contemporary fiction

Teen Drama & Magic Potions in “Flannery”

26113800.jpgFlannery by Lisa Moore
Groundwood Books: May 1, 2016
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Source: Free From Publisher

I’d go there again!
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Flannery Malone is sixteen years old and she’s been in love with Tyrone O’Rourke since she was a little girl. Sadly, this love is unrequited. However, things start looking up when Flannery is paired with Tyrone on their entrepreneurship assignment. Together, they have to create a product, a product that up until this point there has been no desire on the part of consumers to actually own (apparently this is the basis of being an entrepreneur). Tyrone suggests that he and Flannery make magic potions for their assignment; after all people will be willing to spend their money on a magic solution “Especially if they start to believe in it” (p. 52). The funny thing is that people do start believing in Flannery’s potions. Now, if only Flannery had a magical solution to solve the problems in her own life. (more…)

Adventuring Year in Review: 2015

As 2015 wraps up, its time for the Adventurers to reflect on what we loved most this year. This is always a tough post to write because how do you pick your favourites? We can only presume this is like picking your favourite child: sacrilegious! Yet, we push forward since, heck, it’s fun to revisit the ones we enjoyed the most.

Jaclyn’s Favourite Adventures

11890816This year’s been a bit unusual for me. I switched jobs and ended up commuting over an hour each way to work every day. Every. Single. Day. Obviously this dramatically changed my reading habits. I wasn’t able to read as much and I discovered a love for the audiobook (a format that I never thought I would actually embrace). And despite my newfound love for audiobooks, it turns out it’s a format that I found extremely hard to review; it’s hard to refer back to the book when you don’t have it physically in front of you. That being said, Lyndsay Faye’s The Gods of Gotham is my favourite audiobook that I’ve listened to this year. Followed very closely by Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache series. Both have outstanding narrators, which I have learned is rather important when you’re listening to someone for over an hour. (more…)

A Desperate Fortune: Captivating Dual Timeline Romance

22221136A Desperate Fortune by Susanna Kearsley
Sourcebooks Landmark: April 7, 2015
Genre: Dual Time Historical Fiction
Review Source: Free from publisher

I’d go there again!
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It’s no secret: I love Susanna Kearsley‘s books. They share a place in my heart with Sara Donati‘s books.

A Desperate Fortune follows two women: modern-day Sara Thomas, who has Asperger’s Syndrome, and Mary Dundas, a second generation Jacobite exile. Sara’s story and Mary’s story, which both begin in the same town in France, are intertwined as Sara reads and translates Mary’s diary.

A natural programmer and cryptanalyst, Sara leaves her job because they want her to work with a team, which is something she refuses to do (because of a past betrayal). Her cousin, a slightly older woman, who has been her champion and best friend all her life, sets her up with a temporary position decrypting Mary’s diary. As she settles into the little town and to work decrypting the diary, Sara meets the local residents, including a young divorced father, Luc, his son, Noah, and Noah’s mother, the cook where Sara is staying. Both Luc and Noah help Sara with her research. As the days and weeks pass, she begins to care about the family, but especially Luc. Hiding her Asperger’s is a challenge, but Luc and Noah help her realize that the people who deserve her love are the ones who love her for herself.  (more…)

Signal to Noise: Best of 2015

signaltonoiseSignal to Noise by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Solaris: February 10th, 2015 (Fantasy / Coming of Age / Fiction)

Outstanding Adventure! vintagesuitcase3vintagesuitcase3vintagesuitcase3vintagesuitcase3vintagesuitcase3

This story about three teenagers growing up in 1980s Mexico city drew me in so slowly and seductively that I hardly realized it was happening, until I felt compelled to turn page after page. The real world faded away as the vivid colors of Meche’s, Sebastian’s, and Daniela’s Mexico City surrounded me.

Meche, the main narrator, is a fifteen-year old misfit who spends all her time with two other misfits at her school, Sebastian and Daniela. Meche, the ringleader, goads Sebastian and Daniela into practicing magic with her portable record player after she discovers she can make inexplicable things happen if she wants it hard enough while playing the right song.

The narration splits between all the main and close supporting characters, and between two time periods: their fifteenth year, in 1988, and twenty years later, when Meche returns for the first time to attend her father’s funeral and nine days of mourning. Sometimes, split narratives can be distracting, but they rounded out the characters and the story here. As the story progresses, we find out that something terrible happened between the trio of friends, and Meche is deeply opposed to seeing Daniela and Sebastian when she returns. Slowly, it is revealed what happened and why the friendships disintegrated. (more…)

I’d go anywhere with Susanna Kearsley’s books – even The Splendour Falls

splendour fallsThe Splendour Falls by Susanna Kearsley
First published December 7th, 1995. Re-published by Sourcebooks Landmark, January 1st, 2014 (Fiction / Mystery)

My rating: I’d follow the author ANYWHERE, but this vacation wasn’t as good as the others.

Disclaimer: Susanna Kearsley is one of my favorite authors. I discovered her a year or two ago, and The Rose Garden and The Shadowy Horses are my two favorites.

Emily Braden is a young woman who became a cynic after the divorce of her parents. Her cousin, Harry, who has always been close to her, convinces her to go on a holiday with him to relax. He suggests they meet in Chinon, because he has some research to do there, dealing with the long-lost treasure of Isabelle of Angouleme, wife of King John of England (the villain in Robin Hood, brother of Richard the Lionhearted, son of Eleanor of Aquitaine, English king in the 13th century, for those who aren’t familiar with him), supposedly hidden in the underground tunnels that permeate the city. Emily decides to go, realizing she can’t depend on easily-distracted Harry, but willing to vacation on her own. Once she gets there, she meets several of her fellow guests and a few of the locals, too. As she explores the city, and gets to know the people who live and stay there, she starts to worry about her cousin, who (unsurprisingly) has not shown up. As she delves deeper into the mysteries surrounding the hidden treasure and the death of a local man, her feeling that something is out of place grows stronger, until she is fully involved in finding her cousin and solving the mysteries.

I love Chinon, and I’ve never been; I love the waywardness and absentmindedness of Emily’s family members, and the contrast between her family and the dependability of some the people she meets in Chinon. I love the slow reveal of the character of the city, and of the development of the relationships between characters. The plot is driven mostly by the mysteries, and by the relationships among the secondary characters. Both of which are interesting (actually, I found the latter fascinating). Kearsley is a master at creating complex, vivid, and unique characters, and weaving the relationships between them. The plot takes its time, the pacing meandering, to give enough space to the city and characters. The ending was shocking, in more ways than one, but it was also superb. (more…)

Your Ghostly Reading List

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In honour of Halloween, I’m creating a ghostly reading list. All of the following feature ghosts in some way (whether real or psychological). Since I’m me, I wouldn’t say that any of these books are terrifying, I am the romance reader after all. But, I love the concept of ghosts in books (especially within a historical context) and all of the following interest me in some way. Most of the books I’ve read, although I have included a couple I haven’t read, since I’ve heard some great buzz about them.

The Haunting of Maddy Clare by Simone St. James

One of my all-time favourite books. It features a destructive ghost and has an awesome romance between ghost hunter, Matthew, and his newly appointed assistant, Sarah. This one’s not super scary, but those moments when the ghost arrives are spine tingling. All of St. James’ other works also feature ghost hauntings and she is a complete master at interweaving romance with freaky and inexplicable events.

Wide Open by Deborah Coates

Wide Open is the first in a trilogy featuring Sergeant Hallie Michaels, who has returned home for her sister’s funeral. However, Hallie has survived a terrible accident in Afghanistan and she’s now left with the ability to see ghosts. So, here we get a little bit of mystery, paranormal and a dash of romance. An added feature, the ghostliness is related to Native American traditions, which I found extremely interesting.

The Restorer by Amanda Stevens

Book one in the Graveyard Queen series, this one takes us to the South, where Amelia Gray struggles with her ability to see the dead. I loved the Southern setting to this, and since I’ve been to Charleston I can completely understand how this city could be haunted. The ghostly encounters in The Restorer was also extremely well done; I was completely creeped out by what Amelia was seeing, but there was no way I was going to put the book down.

The Archived by Victoria Schwab

Throwing a little teen ghostliness into the mix with this one. The dead are organized into a large library, but there are times when they leave their place. It’s up to Mac as a Keeper to track them down and return them to the archive. Not really scary, but points for being set in a refurbished hotel (The Shining, anyone?).

The Uninvited Guests by Sadie Jones

By this point, you can probably tell that I like historical fiction and ghosts in historical settings are even cooler and creepier. In The Uninvited Guests we have a whole host of ghosts that arrive during a young woman’s twentieth birthday, but why are they there and how do they get rid of them?

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

I think this one’s more of a psychological haunting than anything else, but I absolutely love this Shirley Jackson novel. The house seems to come alive, but is it is all in Nell’s head or is there something more sinister at work?

The Shining by Stephen King

I could hardly write this list without the inclusion of this classic ghostly tale. We have a haunted hotel and a psychic kid who can see all the lost souls left behind. A great read for Halloween!

House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski

For the ambitious reader. This is an extremely bizarre ghost story and a bit of a challenge to read considering the words literally tangle on the page. But, it’s worth checking out because the haunted house is seriously freaky, even creepier than the Overlook hotel.

This House is Haunted by John Boyne

I haven’t read this one yet, but I hear good things, plus I am very intrigued by the Victorian setting. I love the idea of spiritualism during this period and can’t wait to check this one out.

Help for the Haunted by John Searles

Another one that I haven’t read, but a co-worker compared this one to the movie, The Conjuring, which scared the pants off me, so I am intrigued. Sounds like a creepy coming-of-age story. Count me in!

And that’s all from me! Are there any other ghostly reads that you’d recommend?

Classics: The Shadowy Horses

shadowyhorses The Shadowy Horses by Susanna Kearsley
Publisher: Jove
Date: March 1st 1999
Genre: Fiction / Paranormal
My rating: Outstanding adventure
This novel went way beyond my expectations, into “truly delightful” territory. I had expected something a little less fiction and a little more fluffy (Kind of like Elizabeth Lowell, who writes stories involving art history, book history, studies of artifacts, etc. – but whose writing is not nearly as good).

This novel has a perfect mix of history, romance, and mystery.

The plot begins immediately, with an archaeologist re-tracing her route on a bus after managing to sleep through her train stop. She’s received a teasing letter from an old flame about an amazing dig in southern Scotland, and is on her way to the Scottish borderlands to find out if she wants to work on it. The man financing and leading the dig has a reputation for being a bit mad, which she doesn’t find out until she meets him. It turns out he’s looking for the fabled Lost Legion, the Legio IX Hispana.

The author throws in a ghost – “The Sentinel” – and a psychic boy, which at first I thought I wouldn’t like. Fortunately, the supernatural stuff does not ruin the story or the characterization, both of which are compelling.

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