenzied and also a sense of calm to the explanatory scenes.
I do recommend this series!

Monday, February 06, 2017

The Rift Uprising by Amy S. Foster

I was really excited about this book when I saw it featured on a "What's New" table at my local bookstore. I was intrigued by the summary on the jacket and I thought the cover was very artistic, the way it combined nature and technology. I was fooled by a deceiving summary and a pretty cover. Overall, the idea was good but the writing lacked maturity. The characters were quite frankly annoying, unrealistic and self-absorbed.

It's important to note that the booked was shelved in the adult fiction department, and at first, I thought it was a mistake, but it's definitely published by an imprint catering to adults. Personally I think it would have been better suited for young adults. I have nothing against Young Adult books and honestly, about half the books I read are YA. However, the writing was not my favourite. It lacked finesse, description and was very unrealistic. Even if it was a YA book, it wouldn't have mattered. The science was unrealistic no matter how much futuristic technology the author tried to hide behind. It's impossible to have a 110 pound girl physically overpower a huge viking no matter what technology she has implanted in her brain or in her DNA. Physics just doesn't allow it. I thought the story would be more about trained soldiers, guarding a gate to alternate worlds but it felt more like a high school drama, full of teenage hormones and keeping secrets from parents.

I really wanted to like Ryn, the main character, but she was so self-absorbed despite the fact she tried to do everything to convince me otherwise. When she discovers a conspiracy in the organization that made her the soldier she is, the way she confronts the authority is completely wrong. She thinks herself a great team leader but her attempt to overthrow the organization is unplanned despite all the military training she's supposed to have. She wants to be treated as a mature adult, but despite the possible danger she faces, her first instinct is to deprogram her inability to romantically touch someone she likes without killing them. Like I said, teenage hormones. I don't even know if it's even possible to program thousands of teenagers to avoid sexual or romantic touch, let alone secretly train them to be soldier without anyone knowing. Also, Ryn's love at first sight romance is just another reason I fail to understand her character.

Oddly enough, despite the book's many flaws, I enjoyed the story. One thing I really appreciate were the many pop culture references, even though some references were a little to old for Ryn's generation. For example, I think it would have been more appropriate for 17 year old Ryn to reference The Vampire Diaries instead of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but that's just my opinion.
I think the series has potential, and I'm curious to see where the next book goes. I'm not against reading the rest of the trilogy but I really hope Ryn matures and the author's writing style evolves away from the high school teenage drama.

Saturday, February 04, 2017

Stacking The Shelves [244]


Stacking The Shelves is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. This means you can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks!
If you want to find out more about Stacking The Shelves, please visit the official launch page!
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Hello fellow book lovers.
I don't know about you, but I've fallen behind on my reading this year, but I couldn't resist buying the much anticipated graphic novel, from Marissa Meyer's Lunar Chronicles series.
And I also signed up for a book and tea subscription box and I received my first one yesterday. Books and tea are some of my most favourite things and combining the two was a genius idea. For now, I subscribed for only three months to the Novel Tea Club and I love the choices so far. Are you subscribed to any bookish box?


Novel Tea Club
Heartstone by Elle Katharine White
Purchase
Wires and Nerves by Marissa Meyer
Show me what's stacking your shelves!


[inlinkz_linkup id=695232]

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Sanctuary by Jennifer McKissack

"Something stirred deep inside of me, something primal and potent. I felt like I was coming home and that I was farther away than I'd ever been."

Last year at ALA Annual, I was exploring booths when I ran across a woman picking up a book. That woman was Jennifer McKissack overcome with emotion at seeing her book in print and displayed for readers. We were speaking a few minutes, and ever since then, I've been trying to get this book out of my TBR pile! I am glad I did. It is more than simply another ghostly paranormal story. The setting of Sanctuary is eerie, yet conjures up some familiarity for the reader in returning to a place of our own past and finding it both similar and unknown.

Though it seems more of a haunted house story, the setting does not dwell heavily on the house and exploring the house, but rather Cecilia and her slow maturation from childhood thoughts and memories and justifying that with the person she is now and who she will be in the future. I loved this juxtaposition of past versus present and future for Cecilia. Her self-identity is in crisis and yet she is the only one who can fix herself. Through a slowly spellbinding and mysterious rhetoric, Cecilia unravels mysteries and commits herself to be a curse breaker and do what generations of women before her have ultimately failed and been trapped themselves at attempting--to free Amoret and the spirits of Sanctuary.

Along with a strong theme of feminism or the hidden strengths of women, there is a deep sense of ancestry and heritage that is significant in the novel revolving around Cecilia and the Acadians of Canada. For those who are unfamiliar, Acadia was an area colonized by French settlers which is now part of Quebec, the Maritime provinces of Canada (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island [of Anne of Green Gables fame] etc.), and parts of Maine. Acadians, while mostly French, were also made up of the Mi'kimaq who were people indigenous to that area. The history contained in the book is something I missed the first time around, but it plays a key role for Cecilia and Sanctuary. Amoret, whom Cecelia's mother and sister were obsessed with, was Acadian and along with her family and other Acadians were forcibly removed from their land by the British, part of the Great Upheaval during the French and Indian War. (Fun fact: When the British sent a portion of the Acadians to France, a majority of them resettled in southern Louisiana thereby making the area Acadian or "Cajun", the heritage of which is still significant today.)

There are some romantic elements as Cecilia finds the professor, Eli, intriguing and begins to confide in him, since he appears to be sympathetic and kind and altogether unlike her terrorizing uncle. As their trust grows, Cecilia finds herself falling in love with him when she never thought something was possible, and Eli seems to love her too. Still, Cecilia knows he's holding something back from her. She grows conflicted with her relationships, her past, and her own mental state which she figures must be coloring his judgment of her. These doubts and secrets have the potential to ruin any chance at future happiness.

Sanctuary is written with haunting precision, like being slowly drawn into a web by a malicious spider. The historical details were woven throughout with care and added rich depth to the story. This book is perfect for those nights of fall and winter! Be sure to curl up with a nice hot cup of tea or cocoa and don’t forget to find a nice haunted mansion for inspiration!

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