Thursday, September 19, 2019

Serpent and Dove by Shelby Mahurin

Serpent and Dove by Shelby Mahurin
Release Date - September 3, 2019
Publisher Website - Harper Collins Canada
Publisher Social Media - Twitter/Facebook/SavvyReader/Frenzy
Pages -  528 pages
My Rating - 5/5
**received from the publisher for an honest review**

Here is the Goodreads synopsis
Bound as one to love, honor, or burn.

Two years ago, Louise le Blanc fled her coven and took shelter in the city of Cesarine, forsaking all magic and living off whatever she could steal. There, witches like Lou are hunted. They are feared. And they are burned.

Sworn to the Church as a Chasseur, Reid Diggory has lived his life by one principle: thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. His path was never meant to cross with Lou's, but a wicked stunt forces them into an impossible union—holy matrimony.

The war between witches and Church is an ancient one, and Lou's most dangerous enemies bring a fate worse than fire. Unable to ignore her growing feelings, yet powerless to change what she is, a choice must be made.

And love makes fools of us all.
Serpent and Dove has pretty much everything a book lover could want. It has witches, forbidden romance, badass women, terrifying villains, and addictive writing.

The novel feels a little timeless in that it both feels old fashioned and modern at the same time. The church and the Chasseurs who hunt the witches feel historical, as does the expectations put on women (although the way women are treated also felt very timely as well at times) but the language and some details feel very current. It is this blend that makes the rest of the world building feel so authentic. I felt I could easily picture the setting of the story and the characters that inhabit it.

The witches and their magic systems are so well constructed. There are different categories of witches and each has a different relationship to magic. They access it differently and it manifests itself differently. I found myself fascinated by both the differences and similarities that exist. The magic elements are such a strong part of the world building and it makes the characters richer as a result. The witches themselves are portrayed as sexy and a little risque. This is, as expected, painted negatively by the Church so it is interesting to see the juxtaposition of how it is portrayed by each group.

Lou is a tough, determined, strong willed woman who has been through incredibly harrowing things. Her character is everything the Church says women should not be. She's too loud, too bold, too flirtatious, too inappropriate. She is a survivor and I loved her refusal to do what others expected of her. She is also fiercely loyal to those she loves but is not quick to give her trust.

Reid is, in many ways, a lot like Lou. He is stubborn in his beliefs. He is loyal to those he cares about. He carries around a lot of inner issues much like Lou does. He believes in something bigger than himself and that drives a lot of his decisions. His growth and the way in which he changes are some of my favourite parts of the novel.

The romance plays a big part in the story being told. It is forbidden romance at its best. It is electric and filled with its own kind of magic. There are secrets, lies, mistrust, and a pretty big personality clash that creates the tension a story like this needs but it is offset by all of the good that comes from this connection. They bring out things in each other and they are really respectful of each other without sacraficing who they are. It is a slow burn but it makes the moments between them connect just a little stronger with the reader.

I consider this novel to have two 'villains' and both of them are complex and, sort of, exist in a world of grey where nothing is presented in absolutes. The Church and The Chasseurs hunt and kill witches but not all of them are evil. We see that some are just a product of their teachings and believe lies they have been told. The other villain is too spoilery to talk about in full but they are equally layered and everything ties together with some delicious plot twists thrown in to make it evident that no side is good or evil. It all comes down to perception and morality. It made the antagonists more complex and also made for a more satisfying read.

If your looking for a paranormal read to get lost in I highly recommend this one. It will leave you instantly wanting to get your hands on the sequel and eager to read anything this author writes next. It is a page turner in the truest sense as I could not follow Lou on her journey fast enough

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Waiting On Wednesday ... Jack Kerouac Is Dead To Me

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking The Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week's pick is Jack Kerouac Is Dead To Me

Here is the Goodreads synopsis
Fifteen-year-old JL Markham's life used to be filled with carnival nights and hot summer days spent giggling with her forever best friend Aubrey about their families and boys. Together, they were unstoppable. But they aren't the friends they once were.

With JL's father gone on long term business, and her mother suffering from dissociative disorder, JL takes solace in the in the tropical butterflies she raises, and in her new, older boyfriend, Max Gordon. Max may be rough on the outside, but he has the soul of a poet (something Aubrey will never understand). Only, Max is about to graduate, and he's going to hit the road - with or without JL.

JL can't bear being left behind again. But what if devoting herself to Max not only means betraying her parents, but permanently losing the love of her best friend? What becomes of loyalty, when no one is loyal to you?
My friend Kelly is a huge fan of Gae's books so I am lucky enough that this one came to be on my radar because of her fangirling over it when she finished reading it.

The synopsis sounds like it could be an emotional read and something that fans of contemporary young adult novels should have on their own radars.

This doesn't come out until spring next year, but you can find all of Gae's other books out now (and I have been told that they are equally as good).

Expected release date - April 7, 2020

Monday, September 16, 2019

These Divided Shores by Sara Raasch

These Divided Shores by Sara Raasch
Release Date - August 27, 2019
Publisher Website - Harper Collins Canada
Publisher Social Media - Twitter/Facebook/SavvyReader/Frenzy
Pages -  560 pages
My Rating - 4/5
**received from the publisher for an honest review**

Here is the Goodreads synopsis
The thrilling sequel to These Rebel Waves—full of deadly magic, double crosses, and a revolution—from Sara Raasch, the bestselling author of the Snow Like Ashes series.

As a child, she committed unforgivable acts to free Grace Loray from King Elazar of Argrid. Now Elazar’s plan to retake the island has surpassed Lu’s darkest fears: he’s holding her and his son, Ben, captive in an endlessly shifting prison, forcing them to make a weapon that will guarantee Elazar’s success. Escape is impossible—unless Lu becomes the ruthless soldier she hoped never to be again.

Vex failed to save Lu and Ben—and that torments him as much as his Shaking Sickness. With the disease worsening, Vex throws himself into the rebellion against Argrid. The remaining free armies are allied with the stream raider syndicates—and getting them to cooperate will take a strength Vex thought burned on a pyre six years ago.

Imprisoned, betrayed, and heartbroken, Ben is determined to end his father’s rampage. Watching Elazar sway the minds of Grace Loray as he did those of Argrid, Ben knows he has to play his father’s game of devotion to win this war. But how can a heretic prince defeat the Pious God?

As armies clash and magic rises, Lu, Vex, and Ben will confront their pasts . . . or lose their futures forever.
The Stream Raiders series is an enticing blend of action, magic, romance, and politics. The first book hooked me with its compelling characters and impressive world building so I was excited to get my hands on the sequel. Luckily the sequel not only offered more of what I loved but also a fitting, if rushed feeling, end to this series.

The time frame between reading the first and second novel was a long one for me and as a result I felt a little adrift when I first dove back into this series. I highly recommend reading the first book again if you are able prior to starting this one. I did eventually find my footing in the story again and once I did I was completely back into this world. The feeling of disjointedness was not helped by the switching of viewpoints during chapters. There are three main points of view and you would sometimes get all three during one chapter with nothing to differentiate them until you got a sense of the character voices. It made connecting back with the story a little harder at first, but eventually became something I barely noticed.

Those looking for a more pirate centric series may be a touch disappointed. Piracy is a small part of the world that has been created but the plot itself mostly dives into revolution, war, religious zealots, and its characters dealing with their pasts. It is, at times, a much darker read than the first book was. The war that was a possibility in book one is a probability in book two. There is torture and intense action scenes that make for a more heavy read.

The characters were a large part of why I loved the first book so much and that fact continues to be true in this sequel. Raasch manages to infuse so much into her characters and you come to care deeply for them. The romantic entanglements are some of the best I have read as well. The character shifts and arcs are subtle at times but so often richly rewarding. She allows the things that happen to the characters to impact them in meaningful ways. They carry that baggage around with them in a way that feels so authentic.

Lu and Vex are still some of my favourite characters from the ensemble. Lu's journey of making a sort of peace with what was done to her and the role that the people she cares about played in those events is heartbreaking. She struggles so much with the weight of the things she has done and you ache for her. Her wish for peace is something you desperately want for her. Her exhaustion is palpable even as she pushes forward. Vex's battle with his own body and the shaking sickness that plagues him is just as crushing as Lu's story. His anger and frustration steeps into every scene and interaction he has. All of the characters within this story stand out in some way but I found these two tugging at my heart a little bit more fiercely.

The world that has been created still enthralls me. The system of magic and the politics at play are both so nuanced and richly crafted that the reader could become engrossed simply because of them. I appreciated that world continued to be explored in this sequel and that the magic elements continued to evolve. It's a world filled with endless potential for spin off stories and still feels like one we've only just begun to explore.

The pacing of this novel becomes unsteady in the back half of the story. The ending, for me, felt rushed when compared to everything before it. The result is that the book feels a little less cohesive than I recall the first one being. The ending itself is satisfying but the way in which we reach it feels a little dizzying.

A duology that  boasts strong characters, incredible world building, and an imaginative story. Even though a had a few, mostly minor, issues with its ending I still highly recommend this series to anyone who is a fan of fantasy reads.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Weekly Obsessions

The awesome Kelly at KellyVision started posting a weekly post highlighting whatever she happened to be obsessed with that week. I LOVE this idea, so much in fact that I will be doing it myself every Saturday.

Just a small post this week as not much was revealed. American Horror Story: 1984 starts next week which I am very excited about! Looking forward to sharing my recaps once it begins airing.


The Politician posters

I am excited about Ryan Murphy's first show for Netflix. It's a comedy about a man who wants to be President (at least from what I understand). They reently released some posters and I love them!

This show is making all kinds of promises and I am here for it. I love all three of main ones so much. I am excited to see Ben Platt in something new and am always here for Jessica Lange to come show everyone how acting is done. 

What are you obsessed with this week? Let me know in the comments.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Waiting On Wednesday ... In Five Years

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking The Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week's pick is In Five Years by Rebecca Serle

Here is the Goodreads synopsis
Where do you see yourself in five years?

When Type-A Manhattan lawyer Dannie Cohan is asked this question at the most important interview of her career, she has a meticulously crafted answer at the ready. Later, after nailing her interview and accepting her boyfriend’s marriage proposal, Dannie goes to sleep knowing she is right on track to achieve her five-year plan.

But when she wakes up, she’s suddenly in a different apartment, with a different ring on her finger, and beside a very different man. The television news is on in the background, and she can just make out the scrolling date. It’s the same night—December 15—but 2025, five years in the future.

After a very intense, shocking hour, Dannie wakes again, at the brink of midnight, back in 2020. She can’t shake what has happened. It certainly felt much more than merely a dream, but she isn’t the kind of person who believes in visions. That nonsense is only charming coming from free-spirited types, like her lifelong best friend, Bella. Determined to ignore the odd experience, she files it away in the back of her mind.

That is, until four-and-a-half years later, when by chance Dannie meets the very same man from her long-ago vision.

Brimming with joy and heartbreak, In Five Years is an unforgettable love story that reminds us of the power of loyalty, friendship, and the unpredictable nature of destiny.
I loved The Dinner List so much that I was thrilled when it was announced that Rebecca's next book would also be an adult novel. The synopsis seems to point at this book bringing forth just as strong an emotional reaction as The Dinner List did.

I am loving the theme of Rebcca's books - questions that people tend to get asked at parties or on first dates - and how she plays with those questions. I also love that they hold just a little bit of magic in them as well.

Bookmark this one for your bookclubs because I think it is going to be perfect for discussion over a nice glass of wine (or beverage of your choice).

Expected release date - March 3, 2020

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Weekly Obsessions

The awesome Kelly at KellyVision started posting a weekly post highlighting whatever she happened to be obsessed with that week. I LOVE this idea, so much in fact that I will be doing it myself every Saturday.


Just Mercy Trailer

The season of trailers for movies with Oscar potential is still upon us and the trailer for Just Mercy was just recently revealed. I have to say that it looks pretty good.

Michael B Jordan looks great in this and I could see it being something the Academy really latches on to.


New York City Comic Con Exclusive - Stranger Things

Funko has been unveiling their New York City Comic Con exclusives and they have one Stranger Things Funko being offered.

The moment between Suzy and Dustin towards the end of the season is perfection and I am excited to add her to my collection.

What are you obsessed with this week? Let me know in the comments.

Friday, September 6, 2019

Whisper Network by Chandler Baker

Whisper Network by Chandler Baker
Release Date - July 2, 2019
Publisher Website - Raincoast Books
Publisher Social Media - Twitter
Pages -  352 pages
My Rating - 4/5

Here is the Goodreads synopsis
Four women learn their boss (a man who’s always been surrounded by rumors about how he treats women) is next in line to be CEO—what will happen when they decide enough is enough?

Sloane, Ardie, Grace, and Rosalita are four women who have worked at Truviv, Inc., for years. The sudden death of Truviv's CEO means their boss, Ames, will likely take over the entire company. Ames is a complicated man, a man they’ve all known for a long time, a man who’s always been surrounded by...whispers. Whispers that have always been ignored by those in charge. But the world has changed, and the women are watching Ames’s latest promotion differently. This time, they’ve decided enough is enough.

Sloane and her colleagues set in motion a catastrophic shift within every floor and department of the Truviv offices. All four women’s lives—as women, colleagues, mothers, wives, friends, even adversaries—will change dramatically as a result.

"If only you had listened to us,” they tell us on page one, “none of this would have happened." 
Whisper Network is certainly a timely read that is a compulsively readable mix of a murder mystery with the frothy feel of a television drama. It has a familiar pattern of a group of women caught up in a mystery but also boasts plenty to say about feminism and what women experience in the work place.

Chandler Baker's writing is something that stood out to me. The pacing is part of what propels the reader to keep turning the pages. The parts that are supposed to be a bit snarky and funny hit just as hard as the mystery elements do. I am definitely looking forward to seeing what else this particular author writes in the future.

The book gets its title from a list that gets passed from woman to woman. It is a list of men and their bad behaviour towards women. It is a warning device so that women may be aware and used as a means to protect each other. I could instantly recognize the versions of this list that I have experienced in my own life - actual whispers to not be alone with this man, mentions of misdeeds from others. Women use things like this all over the world and I expect a large majority of us has had some form of warning like this while in the work place. This part of the novel, and the examination of the things women experience and put themselves through in the work place was what made the book work for me. The little aggressions about how women are supposed to balance careers and motherhood while still looking good and being sexy is something that will resonate with plenty of readers. It also highlights the ways in which we grapple with guilt or the lack thereof about everything from motherhood to relationships or how we feel about ourselves and others and how we think we should feel.

The books construction from its characters to the mystery at the heart of the book felt very similar to Big Little Lies to me. There are obvious differences but that comparison is there. I do think that the order in which someone reads them may impact their enjoyment. If you were experiencing this without having previously read Big Little Lies I expect your impression of this book would be quite different.

I could easily see this being a limited television series. I kept casting people in my head as I was reading. I kept picturing Richard Madden as Ames (it's probably the grey/white stripe in the hair). One of the characters felt perfect for Reese Whiterspoon to play and I kept picturing another as Nicole Kidman. This could be because of the previously mentioned similarities to Big Little Lies however. It is, however, something that you could easily see one of the streaming services picking up.

While I enjoyed The Whisper Network I did find myself not as invested due to similarities to other books I had read. The elements that set it apart were the most fascinating parts of the story and the writing itself ensured I remained invested. I do recommend it, and think it makes for a great book club pick. I particularly recommend it to those who may not read as much from this genre as I think they'll really enjoy it.

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