Author: chantal (page 1 of 9)

Monthly Recommendations: Own Voices


Monthly Recommendations is a Goodreads group hosted by Trina from Between Chapters and Kayla from Kayla Rayne. March’s theme is Own Voices which is an important and prominent topic among readers and reviewers right now. As an extension of the diversity movement, Own Voices refers to a book not only having a diverse main character, but the author being part of the same diverse group – diversity includes ethnicity, race, gender (e.g., transgender), sexuality, disability, chronic somatic or mental illness, religion, socioeconomic status, body type, and many others. With regard to striving for more accuracy of diversity representation, Own Voices has become incredibly relevant. Nina and I have been trying to focus more on reading own voices books. However, our recommendations aren’t as extensive as we would like. We are always looking to learn and grow, to hear from different voices and experience the world from a different point of view, so please please leave any recommendations you have for us in the comments! We would really appreciate it! We really hope you enjoy all of these wonderful books listed below! As always, they are sorted alphabetically and clicking on the title will lead you to our reviews (if we have one). We also included a long list of resources at the bottom of the post, so please check these for further information and recommendations of Own Voices!

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The Likeness by Tana French

The Likeness by Tana FrenchThe Likeness by Tana French
Series: Dublin Murder Squad #2
Published by Viking on July 17th 2008
Genres: Mystery/Thriller
Pages: 466
Goodreads

The haunting follow up to the Edgar Award-winning debut In the Woods.

Tana French astonished critics and readers alike with her mesmerizing debut novel, In the Woods. Now both French and Detective Cassie Maddox return to unravel a case even more sinister and enigmatic than the first. Six months after the events of In the Woods, an urgent telephone call beckons Cassie to a grisly crime scene. The victim looks exactly like Cassie and carries ID identifying herself as Alexandra Madison, an alias Cassie once used. Suddenly, Cassie must discover not only who killed this girl, but, more importantly, who is this girl?

5 Stars

I found out early that you can throw yourself away, missing what you’ve lost.

This settles it. Tana French is now one of my new favourite authors. I read and loved In The Woods and immediately had the desire to pick up the sequel (though I forced myself to wait a little). I devoured The Likeness in a couple of days and I can now officially say that while In the Woods is a very good book, The Likeness is absolutely brilliant and one of favourites of the year so far.

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The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

The Queen of the Tearling by Erika JohansenThe Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
on July 8th 2014
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 448
Goodreads

An untested young princess must claim her throne, learn to become a queen, and combat a malevolent sorceress in an epic battle between light and darkness in this spectacular debut—the first novel in a trilogy.

Young Kelsea Raleigh was raised in hiding after the death of her mother, Queen Elyssa, far from the intrigues of the royal Keep and in the care of two devoted servants who pledged their lives to protect her. Growing up in a cottage deep in the woods, Kelsea knows little of her kingdom's haunted past . . . or that its fate will soon rest in her hands.

Long ago, Kelsea's forefathers sailed away from a decaying world to establish a new land free of modern technology. Three hundred years later, this feudal society has divided into three fearful nations who pay duties to a fourth: the powerful Mortmesne, ruled by the cunning Red Queen. Now, on Kelsea's nineteenth birthday, the tattered remnants of the Queen's Guard—loyal soldiers who protect the throne—have appeared to escort the princess on a perilous journey to the capital to ascend to her rightful place as the new Queen of the Tearling.

Though born of royal blood and in possession of the Tear sapphire, a jewel of immense power and magic, Kelsea has never felt more uncertain of her ability to rule. But the shocking evil she discovers in the heart of her realm will precipitate an act of immense daring, throwing the entire kingdom into turmoil—and unleashing the Red Queen's vengeance. A cabal of enemies with an array of deadly weapons, from crimson-caped assassins to the darkest blood magic, plots to destroy her. But Kelsea is growing in strength and stealth, her steely resolve earning her loyal allies, including the Queen's Guard, led by the enigmatic Lazarus, and the intriguing outlaw known simply as "the Fetch."

Kelsea's quest to save her kingdom and meet her destiny has only just begun. Riddled with mysteries, betrayals, and treacherous battles, Kelsea's journey is a trial by fire that will either forge a legend . . . or destroy her.

3.5 Stars

Carlin often said that history was everything, for it was in man’s nature to make the same mistakes over and over.

The Queen of the Tearling was one of the first books I ever put on my TBR list when I discovered Goodreads. Adult fantasies with young (19-year-old) protagonist? Sounded right up my alley. Then I discovered that Kelsea, our main character, was considered by others to be average-looking / unattractive which was a major selling point for me. But when I started reading reviews and saw that some of my most trusted GR friends gave it one and two stars, I wasn’t so sure whether I wanted to read it anymore. A couple weeks ago however, my curiosity won over and I decided to pick it up. And I’m glad I did!

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A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston

A Thousand Nights by E.K. JohnstonA Thousand Nights Published by Disney Hyperion on October 6th 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Retelling, Young Adult
Pages: 328
Goodreads

Lo-Melkhiin killed three hundred girls before he came to her village, looking for a wife. When she sees the dust cloud on the horizon, she knows he has arrived. She knows he will want the loveliest girl: her sister. She vows she will not let her be next.

And so she is taken in her sister’s place, and she believes death will soon follow. Lo-Melkhiin’s court is a dangerous palace filled with pretty things: intricate statues with wretched eyes, exquisite threads to weave the most beautiful garments. She sees everything as if for the last time. But the first sun rises and sets, and she is not dead. Night after night, Lo-Melkhiin comes to her and listens to the stories she tells, and day after day she is awoken by the sunrise. Exploring the palace, she begins to unlock years of fear that have tormented and silenced a kingdom. Lo-Melkhiin was not always a cruel ruler. Something went wrong.

Far away, in their village, her sister is mourning. Through her pain, she calls upon the desert winds, conjuring a subtle unseen magic, and something besides death stirs the air.

Back at the palace, the words she speaks to Lo-Melkhiin every night are given a strange life of their own. Little things, at first: a dress from home, a vision of her sister. With each tale she spins, her power grows. Soon she dreams of bigger, more terrible magic: power enough to save a king, if she can put an end to the rule of a monster.

4 Stars

Always, it seemed, men would overlook unpleasant things for the sake of those that went well. The statues’ eyes for the melodious sounds of the fountain. The deaths of their daughters for the bounty of their trade.

There was great beauty in this qasr, but there was also great ugliness and fear. I would not be like those men who turned their eyes from one to see the other. I would remember what those things cost.

Amidst the dozens of YA fairy tale retellings, A Thousand Nights stands out. It will immediately be compared to The Wrath and the Dawn, even if the two could not be more different from one another. If you go into this one expecting it to be like TWatD, you will be disappointed. The two books attempt completely different things, though in my opinion both succeed in what they are trying to achieve.

A Thousand Nights has gotten a mixed reception and it only takes a few pages to realize why. The writing style does not have the same easy readability and accessibility that people expect from YA books. It’s quite dense and the whole book is very literary; a fast-paced adventure is not what you will find in these pages. There were times where I struggled with this: I would have to reread paragraphs because my mind drifted elsewhere or had to go back a few pages because I had missed one of the subtle hints. So this book wasn’t always enjoyable, and yet I really liked it.

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All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony DoerrAll The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Published by Scribner on May 6th 2014
Genres: Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction
Pages: 530
Goodreads

From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, the beautiful, stunningly ambitious instant New York Times bestseller about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.

Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where he works as the master of its thousands of locks. When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind and her father builds a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great-uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.

In a mining town in Germany, the orphan Werner grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments, a talent that wins him a place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth, then a special assignment to track the resistance. More and more aware of the human cost of his intelligence, Werner travels through the heart of the war and, finally, into Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure’s converge.

5 Stars

“When I lost my sight, Werner, people said I was brave. When my father left, people said I was brave. But it is not bravery; I have no choice. I wake up and live my life. Don’t you do the same?”

What a gorgeous creature of a book.

I knew I needed to write a review for this book because I want to convince everyone to read it, but at the same time, it was such a struggle. Some books you just can’t describe, putting your finger on what you loved about them is difficult. But I will do my best.

All The Light We Cannot See is, simply put, beautiful. It’s a historical fiction novel set during World War II told from two perspectives. Marie-Laure is a blind French girl who has to flee her home of Paris with her father; the other is Werner, a German orphan who joins the Hitler youth and becomes a Nazi soldier. We also get some other perspectives interspersed throughout, but the focus is on the story of these two children and later on, young adults. It is told in a non-linear fashion and jumps between timelines so that we end up experiencing life before, after and during the war. This book is about the smaller players, the stories that usually go untold, that get forgotten in the turmoil of history.

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Chantal’s Top 10 Favourite Books of 2016

So…that was 2016. What a year. Unfortunately, it was a pretty bad year for the world, socially and politically, and I can only hope that 2017 will be better. That we make it better. From a personal point of view, it was a year full ups and downs. I successfully finished my first year of university, made many new friends, read lots of books, started applying for jobs for the first time in my life. And perhaps most importantly for all you reading this: Nina and I started this blog! It’s been such a rewarding experience and I want to take a moment to thank all of you who follow us, leave comments, or just read our posts from the bottom of my heart. It truly always makes my day when any of this happens.

At the beginning of the year I set my Goodreads reading challenge to 50 books. I ended up meeting that goal in September and so upped it to 65. Once again, I was able to meet it and ended up reading 68 books.  Though I read a lot of good books this year, I also read many that I didn’t enjoy and I’m hoping that 2017 will bring many awesome new ones. So, to round off the year, here are my top ten favourites of 2016. I’m very happy with how diverse this list is in terms of genre; I’ve really expanded my reading horizon this year and that is something I want to continue doing in 2017. I have decided to take on the challenge and do a ranking, but please note that this was extremely difficult and I will probably look back on this list in two days and wish I would have put them in a different order, so take the chronology with a grain of salt. I have added age categories and genres in brackets for those of you who may have not heard of a book and would like a quick overview.

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Monthly Recommendations: Family

monthly-recs
Monthly Recommendations is a Goodreads group hosted by Trina from Between Chapters and Kayla from Kayla Rayne. We were so excited about November’s theme – it’s probably our favourite we’ve done so far – because it’s all about family! Due to our running late, we decided to post these recommendations during the festivities, because this time of the year is, just like this post, all about family. We absolutely adore when books feature family dynamics and relationships, especially when they are realistic and well written, and we often find that this aspect really elevates our enjoyment of a book. Nina and I have lots of books to recommend this time around, so we decided to make little categories to give a better overview. Hopefully, you’ll discover some new amazing books! As always, clicking on the title will lead you to our reviews (if there is one).

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This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab

This Savage Song by Victoria SchwabThis Savage Song by Victoria Schwab
Series: Monsters of Verity, #1
Published by Greenwillow Books on July 5th 2016
Genres: Dystopian, Paranormal, Young Adult
Pages: 464
Goodreads

There’s no such thing as safe in a city at war, a city overrun with monsters. In this dark urban fantasy from author Victoria Schwab, a young woman and a young man must choose whether to become heroes or villains—and friends or enemies—with the future of their home at stake. The first of two books.

Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to a divided city—a city where the violence has begun to breed actual monsters. All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, who lets the monsters roam free and makes the humans pay for his protection. All August wants is to be human, as good-hearted as his own father, to play a bigger role in protecting the innocent—but he’s one of the monsters. One who can steal a soul with a simple strain of music. When the chance arises to keep an eye on Kate, who’s just been kicked out of her sixth boarding school and returned home, August jumps at it. But Kate discovers August’s secret, and after a failed assassination attempt the pair must flee for their lives.

3 Stars

If you know anything about my reading tastes you know I love Victoria Schwab. I have now read five of her books and have loved all of them with the exception of This Savage Song. Considering it was one of my most anticipated releases of 2016, I can clearly say: I am disappointed.

As is usual with Victoria Schwab, the story concept is magnificent. A dystopian world in which monsters are bred by acts of human violence. How great is that? And then we also have the musical element and the promise of no romance. Sounds perfect, doesn’t it? But with this book something happened that I’ve experienced countless times with other authors, but never with Schwab. The book doesn’t deliver on its promise.

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Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi AdichiePurple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Published by Harper Perennial on 2005
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 307
Goodreads

Fifteen-year-old Kambili’s world is circumscribed by the high walls and frangipani trees of her family compound. Her wealthy Catholic father, under whose shadow Kambili lives, while generous and politically active in the community, is repressive and fanatically religious at home.

When Nigeria begins to fall apart under a military coup, Kambili’s father sends her and her brother away to stay with their aunt, a University professor, whose house is noisy and full of laughter. There, Kambili and her brother discover a life and love beyond the confines of their father’s authority. The visit will lift the silence from their world and, in time, give rise to devotion and defiance that reveal themselves in profound and unexpected ways. This is a book about the promise of freedom; about the blurred lines between childhood and adulthood; between love and hatred, between the old gods and the new.

5 Stars

She seemed so happy, so at peace, and I wondered how anybody around me could feel that way when liquid fire was raging inside me, when fear was mingling with hope and clutching itself around my ankles.

 Purple Hibiscus is the first book by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie that I’ve read, but I can guarantee it won’t be my last. I loved this book so much and felt deeply connected to the characters and story. It was such an insightful and thought-provoking read, I couldn’t put it down and was utterly absorbed in these characters’ lives.

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The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury

The Forbidden Wish by Jessica KhouryThe Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury
Series: The Forbidden Wish #1
Published by Razorbill on February 23rd 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Retelling, Young Adult
Goodreads

She is the most powerful Jinni of all. He is a boy from the streets. Their love will shake the world...

When Aladdin discovers Zahra's jinni lamp, Zahra is thrust back into a world she hasn't seen in hundreds of years—a world where magic is forbidden and Zahra's very existence is illegal. She must disguise herself to stay alive, using ancient shape-shifting magic, until her new master has selected his three wishes.

But when the King of the Jinn offers Zahra a chance to be free of her lamp forever, she seizes the opportunity—only to discover she is falling in love with Aladdin. When saving herself means betraying him, Zahra must decide once and for all: is winning her freedom worth losing her heart?

As time unravels and her enemies close in, Zahra finds herself suspended between danger and desire in this dazzling retelling of Aladdin from acclaimed author Jessica Khoury

3 Stars

The Forbidden Wish is a cute, romantic Aladdin retelling wherein the Jinni is a girl and she and her lamp-holder fall in love. It was entertaining and well-written but didn’t strike me as particularly intriguing or overly exciting. Still, I generally enjoyed the fresh take on an old story even if I was left a bit underwhelmed after all the raving reviews.

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