Review: Poison Dance

Poison Dance: A Novella by Livia Blackburne
Release Date ~ September 12, 2013
E-copy received from author for review

Goodreads Synopsis:
James is skilled, efficient, and deadly, a hired blade navigating the shifting alliances of a deteriorating Assassin’s Guild. Then he meets Thalia, an alluring but troubled dancing girl who offers him a way out—if he’ll help her kill a powerful nobleman. With the Guild falling apart, it just might be worth the risk. But when you live, breathe, and love in a world that’s forever flirting with death, the slightest misstep can be poison. 

Midnight Thief (2014) is a book that has already caught my eye, just by way of its description. (Come on, TELL ME that doesn't sound like the perfect book for me?!) Livia Blackburne contacted me with information about the prequel novella she had released for Midnight Thief, and I jumped right on board.

The feature I find so interesting about this series is that Midnight Thief is categorized as a YA book, but the prequel novella is definitely written for a slightly older audience. Because Poison Dance is the story of a secondary character from Midnight Thief, I can already tell that this is a series that is attempting to build a strong world and cast of characters. Two things I absolutely love to see in fantasy books.

  1. Strong start to a new series:

    Poison Dance provides us with background information about some events leading up to Midnight Thief; importantly, this includes the background story about one character in particular, named James. I'm curious to see how this will enhance or impact my reading of Midnight Thief later on but I'm optimistic that it will give me a greater appreciation of the world Livia is creating in her series.
  2. A grittier fantasy story:

    Since Midnight Thief features an Assassins Guild right in the description, I was anticipating it to be a darker YA book than average. And while Poison Dance doesn't feel like a definitive adult fantasy, it's a bit of a bridge between the two - lines are blurred here. Sexual relationships are a bit more pronounced, and violence has an important role. This is essentially what I would like to see NA become as a category - books that simply feature characters in this twenty-something life stage, but features much more than romance. 

A common problem I have with novellas is that I often feel that they're too short. I'm looking forward to seeing more of James in the next books, but there was so much plot in this novella it felt like it could have been longer than it was. That can leave me aching for more, as a reader.

A prequel novella should make me even more excited to read the book to which the novella is a precursor. That is exactly what Poison Dance accomplished for me, by bumping Midnight Thief even higher on my list of highly anticipated reads in 2014. There's plenty of action and excitement to make this a very quick read, one that certainly highlights the strength Livia has as a writer and the direction we can expect to see Midnight Thief take.

You can also visit Livia's website for more information and read an excerpt from Poison Dance


Review: How to Love

How to Love by Katie Cotugno
Release Date ~ October 1, 2013
Balzer + Bray ~ HarperCollins
ISBN13: 9780062216359
ARC received from HarperCollins Canada for review

Goodreads Synopsis:
Before: Reena Montero has loved Sawyer LeGrande for as long as she can remember: as natural as breathing, as endless as time. But he’s never seemed to notice that Reena even exists…until one day, impossibly, he does. Reena and Sawyer fall in messy, complicated love. But then Sawyer disappears from their humid Florida town without a word, leaving a devastated—and pregnant—Reena behind.
After: Almost three years have passed, and there’s a new love in Reena’s life: her daughter, Hannah. Reena’s gotten used to being without Sawyer, and she’s finally getting the hang of this strange, unexpected life. But just as swiftly and suddenly as he disappeared, Sawyer turns up again. Reena doesn’t want anything to do with him, though she’d be lying if she said Sawyer’s being back wasn’t stirring something in her. After everything that’s happened, can Reena really let herself love Sawyer LeGrande again?
In this breathtaking debut, Katie Cotugno weaves together the story of one couple falling in love—twice.

This is not your traditional love story. Reena and Sawyer's relationship is far from picture perfect. It is messy and real, and we're privy to the very raw emotions Reena experiences as she first connects and then reconnects with Sawyer.

Reena's experiences are going to feel very personal for many readers, I bet. And the story is an honest account of what happened to Reena and how she reacted, as opposed to any sort of moral reflection of the choices made.

  1. Authentic characters:

    These characters are laid out for us, flaws and all. I didn't always like the characters, and I didn't always like what they did. I feel the same way about people in real life. They make bad decisions, and we have to deal with the consequences right along with them.
  2. The significance of free will:

    In fact, I think the whole story is about the bad decisions we make, the people they affect, and how we can all choose to respond to those choices. It's like a domino effect, how each decision has a ripple effect on so many others.
  3. A microcosm of real life:

    I've very rarely read a book that is so honest. I truly believe that not every negative experience is bad through and through (and vice versa with positive experiences). It just isn't that black and white. I loved that How to Love showed us the good parts of Reena's life with her daughter, and the hard parts as well. 

And just like this isn't your traditional love story, I'd say it isn't your traditional ending either. It left me feeling like the ending was a little bit off. Frankly, the relationship between Reena and Sawyer was troubling to me, and I'm not entirely sure whether that was intentional or not.

This ending was the worst part of the book for me, because nothing felt wrapped up. I didn't feel as if decisions had been made, as much as they had just been put off. Maybe it's just that the decisions weren't satisfying to me.


Review: All the Truth That's In Me

All the Truth That's In Me by Julie Berry
Release Date ~ September 26, 2013
Viking Juvenile ~ Penguin
ISBN13: 9780670786152
Hardcover purchased personally

Goodreads Synopsis:
Four years ago, Judith and her best friend disappeared from their small town of Roswell Station. Two years ago, only Judith returned, permanently mutilated, reviled and ignored by those who were once her friends and family. Unable to speak, Judith lives like a ghost in her own home, silently pouring out her thoughts to the boy who’s owned her heart as long as she can remember—even if he doesn’t know it—her childhood friend, Lucas. But when Roswell Station is attacked, long-buried secrets come to light, and Judith is forced to choose: continue to live in silence, or recover her voice, even if it means changing her world, and the lives around her, forever. This startlingly original novel will shock and disturb you; it will fill you with Judith’s passion and longing; and its mysteries will keep you feverishly turning the pages until the very last.

You know those books that you just cannot get out of your head? They work their way into your heart and mind and it's impossible to let them go. That's exactly what Julie Berry's newest book, All the Truth That's In Me did to me.

This book is incredibly difficult for me to describe. "Unexpected" is the best word for it. And I hesitate to try and say too much, at risk of ruining the astonishing experience I had reading it for the first time. It may be too early to say this, but this has been my favourite read of 2013 so far!

  1. This reminds me of "The Village" in book form:

    I'm not really too sure exactly why it does; it's hard to pinpoint. The story's really aren't similar, but I think it's the setting that has a similar feel. The setting in All the Truth That's In Me feels timeless, and by that I mean it literally felt like it was outside of the confines of time. I couldn't pinpoint an exact location or era, which only adds to the mystery in my opinion. Also, there's the whole small, tight-knit community with a whole bunch of secrets.
  2. Judith's bravery and resilience:

    I don't think Judith ever sees herself as someone who is extraordinary. But she is. What she views as defiance, I see as bravery and resilience in the face of circumstances which could have broken her down. Judith's reaction to her disappearance and the treatment she receives from those around her are atypical, and I can only admire her for her mental and emotional strength she shows as she endures this. Her concern for others in the wake of such events is truly remarkable.
  3. A sweet, honest love story:

    The relationship between Judith and Lucas is anything but straightforward, yet there's something about it where they're able to retain that childlike simplicity. You can see how they've grown together, and how much of an impact the decisions they make have on each other. It isn't quite your traditional love story, it's full of broken bits and shattered pieces but there's something about it that is still so pure, raw, and real. I can't tell you the last time I was completely invested in the relationship between two fictional characters like this!
There are some aspects to this book that are rather dark. Judith is far from a perfect character, and makes some choices that I found rather questionable. But then again, who hasn't? She's a realistic character, not an ideal one. She makes mistakes, and I think it's most interesting to see how she follows up to those mistakes.

I'm a bit iffy on the second person narrative, but I honestly feel like it worked well in the end. You learn early on in the book the identity of the "you" Judith keeps referring to, and I think the second person narration was important to really bring that character into the spotlight.


Review: Rose Under Fire

Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein
Release Date ~ September 17, 2013
Doubleday Canada ~ Random House of Canada
ISBN13: 9780385679534
Review copy received from RHC for review

Goodreads Synopsis:
Rose Justice is a young pilot with the Air Transport Auxiliary during the Second World War. On her way back from a semi-secret flight in the waning days of the war, Rose is captured by the Germans and ends up in Ravensbrück, the notorious Nazi women's concentration camp. There, she meets an unforgettable group of women, including a once glamorous and celebrated French detective novelist whose Jewish husband and three young sons have been killed; a resilient young girl who was a human guinea pig for Nazi doctors trying to learn how to treat German war wounds; and a Nachthexen, or Night Witch, a female fighter pilot and military ace for the Soviet air force. These damaged women must bond together to help each other survive.
In this companion volume to the critically acclaimed novel Code Name Verity, Elizabeth Wein continues to explore themes of friendship and loyalty, right and wrong, and unwavering bravery in the face of indescribable evil.

Historical fiction was the genre that convinced me I loved reading, specifically historical fiction during World War II. Reading Lois Lowry's Number the Stars was a life-changing experience for me. It makes sense that this is still the type of book I hold closely to my heart, and I don't think it's surprising that I loved Code Name Verity so much. Nor is it a surprise that Rose Under Fire made me feel the same way.

I also think it's timely that I'm publishing my review for this book on Remembrance Day. After all, Rose does say that she'll tell the world, doesn't she? Rose Under Fire is so much more than a story, it's a reminder to us all that we can't ever forget. And the reason we can't ever forget is because we have so much to learn from this story, and while Rose's story is fictional the circumstances are not.

  1. Rose's story is timely:

    Every year that passes is another year that we've moved further away from World War II. And every year I wonder if this means that we're one step closer to forgetting. I sincerely hope not. This is why stories like this are so important, because it gives those of us who have never truly experienced war firsthand one method of understanding and empathizing. I believe there is something critical in remembrance.

  2. The value of friendship:

    The one aspect of Rose Under Fire that stood out to me was Rose's experience in Ravensbruck. I thought it would be so full of despair that it would crush me, and I had to set the book aside for a while because of that. And of course it's heartbreaking. But the bonds Rose makes with the women she meets in the concentration camp are so unexpected and shockingly optimistic. I think that really says something about the difference a friend can make in a dark place.
  3. Elizabeth Wein's strength as a writer:

    I struggled through the first half of Code Name Verity. But I finished it (and loved it) and I had an idea of what to expect when I started reading Rose Under Fire. But Rose Under fire is a very different book, because Rose is a very different character with another perspective. Rose's character change is subtle from the beginning of the book to its end, and that can be credited to Elizabeth Wein's talent. The story isn't merely written so much as it is delicately crafted. 
While Rose Under Fire is more of a companion to Code Name Verity than a sequel, but there are a few pieces of the story that I think are best appreciated if you've already read Code Name Verity

Blog Design by eedee design studios