Review: The Bone Queen by Alison Croggon

32284099Title: The Bone Queen

Author: Alison Croggon

Publisher: Candlewick Press

Publication Date: June 13, 2017

ISBN: 9780763689742

Synopsis on Goodreads:
Seduced into sorcery by an agent of the Dark, the promising Bard Cadvan of Lirigon recklessly unleashed the terrible Bone Queen, bringing destruction down upon Annar. Cadvan, cast out of the Schools of Barding for his crime, now lives in exile, burdened by memories of his dealings with the Dark. At Cadvan’s former home, his mentor, Nelac, and his rival, Dernhil, begin to suspect that the Bone Queen may yet lurk in Annar, and a young Bard, Selmana, is plagued by an ominous presence and an unsettling new ability to step between worlds. With darkness gathering and Bards giving in to fear and paranoia, a guilt-ridden Cadvan must earn back the Bards’ trust and Selmana must gain control of her newfound powers to bring peace to the living and the dead. 

Alison Croggon’s Pellinor series was one of my absolute favourites throughout my teen years, so naturally, I was thrilled to hear that this prequel was coming out and I pre-ordered it as soon as I heard. It was exciting to return to a beloved series and I wasn’t disappointed. Croggon gives readers a bit more background on her character, Cadvan, giving us some insight into his past and young life. This book hints at things to come in the Pellinor series, tying Cadvan’s history to his future. We get to see younger versions of various characters that are introduced in the main series. This book serves to round out the world even further. Reading this book was like being welcomed back into the familiar. It was comfortable and exciting in the same way the main series is.

If you’re coming into this series for the first time, I would strongly suggest reading the main series first. Although this is a prequel, readers would gain a greater understanding of the characters and this world by reading the original four books first. Reading some of the review on Goodreads, many who did not realize this book was a prequel to another series were quite lost. It doesn’t seem to be a book that can be easily read as a standalone. One will need the background information that the subsequent books provide.

I rated this book 4 stars out of 5 because I didn’t feel that it was as strong as the original series, but it was still excellent. It’s sparked a need in me to re-read all the Pellinor books once again. I’m so excited by Croggon’s writing and I hope that we will get to read more from her in the future.


Review: Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick

29868610Title: Scrappy Little Nobody

Author: Anna Kendrick

Publisher: Touchstone Books

Publication Date: November 2016

ISBN: 9781501117206

Synopsis from Goodreads:
A collection of humorous autobiographical essays by the Academy Award-nominated actress and star of Up in the Air and Pitch Perfect. Even before she made a name for herself on the silver screen starring in films like Pitch Perfect, Up in the Air, Twilight, and Into the Woods, Anna Kendrick was unusually small, weird, and “10 percent defiant.” At the ripe age of thirteen, she had already resolved to “keep the crazy inside my head where it belonged. Forever. But here’s the thing about crazy: It. Wants. Out.” In Scrappy Little Nobody, she invites readers inside her brain, sharing extraordinary and charmingly ordinary stories with candor and winningly wry observations. With her razor-sharp wit, Anna recounts the absurdities she’s experienced on her way to and from the heart of pop culture as only she can—from her unusual path to the performing arts (Vanilla Ice and baggy neon pants may have played a role) to her double life as a middle-school student who also starred on Broadway to her initial “dating experiments” (including only liking boys who didn’t like her back) to reviewing a binder full of butt doubles to her struggle to live like an adult woman instead of a perpetual “man-child.” Enter Anna’s world and follow her rise from “scrappy little nobody” to somebody who dazzles on the stage, the screen, and now the page—with an electric, singular voice, at once familiar and surprising, sharp and sweet, funny and serious (well, not that serious).

After listening to Kendrick’s autobiography on audiobook, I’ve really enjoyed her retelling of her experiences growing up and entering the film business where she’s made a name for herself. The audiobook, read by Kendrick herself, is witty, smart, and had me laughing out loud on more than one occasion. Her personal vocalization of the text adds that personal level and really emphasizes her humour. She’s brutally honest at points but takes her own personal awkwardness and the reality of being a “late bloomer” to bring her reader many chuckles. She’s incredibly relatable and I’d think that many readers would really connect with her many anecdotes. She puts a voice to what everyone is thinking in any awkward situation ever. Poor Anna just happens to have faced more awkward situations than most. She is so open and honest in her stories and it’s hysterically funny. So glad I decided to give this one a listen.

Review: Zero Repeat Forever by Gabrielle Prendergast

28945665*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: Zero Repeat Forever

Author: Gabrielle Prendergast

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Publication Date: August 29, 2017

ISBN: 9781481481847

Synopsis from Goodreads:
He has no voice, or name, only a rank, Eighth. He doesn’t know the details of the mission, only the directives that hum in his mind. Dart the humans. Leave them where they fall. His job is to protect his Offside. Let her do the shooting. Until a human kills her…Sixteen year-old Raven is at summer camp when the terrifying armored Nahx invade, annihilating entire cities, taking control of the Earth. Isolated in the wilderness, Raven and her friends have only a fragment of instruction from the human resistance. Shelter in place. Which seems like good advice at first. Stay put. Await rescue. Raven doesn’t like feeling helpless but what choice does she have? Then a Nahx kills her boyfriend. Thrown together in a violent, unfamiliar world, Eighth and Raven should feel only hate and fear. But when Raven is injured, and Eighth deserts his unit, their survival comes to depend on trusting each other… 

Ah! This is actually one of the more exciting YA books that I’ve read in a long while. I’ve been thinking about this book constantly and itching to finish it. Now that I’m done, I’m sad I don’t have a second book in the series to move on to. In this world, humanity is at the mercy of a foreign, heartless invader. The Nahx shoot to kill, not discerning between man, woman, or child. Their darts are left in the victims and the bodies are left behind, completely preserved. The survivors are few and death is imminent at all times, if not by the Nahxs’ hands then by cold, illness, or starvation. Raven is fighting for her life, and faces more than her fair share of life-threatening situations. She is strong and independent. She cares deeply and feels so strongly. She’s a truly strong heroine with a big heart that she keeps closely protected. In opposition to Raven is Eighth, a Nahx who’s left his unit and found freedom filled with a sad, quiet desperation. Fate brings these two together, despite fear and hatred, but in time, they develop trust and perhaps even more.

I have one main criticism of this book, but I can’t say that it took away from my overall feelings of the book. This book starts out so strong and Prendergast is incredibly talented at world building. She paints a vivid picture of the world and the current situation, even though the characters are not right at the heart of the violence off the bat. I found the combat and violent situations to be so visceral. I couldn’t help but tense up and gasp at certain parts, totally drawn into the story. So many emotions all the time! I couldn’t put this book down.

My criticism lies in the last quarter of the book. While the intro, climbing action, and middle of the books are so thorough and descriptive, so well developed, the end in contrast is quick and somewhat unsatisfying in it’s brevity. After spending so much time in character development and world building, the conclusion to this first book in the series was too quick. Rather then spending pages building the intensity, the author spends mere paragraphs, or even mere sentences. It’s almost as if the ending is a passing thought and I don’t think it received the attention it deserved. Characters who’d previously displayed excellent potential act without reason or clear motive and in ways that are opposite to what we’d expect. Antagonistic characters behave in stock ways and are removed from the picture too quickly. It’s clear that this book is not about them, but has a deeper focus that I’m sure will be explored in books to come.

I feel like I’m being hard on this book, but my opinion is driven by the insane potential that this book has. A little extra attention at the end would have taken this book from fantastic to mind-blowing. Like the start to any good series, Prendergast takes the time to introduce us to her world and her characters, letting us explore and learn the concepts of this world at an engaging pace. I love luxuriating in the introduction to a new series and getting to know the world. It’s exciting to read something that truly has me on the edge of my seat and has me antsy to get my hands on the next book. I think that there is so much potential for the remainder of the story to be so intense, moving, heart-breaking, and full of conflict.

For anyone looking for a new YA series to read, THIS IS THE ONE! While I’ve had some tough things so say, I did absolutely LOVE this book and I’m so, so excited by it. I hope you’ll also read it and enjoy it overall as much as I did! I’d give this 4.5 stars out of 5.

Yesterday by Felicia Yap

33140164.jpg* I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: Yesterday

Author: Felicia Yap

Publisher: Mulholland Books

Publication Date: August 1, 2017

ISBN: 9780316465250

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Imagine a world in which classes are divided not by wealth or religion but by how much each group can remember. Monos, the majority, have only one day’s worth of memory; elite Duos have two. In this stratified society, where Monos are excluded from holding high office and demanding jobs, Claire and Mark are a rare mixed marriage. Clare is a conscientious Mono housewife, Mark a novelist-turned-politician Duo on the rise. They are a shining example of a new vision of tolerance and equality—until…a beautiful woman is found dead, her body dumped in England’s River Cam. The woman is Mark’s mistress, and he is the prime suspect in her murder. The detective investigating the case has secrets of his own. So did the victim. And when both the investigator’s and the suspect’s memories are constantly erased—how can anyone learn the truth?

This is certainly one of the more interesting concepts for a world that I’ve read in a while. This society is a mirror of our own, the difference being that human beings are classified either as monos or duos. Monos can remember one day’ worth of memory and duos can remember two. This creates a stratification in society where those with more memory are perceived as more adept and look down on those with more limited memory. Among all this, a murder has taken place and it is up to the police to solve the case before they run out of time and the memories are lost. In this world where peoples memory exists within the confines of their iDiaries which they write in every day, characters remember things as they wrote it down, making it possible to forget the past so easily.

I really struggled with this book. I think the concept is promising, but I don’t think that it was executed in a believable way, making it very hard to really connect with the story. My main problem with this book is that the concept is that people only have limited memory, but within the story, characters can remember facts and can work to remember facts. They only lose more trivial details and things they don’t commit to memory. This detail really takes away from this world. The story for me was undermined the second these facts were introduced. It complicated the characters, their motives, what they “choose” to remember or forget. It made it unclear as to how characters could really choose to forget a wrongdoing and re-write the course of their pasts.

What I did like was how truly unreliable every character was. This world really creates a lack of trust between the readers and the characters and for me, that’s immensely interesting. No one knows the truth. Even in the end, we can only know for certain by trusting the one character that’s potentially the most untrustworthy of them all. This creates a complexity within this story that one doesn’t always find in a story that’s more like our own.

I gave this book 3 out of 5 stars. I did enjoy it as I was fascinated to see how Yap would create this world and drive the plot forward when the characters memories are so short. However, there were some short comings that left me unhappy with the concept as a whole. I think for a debut, Yap’s written an intriguing narrative and I’d be interested to see where her work goes in the future.

Review: Blame by Jeff Abbott

30842435* I received this book in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: Blame

Author: Jeff Abbott

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Publication Date: July 18, 2017

ISBN: 9781455558438

Synopsis from Goodreads:
The crash that killed him
Two years ago, Jane Norton crashed her car on a lonely road, killing her friend David and leaving her with amnesia. At first, everyone was sympathetic. Then they found Jane’s note: I wish we were dead together.

A girl to blame
From that day the town turned against her. But even now Jane is filled with questions: Why were they on that road? Why was she with David? Did she really want to die?

The secrets she should forget
Most of all, she must find out who has just written her an anonymous message: I know what really happened. I know what you don’t remember…

Never have I enjoyed a thriller so much as I enjoyed Abbott’s Blame. It has a surprisingly engaging plot and some completely unseen twists. I couldn’t put it down. It’s not often that I get too into the thriller genre, but I’m glad I made an exception for this one. As a result of an accident, the protagonist, Jane, cannot remember the 3 years leading up to the crash that killed her childhood friend David. She is left a pariah, considered a murderer and an addict to nearly everyone in the town. Many in the town assume that because of her amnesia and the terrible accident that Jane is out of control. In this town, everyone has secrets, some far more terrible than others.

Not a single character is trustworthy, not even Jane. Abbott writes with with fingers pointed in all directions. Everyone can be a suspect here. Because our narrator is so profoundly unreliable due to her lack of knowledge–which even she acknowledges!–we cannot trust a thing that anyone tells her. The only things we know to be true are the small written facts we’re given along the way: a hand written note, a photograph, etc. Even Jane notes that anyone could tell her anything and she’d have to accept it as truth, because she knows no different. She is unreliable, but she is also incredibly vulnerable. Both Jane, and the reader, look to each character with mistrust and suspicion. It builds the intensity of the story and creates a frantic desperation to find out the truth…before it’s too late. Many innocent lives are at stake. The question of “why?” hangs over this tragedy, lurking in everyone’s actions and motivations. They all want the same thing, but there are things that someone is trying to keep hidden.

I’m just completely in awe of how much I liked this book. I can’t compare it to other thrillers, because it’s very unfamiliar territory for me. I can say that there were many characters that I did not sympathize with, and felt anger towards. But there are many redeeming characters who are open to forgiveness and willing to drop everything to help find the truth. Abbott has built a very interesting community in this tragedy stricken town.

While this book may not warm me up to this genre as a whole, as a stand alone book, I really appreciated Blame. I’m glad I took a shot to try something new, because it definitely paid off.

Review: The History of Bees by Maja Lunde

32920292*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: The History of Bees

Author: Maja Lunde

Publisher: Touchstone

Publication Date: August 22, 2017

ISBN: 9781501161377

Synopsis from Goodreads:
England, 1852. William is a biologist and seed merchant, who sets out to build a new type of beehive one that will give both him and his children honour and fame. United States, 2007. George is a beekeeper fighting an uphill battle against modern farming, but hopes that his son can be their salvation. China, 2098. Tao hand paints pollen onto the fruit trees now that the bees have long since disappeared. When Tao s young son is taken away by the authorities after a tragic accident, she sets out on a gruelling journey to find out what happened to him. 

This English translation of Maja Lunde’s Bienes Historie is an excellent observation of the intricate relationship between humanity and the tiny little honey bee. Lunde positions the story from three perspectives: the mid-Nineteenth Century with the development of the beehive, the early Twenty-First Century where the world is encountering Colony Collapse Disorder for the first time, and the late Twenty-First Century where humanity has barely survived the extinction of bees. The stories provide  a look at the effect that bees have on human life–their life sustaining abilities–at all stages of human history from pre-Industrial Revolution to the future.

I loved reading this book. And it’s got a fantastic cover to boot! I found it to be heart-breaking and gut-wrenching, but also full of hope as the novel draws to a close. It’s full of life-and-death moments, mystery, excitement, new invention, change, and so much more. Lunde doesn’t shy away from the harsh realities that the absence of bees has on life of Earth. The story has been compared to Station Eleven by Emily St.John Mandel (another one of my favourites) and I can see why. Lunde confronts the end of life as we know it and the collapse of the human race. She doesn’t show us exactly how it comes to be, but leaves the downfall to our imaginations, which I really enjoyed. The story is not about the collapse, but about it’s effect on the survival of humanity.

The story moves quickly from moment to moment at a good pace, keeping the reader engaged and wanting more. I finished this book just a few days, so excited to find out how it would end and what the characters would encounter. I found the characters to be incredibly real and very relatable. They are all honest in their triumphs and failures, bringing this story to life. I related to Tao in 2098 the most, connecting her in a raw and visceral way. Her pain is the greatest, I found, and her emotion is strong and tangible. Her story was the most moving to me, but I like the others as well!

I hope you’ll give this story a try. It’s worth the read.

Review: How to Fall in Love with Anyone

32620333*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: How to Fall in Love with Anyone

Author: Mandy Len Catron

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Publication Date: July 2017

ISBN: 9781501137440

Synopsis from Goodreads:
In a series of candid, vulnerable, and wise essays that takes a closer look at what it means to love someone, be loved, and how we present our love to the world, Catron deconstructs her own personal canon of love stories. She delves all the way back to 1944, when her grandparents first met in a coal mining town in Appalachia, to her own dating life as a professor in Vancouver, drawing insights from her fascinating research into the universal psychology, biology, history, and literature of love. She uses biologists’ research into dopamine triggers to ask whether the need to love is an innate human drive. She uses literary theory to show why we prefer certain kinds of love stories. She urges us to question the unwritten scripts we follow in relationships and looks into where those scripts come from in the first place. And she tells the story of how she decided to test a psychology experiment that she’d read about—where the goal was to create intimacy between strangers using a list of thirty-six questions—and ended up in the surreal situation of having millions of people following her brand-new relationship.

This book was incredibly engaging and fascinating. I love reading about love and relationships, and what other people think and experience. Catron discusses love through a series of her personal anecdotes and her reflection on the relationships of her parents and grandparents. Catron is witty and hilarious as she recounts various stories of her past, but she’s also insightful as she explores how people date and marry differently then the did even one or two generations ago. I couldn’t stop turning the pages, staying up well past an acceptable hour to sleep in order to finish reading.

Many of you might know Catron from her New York Times Article, “To Fall In Love With Anyone, Do This.” This book expands on the ideas that she presents in this article, applying them to the different stages of love in her life, through the ups and downs of different relationships. Not only does she explore her experiences with me, she discusses in depth her time alone when she learned invaluable lessons about herself. In this period of time she is able to ruminate on how her young and young adult dating life was driven not by her own confidence, but by her lack thereof and her feelings that as a woman she was defined in terms of how men appreciated her. In her time of being single, she gains the confidence to find out what it is she’s looking for love and to know that her self worth lies in being who she is and being true to herself.

I absolutely loved this book. It’s one that I’ll gladly keep in the permanent collection and read again, and recommend to other readers. If you enjoy learning about others and how we define love, this book will certainly appeal to you.