Blog Tour- Illusionary Review

Illusionary Blog Tour Banner

I am thrilled to be part of the blog tour for Illusionary by Desiree Williams.

Illusionary

How did I get it?:
I received a copy from the author for the blog tour.

Synopsis:

Dorothy got sucked into a tornado.
Alice fell down a hole.
Wendy flew to Neverland.
Kamryn? She tripped down the stairs.
Now, Kamryn Kensington finds herself in a strange new world. Within minutes of her arrival, she dodges an archer’s arrow and avoids getting sliced up by a cosplay reject holding a dagger to her throat. And that’s before the storyteller’s breath brings stories to life.
Home is the mission—to return to her family and pursue her life’s dream of art and travel. Yet the longer she’s in the Land of Ur, the harder it is not to feel for the people she meets. Even her artistic side can’t help but breathe in the beautiful wonder and magic of this new world. So when the Oracle hands her a different quest, she takes it on the condition he sends her home afterward.
No one thought to warn her of a jealous queen and her dragon minions. Or that, by helping her, the cute storyteller would go crazy. Or that her heart would rip in two when she left. Those would’ve been great facts to know ahead of time.
Considering that nothing in Ur is what it seems, the mission proves to be more than she ever imagined. But more than her own future will be in jeopardy if Kamryn doesn’t succeed.
  

Thoughts:

I was asked if I’d be interesting in joining the blog tour for this book. As soon as I read the synopsis, I knew that I wanted to read this book. If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you’ll know that I absolutely adore fairy tales and all things magical realism. Illusionary certainly fits that bill.

Kamryn is our main character. She’s an adult, but she’s struggling with adapting to all things adult. Don’t we all? Kamryn’s dreams are taking her in different directions which makes her older sister despair. Her older sister wants the best for Kamryn but Kamryn wants to pursue her passion. Kamryn and her sister fight resulting in Kamryn tripping and finding herself at the bottom of the stairs. When Kamryn comes around, she’s in the land of Ur. She has some questions to ask but answers are not given. She is given a mission to carry out with Reese, a storyteller in Ur. They’re hoping to rescue the Maker of Ur so he can send her home. Of course, it’s not as easy as Kamryn wants and they end up everywhere…

I enjoyed reading this story, which didn’t take long for me to read! I was intrigued by the adventure. I really enjoyed reading the nods to other famous books e.g. The Wizard Of Oz. It’s a bookworm’s dream to read such a bookish story. I also enjoyed the romance in this story. It wasn’t cheesy or overdone. It was just right.

The only reason I didn’t rate this book any higher was because I didn’t enjoy the character of the evil queen as much as I wanted to. I would have enjoyed it more if the character was more fleshed out, but that’s my personal opinion and I think many people would still enjoy the character!

Would I recommend it?:
Yes!

Desiree is kindly offering a giveaway for this blog tour. email): a “Make everyday an adventure” pillow, “Don’t Grow Up! It’s a Trap!” metal sign, book cozy, signed paperback of Illusionary, notebook with pens, sketch book with colored pencils, and a “Eat Cake for Breakfast” travel cup. 

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Purchasing Illusionary

 

The Book Collector

The Book Collector

How did I get it?:
Beth and I bought it from Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights

Synopsis:

Alice Thompson’s new novel is a gothic story of book collecting, mutilation and madness. Violet is obsessed with the books of fairy tales her husband acquires, but her growing delusions see her confined in an asylum. As she recovers and is released a terrifying series of events is unleashed.

Thoughts:

Beth and I were recommended this book during our reading spa at Mr B’s Emporium in the summer last year. Beth read it and absolutely adored it, but she wasn’t sure if I would like it. It’s an odd book, a really odd book and she wasn’t sure if it was just a little too out there for me. However, I thought it was brilliant. Oddly brilliant, but still!

It centres around Violet who was 19 years old and an orphan when she meets Lord Archie Murray. They fall for each other quickly. Soon, Violet and Archie are married and they have a son called Felix. Archie is an incredibly controlling man who appears to be hiding something. Archie is obsessed with his book collection, especially a book of fairy tales that he keeps hidden away. Violet is curious to know why he hides it away. What is it about the book? Violet is struggling with the change in her life after giving birth to Felix. Violet starts to hallucinate and harms Felix whilst trying to protect him from ‘creatures’ that are crawling on him. As a result of this, Violet is locked up in an asylum. Violet meets some other women who believe there’s something odd about them all staying at the asylum. Violet begins to question everything.

This book really is quite creepy. It’s incredibly atmospheric and you find yourself questioning who is stable. The characters all seem unhinged in one way or another. Then there’s the inclusion of the character Clara… well, she certainly stirred up the story! The story becomes mysterious as some of the women in the asylum go missing. Then, of course, there’s the fairy tales that run throughout the whole story. There’s a link between them, but I won’t spoil it.

The Book Collector is a short read but it certainly packs a lot of punches throughout it. It’s compelling, disturbing but incredibly easy to read!

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

I was surprised by this book. I didn’t expect to like it as much as I did!

Bone Gap

Bone Gap

How did I get it?:
A copy was sent to me by Faber in exchange for an honest review!

Synopsis:

Everyone knows Bone Gap is full of gaps—gaps to trip you up, gaps to slide through so you can disappear forever. So when young, beautiful Roza went missing, the people of Bone Gap weren’t surprised. After all, it wasn’t the first time that someone had slipped away and left Finn and Sean O’Sullivan on their own. Just a few years before, their mother had high-tailed it to Oregon for a brand new guy, a brand new life. That’s just how things go, the people said. Who are you going to blame?

Finn knows that’s not what happened with Roza. He knows she was kidnapped, ripped from the cornfields by a dangerous man whose face he cannot remember. But the searches turned up nothing, and no one believes him anymore. Not even Sean, who has more reason to find Roza than anyone, and every reason to blame Finn for letting her go.

As we follow the stories of Finn, Roza, and the people of Bone Gap—their melancholy pasts, their terrifying presents, their uncertain futures—acclaimed author Laura Ruby weaves a heartbreaking tale of love and loss, magic and mystery, regret and forgiveness—a story about how the face the world sees is never the sum of who we are.

Thoughts:

I had heard so much about Bone Gap so when I was given the opportunity to read it recently, I jumped at the chance. I absolutely love magical realism and this book is perfect for that. Laura Ruby is a phenomenal writer. Bone Gap is beautifully written and really should be read.

The premise is interesting. It centres around a woman named Roza who is taken away by a rich and powerful man. He falls in love with her and takes her into a world where everything she needs is available to her. All the man wants is for her to fall in love with him. However, she really doesn’t feel the same way. When Roza goes missing from Bone Gap, her friend Finn is determined to find her. He believes that she wouldn’t go anywhere without her consent and he feels very suspicious about it all since he witnessed Roza disappearing with the man. However, no-one really believes Finn as he is known for being a little bit odd and dreamy. (There’s a reason why, but I don’t want to ruin it!) Finn is incredibly troubled by her disappearance, especially because he seems to be the only one that’s looking for her. He is surprised that his brother Sean, who he thought loved Roza is not searching for her.

Bone Gap is told from mainly Finn’s point of view, but we also read from Roza’s point of view and experience the world in which she is in. Both perspectives are fascinating and really add something unique to the narration. Another character that we hear from is Petey- Finn’s strange bee obsessed love interest. The story really focuses around Roza’s experience in Bone Gap and how her disappearance made an impact on the inhabitants of Bone Gap.

It’s so hard to review this book because I don’t want to spoil the story, it’s really one you’ve got to get into to enjoy and experience the vivid world as you turn the pages. It really is quite fairy tale-esque which of course is what I LOVE in a story.

There are such intriguing characters in this story. I really enjoyed the connection between Finn and Petey. Both Petey and Roza are such strong female characters and really make you think about the world which places such an emphasis on outer beauty. Both characters have been affected by the perception of beauty and I love the way Laura Ruby explores this in Bone Gap. 

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

Bone Gap is a book about perception. It’s fairy tale-eque and SO beautifully written!

Down With The Shine

Down with the Shine

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Previously reviewed by the same author:
Another Little Piece
(Don’t You) Forget About Me

Synopsis:

Make a wish…

Lennie always thought her uncles’ “important family legacy” was good old-fashioned bootlegging. Then she takes some of her uncles’ moonshine to Michaela Gordon’s annual house party, and finds out just how wrong she was.

At the party, Lennie has everyone make a wish before drinking the shine—it’s tradition. She toasts to wishes for bat wings, for balls of steel, for the party to go on forever. Lennie even makes a wish of her own: to bring back her best friend, Dylan, who was murdered six months ago.

The next morning gives Lennie a whole new understanding of the phrase be careful what you wish for—or in her case, be careful what wishes you grant. Because all those wishes Lennie raised a jar of shine to last night? They came true. Most of them came out bad. And once granted, a wish can’t be unmade…

Thoughts:

I really enjoy Kate Karyus Quinn’s writing. I can imagine that she’s an author you really get on with or you don’t really ‘get’ her books. Kate’s books are highly original and quirky. I absolutely love that about her books, so when I saw that she had a new book out, I immediately bought it without reading the synopsis. I thought that Down With The Shine was a good book. It had me gripped and although I felt it started to slow pace midway through, I was still highly engaged in the story and wanted to know what was going to happen next!

Down With The Shine is a magical realism story aimed at the YA genre- I do think other readers would enjoy this book too. I certainly did. It started off incredibly dark, but it seemed to get lighter along the way despite some terrible things happening. It centres around Lennie, who finds out she can grant wishes using her Uncles’ moonshine. Prior to Lennie finding out she could grant wishes with the moonshine, she goes to a party and grants some wishes…some very dark and some very strange wishes. Lennie then has to deal with the consequences of those wishes and tries hard to rectify the utter chaos that she has made.  If I’m being entirely honest, I would have liked to read more about Dylan, Lennie’s friend who had been murdered. Despite that, I found myself racing through the story, eager to find out if Lennie was going to sort things out.

I really enjoyed Lennie as a character. I think sometimes ‘outcasts’ in YA are so overdone, but Lennie was an exception to this. She’s a fun character with some sass. I also really enjoyed reading about many of the side characters. The only thing I didn’t really get on board with is the relationship between Lennie and Smith. I didn’t like the way Lennie acted around Smith and didn’t really ‘get’ the attraction to him.

As I mentioned, Down With The Shine, is highly original, much like Kate’s other books. It’s such a strange but fun story which I think is worth giving a go.

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

Another wonderful original story from Kate Karyus Quinn!

Banned Books #26 Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya

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Welcome to this month’s Banned Books feature where this month Beth and I read Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya.

Bless Me, Ultima

Synopsis:

Antonio Marez is six years old when Ultima comes to stay with his family in New Mexico. She is a curandera, one who cures with herbs and magic. Under her wise wing, Tony will probe the family ties that bind and rend him, and he will discover himself in the magical secrets of the pagan past-a mythic legacy as palpable as the Catholicism of Latin America. And at each life turn there is Ultima, who delivered Tony into the world…and will nurture the birth of his soul.

First published: 1972
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2013 (source)
Reasons: Occult/Satanism, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit

Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?

BETH:  Bless Me, Ultima is one of our older releases on our banned books list this year and, as a result, I can see why certain things in the book may be challenged due to the change in attitudes compared to more modern times (this is not to say I necessarily agree with the challenges of course!). This book has a lot of references to witchcraft – the “black witch” kind that involves the devil not the nice, nature-loving “white witch” kind and I know there are a lot of people out there who do not want their children exposed to that kind of thing. If we compare it to nowadays, this is the same kind of people that don’t want books like Roald Dahl’s “The Witches,” or J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter,” available in schools. I don’t agree with their viewpoints as I think curiosity in children should be encouraged but I understand their right to a difference in opinion.

CHRISSI: Hm. I can understand why parents wouldn’t want their children to read this book as it does heavily deal with witchcraft and when published there would be quite an uproar about the subject matter of this book. I can understand why there would be uproar over it, especially with certain religions. So yes, I understand why it was challenged but I wouldn’t say that I necessarily agree with it.

How about now?

BETH: Nowadays, I think it’s even more important for children to have access to a wide variety of information about different practices and opinions to their own or their parents, even if it is difficult or somewhat controversial – within reason, of course depending on the age of the child. In the time of the internet where EVERYTHING is available, I think if children are curious enough, banning or refusing access to the book isn’t going to help. If they are determined enough, they are going to get their hands on it anyway and sometimes I believe refusing something might actually encourage children to be more rebellious and seek it out more!

CHRISSI:  I honestly don’t think that this book would be as problematic now as it was when it was first released. This is mainly due to the amount of ‘popular’ wizardry/witchy books out there right now. It seems much more acceptable subject to be featured in literature. I know some parents still have problems with witchcraft books (I wasn’t allowed to read The Witches by Roald Dahl to my class of 6-7 year olds last year, as one child’s parent was a devout Christian) but I don’t think it’s nearly as bad as it used to be. I think putting a banned label on something can make children more curious to seek it out themselves.

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: Unfortunately, I really didn’t get on with this book. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t have any problem with the content and I normally love a good bit of magical realism but something just didn’t sit right with me. I couldn’t get into the plot, the characters or the writing flow and it all seemed a bit too airy-fairy. Antonio and Ultima were decent enough characters and the things that Antonio has to witness and go through are much harder than your general coming of age story but I just found myself a bit bored and disappointed throughout, despite the difference in culture which I would normally love.

CHRISSI: I really didn’t like this book. Despite it having a lot going on from witchcraft, murder and revenge, I found myself to be incredibly bored throughout and I ended up skim-reading quite a bit which is a shame. This book just did not grab me like I wanted it to. I also don’t think the story is very relevant to today’s readers. Hmm. A real disappointment.

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: Probably not.
CHRISSI: It’s not for me!

Born Weird

Born Weird

How did I get it?:
I bought it during my reading spa at Mr B’s Emporium

Synopsis:

The Weirds have always been a little peculiar, but not one of them suspected that they’d been cursed by their grandmother.

At the moment of their birth Annie Weird gave each of her five grandchildren a special power that she thought was a blessing.

Now Annie is dying and she has one last task for Angie, her favourite grandchild. Angie has to gather her far-flung brothers and sisters and assemble them in her Grandmother’s hospital room so that at the moment of her death, she can lift these blessings turned curses.

Thoughts:

I was recommended this book during my Reading Spa at Mr B’s Emporium (read the post about it here). I don’t know if it’s necessarily a book that I would have otherwise picked up. However, as soon as our lovely bibliotherapist talked about it, I knew it was definitely earning a place on my TBR. I can’t believe that I waited until SEPTEMBER to read it, but you know what TBR’s are like… I’m so thrilled that this book was recommended to me. I absolutely loved it and now desperately want to read more from Andrew Kaufman.

As you might expect from the title of this book, Andrew Kaufman’s Born Weird is weird! It’s one of the most unique books that I’ve read this year. I absolutely lapped it up. Born Weird centres around the Weird siblings. They were blessed and cursed (blursed!) with a gift from their grandmother. The blursings came in the shape of being safe, never getting lost, physical strength, hope and the ability to always forgive. These might sound like awesome blessings, but in some ways they were also curses. They resulted in people walking all over them, anger and emotional detachment. When their grandmother is dying, she wants the siblings to be reunited so she can lift the curse.

This book is so quirky, but it never seems like it’s trying to be a quirky book. It’s full of magical realism, great writing and an engaging storyline.

I particularly loved reading about the siblings coming together. Their journey together was funny to read about, but it did have some sadness injected into it. Andrew Kaufman did a fantastic job of portraying each member of the family’s demons. They certainly had them, that’s for sure.

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

This book is best read without knowing too much about it. It’s wonderfully quirky and so well written!

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

Foolish love appears to be the Roux family birthright, an ominous forecast for its most recent progeny, Ava Lavender. Ava—in all other ways a normal girl—is born with the wings of a bird.

In a quest to understand her peculiar disposition and a growing desire to fit in with her peers, sixteen-year old Ava ventures into the wider world, ill-prepared for what she might discover and naïve to the twisted motives of others. Others like the pious Nathaniel Sorrows, who mistakes Ava for an angel and whose obsession with her grows until the night of the Summer Solstice celebration.

That night, the skies open up, rain and feathers fill the air, and Ava’s quest and her family’s saga build to a devastating crescendo.

Thoughts:

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I picked up The Strange And Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender. I’m not ashamed to say it was the stunning, but simple cover that drew me to the book in the first place. Then I read the words ‘magical realism’ connected to this book and I knew that I had to read it. It was a no brainer really. I didn’t expect this book to be as based on Ava’s family history as it was. That’s not a negative comment, I just expected to learn more about her. It didn’t affect my overall enjoyment of the story though.

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender is a story which spans generations. The reader learns about Ava’s grandmother, her mother and Ava herself. It really does focus on the tragedies in their lives. It was also really interesting to read about how their stories connected with one another. I really wanted to get onto Ava’s story though, and was a little let down by how little involved she was in the story.

I guess I expected more magical realism. I love my magical realism stories and I wanted this book to shine in the genre. It certainly sounded like it had much promise. I did like the way the magical realism was injected into the story though, it was very subtle and certainly a good introduction to those wanting to get into the genre.

The writing itself is gentle, beautiful and lyrical. I think many people would thoroughly enjoy this world and family that Leslye Walton has created.

Would I recommend it?:
Yes! 3.5 stars

An accomplished debut! A gentle book that may not be fast paced, but its enjoyable!