November 2017 Wrap UP

 

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

 ★★★★

Just after midnight, the famous Orient Express is stopped in its tracks by a snowdrift. By morning, the millionaire Samuel Ratchett lies dead in his compartment, stabbed a dozen times, his door locked from the inside. One of his fellow passengers must be the murderer.

Isolated by the storm and with a killer in their midst, detective Hercule Poirot must find the killer amongst a dozen of the dead man’s enemies, before the murderer decides to strike again…

 

Neu Opus by Kimberly Chakona

My review

Neu Opus offers a compelling look at societal issues facing women of colour.

The poems within focus on fostering self-love and acceptance by acknowledging your flaws, reclaiming your identity, and empowering yourself and others to live confidently. The reader is encouraged to face their painful histories and challenge negative stereotypes and the status quo by being true to themselves and drawing attention to their innate sempiternal sovereignty.

Neu Opus contains unique artwork created by female artists, inspired by these poems on race, spirituality, and kinship.

You are not in the struggle alone. You are your own heroine.
You are evolving into something great. Even the butterfly was once a caterpillar.
The same wind that uproots towering trees is the gentle breeze that will help you soar.
Still, black will be,
black was,
and black is
divine.

Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao

 My review   ★★★

An East Asian fantasy reimagining of The Evil Queen legend about one peasant girl’s quest to become Empress–and the darkness she must unleash to achieve her destiny.

Eighteen-year-old Xifeng is beautiful. The stars say she is destined for greatness, that she is meant to be Empress of Feng Lu. But only if she embraces the darkness within her. Growing up as a peasant in a forgotten village on the edge of the map, Xifeng longs to fulfill the destiny promised to her by her cruel aunt, the witch Guma, who has read the cards and seen glimmers of Xifeng’s majestic future. But is the price of the throne too high?

Because in order to achieve greatness, she must spurn the young man who loves her and exploit the callous magic that runs through her veins–sorcery fueled by eating the hearts of the recently killed. For the god who has sent her on this journey will not be satisfied until his power is absolute.

Gregory and the Grimbockle by Melanie Schubert

 My review

Ten-year-old Gregory is about to find out that the enormous mole stuck straight beneath his nose is not just a mole, but is actually a humpy crumpy portal of skin that hides a creature called the Grimbockle.

What’s more? The Grimbockle is just one of the many strange little creatures called Bockles tending to the mysterious threads that connect all humans from one to the other. It is a very important job and one that has long been carried out with incredible secrecy…

…that is, before tonight.

Wonder by R. J Palacio

(reread) My review ★★★★

I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.

August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school—until now. He’s about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, and if you’ve ever been the new kid then you know how hard that can be. The thing is Auggie’s just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he’s just like them, despite appearances?

R. J. Palacio has written a spare, warm, uplifting story that will have readers laughing one minute and wiping away tears the next. With wonderfully realistic family interactions (flawed, but loving), lively school scenes, and short chapters, Wonder is accessible to readers of all levels.

City of Bones by Cassandras Clare

 (reread) My review ★★★★1/2

When Clary Fray heads out to the Pandemonium Club in New York City, she hardly expects to witness a murder. Much less a murder commited by three teenagers covered with odd markings. This is Clary’s first meeting with the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the earth of demons–and keeping the odd werewolves and vampires in line. It’s also her first meeting with gorgeous, golden-haired Jace. Within twenty-four hours Clary is pulled into Jace’s world with a vengeance, when her mother disappears and Clary herself is attacked by a demon. But why would demons be interested in an ordinary mundane like Clary? And how did she suddenly get the Sight? The Shadowhunters would like to know….

City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare

 ★★★★

Clary Fray just wishes that her life would go back to normal. But what’s normal when you’re a demon-slaying Shadowhunter, your mother is in a magically induced coma, and you can suddenly see Downworlders like werewolves, vampires, and faeries? If Clary left the world of the Shadowhunters behind, it would mean more time with her best friend, Simon, who’s becoming more than a friend. But the Shadowhunting world isn’t ready to let her go — especially her handsome, infuriating, newfound brother, Jace. And Clary’s only chance to help her mother is to track down rogue Shadowhunter Valentine, who is probably insane, certainly evil — and also her father.

To complicate matters, someone in New York City is murdering Downworlder children. Is Valentine behind the killings — and if he is, what is he trying to do? When the second of the Mortal Instruments, the Soul-Sword, is stolen, the terrifying Inquisitor arrives to investigate and zooms right in on Jace. How can Clary stop Valentine if Jace is willing to betray everything he believes in to help their father?

In this breathtaking sequel to City of Bones, Cassandra Clare lures her readers back into the dark grip of New York City’s Downworld, where love is never safe and power becomes the deadliest temptation.

The Friday 56 (3)

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Wonder by R. J Palacio review

Wonder by R. J Palacio
Published by Knopf on February 14, 2012
Genres: middle grade, contemporary, realistic fiction
Pages: 316
Goodreads

I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.

August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school—until now. He’s about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, and if you’ve ever been the new kid then you know how hard that can be. The thing is Auggie’s just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he’s just like them, despite appearances?

R. J. Palacio has written a spare, warm, uplifting story that will have readers laughing one minute and wiping away tears the next. With wonderfully realistic family interactions (flawed, but loving), lively school scenes, and short chapters, Wonder is accessible to readers of all levels.

REVIEW

I’ve read Wonder twice now and the second time around I appreciated the story even more. The takeaway from the novel is timeless––choose kind, this is a book many people will applaud, children and adults alike.

The writing style and way the story is laid out makes Wonder a highly accessible novel, R. J Palacio tells the story in a simple yet impactful manner that people will appreciate.

One of the reasons Wonder stood out to me was it’s real and relatable characters. Auggie’s character is one that will stay with you long after finishing the book, and I really admired his growth throughout the novel. I also loved the multiple POV’s, as we better understand the other characters. We see why they act in a certain way and how they’re not horrible people after all but they each have their own struggles that they’re dealing with.

The plot is interesting and we watch Auggie face real life issues that relate to middle graders. We follow Auggie as the new kid and how he eventually finds his place in the school. This wasn’t a five-star book for me as I felt that I couldn’t fully relate to the middle-grade setting, but I’m sure that if I read this book as a child I would’ve loved it even more!

Overall, Wonder was a heartwarming story with an important message that I believe everyone should read!

 

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare review

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
Published by Simon and Schuster in 2007
Genres: young adult, fantasy, paranormal, romance
Pages: 485
Goodreads

When Clary Fray heads out to the Pandemonium Club in New York City, she hardly expects to witness a murder. Much less a murder commited by three teenagers covered with odd markings. This is Clary’s first meeting with the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the earth of demons–and keeping the odd werewolves and vampires in line. It’s also her first meeting with gorgeous, golden-haired Jace. Within twenty-four hours Clary is pulled into Jace’s world with a vengeance, when her mother disappears and Clary herself is attacked by a demon. But why would demons be interested in an ordinary mundane like Clary? And how did she suddenly get the Sight? The Shadowhunters would like to know….

REVIEW

I’m finally going to finish The Mortal Instruments, so I reread City of Bones not remembering anything that happened and I freaking LOVED it! It was so much better than the first time around, but maybe that’s because it took me 2 months to read the first time and this time I read it in 1.5 days.

Being back in the Shadowhunters world felt like coming home, I honestly forgot how funny this book was, I loved Jace and his sarcastic remarks and all the banter between the characters. I adored all the characters; Clary, Jace, Simon, Alec, Isabelle, Magnus, Luke––they were all amazing. The dynamic between the characters was entertaining to read, it was simply an enjoyable time. The romance between Jace and Clary was so adorable, and all the different love interests amongst the characters made it amusing, to say the least.

The writing was incredibly easy to breeze through and combined with the plot it pulled the story along well. It had me entranced and I couldn’t put the book down! I thoroughly enjoyed the majority of the book, the only part I disliked was the ending as it was extremely awkward and the characters were acting very strange, but it definitely made me want to pick up the next book!

Overall, I adored this book mainly because of the characters and the hilarious scenes. It’s a breezy book to get through and a great start to a series!

The Friday 56 (3)

 

Mailbox Monday

Mailbox Monday is a meme created by Marcia of To Be Continued, you can find the dedicated blog here.

Physical Books

The haters by Jesse Andrews

From Jesse Andrews, author of the New York Times bestselling Me and Earl and the Dying Girl and screenwriter of the Sundance award–winning motion picture of the same name, comes a groundbreaking young adult novel about music, love, friendship, and freedom as three young musicians follow a quest to escape the law long enough to play the amazing show they hope (but also doubt) they have in them.

Inspired by the years he spent playing bass in a band himself, The Haters is Jesse Andrews’s road trip adventure about a trio of jazz-camp escapees who, against every realistic expectation, become a band.

For Wes and his best friend, Corey, jazz camp turns out to be lame. It’s pretty much all dudes talking in Jazz Voice. But then they jam with Ash, a charismatic girl with an unusual sound, and the three just click. It’s three and a half hours of pure musical magic, and Ash makes a decision: They need to hit the road. Because the road, not summer camp, is where bands get good. Before Wes and Corey know it, they’re in Ash’s SUV heading south, and The Haters Summer of Hate Tour has begun.

In his second novel, Andrews again brings his brilliant and distinctive voice to YA, in the perfect book for music lovers, fans of The Commitments and High Fidelity, or anyone who has ever loved—and hated—a song or a band. This witty, funny coming-of-age novel is contemporary fiction at its best.

Tales From the Shadowhunter Academy by Cassandra Clare

Simon Lewis has been a human and a vampire, and now he is becoming a Shadowhunter. But the events of City of Heavenly Fireleft him stripped of his memories, and Simon isn’t sure who he is anymore. He knows he was friends with Clary, and that he convinced the total goddess Isabelle Lightwood to go out with him…but he doesn’t know how. And when Clary and Isabelle look at him, expecting him to be a man he doesn’t remember…Simon can’t take it.

So when the Shadowhunter Academy reopens, Simon throws himself into this new world of demon-hunting, determined to find himself again. His new self. Whomever this new Simon might be.

But the Academy is a Shadowhunter institution, which means it has some problems. Like the fact that non-Shadowhunter students have to live in the basement. And that differences—like being a former vampire—are greatly looked down upon. At least Simon is trained in weaponry—even if it’s only from hours of playing D&D.

Join Simon on his journey to become a Shadowhunter, and learn about the Academy’s illustrious history along the way, through guest lecturers such as Jace Herondale, Tessa Gray, and Magnus Bane. These ten short stories give an epilogue to the Mortal Instruments series and provide glimpses of what’s in store in the Dark Artifices.

Emma by Jane Austen

Beautiful, clever, rich – and single – Emma Woodhouse is perfectly content with her life and sees

no need for either love or marriage. Nothing, however, delights her more than interfering in the romantic lives of others. But when she ignores the warnings of her good friend Mr Knightley and attempts to arrange a suitable match for her protegee Harriet Smith, her carefully laid plans soon unravel and have consequences that she never expected. With its imperfect but charming heroine and its witty and subtle exploration of relationships, Emma is often seen as Jane Austen’s most flawless work.

 

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

Emily Brontë’s only novel, Wuthering Heights remains one of literature’s most disturbing explorations into the dark side of romantic passion. Heathcliff and Cathy believe they’re destined to love each other forever, but when cruelty and snobbery separate them, their untamed emotions literally consume them.

Set amid the wild and stormy Yorkshire moors, Wuthering Heights, an unpolished and devastating epic of childhood playmates who grow into soul mates, is widely regarded as the most original tale of thwarted desire and heartbreak in the English language.

 

The Friday 56 (3)

 

JORD Watches Holiday Sale!

The holidays are quickly approaching and that means gift giving! I know in the past I’ve had lots of difficulties trying to find the perfect present for my loved ones, but this year I discovered Jord Watches.

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In this day and age where technology is so prevalent, I feel like having a classic watch is something special. Jord Watches are even more special because you can personalise them by adding an engraving and choosing your exact watch band measurements to perfectly fit your wrist (they also include extra pieces if you want to lengthen the band)! What I also love about Jord is that all their watches are vegan since they’re made out of wood, which I think is super unique. They have a wide range of watches with different face sizes which I appreciate, as I have a small wrist and most watch faces look far too big, but the watch I chose was perfect! Everything about Jord watches feels high quality, from their packaging to their beautiful wooden box with a magnetic lid to the stunning watches themselves. I chose the Cassia Walnut and Vintage Rose, the gorgeous rose gold colour on the face and hints of it in the band make this watch look unbelievable! Since wearing my new watch I have received so many compliments from friends and family ❤

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JORD watches have an expansive range to suit everyone’s style, from men’s to women’s and lots of design and colour options, so they are the perfect holiday gift! Right now they’re having a HUGE Black Friday Sale on their website, where you can get up to $100 off! Click this link to enter the sale: BLACK FRIDAY SALE

Instant coupon link for 25% off

Shop men’s watches | shop women’s watches | shop my watch

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<a id=”woodwatches_com_widget_article”  ishidden=”1″  title=”Wooden Wrist Watch”>Wooden Wrist Watch</a>

 

Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao

Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao
Published by Penguin on October 10 2017
Genres: young adult, fantasy, retelling
Pages: 363
Goodreads

An East Asian fantasy reimagining of The Evil Queen legend about one peasant girl’s quest to become Empress–and the darkness she must unleash to achieve her destiny.

Eighteen-year-old Xifeng is beautiful. The stars say she is destined for greatness, that she is meant to be Empress of Feng Lu. But only if she embraces the darkness within her. Growing up as a peasant in a forgotten village on the edge of the map, Xifeng longs to fulfill the destiny promised to her by her cruel aunt, the witch Guma, who has read the cards and seen glimmers of Xifeng’s majestic future. But is the price of the throne too high?

Because in order to achieve greatness, she must spurn the young man who loves her and exploit the callous magic that runs through her veins–sorcery fueled by eating the hearts of the recently killed. For the god who has sent her on this journey will not be satisfied until his power is absolute.

I was kindly sent an e-arc of this book in exchange for an honest review

REVIEW

I feel quite conflicted about Forest of a Thousand Lanterns, it is such a unique and imaginative story. However, I found it difficult as it is an anti-hero novel and we follow the protagonist and her transcendence into pure evil.

I appreciated the lush ancient Chinese setting which I haven’t come across often, especially in YA. I found myself to be immersed in the culture and magic, we get to experience life in a small country town as well as the royal palace creating a fine contrast within the story.

As Forest of a Thousand Lanterns is an anti-hero story I felt conflicted toward the protagonist, Xifeng. She wasn’t purely evil to begin with, she had quite a harsh upbringing because of her aunt, Guma, but she did have noticeable flaws such as jealousy, selfishness and hostility. I never hated Xifeng, I could understand where she was coming from, even though I didn’t fully agree with her every action and motive. But she did have some qualities I admired, she was incredibly calculating, persistent and she was quick to seize any opportunity. She was an independent strong woman which I loved and always look for in female protagonists. As she was the main character I found myself to be rooting for her, I was excited to see her succeed and to become what she dreamed of: Empress of Feng Lu. But at the same time I couldn’t connect to Xifeng at all, she had a deep coldness within, an almost inhuman quality that I couldn’t shake. I felt like we didn’t get to delve into the others characters enough for me to truly care about any of them, there was Wei, Xifeng’s beloved, but I wasn’t pushing for their relationship. Although I must say I did enjoy hating Lady-Sun, she had absolutely no remorse, and even though Xifeng’s motives were similar to Lady-Sun’s, I hated her for getting in the way of Xifeng’s success.

I always find anti-hero novels with a set ending strange in a way, the story in-between the beginning and the ending has to worthwhile enough so it still makes it interesting. But that’s my issue with Forest of a Thousand Lanterns, I knew the ending and loosely knew how Xifeng was going to end up there, but I didn’t feel like the story was exciting enough. There definitely were some impressive moments,  I could sense this build up in the atmosphere, and I was anticipating a great finale, but it fell quite flat for me. I was expecting more from it, I’m not sure what it was but it was missing that powerful essence that some books just have. So while it was enjoyable, I was waiting for the moment that was going to blow me away and it never came. However, I appreciated Dao’s exploration of evil, how someone becomes that wicked character and it really alters your perspective of evilness being pure black or white. Some people aren’t born “bad”, it’s their upbringing combined with their deep desires that can cause them to go overboard, and once the line is crossed, the person can be completely changed.

Overall, Forest of a Thousand Lanterns is a solid debut novel, I really appreciate the unique take on the anti-hero perspective and the ancient Chinese setting. I just have conflicting feelings toward Xifeng and I was craving more from the story.

★★★

The Friday 56 (3)

 

Gregory and the Grimbockle by Melanie Schubert review

Gregory and the Grimbockle by Melanie Schubert
Published by New Wrinkle Publishing on November 9, 2017
Genres: childrens, middle grade
Pages: 183
Goodreads 

Ten-year-old Gregory is about to find out that the enormous mole stuck straight beneath his nose is not just a mole, but is actually a humpy crumpy portal of skin that hides a creature called the Grimbockle.

What’s more? The Grimbockle is just one of the many strange little creatures called Bockles tending to the mysterious threads that connect all humans from one to the other. It is a very important job and one that has long been carried out with incredible secrecy…

…that is, before tonight.

This review is sponsored, all thoughts and opinions remain my own

REVIEW

Gregory and the Grimbockle is a fast-paced, quirky and heartwarming read. I was pulled in to the story from the get-go, and I thoroughly enjoyed the ride!

Gregory and the little Grimbockle made an amazing team, I loved the Grimblockle’s peculiarities and how through their adventures they used paint buckets to grow or shrink and had a gadget to speed up or slow down time. The illustrations and soundtrack were great additions to the book, creating a more immersive experience. This story really reminded me of the types books I used to read as a child, I know I would’ve especially loved this book!

The message behind this novel is wonderful, how we need to remember to keep our connections with others alive, to ensure we all remain joyful. I enjoyed seeing the Grimbockle teach Gregory about saving weak exoodles and the ways in which we can strengthen them. This book also shows us that people who may be mean or constantly angry aren’t necessarily horrible people, they just need help reviving their connections with others. The ending was heartwarming, seeing Gregory continuing to fix exoodles wherever he went, creating bonds between everyone, even old Ethel!

Overall, Gregory and the Grimbockle was a wild adventure, but most importantly we are left with a message that many of us need to be reminded of. This book will open hearts and will urge readers to always remain kind towards others because no one wants to have weak exoodles!

The Friday 56 (3)

Mailbox Monday

Mailbox Monday is a meme created by Marcia of To Be Continued, you can find the dedicated blog here.

eBooks Sent From Publishers and Authors

Neu Opus by Kimberly Chakona

Neu Opus offers a compelling look at societal issues facing women of colour.

The poems within focus on fostering self-love and acceptance by acknowledging your flaws, reclaiming your identity, and empowering yourself and others to live confidently. The reader is encouraged to face their painful histories and challenge negative stereotypes and the status quo by being true to themselves and drawing attention to their innate sempiternal sovereignty.

Neu Opus contains unique artwork created by female artists, inspired by these poems on race, spirituality, and kinship.

You are not in the struggle alone. You are your own heroine.
You are evolving into something great. Even the butterfly was once a caterpillar.
The same wind that uproots towering trees is the gentle breeze that will help you soar.
Still, black will be,
black was,
and black is
divine.

Gregory and the Grimbockle by Melanie Schubert

Ten-year-old Gregory is about to find out that the enormous mole stuck straight beneath his nose is not just a mole, but is actually a humpy crumpy portal of skin that hides a creature called the Grimbockle.

What’s more? The Grimbockle is just one of the many strange little creatures called Bockles tending to the mysterious threads that connect all humans from one to the other. It is a very important job and one that has long been carried out with incredible secrecy…

…that is, before tonight.

Physical Books

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

DAY ONE

The Georgia Flu explodes over the surface of the earth like a neutron bomb.

News reports put the mortality rate at over 99%.

WEEK TWO

Civilization has crumbled.

YEAR TWENTY

A band of actors and musicians called the Travelling Symphony move through their territories performing concerts and Shakespeare to the settlements that have grown up there. Twenty years after the pandemic, life feels relatively safe.

But now a new danger looms, and he threatens the hopeful world every survivor has tried to rebuild.

STATION ELEVEN

Moving backwards and forwards in time, from the glittering years just before the collapse to the strange and altered world that exists twenty years after, Station Eleven charts the unexpected twists of fate that connect six people: famous actor Arthur Leander; Jeevan – warned about the flu just in time; Arthur’s first wife Miranda; Arthur’s oldest friend Clark; Kirsten, a young actress with the Travelling Symphony; and the mysterious and self-proclaimed ‘prophet’.

Thrilling, unique and deeply moving, this is a beautiful novel that asks questions about art and fame and about the relationships that sustain us through anything – even the end of the world.

The Things Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

The stories in this collection from Orange-Prize winner Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie straddle the cultures of Nigeria and the West. Her characters battle with the responsibilities of modern life, a world in which identity is too often compromised.

 

 

 

 

 

A Man Called Ove by Fredrick Backman

A grumpy yet loveable man finds his solitary world turned on its head when a boisterous young family moves in next door.

Meet Ove. He’s a curmudgeon, the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him the bitter neighbor from hell, but must Ove be bitter just because he doesn’t walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time?

Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove’s mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents’ association to their very foundations.

Behind Closed Doors by B. A Paris

Everyone knows a couple like Jack and Grace.

He has looks and wealth, she has charm and elegance. You might not want to like them, but you do. Though, you’d like to get to know Grace better.

But it’s difficult, because you realise Jack and Grace are never apart.

Some might call this true love. Others might ask why Grace never answers the phone. Or how she can never meet for coffee, even though she doesn’t work. How she can cook such elaborate meals but remain so slim. And why there are bars on one of the bedroom windows.

Sometimes, the perfect marriage is the perfect lie.

The Other Side of the World Stephanie Bishop

Cambridge 1963. Charlotte struggles to reconnect with the woman she was before children, and to find the time and energy to paint. Her husband, Henry, cannot face the thought of another English winter. A brochure slipped through the letterbox gives him the answer: ‘Australia brings out the best in you’.

Charlotte is too worn out to resist, and before she knows it is travelling to the other side of the world. But on their arrival in Perth, the southern sun shines a harsh light on both Henry and Charlotte and slowly reveals that their new life is not the answer either was hoping for. Charlotte is left wondering if there is anywhere she belongs, and how far she’ll go to find her way home…

The Other Me Saskia Sarginson

Eliza Bennett has the life she’s always dreamed of.
She’s who she wants to be, and she’s with the man she loves.

But Eliza is living a lie. Her real name is Klaudia Meyer.
And Klaudia is on the run. She’s escaping her old life, and a terrible secret buried at the heart of her family.

This is the story of Eliza and Klaudia – one girl, two lives and a lie they cannot hide from.

Psychological and suspenseful: the gripping story of one girl living a double life.

A Place Called Home Carole Matthews

In the dead of night, Ayesha takes her daughter, Sabina, and slips quietly from her home, leaving behind a life of full of pain. Boarding a coach to London, all Ayesha wants is a fresh start.

Hayden, a former popstar, has kept himself hidden away for years. He’s only opened up his home to two people – Crystal, a professional dancer with a heart of gold, and Joy, an ill-tempered retiree with a soft spot for waifs and strays.

When Crystal asks Hayden if Ayesha and Sabina can stay with them, he reluctantly agrees and, as different as they may be, they quickly form an unlikely bond. So when enemies threaten their peaceful home, they will do all they can to save it and each other.

The Expats by Chris Pavone

Kate Moore is a working mother, struggling to make ends meet, to raise children, to keep a spark in her marriage . . . and to maintain an increasingly unbearable life-defining secret. So when her husband is offered a lucrative job in Luxembourg, she jumps at the chance to leave behind her double-life, to start anew.
She begins to reinvent herself as an expat, finding her way in a language she doesn’t speak, doing the housewifely things she’s never before done–playdates and coffee mornings, daily cooking and never-ending laundry. Meanwhile, her husband works incessantly, at a job Kate has never understood, for a banking client she’s not allowed to know. He’s becoming distant and evasive; she’s getting lonely and bored.
Then another American couple arrives. Kate soon becomes suspicious that these people are not who they say they are, and she’s terrified that her own past is catching up to her. So Kate begins to dig, to peel back the layers of deception that surround her. She discovers fake offices and shell corporations and a hidden gun, a mysterious farmhouse and numbered accounts with bewildering sums of money, and finally unravels the mind-boggling long-play con that threatens her family, her marriage, and her life.

China Dolls by Lisa See

An exciting new novel set in the “Chop Suey Circuit” of San Francisco right before World War II, from the beloved bestselling author of Snowflower and the Secret Fan and Shanghai Girls.

In 1938, Ruby, Helen and Grace, three girls from very different backgrounds, find themselves competing at the same audition for showgirl roles at San Francisco’s exclusive “Oriental” nightclub, the Forbidden City. Grace, an American-born Chinese girl has fled the Midwest and an abusive father. Helen is from a Chinese family who have deep roots in San Francisco’s Chinatown. And, as both her friends know, Ruby is Japanese passing as Chinese. At times their differences are pronounced, but the girls grow to depend on one another in order to fulfill their individual dreams. Then, everything changes in a heartbeat with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Suddenly the government is sending innocent Japanese to internment camps under suspicion, and Ruby is one of them. But which of her friends betrayed her?

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

It is 1922, and London is tense. Ex-servicemen are disillusioned; the out-of-work and the hungry are demanding change. And in South London, in a genteel Camberwell villa—a large, silent house now bereft of brothers, husband, and even servants—life is about to be transformed, as impoverished widow Mrs. Wray and her spinster daughter, Frances, are obliged to take in lodgers.

With the arrival of Lilian and Leonard Barber, a modern young couple of the “clerk class,” the routines of the house will be shaken up in unexpected ways. Little do the Wrays know just how profoundly their new tenants will alter the course of Frances’s life—or, as passions mount and frustration gathers, how far-reaching, and how devastating, the disturbances will be.

Ruins by Rajith Savanadasa

In the pent-up heat of Colombo, piece by piece, a family comes apart.

A stunning debut novel from a fresh voice in Australian fiction, for fans of Zadie Smith and Rohinton Mistry.

‘RUINS is a stirring and skilfully crafted debut, and Savanadasa’s characters are so vividly drawn they feel like family. With his sharp and masterful observations of race, class and gender in the “new” Sri Lanka, Savanadasa takes his seat beside Omar Musa, Alice Pung and Michael Mohammed Ahmad to usher in the brave and stunning new dawn of diverse Australian fiction.’
Maxine Beneba Clarke, award-winning author of FOREIGN SOIL

A country picking up the pieces, a family among the ruins.

In the restless streets, crowded waiting rooms and glittering nightclubs of Colombo, five family members find their bonds stretched to breaking point in the aftermath of the Sri Lankan civil war.

Latha wants a home. Anoushka wants an iPod.
Mano hopes to win his wife back.
Lakshmi dreams of rescuing a lost boy.
And Niranjan needs big money so he can leave them all behind.

Swing Time by Zadie Smith

Two brown girls dream of being dancers–but only one, Tracey, has talent. The other has ideas: about rhythm and time, about black bodies and black music, about what constitutes a tribe, or makes a person truly free. It’s a close but complicated childhood friendship that ends abruptly in their early twenties, never to be revisited, but never quite forgotten, either.

Dazzlingly energetic and deeply human, Swing Time is a story about friendship and music and stubborn roots, about how we are shaped by these things and how we can survive them. Moving from northwest London to West Africa, it is an exuberant dance to the music of time.

The Golden Son by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

The first of his family to go to college, Anil Patel, the golden son, carries the weight of tradition and his family’s expectations when he leaves his tiny Indian village to begin a medical residency in Dallas, Texas, at one of the busiest and most competitive hospitals in America. When his father dies, Anil becomes the de facto head of the Patel household and inherits the mantle of arbiter for all of the village’s disputes. But he is uneasy with the custom, uncertain that he has the wisdom and courage demonstrated by his father and grandfather. His doubts are compounded by the difficulties he discovers in adjusting to a new culture and a new job, challenges that will shake his confidence in himself and his abilities.

Back home in India, Anil’s closest childhood friend, Leena, struggles to adapt to her demanding new husband and relatives. Arranged by her parents, the marriage shatters Leena’s romantic hopes and eventually forces her to make a desperate choice that will hold drastic repercussions for herself and her family. Though Anil and Leena struggle to come to terms with their identities thousands of miles apart, their lives eventually intersect once more—changing them both and the people they love forever.

The Mothers by Brit Bennett

Set within a contemporary black community in Southern California, Brit Bennett’s mesmerizing first novel is an emotionally perceptive story about community, love, and ambition. It begins with a secret.

“All good secrets have a taste before you tell them, and if we’d taken a moment to swish this one around our mouths, we might have noticed the sourness of an unripe secret, plucked too soon, stolen and passed around before its season.”

It is the last season of high school life for Nadia Turner, a rebellious, grief-stricken, seventeen-year-old beauty. Mourning her own mother’s recent suicide, she takes up with the local pastor’s son. Luke Sheppard is twenty-one, a former football star whose injury has reduced him to waiting tables at a diner. They are young; it’s not serious. But the pregnancy that results from this teen romance—and the subsequent cover-up—will have an impact that goes far beyond their youth. As Nadia hides her secret from everyone, including Aubrey, her God-fearing best friend, the years move quickly. Soon, Nadia, Luke, and Aubrey are full-fledged adults and still living in debt to the choices they made that one seaside summer, caught in a love triangle they must carefully maneuver, and dogged by the constant, nagging question: What if they had chosen differently? The possibilities of the road not taken are a relentless haunt.

In entrancing, lyrical prose, The Mothers asks whether a “what if” can be more powerful than an experience itself. If, as time passes, we must always live in servitude to the decisions of our younger selves, to the communities that have parented us, and to the decisions we make that shape our lives forever.

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

In a city swollen by refugees but still mostly at peace, or at least not yet openly at war, Saeed and Nadia share a cup of coffee, and their story begins. It will be a love story but also a story about war and a world in crisis, about how we live now and how we might live tomorrow. Before too long, the time will come for Nadia and Saeed to leave their homeland. When the streets are no longer useable and all options are exhausted, this young couple will join the great outpouring of those fleeing a collapsing city, hoping against hope, looking for their place in the world . . .

 

The Girls by Emma Cline

Evie Boyd is desperate to be noticed. In the summer of 1969, empty days stretch out under the California sun. The smell of honeysuckle thickens the air and the sidewalks radiate heat.

Until she sees them. The snatch of cold laughter. Hair, long and uncombed. Dirty dresses skimming the tops of thighs. Cheap rings like a second set of knuckles. The girls.

And at the centre, Russell. Russell and the ranch, down a long dirt track and deep in the hills. Incense and clumsily strummed chords. Rumours of sex, frenzied gatherings, teen runaways.

Was there a warning, a sign of things to come? Or is Evie already too enthralled by the girls to see that her life is about to be changed forever?

A House Without Windows by Nadia Hashimi

For two decades, Zeba was a loving wife, a patient mother, and a peaceful villager. But her quiet life is shattered when her husband, Kamal, is found brutally murdered with a hatchet in the courtyard of their home. Nearly catatonic with shock, Zeba is unable to account for her whereabouts at the time of his death. Her children swear their mother could not have committed such a heinous act. Kamal’s family is sure she did, and demands justice. Barely escaping a vengeful mob, Zeba is arrested and jailed.

Awaiting trial, she meets a group of women whose own misfortunes have led them to these bleak cells: eighteen-year-old Nafisa, imprisoned to protect her from an “honor killing”; twenty-five-year-old Latifa, a teen runaway who stays because it is safe shelter; twenty-year-old Mezghan, pregnant and unmarried, waiting for a court order to force her lover’s hand. Is Zeba a cold-blooded killer, these young women wonder, or has she been imprisoned, like them, for breaking some social rule? For these women, the prison is both a haven and a punishment; removed from the harsh and unforgiving world outside, they form a lively and indelible sisterhood.

Into this closed world comes Yusuf, Zeba’s Afghan-born, American-raised lawyer whose commitment to human rights and desire to help his homeland have brought him back. With the fate this seemingly ordinary housewife in his hands, Yusuf discovers that, like the Afghanistan itself, his client may not be at all what he imagines.

Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue

A powerful and timely story of marriage, class, race and the pursuit of the American Dream. Behold the Dreamers is a dazzling debut novel about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – and of what we’re prepared to sacrifice to hold on to each of them.

‘We all do what we gotta do to become American, abi?’

New York, 2007: a city of dreamers and strivers, where the newly-arrived and the long-established jostle alike for a place on the ladder of success. And Jende Jonga, who has come from Cameroon, has just set his foot on the first rung.

Clark Edwards is a senior partner at Lehman Brothers bank. In need of a discrete and reliable chauffeur, he is too preoccupied to closely check the paperwork of his latest employee.

Jende’s new job draws him, his wife Neni and their young son into the privileged orbit of the city’s financial elite. And when Clark’s wife Cindy offers Neni work and takes her into her confidence, the couple begin to believe that the land of opportunity might finally be opening up for them.

But there are troubling cracks in their employers’ facades, and when the deep fault lines running beneath the financial world are exposed, the Edwards’ secrets threaten to spill out into the Jonga’s lives.

Faced with the loss of all they have worked for, each couple must decide how far they will go in pursuit of their dreams – and what they are prepared to sacrifice along the way.

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Neu Opus by Kimberly Chakona review

Neu Opus by Kimberly Chakona
Published on November 15 2017
Amazon

Neu Opus offers a compelling look at societal issues facing women of colour.

The poems within focus on fostering self-love and acceptance by acknowledging your flaws, reclaiming your identity, and empowering yourself and others to live confidently. The reader is encouraged to face their painful histories and challenge negative stereotypes and the status quo by being true to themselves and drawing attention to their innate sempiternal sovereignty. 

Neu Opus contains unique artwork created by two female artists, inspired by these poems on race, spirituality, and kinship.

You are not in the struggle alone. You are your own heroine.
You are evolving into something great. Even the butterfly was once a caterpillar.
The same wind that uproots towering trees is the gentle breeze that will help you soar.
Still, black will be,
black was,
and black is
divine.

This review is sponsored, all thoughts, feelings and opinions remain my own

REVIEW

Neu Opus is a striking poetry collection that touches on the issues that face women of colour while expressing the need for self-love, acceptance and the ability to chase your wildest dreams. It’s eye-opening, beautifully written and is truly able to awaken the hearts of readers.

Diversity in literature is becoming increasingly important in today’s society, being able to fully represent people of all backgrounds and skin types as well as sexuality and religion. Neu Opus is no exception, it empowers women of colour while for others, it provides a greater insight into the lives of African women.

The graceful writing style complements the topics covered, the poems feel incredibly authentic, allowing you to experience the heartbreak, terror and love that pours off the pages. Chakona divulges a number relevant topics, detailing abusive relationships, negative self-talk as well as black on black hate, sexism and colourism.

“Which part of the dream says to tear
each other down, categorise and divide?
All are created equal
by a love that is boundless.
Black on Black colourism is groundless.”

It delves into these complexities and reminds us of valuable lessons including self-acceptance, learning to love and embrace the skin and body you house and to chase your dreams.

This collection of poetry moved me in a way that is rare for me to experience, being biracial I can relate to a number of these poems, as it celebrates diversity and promotes loving the person you are born as. Some of my favourite poems are Crime, Conditioning and Love. I believe Neu Opus is a book every woman should read, as it not only creates awareness surrounding women of colour but it has a unique ability in cultivating self-love and courage.

Complete with radiant artwork featuring women of colour, Neu Opus is a poetry collection that will prompt you to pause and reflect. Chakona traverses the highs and low’s of life and she doesn’t shy away from the harsh realities these women may face. But in the end, this collection is ultimately life-affirming.

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Mailbox Monday

Mailbox Monday is a meme created by Marcia of To Be Continued, you can find the dedicated blog here.

 

 

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Instagram // @readwithkatie

 

Physical Books

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains.”

So begins Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, an expanded edition of the beloved Jane Austen novel featuring all-new scenes of bone-crunching zombie mayhem. As our story opens, a mysterious plague has fallen upon the quiet English village of Meryton—and the dead are returning to life! Feisty heroine Elizabeth Bennet is determined to wipe out the zombie menace, but she’s soon distracted by the arrival of the haughty and arrogant Mr. Darcy. What ensues is a delightful comedy of manners with plenty of civilized sparring between the two young lovers—and even more violent sparring on the blood-soaked battlefield. Can Elizabeth vanquish the spawn of Satan? And overcome the social prejudices of the class-conscious landed gentry? Complete with romance, heartbreak, swordfights, cannibalism, and thousands of rotting corpses, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies transforms a masterpiece of world literature into something you’d actually want to read.

The Fame Game by Lauren Conrad

In Hollywood, fame can be found on every corner and behind any door. You just have to know where to look for it. Nineteen-year-old Madison Parker made a name for herself as best frenemy of nice-girl-next-door Jane Roberts on the hot reality show L.A. Candy. Now Madison’s ready for her turn in the spotlight and she’ll stop at nothing to get it. Sure, she’s the star of a new show, but with backstabbing friends and suspicious family members trying to bring her down, Madison has her work cut out for her. Plus, there’s a new nice girl in “reality” town—aspiring actress Carmen Price, the daughter of Hollywood royalty—and she’s a lot more experienced at playing the fame game… When the camera’s start rolling, whose star will shine brighter?

Filled with characters both familiar and new, Lauren Conrad’s series about the highs and lows of being famous delivers Hollywood gossip and drama at every turn.

eBooks

Among Monsters by Jamie McGuire

Being thirteen has pitfalls of its own, but growing up has never been this hard.

Jenna had promised her mother that if the worst happened during her dad’s weekend, they would meet at Red Hill Ranch. When she finds seven words spray-painted on her dad’s wall the morning after a deadly outbreak, she makes a promise to herself: to get to the ranch with her seven-year-old sister, Halle, and to get them both there alive.

Among Monsters is the companion novella to Red Hill, both exploring from different perspectives what many broken families experience every other weekend: What if your children aren’t with you when the world ends? What would you do to get to them? What would they go through to get to you?

For Jenna, seeing her mother again is worth everything. Determined to keep her promise, she is faced with experiences and decisions that force her to leave her childhood behind.

Rot & Ruin by Jonothan Maberry

In the zombie-infested, post-apocalyptic America where Benny Imura lives, every teenager must find a job by the time they turn fifteen or get their rations cut in half. Benny doesn’t want to apprentice as a zombie hunter with his boring older brother Tom, but he has no choice. He expects a tedious job whacking zoms for cash, but what he gets is a vocation that will teach him what it means to be human.

 

 

 

Bits and Pieces by Jonothan Maberry

Benny Imura’s journey through the Rot & Ruin is well known, but who were the others navigating the ravaged, zombie-ridden landscape? Jonathan Maberry returns to fill the gaps in what we know about First Night, surviving the plague, and the land of Rot & Ruin.

Comprising brand-new short stories from Nix’s journal as well as previously published short stories, this collection shows a side of the Rot & Ruin series readers have never seen before. And as a bonus, the script of the first issue of the Rot & Ruin comic is included in the back.

 

 

Lost in the Jungle by Yossi Ghinsberg

Four backpackers meet in Bolivia and set off into the rainforest on a dream expedition, lured by the promise of uncharted villages and forgotten tribes hidden in places tourists only dream of seeing. But what begins as the adventure of a lifetime quickly becomes a struggle when they get lost in the Amazonian jungle.

 

 

 

Dear Martin by Nic Stone

Raw, captivating, and undeniably real, Nic Stone joins industry giants Jason Reynolds and Walter Dean Myers as she boldly tackles American race relations in this stunning debut.

Justyce McAllister is top of his class and set for the Ivy League—but none of that matters to the police officer who just put him in handcuffs. And despite leaving his rough neighborhood behind, he can’t escape the scorn of his former peers or the ridicule of his new classmates.

Justyce looks to the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for answers. But do they hold up anymore? He starts a journal to Dr. King to find out.

Then comes the day Justyce goes driving with his best friend, Manny, windows rolled down, music turned up—way up, sparking the fury of a white off-duty cop beside them. Words fly. Shots are fired. Justyce and Manny are caught in the crosshairs. In the media fallout, it’s Justyce who is under attack.

The Song Rising by Samantha Shannon

The hotly anticipated third book in the bestselling Bone Season series – a ground-breaking, dystopian fantasy of extraordinary imagination

Following a bloody battle against foes on every side, Paige Mahoney has risen to the dangerous position of Underqueen, ruling over London’s criminal population.

But, having turned her back on Jaxon Hall and with vengeful enemies still at large, the task of stabilising the fractured underworld has never seemed so challenging.

Little does Paige know that her reign may be cut short by the introduction of Senshield, a deadly technology that spells doom for the clairvoyant community and the world as they know it…

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