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Jane Steele — Lyndsay Faye

15 Nov

janesteele

Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Released: March 22nd, 2016
Genre: Gothic, mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher

 

 

A reimagining of Jane Eyre as a gutsy, heroic serial killer.

A sensitive orphan, Jane Steele suffers first at the hands of her spiteful aunt and predatory cousin, then at a grim school where she fights for her very life until escaping to London, leaving the corpses of her tormentors behind her. After years of hiding from the law while penning macabre “last confessions” of the recently hanged, Jane thrills at discovering an advertisement.  Her aunt has died and her childhood home has a new master: Mr. Charles Thornfield, who seeks a governess.

Burning to know whether she is in fact the rightful heir, Jane takes the position incognito, and learns that Highgate House is full of marvelously strange new residents—the fascinating but caustic Mr. Thornfield, an army doctor returned from the Sikh Wars, and the gracious Sikh butler Mr. Sardar Singh, whose history with Mr. Thornfield appears far deeper and darker than they pretend. As Jane catches ominous glimpses of the pair’s violent history and falls in love with the gruffly tragic Mr. Thornfield, she faces a terrible dilemma: can she possess him—body, soul, and secrets—without revealing her own murderous past?

A satirical romance about identity, guilt, goodness, and the nature of lies.

From Goodreads

 

I wanted to love this book SO MUCH. I really did. And I did love parts of it. But other parts, not so much. This felt like two different book mushed in to one and it didn’t always work for me.

The first part of the book, before she becomes a governess, was beyond kick-ass. Jane is a straight-forward kind of heroine who doesn’t have a problem getting rid of her problems, be they human or not. This part of the plot was AWESOME. She would fit in quite nicely with the ladies of Chicago’s Cell Block Tango. She’s wicked but still has her own moral compass and I love that about her.

When she takes the job as governess, the story stagnates a bit. If fact, it felt like a different book to me. While it was enjoyable, I really missed the sass of Jane from earlier in the book.

The writing was pitch perfect for the plots and really added to the tone of the book and the gothic feel. I have such high respect for an author who can write in a certain style like this.

Despite my issues with some of the plot, this was a really cool read.

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The Witches of New York — Ami Mckay

31 Oct

witches

 

Publisher: Knopf Canada
Released: October 25th, 2016
Genre: Historical fiction
Source: Review copy from publisher

 

The year is 1880. Two hundred years after the trials in Salem, Adelaide Thom (‘Moth’ from The Virgin Cure) has left her life in the sideshow to open a tea shop with another young woman who feels it’s finally safe enough to describe herself as a witch: a former medical student and “gardien de sorts” (keeper of spells), Eleanor St. Clair. Together they cater to Manhattan’s high society ladies, specializing in cures, palmistry and potions–and in guarding the secrets of their clients.

All is well until one bright September afternoon, when an enchanting young woman named Beatrice Dunn arrives at their door seeking employment. Beatrice soon becomes indispensable as Eleanor’s apprentice, but her new life with the witches is marred by strange occurrences. She sees things no one else can see. She hears voices no one else can hear. Objects appear out of thin air, as if gifts from the dead. Has she been touched by magic or is she simply losing her mind?

Eleanor wants to tread lightly and respect the magic manifest in the girl, but Adelaide sees a business opportunity. Working with Dr. Quinn Brody, a talented alienist, she submits Beatrice to a series of tests to see if she truly can talk to spirits. Amidst the witches’ tug-of-war over what’s best for her, Beatrice disappears, leaving them to wonder whether it was by choice or by force.

As Adelaide and Eleanor begin the desperate search for Beatrice, they’re confronted by accusations and spectres from their own pasts. In a time when women were corseted, confined and committed for merely speaking their minds, were any of them safe?

From Goodreads

There is so much that I love about this book it’s hard to know where to start. Do I start with the fact that the two main characters own a freaking tea shop? Or that Eleanor has a pet raven? Or that I got to spend more time with Moth? Or the Dearlies? Or the strong feminist undertones throughout? Or the amazing, beautiful prose? I mean, really. I ooohed and awed by way through The Witches of New York and the only thing I didn’t like about it was that it ended.

Ami presents such amazing and flawed characters that I fell in love with each and every one of them, like I always do with her books. I felt invested in their lives and genuinely cared about what happened to them. Also, I kinda wanted a time machine to take me to their fictional world so I could have a cup of tea with them and just chat about things. I found them fascinating and also very relatable.

I absolutely loved all the magical elements to the book and how they were interspersed with historical elements of the time. This book was more witchy that Ami’s first two books, but I just love the natural progression. As a witchy gal myself (I’m a tea leaf reader and delving into oracle cards) I just felt a strong connection to the magic side of the book. And I mean, Perdu, the raven? I’ve have pet crows in the past and my husband had a raven before we met, so this part of the book just made me beyond happy.

The way female friendship is represented in the book also made my heart all warm and tingly. It was just so honest and beautiful. They helped each other and looked out for each and quarreled but you knew they loved one another.

Ami writes with such beautiful prose, flowery but never over flowery and I am always in awe of how well she can write several different plots and weave them together. Almost magically, dare I say? Her writing drew me in effortlessly and never lost me at any point.

I really can’t recommend The Witches of New York enough and I can’t wait for the next offering from Ami. She is one of only a handful of authors that I know I will always fall in love with each and every one of her books.

An Irregular Marriage — Margaret A. Westlie

25 Mar

marriage

 

Publisher: Selkirk Stories
Released: March 26th, 2016
Genre: Historical fiction
Source: Ebook review copy from publisher

 

 

Isle of Skye, Scotland, 1803: Annie MacPhail is 18 years old and on her own. She has defied her parents and refused to follow them to Prince Edward Island. She is waiting for her sweetheart, Alistair, to marry her—but he is nowhere to be found. She has no home.

Belle, Alistair’s mother, takes her in as an apprentice. Belle says she is a wise women. The community says she is a witch. Under Belle’s guidance, Annie learns to be a midwife and a healer, but she also learns how to read the future in a crystal gazing ball.

Belle tries to disabuse Annie about Alistair. He is not very reliable and he may not even want to marry her. But Annie still believes in her sweetheart—until he returns and she learns the secret that Belle has been keeping from both of them.

Follow Annie and Alistair on their journey to Prince Edward Island after a very irregular marriage. Join the community of Prince Edward Island. Read An Irregular Marriage and other novels by Margaret A. Westlie.

From Goodreads

I’ve mentioned this recently in another review, but it seems that I like historical fiction! I tend to shy away from the genre, but anytime I do read an hist-fic novel I really, really enjoy it. Such was the case with An Irregular Marriage.

I really loved watching the relationship between Annie and Belle bloom. Annie was lost in so many ways when she went to live with Belle and Belle really helped her to grow and come into her own. I love reading about female relationships where there is no back-stabbing and such. Where women actually help each other. And that was the case with Annie and Belle. They both helped each other in their own way and their closeness was wonderful to witness.

On the flip side, I didn’t enjoy the relationship between Annie and Alistair. It’s actually the only thing that I really didn’t like in the book. I think it would have been a stronger novel either without Alistair or if aspects of his story had been changed.

Because Bell is teaching Annie to be a healer, there were a lot of descriptions and mentions of natural medicines, which I really, really loved.  It was cool to read about the usage of different flowers and herbs. It’s something that I have an interest in, so it was nice to read about it.

Something else that was cool to read about was the food exchange and sharing that happened within the community. When Belle healed or brought a baby into the world, she was pretty much always paid with food or something else that she could use. I just loved the sense of community that was throughout the book, even though most thought Belle was a witch.

Westlie’s way with descriptions was just phenomenal. She painted great detail into her telling and I always felt like I was right there with Annie, sitting at the table have a cuppa. The dialogue was also spot on, the word choice and timbre really bringing the words of the characters alive.

I really enjoyed An Irregular Marriage and Westlie’s writing style. I look forward to reading more of her novels.

Innocent — Eric Walters

15 Mar

innocent

 

Publisher: Orca Books
Released: September 29th, 2015
Genre: YA
Source: Ebook review copy from publisher

 

Sometimes you have to look back in order to move forward.

After the orphanage she lives in is destroyed by fire, Betty, an innocent and trusting teen, takes a job as a maid in Kingston, Ontario. Welcomed into the household of the wealthy Remington clan, Betty makes friends with the staff at the house and soon discovers that her mother had also been a maid there—and that her father is in a nearby jail, convicted of murdering her mother. When she meets her father, she is taken aback by his claims of innocence, and she decides to try to uncover the truth about her mother’s murder and her father’s conviction. A friendly young policeman assists her in her investigation (and shows an interest in Betty that is more romantic than professional). But all is not well in the Remington household, and someone doesn’t want Betty to learn the truth.

From Goodreads

Although this book is set in 1964, it has a bit of a gothic feel to it, which I love. The whole young-girl-goes-to-work-at-a-mansion-while-working-to-uncover-a-mystery thing, and it works quite well. Betty is an outsider who is welcomed into the Remington household but almost straight off the bat you get the feeling that things are a bit wonky.

While the other girls are all searching to discover who their parents are, Betty finds out during the course of the book and then her focus switches to finding out what really happened to her mother. As with all the best mysteries, her search is anything but easy and it isn’t always clear who’s on her side. That’s what I love about a well-told mystery: like the protagonist, you aren’t always sure who is good and who is bad.

The mystery is also very well-crafted, which isn’t always a given with the genre. The plot wasn’t convuluted and the ending wasn’t easy to figure out, although there were some well placed hints along the way.

This was one of my favourite plots of all the Secrets books and I highly recommend it.

The Unquiet Past — Kelley Armstrong

14 Mar

unquiet past

 

Publisher: Orca Books
Released: September 29th, 2015
Genre: YA
Source: Ebook review copy from publisher

 

You can only hide from the truth for so long.

Tess has always been tormented by waking visions that make her question her sanity. When the orphanage she lives in burns down, she decides to face her fears and find out once and for all what is wrong with her. She believes the truth must lie with her parents, and so, armed with only an address and phone number, Tess travels to a crumbling mansion in rural Quebec, where she discovers evidence of mistreatment of mental patients. She also makes an unlikely ally and gradually unearths her family’s sad history—and finally accepts the truth about her paranormal powers.

From Goodreads

When I agreed to read and review all of the books in the Secrets series, I had no idea my fave author had written a volume. So you can imagine my excitement. And I wasn’t disappointed.

I really like that even though this is a bit of a different series for her, Kelley still added some paranormal stuff. Her own flair, if you will. I love when authors write outside of their preferred genre, but still make sure that they are including something that makes them them, you know? And that’s the case here.

As with the other books in the series, The Unquiet Past tackles a social issue — the prejudice against Native Canadians. I think for younger readers this aspect of the book will be a real eye opener.

This was one of the darker books of the series (perhaps even the darkest) and that definitely has to do with the subject matter. Questionable mental hospitals and mistreatment of their patients is right up there with creepy clowns in my fear book, as I’m sure it is for a lot of people. This part of the story made for a very suspenseful read and made the book a strong page turner.

The Unquiet Past is a welcome addition to both the Secrets series and also Kelley’s books. I highly recommend it.

Shattered Glass — Teresa Toten

12 Mar

glass

 

Publisher: Orca Books
Released: September 29th, 2015
Genre: YA
Source: Ebook review copy from publisher

 

 

Fake courage is better than no courage at all.

Toni has always had nightmares about fire, and she also has burn scars but no idea how she got them. So when fire destroys the orphanage she has grown up in, she is ready to make her way to Toronto, where she hopes to discover the truth about the mother she believes hurt and then abandoned her. Toronto proves to be both daunting and exciting for Toni, whose charm and innocence attract attention—not always positive—wherever she goes. Buoyed by the music she hears at the folk club where she finds a job, and encouraged by her glamorous landlady, Toni unearths shocking information that contradicts everything she believes and makes her re-evaluate what she feels for all the new people in her life.

From Goodreads

Out of all the orphans in the Secrets series, Toni is the one I felt the most for. She’s just so sweet and really, REALLY innocent and that doesn’t always bode well for her. She doesn’t really have the ability to read people well, and that can get you into some really sticky situations. She has some great new friends looking out for her, and that made all the difference. Without their help and support, this would have been a much different story.

Most of the girls in the series have no memory of their parents or life before the orphanage, but this isn’t the case with Toni. It was interesting to read about what she remembered and her slant on it and what actually happened. It’s a huge eye opener for Toni, and a great learning lesson.

I’m a huge music fan, so the musical elements in the book just make me happy. They also offer some lighter moments balancing out the rest of the story. Toni’s optimism and compulsion to quickly find out who her father is also leads to some fun scenes.

This was a quick, engaging read for me and I was almost sad when it was over. A great book that fits in nicely with the series.

My Life Before Me — Norah McClintock

11 Mar

lifebefore

 

Publisher: Orca Books
Released: September 29th, 2015
Genre: YA
Source: Ebook review copy from publisher

 

Nothing worth fighting for comes easy.

Cady has always wanted to be a reporter, like her hero Nellie Bly, so after a fire burns down the orphanage she lives in, she’s ready to leave small-town Ontario and make her mark as a newspaperwoman. A crumbling newspaper clipping leads her to Orrenstown, Indiana, where her investigation into a long-ago murder earns her a hard lesson in race relations. Smart and determined, and more than a little headstrong, Cady pokes a stick into a wasp’s nest of lies, dirty politics, corrupt law enforcement and racial tension—and ends up fearing for her life as she closes in on something she’s never cared about before—the truth about her own origins.

From Goodreads

 

Sassy. That’s the first word that comes to mind when I think of Cady. Quickly followed by determined. She’s a character who knew what she wanted and did her best to go after it, regardless of the roadblocks in front of her.

I loved the tone of My Life Before Me. The writing was sharp and really made the story move at a good pace. There was a lot going on with the plot, but it didn’t feel confusing or overdone. It actually felt like following a news story!  Because of this, I think it would make an amazing movie.

As with the other books in the Secrets series, the main plot centred around the mystery of Cady’s heritage. This was one of the most intriguing of the series for me. She really had to push to find out about her parents, which meant that she really had to come to terms with the fact that she actually wanted to know, which was a shift for her.

This was my first McClintock book, but I know it won’t be my last. 🙂