Waiting On Wednesday (June 17)

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Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly book meme hosted by Breaking the Spine, which spotlights upcoming releases that are eagerly anticipated.

This week, I’m waiting on Daughters Unto Devils by Amy Lukavics, which has an expected publication date of September 29, 2015.

When sixteen-year-old Amanda Verner’s family decides to move from their small mountain cabin to the vast prairie, she hopes it is her chance for a fresh start. She can leave behind the memory of the past winter; of her sickly Ma giving birth to a baby sister who cries endlessly; of the terrifying visions she saw as her sanity began to slip, the victim of cabin fever; and most of all, the memories of the boy she has been secretly meeting with as a distraction from her pain. The boy whose baby she now carries.

When the Verners arrive at their new home, a large cabin abandoned by its previous owners, they discover the inside covered in blood. And as the days pass, it is obvious to Amanda that something isn’t right on the prairie. She’s heard stories of lands being tainted by evil, of men losing their minds and killing their families, and there is something strange about the doctor and his son who live in the woods on the edge of the prairie. But with the guilt and shame of her sins weighing on her, Amanda can’t be sure if the true evil lies in the land, or deep within her soul.

This sounds so creepy, but so good! Even if I’ll only be able to read it during the day…

Which books are you waiting on? Leave me a link or a list to your Waiting on Wednesday post below.

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Waiting on Wednesday (May 6)

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Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly book meme hosted by Breaking the Spine, which spotlights upcoming releases that are eagerly anticipated.

This week, I’m waiting on A Night Divided by Jennifer A. Nielsen, which has an expected release date of August 25, 2015.

From New York Times bestselling author Jennifer A. Nielsen comes a stunning thriller about a girl who must escape to freedom after the Berlin Wall divides her family between east and west.

With the rise of the Berlin Wall, twelve-year-old Gerta finds her family divided overnight. She, her mother, and her brother Fritz live on the eastern side, controlled by the Soviets. Her father and middle brother, who had gone west in search of work, cannot return home. Gerta knows it is dangerous to watch the wall, to think forbidden thoughts of freedom, yet she can’t help herself. She sees the East German soldiers with their guns trained on their own citizens; she, her family, her neighbors and friends are prisoners in their own city.

But one day, while on her way to school, Gerta spots her father on a viewing platform on the western side, pantomiming a peculiar dance. Then, when she receives a mysterious drawing, Gerta puts two and two together and concludes that her father wants Gerta and Fritz to tunnel beneath the wall, out of East Berlin. However, if they are caught, the consequences will be deadly. No one can be trusted. Will Gerta and her family find their way to freedom?

I’ve only read one of Jennifer Nielsen’s books (The False Prince), but I really enjoyed it. I love historical fiction, so I’m really excited to see her exploration of the Berlin Wall – I haven’t seen any YA/MG fiction set during that time!

What books are you waiting on? Leave me a link or a list to your Waiting on Wednesday post below.

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Review | The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel

All aboard for an action-packed escapade from the internationally bestselling author of Airborne and the Silverwing trilogy.

The Boundless, the greatest train ever built, is on its maiden voyage across the country, and first-class passenger Will Everett is about to embark on the adventure of his life!

When Will ends up in possession of the key to a train car containing priceless treasures, he becomes the target of sinister figures from his past.

In order to survive, Will must join a traveling circus, enlisting the aid of Mr. Dorian, the ringmaster and leader of the troupe, and Maren, a girl his age who is an expert escape artist. With villains fast on their heels, can Will and Maren reach Will’s father and save The Boundless before someone winds up dead?

3.5 cupcakes

The Boundless was one of my more anticipated middle grade titles for this year. It combined Canadian history (such as the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railroad and Sam Steele) and associated lore (the legend of the last spike) with supernatural/mystical aspects (sasquatches, muskeg hags, and magic) to create a thoroughly enjoyable read.

The Boundless is written in third person present. This tense doesn’t normally work for me, since it’s harder to become emotionally invested in the characters, however it provided a sense of immediacy to this alternate Canadian history which made up for that.

Will Everett is an ordinary boy who wishes to take part in an amazing adventure story of his own. He’s a refreshing change from most heroes, as he isn’t incredibly brave or reckless in survival situations; instead, Will is loyal and determined to a fault, and has a strong sense of what is right, making him incredibly easy to like. It was a bit difficult to reconcile his voice with his supposed age, though; his internal monologues made him seem closer to a pre-teen than an adult. While this allowed The Boundless to fall into the middle grade classification, it was a bit disconcerting at first.

The secondary characters were incredibly colourful, ranging from tightrope walkers to railway workers. My absolute favourite was Mr. Dorian, the circus master, whose actions and motivations placed him firmly on the grey scale of morality. I also appreciated the parallels to another famous literary character of the same name – picking up on these subtle references wasn’t crucial to the plot (as younger readers likely haven’t read Oscar Wilde’s works), but it added a level of intrigue for those who did.

My only complaint is that the villain felt quite one-dimensional, and that the characters didn’t undergo as much growth as I had hoped they would. The villain’s anger and resentment were warranted (though his actions certainly aren’t condoned), however that wasn’t explored too much – and while that makes sense, given the target age range of the story, it would have created a more morally ambiguous character whose motivations were clearly understood.

Overall, The Boundless is a well-paced, magical adventure that is sure to appeal to middle grade audiences. It functions well as a stand alone, however I wouldn’t mind another glimpse into this alternate history that Oppel created.

I received a copy of this book from HarperCollins Canada in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday Showcase (October 25)

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Saturday Showcase is a weekly event hosted here at The In-Between Place which features books that you wish more people had read (or, at least, heard about).

This week’s featured book is The Diviners by Libba Bray.

Evie O’Neill has been exiled from her boring old hometown and shipped off to the bustling streets of New York City—and she is pos-i-tute-ly ecstatic. It’s 1926, and New York is filled with speakeasies, Ziegfeld girls, and rakish pickpockets. The only catch is that she has to live with her uncle Will and his unhealthy obsession with the occult.

Evie worries he’ll discover her darkest secret: a supernatural power that has only brought her trouble so far. But when the police find a murdered girl branded with a cryptic symbol and Will is called to the scene, Evie realizes her gift could help catch a serial killer.

As Evie jumps headlong into a dance with a murderer, other stories unfold in the city that never sleeps. A young man named Memphis is caught between two worlds. A chorus girl named Theta is running from her past. A student named Jericho hides a shocking secret. And unknown to all, something dark and evil has awakened.

The Diviners is beautifully written and atmospheric, and takes place in one of my favourite time periods: the Roaring Twenties. It’s also wonderfully creepy: from serial killers to demonic possessions, it’s the perfect choice for a Halloween read.

What are some of your favourite underrated books? Leave a list in the comments below.
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Waiting On Wednesday (September 17)

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Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly book meme hosted by Breaking the Spine, which spotlights upcoming releases that are eagerly anticipated.

This week, I’m waiting on A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab, which has an expected release date of February 24, 2015.

Kell is one of the last Travelers—magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel universes—as such, he can choose where he lands.

There’s Grey London, dirty and boring, without any magic, ruled by a mad King George. Then there’s Red London, where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire. White London, ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne—a place where people fight to control magic, and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. And once upon a time, there was Black London…but no one speaks of that now.

Officially, Kell is the Red Traveler, personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London, carrying the monthly correspondences between the royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they’ll never see—a dangerous hobby, and one that has set him up for accidental treason. Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs afoul of Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations, who first robs him, then saves him from a dangerous enemy, and then forces him to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure.

But perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, Kell and Lila will first need to stay alive—and that is proving trickier than they hoped.

Victoria Schwab has quickly become one of my authors to watch. Her magical worlds are completely enthralling (as The Archived proved), and her characterization – especially moral ambiguity – is spot on (as shown in Vicious). As a result, I’m incredibly excited to see what A Darker Shade of Magic holds – especially since there’s magic and parallel universes involved.

Which books are you waiting on? Leave me a link or a list to your Waiting on Wednesday post below.

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if you like… HISTORICAL FICTION

If You Like... graphicWelcome to my feature, If You Like…. INSERT THING HERE. In this feature, I’ll be sharing books related to various television shows, movies, other books…. anything and everything!

This week I’m focusing on a genre that I think is not given enough credit- historical fiction. Much of the time it is viewed as more educational and therefore not as entertaining, but I would definitely argue against it! Yes, you do learn a lot about other time periods, societies, and cultures, but it is also intriguing, enthralling, and thought-provoking. Like a time machine bound within pages!

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It wouldn’t be right if I didn’t include a TARDIS gif, now, would it??

If you’re looking to dive deeper into the historical fiction genre, then you’ve come to the right place!

tamar coverTamar by Mal Peet.

Set in WWII, this book is a tangled web of story lines, relationships, and secrets. The perspective switches back and forth between today’s time and WWII, which really helps the reader to see the bigger picture of the war in its context. Mixed with a little bit of mystery, this novel will keep you glued to the pages!

 

the help coverThe Help by Kathryn Stockett.

Set in Mississippi in 1962, this book focuses on themes of racial issues, friendship, and women in society. It’s a heart-wrenching story, but it’s also insightful and even funny. The movie is great as well, so if you don’t have time to read this book at least watch the film adaptation!

 

 

revolution coverRevolution by Jennifer Donnelly.

Set partly in modern-day Brooklyn and partly in revolutionary Paris, this masterpiece of a novel is incredibly fascinating and captivating. There are intertwining story lines, complex characters, and amazing settings that seem to come alive around you as you’re reading. This book is definitely worth a read, especially if you’re a fan of French history!

I hope you enjoy these recommendations! What books would you recommend for people looking to read more historical fiction? What are your thoughts on the books I’ve recommended? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Mini Book Review: Born of Deception by Teri Brown

Budding illusionist Anna Van Housen is on top of the world: after scoring a spot on a prestigious European vaudeville tour, she has moved to London to chase her dream and to join an underground society for people like her with psychic abilities. Along with her handsome beau, Cole Archer, Anna is prepared to take the city by storm.

But when Anna arrives in London, she finds the group in turmoil. Sensitives are disappearing and, without a suspect, the group’s members are turning on one another. Could the kidnapper be someone within the society itself—or has the nefarious Dr. Boyle followed them to London?

As Cole and Anna begin to unravel the case and secrets about the society are revealed, they find themselves at odds, their plans for romance in London having vanished. Her life in danger and her relationship fizzling, can Anna find a way to track down the killer before he makes her his next victim—or will she have to pay the ultimate price for her powers?

Set in Jazz-Age London, this alluring sequel to Born of Illusion comes alive with sparkling romance, deadly intrigue, and daring magic.

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As with Born of Illusion, Teri Brown once again excels at creating an enchantingly atmospheric setting: through her vividly beautiful descriptions, I felt as though I had been transported to historic London alongside Anna. Between black magic, murder, and the Sensitives, the plot was fairly well-paced and kept my interest, even if it was quite easy to predict the outcome.

Unfortunately, the main focus of the story was neither magic nor mystery; instead, the romance between Cole and Anna takes the forefront, and it’s rife with petty conflicts and a love triangle. This not only caused the plot to drag in a few places, but also caused Anna to go from being a strong, competent young lady to a jealous girl who is constantly doubting herself. By the end, I no longer cared about Anna and Cole’s relationship; if more time had been spent developing Cole’s character, as opposed to introducing a new love interest, it likely would have worked out a bit better.

Overall, while the magical aspects of the plot and the atmospheric setting were excellently crafted, the romantic subplot caused Born of Deception to fall flat.

I received a copy of this book from a Goodreads First Reads giveaway.

Waiting on Wednesday (July 16)

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Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly book meme hosted by Breaking the Spine, which spotlights upcoming releases that are eagerly anticipated.

This week, I’m waiting on The Cure for Dreaming by Cat Winters, which has an expected publication date of October 14, 2014.

Olivia Mead is a headstrong, independent girl—a suffragist—in an age that prefers its girls to be docile. It’s 1900 in Oregon, and Olivia’s father, concerned that she’s headed for trouble, convinces a stage mesmerist to try to hypnotize the rebellion out of her. But the hypnotist, an intriguing young man named Henri Reverie, gives her a terrible gift instead: she’s able to see people’s true natures, manifesting as visions of darkness and goodness, while also unable to speak her true thoughts out loud. These supernatural challenges only make Olivia more determined to speak her mind, and so she’s drawn into a dangerous relationship with the hypnotist and his mysterious motives, all while secretly fighting for the rights of women. Winters breathes new life into history once again with an atmospheric, vividly real story, including archival photos and art from the period throughout.

After reading (and adoring!In the Shadow of Blackbirds, I came to the decision that I would happily read anything that Cat Winters writes. I love historical fiction, especially those involving spiritualism, seances and hypnotism, so I’m incredibly excited to give this a read!

Which books are you waiting on? Leave me a link or a list to your Waiting on Wednesday post below. 3

Book Review: In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters

In 1918, the world seems on the verge of apocalypse. Americans roam the streets in gauze masks to ward off the deadly Spanish influenza, and the government ships young men to the front lines of a brutal war, creating an atmosphere of fear and confusion. Sixteen-year-old Mary Shelley Black watches as desperate mourners flock to séances and spirit photographers for comfort, but she herself has never believed in ghosts. During her bleakest moment, however, she’s forced to rethink her entire way of looking at life and death, for her first love—a boy who died in battle—returns in spirit form. But what does he want from her?

Featuring haunting archival early-twentieth-century photographs, this is a tense, romantic story set in a past that is eerily like our own time.

5 cupcakes

“Human beings have always managed to find the greatest strength within themselves during the darkest hours.”

In the Shadow of Blackbirds is a hauntingly atmospheric novel set in the midst of World War I. Between the grief that comes from the loss of a loved one and the injured soldiers who show exactly how high the consequences of war are, Cat Winters is unafraid to show readers exactly how much heartbreak and tragedy the people living during this time were forced to endure.

The Great War wasn’t the only cause of death and horror during this time, however; the Spanish Flu resulted in the largest death toll during the latter half of 1918. It’s evident that Winters meticulously researched this time period: there are coffins lining the street corners, and gauze masks and garlic/onion-flavoured dishes appear to be the only defense against this epidemic. Vivid descriptions allow the Spanish Flu to be ever-present, resulting in heightened paranoia and the feeling that this silent, unseen killer is a character in and of itself.

Our protagonist, Mary Shelley, is one of my new favourite heroines. She’s intelligent, rational, and possesses a scientific mind – which was seen as odd during that time, but served to make me love her even more. Mary Shelley is determined to do what’s right instead of what’s safe, yet is neither radical nor prone to impulsive risks. She’s compassionate and resilient, and I greatly admire her strength and courage during such bleak times.

The paranormal aspects are incredibly well-done, both in terms of the spiritualism craze and the haunting itself. In times of trouble, people often cling to whatever gives them hope — and, during World War I, that just so happened to be spiritualism. While Mary Shelley doesn’t believe in this phenomenon at first, strange and eerie happenings cause her (and the reader) to question just how much of it is real.

Overall, In the Shadow of Blackbirds is an exceptionally haunting and evocative debut. I can’t wait to read what Cat Winters writes next!

Book Review: Born of Illusion by Teri Brown

Anna Van Housen has a secret.

A gifted illusionist, Anna assists her mother, the renowned medium Marguerite Van Housen, in her stage show and séances, easily navigating the underground world of magicians, mediums, and mentalists in 1920’s New York. As the illegitimate daughter of Harry Houdini—or so Marguerite claims—sleight of hand illusions have never been a challenge for Anna. The real trick is keeping her own gifts secret from her opportunistic mother. Because while Marguerite’s own powers may be a sham, Anna possesses a true ability to sense people’s feelings and foretell the future.

But as Anna’s powers intensify, she begins to experience frightening visions of her mother in peril, which leads her to explore the powers she’s tried so long to hide. And when a mysterious young man named Cole moves into the flat downstairs, introducing Anna to a secret society that studies people with gifts like hers, she is forced to confront her past and rethink everything she’s ever known. Is her mother truly in danger, or are Anna’s visions merely illusion? And could the great Houdini really be her father, or is it just another of Marguerite’s tricks?

From Teri Brown comes a world bursting with magic, with romance, and the temptations of Jazz Age New York—and the story of a girl about to become the mistress of her own destiny.

My Rating: 4 cupcakes

I’m a huge fan of books set during the Roaring Twenties, and Born of Illusion is no exception. Between séances, spiritualism, magicians, and prohibition, I absolutely loved the historic New York City atmosphere.

Anna Van Housen is such an easy character to love. Although she hasn’t had the easiest or most traditional life, she’s such a strong, competent young lady, and her passion for magic shines through her every action. She refuses to let her work be devalued because of her gender, and struggles to find her own place in the world.

The relationship between Anna and her mother was beautifully portrayed, despite how frustrating it was at times. While often characterized by jealousy and petty manipulations, Anna’s mother does truly love her – something that Anna discovers slowly over the course of the book, and that served to redeem her mother a bit in my eyes.

The secondary characters, too, become rounded out over the course of the story. As Anna overcomes her initial judgments and reservations, she builds forms close friendships and learns that not everyone is quite how they first appear. Mr. Darby, in particular, surprised me in his transformation from crotchety old man to surprisingly fun neighbour.

There was a touch of romance in Born of Illusion, however it took a backseat role to the magic and mystery in the main plot. The two suitors that vie for Anna’s attention are polar opposites, although it was rather easy to determine which one would be chosen.

My main complaint about Born of Illusion is that the mystery was a bit too predictable. I also would have liked more scenes with magic/séances, as those scenes were incredibly well written and creative, and a few more answers regarding Anna’s magic and Houdini. But I suppose that’s what a sequel is for.

Overall, Born of Illusion was an intriguing mix of paranormal and historical fiction that I thoroughly enjoyed. I can’t wait to read Born of Deception – especially if what I’ve heard about it involving Rasputin is true.