Books, Reviews

Dogears: Velvet Wrapped Steel and Homicidal Royals

The Mothers The Mothers Brit Bennett Riverhead Books October 11, 2016

Brit Bennett
Riverhead Books
October 11, 2016

Disclaimer: An Advanced Reader’s Copy (ARC) of the book was provided by the publisher for an honest review.

I found out about this book while reading the October 2016 issue of Vogue. Lupita Nyong’o was on the cover looking gorgeous as usual, and I came across the magazine’s “People Are Talking About” section that featured Bennett and her book. I asked my book friends about it and they convinced me that it was a book I had to read.

The Mothers takes place in a black community in southern California and focuses on seventeen-year-old Nadia Turner who just lost her mother to suicide. It’s about the summer just before she goes off to college and how the decisions she makes then affect her life afterwards. It’s an exploration of the term “mother,” how we use it, engage with it, and what we expect of it. It features people who are messy and searching for love (sometimes even fearful of it). It was a reading experience that made me anxious, because I’m very existential right now, but I wouldn’t trade those words for the world.

I highly recommend it. It could be your favourite book of the year.

–Ardo

Empire of StormsEmpire of Storms Throne of Glass #5 Sarah J. Maas Bloomsbury September 6 2016

Throne of Glass #5
Sarah J. Maas
Bloomsbury
September 6 2016

It is no secret that I love the Throne of Glass series. Great story, fast pace, strong (but not perfect) female characters. Lots of them. And this is not the last book in the series–I really need to learn to wait until the whole series comes out before I start reading.

Despite this being YA, I want to point out that this is definitely older YA. The series touches on rape, and slavery, and occasionally graphic violence. The sex scenes aren’t particularly graphic, but it isn’t just “dot dot dot” and then it continues on with the story either. The sex is fairly healthy and egalitarian, and if you’re going to read about sex this isn’t a bad ideal to hope for. Though “velvet wrapped steel” seems to be a favorite phrase of Maas’.

One thing that I really, really love about this book, which is unique to me so far in all the books I’ve read, is that one of the heroines (and there is more than one heroine in this series) is on a journey by boat. There’s a deadline, there are enemies after them, they are traveling with minimal supplies and maximum speed, and she gets her period. So, of course, she has to get supplies as she isn’t packing anything with her. It’s quite naturally incorporated into the story, but it stopped me dead. Because yeah, it would be problematic to get your period while running for your life with little, but the clothes on your back. And a horrible inconvenience. And could lead to other adventures.

So, Sarah J. Maas, once again having written a book which is truly from a female perspective, not just featuring a female character, wins my love. And she needs to hurry up with the rest of the series. No pressure (PRESSURE).

–Christie Williamson

Three Dark CrownsThree Dark Crowns Kendare Blake HarperTeen September 20, 2016

Kendare Blake
HarperTeen
September 20, 2016

I went to a HarperCollins Canada event that gave us a preview of their new titles out this fall including Three Dark Crowns. I noted the title because the premise was really interesting. It’s a world where a set of royal triples are born and all are equal heirs to the throne. They’re always women who possess “coveted magic” (Elemental, Naturalist, Poisoner, and the rare War Gift). The catch is that there is only one Queen, and to be Queen, one of the triplets has to kill her sisters the year they turn sixteen. It’s a pretty dark book, but it’s my kind of dark and it was a fun read. It’s been awhile since I’ve read something without feeling like I had to have something grand to say about it. Oh, and it’s a world where women are in power, so that was awesome. I’m not sure how many books there will be in the series, but I’m hoping for a duology. It’s a blast if you don’t mind some bloodshed and backstabbing.

–Ardo

Good as GoneGood as Gone Amy Gentry Houghton Mifflin Harcourt July 26 2016

Amy Gentry
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
July 26 2016

Earlier this summer, I started to see multiple rave reviews for this book. It was compared to all the recent best selling thrillers–Girl on the Train, All the Missing Girls, and of course, Gone Girl. I love a good thriller, but I find myself reading so many mediocre ones it can get frustrating. More often then not I find them filled with lacklustre female characters and predictable plots. So when I first started hearing good things about Good as Gone I was pretty excited to pick it up.

Unfortunately, it would not meet my high expectations. It started out strong; in the beginning a young girl, Julie, is kidnapped from her home in the middle of the night. Her younger sister, hiding in the closet, is the only witness. Many years later they’ve all but given up the search, only to have her show up on their doorstep alive. You’re left wondering what happened to her? How did she escape? Who was the man that took her?

But as the story continued I found myself less and less intrigued. Partially because of Anna, Julie’s mother. Half the novel is essentially told from her point of view as she adjusts to having her daughter back. Which, in theory, is a fine idea, but it practice she was just an awful character. She is the novel equivalent of an actor chewing the scenery. She was overly dramatic in scenes where it felt out of place, and cold in scenes which called for emotional outpourings.

Overall, the novel felt rough and a little lazy. The premise was excellent, but the execution left out important details and I found myself with more questions than answers the further I got into it. For example, there was next to no police presence after Julie returned home. Would they not want to continue to try and find the man who took her? It was as if she came back home and they closed the case file and moved on. I can only hope I have better luck with the next thriller I’m recommended.

–Christa