Review: Heart of the City

Heart of the City (Detective Greene, #5)Heart of the City
Author: Robert Rotenberg
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Genre/Themes: Mystery
Release Date: August 1st, 2017
Format: Ebook

 

 

Synopsis

When Detective Ari Greene was charged with the murder of the woman he loved, he stopped at nothing to clear his name and uncover the real killer. After his acquittal, Greene fled to London to get away from it all, but now he’s back. And he’s not alone—with Greene is his twenty-year-old daughter, Alison. The child he never knew he had.
Determined to leave his life as a cop behind him, Greene gets a job on a construction site for one of Toronto’s many new condos. But when Greene stumbles upon the corpse of hated developer Livingston Fox, he is plunged back into the life he tried so hard to leave behind. As the body count rises, Greene is forced into a reluctant reconciliation with his former protégé, Daniel Kennicott. The pair must delve into the tight-knit world of downtown development, navigating tangled loyalties, unexpected corruption, and family secrets, some of which are closer to home than Greene could have ever imagined.

Review

I absolutely love this mystery series. I was introduced to them a few years ago, and I quickly read them all because I was fascinated with how Canadian centered they were. Not only did we get to see how Canadian homicide detectives handled cases, we also got a healthy dose of courtroom drama centered around the Canadian legal system. The author, Robert Rotenberg, is a criminal lawyer based in Toronto, so I assume that he knows of what he speaks.

I liked this story, but not as much as previous novels. I just didn’t think the plot was as strong, and a lot of my favourite characters weren’t present in this novel. The new character introduced, Ari’s daughter, Alison, was a good character, but I didn’t see the point of introducing a random daughter into his life. It just seemed so out of the blue and highly…unnecessary? Daniel Kennicott was also not as interesting to read about this time around.

The mystery was really well done, and once again, I had no idea who the murderer was until the very end. It was a satisfying plot and a meaty mystery, but it felt a little rushed at times and there were a lot of threads that were left open. I assume they will be further fleshed out in future novels, but it was a little dissatisfying at the end of this book. There were also no courtroom scenes, which are my favourite scenes in the book.

Of course, I will continue to follow this series until the very end, but I hope the next book has the same magic the first four books in the series had.

I received this book from Netgalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This has affected my review in no way.

 

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Review: So Much Love

So Much LoveSo Much Love
Author: Rebecca Rosenblum
Publisher: Penguin RandomHouse Canada
Genre/Themes: Contemporary, Mystery
Release Date: March 14th, 2017
Format:Ebook

Synopsis

When a young woman named Catherine Reindeer vanishes without a trace from her small town, those who know her are left to cope with her absence. Moving back and forth from her outer circle of acquaintances to her closest intimates, Rebecca Rosenblum’s first novel reveals how the lives of those left behind can be overturned in the wake of an unexplained disappearance. But at the heart of the novel is Catherine’s own surprising story of resilience and recovery.

When a final devastating loss after months of captivity forces her to make a bold decision, she is unprepared for everything that follows her dramatic escape. Woven throughout are stories about a local female poet who was murdered decades earlier, a woman whose life and work become a lifeline for Catherine during her darkest hours—and who may ultimately hold the key to Catherine’s quest to find solace in the aftermath of unimaginable tragedy.

Review

Unfortunately, I stopped reading this book when I was halfway through it. I tried really hard to become invested in this novel, especially because it’s from a Canadian author, but I was unable to do so.

So Much Love is a debut novel from Rebecca Rosenblum, and it falls into the pitfalls that a lot of debut novels fall into. There are far too many characters in the book. While I understood that the goal was to show how the disappearance of Catherine Reindeer impacted those who knew her, the end result was disjointed. Every chapter was from the point of view of somebody else, but their names were never explicitly pointed out so it took a while to understand who was speaking. I could have gotten past this, but the main problem was there was no cohesion in the story and because we jumped between the (many!) characters, it was hard to gain an understanding of who they were as people.

Another huge issue I had with this book was that it was so dreadfully slow. I don’t mind it when novels are slow and there’s great character development, but this book didn’t have either for me. I couldn’t connect to the characters or the plot and I just didn’t care how the story was going to turn out.

I’m really disappointed that I couldn’t finish this novel because it sounded very intriguing and it has beautiful, poetic writing. I just found myself really disconnected to it. I’m sure this book has an audience out there and it has great ratings, but it just wasn’t for me.

I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This has affected my review in no way.

Review: The Dark And Other Love Stories

The Dark and Other Love Stories
The Dark And Other Love Stories
Author: Deborah Willis
Publisher: Penguin Random House Canada
Genre/Themes: Contemporary, Short Stories
Release Date: February 14th, 2017
Format: Ebook

Synopsis

The characters in the thirteen stories that comprise The Dark and Other Love Stories exist on the edge of danger, where landscapes melt into dreamscapes and every house is haunted. A drug dealer’s girlfriend signs up for the first manned mission to Mars. A girl falls in love with a man who wants to turn her into a bird. A teenage girl and her best friend test their relationship by breaking into suburban houses. A wife finds a gaping hole in the floor of the home she shares with her husband, a hole that only she can see.

Full of longing and strange humor, these subtle, complex stories about the love between a man and his pet crow, an alcoholic and his AA sponsor, a mute migrant and a newspaper reporter—show how love ties us to each other and to the world.

Review

These stories all revolve around the theme of love. They’re about love in all shapes, but they all have the same melancholy air. Some are rooted in our contemporary world, and some have a little tinge of magical realism. I was really excited to dive into this short story collection mostly because this is a book from a Canadian author, but I found myself extremely underwhelmed.

I only had one story that I actually liked, Last One to Leave, because it was a form of love that I could connect with. I liked both the characters and the narration style and I understood it from beginning to end. There was something resonant about the story, but I had a really hard tie with all of the others. I never fully connected with the characters or the plot, and I just didn’t like where they went.

Overall, I found myself really disappointed with this collection. There was very little substance and nothing noteworthy in the stories. I may or may not read another book by this author.

I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This has affected my review in no way.

Review: When Everything Feels Like the Movies – Raziel Reid

When Everything Feels Like the Movies School is just like a film set: there’s The Crew, who make things happen, The Extras who fill the empty desks, and The Movie Stars, whom everyone wants tagged in their Facebook photos. But Jude doesn’t fit in. He’s not part of The Crew because he isn’t about to do anything unless it’s court-appointed; he’s not an Extra because nothing about him is anonymous; and he’s not a Movie Star because even though everyone know his name like an A-lister, he isn’t invited to the cool parties. As the director calls action, Jude is the flamer that lights the set on fire.

Before everything turns to ashes from the resulting inferno, Jude drags his best friend Angela off the casting couch and into enough melodrama to incite the paparazzi, all while trying to fend off the haters and win the heart of his favourite co-star Luke Morris. It’s a total train wreck!

But train wrecks always make the front page.

This was such a heartbreaking novel. This book was a contender for last year’s Canada Reads prize ad I knew I wanted to read it due to Elaine Lui’s (Lainey from LaineyGossip) defense of it, but I wasn’t expecting it to be such a gut punch of a novel. Jude was such a remarkable character. Even when he was completely misunderstood and tortured by his peers, he always remained true to himself. The sad truth is while this book is graphic and vulgar at times, it’s pretty realistic. There are some really dark parts in this novel. It’s very difficult to read certain sections and it made me really uncomfortable at times. The only thing that was hard for me to grasp was the fact that these kids were only in middle school. They spoke and acted like they were so much older, which is why I don’t know if it makes it better or worse than this book is inspired by true events.

The writing style of this book is also unique. It was a little dreamlike and stark, but it does take a little time to adjust to it. Overall though, this book is moving and powerful, and a really important read. I strongly recommend it.

 

Review: The Sisters Brothers – Patrick DeWitt

The Sisters Brothers Patrick deWitt, a young writer whose “stop-you-in-your-tracks writing has snuck up on the world” (Los Angeles Times), brings us The Sisters Brothers, a darkly comic, outrageously inventive novel that offers readers a decidedly off-center view of the Wild, Wild West. Set against the back-drop of the great California Gold Rush, this odd and wonderful tour de force at once honors and reshapes the traditional western while chronicling the picaresque misadventures of two hired guns, the fabled Sisters brothers. The most original western since the Coen Brothers re-interpreted True Grit—you’ve never met anyone quite like The Sisters Brothers.

I’ve never read a Western before reading this one. I wasn’t sure what to expect with this novel, but since it won a Governor General’s award, I figured it would be good. I wasn’t expecting to enjoy it as much as I did.

The best part about this novel and what drew me to it the most was the writing. I can’t really explain why the writing style drew me in so much. I felt like Patrick DeWitt just said some truths about the world in a really poetic way.

Eli Sisters, the narrator, was such a sympathetic character even though he was technically a hired killer. His relationship with his brother Charlie was extremely complex, just like the relationship between any two siblings.

I was expecting more to happen in terms of the plot, and while the story was interesting, quite atmospheric, and managed to hold my interest, it was more about the relationship between two brothers and the questions about morality and what it means to do the right thing.

I was pleasantly surprised by this novel and be picking up Patrick DeWitt’s other books as well.

 

Review: Free Love – Annelies Pool

Free Love In the dead cold of a northern Canadian winter, 30-year-old Marissa finds herself in a detox centre, every bone in her body yearning for a drink. The only thing worse than drinking would be to return to the lonely hell of alcoholism. Free Love takes us into the heart of the AA recovery community in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, as Marissa struggles to find hope in a town that loves to party where temptation, and the beauty and danger of the northern wilderness, are never far away.

This is a really hard book for me to review. I feel like there are a lot of things that didn’t impact me as much as they should have. Alcoholism is a topic that has never affected me or anyone I love, so there is a disconnect while I’m reading about it. The author of this novel, Annelies Pool, is Canadian, and the book takes place in Yellowknife. I have a soft spot for Canadian literature, so I figured I would give this book a chance anyway.

My biggest issue with this novel was the plot. I didn’t feel like anything really happened to Marissa. She was an alcoholic, she went to AA, she became sober. Everything else that happened in the book didn’t make much of a change in her life. Even when horrible things happened to her, they didn’t alter Marissa.
Since this book wasn’t plot-based, it needed to be character based, but I felt it fell short in Marissa’s character development as well. I wasn’t a fan of Marissa because I felt like things were too easy for her. Her journey to sobriety didn’t face any real challenges.

However, the one redeeming aspect of the novel is the incredible friendship between the women. I loved how the four women, Marissa, Dot, Eliza, and Pandi came together to support each other. They were all tough and honest with each other, and it was refreshing to see women of all different ages and backgrounds coming together to help each other.

The writing was also really poignant and beautiful at times. I liked the use of the dual timelines to show how Marissa became the person she was. Overall, the book is decent, but I wish it had left more of a mark on me. I wish it were slightly more memorable.

I received a copy of this book from the Goodreads FirstReads program. This has not affected my review in any way.

Review: The Truth Commission – Susan Juby

The Truth Commission Open secrets are the heart of gossip – the things that no one is brave or clueless enough to ask. That is, except for Normandy Pale and her friends Dusk and Neil. They are juniors at Green Pastures Academy of Art and Applied Design, and they have no fear.
They are the Truth Commission.
But Normandy’s passion for uncovering the truth is not entirely heartfelt. The truth can be dangerous, especially when it involves her brilliant older sister, Keira, the creator of a bestselling graphic novel series, who has left college and come home under mysterious circumstances, and in complete silence.
Even for a Truth Commissioner, there are some lines that cannot be crossed…

Susan Juby is a Canadian author, which immediately endears her to me. When I first learned about her most recent novel, The Truth Commission, I was really interested in the book. I was mostly interested because I like the idea of a book being written as “creative non-fiction” and I love when a book has footnotes and illustrations in it. It usually adds a new dimension to this novel. Even though young adult contemporary is not one of my favourite genres to read, I wanted to see how this book would turn out.

This book infuriated me, but in the best way. It makes you angry, and it makes you want to talk about your anger, which is a great characteristic for a novel. This book takes place at an art school for high school students, which is a perfect setting for the quirky and offbeat characters in this book. I really enjoyed the teenage characters, and the friendship of Normandy and her best friends, but I was furious with all of the adults in this book. I don’t understand why Normandy’s parents were as passive as they were.

The plot was very unexpected. I thought I knew where the story was going to go, but it was completely surprising to me. This book deals with a lot of teenage issues, but it does it in a non-preachy way. When the truth came out, I was furious, but the ending felt very true and I liked the realism behind it.

However, the best part about this book is the style it’s told in. Instead of feeling gimicky, the idea of this novel being written as a creative non-fiction project with illustrations and footnotes just helps you connect to Normandy a little more. I enjoyed this book a lot, and I’m really happy I ended up picking it up.

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

Review: Girl on the Run – B.R. Meyers

Girl on the Run When seventeen-year-old track star Jesse Collins’s dreams of a full scholarship are shattered after the sudden death of her dad, she leaves home to work as a summer camp counselor to escape the nosy stares in her small town…and her own secret guilt. After a mix-up at registration, she’s put in charge of a boys’ cabin, and the head counselor, Kirk, predicts she won’t last the first two weeks.
In the midst of fending off four twelve-year-old boys who are hell-bent on mortifying her and a growing attraction to Kirk, Jesse finds the inspiration to run again from an unlikely source.

***I received this book from Goodreads FirstReads.***

This is a really different type of book for me. I don’t read many young adult contemporary novels because they don’t usually appeal to me. This isn’t a premise that would ordinarily interest me and I wouldn’t pick up this book on my own, but it seemed like an easy read. I won this book in a contest and since the author is Canadian and the book takes place in British Columbia, I decided to read it. Unfortunately, it didn’t surpass my expectations.

There’s nothing wrong with the book at all. It’s a pretty standard young adult contemporary romance. It’s a little bit cheesy, and there’s nothing very special or unique about it. There’s a little bit of diversity, but it’s basically an entire book about the main character, Jesse,  coming to terms with her father’s death. It doesn’t happen in a meaningful way, but it’s not rushed either. Jesse comes to terms with who she is and gathers the strength and courage to move on with the help of her friends and the new people she meets, I’m sure you know the cliche.

I think that’s the best word to describe this book – cliche. The main character is a sporty, cute jock who meets a sporty, hot camp counsellor that she spends 50% of the book fighting with. His attention is captured by a blonde, bubbly, perfect cheerleader/bikini model who spends her entire time trying to insult Jesse. There are two love triangles, a gay best friend, and a wild-child other best friend. The whole book is layer upon layer of cliche, which is why I never felt invested in the characters or the romance.

The writing was decent and it’s fine for young adult fare. If a person enjoys this genre of book, they will probably like this novel, but this isn’t a book that I would recommend.

Review: A Tale for the Time Being – Ruth Ozeki

A Tale for the Time Being

In Tokyo, sixteen-year-old Nao has decided there’s only one escape from her aching loneliness and her classmates’ bullying, but before she ends it all, Nao plans to document the life of her great-grandmother, a Buddhist nun who’s lived more than a century. A diary is Nao’s only solace—and will touch lives in a ways she can scarcely imagine.

Across the Pacific, we meet Ruth, a novelist living on a remote island who discovers a collection of artifacts washed ashore in a Hello Kitty lunchbox—possibly debris from the devastating 2011 tsunami. As the mystery of its contents unfolds, Ruth is pulled into the past, into Nao’s drama and her unknown fate, and forward into her own future. 

When I first read the plot for this book, I was immediately intrigued. There are so many things about this novel that are in my wheelhouse, but the mystery aspect of this book really appealed to me. I liked the idea of trying to discover what happened to Nao through the perspective of Ruth and through Nao’s journal.

In this book, there are two narratives, one of Nao and one of Ruth. I thought both the voices were really distinct from each other and while the stories were very different, it was interesting how there was a common thread between them as well. Ruth found herself and her situation to mirror Nao’s at times, which seemed to be a comment on how even the most different people can share experiences or have similar thoughts.

Personally, I found Nao’s narrative to be more interesting. Her story was just more exciting and had more drama in it while Ruth’s was more mundane. However, the plot was really interesting and it kept me reading to figure out what happened. I wanted to know the story of both women.

All of the characters were really well-developed. They were all distinct and felt like real people you would know. Even the minor characters were well-written and  fully-formed. Once again, I found Nao and her situation to be more well-developed than Ruth, but you felt like you were a part of Ruth’s island with how vividly it was described. I also liked how the settings of both the characters seemed to be a character in itself. The juxtaposition of the lights and glamour of Tokyo against the small-town solitude of Ruth’s island was very apparent.

This novel was a Man Booker prize finalist in 2013 and the book reads like it was. It has beautiful writing with some very memorable phrases. The only thing I disliked about this book was the similarity of Ruth the character and Ruth the author. The author chose to use her name, living situation, and family to be the same as the character’s, which I always dislike because I like to separate the book from the author as much as possible.

Overall, this is a really unique, interesting book that I would recommend to anyone who is a fan of literary fiction.

Old City Hall – Robert Rotenberg

Old City Hall DID CANADA’S FAVOURITE RADIO HOST COMMIT MURDER?

Kevin Brace, Canada’s most famous radio personality, stands in the doorway of his luxury condominium, hands covered in blood, and announces to his newspaper delivery man: “I killed her.” His wife lies dead in the bathtub, fatally stabbed. It would appear to be an open-and-shut case.

The trouble is, Brace refuses to talk to anyone—including his own lawyer—after muttering those incriminating words. With the discovery that the victim was actually a self-destructive alcoholic, the appearance of strange fingerprints at the crime scene, and a revealing courtroom cross-examination, the seemingly simple case takes on all the complexities of a hotly contested murder trial.

In the tradition of defence lawyers turned authors like Scott Turow and John Grisham, Robert Rotenberg delivers a legal thriller rich with his forensic skill and insider knowledge, taking readers on a tour of Toronto from the Don Jail to the towers of Bay Street and into the shadowy corridors of the Old City Hall courthouse.

I really loved this book and it’s one of the best books I’ve read this year. The plot is imaginative, intricate, and there were some amazing characters introduced in this novel.

This book takes place in Toronto, which was an aspect I really enjoyed. Even though I’ve never been to Toronto, I’m still oddly sentimental about books that take place in Canada. The book starts off strong with an introduction to some supporting characters before the murder is mentioned. The plot of this novel is such a surprise and it shocked me on a number of occasions. There was nothing clichéd or predictable about this mystery.

Even though the murder mystery aspect of this book is central, the part I enjoyed the most was the characterization. I’ve read a lot of books this year, but this had the best characters out of any of them. They were well-defined and unique, which is a really big change from the rest of the books I’ve been reading. What I appreciated the most was that not only did we learn about the main characters and get a complete idea about their personalities, but we also get to learn about the secondary characters as well. Everybody who was even slightly important to the plot was fleshed out with a rich back-story.

The only thing I was a little irritated by was the ending. The resolution of this book wasn’t exactly what I was expecting and it could have been less open-ended. However, it makes sense since this is the starting book to a series. I’m such a fan of Robert Rotenberg now that I’ll be checking out all his other books as well. This is an excellent mystery novel and I highly recommend it.