ARC Review: “The Address” by Fiona Davis

Disclaimer: I received this ARC from Penguin’s First to Read program in exchange for a fair and honest review. This book comes out August 1st, and I suggest you preorder your copy now!

Disclaimer two: This is my first Fiona Davis novel, and I have to say, I really enjoyed it!

The Address by Fiona Davis takes place at The Dakota luxury rooming house in New York City, which still stands today. It is a split narrative between when it was first built in 1884 and 1985 and features ladies of the house: House managerette Sara Smythe, fresh off the boat from England and ready to take on the new world, and Bailey Camden, granddaughter Theo Camden’s ward, fresh out of rehab and ready to begin her own career as an interior designer in refurbished rooms at The Dakota.

In 1884, Sara was working as head maid in London when she saves a child’s life as the girl hung from the windowsill. In repayment and out of generosity, the Camden family ask her to work at Theo’s new building: The infamous Dakota, in the wilderness of outer New York City. Sara always had big dreams, and now here was an opportunity beckoning her from the other side of the world. But life is not done throwing curveballs her way…

In 1985, when Bailey, struggling to strike out on her own, gets thrown a rope helping change her cousin Matilda’s apartment at The Dakota, she is struck by the history of the building at its recent tragedy, the assassination of John Lennon. But when she finds the original tenant and sort-of great grandfather Theo Camden’s possessions in the basement of the building, her life and those of her family will be upturned forever.

Even though the women are separated by almost 100 years, their struggles are reflected in one another’s stories. As Sara explains to Theo, “We all have our own magnificent prisons, even the queen, I’d venture.” For Sara, the prison is her lot in life, being of a lower station at a time when the opulence of the wealthy surpassed even the movie stars of today. For Bailey, the prison is also of opulence; of drugs and booze and the glamorous life of the New York socialite. Both of the women long for a place where they belong, both are stuck as outcasts, with sharks disguised as life preservers on all sides.

 

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1880…
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and now.

What I loved

  • The (older) history. Davis really makes you step back in time with her writings of the late 1880’s America, with its “old money/new money” class wars, opulent exteriors with rotten interiors, and treatment of women.She shows the beautiful and the horrifying, both in a very clear light and prose that brings you to the moment.
  • The women. This book, it seems to me, is a sort of feminism– you have two women, both of whom are flawed but at their cores are stronger than they seem. There are people in their lives that would bring them down, but both (in vastly different ways) get the last laugh in the end.  I generally felt sympathetic and encouraging to both of the women even at their lowest points, which is something a lot of authors fail to do with flawed characters– especially adulteresses and alcoholics.
  • The split narrative. For those that have followed me for a while, you know I am very on the fence about split narratives, but here it was done JUST right. No confusion, very clean breaks, and not a huge host of characters that are impossible to keep track of.

What I didn’t love (NB: not deal-breakers)

  • The pace. The book started very slowly, so slowly I put it down at Chapter 8 and did not pick it up again for a week or two. I am so glad I did, because then all of the sudden you were hit with tidal wave after tidal wave of plot twists and crazy climaxes, ending both narratives on very different notes but still satisfying all the same. None of that came through in the first portion of the book, however.
  • The Eighties. Maybe this is just me, but I did not love Davis’s description of the time. It felt too reliant on certain standout points, including the death of John Lennon and the immense amount of cocaine.
  • On a similar note, Bailey’s story. I loved Bailey, and really identified with her character arc, but I did not love the fixation on AA and its tenets throughout the narrative. Don’t get me wrong, I think both the organization an recovery are wonderful things, but I just feel like Davis used it as a literary tool to push Bailey’s character in the direction she needed to go.

 

Conclusion

Read this, it is so good! I give it 4 waves and can’t wait to get my physical copy for beach re-reading! Stick it out past the slow parts and you will be well rewarded.

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Book Travelling Thursdays: TBR Book for 2017

Hello and welcome to the first BTT I have done in way too long. Book Traveling Thursdays is a weekly event hosted by Danielle’s Book Blog and The Girl Who Read Too Much. Each participant chooses a book, then finds the original cover, the covers for your country of origin, and explains what their favorite/least favorite covers are. Each week is a different theme. For more information, check out the Goodreads page.

This week’s theme: “Sometimes our TBRs are too big… choose a book you still want to read this year.”

My book: Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman. (I am kind of cheating since I actually started this today, but to be fair, it HAS been on my TBR for ages and I WILL be finishing it this year.)

 


Original Cover:

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This cover is the BBC Books version from 1996 (UK only), when the book was first published based on a TV show Gaiman was writing. It is very 90’s.


US Covers:

There is quite a few variations on the US cover, but a few mainstays are-

I am reading the first one, which I like a lot. It really fits with the “feel” of the story.


Other Country Covers:

Holy guacamole, that is a lot of covers! Below I only included a sampling; there is at least 20 different covers, some with slight variations, some with drastic differences.


My Favorite Covers:

I love the Turkish and UK covers because they really show how the Aboveground and Underground London work together in the novel.


Least Favorite Covers:

Some of the covers are downright creepy, like the Danish and Polish covers, or do not have much to do with the story (in my opinion), like the newer French cover and the Japanese.

What is your favorite? Thank you, and happy Thursday!

ARC Review: Impossible Views of the World, by Lucy Ives

Thank you to Penguin’s First to Read program for this compelling debut novel!

In Impossible Views of the World by Lucy Ives, heroine (or antiheroine?) Stella Krakus, a curator at a renowned art museum in New York, is having a pretty rough week. Her coworker and sometimes friend Paul has disappeared, her coworker and sometimes lover Fred cannot give her what she wants, and her soon-to-be ex-husband Whit is showing up in the most unwelcome of places.  She is hitting the dreadful “dead end” point in her career and she’s not even forty, and her glamorous mother Caro wants to talk out of the blue. Then there is the matter of her museum being taken over by a multinational water company that may want to take over the world…

When Stella discovers a 19th-century map to a nonexistent Utopian community in Paul’s desk, she is more than a little intrigued. She is doggedly determined to find out what it is for, who made it, and what Paul was doing with it before he disappeared. As Stella begins making connections with the map, poetry, a modern-day counterfeiting scheme, and phantom art in the archives of the museum, can she get to the bottom of the puzzle and still get her life together before it all spirals out of control?


My Take

It is hard to sum up a book like this, where there is so much going on but so much of it rides on the backs of the characters. Stella is what I would almost call a stereotypical millennial (coming from a reviewer who also sees herself as one) and she is not always hard to relate to. Often, this book falls on pretensions. While this does make sense, given that it is written from the point of view of a Masters-educated art curator who was born to an elitist yuppy mother, it is a little off-putting for readers who are not dumb, but somehow don’t understand a lot of the words/references in the book.

I liked.

The thing I really liked about the book was the prose. I know it is not to everyone’s taste (Ives normally writes poetry, and it comes through), but I kind of liked the flowing prose. It is scattered with colloquial speech, as though to book is being narrated, which again many people don’t like, but I felt it helped break up some of the monotony of the long and word-heavy phrases. (Will select some choice quotes and post them when the book comes out on August 1.)

I did not like.

However, there was a lot of “stuff” about this book that I have a love/hate relationship with. Stella’s character is flawed, which isn’t a bad thing, but it is both easy and hard to relate to her- easy because I often fee the same way she does about jobs and relationships, hard because she often reacts so ambivalently to the bad shit around her that it is hard to even think she has emotions. In fact, the only time strong emotions are shown is when Stella is explaining her emotions of a past event. I get the whole “circumstances have made me numb,” shtick, but this doesn’t come through. The other characters are often caricatures of their given roles: the older, richer lover, the jilted ex husband, the slob boss, and the domineering mother. again, perhaps this is a take on the unreliable narrator trope so prominent in post-modern novels, but it doesn’t translate here.

Then there is the mystery of the plot. I think I was missing something, but I did not understand the resolution to anything except for Stella’s work and love life. It was either an absurdist move of, “nothing is never really resolved,” or I severely missed the point.

Conclusion

And yet despite this, I found found Impossible Views simply impossible to put down. Maybe it is because I identified with the futile feeling of being slightly introverted while working in a competitive field in Manhattan, maybe because I am a little bit pretentious myself, but I was engrossed in Stella’s imperfect little world, filled with elitists, old money, and art mysteries. Three waves, but a caveat that this will not be a read for everyone!

WWW Wednesday: 5 July 2017

Hi guys! It’s time for another WWW Wednesday, a weekly meme hosted by Sam at Taking On A World Of Words where the goal of this meme is to answer the following questions:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?


Currently Reading: I am currently in the middle of multiple books (a nasty habit), but my focus has been on A Court of Wings and Ruin (I know, I am super behind!)  by Sarah J. Maas, and The Address by Fiona Davis (out August 1, 2017). The former is the third installment to the “Court of Roses and Thorns” series, which has quickly become a favorite of mine. It has Feyre, acting as a sleeper agent in the Spring Court trying to get as much information about Hybern’s army while pretending that she is no longer mated to Rhys of the Night Court. If you like magical, twisted, and often cruel Fae, a plot that shows the delicate balance between Fae and humans, and some pretty decent sex scenes, this is probably for you.  For the latter book, Fiona’s newest novel is a historical fiction that takes place both in 1884 and 1985, both revolving around the family that brought about and owns the iconic Dakota rooming house. So far, so good; expect a review sooner than later (hopefully!)


Recently finished: I just finished Impossible Views of the World by Lucy Ives, also expected to publish by August 1, 2017. This book was part mystery, part love-hate tale to the life of the working millennial, and I am having trouble formulating a review.

I also finished The Paper Magician Trilogy over the long weekend and happy I did. These books follow a young woman named Ceony as she navigates her way to full magician status as a paper mage, despite having wanted metal, and as she deals with her budding love for her mentor. A fun and quick young adult read.


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Reading Next: I am determined to re-pick up Death Comes to Pemberly by P.D. James after having put it down a couple of weeks ago due to an influx of new reads. I love Jane Austen pastiche, and hope this one will be good!


Let me know what you are reading, and let’s chat!


 

Sarah Maine’s “The House Between Tides-” Scottish tour de force

Thank you, Netgalley and Atria Books, for this now-released ARC!

Maine‘s House Between Tides begins  when Londoner Hetty Devereaux discovers she has inherited a mansion estate in the Scottish Outer Hebrides (yeah, I had to look them up too!) from her last living relative, and abandons her strained relationship to find out more about it. However, not all is what it seems: The estate is crumbling away on an inaccessible part of the land, and inside is a the body of someone murdered long ago.

More curious than ever, and desperate to do something to her family home, Hetty dives into history for answers, which leads to her distant relative Theo Blake, reclusive painter, and his beautiful wife Beatrice. Who is the body beneath the foundation? Will Hetty find the answers that she seeks, and in turn, find herself?

I loved a lot about this book, and disliked a few things that were not deal breakers. To start, I Loved:

  • … the history surrounding this novel. One of my favorite sub-genres in historical lit is Big House literature from Troubles Ireland, and this harkens back to a similar tone. Hetty’s distant ancestor Theo was the semi-oppressive rich man from the lowlands that comes in and claims Hebrides as his own, unintentionally disregarding the lives of the native people around him. Main sets up this scene very well, giving an evocative showing of the tension without being overbearing in political narrative.
  • …the scenery. Man, can Maine write a landscape. Hetty’s estate comes alive on the page, a Gothic Jane Eyre-esque spooky feeling that something wicked this way comes. The island itself, the sand, the birds, all of it is written in a starkly beautiful narrative.
  • …the romance. Without giving anything away, Hetty is a character that deserves a bone/soul squeezing love, and she gets it.

What I didn’t love:

  • …Hetty’s (lack of) character development. Hetty is often walked on, constantly being pulled in two different directions (turn estate into expensive hotel or let house g to nature/keep in family hands) and her decisions seem to really swing depending on what guy is more forceful at the time. She does not show a backbone until much later in the novel, and her motives are suspect even there. Hetty is not the strong, independent woman one comes to expect in highland-type novels.
  • …For that matter, the men. All of the men in Hetty’s life are controlling, in varying degrees of strength/detriment to her wellbeing. I found them to be a little stereotypical.
  • …the split-time narrative. I am often a fan and often a foe of this literary technique, and here it was good, but confusing to all hell. Maine gives us a lot of characters with a very confusing family tree, and it is often hard to separate who is related over the 100-year span. There is also just a lot of characters in general, and all of them seem to vie for your attention without focusing on who you need to pay close attention to.

All in all, I loved this. It is definitely worthy of more attention than your everyday, pick up and put down type of novel, and I found myself writing down what confused me and bookmarking pages to go back for reference. In the end, it is worth it. Four waves!

Out now: Katherine Arden’s debut novel “Bear and the Nightingale!”

Thank you, Netgalley and Random House for this bewitching debut ARC by Katherine Arden!

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In Bear and the Nightingale, we open with the growing family of Pyotr Vladmirovich listening to the tale of Frost-Karachun, the death-god, now known as Morozko, the winter king. Marina, Pyotr’s beautiful wife, is pregnant again, and this time will be her last, for the girl Vasilia will be born and bring great joy and great calamity to this family of the Northern Rus’ wild.

Vasilia loves to be free, running through the forest and talking to the sprites. She leaves bread for their household spirits and convinces the hungry river-sprite not to eat her people. Her family, Pyotr and her four siblings, both love and fear for her, not realizing how much she knows. This sends Pyotr to take a new bride from the urban Moscow for both Vasya’s good and to strengthen family ties to the royal family.

New bride Anna is different like Vasya, but does not understand or accept in the same way. Moscow has fully embraced its Christian tenets, while the wild folk still believe in the old ways as well as the new. While Anna can see the spirits, she fears they are demonic, and thinks her unruly stepdaughter is evil with them. As Anna and her new priest Konstantin’s influence begins to grow, the old ways are slowly dropped, leaving Vasya alone and feared even more.

But with this change comes the realization of great horror. Crops are failing, winter is lasting longer and longer, and only Vasilia knows how to stop it. Can she save her people from themselves, meeting a destiny that the Winter King has laid out for her?

What works so well

First of all, the mood of this book is its driving force. This is a curl in your armchair, drinking whiskey-laced tea by a roaring fire kind of tale in which your arm hairs will still rise at parts. Winter is inextricably twined with the narrative, from Vasilia’s birth to Frost King’s plight. You will feel the hunger of the villagers, the bone chill even being next to a fire. Here, atmosphere is key. Arden does a spectacular job of creating it.

Second, this book is more than another fantasy novel, it is a tour de force in Russian mythology and folklore. Arden flawlessly combines the history of medieval Russia, its blossoming as a Christian nation, and the strongholds of the old ways into one narrative of opposing forces where coexistence is possible. I find that Bear and the Nightingale did this much better than the long-hoped for Last Days of Magic, whose narrative was too heavy-handed and biased. Here, we have a couple of misguided and possessed individuals instead of an entirely evil institution.

Peripherally related to point two is how authentic this narrative comes off as. The reader feels like they are living in the deep freeze of Russian wilderness, with its everyday struggle to survive and close family ties that result. Arden includes a glossary of terms in the back, and I used it to the fullest, but this did not detract but rather added to the experience. Here is a new addition to Russian canon.

What works slightly less well

The pacing was, shall we say, wonky. I separated the portions of this book into two parts: Pre-Konstantin and during Konstantin, as in when the priest showed up to Vasya’s village and began to wreak Christian havoc. The first half of the book is slow and languorous, showing Pyotr’s family, Vasya’s upbringing, and the trials of winter in a slow and richly complex manner. Once Konstantin arrives, however, the pace speeds into a mad dash to the finish line, a build up of pressure that leads to an explosive and bittersweet climax. It almost felt like reading two different books. I loved both sections, and didn’t mind either type of pace, but I wish it was consistent.

In a similar vein, the different perspectives were inconsistent, sometimes hard to follow from one person to the next. Split narratives are hard and often unnecessary, and while I liked how it added to characterization, sometimes I could not follow.

Conclusion

A bewitching, beguiling winter bouquet that sinks you deep into a whole new world. It is not often I am this happy that what I thought was a standalone is actually going to be a trilogy. I can’t wait for more folklore, kickass female leads, and medieval Russian politicking! Four waves but with so much potential for more. Order it on Barnes and Noble, Amazon, or other retailers.

More Press Photos:

Anne Bishop’s new book for The Others series, “Etched in Bone,” out March 7!

Thank you, Netgalley and Roc, for an ARC for one of my favorite series, The Others! I am so excited to review this, and have already pre-ordered my hard copy.

“Just a game. Simon thought we’d had great fun. Bet the other wolves did too.”
“And you?” Monty said.
“We look at the same things, but we don’t see the same things. It made me realize how easy it can be to screw this up and send the wrong signal.”

The human rebellion has been brutally put down by the Elders, and the ones left are unsure of where they fit and what to do. The more human terra indigene are also unsure as to what the Elders want. Everyone is on edge, and territories are being redrawn.

Left mostly well enough alone is the Lakeside Courtyard, for which everyone is grateful. Blood Prophet Meg and Simon Wolfguard try to maintain the balance that they have worked so hard for, but when Lieutenant Montgomery’s bad seed brother shows up, will that balance be broken? Meg has seen the future and it is bleak- her, standing next to a grave in the woods.

What I loved

Reading about Simon and Meg is like coming home to me. I love their squabbles, Meg’s continued learning about what it means to be human, and more importantly, a woman, and Simon coming to terms with the fact that he is becoming an integral part of the human community while maintaining his wolf nature. The character development in this installation was rich and relatable, and the police and other girls in the community got a lot more page time. This helped the world build also, since a post-human wipeout world always requires some survivors to give context.

I also loved that the romance narrative is (slowly but surely) progressing! While a good fantasy does not require a romance sub-narrative, it is never unwelcome when done right, and I love the slow build up of Simon and Meg as they come to terms with the feelings they have for another. Can a Wolf love a human? Can a once-victim learn to love, physically and emotionally, when she was once denied those feelings? Bishop handles this so well, so delicately. The reader wants to know more.

What I didn’t love as much

There is not much to complain about, except for some minor characterization issues that are personal opinion. I felt that the Elders’ reactions to things were sometimes… out of place? I just can’t picture the all-powerful forces of nature feeling shame, or guilt about not knowing something. In my head, they’d just act like they meant to do what they did all along and then do what the terra indigene ask of them. Their feelings of humor at Meg’s reactions and other such little whimsies I understood more, since forces of nature would be capricious, but any admissions of fault just seemed out of place.

Lieutenant Montgomery’s brother’s characterization also felt a little heavy-handed. The man is evil, but is he too evil? There is no feelings of love, guilt, or compassion at all, only greed and self-interest. It made him very easy to hate, of course, but he was almost too easy to hate.

Like I said, personal problems. This did not stop me from full-heartedly loving this installation into The Others series, Etched in Bone, and anxiously await the next one! Anne Bishop is my hero. Five waves! Pre-order now so it’ll be on your doorstep March 7th!