Tag Archive | ebook

Review : The Road

The Road by Cormac McCarthy
Pages : 287
Genre : Fiction
Stand Alone
My Rating :

From the back of the book :

A father and his son walk alone through burned America. Nothing moves in the ravaged landscape save the ash on the wind. It is cold enough to crack stones, and when the snow falls it is gray. The sky is dark. Their destination is the coast, although they don’t know what, if anything, awaits them there. They have nothing; just a pistol to defend themselves against the lawless bands that stalk the road, the clothes they are wearing, a cart of scavenged food—and each other.

I have been putting off seeing the movie ever since it came out because I wanted to read the book first, and now that I’ve read it, I don’t know that I actually want to see it. What a depressing story! The Road is a small book, but it packs a punch. I tried to read it in one setting and I couldn’t : even though I was captivated, it was too bleak to read at once. I had to come up for air in between the pages.

It’s impressive how much McCarthy can give the reader in so few words, both so simple and so rich at the same time! The sentences are short, the dialogs minimal, and no detailed story is given as to how, exactly, the world “ended” : yet I felt the story and the characters were very complete. I was too taken by the father and son duo to care much about the political or ecological circumstances that were at the origin or their situation. No matter the reason, it was scary and heartbreaking and horrific and bleak.

The relationship between the father and the son made it worth my while though. I think McCarthy found a right balance between the tender moments and the more difficult ones. The kid was very kid-like, understanding only part of what was happening, and the father’s love was vibrant through the pages. The fact that they remain nameless through the story didn’t bother me, and in fact made their story kind of universal. It wasn’t about race or age or occupation : it really was about their relationship and what they had to go through.

It’s once of these books where it’s hard to put “stars” on it : I gave it 4, but I wouldn’t be surprised if, a few months from now, I moved it up a bit. I know I’ll want to read it again someday, too. One thing is sure, it’s the kind of book you don’t forget.

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Review : The Mermaid’s Mirror

The Mermaid’s Mirror by L. K. Madigan
Pages : 336
Genre : YA, Fantasy
Stand Alone
My Rating :

What it’s about, in my Words :

There are two things Lena has always wanted to learn : the truth about her biologic mother’s death, and to surf. Unfortunately for Lena, her father has always been opposed to both. Then she turns sixteen, and her longing for the sea gets even stronger than before : she dreams of forgotten lullabies and walks to the sea in her sleep. Against her parents’ wish, Lena decides she’ll learn to surf no matter what – therefore changing her life as she knew it.

I wasn’t prepared to love The Mermaid’s Mirror as much as I did : I had tried to read a couple of pages a few weeks ago and couldn’t get into it. Considering my state of mind at the time, I thought it would only be fair to give it a second chance, and I am so glad I did!

A quick way to describe my feel of the book would be to say that The Mermaid’s Mirror was everything I had wished Sea Change to be. While Sea Change left you with a “I don’t know if it’s real or not” question, Madigan fully assumes her magical undersea world and drags you under the waves with a wonderful cast of characters.

One of the strongest point of the book, for me, was the presence of Lena’s family. Contrarily to most YA novels right now, her parents aren’t conveniently absent from her life. Lena, her brother, her father and her step-mother form a strong clan, and from the start you can feel the love they have for each other. They’re not perfect, and like any family, they sometimes fight and disappoint each other, but you can feel that they are motivated by their love. This makes it even more heartbreaking when Lena gets to face the truth about her birth mother and has to make some difficult choices. So while there is a tiny bit of romance, it isn’t at all the focus of the book. Again, that was refreshing!

I read The Mermaid’s Mirror in a single day, even though I had a lot of school-related reading to do. Yet, I couldn’t tear myself from the page. I grew up by the sea (a cold, Canadian one though!) and Madigan’s description really brought me there. I could feel Lena’s longing as if it was my own and I absolutely loved discovering the life under the sea. I also enjoyed how the author mixed the “land world” and the “sea world” : the magic kept its magic instead of becoming something purely logical. It felt a bit like a fairy tale and it was extremely compelling to me!

In the end, The Mermaid’s Mirror was a fantastic way to not do my research (uh…) If you love tales of sea and magic, then I definitely recommend this one! It was a beautiful story of discovery, family, love and loss.

Review : Wildthorn

Wildthorn by Jane Eagland
Pages : 355
Genre : YA, Historical Fiction, GLBT
Stand Alone
My Rating :

What it’s about, in my Words :

As a child in Victorian England, Louisa has always had a mind of her own. Passionate about science, she dreamed of following her father’s footsteps and becoming a doctor. Unfortunately, not everyone around her think science is a place for women…

At first, Louisa thinks it is all a mistake :  she was supposed to make her way to the Woodvilles’ home, but instead she ended up in Wildthorn, an asylum. There people call her by an other name and insist on her fragile state of mind. Soon though, Louisa realizes her forced stay at the asylum might not be a mistake : maybe someone wanted to get rid of her. Trying to escape, Louisa must look through her past to assemble the puzzle that will tell her who, and what, got her there.

I loved that book! Even though I was really lucky to get a free copy via netgalley, I still added it to my wishlist as I would love to add a copy on my real shelves!

From the start, there were so many aspects of this novel that were right up my alley : the Victorian period, the England setting, a strong female character with a mind of her own, the mysterious and horrific asylum… I’ve had a bunch of “good” reading lately, but nothing “great”, and Wildthorn turned out to be exactly what I needed! I was captivated from the first page and I could barely let it go before the end.

I found the pace of Wildthorn to be smooth and quiet, something that really balanced the darkest moments of Louisa’s story. Eagland breaks the monotony of the asylum life by alternating between past and present for the first part of the novel, which gave us some insight on Louisa and the people she cared about. From then, we can make a few hypothesis about why she was put there and by who, although there is more to the story than this single mystery.

I loved Louisa as a whole because she wasn’t one-dimensional : she was more than just a teen, just a lesbian, just a wanna-be-doctor. She was all those things wrapped in intelligence and heart. I felt she was true to her times, too, and it was one of those rare young adult books where I didn’t feel like I was reading a teen novel : instead, I felt like I was reading a historical fiction with a young adult protagonist. Even more, I have to applaud the author for taking us into Louisa’s mind and making us doubt what’s real and what isn’t.

I also loved the portrayals of the characters in Louisa’s life. I don’t want to reveal too much, but I was surprised by some of their actions and decisions, giving their stories a realistic conclusion where not everything goes perfectly.

Wildthorn was everything I could ask for in a YA historical novel. Sure, it wasn’t perfect : the pace was a bit uneven at times and the story slightly predictable, but in the end I loved the book as a whole and the characters enough that I didn’t care about those details.

For more information Wildthorn and its author, visit the website, where you can learn how Eagland got her inspiration from a real – and terrifying – story.

Review : Under the Rose

Under the Rose by Diana Peterfreund
Pages : 368
Genre : YA, fiction
Series : Secret Society Girl, Book 2
My Rating :

From Goodreads :

Now a senior, Amy is looking her future squarely in the eye—until someone starts selling society secrets. When a series of bizarre messages suggests conspiracy within the ranks and a female knight mysteriously disappears, no member of Rose & Grave is safe…or above suspicion.

On her side, Amy has a few loyal Diggirls—her fellow female Rose & Grave knights. Against her? Certainly it’s a group of Rose & Grave’s überpowerful patriarchs who want their old boys’ club back. As new developments in her love life threaten to implode, and the case of the vanished Diggirl gets weirder by the moment, Amy will need to use every society trick she’s ever learned in order to set things right. Even if it means turning to old adversaries for help—or discovering that the real foes are closer than she’d thought….

First things first : this one’s cover really isn’t better than the first book’s cover. I really don’t know what’s up with this series and their covers. I don’t think they represent the story well at all. Thus I send my thanks to the internets, who brought me to people who wrote very convincing reviews about the series!

Anyway, back to the most important : the story. I read more than once that the books are supposed to get better and better, and already, I found book 2 a lot more entertaining! At the same time, it really confirmed my impression that book one was more of an introduction to the series than anything else. Under the Rose had a better pace, an intricate plot and a few twists which really suited the “secret society” vibe of the books.

Under the Rose is really more a mystery than a romance, but there is still some hot action between Amy and, hmm, some male protagonist. I have to say that I really like how the author chose to present Amy’s love life, by not making her a desperately romantic girl. I think she really well represents some of today’s college young women ; not all of them of course, but at least a different type than what we often see now in literature.

I really enjoyed this part of Amy’s adventures and as I finished reading it, I was already curious of reading the next one. Peterfreund’s series is definitely one I would recommend if you’re looking for a YA series that’s more YA than teen.

Series reading order :

  1. Secret Society Girl
  2. Under the Rose
  3. Rites of Spring (Break)
  4. Tap and Gown

Review : The Uncommon Reader

The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett
Pages : 120
Genre : Fiction
Stand alone
My Rating :

From Goodreads :

When her corgis stray into a mobile library parked near Buckingham Palace, the Queen feels duty-bound to borrow a book. Discovering the joy of reading widely and intelligently, she finds that her view of the world changes dramatically. Abetted in her newfound obsession by Norman, a young man from the royal kitchens, the Queen comes to question the prescribed order of the world and loses patience with the routines of her role as monarch. Her new passion for reading initially alarms the palace staff and soon leads to surprising and very funny consequences for the country at large.

The Uncommon Reader was a surprise I hadn’t expected, even though it had been recommended quite often! It was a quick and enjoyable read, which gave me a lot to think about – and a lot of great quotes, too. Watching the queen discover reading, and the little habits that come with it, was such a joy! I kept thinking, “Oh, I do that too!” It’s definitely a book that would be more appreciated by avid readers, I believe, as they will recognize themselves and their love for books.

Some of the negatives I had heard about The Uncommon Reader concerned mostly the plot, the pace and the humor. I will tell you this, the plot is quite simple : The queen discoverd the joy of reading, which opens her view on the world and the people inhabiting it. The End. There really isn’t much more to it : no big twist or animated characters. The book is quiet, subtle, with a sense of humor that’s mostly ironic, but with a certain softness to it. I wouldn’t say the book is slow (it didn’t seem so to me), but if you’re looking for a story that moves in some direction with revelations or action, you might find this story a bit static.

Here are some of the quotes I liked, though there were many more. The pages refer to my ebook version, which was a short 59 pages read.

What she was finding also was how one book led to another, doors kept opening wherever she turned and the days weren’t long enough for the reading she wanted to do. (p. 11)

Not a huge revelation indeed, just something I think all readers can easily relate to! As to this :

“I think of literature”, she wrote, “as a vast country to the far borders of which I am journeying but cannot possibly reach. And I have started too late. I will never catch up.” (p. 23)

There is far more to this little book, but I’ll encourage you to discover it on your own, delicious as it is!

Review : Secret Society Girl

Secret Society Girl by Diana Peterfreund
Pages : 293
Genre : YA, fiction
Series : Secret Society Girl, Book 1
My Rating :

From Goodreads :

Elite Eli University junior Amy Haskel never expected to be tapped into Rose & Grave, the country’s most powerful—and notorious—secret society. She isn’t rich, politically connected, or…well, male.
So when Amy receives the distinctive black-lined invitation with the Rose & Grave seal, she’s blown away. Could they really mean her?

Whisked off into an initiation rite that’s a blend of Harry Potter and Alfred Hitchcock, Amy awakens the next day to a new reality and a whole new set of “friends”—from the gorgeous son of a conservative governor to an Afrocentric lesbian activist whose society name is Thorndike. And that’s when Amy starts to discover the truth about getting what you wish for. Because Rose & Grave is quickly taking her away from her familiar world of classes and keggers, fueling a feud, and undermining a very promising friendship with benefits. And that’s before Amy finds out that her first duty as a member of Rose & Grave is to take on a conspiracy of money and power that could, quite possibly, ruin her whole life.

This is one book I am glad to have read reviews of ; otherwise, I don’t think I would have picked it up (I’ll give you a hint : I don’t like the cover. I don’t hate it, it just doesn’t grab my attention really).

Amy is a great character; first, she’s a junior in college, so a little older than most YA novels’ characters. College is a different setting than high school, yet I was glad that the author described Amy’s experience as a pretty much regular one, without falling into excesses of alcohol and sex. The book really isn’t about college partying, but more about Amy and her girl friends trying to make their place in their new secret society.  Amy is the kind of girl who stands for herself, overthinks everything and likes to make lists. She also studies literature, struggles to get through War and Peace, and has to deal with her various friendships – among which we count Brandon, her friend-with-benefits who would really like to be more than that.

For me there were a few problems though. The interactions between the characters were believable, but I did think there were too many names to keep in mind; especially since all of the characters had real names and society names, which felt a bit too many for me in a novel this length. I enjoyed Peterfreund’s voice, but I did think the story’s pace had a few slow points. It was interesting, but a little forgettable.

I still enjoyed the novel though. Secret Society Girl was a fun novel, and for sure I will be reading the next three in the series.

Series reading order :

  • Secret Society Girl
  • Under the Rose
  • Rites of Spring (Break)
  • Tap and Gown