Title: Delivering Virtue
Author: Brian Kindall
Genre: Fantasy, Literary
Date of Publication: November 7, 2015
Publisher: Diving Boy Books
When Didier Rain, a broke scoundrel, is approached to fulfill a prophecy foretold by the The Church of the Restructured Truth, the offer is too good to pass up. He must transport the baby Virtue, the church’s prophet’s child bride, over a thousand miles across the western pioneer trail. During his journey, he meets many peculiar and interesting characters, and he just so happens to learn something about himself along the way.
Delivering Virtue is an 1854 Western historical fiction, a fantasy, an adventure, an allegory. It’s definitely a genre-bender. Readers need to approach this book with an open mind. I have to admit there were a few times I was taken aback, because I thought I’d known where the story was going (and I’d clearly had no idea). This is a book that you can’t read too literally. There are quite a few WTF moments, but you just have to remember it’s allegory and try not to be too traumatized by what Didier does.
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Title: Ashes of Retribution
Author: L. J. Andrews
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Date of Publication: June 28, 2018
Publisher: 4 Arrows
Adira lives in a dystopian world where people have been divided in two groups: the “Pure” and the “Impure”. The pure have no deformities, no marks on their bodies, no scars. The “Impure” could be anyone–from someone who has eyes that are two different colours to someone with a little scar on their left hand. When Adira was a child, her maid was an “Impure”, and Adira ridiculed her for it. But when her maid was killed while protecting her, Adira realized that the impure are not that different after all. Now that she knows this, what is she willing to do about it?
It took me a bit of time to get into this book. I didn’t fall in love with Adira immediately, and I wasn’t entirely sure where the story was going. About fifty pages in, things got interesting, and I started to understand why Adira was the way she was. Then, once she’s kidnapped by the Shadow Assassins, the book becomes unputdownable.
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Title: Madame Victoria
Author: Catherine Leroux
Date of Publication: November 13, 2018
In 2001, a skeleton was discovered in the woods behind the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal, Quebec. The remains were never claimed. The mystery woman was lovingly referred to as Madame Victoria by those who sought to identify her. Her case was eventually set aside, replaced by more urgent matters. But Catherine Leroux won’t let Madame Victoria be forgotten. In this compelling novel, Leroux has crafted twelve possible backgrounds for Madame Victoria.
Each individual history is equally breathtaking and heartbreaking. The stories are framed by the tales of the people affected by Madame Victoria’s discovery. Their realization that she will never be identified and the impact that this has on their lives complements the mystery woman’s possible histories in a tragically beautiful way.
The stories are connected by common imagery and the theme of invisibility. Through each story, Leroux reveals a kaleidoscope of emotion and human experience. Each version of Madame Victoria was forgotten for different reasons. A few of the stories towards the end became fantastical – with a little science fiction and fantasy thrown into the mix. This added to the complexity and sheer uniqueness of the book, although my favourite stories are those based in realism.
Leroux uses captivating imagery in her writing, and the words drip off the pages like liquid sugar. She could write about filing your taxes and turn it into a poignant piece that leaves the reader in tears. I look forward to reading more from her in the future.
I recommend this book to those who want to read a modern Canadian literary gem, and for those who don’t mind a little tragedy in their leisure reading. That said, I can see Madame Victoria becoming an assigned book in high school French language classes across Canada.
*Thank you to Biblioasis for the advanced reader copy!*
Find the book:
Goodreads | Amazon
Title: The Other Woman
Author: Sandie Jones
Genre: Psychological Thriller, Fiction
Date of Publication: August 21, 2018
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Emily is a successful career woman with family and friends that she loves. But she’s never truly been in love before—at least, not since her ex-boyfriend, Tom, cheated on her years ago. When she falls deeply in love with Adam, it looks like she’s found everything she’s ever wanted in a man. Until she meets his mother. Pammie isn’t exactly happy to see her son with Emily. Quite the opposite. And it seems like Pammie will do anything to make sure that she is the only woman in Adam’s life.
This book was a pleasant surprise. However, it has a very slow start, and I had a hard time getting through the first 15%. But once it is revealed that Pammie isn’t a doting, lovable potential-mother-in-law, things become interesting. The ways that Pammie undermines Emily are so subtle, yet so conniving and ultimately utterly disturbing. No spoilers here, but the things that she does are a lot subtler that a rabbit in a pot of boiling water, yet nearly as creepy and evil.
The plot picks up its pace as it plunges forward, and I read the entire book in nearly one sitting. Of course, I was reading it during an Instagram reading marathon, but it was still unputdownable.
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Author: Christina Dalcher
Genre: Fiction, Dystopia, Science Fiction
Date of Publication: August 21, 2018
Publisher: Berkley Publishing Group
What if women were only allowed to speak 100 words a day? In this dystopian tale set in the not-too-distant future, not only are women less than men, but they are equipped with bracelets that monitor the number of words they say. They are expected to cook and clean for their families, and they are not allowed to do much else. Dr. Jean McClellan is–or was–a renowned linguistic scientist, and while she once turned a blind eye to what was going on around her, now she can no longer deny what society has become. This is her story.
One of the strengths of this story lies in its modernity. Dalcher frequently refers to technologies we’re familiar with – like Apple watches and Facetime (hmm I wonder if all the Apple product placement was funded?). A year ago Jean was debating Pokémon Go with her son, and now she isn’t allowed to banter with him anymore. She’s growing more and more detached from her children and husband. We don’t realize just how important words are until they’re taken away from us. Dalcher stitches together reality and dystopia quite seamlessly, and the realism makes this story even more terrifying.
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Title: Murder Notes (Lilah Love #1)
Author: Lisa Renee Jones
Genre: Romantic Suspense, Thriller
Date of Publication: March 27, 2018
Publisher: Montlake Romance
FBI Agent Lilah Love is working a serial killer case that brings her back home to the Hamptons, where she hasn’t returned for two years. She left behind her family, her lover, and a dark secret, the latter of which she’ll do anything to protect. But this serial killer seems to know her secret. Will she be able to catch him before he strikes again? Or worse—before he reveals her secret to the world?
Lilah is one badass main character. At one point she mentions that she has a “potty mouth”—which couldn’t be more aptly put. She’s equally rude to her friends and her enemies. Within a few sentences of this remark, Lilah mentions putting on her pink lipstick. Thank you, Lisa Renee Jones! Girls can be strong and love pink lipstick! It’s such a pet peeve of mine that female FBI agents, cops, PIs, always have to be Tom boys. They can never like pretty things or they won’t be considered “tough”. While Buffy the Vampire Slayer was one of the first to break this mold, this trope is still an irritating trend in books and TV.
That said, there were a few times when I noticed that Lilah was a little too harsh on others, a little too abrasive. That’s an entirely different character flaw, and I loved that about her. Sometimes the things she said would make me cringe, but it’s all about what makes Lilah Love’s name ironic. She’s badass, she’s broken, she’s hiding her pain with biting jabs directed at everyone within jabbing distance of her.
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Title: Three Days Missing
Author: Kimberly Belle
Date of Publication: July 1, 2018
Publisher: Park Row
Kat Jenkins’s 8-year-old son, Ethan, goes missing while away on a camping trip with his class. This book follows the story of the events that follow. The police search for him, and it quickly becomes clear that sweet little Ethan didn’t just wander off. He was taken. The novel also follows the story of the mother of another boy in Ethan’s class. Stef seems to have it all. She’s beautiful, rich, and the wife of the mayor, but there is a lot more going on than what meets the eye…
Told from the alternating first-person perspectives of Kat and Stef, this story is fast-paced and full of chills and thrills. While there’s a lot of information for Kimberly Belle to get through in a short amount of time, she manages to fluidly deliver it during the course of the action, without slowing down the experience with long paragraphs of exposition. I admire this in a writer. In the first chapter, when Kat is getting her son ready for his camping trip, driving him to the school, and dropping him off, Belle manages to drop in critical information about Kat’s rocky relationship with her soon-to-be ex-husband, her son’s genius-level IQ and social awkwardness at school, and other pieces of information that become critical as the book progresses.
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Title: The Scribbled Victims
Author: Robert Tomoguchi
Genre: Horror, Fantasy
Date of Publication: February 28, 2017
Publisher: Ink Bleed Books
Yelena Solodnikova isn’t the only vampire in Los Angeles, but she feels alone. Not only has she lost her mate, Marcel, whom she lived with for over a century, but she is the only vampire with a conscience. Every time she kills a human, she feels overwhelming guilt, which is something other vampires cannot understand. When Yelena meets Orly, a twelve-year-old who draws “scribbles” of people that allow her to see all their secrets, Yelena has found a way to identify people worthy of being her victims. Rapists. Wife-beaters. Murderers. Yelena now has a way to feed without guilt, and she grows to love Orly as her own daughter. But Orly is dying from leukemia, and Yelena is at risk of losing everything… again.
Atmospheric and moody, this book is for fans of the deep existential and morality themes that are associated with immortality in books like Interview with the Vampire. The vampires in The Scribbled Victims don’t sparkle. Far from it. This is a dark book with dark themes, reminiscent of Jeff Lindsay’s Dexter series. However, the book never gets too twisted, and it skirts along the line without ever crossing it. There’s quite a bit of black humour (isn’t that the best kind?) which lightens the tone when it gets too heavy.
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Title: Bring Me Back
Author: B.A. Paris
Date of Publication: June 19, 2018
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Twelve years ago, Finn and his girlfriend, Layla, were driving home from a vacation in France when they just happened to stop at a service station. Finn got out to use the bathroom, but when he got back, Layla was gone. She disappeared. The police weren’t able to find any trace of her—or her body. In present day, Finn starts to receive strange clues that Layla is not only alive, but that she’s come back. But is it really Layla who’s reaching out to him? Or is it someone else, someone who wants to hurt Finn because of his recent engagement to Layla’s sister?
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