Review: Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray


*I received this book from Hachette Book Group Canada in Exchange for and honest review.*

Title: Lair of Dreams

Author: Libba Bray

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Publication Date: August 2015

ISBN: 9780316126045

Lair of Dreams (The Diviners, #2)

Synopsis from Goodreads
After a supernatural showdown with a serial killer, Evie O’Neill has outed herself as a Diviner. Now that the world knows of her ability to “read” objects, and therefore, read the past, she has become a media darling, earning the title, “America’s Sweetheart Seer.” But not everyone is so accepting of the Diviners’ abilities…Meanwhile, mysterious deaths have been turning up in the city, victims of an unknown sleeping sickness. Can the Diviners descend into the dreamworld and catch a killer?


Everything is jake! Yes, I have a new favourite saying.

After a long hiatus, the group is back: Evie, Sam, Mabel, Jericho, Theta, Memphis. Libba Bray, as usual, does not disappoint with this thrilling sequel to The Diviners. I’ve been a fan of Bray since A Great and Terrible Beauty. From the moment I first read her books, I knew I’d be a fan for life. Lair of Dreams is a monster of a book. The advanced copy is nearly 700 pages, so it’s no easy volume to lug around (but lug it I did).

Hidden in these pages are the stories of the Diviners of New York City. Some are dream walkers, some can heal, some can trick the eye, some can read objects. Some diviners are just discovering and developing their powers and others are struggling to keep their power secret. Bray’s world is complex, thorough, and interwoven.The characters’ stories flow seamlessly into each other, running parallel to one another, but connecting through friendship.

In Lair of Dreams, Bray takes the time to further develop her characters. While I felt as though book one centred more on action, book two found a better balance between heart-stopping ghost stories and gradual character development. What I loved about this book, in comparison to The Diviners, was that Evie is no longer the central character. She is still a prominent figure and I enjoyed her story very much, but Bray has allowed her other characters to shine. We see their friendships suffer and strengthen. We see romance develop and secrets revealed. Each character has vices and virtues, but no one is perfect. These attributes make them seem so much more alive.

The main mystery of the story centres around a strange sleeping sickness with no known cure. People fall asleep and never wake up. There seems not to be any connection, but it’s a driving point for racial hatred in the story, and constant fear and discrimination. I loved the choice of the sickness as the pivotal point of action in the story. It’s adds it’s own level of fear as no one knows where it comes from or who it’ll hit next.

My one and only set back was that in this immensely long novel, the thrilling action really doesn’t occur to the end. Although Bray incorporates the ghostly elements a bit at a time throughout, but I never felt like I was caught off guard or was nervous to read the next page. The Diviners was thrilling and had my adrenaline going, and Lair of Dreams fell a little flat in this aspect.

Fantastic read over all! As you probably know, I’m a sucker for good characters. Bray had me with her characterization, and again with her setting. 1920s New York? Who wouldn’t want to read about that!

Review: The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende

25152052*I received this book from Simon & Schuster CA in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: The Japanese Lover

Author: Isabel Allende

Publisher: Atria Books

Publication Date: November 3, 2015

ISBN: 9781501116971


The Japanese Lover
Synopsis from Goodreads:
In 1939, as Poland falls under the shadow of the Nazis, young Alma Belasco’s parents send her away to live in safety with an aunt and uncle in their opulent mansion in San Francisco. There, as the rest of the world goes to war, she encounters Ichimei Fukuda, the quiet and gentle son of the family’s Japanese gardener. Unnoticed by those around them, a tender love affair begins to blossom. Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the two are cruelly pulled apart as Ichimei and his family, like thousands of other Japanese Americans are declared enemies and forcibly relocated to internment camps run by the United States government. Throughout their lifetimes, Alma and Ichimei reunite again and again, but theirs is a love that they are forever forced to hide from the world. Decades later, Alma is nearing the end of her long and eventful life. Irina Bazili, a care worker struggling to come to terms with her own troubled past, meets the elderly woman and her grandson, Seth, at San Francisco’s charmingly eccentric Lark House nursing home. As Irina and Seth forge a friendship, they become intrigued by a series of mysterious gifts and letters sent to Alma, eventually learning about Ichimei and this extraordinary secret passion that has endured for nearly seventy years.

This novel was my first encounter with Allende’s writing. Her words are inviting and easy to read. Her style, once translated into English, is quite reminiscent of author Lisa See, an author who often writes of Chinese Americans living in California. The time period chosen by Allende lends itself not only to great tragedy, but also to sweeping romance. Alma has lived a life surrounded by love, friendship, passion, and beauty. Her story is quite idyllic. Although she has suffered and has made tough choices throughout her life, Alma is a woman who sought out and achieved success. She’s a powerhouse woman.

Her live is accentuated by her heated romance with the son of the Japanese gardener, Ichimei. While we never fully get to know Ichimei, only knowing him through Alma’s memories and the few letters that are shared, we know that his love for his friend and neighbour is a love that transcends time, distance, and all struggle. Historically speaking, Ichimei’s story is quite interesting as his experience as a Japanese boy gives the reader a look into the concentration camps that housed the Japanese population after the attack on Pearl Harbour. I would have been interested to read more about this part in Ichimei’s life, along with young Alma’s understanding of the event. I felt that it was glossed over a bit and the full tragedy and weight of the experience is not fully conveyed.

In her age, Alma encounters Irina, a mysterious woman working at Alma’s place of residence, Lark House. Irina has her own tumultuous past, her troubles somewhat mirroring Alma’s struggles in her early adult life. The connection between these two is one of friendship and confidence. I’m drawn to the familial bond they seem to form throughout the story. Irina is as much a mystery to the read as she is to the characters in the book, keeping her distance until late in the novel when the time comes for her to reveal her own story.

I found Irina’s relationship to the men in her life somewhat problematic. In each encounter with a man in a sexual or romantic encounter, Irina’s voice is taken from her, sometimes in a violent manner. Those who know her history continue to rob her of her own voice and opinion, forcing her to move on from her past at a pace that I found jarring. Her own desires become secondary to the desires of the men that surround her and her hard-earned achievements are trivialized. In this regard she is the opposite of the adored and successful Alma. Irina is a quiet woman and I wanted to hear more from her and to know her better. I think that she got a bit lost in this story, perhaps lost in translation so to speak.

Overall, The Japanese Lover is a passionate story that draws on the history of the late 1930s and early 1940s as the catalyst for the events that come after. It is not without it’s problems, and I really wrestled with the treatment of the character of Irina, which is why I’ve given it 3 out of 5 stars. Please don’t let this dissuade you from reading this romantic translation. It shares a romance that spans the 20th century, finding strength in the setbacks and conquering even death.

Review: The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend


*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend

Author: Katarina Bivald

Publisher: Bond Street Books

Publication Date: August 2015 (paperback)

ISBN: 9780385683593

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend

Synopsis from Goodreads:
It all began with a correspondence between two quite different women: 28-year-old Sara from Haninge, Sweden, and 65-year-old Amy from the small town of Broken Wheel, Iowa. After years of exchanging books, letters and thoughts on the meaning of literature and life, Sara, mousy, disheveled, who has never been anywhere in her life–has really lived only for her work in a beloved bookshop, which has just closed its doors for the last time–bravely decides to accept her unknown friend’s invitation to visit. But when she arrives, she finds her house empty, the funeral guests just heading home. . .


Looking for something light-hearted and quick to read as we transition into fall? Bivald’s The Readers of Broken Wheel will bring a smile to your face with it’s sweet and quirky story about a town unlike any other. Broken Wheel, Iowa isn’t much to look at, and there’s nothing there worth doing. Most of the citizens have packed up and left, but a ragtag group still remains. Their lives are brightened by the arrival of the strange, book loving tourist, Sara. She’s determined to help out in the community and she’s even more determined to get these folks to read.

While this story isn’t exactly a masterpiece of literary genius, it certainly is extremely entertaining and humorous. It quite comfortably fits into the genre of chick lit. I read the entire book in a single evening, but it wasn’t a life changing story. Bivald’s characters will put you in a  great mood with their over the top determination and their outrageous mastermind plans. Although many of them struggle with their own demons, these characters are open to change and simply light up with positivity that Sara brings to town.

I’m always up for a story about books and book lovers, so I thoroughly enjoyed Bivald’s novel. It’s most definitely a book that I’d read again as a pick-me-up or to brighten a dreary day. It’s fun, cute, and simple. It’s great light reading.